Finally our 1 week break has arrived. The only thing left to decide is where are we going? Last night we found out my brother and his wife are heading off for a trek along the Great Central Road that runs 1,126 km from Laverton, Western Australia to Yulara, Northern Territory. So taking the opportunity to catch up we now head north towards Coolgardie, or more correctly Rowles Lagoon, where we will meet up on Sunday afternoon.
After catching up with our boys and their families we make tracks at 10.30ish for the first leg of our jaunt to Norseman. I had picked out a spot listed as a free camping site called Disappointment Rock which is on the Norseman – Hyden Road. The weather is cold and grey but we intend to set up our camper and enjoy the outdoors. As seems usual for us we are travelling the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail in reverse, just as we did the Holland Track last year.
Site 15 is Lake Cowan Lookout which as the name suggests provides a view over the salt lake named Lake Cowan. I did have a small scout around, however no orchids found. Site 14 is termed Gemfields where there is evidence of diggings for I suppose, gemstones. Next stop is Site 13 termed Woodlands, however as we are coming back this way tomorrow we bypass this site as Site 12 Disappointment Rock is our planned overnight camping location.
Far from being a disappointment this location was just right. We have a concrete table and chairs, concrete fire ring with billy hook and BBQ plate and the good olde waterless toilet. What else is to need? Setting up the camper is done in good time and we then set ourselves up around the campfire for a toast to the week to come. I then quickly jump up to catch a photo of a rainbow and decide to climb up the rock for a possible better vantage point.
By the time I had climbed up the Rainbow shot was lost, so I grabbed a few pics of our camp then skirted around a patch of vegetation on the rock. Under the usual prickly scrub was a lone greenhood orchid. Wow I wasn’t expecting that but was very happy with the find. I would say it was a Dark banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea) which is a common inland orchid found from Mullewa to Toolinna Cove and flower June through to September.
Dinner is cooked on the fire and we enjoy our red wine whilst watching the sunset.
Next morning we awake to a cold winters morning. The sun tries to shine between the clouds and the wind ensures it feels colder than it should. However after breakfast we pack up camp, then embark on the designated 1.9km walk around the rock.
It is freezing in the wind but we make our way around the walk, finding all markers bar No. 14 and turn up no orchids whatsoever. So I took Deb back to the lone greenhood I found last night. The views and the variation in floral colours though, made for an enjoyable walk.
We have a change of plans, so are not back-tracking to Norseman, but continue west along the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. The vegetation changes as we head west from large trees and blue-silver under growth to Gimlet thickets with hardly any undergrowth. First stop is Site 11 – Lake Johnson Lookout. Quick photo opp then on to Site 10 – Lake Johnson Picnic and Campground. The trees at the campground have such colourful textured bark.
From here we head north up the Victoria Rock road. We come across a scene of utter devastation. The bush fires of last summer have totally destroyed thousands of hectares of woodland. As far as the eye can see the scenery is just blackened trees and ashes. It was very sad to see it first hand. Regrowth has only just started and with the dry start to winter it will be even more of a struggle for the woodlands to survive.
We finally leave the devastation behind and find ourselves driving past the Holland Track exit onto Victoria Rock road and further along we turn into Victoria Rock Nature Reserve for lunch. Walking around the rock whilst eating our Chicken Quinoa salad proved fruitless, with no flowering orchids found. Rosettes and leaves found, so just too early in the season.
We now head straight for Coolgardie where we fill up the Triton with diesel and ourselves with an ice-cream. We then worked out how to get to Rowles Lagoon via Coolgardie North road. The road seems in good condition as we stop at some ruins of the Premier Hotel in a place called Kunanalling. This is actually Site 2 of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail which runs from Kalgoorlie to Coolgardie then to Laverton / Leonora and return, a distance of around 945kms.
The drive from Kunanalling to Rowles Lagoon though proves much tougher as it is so muddy that we regularly lose traction. At one time we had to go into 4WD to get up a slight rise. After a good 1hr drive we finally arrive at Rowles Lagoon Conservation Park which is Site 23 of the Golden Quest Discovery Trail and also the location where Geoff and Robyn had agreed to meet up.
We find their Coaster bus in the camping ground and actually wake Geoff from an afternoon snooze. It is great to catch up and we spend the night around another campfire talking, laughing, eating and drinking, well Deb and I had a few bevvies.
We awake to a beautiful winters morning and enjoy breakfast before packing up and moving down to the lagoons edge for some photos in the now bright sunshine.
We decide to go check out Credo Homestead as it is only a few kilometres further along the road. This pastoral station was purchased by the government to protect some of the catchment area of Rowles Lagoon. It offers accommodation with showers etc for a reasonable cost and is manned by volunteer caretakers just like our National Park camp hosts. We check out the homestead and shearing shed before having some morning tea.
Time to move on, so I jump into the bus with Geoff, for the drive back to the turnoff to Ora Banda. It is here we say our goodbyes as Geoff and Robyn head off for the Great Central Road and we make tracks back to Coolgardie.
On the way back to Coolgardie we pull over at one of the clay pans to get some shots of the local artistic efforts.
We made it to Coolgardie and visited the BP Roadhouse for a nice hot shower. Feeling human again we head west towards our as yet unknown destination. We are flagged down by an elderly man who had run out of fuel. So we empty our 20ltrs jerry can in exchange for $30 so he can make it to the next Service Station. Good deed done for the day. Along the Great Eastern Highway in the Goldfields Woodlands National Park we stop at Boondi Rock for lunch. Boondi was one of numerous rock catchments in the Great Western Woodlands developed for railway water supplies in the days of steam engines. After a quick cuppa soup, we go for the Boondi Rock walk hoping to find some orchids. No such luck.
Geoff and Robyn told us of a nice camping area called Karalee Rock, a bit further west on the Great Eastern Highway. Arriving around 4pm Deb drives around the camping ground a few times before settling on a place close to the dam wall. We are set up and campfire lit in under 30mins. We now had time for a quick look around especially the large semi-circular aqueduct of steel, hand riveted at each joint, which allowed the water collected from the rock to be directed into the dam, which when full holds 10.5 mill gallons (47.8mill litres) and would be 25 feet (7.6m) deep. The aqueduct is in good condition given it was built in the late 1800’s.
We are cooking a roast in the camp oven tonight so sit ourselves down around the campfire, with a glass of wine, so we can rotate the camp oven to evenly cook the meal. Debbie is befriended by a family group of Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis), who literally take the food from her hands. Dark at 5pm, so we move into the camper to eat our meal and play Tri-Ominos, as the winter weather has finally caught up with us. Whilst playing inside, the rain pours down and then when it stops for a bit we hear running water. Braving the cold wet night we grab a torch and go looking for the source of the sound. The Aqueduct is flowing into the dam. (Refer video below.)
We awake to a beautiful sunny winters morning. Cold but fine, so after breakfast with our friendly birds ,we pack up the camper, then head off on the Karalee Rock walk. Starting at the Dam wall where the aqueduct flows in we head onto the rock. Climbing up to the highest point then back down the other side to a great view of the rock walls built to catch the water. From here we leave the rock down another rock walled channel before this runs out to be a dirt channel. A bit further along we come to another lower steel aqueduct which is slowly filling up with silted sand. Finally we come to a deep stone walled well, before trudging back into camp. Unbelievably no orchids found. Time to leave Karalee Rocks and head further west.
Down the Great Eastern Hwy we go, passing through Southern Cross, making a quick stop at Moorine Rock before fuelling up in Bodalin. We then stop in Merredin where we catch up with our niece, Tanika, for lunch. She recommended Cafe 56, where we had a great meal. We then shopped for supplies, both food and booze, before moving on in a southern direction to our next hunting ground, Totadgin Conservation Park. Our first stop was in an old parking area developed in 1988 for the Bicentenial Year which marked out historical places. This was a stop on the York to Goldfields Heritage Trail. We took the walk trail up to Totadgin Well (Hunts Well).
We then move on to the newer parking area where the Totadgin Rock walk trail commences. We walked over the rock and back along a formation similar to Wave Rock then past the well we had visited earlier before heading back through the woodlands to our car. Beautiful walk but no orchids to be found.
From here we head down to Bruce Rock, then west to a campsite we had visited previously, Kwolyin Camp. This place has flushing toilets and campers kitchen facilites which were a nice change. Another night around the camp fire enjoyed.