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Southern Wheatbelt

We woke to thunderstorms and pouring rain and the forecast was for more of the same for the next three days. In hindsight this may have been something of an omen but more on that later.

With only two weeks available, the loss of three whole days would have been a big blow but luckily by mid-morning the skies cleared a bit and we managed to get away.

More bad weather was sure to catch up with us as we were heading east but at least we would be 'on the road'.

Hiccup number one was at the petrol station where we were checking tyre pressures. For some reason the tyre on the wheel we had trouble with on the last trip was bulging out as the air pump was running. It took a few minutes to work out what was going on but in the end I discovered that the pump had re-set itself from 60lbs to 30lbs and it was letting the air out!

Problem solved we headed out to Jarrahdale and on to Albany Highway. At North Bannister we turned east and our first stop for the day, Wandering. The rain had started again but we did manage to refuel (there is now a 24 hour re-fuelling station at Wandering) and take a few pictures.

 

24 hour fuel stop at Wandering
24 hour fuel stop at Wandering.

 

Wandering is a nice little town nestled in the hills and as it is off the main tourist routes, it tends to be nice and quiet and runs at a slower pace than places frequented by more visitors.

We weren't going too far as the weather was still pretty bad so we stopped for the night at Pumphrey's Bridge.

This is a nice spot with some water in the river and it has flushing toilets so it makes a good place to over-night. There are seats and tables plus a small shelter near the river. In the area near the toilets there is an open sports pavilion that would be a handy shelter if the weather is really bad. One thing to watch out for here are the bull-ants, there are a lot and they enjoy chewing on you if you disturb them.

Thankfully the weather cleared and we were able to enjoy the rest of the day but during the night thunder-storms rolled in and set the tone for the coming couple of days.

 

Pumphreys Bridge
Pumphrey's Bridge.

 

The next day it was off to Pingelly to take a few updated pictures but the rain was hampering our efforts a bit. Pingelly is a medium-sized wheatbelt town with a number of interesting historic buildings. If the weather had been more accommodating we would have spent a bit more time in town but there was no chance of doing any filming so we moved on to Mourambine church which was not far away.

Sadly the church was all locked up so we only managed to see the outside and graveyard.

 

Mourambine
Mourambine is also spelled Moorumbine.

 

Our next stop was Wickepin (home of the Albert Facey house) where we refuelled again (at another 24 hour fuel station). These 24 hour stations are un-manned so you have to have a credit card or bank card of some sort in order to re-fuel.

The rain was not giving us much of a chance to get photos but we did manage a few cloudy shots.

 

Wickepin
Wickepin.

 

From Wickepin we took the Harrismith Road and stopped at Toolibin Lake.

It rained and rained and rained... There was nothing much to do but sit it out and wait for a break so we could do some photography at the lake.

Toolibin is signposted as 'NO CAMPING' but we had few options we just sat and waited for the weather to improve.

In the end it rained all day so we spent a second night just waiting for the weather to clear up.

Tollibin lake is listed by the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. It is one of the few lakes in the wheatbelt that has not been as badly effected by salt. There are a number of strategies in place to help the lake remain relatively salt-free.

 

Toolibin Lake
Toolibin Lake on a very dismal day.

 

Maybe there is something about the date '13th' that does bring bad luck. We arrived in Harrismith and had a look around. As we were pulling out of the rest area there was something odd about the clutch. By the time we were on the road the clutch was starting to fail and by the time we got back into the rest area, it had completely given up.

There was nothing in Harrismith that could help us sort things out so we made a call to RAC Roadside Assistance and organised a tow to Wagin. Sitting on the back of the tow truck, the Coaster was probably going faster than it ever had before in its entire life!

The rain had already wasted a full day and now we were going to lose at least two more - at least that is what we thought.

 

Coaster on a tilt tray
Coaster on a tilt tray at Wagin Mechanical Repairs.

 

Cam, at Wagin Mechanical. looked after us even though they already had a full-work load and we were able to camp in their yard for a couple of nights while the parts were ordered and the clutch was repaired.

If anyone gets into trouble with their vehicle in this area of the wheatbelt, we can highly recommend this business as they not only do the repair work they are also the RAC towing service for the area. If you do need help give them a call on (08) 9861 1144.

While we were waiting in Wagin we did get a chance to try out the Leitner E-Bike we had bought just before this trip.

There was a small learning curve with regard to the 'pedal assist' mode but once we had learnt to stop peddling when turning corners, the bike turned out to be just what we needed.

 

Leitner E-Bike
Our new Leitner E-Bike.

 

The bike folds easily and we have plenty of room in the trailer when we are travelling. There are many times when we want to explore further from the Coaster but our health and fitness levels are a long way from what they once were. The E-Bike will give us the chance to get a reasonable distance from our various campsites and with a range of over 30km using the battery, it is also a good secondary mode of transport if we need it in an emergency.

We will be doing a full review on the bike when we have used it for a while and we have put together a quick video showing how easy it was to assemble.

Once we are able to save up for a second E-Bike we are very likely to buy another of the same model as so far, we couldn't be happier with it.

 

E-Bike folded and in the trailer
E-Bike folded and in the trailer.

 

While we were in Wagin we took advantage of the enforced break to have a good look around the town. One of the major attractions is the historic village.

Entry fee is just $6 adults ($5 concession) and although this village isn't quite as impressive as the one we saw at Kalamunda it is still very good and well worth the entry fee.

Most of the buildings are re-creations but the exhibits are interesting and there is a lot to see. We spent about two hours wandering around taking pictures and video.

Just a little further along the road that the Historic Village is on, hidden away on the left hand side among the show ground buildings, is a dump point. A very handy facility when you need to dump black waste from your toilet tanks.

 

Wagin Historic Village
Wagin Historic Village.

 

The clutch was fixed quickly and after two nights in Wagin we were on our way again.

Since there was no way we would have been able to complete the original objectives of this trip we came up with plan 'B'. Instead of heading north we turned south to explore Katanning and then do a loop out to Pingrup, Ongerup, Gnowangerup and back to Katanning again.

The first stop was Woodanilling, the rain was being its usual helpful self and continued to make photography difficult.

On the way into Katanning we noticed a reasonably good rest area on the east side of the road about 15km north. There is plenty of room and a table and seats plus a bin. It is possible to get quite a long way back from the road at this rest area so it is a good one to keep in mind for an overnight stop.

 

Rest area north of Katanning
Rest area north of Katanning.

 

Katanning is a rather large town so we took some time wandering around getting as many pictures as we could. As the choice of shops here is also better than most surrounding towns we also did a bit of shopping.

There is quite a bit to see in Katanning but we intended coming back so it was time to head off again.

Not knowing where our next overnight stop was going to be we headed east towards Pingrup. Along the way we found a small church and a hall at Badgebup. The church was an unexpected delight, the only disappointment was not being able to see inside.

The hall offered a nice large area to park up for the night so Badgebup turned out to be a great little find.

We had no idea what was at Badgebup but it is unexpected delights like the church, that inspire us to continue our explorations of W.A.

 

St. Peters Anglican church at Badgebup
St. Peters Anglican church at Badgebup.

 

The first town on the day's list was Nyabing. The throttle cable in the Coaster was starting to stick a bit so we picked up some CRC at the general store and sorted out the cable before having a look around the town.

Most of these little towns have good rest areas with plenty of room for caravans, buses etc. They usually have some sort of shelter, seats tables and of course they have public toilets available.

Nyabing isn't a big town but the general store does carry a good range of products and has a decent hardware section that can be very useful for travellers.

 

Nyabing
Nyabing.

 

There were no marked rest areas between Badgebup and Pingrup but we did see two unmarked areas that looked like they might have been useful. The first was located on the south side of the road about 32km west of Pingrup and the second was just 2km further on, on the north side of the road. The second looked like it has been a bit churned up by trucks.

As it was now close to mid-day on a Saturday, nothing besides the roadhouse was open in Pingrup and the streets were pretty deserted.

The rest area in town was useful as it had a rubbish bin, shelters, seats and tables and a tap located so that travellers can easily fill their water tanks. There are public toilets located in the town hall.

There is also a caravan park in town that looked as though it would be ok for a stop-over if we ever needed to stay there.

 

Pingrup
Pingrup.

 

As it was, we still had one more town on our list for the day so we turned south and headed for Ongerup.

55km further on we reached our destination but the town seemed to be in the middle of a mosquito plague. The mozzies had been pestering us during the whole trip but at Ongerup they were worse than just about anywhere else. Usually the danger times for mosquitoes are dawn and dusk but these little monsters were out all day long.

After some hurried photos and a lunch eaten in the safety of the Coaster, we were off again heading for our overnight stop at Louis' Lookout.

 

Ongerup
Ongerup.

 

This is a nice rest area located on the Ongerup-Gnowangerup Road just west of the road to Borden.

The rest area has a good view of the Stirling Range and is set back away from the main road. There are seats, tables and a shelter and plenty of room to turn around.

 

Louis Lookout
Louis' Lookout.

 

For once we slept in a bit and didn't get going until almost 9am! Well it was Sunday and it was raining again so there was no reason to hurry.

Gnowangerup wasn't very far away and we had a good look around the town. I had no idea that it was a fair sized town. There are some nice old buildings to photograph and a good community park with playground, BBQ, shelter, seats, tables and toilets.

As Sunday is even more quiet in country towns that Saturday afternoon, there wasn't much reason to linger once we had taken enough photos.

 

Gnowangerup
Gnowangerup.

 

On the way to Tambellup we found a reasonably good rest area (GPS 34 01 56.34 S 117 50 08.22 E) that only has bins but it would make a good overnight stop.

We have been to Tambellup a few times but we updated our photos and then made our way to the stop for the night at the Toobrunup school. There are at least three ruined farm houses on the road to the school that may be of interest to those (like us) who enjoy taking pictures of abandoned buildings.

This place isn't easy to find and locals have deliberately left it without any signs in order to try and prevent vandalism of the school buildings. We suggest that if you want to find it you ask at the local visitor centre.

 

Toolbrunup
Toolbrunup.

 

The mozzies were so bad that we spent only a few minutes outside the Coaster taking pictures and then retreated so that we didn't get eaten alive!

This trip will probably be remembered as much for break-downs, rain and mosquitoes as for the places we visited.

The following day was yet another in the succession of cloudy drizzly days that had dogged our travels since we left home. We seemed doomed to have no sun at all on this trip. It is a dual problem because we need solar power to keep all our systems going and sunny weather is much better for photography.

The last stop before returning to Katanning was Broomehill. This is small town 20km south of Katanning.

There are some interesting buildings and we recommend a visit to the Henry Jones Bulidings where you can browse through all sorts of items, have a coffee and cake and even purchase some local wine.

 

Broomehill
Inside the Henry Jones buildings at Broomehill.

 

After another quick look around Katanning and a visit to Woolworths to stock up on supplies, we stopped off at the rest area north of town to get a GPS reading and take a couple of pics. There was an ominous rumbling from one of our wheels that could only mean impending bearing trouble and as we were now fairly close to Wagin, it just seemed to make sense to head back there and get the problem sorted out at Wagin Mechanical.

We still had a night before we had to drop the Coaster off so we camped at one of our favourite spots, Norring Lake. The mozzies here came as no surprise after our last visit although this time they were out during the day, not just at dusk and dawn.

 

Norring Lake
Norring Lake.

 

Unfortunately some of the parts needed to complete the job had to be brought in from the eastern states and we would not be able to stay in the Coaster so it was time once more for RAC to come to our rescue with some accommodation while the repairs were done.

 

More Coaster repairs
More Coaster repairs.

 

We were up extra early so we could arrive at the workshop as early as possible. Thankfully we had a loan vehicle from the workshop so we could still get around town. This gave us the chance to really explore Wagin and by the time we had finished there wasn't much more we could have seen.

We were staying at the Wagin Motel - it is the only motel in town so there isn't any choice if you want this style of accommodation - and despite being a bit of an old building, it was quite pleasant inside and we were able to get a unit with a kitchen so we could at least save some money by preparing our own food.

 

Wagin Motel
Wagin Motel.

 

We decided to treat ourselves to some decent meat while we were staying at the motel and visited the local butcher shop. Meat from a dedicated butcher shop is almost always more expensive that supermarket meat but it is SO MUCH BETTER!

The pork chops were delicious! So good in fact that the next day we went back and bought some to take home. We also picked up some steak and sausages and in the process blew the food budget but by this time the mechanical repairs had made any other expense on the trip seem rather insignificant.

The bearings were all done and we got the Coaster back but there was still one more job to do, a steering rod that needed replacing hadn't arrived so just when we thought we were going to escape from Wagin, we found we had to come back one more time.

There was nothing for it but to camp at nearby Puntapin Rock (GPS 33 19 31.8 S 117 24 10.8 E) which is only about 4km from town. There is a toilet and water which is handy. The rock is a bit deceptive and looks like an easy climb but it goes on for longer than you expect.

At least was is nice to be back in the bush and back in the Coaster.

 

Puntapin Rock
Puntapin Rock.

 

We were up at 6am to allow us to get to the workshop by 7am. Everything was sorted out quickly and we have to thank Cam for coming in on what is usually his day off to get the job done for us.

We had one last town to visit before starting the journey home and it is one that I am quite familiar with.

Narrogin is one of the largest towns in the area and has a good collection of heritage buildings. For a change the sun had come out and we took the opportunity to get some nice pictures around town.

 

Narrogin
Narrogin.

 

Sadly our time had now run out and there was just time for one night at Pumphrey's Bridge again and a nice BBQ dinner with some steak we bought at the Wagin butcher's and the next day it was back to the suburbs.

At the time of writing I still don't know how much the bearing work on the Coaster will cost, I must have an honest face as Cameron said he was too busy to do an invoice and would sort it out later, which of course, we will with the aid of our trusty - somewhat battered - credit card....

Although the trip turned out to be completely different from the one we had planned, we did get to visit quite a few towns, some that we have never seen before. We collected over 2,000 photos and a number of videos that we will be working on over the coming months.

We are hoping that our next trip is going to be much sooner than we had planned and this time we will actually get to some of the small northern wheatbelt towns.

 

Updated April 2016

Go to the next blog installment Go to the next blog installment

 

 

PLACES TO SEE
in travel order

 

Jarrahdale
North Bannister
Wandering
Pingelly
Wickepin
Harrismith
Wagin
Woodanilling
Katanning
Pingrup
Nyabing
Ongerup
Gnowangerup
Tambellup
Broomehill
Narrogin

 

MORE PICTURES

 

Jarrahdale

North Bannister

Wandering

Mouambine

Coolgardie safe - Wickepin

Wagin

 

 

 

 

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