The weather was perfect, blue skies, warm, not hot, and everything was ready for our annual trip to wildflower country in Western Australia.
This was the first hint that spring was finally on its way.
A quick stop at the petrol station to fuel up and check the tyres and off we were all set to go, or so we thought.
When checking the tyres we found that the right rear inner was only at 10psi and after pumping it to full pressure there was a nasty little hiss so it
was obvious we weren't going to get far on a Sunday.
At least it was possible to drive so we headed down to Kwinana to enjoy the sunshine and relax after what had been a long cold, wet winter.
Up early and off to the tyre repair shop to get the flat fixed and then, a day late, we were off.
Almost every previous year we had tried to get away for wildflower season, there had been some reason that we didn't go on time and missed the best of
the flowers. This time we were prepared and were off at what we judged to be peak time - how wrong that turned out to be.
Our first stop was Two Rocks that I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. Rather surprisingly, not much had changed, it was still a place that seemed to
be struggling to live up to its potential and still not quite making it.
The Yanchep area is now all but a few kilometres from being part of the sprawling suburbs that make up greater Perth. Once it was a long drive through
the bush to get there. Now the northern suburbs are almost on its doorstep.
We had a quick wander around the shops by the marina and had a look at the ruins of the old Atlantis Marine Park.
Abandoned theme park at Two Rocks
Then it was on to Gingin for lunch and a ride around town on the bikes to get some footage before heading for our first overnight stop at Wannamal.
It was almost exactly 20 years ago that we first went to Wannamal with our old Bedford bus to join in a CMCA wildflower rally. We have dropped by many times
since and it is always a useful stop when we are coming though the Midlands. With lights, BBQ, bins, washing water and flushing toilets there isn't much else
you could ask for and there is a donation box so that travellers can help support the local community and its efforts to make this a great place to overnight.
When we had been here 20 years ago the wildflowers had been nothing short of breathtaking and this time they were also putting on a first class show. We
had every reason to expect that things would only get better as we moved further north.
We took our time getting going as we wanted to photograph more of the wildflowers in the early morning light.
We drove a short distance north to Mogumber. This was also a 'known' wildflower spot and the walk trail next to the hall used to be really worth investigating.
Unfortunately some dim-wit has now decided that the waste disposal site (that never should have been put there in the first place)
should now be all fenced off and this has totally stuffed what used to be a great wildflower walk.
On the positive side, the area around the hall is now a rest area with a suggested 'donation' of $5 a night made by those who stay overnight.
Like Wannamal, there is a BBQ, shelter, seats, tables, flushing toilets and washing water so the donation will go to help keep this site available.
There is a big NO CAMPING sign as you drive in but don't be put off because in the BBQ area is the information on staying overnight. The 'no camping'
sign has been there for a long time and apparently has not been removed to bring the site up-to-date with the other information.
We thought about stopping the night but it was a bit too early in the day so we moved on.
It was only a few hundred meters up the road that we noticed an ominous click, click noise coming from the front left wheel. I knew what it was immediately,
the valve clip had fallen off!
For those who have no idea what a valve clip is, it is a piece of metal designed to hold the valve stem in next to the rim to stop the valve being chopped in
half by the brake assembly.
I don't know what moron decided to design a brake assembly that was so close to the valve that it would cut it in two but whoever it was they need a first
class kick up the bum!
We had to find something to hold the valve in, not an easy task when the only thing to attach something to is the rim of the tyre.
Dorothy came up with the brilliant idea of using a small (very small) occy strap and this worked well. In fact as I type this it is still holding and I intend
to leave it there until it falls off or until we get a new clip, whichever comes first.
We stopped in Moora to buy a new clip and although several businesses knew what it was, they didn't bother to keep any stock so after a visit to the local
hardware store, we fashioned a replacement by using a copper staple and drilling out the hole a bit more. In the end the occy strap lasted until the trip was over
but by the time we got home there was much more than a valve clip to worry about.
It was late in the day and I had the option of checking out a campsite of unknown quality or heading for the well known site at Buntine Rocks. I didn't want to
rock-up at the new site and find it was useless so although Buntine was still quite a long way off, that became our destination.
We arrived before 5pm and were very disappointed to find NO WILDFLOWERS. Now I don't mean, not many, or just a few, I mean NO WILDFLOWERS. It was like the
end of summer with not a hint of colour in sight. The whole area was like that. We were soon to discover that everything north as far as Tardun was the same.
As 2016 had been a real bumper year, we were astonished to find that 2017 was one of the worst wildflower seasons on record.
While Perth and areas close to it had been drowning in repeated deluges during winter, the inland mid-west had been very dry. The result, very bad times for
farmers and a crappy wildflower season.
A wet drizzly night gave way to a misty morning and we got the bikes out to ride up to the rock in the vain attempt to find anything to photograph.
Sadly there was nothing, so we packed up and moved on.
We stopped off at Maya and Latham to see what the wildflower experience in those places was like, it was the same miserable tale. Maya did have an item of interest to me,
an old Valentine tank (WWII vintage) that had been turned into a piece of farm machinery. This was the case with many tanks that were surplus to requirements when
the Second World War ended.
At Perenjori we dropped in to the Visitor Centre to get the official 'goss' about local wildflowers and were told the whole area was one big wildflower desert.
Well we still had some new places to explore and went north to Koolanooka Spring.
Rains had come (somewhat belatedly) and had done nothing but make the unsealed roads red, squishy and slippery.
Koolanooka was similarly lacking in wildflowers so we decided to settle down for the night and try heading to Canna and Pindar the next day,
where at least there were some reports of good wreath-flowers.
Koolanooka isn't the most impressive site, there are flushing toilets, bins, wood BBQs and a large parking area set between rocky hills but for some reason it
failed to have much of an impact without the expected profusion of flowers.
Moved on to Morawa to find out about wildflowers in that area and it was just more of the same bad news.
We wanted to check out the dam at Canna and find out what it would be like as an overnight stop. It turned out to be pretty good but we still decided to
stay at the Old Camp and think about going to the dam site the next day.
The previous two days had been rather disappointing as we had only got a bit of footage and very few still shots. Not a great deal to show for this trip so far.
Old Camp at Canna
We moved only a short distance from the Old Camp at Canna to the dam area. Not many people seem to know about this site and we had it to ourselves.
There are two dams, both are fenced off but there were a few wildflowers and a lot of different types of birds.
There are some nice walks through the bush so despite the still overcast and sometimes drizzly weather, it turned out to be a good spot to spend the night.
We continued north to Pindar and then went searching for the wreath leschenaultia flowers that we had been told about.
There is an area to the left of the main dirt road that is signposted as a wreath flower hot-spot so we followed it to the left only to find nothing was
there. We continued on for a few kilometres to see if we could find anything but no luck.
On the way back we took the main track instead of the one signposted as the spot to see wreath flowers and sure enough, there they were.
Not as spectacular as during some years but nice to see in any case.
We turned west and had lunch at Mullewa and dumped black water at the caravan park. Then we took the road to Mingenew as we were intending to overnight at
Coalseam Conservation Reserve.
Flowers were increasing in number along the roadside verges as we travelled south so we had high hopes for Coalseam. When we arrived we did find some nice
patches of flowers so it was worth stopping for the night.
The campsite at Coalseam has been expanded and improved so there is now a better chance of finding a site during peak times. There is also an overflow site
that can be used if the main site is full. See the caretaker for details.
Coalseam Conservation Reserve
We left early and moved west to Mingenew. Had a look around, filmed and photographed and then continued south to Three Springs and Caranamah.
Being a Sunday there wasn't much to encourage us to stay long in any of the towns and after a quick look at Yarra Yarra Lakes lookout near Carnamah we turned west again to Eneabba.
Yarra Yarra Lakes
Along the road, an animal of some sort wandered out in our path and we swerved to avoid it. Luckily we didn't hit it as it was an echidna. Before we could
stop to get a photo, it had wandered off into the bush.
We passed through Tathra National Park where there were some good roadside wildflowers but little else to see.
Once we arrived in Eneabba it was the same 'Sunday blues' problem, so we just took some brief footage and continued west to our stop for the night,
This is a good campsite and is VERY POPULAR so it may be difficult to find a spot even though there is a three night limit and campers are SUPPOSED to move
on after that limit expires. By the look of some of the camp-sites there are some who are ignoring the rules and hogging places when they should be moving on.
We found a spot a fair way up the track (to the left) away from the toilets and other facilities but that suits us fine as we are fully self-sufficient.
We stayed the day at Indoon to catch up on editing film and pictures, housework in the Coaster and a spring clean of the trailer and some exploration
as we had never stayed at Lake Indoon before, we had only passed through on the way to somewhere else.
It was time to move on after a 'rest day', so we returned to Brand Highway and turned south, refuelled at Halfway Mill roadhouse and then went east so that we could pass through
Alexander Morrison National Park. This is a route we had never taken before and it turned out to
be worth-while as there were some nice flowers along the roadside.
Alexander Morrison National Park
There isn't any proper access to the national park apart from the main road but there are good verges and it is easy to pull over safely and walk along to see what
flowers are blooming.
You can find a good rest area on the north side of the road past the eastern boundary of the park. There are no facilities but it is a big open area and
suitable for an overnight stop for anyone who is looking for something in the area.
Continuing east we arrived in Coorow and had a quick look around before driving a couple of kilometres to Coorow Community Farm. This was another place that
was suffering from a lack of wildflowers but we did glimpse a few ever-lastings but little else worth mentioning.
There is a 6km circuit drive through the paddocks and it can be done easily in dry weather by most caravans and motorhomes although big rigs would find some
of the trees and sharp turns quite challenging.
It was getting a bit late in the day by the time we called in to the wildflower farm (owned by the Tonkin family) north of Moora. We have been there before
and it is an interesting place to visit. The free cup of tea or coffee and sitting to watch an interesting video clip on wildflowers in W.A. just adds to
We passed through Moora for the second time on this trip and just before 5pm we arrived in Mogumber. This time we intended to stay for a couple of nights so
we paid the $5 per night fee and settled in.
We explored the reserve around Mogumber Hall and found that the fencing that has now surrounded the waste facility has cut through a number of walking trails
that were once great places for wildflower spotting. There are other tracks behind the oval so we got the bikes out and went looking for wildflowers. This
area has the largest number of large groups of cow-slip orchids I have seen. There are a couple of other orchid species including vanilla and spider, so it is worth
exploring the reserve to see what you can find.
The BBQ by the hall was working well so we had a nice BBQ dinner as the clouds started to roll in and the nice fine weather we had been enjoying for the past
few days was coming to an abrupt end.
We were heading further inland, so went east from Mogumber to the Great Northern Highway and then turned on to the Calingiri road.
A quick drive around town to get some footage and it was on to Wongan Hills where we had the choice of stopping overnight at Lake Ninan or at
an RV rest stop by the swimming pool in town.
RV Rest Area at Wongan Hills
First we drove out to Mt. O'brien and went to the lookout to get some pictures. The drive up is pretty steep and caravans are not permitted to take the track
up. We checked with the local visitor centre and were told the Coaster would be fine.
The views from the top of Mt. O'Brien are spectacular and sweep out to Lake Ninan on one side and across the rolling farmland one all other sides.
View from Mt. O'Brien
We stopped back in town to refuel and pick up water. The water tap is near the flag pole by The Station (next to the visitor centre) and there is also a dump
point a short distance away. Large vehicle parking is also available and Wongan Hills can be considered VERY RV friendly.
The RV stopping area (next to the old P.C.Y.C. Building is just south of the railway on the road to Calingiri) and is very large. The information we were given was
that visitors can stop there for up to 96 hours. Of course you do need to be fully self-contained.
The weather continued to deteriorate, so after doing a wildflower walk near the caravan park, we made our way out to Lake Ninan and set up for the night.
Thankfully the weather cleared during the night and there was no more wind and rain. We had a quick walk in the morning to look for more birds and wildflowers before
turning south and making our way to Goomalling, Northam, York and finally Greenhills for our next overnight stop.
One interesting place along the way was Konnongorring. This could be a useful overnight stop as there is a big parking area next to a hall and a small church.
There were seats, tables and toilets as well.
Greenhills Tavern is a great place to stop and if you buy a drink or two or have a meal then you are also welcome to use the toilets.
We had a bit of trouble finding the road from Greenhills to Gwambygine as the signs were hidden away off the main road. After turning around a few times
we did eventually find it by using the GPS but it would be greatly appreciated if the authority responsible for posting road signs actually used more
than one brain cell when deciding where to put road signs.
Our maps were worse than useless as they showed Gwambygine Road starting at a different location to Picadilly Road. They BOTH start at the same place on
the Quairading road.
We hadn't intended to stay the night at Gwanbygine but the moment Dorothy saw all the bird life, it was time for plan 'B' to take effect. That means we have
a longer drive the following day but since we got some good bird photos, it was be worth the longer drive.
Gwanbygine, for those who have not been there before, is a useful stop south of York on the way to Beverley. There are toilets, water, bins, shelters,
tables and seats but sadly the BBQs have all been neglected and would couldn't find one that worked.
There aren't many good sports for caravans and nothing for big rigs but if it isn't busy, we usually manage to squeeze in somewhere.
The final morning of the trip started cold and misty but by the time we got moving, it had cleared and the sun came out.
We made our way south to Beverley to pick up some much needed fuel. Thankfully we always carry some cash as the EFTPOS system was out of order
and we could have been stuck otherwise.
The drive to Kelmscot down Brookton Highway was hilly but pleasant enough and when we turned on to Thomas Road, just 20 minutes from home,
we were congratulating ourselves for a productive and almost trouble free trip. As it turned out, it was too early for such congratulations.
Just past Tonkin Highway there was suddenly an odd sound that I thought was a tyre coming apart. We pulled off the busy road and had a look underneath but
couldn't see anything wrong.
So we took off again but now there was a clicky crunchy sound and there was obviously something very wrong. We called the RAC to get a tow organised
and the tow truck driver spotted the problem right away. The left hand ball joint had given up so we were headed for the workshop yet again....
Yet again RAC Roadside Assistance came to our aid and got things sorted out for us.
No wonder we would never think of going on the road without them!
We had also managed to pick up at least one passenger on our travels, as a small lump I discovered on my hip when I got back, turned out to be a tick.
If you pick up one of these unwanted hitch-hikers on your own travels in the bush, check out this
tick removal guide from ABC.
Not the way we hoped the trip would end.
Updated September 2017