We’d seen lots of wildflowers growing along the sides of the roads we’d travelled over the previous week (some of which even looked like snow) and having heard that this year was the best wildflower season in the last 10/20/30 years (and even living memory by some accounts!) we decided to go and have a look for ourselves before continuing on to Perth and so, after leaving the 2012 Postie Bike Challenge route, we detoured via the lovely little town of Beverley on our way to Bindoon where we stayed for two nights.
The following day, and after having morning tea at the wonderful local bakery, we donned our beanies, gloves and windproof jackets against the very cold and windy weather and did our own wildflower tour which took in Wubin (where we saw the rare Wreath Flower just to the east of the town near the Rabbit Proof Fence), the Jibberding Nature Reserve rest area (where wildflowers literally carpeted the whole area) and Mia Moon (where we saw some Donkey and Cowslip Orchids). When we returned to Bindoon where we called in to have a look at the Bindoon Catholic Agricultural College (it has a very sad and tragic history that was brought to light in the movie Oranges and Sunshine).
Our next destination after Bindoon was the little town of Badgingarra and on the way we stopped at New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town, to look at some of the buildings, 27 which are listed on the National Estate by the National Trust, and tour the museum and art gallery. New Norcia was founded by Roman Catholic Spanish Benedictine monks in 1847 and the town, farm and services are owned by the monks of the Benedictine Community of New Norcia. In addition the town is mostly self-sufficient financially – it does not receive any regular government funding and the monks rely on their own businesses and donations for support.
The museum contains a fascinating array of artefacts that trace New Norcia’s time as an Aboriginal mission, a centre of extensive farming and as a place of education and culture. It is also home to the St Joseph’s Aboriginal Girls’ Exhibition, which describes in first-hand accounts the experiences of Aboriginal girls resident at the Orphanage at New Norcia, and the Gardner Botanical Exhibition which features botanical artworks on paper – all of Western Australian plants – by WA’s first Government botanist, Charles Gardner. The art gallery is home to a wonderful collection of European and Australian art and includes a small but important group of 19th century scenes of New Norcia, approximately 60 Old Master religious paintings mainly from the 17th century, and over 160 contemporary Australian religious artworks.
After setting up camp in Badgingarra we set off on the Iain Wilson Nature Trail which started just across the road from where we had camped behind the Badgingarra Roadhouse. Despite the trail only being about two kilometres long the area it covers was awash with colour and home to an incredible variety of wildflowers, including several varieties of kangaroo paw, and a few different types of orchids. The very cold and windy conditions made it difficult to photograph some of the flowers and in some cases I only got one reasonable/good shot from up to ten attempts (and in some cases I couldn’t get a decent shot at all).
The following morning we did the Vern Westbrook Walk Trail which is located about three kilometres from Badgingarra and like the trail of the previous day the whole area was awash with colour – the highlight of this walk for me was getting to see (and photograph despite the windy conditions) several Spider Orchids! (Unfortunately I also managed to collect a few ticks while doing this walk – pesky little blood suckers!)
We then continued on to the little town of Latham which offers free camping (complete with toilets and hot showers) at the local community hall. About 15 kilometres from the town, along the Coorow-Latham Road, there was a white barrel on the side of the road with a sign that had the word ‘WREATH’ and an arrow on it. After setting up camp I drove back to have a look along the side road the arrow pointed to and after a short distance I came across an area where about twenty Wreath Flowers of various colours and sizes were growing. Exploring a bit further I found some more growing in a nearby gravel pit – after having previously only seen a group of three or four plants it was lovely to see so many together.
The following morning we called in at the visitor centre in Perenjori to make a donation to the Latham Community Centre and while we were there we picked up a brochure that detailed many of the points of interest in the region including wildflower hotspots, natural attractions and old towns and buildings.
By day’s end we had visited the towns/localities of Morawa, Canna, Tardun, Mullewa and Kojarena, a natural attraction known as War Rock and Canna Dam (a wildflower/orchid hotspot). We were surprised to discover that many of the stunning churches and church buildings in the region, including St Joseph’s Church isn Perenjori, Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church and the Priest House in Mullewa and St James Church in Kojarena, had been designed by Monsignor John Hawes, a local priest who was also a qualified architect, over a period of more than 20 years starting in 1915. Furthermore, he also worked as a labourer on some of the buildings he’d designed during their construction.
We stayed at Drummond Cove near Geraldton for the next three nights and the day after we arrived we headed for Kalbarri National Park. On the way there we stopped at the town of Northampton for morning tea and as we drove into the town I noticed a beautiful church – it is St Mary’s in Ara Coeli and was yet another church designed by Monsignor John Hawes. By this stage Ron, who is also a qualified architect, had become rather fascinated with the work of Monsignor John Hawes and was surprised that he not had learned anything about him while he was studying architecture in the 1970s.
Like all the other places we’d visited over the previous week Kalbarri National Park put on an impressive wildflower display in addition to showcasing its natural points of interest and while we were there we visited many of the lookouts and walked to Nature’s Window. One of the unexpected things we had to contend on this day was the pesky little flies that greeted us everytime we got our of the car – plus those who tried to hitch a ride by getting inside when we opened the car doors. Not content with just landing on exposed skin they also managed repeatedly to get in behind our sunglasses (and my glasses). At the second stop I put on a long-sleeve shirt and we both took to wearing the $5 fly nets we’d bought in Kalgoorlie. While this enabled us to enjoy the rest of our visit without being hassled by flies we soon noticed other people looking longingly at our fly nets – one guy even offered Ron $50 for his!
On our last day in Geraldton we visited the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre, which had only been opened the previous week, and the beautiful HMAS Sydney Memorial (which consists of a dome featuring 245 seagulls – one for each sailor who was lost when the ship sank) before heading to stay the night at Jurien Bay.
The following day started with a visit to Lake Thetis to see the stromatolites (these are rock-like structures built by microbes) before heading to Nambung National Park to see the famous Pinnacles. There are two options for seeing the Pinnacles – a short walk and a longer drive. We opted for the drive and fortunately the visitor centre caters well for visitors who are towing caravans/campers (which cannot be taken around the road route) and we were able to unhitch and park the camper so that we could do the drive.
As we were not able to get into the caravan park in Perth where we wanted to stay that night we decided to stay at Yanchep National Park for one night. As with some of the other national parks we’d visited in WA there was a park entry fee that had to be paid in order to access the camping area – fortunately we had the annual WA National Parks pass we’d bought in Kununurra and this meant all we had to pay was a very modest camping fee. Staying in the national park also gave us the opportunity to explore the nearby Boomerang Gorge, the park and buildings around Loch McNess and to do the Woodlands Walk.
After spending a couple of days in Perth we headed south to Donnybrook where were stayed for a two nights. Donnybrook has a great facility for campers just behind the cricket oval and once again we were really impressed with the way in which a small community had providd very affordable – and very good – camping facilities.
In addition to being cold and windy the weather in Donnybrook was also wet so we opted to go for a drive and visit Gnomesville (where literally thousands of gnomes live in almost the middle of nowhere!) before exploring the very picturesque Wellington National Park.
This marked the end of our wildflower tour and the following day we headed south-east to take part in the 2016 FJ Cruiser Summit …
Beverley, Bindoon, Wubin, Jibberding, Mia Moon, New Norcia
Badgingarra: Iain Wilson Nature Trail and Vern Westbrook Walk Trail
Latham, Perenjori, Morawa, Mullewa, Kojarena
Northampton and Kalbarri National Park
Geraldton, Lake Thetis, Nambung National Park/Pinnacles, Yanchep National Park, Gnomesville, Wellington National Park