25 May 2014
Looking toward the Stirling Range from Mt Barker Scenic Drive
This morning we tried out breakfast at our motel, we have planned a casual drive north away from the coast and toward the scenic area around Mount Barker. There was rain again early in the morning, but this cleared to a sunny day as we set off. The scenery went back to flat country that took in the sheep and cattle farms, and wineries. As we were driving through plantation forests, there were a number of mills. It is beautiful country, very green after days of rain, and framed by the Stirling Range in the background.
The Information Centre, when we reached the Mount Barker township did not open until 10am, so we set off with the maps we had and a plan of the spots we would visit. Firstly we took the Scenic Drive which took us through spectacular forest areas, with cleared farms and wineries along the way until it brought us back to the main road and on to the Porongurup National Park. The Porongurup forest is unique in that it is over 1 million years old, the ancient forest is home to towering granite peaks, majestic stands of Karri treees and is surrounded by some excellent wineries. It is home to over 78 species of bird life including majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles and the electric blue plumage of Splendid Wrens.
Here we found (at left) the Tree in the Rock (a tree that had grown up through a large rock), and the Bolganup Walk, a short distance through the forest. We met a local woman having her daily walk, she was an avid bird watcher and pointed out to us on her mobile phone photographs of some of the local forest birds, she even had recordings of the bird calls. Most of the birds were Purple Crowned Lorikeets who were in abundance because the Karri trees were in flower, however they will move away once the flowers have finished. They are very tiny birds, very beautiful, and quite noisy!
There were some interesting lichens, mosses and fungi on the rocks in this area (below), and an interesting ant nest covered with busy ants – which we avoided!
Time was moving on after our forest walks, we hadn’t spotted too many cafes, but we did track one down and had some tasty soup for lunch at the Porongurup Tea Room – a nice break to energise for the next walk! The petrol bowser was painted black with a Ned Kelly “head” which was quirky.
Having found our way to Castle Rock Road, we parked the car with the intention of attempting the walk to the Balancing Rock and the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk, descibed as being a “medium grade 2 km uphill path”, at the end of which one “scrambles over boulders using steel handholds to a vertical 6 metre ladder that takes you up to the Skywalk” – not recommended for those afraid of heights! We probably got half way up the track and were quite high, but decided on account of our age we would be wise to be sensible rather than silly and we turned back. We had seen photographs of the Balancing Rock, and had no intentions of climbing to the Skywalk in any event, but were pleased with our stamina to have climbed as far as we did!
A huge Karri tree that had fallen beside the track (left) and Pete on track
We took an alternate route back to Albany with similar scenery of green paddocks, mainly sheep and cattle, and the forests. As we neared Albany it started to rain (similar pattern to the last few days) and we discussed what other exploring we could manage that afternoon. The rain continued once we reached Albany and we decided to find a cafe and wait for the weather to clear (again the pattern of the last few days). It was difficult to find a cafe, I think Albany sleeps on Sunday afternoons, however we tracked down one cafe for afternoon tea. The weather did in fact clear so we took the opportunity of driving up to Melville Lookout for views across the city and working port.
The busy working port of Albany, one of three W. A. ports that export the state’s wheat crops
The Earl of Spencer historic inn (built 1884) was recommended for a meal, we found the pub without too much trouble and enjoyed a meal there while we listened to a local band.
That brought us to the end of another busy exploring day, tomorrow we are going to explore points of interest around Albany on our last day here before heading to the most eastern place we will visit, the seaside town of Esperance.