Margaret River – Big Valley, Bremer Bay, Quaalup Homestead

Trip Leader:  Martin & Karen

When:  24th November 2006

Location: Margaret River

Participants: 16 Carloads

Friday 24th November
Karen and I left Kelmscott at 6:30am arriving at Big Valley at 9:30.am. The trip to Margaret River via the SW Highway was uninterrupted, other than being sandwiched between heavy truck convoys for most of the way. This wasn’t too much of a problem because the trucks maintained a comfortable 100kmh most of the way.

We were the first to arrive at Big Valley, other than Wilma and Gary who had travelled down the previous day. After setting up camp, I set about placing the flags and markers through the valley for the golf competition. The grass in the valley paddocks was at ankle height which made it great to walk through as long as you didn’t mind plucking grass seeds out of your socks for the next hour.

The remainder of the 16 cars attending that weekend arrived throughout the day with Richard and Helen the last to arrive at about 7:30pm. We had intended to have the Lamb Spit dinner at about 8:00pm, however, the lamb cooked quicker than planned and had to be removed from the spit early. A magnificent array of salads and deserts were provided by all to mark the start of our second Big Valley weekend.

As luck would have it, Wilma and Gary’s Daughter-in-law was in Margaret River Hospital that day awaiting the birth of a baby. After an anxious wait through that evening the phone call eventually came, making Wilma and Gary grandparents for the first time. Congratulations nanna and grandad.

Saturday 25th November

A sleepless night was had for some of us kept awake by loud music emanating from the camp site in an adjacent field. The music stopped at 2:15am when I dragged myself from a cosy camper to go and read the riot act to a couple of stoned grape pickers.

A 9:00 o’clock start was pre-arranged for the day’s drive to Black Point. All but Wilma and Gary joined in for the day trip (Apparently they thought that seeing their new granddaughter for the first time was more important than going on a 4WD trip).

14 vehicles headed in convoy through the lovely valley roads south of Margaret River. The pre-planned route was to take us along tracks though forest bringing us out at Alexandra Bridge on the Blackwood River. However, the track was found to be disused, overgrown and laden with fallen tree branches. One or two vehicles may have been able to get through, but I didn’t want to take the chance with a convoy of 14 vehicles. So we did a strategic turn-a-round and used the Bussell Highway instead.

Morning Tea was had at Alexandra Bridge boat ramp/camp ground before continuing south to the Milyeannup Coast Road via Scott River Road and this lead onto Woodarburrup Road which in fact is sand track meandering through the D’entrecasteaux National Park. The track eventually became soft sand and we stopped to let some air out of our tyres.

Black Point was our planned stop for lunch, however it was found to be too small to park 14 vehicles, so we continued on to Jasper Beach. It was a little windy, but by using the vehicles as wind breaks and Paul and Keith erecting some shade we made ourselves a cosy nook for lunch.

According to our GPS map, there should have been another track leading from the beach about 4 km south of where we entered. So we headed off along the beach in search for it. Unfortunately after about 3km we came across a rock outcrop which prevented us from continuing along the beach. So we did an about face and headed back to where we came. It took a little longer than planned to leave the beach as a few vehicles had trouble getting up the sandy climb off the beach. Eventually they relented and let their tyres down a bit more and made it up unassisted.

By the time we reached Lake Jasper turn-off, it was decided it was getting too late to visit the lake. So we headed for the park exit near the Vasse Highway where we re-inflated our tyres and headed back to Margaret River.

I had planned to take the same return leg to Big Valley that was taken last year. However upon perusing the same map that had lead us astray twice already, I saw a road leading from the Brockman Highway heading north in the direction we needed to go. With a name like “Great North Road” you would expect something fairly decent to travel on. Upon turning onto that road we quickly realised that someone in the local shire has a sense of humour. The track, full of pot holes and wash outs meandered through the Blackwood Conservation Park eventually crossing the river at a picturesque bitumen crossing near Hut Pool which during rainy periods would undoubtable become a challenging water crossing.

We drove into camp at about 6:30pm and after having a couple of hours in which to eat dinner, wash up and prepare for the evenings entertainment. Wilma and Gary had been waiting patiently for our return. An array of photos of the new born baby was spread out on a table by a proud Grandad for all to see.

Karen and I commenced the Red Faces competition with a practical demonstration of the competition rules. We were followed by a display of talented acts and not so talented acts from just about everyone present. We had the unenviable task of judging the winner. It was very difficult to do given the diversity of the acts performed and the effort each person put into each performance. Everyone should have been given a prize for their efforts.
We gave the first prize to Linda and George who sang their hearts out with their version of “Side by Side”. They both sang with such gusto, that it almost lifted the roof off and got everybody else fired up for their own acts.
Second prize went to Maxine and Jeff. Maxine played her piano-accordion while Jeff handed out lyric sheets for everyone to join in the singing. It was the best way to draw the attention away from you by getting everyone else to participate.
There were plays performed, recitals, jokes, comedy routines and finished off with some western line dancing by Helen and Richard who managed to drag some of us up for a few quick lessons.

 
We all retired to our caravans and campers totally exhausted. No amount of loud music from the neighbouring camp was going to stop me from sleeping.

Sunday 26th

After a morning of shopping we met at the Watershed Winery for lunch after which groups headed in different directions seeking more wine, chocolates or just relaxing back at camp. This allowed for a healthy happy hour to sit and talk before preparing the evening meals. Heading home that day were Richard, Helen, John K and Rosalie.

At the end of the afternoon the Golf course was closed and the flags and markers collected. The final results of the competition after the handicaps were deducted were;-
Martin 46 (Just making the rest of you feel comfortable)
Guy 35
Gary 38
George 32
John K 36
Peter 42
Jeff 40
John B 40
Richard 23 THE WINNER
Linda 27 (go girl)
Stella 30
Great effort Richard…next year your handicap is “scratch”, although you would have won anyway without a handicap.

Monday 27th

John and Sue B were the only couple staying on at Big Valley, the remainder of the group packed their trailers and caravans to start heading home. Karen and I were heading for Bremer Bay with George and Linda. However, George realising that his brand new Navara was due for its first service decided to go via Albany where there was a Nissan service agent.

The trip to Quaalup Homestead near Bremer Bay was through some lovely country. The roads took us through the forests surrounding Manjimup, stopping at a cherry farm to buy a kilo of fresh cherries and honey, and then past the Porongurup Ranges. It took a bit longer than anticipated, 6 hours arriving at Quaalup at 4:30pm.

Devils Creek Road into Quaalup was a little corrugated but otherwise a good gravel road. We were met at Quaalup by the owners Karin and Carsten who advised us that our other party Sam and Pasc had arrived yesterday as planned. George and Linda had also phoned through to advise that they would not be arriving until the following day.

In true Sam and Pasc fashion, they had already prepared an evening meal suitable for a family feast. We were also introduced to the Quaalup camp supervisor, Vicki the Kangaroo.

Tuesday 28th

Karen and I, Sam and Pasc decided to check out Bremer Bay. The track to Bremer Bay was rutted and washed out in places explaining why the owners of Quaalup only go into town once a month. The sand bar at the Bremer River mouth was like white bitumen to drive across.

We purchased a few essentials at the only store in town. Most important was the special soap to cope with the hard water on tap at Quaalup. We then headed for the various beaches around the Point Henry Peninsula. We settled ourselves at the Small Boat beach on the sheltered side of the peninsula where we cast our fishing lines while Pasc sat back and read a book. Several herring and skippy were caught, but nothing worth writing here about. We then headed for Short beach on the ocean side where it started to rain. Luckily there was a good sized gazebo to shelter under while we had lunch. We then tried our luck fishing again with Sam having most of the luck with another catch of small fish.

We returned to Quaalup where the camp fire was re-kindled and camp ovens stocked for the evening meal. George and Linda arrived in the afternoon with their new car freshly greased and lubricated. Overcast weather provided a little drizzle here and there, but didn’t hamper an enjoyable evening in the outdoors.

During the night, the heavens opened up sending down a bucket load of rain.

Wednesday 29th

Lots of rain… Yippeeeeee… lots of puddles to drive through. That turned out to be true, but not in the Fitzgerald River National Park which was closed that morning following the heavy rains. The reason we were told was the risk of spreading die-back washing off vehicles as they drive through the flooded roads. So we headed for Trigalow Beach, getting there via a track that was tricky to navigate with the many washouts and flooded sections. The rain had ceased but it was still overcast with the sun occasionally blasting through the gaps in the clouds.

Trigalow Beach is a long expanse of white sand that borders the edge of the National Park. Several attempts at fishing here and there failed to catch anything. Upon approaching the eastern end of the beach, Karen spotted a school of quite large fish skirting the edge of the water. Sam quickly jumped out of his car and grabbed a fishing rod then running along the beach casting into the school of fish. After about half a kilometre of running and casting, his shorts began to fall down through the weight of the water soaking them. Not to be outdone, he quickly kicked off his shorts and continued casting and running. It’s at times like these, black underwear are essential. Eventually he gave up realising the fish were obviously not hungry. The shorts remained off for the rest of the day much to Pasc’s disapproval.

After lunch at Point Ann and a visit to the St Mary River mouth we headed back to Quaalup via the inland gravel road.

Thursday 30th

Fitzgerald River NP was still closed so we decided to head for the tracks and beaches around Doubtful Island and Point Swamp peninsular. Once again the rain had made the travelling tricky and by now the vehicles were covered in mud. We drove through House Beach past fisherman shacks and then onto Doubtful Island Beach. Here we discovered 5 dead beached pilot whales rotting away. Someone had already illegally taken the jaw bones and teeth as apparently the ivory is worth a considerable amount.

We drove up wind of the carcasses and spent a bit of time fishing the beach, once again with little result. We then drove across the peninsular using our GPS to guide us down the many tracks towards a blowhole on the cliffs of the southern edge. Nothing was signposted and tracks headed off in every direction. The blowhole was found hidden amongst trees and scrub about 100metres from the cliff edge. After a debate about whether the noise coming from the hole was due to wind or waves we headed back down the tracks towards Peppermint Beach.

This track was narrow and sandy leaving yet a few more brush marks down the side of the cars. Apologies were given to George and Linda for marking their new 4WD, but George was not perturbed saying it had to happen some time.

The sand on Peppermint beach was quite soft, so we had to let some air out of our tyres so as not to overwork the motors. Remote and inaccessible as it was, we had the whole beach to ourselves. I spotted a cosy corner at the northern end of the beach so I headed for it. The sand became softer and increasingly sloped to the waters edge, so I told the others to hold up and I’ll test it first. After a lateral slide towards to waters edge, then recovering and driving up into the sheltered corner I thought it too risky to bring the other vehicle through. In trying to return to the flatter part of the beach I again began to slide laterally towards the water, the only thing stopping the car was when it bottomed out in the soft sand and became bogged. George unstrapped his big shovel and moved a mountain of sand from beneath my car and I then drove out unaided.

Another track from the beach went for some distance before exiting at James Cove. This beach ran all the way to Bremer Bay. After re-fuelling at Bremer Bay we headed back to Quaalup.

A shared meal was planned for the evening and we were joined by Karin and Carsten. They Joined us for a drink at happy hour and upon being invited to stay for a meal stayed till the late hours of the night chatting. George put on his Sunday best for the evening (you have to see it to appreciate it).

Other than a couple of visitors staying in the chalets we were the only visitors that week in the camp ground. Vicki the kangaroo visited every evening, and we were advised not to feed her and keep food out of her reach. That night she managed to find a bag of peanuts wrapped in tin foil and we caught her red pawed with silver tin foil stuck to her claws and an empty peanut wrapper.

Friday 1st Dec

Today was to be a more relaxed day. So we decided to take a short trip down to the Gairdner River for morning tea. Upon reaching a beautiful location on the bank of the river Sam decided to try a spot of river fishing. His line was not in the water more than a minute when he started reeling in a healthy sized Black Bream. Excitement spread and before long, there were 5 lines cast into the river. After throwing back numerous undersized Bream, we eventually had bucketed 12 good size brim and 6 good size Salmon Trout.

After a couple of hours of enjoyable fishing and giving Pasc time to cover one or two more chapters of her book, we headed for another section of the river. This was closer to the river mouth and the only fish caught here were undersized and quickly returned to the water.

After a hearty lunch back at Quaalup of freshly grilled fish, we went for the Quaalup Nature walk out from the camp site. Upon return to the camp we intended to look through the historic building which was once the original homestead built in the 1850s. However, upon our return we were met by Karin who asked that we do not go in there straight away, but return to our camp. We found a note pinned to our picnic bench asking for all of us to go to the homestead together. There we were greeted by Karin and Carsten who presented us with a freshly baked apple strudel and cream as a thankyou for the previous evening’s dinner.

After a serving of strudel for “arvos” we started packing and organising things for an early departure the next morning.

Saturday 2nd Dec

After saying our farewells to Karin and Carsten we set off for the long trip home. The trip was thankfully uneventful other than driving through locust plagues through the entire length of the wheat belt. Upon arrival at home, my car looked like the giant from Jack and The Bean Stalk had sneezed all over it.

Thank you to all those that participated in the Margaret River trip for making it a most enjoyable weekend. And thanks to Sam, Pasc, George and Linda for being absolutely terrific people to spend a week away from home with.

Martin

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