Trip Leader:  Martin Archer

When:   26th December to 8th January, 2011

Location: Esperance WA

Participants: Martin, Karen and Locky Archer in a Pajero towing a caravan
                     Roger and Jan Freegard in a Discovery towing an Ultimate camper
                     Peter and Denise Belcher in a Landcruiser towing a caravan
                     Jason, Jane, Lani and Tia McCarthy in a Pajero towing a camper
                     Bob and Bridget McPherson in a Landcruiser towing a camper
                    Glenn Bignell in a Landcruiser
                    Keith Parker in a Pajero towing a caravan
                    John and Viv Stampalija in a Landcruiser towing a camper
                    John and Rosalie King in a Prado towing a caravan

                    Helen & Richard Kingston in  …     and a caravan
                    Guy & Wendy Lehmann in shiny new Pajero and shiny new caravan

Day 1, Sunday December 26, 2010. Boxing Day

9 vehicles met at the Gull Service Station at the corner of Canning Road and Brookton Hwy, Karagullen.

We set off at a respectable hour of 9:45am heading south-east on Brookton Highway. Despite very strong easterly winds causing additional fuel consumption , the journey progressed well, stopping at Corrigin for a short break before continuing on to Hyden for Lunch. Glenn suffered some mechanical problems with his fuel line before reaching Hyden, so with the assistance of John and Viv performed a roadside mechanical check while the remaining party continued into Hyden.
A good long lunch break was had in Hyden until Glenn and John rolled into town. Glenn had still not found the cause of the loss in power to his engine but suspected it was a fuel problem. Glenn decided to dump the remaining fuel in his tank and replenish it with new fuel. This was going to take a little time so Stamps offered to stay with Glenn while the rest of us continued for our planned overnight stop south of Lake King at the Pallarup Nature Reserve. It was 4:30pm by the time we pulled up in a road side camp area at the intersection of Muncaster Road and Lake King – Ravensthorpe Road. A satellite phone call was received from Glenn who said he was staying in Hyden overnight to see a RAC mechanic in the morning. John and Viv had continued on to meet up with the rest of us, arriving at camp just after 6:00pm.
Total fire bans meant no camp fire that night and with strong chilling winds we all decided to retire quite early.

Day 2 Pallarup to Duke of Orleans

Everyone was packed up and ready to leave by 8:00am and we headed for Ravensthorpe to meet up with Guy and Wendy Lehmann. Guy had recently purchased a new Pajero and a new caravan, so they were not hard to spot with their glistening new rig sitting on the side of the road in Ravensthorpe. Keith decided not to take the chance of making it to Esperance with what fuel was remaining from Hyden and refueled at Ravensthorpe. It was a wise decision as it turned out because, although it was just 380km between Hyden and Ravensthorpe, the strong head winds and undulating roads saw myself running out of fuel about 20 km short of Esperance. Luckily Bob had spare diesel on board and was able to get me running again. As trip leader I decided it was not significant enough to rate as a Piston Broke nomination.

After splitting up to re-fuel and have a lunch stop in Esperance we met at the Esperance Turf Club to head for Duke Of Orleans Bay. We arrived at Orleans Bay at about 2:30 where we found Richard and Helen Kingston already settled in. Duke of Orleans Caravan Park was reasonably busy as we booked in with a number of travellers being turned away because all serviced sites had been pre-booked for the holiday period. The unpowered area allocated to our club was a good size with plenty of room to spread out.

Glenn had managed to fix his fuel problem in Hyden and eventually joined us later in the afternoon just in time for happy hour.

Day 3:
Today was a casual rest day with most people setting up a semi-permanent camp for the two week stay. Towards the middle of the day several vehicles headed for the nearby Wharton Beach. This beach is a wide expanse of white sand and turquoise waters sheltered from the sea by a small peninsula. Ideal for swimming and body boarding. There were quite a number of vehicles on the beach, but plenty of room for everyone. We stayed on the beach for a swim before driving further along the waters edge to the end of the bay where a track marked with guide posts takes you across a sandy peninsula to the next beach called Victoria Harbour. There is little need to reduce tyre pressure because the beach sand is very firm in these areas, that is, if you have 4WD engaged, but we wont mention that will we JK?

Happy hour was spent back at the camp beneath the club’s two gazebos, which by the looks of the weather forecast may be needed for rain protection rather than shade. We hired a fire place from the caravan park for $15 per day which included fire wood. The only stipulation was that the cooking plate had to be left on top to prevent embers flying into the air. This still made a central point for everyone to sit around in the evening with the warmth radiating out from the fire.

Day 4:

Today’s trip involved a respectable 9:30am departure heading for Daniels Beach about 15 kilometers east of Duke of Orleans. There are two ways of getting to Daniels Beach from Duke Of Orleans. The easiest, but longest way, is to head away from the coast on Orleans Bay Road, then taking gravel roads to the beach. We chose to take the shorter route along a coastal track which leads from Duke of Orleans Bay, crosses a creek and involves a sandy hill climb. It wasn’t long before commencing on the track when it was realized that tyre pressures needed to be reduced, after which, there was little difficulty negotiating the track to Daniels Beach. Daniels Beach was yet another beautiful expanse of white sand and turquoise water. We had morning tea on the beach before heading off along a track which headed inland along the Munglinup River. The intention was to find a ruins marked on the map about 5 kilometers inland. However as we progressed the track became more closed in and eventually became too damaging for the paint work. We had the Lehmann’s new Pajero and the McPherson’s new 76 series Landcruiser in the convoy which were well and truly getting christened to bush driving. So we decided to do an about turn and head back to the beach. With the convoy now in reverse order the Kingstons were trip leader and Karen and I were Tail-End-Charlie. Richard led us through several dunes before finding another bay to park up on and have some lunch. Awnings were erected and as we settled down several other people on the beach decided to take the opportunity of an audience and ride quad bikes up and down the beach. Beautiful location but tranquility it wasn’t!

The drive back to camp was by way of the main gravel roads. A lot longer route, but less stressful on the driver and vehicle.

Day 5:
With New Years Eve pending and a couple of members planning to leave at the end of the week, it was decided to get a trip in to one of the main features of the area. Cape Arid National Park is just over 70km east of Duke of Orleans Bay. Several of the members decided to have a rest day in camp, so the convoy was reduced to 7 vehicles. Cape Arid is separated by two entrances, the first entrance was Thomas River Road which took us past the Rangers residence and then split in two directions. The first track we took led down to Tagon Bay which we soon discovered required reasonably low tyre pressures for the soft sand. But once their we found a nice secluded corner of the bay to stop for ‘morno’s.

We then headed back off the beach to the next location which took us past some camp sites (all full) and onto Yokinup Bay. This Bay runs for over 11 kilometers out to the tip of Cape Arid. As we progressed along the beach the sand became softer and beach narrower. A few of the ladies became anxious about the conditions and suggested we turn back. We had received some friendly advise from another person in the area on our UHF channel that the tide was due in at 8pm and we needed to make sure we were clear of the beach by then otherwise it would be a matter of staying the night. Although this was handy to know, it didn’t appease the ladies concerns. So after a little heated discussion with my navigator and the rest of the convoy content to continue we meandered our way along the beach. The ladies anxiety was relieved somewhat when we were overtaken by a Nissan Xtrail. We eventually reach the point of the cape which was a magnificent expansive sand bank with a large rock outcrop. Although it was at the point of the cape, the waters were considerably calm and the usual southern coast crystal clear.
After a long lunch break on the cape, we continued further over several headlands and bays, all of which had one or two campers settled in idyllic hide-aways. The idea was to try and find a track that would lead us around to Poison Creek which would prevent us from having to drive back along the beach. But to no avail, we reached a point where there was no way of continuing further. The only possible track was closed due to die-back risk. So we headed back the way we came, eventually coming across a couple of Landcruisers bogged on the beach. We stopped and gave them some assistance and friendly advise which they gratefully received. After clearing their wheels of sand and lowering the tyre pressures they were soon on their way.

Since the day was getting on, the other side of Cape Arid, including Israelite Bay was left until another day. We arrived back at camp in time for happy hour. The McCarthys and Glenn headed for Wharton Beach to watch the sunset.

Day 6:
Friday (New Year’s Eve) was spent by most visiting Esperance, either site seeing or shopping. Others stayed at the caravan park relaxing before the evening’s entertainment.
A group booking was made for a New Year’s Eve dinner at the Condingup Tavern. This tavern was discovered on day four when some of us had coffee there following the Daniels Beach run. A lovely designed compact tavern with a very cozy dining room has been run by the same family for several generations. They were more than happy to organize a set menu for our group of 19 for New Year’s Eve. A wonderful 3 course Dinner was enjoyed by everyone before we headed back to camp for the last couple of hours of 2010. Although the camp ground was fairly noisy when we returned with lots of stray teenagers excitedly wondering around, they all soon disappeared courtesy of a fireworks display on the beach. We decided to celebrate at the camp site to make use of the fire Jason and Jane had stoked up for our return. Midnight soon came along and hugs and kisses were enjoyed by all, but the men folk were soon outclassed when a group of about 7 topless blond young men came walking through the camp giving the ladies a New Years Eve hug and kiss. The club’s defibrillator almost got its first taste of action with some of the ladies getting over-excited by the lean male bodies.

Day 7:
After a party-recovery morning we decided to have a relaxing day on the beach at the nearby Victoria Bay. Access to Victoria Bay is via Wharton Beach by driving along the beach to the western point where a track marked with posts crosses a sand flat. This area is not too difficult to cross, however, you could find yourself bogged to the subframe and being photographed by the Subaru Club if you forget to put your car in 4WD; Hey John? Things could get more embarrassing if one of your convoy returns to give you a hand, you don’t recognise them when they beep their horn and you give them the finger!
A relaxing day was spent under shade awnings, swimming, fishing and kite flying.

Day 8:
We headed off at 9:30am in a convoy of 10 vehicles for Dunns Beach which is the Eastern Side of Cape Le-Grande National Park. Access to this beach is via Saddleback Road and onto a sandy track that winds itself through sand dunes and hills down to a wide expanse of white sand on the beach. The alternative route is through the main National Park Access via Lucky Bay. But that involves a lengthy trek along the coast. Once on the beach we headed east towards a rock outcrop hoping that it would provide some protection from the strong winds that day. The small bay did not afford much protection from the flying sand, but the rock outcrop did provide a good platform for fishing which most of us took advantage of. Glen, Jason and Roger had some success catching cod and herring.
We received a visit from DEC Rangers who where out patrolling the Cape Le Grande coast. We suspect they had heard our radio conversation and came to check us out. They were very pleasant young men who engaged us in conversation for a while before picking up some rubbish left behind by other campers.
The wind persisted through the afternoon after we had returned to camp. Guy and Wendy offered the protection of their new annexe for happy hour which proved a challenge getting 20 people into.

Day 9:
The McCarthys had planned to travel home today, so after seeing them off in the morning we had a 10:00am start for today’s trip to Lucky Bay and Cape Le’Grande National Park. With some of the crew deciding to have a rest day, we ended up with 6 vehicles in convoy. We took the same route back to Dunns Beach as the previous day, stopping to look at a 4 foot brown snake cross the track. Upon reaching Dunns Beach we headed west as opposed to east the previous day. This took us up to a point called Dunns Rock where there is a track crossing the point into the next bay which is called Rossiter’s Bay. However, before leaving Dunns Beach we assisted some people who were having trouble pulling their trailer out of a camping spot between dunes. They had bogged their Prado which was eventually freed by a bit of digging and tyre deflating.
Rossiter Bay is a little soft to drive on but has a firm tidal stretch when the tide is out. With tyres deflated it did not pose a problem either way. Another snake was sunbathing on the sand and was quite annoyed when our convoy disturbed its peace. Tail-End Richard gave it more angst by circling it in his car to prevent it heading back to the bush.
A Gravel road lead from the west end of Rossiters Bay to Lucky Bay where we found the camping ground full but the beach itself was not too busy. Lucky Bay is a very popular camping area due to the excellent scenery and sheltered waters of the bay. We set up shade awnings for our prolonged lunch stop.
We received news from another UHF radio user that the beach access to Esperance near Wiley Bay was closed due to a bush fire. So after leaving Lucky Bay we stopped at the Ranger Station where the Ranger confirmed that news. With our planned exit from Cape Le-Grande detoured we finished the day off by visiting the ‘tourist’ bays at Hellfire Beach and Cape Le-Grande Beach before heading back to camp.

After an early dinner most people headed down to Wharton Beach for a spot of evening fishing. We arrived there just in time to see the spectacular remnants of a beautiful sunset. Fishing was continued into the dark of the night without much success. Despite the lack of catch, the evening was calm with skies lit with brilliant stars.

Day 10:
Another rest day saw most people head down to nearby Nearn’s Beach for a casual fish and rest near the calm waters of this sheltered bay. Fishing proved more successful with a number of Brim and Cod caught by those that ventured, including 5 year old Locky who impressed everyone with his casting and landing a cod almost as big he is.
After a day of relaxing and leisure we prepared once again to head for Condingup Tavern for dinner. This time it was to celebrate Jan’s birthday. Another faultless meal was served by the Tavern who also prepared a special chocolate birthday mud cake with sparkling candles for Jan.
Upon return to camp the warm and clear night was extended further with a night cap around the fire.

Day 11:
With a 9:30 departure (on time again… gee what a good crowd) we headed in a convoy of 7 vehicles for Poison Creek on the Eastern side of Cape Arid National Park. The round trip was a little over 230km with about 20km of that distance over severe corrugations at the eastern end of Merrivale Road. Most of the corrugations were inside the National Park which we thought was a very poor effort on behalf of DEC in maintaining the track. This considering they had closed the access track from the western beaches to the eastern side some years ago to prevent die-back spread and haven’t reviewed it since. It is by no means easy for visitors to see this breathtaking part of the coast without suffering possible vehicle damage by traversing the bone jarring corrugations. Despite that small complaint, the visit to Thomas Fishery Beach, Hill Springs and Poison Creek was well worth the bad road conditions, 40+ heat and afternoon windy conditions.

We began driving back to camp with the outside temperature still above 40c. We reached Duke of Orleans after 4:00pm and decided to head straight for the beach to cool off. We found Little Wharton Beach a little busy, but with enough room for us to make our own commune near the water edge. The crystal clear water was very enticing and soon everyone was enjoying a swim. An approaching storm saw everyone pack up quickly as the wind conditions suddenly turned for the worst. We made it back to camp just in time to batten down awnings as the front came through with strong winds and heavy rain.

That evening was spent inside our camps away from the rain; although the high temperatures made things a little uncomfortable.

Day 12:
No specific trips ran today. Some went to Esperance and on to Gibson Soak for a hearty lunch, others stayed at Duke of Orleans and the local beaches for swimming and fishing. The Lehmanns departed camp in order to make a weekend wedding function.

Day 13: 

The Freegards departed to visit friends in Albany. Another unexplored bay was found using Ozi Explorer, so plans were made to go and investigate it. Located between Nearns Island Beach and Little Wharton Beach this bay is only accessible by a sand track. Our 4 vehicle convoy (2 other vehicles to follow later) navigated the soft sand tracks eventually driving onto the rock outcrops nearer the coast and then descending a steep sand hill onto another large sloping rock. From here it was decision to maneuver over boulders being swept by waves or use a very steep and soft sand bypass track. The first option was chosen with just a couple of the vehicles undersides slightly scraping on the rocks.
The day was spent on this wonderful secluded bay swimming, reading and fishing. The difficulty of the track meant that we were only disturbed by a family on quad bikes for a short moment during the day. Eventually the Kings and Stampalijas found their way to the beach using directions over the UHF from those on the beach. Rosalie was much relieved to have made it in one piece, but the fun was yet to be had in trying to get out.
Later in the afternoon the kings were first to try the steep exit track upon which the third attempt was successful after Rosalie decided to vacate the passenger seat and walk up to the rock platform. Glenn made three attempts before opting out with the rest of us deciding to use the alternate exit of a rock navigation.

Day 14:(Saturday): 

Departures were made by the Kings, Stampalijas, Belchers, Glenn and Keith. This left just the Archers and Kingstons at the camp. The vacant sites were soon occupied by other travellers. Those remaining spent a day on Little Wharton Beach before returning to camp in the afternoon to begin packing for our long drive home on Sunday.

Thank you to all those that attended for being such a fabulous group of people to holiday with. The same area has been booked for Tuesday Dec 27, 2011 to Saturday Jan 7, 2012.


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