Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Esperance and Points East

Esperance, Western Australia
Esperance, 720 km South East of Perth was one of the last places I visited in Western Australia, accidently coming upon the dog cemetery at Corrigan and spectacular Wave Rock at Hyden along the way.  Esperance, which has about 12,500 people, was named by a Frenchman, the indomitable Captain Bruni D' Entrecateaux [who had also been searching for lost countryman, La Perouse in Tasmania] in 1792, while sheltering from a storm and making repairs to his boat. Matthew Flinders visited in 1802 and mapped it for the crown in 1826 leading to the establishment of a military outpost at Albany to stop the French from claiming it. Eyre put in an appearance here too on his epic journey from South Australia in 1841 - indeed he and his aboriginal companion, Wylie, would have died here had had they not been rescued by the English Captain of a passing French whaling ship at the aptly named Lucky Bay.

Although subsequently favoured by whalers, sealers and pirates, today it's so popular with tourists that I couldn't get anywhere to sleep. With very steep fines for free camping, my stay was brief to say the least, and there was a gale blowing the whole time I was there so I couldn't give its much vaunted and beautifully named beaches the attention they deserved. I will say that it is an excellent place for wind farms and it was  the first place in Australia to get one back in 1987.

Sadly, these are among the photos which I lost when the computer crashed, so if you'd like to see more, you'll have to go there yourself. Just be sure to book first!

I came upon this unsual cemetery dedicated to Man's Best Friend by accident at Corrigan, one of the wheat belt towns on the way to Esperance

I think this sign sums up a lot about life in the Australian outback - the devotion of dog and master and vice versa, the reliance on the Flying Doctor Service and the way country folk pull together esp. in isolated places
Wave Rock at Hyden, the biggest of several amazing granite outcrops in this area
While you would swear that this was wind erosion, it has actually been caused by water percolating through the rocks with the base eroding more near the bottom because it didn't dry out as much  
I first saw this place about forty years ago when the main highway wasn't sealed. It was a torturous trek and you had to bring in everything yourself - fuel, water, food, spares. Now there is a sealed road right up to it, though you do pay a small entrance fee for the priviledge of having facilities, including a camping area and store. The rock itself hasn't changed, though there are a lot more visitors.

The beaches around Esperance have been voted the best in WA. They seem to have it all -white sands, clear water, lovely names - Twilight Beach, Blue Haven BUT what you don't see is the wind blowing or the rips and the water was absolutely freezing. On the other hand, the wind turbines over the hill were going splendidly.

Butty Beach by name and nature. It's reserved for naturists but not surprisingly there were no butties to be seen there that day!

The shoreline in Esperance itself is dominated by a  very  long jetty -the Tanker Jetty, where the locals like to drop in a line. Built in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression to create work for local people, it is one of the last big wooden jetties of its kind. (That's what the one at Hamelin Bay used to look like) Though no longer in use since a new one was built in 1965, it's still a major feature and one which the locals were relunctant to lose. As I strolled here I had a lovely surprise.

A nose suddenly appeared in the water
Followed by Sammy the seal
Sammy has been frequenting these waters for years - such lovely eyes, but...




He is  a menace to fishermen because he steals their fish and has been known to attack the odd child. 
     



Despite his bad habits, it was still a pleasure to meet him, especially as it was completely unexpected. A nice little bonus before I had to head back. There is a pleasant Esplanade along the beach and a very nice sheltered and landscaped picnic area at the western end.  There is a tearoom too, about halfway along, but if you are looking for shops for supplies, try one of the back streets, because it took me ages to find one and I just read someone else's story where they had the same problem. My other minor disappointment was that after driving miles out to the national park on the Eastern side, which promised to have accommodation I was almost there when I came upon a sign saying it was all booked up and had to turn around and go back which did not improve my health and temper either.

Nevertheless it's quite a nice little town and I look forward to seeing it again sometime when the weather is better and it's not so crowded. It's hard to imagine that it was the centre of gravity once when access to Western Australia was mostly by ship, especially when the Gold Rushes were on. Ironically, it was the deepening of the harbour at Fremantle in 1897 and the opening of the railway between Perth and Kalgoorlie five years later, that lead to its decline, so I should be happy that it has discovered new life as a tourist destination, even though it hasn't exactly worked to my advantage on this occasion.

That's all for Western Australia for now folks, unless some more photos turn up. I look forward to looking at Broome and the Top End, the next time around. 
 
By the way, should you be wondering why I am doing this and not posting photos of exciting places around Tasmania, it's because it's been raining virtually non stop since I got home. There is enormous flooding in Queensland too. Once in a while the normal summer pattern of drought brought by El Nino is disrupted by la Nina - the child, which dumps vast quantities of water on Eastern Australia (WA is having bushfires at the same time). At least we won't be having water restrictions this summer, but I am thinking I should invest in a wetsuit if this keeps up.



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