Category Archives: Australia – Touring SA, NT and WA 2022

Day 192 – Friday, 2 December 2022

Each day without internet and phone coverage at the caravan park has become more frustrating. To the point that we have now decided to leave a day earlier than scheduled and head across the Nullarbor Plain.

We spent two and a half hours sitting in the car in town near a hiot spot so that we could download, read and reply to emails, call mum for a chat, and to ring parks ahead of us to make bookings.

Two of the Roadhouses and one caravan park ahead of us are First in, Best dressed places so we will need to make early starts to hopefully have power connections, although water is not available until we get to Penong (possibly) or Burra, which will be the last caravan park (again hopefully) before we reach Mildura.

The water here at the caravan park in Esperance is just horrible. It is the hardest water we have accessed for the entire journey, and Ravensthorpe has the softest water. We discovered today that the reason for the horrible water is it comes from an unfiltered bore, which explains a great deal.

After attending to business in the car we went out to the Kepwari Trails which have been created around the lakes in the Lake Warden Wetlands System and there are canoe and walking trails.

The Hooded Plover is the chosen emblem for the wetland system. The wetlands here provide protection to 6% of the Hooded Plover’s total world population. It is a waterbird species restricted to Southern Australia. The international significance of the wetlands for waterbirds attracts visitors from all over the world.

The walking trail cover 3.6 kilometres in length and winds through fringing sedgelands, heathlands, under banksia canopies and over sand dunes. We walked 2.3 kilometres on the trail today. There are three bird hides along the way and the track and boardwalk are accessible by wheelchair.

We returned to the caravan after all that for afternoon tea, download photos etc, and then we went out to get fish and chips for tea. They were very nice fish and chips.

Day 191 – Thursday, 1 December 2022

Happy Birthday, Lucus. We hope you have a wonderful day.

The first day of December and I have begun to wear my Christmas earrings.

Today the expected hot weather happened. We recorded 40 degrees in the car at one stage. We decided it would be best to do the Great Ocean Drive (in the air-conditioned car), and unlike that other Scenic Ocean Drive that wasn’t scenic at all, today’s drive was wonderful what with the sun shining and the blue water sparkling.

Before we headed out of the park I did the washing and hung it on the line to dry. I was serenaded by a juvenile grey Butcherbird who sat in the tree between the van and the clothesline. He allowed me to take his photo and just continued to trill.

We then headed into town to put our scripts into the chemist for pickup tomorrow. I explained the Keely, the young lady in the chemist, that I had only jest recently had my scripts filled but that we would be leaving on Tuesday to cross the Nullabor and I would like to have supplies with me for the just in case scenario. She said she would explain to the pharmacist, and we will have to wait and see what I get in the morning.

We then headed down to our preferred spot on the Esplanade to download emails etc, and then we headed out to complete the Drive. We took photos of some awesome wave action along the way.

We also stopped off at Observatory Point and climbed the many stairs to reach the top for a magnificent view of the archipelago around Esperance. At the top of the viewing platform there was a plaque to commemorate the arrival on 9 December 1792 of two French ships. The Recherche was under the command of Antoine D’entrecasteaux and the Esperance was under Captain Huon de Kermadec. They took shelter in the lee of Observatory Island immediately offshore from the Point.

As we completed our Drive at the Pink Lakes Lookout, which is no longer pink but that comes later, and it was still relatively early in the afternoon, we turned to the South Coast Highway and went east to visit Esperance’s Stonehenge – thoroughly amazing.

Pink Lake was initially named Lake Spencer by John Septimus Roe in 1848. It was named after Sir Richard Spencer who was the Resident Magistrate in Albany and who contributed to the early formation of the colony in WA. Lake Warden is adjacent to the Pink Lake and it is

recorded as having been named after Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Ann Warden Spencer.

It was always called Pink Lake by the locals, and in 1966 the Shire President (Cr WS Paterson) requested the name change which was granted.

For many years Pink Lake has been a tourist attraction with an arterial road and some local businesses adopting the name.

However, Esperance’s Pink Lake has lost its pink due to a number of contributing factors. Historically, it was the terminal lake in the Lake Warden Wetland System where water from the central suite of lakes (Wheatfield, Woody and Windabout) along with Lake Warden would periodically flush into Pink Lake, bringing accumulated salts into the environment.

It was the increasing salt concentrate combined with decreasing water levels from evaporation in summer that triggered the appearance of the famous bubblegum pink that can be seen in other lakes across the country.

However, with the construction of the railway line and the South Coast Highway, Pink Lake’s connection to the Lake Warden Wetland System has been lost.

Commercial salt mining began in 1896 and ceased in 2007 due to the reduced salt levels in the lake. With further reductions to the Lake’s salt concentration caused by freshwater from surface water inflow and increased groundwater inflow from new subdivisions, the lake has lost its colour.

If conditions change in the future it is possible that we may see salt concentrations increase and the pink hue return for future visitors.

Pink Lake is just one in a chain of wetlands that circle Esperance, whose population is 14,500 people. The Lake Warden Wetland System is recognised internationally for their importance as a habitat that regularly supports 20,000 waterbirds, including several threatened species.

Visitors to the Pink Lake are asked to take special care when visiting because of the birds.

Shorebirds breed during August to February. The nest is a shallow scrape, and the eggs are laid directly on the sand, either on the beach or above the high tide marks or in the dunes.

Adult birds are easily disturbed and will leave the nest until people are out of sight. Unattended, the camouflaged eggs are easily stepped on, eaten by a predator or become cold or overheated. The tiny chicks cannot fly. They will either crouch in the sand or run and hide in the dunes. If they spend too long hiding they will starve to death.

Red-capped Plover, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher and Hooded Plover all inhabit, breed and feed on the sandy beach of Pink Lake.

Esperance’s Stonehenge is a full-size replica of the original ‘Stonehenge’ in the UK as it would have looked around 1950BC. It is constructed of 137 stones of Esperance Pink Granite quarried adjacent to the property where it now stands proudly.

Ten Trilithon Stones stand in a horseshoe pattern, each weighing between 38 – 50 tonnes, and each pair has an 18-tonne lintel across the top, altogether reaching a height of eight metres.

Inside the Trilithon Horseshoe stands another horseshoe of 19 Blue Stones.

The Trilithon Stones are surrounded by a circle of 30 Sarsen Stones, each weighing 28 tonnes, and with a 7 tonne across each pair they stand almost five metres tall.

Positioned between Sarsen Circle and the Trilithon Stones are forty smaller stones referred to as the Bluestone Circle.

The Altar Stone, which lies on the ground in front of the tallest Trilithon Stones, weighs 9 tonnes.

The structure is aligned with the Summer and Winter Solstices as per Esperance’s solar calendar. The Heel Stones are positioned on this line to allow the sun rays to pass through to the Altar at sunrise on the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice), and in winter the sun sets through the Grand Trilithon on the shortest day of the year (Winter Solstice). The same line occurs on both events.

The Australasian Granite Company of Esperance was originally commissioned in 2009 by a client in Margaret River to quarry the stones to the provided dimensions. However, after 12 months the project was in trouble when the Margaret River company went into liquidation.

With six weeks quarrying still to be carried out to complete the stonework order local Esperance residents, Kim and Jillian Beale, purchased the stones. They lived across the road from the quarry carrying out the work in Merivale Road.

It was not bought as a commercial enterprise, rather that Kim fancied the idea of a replica Stonehenge in the Southern Hemisphere.

Earthworks and footing preparations to receive the large stones began in January 2011. 120 cubic metres of concrete was used in the footings, along with mesh and rio bar. The footings are huge.

The forty large stones have a wire cut base and stand on top of the footings which are 200mm below ground level. All the stones are free-standing, held in place by weight of stone and lintel.

In February 2011 a 140-tonne crane, 2 x 988B loaders and 2 floats began the transportation of the stones onto the site, and their erection thereafter.

Building Stonehenge continued with the placement of the Blue Stones horseshoe, Blue Stone circle and the Altar Stone. The 30 stones on the outer circle were stood up and placed in two days along with the roll-out lawn at the same time.

Construction then stopped for 11 weeks during winter due to very boggy conditions. At 3:15pm on 26 October 2011 the last stone of the 30 lintels on the Sarsen Circle were positioned with a 20-tonne crane.

The alignment of the structure to the Summer and Winter Solstice was done by Kim along with the measuring and positioning of the stones. The floor plan and stone sizes were put together by Sorensen Architecture in Margaret River.

Kim and Jillian said the building of the Esperance’s Stonehenge was a rewarding experience and described it as ‘a walk back through history,

until everything ancient is new again while still leaving much to the imagination and the unexplainable….’

Day 190 – Wednesday, 30 November 2022

We woke up just before 9:00am and decided we should go into Esperance for internet access (and take our computers with us to update emails etc), and also to go to the Visitor Information Centre.

Neither Russ nor I are very impressed with Esperance. It looks like a nice town, but it is so spread out and you have to go round about ways to get anywhere. Along with the internet issue it is a frustrating and bad joke, and the dump point is in town.

Before we left the van Russ was unable to get any reception to receive the call from mum, so once we made it down to the Esplanade he rang her back and had a chat.

I picked up several pamphlets from the Information Centre which is on the Esplanade itself and part of the Historical Village where the original houses were built such as Matron’s Quarters, Doctor’s Residence etc, and they are now converted into the tourist shops.

We then moved further down the Esplanade to where we had a view of the harbour, and we had our lunch there. After that I headed out across the grass area and was able to take some photos of the young people using the impressive skateboard facilities. I will say here that there are a lot of places dedicated to families.

The defining feature of the Esplanade Foreshore is the reconstructed Esperance Jetty which was officially opened on 28 March 2021. It measures 415 metres in length and reflects the classic curvature of its predecessor while incorporating a series of interpretative features, as well as fishing and diving platforms.

The species of fish most commonly found in this area includes herring, skippy (never heard of it), whiting and flathead along with squid which is attracted to the overhead lighting in the evenings.

The dive platforms allow the divers to launch themselves from the jetty on the way to a spectacular view of the artificial reef some 50-100 metres away from the jetty. As there is a vast array of seaweed species along the reef it is a perfect hiding place for the Leafy Sea Dragon and a host of other marine life.

The weather was supposed to be a warm and sunny 27 degrees, but it was overcast with frequent showers of rain so when we had completed everything we needed to do we headed back to the caravan instead of touring.

I made a casserole in the slow cooker for later in the week while we were in the van. Tomorrow is supposed to be high 30s, but we will wait and see what eventuates.

Day 189 – Tuesday, 29 November 2022

The alarm went off at 8:30am but I was already awake. It is incredible how much light comes through into the van when the awning is not open.

I had a quick word with mum while Russ was busy outside striking camp and was pleased to hear that she was feeling a bit better than yesterday. We cut our conversation short when she had a visitor.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature had risen to 26 degrees when we left the caravan park and Ravensthorpe at 9:59am for the last time on this trip.

We turned onto the South Coast Highway and the road conditions hadn’t miraculously changed overnight. In fact, they continued almost all the way to Esperance 187 kilometres away. In several places they had applied speed restrictions because the road surface was so badly mauled. It was a very scary proposition to overtake a loaded road train in these circumstances.

Once we had traversed the hills of the Ravensthorpe Range we were most definitely into wheat and cattle country, and the scenery was much flatter than previously.

We went past one dead Eastern Brown snake and a dead fox. We came across Poot Street (almost common after some of the other names in the area), Munglinup township and River, Monjingup and Coomalbidgup – who thinks of these names??

We finally arrived at the Bushlands Holiday Village (caravan park) around 1:10pm. It is in a bush setting and we are about five kilometres out of Esperance which is marvellous as there is little road noise.

However, although we are in a 5G area for Telstra there is no signal worth a cracker in the caravan park. It is going to be a long seven days without any internet connection. At least texting works, and hopefully there should be no interruptions to the phone signal.

We set up camp and had lunch before we put out the awning and put down the shade matting. The area is a very fine white sand, and from past experience, it will get into and onto everything.

After that we went into town to buy some water as neither of us were able to finish our cuppas at lunch time, even after double filtering the water. It was just horrible.

While at Woolworths I grabbed some fresh multi-grain rolls and a hot chook for tea.

I have finished inputting the diary into the computer, so it is now ready for printing. However, in order to send it out and post the photos we will need to go into town near one of the areas where coverage is superb. At least we will be in the right place to post the letters.

Russ is getting antsy and is talking about longer drives across the Nullabor Plains. I had scheduled just over 200 kilometres per day between roadhouses, but we may just pass some of them and continue on.

Day 188 – Monday, 28 November 2022

We woke up just before the alarm went off this morning. I quickly showered and put all the towels in for their weekly wash while Russ had his shower.

When he rang mum to talk with her she said she was not feeling real good so he told her to concentrate on getting better and that he would ring her the next day and rang off. It was a short conversation.

On our last day in Ravensthorpe, we headed out to see some of the Farm Gate Art Trail. We headed down the Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Road and stopped at each place with the artworks. We were then so close to Hopetoun that Russ decided it was too good an opportunity not to wash Hornet while we were there. It is incredible just how dusty he gets when we travel on gravel roads.

Some of the Farm Gate artworks were very interesting and extremely creative. While photographing the Franke Family gates I was enthusiastically greeted by their pet Labrador who finally had a captive audience. He jumped up so much that I could only get one of the gates in the photo and gave the second gate up as a bad idea. He then wagged his way to the car to make Russ’ acquaintance.

Much of the art has been created using many of the different discarded implement used on farms, and in way that astound when you look at them. Queen Beatrice, for instance, is a 1938 Fargo truck loaded up with wildflowers and so named because she was found in amongst trees full of bees.

The Watering Can is another that is striking in appearance and very large. It started life as a field bin and has been prettied up with lots of painted flowers and sits on the corner of the farm clearly visible to passing traffic.

While I was taking my photos I laughed to see a caravan go past, slow down, do a u-turn and come back, perform another u-turn and then stop to get out and take a photo. The guy I spoke with had never heard of the Farm Gate Art Trail, so I provided him with as much information as I had to hand, and he was very intrigued at the idea there were more of them along his travel route.

We passed three stumpy-tail lizards, one blue tongue lizard and one quail standing in the middle of the road. We also have finally found a bitumen road that is in terrible condition with severely broken edges and large, deep potholes. This is the South Coast Highway to the east of Ravensthorpe and is used by many trucks from the nearby mine. The road is obviously not made to handle the weight and constant source of traffic.

We also passed by Nindilbillup Road which is where we came across the Shoemaker Levy Mine outside of Ravensthorpe (the mine I wrote about above).

Shoemaker Levy is the name of the Ravensthorpe facility which is a laterite nickel operation producing around 30,000 tonnes per annum of a mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide intermediate product used in the production of nickel sulphate.

Nickel sulphate is a key material in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Around 650 people work at the Ravensthorpe operations, with the new orebody expected to extend the mine’s life by at least 20 years.

Since being restarted by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in 2011, the operations have had nickel sales of 202,782 tonnes and cobalt sales of 7,527 tonnes.

Three of the operation’s 18-megawatt steam turbines generate power using waste heat from the mine’s production process.

The mine is generally known as the Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine, and describes both the mine and associated plant. Halley’s and Hale-Bopp are two nickel deposits on Bandalup Hill next to the processing plant. Halley’s is presently being mined.

Shoemaker-Levy is a nearby deposit on the north side of the South Coast Highway. Some sources call Halley’s, the Bandalup Hill Mine after its geographic location. In 2002 BHP initiated a feasibility study on opening a nickel/cobalt mine here, 27 kilometres east of Ravensthorpe. Construction commenced in 2004 and production started in 2008. Nickel would be extracted by the Pressure Acid Leaching (PAL) process. This method was introduced into Western Australia in the early 1970’s and resulted in several nickel mines closing. The technology did not suite Western Australian conditions, resulting in higher costs than expected. In 2004, BHP had estimated a construction cost of $1.3 million. By November 2006 it had spent $2.2 billion. In January 2009, less than a year after opening, BHP announced the sudden closure of the mine. 1800 workers lost their job, and the closure had a severe impact on the small community of Ravensthorpe resulting in widespread and severe criticism in the media. Several senior executives involved with the project were removed. In December 2009, Canadian miner, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) purchased the mine/plant for $340 million US, and production started again early 2012.

Once we arrived back at the van we had some afternoon tea then took down the awning, folded the chairs and packed them all into the canopy ready for tomorrow.

I caught up with Ken (Caravan Park Manager) and asked whether bookings could be made for the Wildflower Festival time but he said it remained the same as now – first in, best dressed.

Day 187 – Sunday, 27 November 2022

Today we had a day at the van in an endeavour to catch up with some chores. Robert rang around 8:00am to ask after mum and we took the time to catch up with the local news.

Sometime later mum rang but the reception was horrible, so Russ rang her back and was then able to talk with her for a while. He then rang Lyn and Peter for a quick catch-up.

In the meantime, I caught up with putting the diary into the computer. The day was overcast with a cool breeze, and the sun shone intermittently.

Janelle rang and spoke with Russ while I prepared and cooked tea.

Day 186 – Saturday, 26 November 2022

At 9:41am when we left the caravan park the temperature was 17 degrees and overcast. It made it up to 20 degrees but remained overcast for most of the day and didn’t feel very warm.

We stopped at several places along the way and had a late lunch at Bremer Bay way down the bottom of the FRNP on the western side.

The caravan park we saw at Bremer Bay (it has two) has lovely green grass sites and was almost full. We discovered along the way that Bremer Bay is hosting a Surf Carnaval over the weekend which would explain it.

It is one of WA’s more isolated holiday destinations, but Bremer Bay is home to some of our most breathtaking natural wonders that make the trip very worthwhile. It has a population of 270 people.

The tourist blurb goes something like this: A hotspot for majestic orcas, colourful sea life, protected white beaches and beautiful WA wildflowers, this quaint town is a nature lover’s dream, no matter the time of year.

It did have nice scenery, but we did not spend enough time there to make any further assumptions.

Once we had left the South Coast Highway and turned south to the park we only encountered two vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. One was a car and the other was a truck.

However, the wildlife was plentiful.

We saw nine emus in a paddock – that dad had done an amazing job of nurturing his chicks to almost adulthood. There were another ten emus at separate times crossing the road in front of us, two kangaroos, three wedge-tailed eagles flying overhead (but much too high for photos), three dead snakes, one (very alive with photos) red-bellied black snake, one eastern brown snake (too quick), two mallee fowls (we couldn’t believe our eyes as we have never sighted them around Hattah in all the years we have driven the area), three stumpy tailed lizards, about one hundred cabbage butterflies, and one Water Across the Road where we had to turn around and find an alternate route.

We finally arrived back in Ravensthorpe around 5:00pm which made it an exceptionally long day. In all we covered 421 kilometres. It is mind boggling to remember that in Victoria this would have taken us from Mildura to Shepparton, but here we had not even left the district.

Day 185 – Friday, 25 November 2022

We had a late start this morning. After my very early rise yesterday the body decided it needed to sleep in. When I finally woke up, thanks to the garbage truck emptying the bins outside the caravan, I got up and had my shower while Russ spoke with mum.

The sun was shining, and when we left the park it was 24 degrees.

The idea today was to follow one of the noted scenic drives (for which we had good direction) and to stop along the way if so desired for photos. However, Russ had a brainwave (without consultation until he started to implement it) and decided to leave off the first drive at one place which intersected with another of the drives at that point.

We left the designated gravel track and put Hornet into 4WD LOW which should give you some indication of the incline and bumps encountered, thinking we were on our way to Archer’s Lookout.

At the end of a slow and reasonably steep incline we arrived at the Communications Tower not the Lookout. It did, however, have the most awesome views across the valley, and a couple of flowers. When we had our fill of the scenery we jumped back into the car, turned around, and headed down the reasonably steep incline to get back to the designated track.

But wait, there’s more!

We were driving along the spine of the Ravensthorpe Range and did eventually come to Archer’s Lookout, where we had our lunch. This is where we were supposed to return to Floater Road, a very nice gravel road. But we went the other way further along the Ravensthorpe Range Drive.

However, the directions in the second leaflet left a lot to be desired. We took what we thought was the correct right-hand turn down from the spine and I wasn’t very impressed as it was very steep (think 50% incline with many big corrugations) and spent the entire downward journey hanging onto the Panic Bar with a death grip and praying quietly.

When we finally reached the bottom of the incline even Russ stated that it was not what he had expected it to be, and it was dicey. We then turned onto a more level and straight section of the road only to discover that we had come down a track of the Enduro Club – for EXPERTS!!!!!

Russ and Hornet did a remarkable job.

Rather than go back up the track to get onto the Spine drive (a thought not to be contemplated) we headed along the Enduro track, going in the wrong direction if it had been a race day for the Enduro Club. Eventually we came to a safe, normal 4WD gravel road and were able to change down to 4WD High and followed it until we hit the bitumen once again.

After many detours because they are doing extensive roadworks for one of the local mines (huge, big piles of granite boulders everywhere, in one direction across the old road surface effectively blocking it off completely) we reached the bitumen and made it safely back into Ravensthorpe.

Russ informed me that in all that time we had only travelled 64.2 kilometres, but I can assure you it felt like 642 kilometres.

Along the way (on safer sections of road) on two separate occasions, we came across an unusual lizard. Nick (thank you) has provided me with its name correct name and common one – Tiliqua Occipitalis or Western Blue Tongue Lizard. The banding around its body is different to the one we are more familiar with in our usual neck of the woods, and it has a pointed tail.

The highest point of our journey was at the communication tower which was 440 metres. After the hairy descent – who cares how high we got!

Day 184 – Thursday, 24 November 2022

The heat from yesterday cooled overnight and we left the windows open to promote air flow and listen to the frog in the lake at the caravan park. Unfortunately, one of the vans in the park left around 5:00am and woke me up, and the light coming into the van was very bright, so I closed over all the shades, but the damage had been done. I got out of bed at 5:30am admitting defeat in the attempt to go back to sleep, but Russ slept on and woke up at 8:30am.

We spoke with mum who had finished her lunch (different time zones is weird) and she was in fine form. After that we printed out the diary and prepared for our first foray around Ravensthorpe.

We left the caravan park at 10:12am and were on our way to visit Hopetoun with the temperature sitting on 25 degrees. When we got to

Hopetoun we checked out the IGA store, but they had neither the Vicks Vapour Drops for Russ or any of the mixed nuts we enjoy. It is a scenic place with beaches of fine white sand and is very popular in the summer months. It has a population of 1,115 people (compared with Ravensthorpe’s 850) but upon approaching the township it looks heaps smaller and is spread out across a wide area.

We then toured along the Hamersley Drive in the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) and stopped off at a few of the beach lookouts. We had lunch at 4-Mile Beach in very pleasant surroundings with a gentle breeze and sunshine.

Along the way we occasionally stopped to take photos of flowers also, in particular the Royal Hakea which is astounding to look at and it is not even in proper season – June to August. I can only imagine the awesome scene when they are on full display in Springtime, stretching out across the heath plains in all directions. The plant got its name because of the amazing array of colour on its leaves, some of which we got, and it is a glorious sight.

The other plants of interest were the Adenanthos Venusa (no common name) the Regelia Velutina (Barren’s Regelia and looks a bit like a bottlebrush) and the Beaufortia Decussata (Gravel Bottlebrush).

We then left the bitumen sections and went onto the gravel part of the Drive, Russell’s favourite type of driving these days, and headed back through other parts of the National Park.

Many of the side roads are closed in an effort to beat dieback, which is caused by a pathogen known as Phytophthora cinnamon, which is lethal to hundreds of plant species. It kills the plants by destroying their root systems.

The pathogen thrives in warm, moist soil and can be easily spread in mud or soil that adheres to vehicle tyres or bush walker’s footwear. The FRNP is one of the parks least infected by dieback in south-western Australia.

The Fitzgerald River NP is a botanical wonderland renowned for its rugged and spectacular scenery. It is one of the largest parks in Australia (and least known by the common people from what we have

heard) with 330,000 hectares of unspoiled wilderness. It forms the core of the Fitzgerald Biosphere region.

In June 2017 the Heritage Listed NP retained its international significance as one of the most important flora areas in the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised the park as the core of an expanded Biosphere Reserve. The boundary of the Fitzgerald Biosphere changed from 330,000 hectares to now cover 1.5 million hectares.

Biosphere Reserves are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sounds science. Biospheres include both land and water.

It is recognised for its great diversity of vegetation communities and flora. Up to 20% of WA’s plant species occur here, and just under 10% of Australia’s plant species are here.

Australia ranks very highly for botanical diversity supported by sheer volume of plant species. The Fitzgerald Biosphere is one of 34 global hotspots, and some of the plant species can only be found in this area.

The diversity exists in this region because of the complexity of landforms and soils found across the Biosphere – woodlands, shrublands and kwongan (type of plant) heathland. Many of the kwongan plants are considered either rare or endangered.

The FRNP is one of the most flora and fauna rich conservation areas in WA, recognised globally for its natural diversity (the 20%) with 22 mammal species, 41 reptile species, and more than 200 bird species. We won’t even get into the plants.

Much of the rugged scenery and pristine coastline is accessible by 2WD. 4WD tracks are signposted, whilst the central wilderness is only accessible on foot. The central wilderness area acts as a divider between two recreational areas of the park – east and west.

Point Ann is on the western side of the park and is a natural whale nursery and popular whale watching spot between July and October. Caravan, large buses and motor homes are not permitted on the unsealed roads within the park.

We passed several of the mountains on our journey, such as Thumb Peak, Woolberup Hill and East Mount Barren. The scenery along the coastline areas was spectacular, and the inland section was very rugged with well maintained gravel roads. The temperature reached its peak at 2:10pm and was sitting at 30 degrees. In all we travelled 175 kilometres.

Day 183 – Wednesday, 23 November 2022

This morning Russ was fighting a migraine so took things slowly. We had a peaceful night without noise or lights shining through windows.

I washed all the bedding, including the polar fleece blanket, and put summer sheets on the bed. It was a good move as the temperature 33 degrees.

Russ spoke with mum who told him that the resident cat at respite care, Penny, wandered into her room yesterday and one of the staff passing by her room at the time came in and placed Penny on her bed where she promptly curled up and went to sleep for an hour or so.

After lunch we put out the awning to provide some shade from the sunshine on the windows and then headed into town to the Visitor Information Centre, which is also the museum.

The lovely lady on duty provided me with heaps of offerings among which are several self-drive tours of the area.

While Russ slept (with the air conditioner on) I updated the diary in the computer ready for printing and read many of the pamphlets that I was

given. We definitely don’t have enough time here in Ravensthopre to do everything of interest that is available. They have an amazing booklet for the two-week period of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Festival, offering Tag-Along Tours to places where they are flowering, Workshops (for those who are more interested in that type of things), Walks with birdies, walk with wildflower people, orchid hunting etc. Lots to do in September next year.

In 1848, the Ravensthorpe area was first surveyed by then State Surveyor-General John Septimus Roe. Ravensthorpe was initially known as the Phillips River Goldfield. It is known that the brothers Dunn James, John, Robert and Walter, first came to the region in 1868 and leased the pastoral property of Cocanarup to establish a sheep station. Farming infrastructure was erected on the Phillips River and stores were brought in from Mary Ann Haven (now Hopetoun).

During an incident in 1880, John Dunn was speared and died of his wounds.

His brother James Dunn found gold at Annabel Creek and was given a reward claim by the government in 1898. This was the start of the Phillips River Goldfield which brought many other prospectors into the district, amongst which were Taylor, Dance and McKenzie.

These prospectors set up a camp which they called Hawk’s Nest, halfway between the Floater and Cattlin mines. Eventually, the town of Ravensthorpe was surveyed in 1900 and gazetted in 1901 with the Shire around it covering some 13,151 square km.

The gold rush resulted in the development of gold and copper mining in or around Ravensthorpe Range. Mining has continued spasmodically over the years.

The population of Ravensthorpe and the Goldfield peaked in 1911, when (according to police records) 2,011 people lived there, mostly associated with gold mining.

Agriculture continued to grow after the depression in the nineteen-thirties and with further land releases in the nineteen sixties and seventies, remains the principal industry of the area.

A timeline of events follows:

In 1802 Matthew Flinders in the “Investigator” charts the south coast.

In 1841 John Eyre walks through the area near the coast, while exploring from South Australia to Albany (WA).

In 1870 John Forrest surveys near coast for Perth/Adelaide telegraph line.

In 1871 Mary Ann Haven is named by whaler Mr Thomas after his daughter. John Dunn takes three months to bring sheep overland from Albany to Cocanarup with his brother George.

In 1873 Dunn brothers were formally granted 4049 hectares.

In 1880 John Dunn was killed by Wudjari people.

In 1882 the first white women visited Cocanarup (Elizabeth & Eliza Dunn and a Miss Gillam).

In 1896 Eliza Dunn comes to Cocanarup to housekeep for her brothers.

In 1898 James Dunn finds gold at Annabel Creek and is given a reward claim. The Phillips River Goldfield is designated.

In 1899 Prospectors arrive at Hawks Nest near Cattlin Creek. Dallison brothers find gold at “Harbour View” Kundip.

In 1900 Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun surveyed and gazetted in 1901. Mary Ann Haven renamed Mary Ann Harbour.

In 1901 the Metropolitan Hotel and a general store were built in Hopetoun. Population of Ravensthorpe reached 500 and school opens with 19 students. Hopetoun is established and a small jetty constructed. Ravensthorpe named after the surrounding Ravensthorpe Range. Hopetoun was named after the first Governor General, the Earl of Hopetoun.

Also in that year, the survey and construction of No 1. Rabbit Proof Fence (1822 kilometres) commenced.

Arthur Chambers and Dave Neil plant first crop of wheat in 1902.

In 1903 a trial copper smelter was built near Hawks Nest. Phillips River Road Board was formed.

In 1904 the State Government built a smelter near Cordingup Gap on Esperance road.

In 1905 the No 2 smelter was built on Hopetoun Road. The mine manager’s house and a hospital were also built in Ravensthorpe. It celebrated the first gold mining at Hatters Hill.

The smelter was sold to private company in 1906 and the Commercial Hotel was built in Ravensthorpe.

In 1908 the Bank of WA builds premises in Ravensthorpe, and the following year a Railway line opens between Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe.

In 1916 the Phillips River Road Board offices burnt down, and in 1921 the Copper smelters and mines closed. Most prospectors moved away (mines continued to operate, depending on the price of copper until 1971).

In 1930 the Great Depression was experienced and there was a general exodus from the land.

In 1931 Claude de Bernales company commenced diamond drilling at Kundip, while in 1936 the Hopetoun Ravensthorpe Railway closed.

In 1937 Hopetoun Port closes and shipping through Hopetoun ceases. The following year the Ravensthorpe hospital closed.

In 1943 Salmon fishing began at 12 Mile Beach, east of Hopetoun.

In 1947 the Salmon cannery was built at Hopetoun. The wheat bin was erected in Carlisle Street, Ravensthorpe, and an Ambulance was donated for local use.

1948 saw the first school bus service in the district, while by 1950 a weekly bus service ran from Perth to Ravensthorpe.

On the 26 June 1956 snow fell in Ravensthorpe.

Elverdton and Cattlin copper mines re-opened in 1958; Ravensthorpe Copper NL built 38 houses in Ravensthorpe, and the hospital re-opened.

In 1960 there was a land boom with 325 farm blocks allocated throughout Munglinup, Jerdacuttup, Fitzgerald and North Ravensthorpe. The local schools were established.

In 1961 the Phillips River Road Board becomes Ravensthorpe Shire Council. The following year the sheep and cattle sale yards were built, and the aerodrome was surveyed northwest of Ravensthorpe.

In 1967 a new courthouse and police station were built at Ravensthorpe, and CBH builds the covered grain storage facilities in Dance Street. The following year the Bank of NSW built new premises in Morgan Street, and the town water scheme and reticulation opened.

In 1971 the Ravensthorpe School was upgraded to Junior High School, and the Elverdton mine closed.

Fitzgerald National Park was gazetted in 1973.

1976 saw the opening of the new Shire Hall. First resident doctor commenced practise (KO Danker). All phones were now automatic STD.

By 1977 all main roads in the shire were sealed and the SEC power was supplied in Hopetoun.

In 1978 the Fitzgerald River National Park was declared an International Biosphere Area by UNESCO. Mains water supply began for Hopetoun.

In 1979 the Ravensthorpe Senior Citizens Centre opened. “Back to Ravensthorpe” celebrations coincide with State’s 150th anniversary.

The first annual Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show was held in 1981, and in 1985 (a momentous year for locals!) the ABC TV was available via satellite.

In 1996 the community swimming pool opened in Ravensthorpe, while 2000 saw flooding in Ravensthorpe.

In 2001 a Richter 5.4 earthquake occurred at Jerdacuttup.

In 2005 with the BHP Billiton construction phase, population significantly increased in Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun. A new airport was built between the towns and air service commenced.

2008 saw the official opening ceremony for BHP Billiton’s Ravensthorpe Nickel Project. Official opening of the Ravensthorpe Entertainment Centre.

In 2009 operations at BHP Billiton’s Ravensthorpe Nickel Project was suspended and approximately 1800 jobs lost. Air Service ceased at the Ravensthorpe Airport. Official opening of Galaxy Resources Limited.

In 2010 the Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations was sold to First Quantum Minerals Australia Pty Ltd. Galaxy Resources Ltd were mining spodumene for lithium at Hawk’s Nest. [Spodumene is a pyroxene mineral and a source of lithium which occurs as colourless to yellowish-green or emerald-green crystals, often of great size. (Pyroxenes are a group of important rock-forming minerals found in many igneous and metamorphic rocks.)]

In 2014 a Major tourist development in Fitzgerald River National Park was completed, and the following year the Heavy Haulage Route (bypass) at Ravensthorpe commenced and was completed in December.