We left Tasmania in good spirits on the good Spirit with Jim McLeod’s car crammed with our belongings, with just enough room for us and Roxy. We spent the first night in Adelaide, then began the journey proper. We needed to make good time to Bunbury so crossed Spencer Gulf in the ferry, and made it to the Nullarbor Road house. Our fears of being whalloped by emus or roos were unfounded, we were disappointed at the lack of wild life… with the exception of many stumpy tailed lizard we scarcely saw a thing. It was a very welcome bed, shower and meal; but not exactly 5 star, and the trucks roared past at irregular intervals. The next morning though was worth it – a dense cold fog with blasting wind surrounded us, creating a wonderfully eery scene. The cliffs were as amazing as promised, falling out of the fog into the crashing sea below. The name Null – arbor rang true, not a tree for mile upon mile, but loads of resilient dry country plants.
12 weary hours of driving later, and we found the first of the west Australian wild flowers blooming on the roadside. Purple, yellows and reds abounded; with many plants creeping along the ground only to reveal fantastic flowers. Banksias, dryandras, hakeas were especially bountiful and beautiful. We stopped about every 100m for Jim to leap out exclaiming superlatives, photograph a plant then delve in his books for the identification. He was a great travelling companion, and kept us entertained, educated and admiring of his botanical knowledge.
We followed this epic with another – from the beautiful coast area of Esperance through the Fitzgerald River National Park and on to Albany. Absolutely fabulous wildflowers made more splendid with Jim’s expertise. The following morning was blowing a gale so we were able to view “The Gap” in truly awesome power. The wind was blowing the already ferocious southern ocean into a gap in granite boulders. It made us a little concerned about coming through similar seas in the Andante.
And then, on to Bunbury through the Stirling Ranges National Park. Perhaps we getting a little jaded, but this didn’t live up to the magic of yesterday. Had we had the value of hindsight… another week traversing this countryside would not have gone amiss… but we thought we had a deadline.