Our departure from Bunbury on Wednesday was not without incident. We were on the road by about 10am and decided to pick up a coffee from a local café before we left town. We had our ‘favourite’ place but unfortunately the only park space that was close by and would fit our total length of 13 metres was on the opposite side of the road. Undetered, the captain made a leisurely cross and parked up facing the wrong way on fairly narrow road. A few moments later a local traffic warden approached the van and expressed his displeasure at the manoevre. After some smart talking by the captain the outcome was no ticket being issued and we were allowed to remain in the parking space until our coffee was ready.
From Bunbury it was onto the Coalfields Highway and our first ‘must see’ of the day, the Wellington National Park. The Park is located midway between Bunbury and Collie with the highway running through spectacular and dense Jarrah and Marri forests. These magnificent hardwood trees make a great a sight as you drive through the Park. There are a number of excellent hiking trails and lakes in the Park so the area is much visited by people from around the region.
From the National Park it was on to Collie, our first stop for the day. Collie is 60km inland from Bunbury and is Western Australia’s only coal mining town. First explored in 1829, the region was originally considered ideal for timber production however the discovery of coal in 1883 it changed the regions fortunes. Prior to arriving at Collie we had been asked to make contact with a friend of our friend Brenda who is the proprietor of a local Collie hotel, The Federal. We duely did as we were told and rocked up to meet Mereana. Mereana originally hails from Browns Bay in Auckland but moved to Perth 28 years ago and her and hubby have owned The Federal for the past six years. They have a lovely little establishment and she was a great hostess. We were loaded into her car and showed around the town and the local hot spots in the area. Many thanks Mereana.
From Collie it was back on the road and a further 8km east to Stockton Lake (about the size of Lake Pupuke on Auckland’s North Shore) where we made camp. Stockton Lake, once Stockton Mine, was the region’s first open-cut mine. When the mine closed it was filled with water to form an artificial lake. The Lake, with a depth of 32 metres, is now used for all type of water sport activity including diving. We were told that the place goes quite feral on weekends as it is a favourite camping haunt for local youth. Our two night stay at the Lake was during the week so it was peaceful and quiet.
Today (Friday) is a special day as it is the navigator’s birthday. Being out in the middle of nowhere made it a little difficult to ‘pop out’ for a birthday breaky however she was treated to an ‘in bed’ breakfast of poached eggs on toasted muffins accompanied by free range bacon, a medley of peppers, pink Himalayan salt and hot Nepresso coffee. It was not the Hilton but the best the captain could do in the middle of the bush. After breakfast it was a slow pack up and we were back on the road before the weekend revellers started to arrive at the Lake.
It is midday and we are back on the Coalfields Highway making our way toward Wagin. We are undecided where we will stop for the night but are hoping to find somewhere like the Stockton Lake. The big issue for the captain today is that he is trying to find somewhere where he can watch the Bledisloe Cup tomorrow. It is AFL country here with rugby being the very poor cousin and so games rarely feature in any of the hotels or clubs.