First up a big thank you from the Navigator to all those who called, emailed and text her on her birthday last Friday. One of the things we really miss on our travels over here is our family and friends back home. To have most of you make contact with her on the day was a little overwhelming. A wee Pinot Gris around 5’ish seemed to settle her.
On leaving Stockton Lake on Friday we made our way through Southwest Australia’s Eastern Wheatbelt, over 4 million hectares of wheat production. There are nineteen Shires (or Districts in NZ talk) within the belt and on Friday we travelled through four in the Wheatbelt South or the ‘Land of Plenty’.
Our first stop for the day was Darkan. Darkan is a town in the Shire of West Arthur with a population of about 500. The town is surrounded by a fertile soils, and a high rainfall (approx 650mm per year) which makes the area perfect for wheat and sheep. Darkan is also the social and political centre of the Shire. We love these little towns as they go all out to attract travellers such as ourselves. They offer a broad range of services to travellers that encourage us to linger and spend in their town.
The next little village we passed through was Arthur River also in the Shire of West Arthur. We had visions of the village being on a river and maybe a stopover opportunity for the night but no such luck. There was nary a river in sight with the village mainly serving as a fuel stop for travellers. In 1910 the Arthur Wool Shed Group set up a shearing shed, shearers’ quarters, sheep dip and concrete cricket pitch in the village. They appeared to us to still be the most prominent features in the town.
Our overnight stop on Friday was in the next township of Wagin (said Way-gin as we were corrected a number of times!). Wagin’s main attraction is ‘Bart” the giant ram built in 1985 to acknowledge Wagin’s prosperity in the wool industry. The Giant Ram is the second largest in the southern hemisphere and measures 15 metres in length and seven metres in height. Our parkup for the night was the local caravan park and for $20 a night there was no complaints. They provided power, water, ablution facilities, laundry and best of all great parking sites.
After a night of torrential rain on Saturday morning we continued east to the next little village of Dumbleyung. The village while a support centre for the area’s wheat and sheep industry, it is best known for Dumbleyung Lake just a few kilometres out of town. It is the largest open lake in the south west region of Western Australia being 13km in length and 6.5km wide. We were going to stop over night at the Lake but it was still bucketing down when we arrived and access to the Lake was on a dirt road so we decided to give it a miss. We have travelled enough dirt roads for a while.
We carried on a further 70km and arrived at the village of Kojonup. The early economy of the town was initially dependent on cutting and transporting sandalwood and kangaroo hunting but by the mid-19th century the wool industry began to boom and by 1906 the Shire had 10,500 sheep. To celebrate the importance of the wool industry, the town built a one and a half scale model of a wool wagon. The surrounding areas produce wheat and other cereal crops. When we arrived into the town we decided to pop into the Information Centre to get advice on what there was to see in the area. While there, the operator told us that if we decided to stay in town overnight, they have a special RV area just across from the Centre at a cost of $5.00 per night. About the same time the captain discovered that the Bledisloe game was being transmitted on Free to Air Channel 10 which we can get in the motorhome so Kojonup became our home on Saturday night. The rain and wind persisted all night to the point that we decided to bring everything in around 10pm just in case the satellite dish and mats ended up down the road somewhere.
We were back on the road this morning with the atrocious weather continuing. We are still experiencing reasonably heavy rain and strong winds. We passed through the little village of Boyup Brook on the banks of the Blackwood River and also known as the Gateway to the Blackwood Valley. As with many of these outback villages, Sunday trading is a swear word and so consequently nothing was open therefore there was no reason to pause on our journey.
By midday we had had enough of battling the weather so decided to make the next town our overnight stop. Thirty minutes later, and fortunately for us, the next town was Bridgetown, the only heritage listed town in the southwest. Bridgetown is situated in the heart of the Blackwood River Valley and we are parked up directly beside the river. Apparently there is quite a bit to see in the town and the local area so we are here until Tuesday.
The rain and wind continues!!