Saturday, 28 February 2015

Nights under canvas? Part II

February 21-24th:

Following on from Part I, the next weekend I also had a 3 dayer. This time I went North up to the old favourite, Sandy Cape. So I now have my 2015 tally of nights under canvas at 6. Likewise I also had a 1pm finish, so I could stretch that 3 days into 4. Unfortunately, this time the departure day was a Saturday. I knew it was going to be busy at the camp by 3pm and I was not to be corrected. The place was heaving. The main site was all but full. I went for a look at the upper camp site. Whilst there were a few places I could spend the night, the wind was pretty stiff and the sand was blowing around. It would have been an uncomfortable night. And it wasn't my preferred location.

So back to the main camp. Having a chat with the caretaker, he said I could squeeze in behind his van. And that's what I did. I was pretty sure most would leave tomorrow anyway, so I would re-evaluate my accommodations then.

The night itself was an uneventful affair considering the amount of people in camp. It blew pretty hard and I put additional guys on the awning, secured with 500mm sand pegs. In fact, the wind never stopped all weekend, which was a bit of a bugger really. But I suppose it kept the flys at bay. A few reds after dinner and a play with the camera on the setting moon/stars and it was lights out.

Sunday morning and I had to decide to leave the gear set up, or pack it away. I chose the latter, as if I moved that night, then it all had to be packed up anyway. I took a walk down to the beach prior to breakfast. A nice way to spend the morning.

Green Head can be seen on the other side of the bay. About 30Km's by road. Maybe 10Km's as the crow flies. The wind chop was to be the feature of the weekend. it just never let up unfortunately.

A popular beach for launching the tinnie. As can be seen from the picture above though, they never ventured too far. In fact, last time I was here, I had the yak out further. This time however, the yak never made it off the roof rack.

The beach itself is surrounded by some big dunes on the Southern side. These are a magnet for kids entertainment. And adults too, I might add.

A late departure and I was off, destination Stockyard Gully (one of my favourite places in the area). I took the long way around to pick up a cache at the Lions lookout. I can now add some orange colour to the limestone coloured dust I have collected over the last two weekends.

Not far from the turn off, I spied a cave on the moving map, not too far from the road. So I cruised by slowly, hoping to pick the track to lead me there. I subsequently found the track and headed North. A couple of hundred meters in and this track turned to very soft sand. Here I was on road pressures, trying to keep momentum, fearing the worst had I stopped. Quickly flicking into 4H lock and disabling the ASC to give me the best chance of not having to dig. It was too hot to be digging and recovering anyway. The track seemed to vere away from the marked route on the map. It was also taking me away from the cave. As I didn't want to be ginning around deflating and reflating, and I had a bigger mission to accomplish, I made an on the spot decision to abort. Problem being where to abort. If I had stopped where I was, I may have been stopped for an extended duration with the shovel and max trax. So I plugged on, hard tyres and on a wing and a prayer, hoping to find a decent place for a turn back. The decent place never came, but I stopped on a crest at a second rate alternative. Whilst it was close to being a fail, I endured and got heading back to the road. I had to switch to low as once stopped, I didn't have the berries in high to overcome the soft sand that was sucking the coopers, trying with all its might to stop them from rotating. So recovery averted, I continued onto Stockyard.

Crossing Cockleshell Gully, I poked my nose down a track. Unfortunately, a hundred meters down the road was a DPAW signpost stating Authorised vehicles only, clean off soil ETC and so forth. So another turn back. I made my way to the start of the "Rough Road" track into Stockyard. Not that its rough, a bit sandy and some limestone cap rock. Political correctness I suppose. It might stop those in the family sedan from attempting it???? But the problem with signs seems to be that people cant read them. And they are a magnet for projectiles for some reason.

Their is not a lot of history I can find on these caves, however I provide the following;
During the mid-late 1900’s, part of the coastal stock route, linking Champion Bay (Geraldton) and the Guildford cattle markets traversed the National Park the cave is located in. Stockmen found the area provided good feed and water for the animals, and the creek bed or gully near the inflow entrance to the cave formed a narrow holding yard for stock if they needed to camp overnight.

And for the spelio among us:
This area extends from the Green Head Road in the south to the Irwin River in the north. The area first received attention from speleologists when W.A.S.G. explored River and Arramall Caves in 1960.
In 1963, Jennings visited the Stockyard Gully caves. On this trip E 1 to E 10 were described and positioned. Of these, Stockyard Bridge, Stockyard Tunnel and Stockyard Cave, together with Aiyennu Cave and Beekeepers Hole were the most significant.
In 1969, D.C. & J.W.J Lowry squeezed through a rockfall in Weelawadji Cave and added 1700 m of passageway to the known 300 m of cave (Lowry 1969). Since this discovery, only the extension of Beekeepers Hole (also known as Uniwa Cave) to 1.4km from 250m has been the major find in this area.

Before too long, I was at the top car park, ready to bag another cache. Surprisingly, being a Sunday there was only one other vehicle here, a dark 100 series cruiser. There are two caches here one being a virtual cache. I fired up the GPS to bag the normal one. heading across the road, the Vista HCx in hand, A voice shouts out "so you're looking for the cache huh!". So much for trying to keep a low profile, I was sprung only 10 meters from the car. I went over and we had a chat for a bit. The person was an avid cacher herself, Dimor. She had just logged the find I was about to retrieve. We chatted about caching and places we had travelled to. They headed off for the bottom car park to do the cave, I grabbed the cache and had some lunch, then also headed for the bottom car park and the cave.

The river valley is in complete contrast to the surrounding sand plain heath. Huge gums line the waterway. It is so picturesque down here and remarkably cooler to boot.

The feral beehives are still fairly active, high on the cliff faces above the entrances. There were a few notes in these caches I was doing about a month back that the bees were a bit aggressive. I didn't find that to be the case. I don't recall seeing a single bee at ground level. So all is good.

And then I made my way into the cave itself. The roof structure is impressive with its gnarly eroded roof. And it provides welcome relief from the temperature up top, which was a reasonably warm mid 30's today.

Passing the first bend and then you enter total darkness. About midway, I catch up with Dimor and geo hubby. We chat again, all things caching, for about 1/2 hour in the pleasant coolness under lantern and headlamp light in the middle of the cave. We bid or farewells, Dimor going out, myself going onwards. Great to meet you and geo hubby. Maybe we will again some day.

There is a structure about mid way, I name "The Tonsil". If you ever had a torch extinguish whilst in there, this Tonsil will give you a sore head.

Getting closer to the other entrance, an orange glow starts to appear, the rays of sunlight trying their hardest to penetrate inside.

And pretty soon after that you know the end is nigh

So I cant think of a better place to take a selfie. I warned you in the East of Esperance entry that my new found skill was going to be detrimental to my audiences sanity.

I know from my last trip here there are two caves. I went to both last time. The ranger also told me back then there is a third one further up river. It has a lot more rock hopping/climbing involved and isn't accessible to the public. Maybe one day, I might try to get the Rangers permission to check that one out. I do like this place, it is my most favourite sites in the area. I must come back here when there is water in the creek.

By now it is late afternoon. I was going to go out to Lake Indoon for another cache, but decided it was too hot and it was beer o'clock. So back to camp I went.

As luck would have it, I passed two camper trailers that I know had been in my most favoured site the night before. I was correct, being late Sunday afternoon, the camp had almost emptied and I scored my prized location.

The afternoon spent getting camp set up once again and making preparations for dinner. After the sun had set, I took a stroll down the beach and had another play with the camera. I got a couple of nice post sunset shots with a setting moon over the bay. I cant decide which one is my favourite:


I also grabbed one down at the waters edge. Unfortunately I missed the moon in that one as an unexpected wave came a bit higher than I thought, wet my feet and spoiled the framing .It doesn't grab my attention like the top two though. I must say, even though I still haven't put the time into learning how to drive the new camera, I am surprised at some of the results. I don't think the old point and shoot produces shots as nice, particularly in lower light.

The night before bed was a quiet affair. Only thing of interest was sitting quietly with a mug of red (I don't believe in glasses, you cant fit enough in them...Lol). A sneaky old fox started to creep up on me. About 10m away, I sat up in the chair and reached for the mug. Wish I had a camera to record that foxes face when he realised there was someone there. He was not seen again.

The wind had started to abate during the night until about 0300. Then all hell broke loose. One could think that TC Marcia had crossed the continent and was now passing over the WA coast. Very strong gusts, making a rip roaring noise through the tree canopy followed by moments of absolutely nothing and total silence. this went on until about 0600, when I finally got back to sleep. I really do not know how the side awning survived. I was fully prepared to have to cut it off. I would have had no chance of folding it back up if it had failed.

So due to the lack of sleep, I awoke again about 0900. Rolling out the swag, coffee's on the beach watching the scenery and finally getting the motivation to cook breakfast. Another late start and I made my way to the headland to the South of the camp for the first one "Jurien Shack legacy". This (and the campsite I am now using) was the site of squatters shacks from the early 70's to 2001. Inside the cache were some amazing photo's of the old village. Back at home I have emailed the cache owner and have his permission to reproduce a couple of those shots:

Now its just a barren headland, rarely used. You could camp here I suppose, but the beachfront real estate is very unprotected and you would certainly need to pick your weather.

In regards to squatters shacks, its been a tradition here in WA. Maybe so due to the lack of development compared to the East Coast. Its also been a tradition that the Government of many terms and political persuasion have hated them with a passion. They have been slowly been passing legislation to have these demolished. In some areas I can accept that. Sandy Cape campsite only exists due to the fact the squatters were moved out.

However, in most places it seems that the government just has a plain hate relationship with them. The cache location a perfect example. Now just barren unused ground, still undeveloped since the shacks removal in 2001, the shack owners have been driven out for no good reason. The government (both local and state) tend to use the excuses of environmental and building code issues. The environmental one does have some merit I suppose, there is always a lot of evidence of former occupation at these sites, but if they want to use that as a valid excuse, then they should have remediated the site when the shacks were cleared. I feel that most of it is just a cop out.

Here I quote an excerpt of a submission from DEC to a Parliamentary Standing Committee on the WA shack issue back in 2010:

Squatter shacks have been confined to small coastal locations where farmers and
city dwellers erected opportunistic and makeshift dwellings for annual holidays, and
where professional fishers set up bases close to fishing grounds and good anchorage.
As recreational use of the coast increased, larger numbers of squatter shacks were
erected and the State Government determined that a policy for the administration and
removal of illegally erected squatter shacks should be prepared. The State Government
Squatter Policy was formulated in 1987 and formally adopted as Government policy in 1989.

The policy was developed by the former Department of Land Administration and is derived
from and enforces, section 164 of the Land Act 1933, which relates to offences on public lands (now the Land Administration Act 1997, sections 270-273).
Under the Squatter Policy, 678 shacks have been removed including:

• 138 shacks in the Shire of Coorow;

• about 240 in the Shire of Carnamah;

• 130 in the Shire of Irwin; and

• 170 shacks in the Shire of Dandaragan near Jurien Bay.

The most recent removal of 170 shacks from Jurien Bay in 2001 enabled development of the popular Sandy Cape recreation area that provides basic amenities for camping, caravanning and day visitors. Likewise shack removal in the Shire of Coorow in 1994 enabled development of a coastal drive and series of recreational sites adjacent to Greenhead.  

Professional fisher shacks are a recognised exemption from the policy and generally
are permitted to remain.

So why are Professional Fishers given preferential treatment? Personally, I think there is a need on environmental grounds for improvement. But a blanket policy on removal? Current shack villages at Wedge island and Grey even pay rates. But their time there is numbered if the government has its way. Bulldoze the lot and get a developer in to build holiday accommodation is their philosophy.

To end my soap box rant, I include another photo from Pat, the owner of the cache. A sad end to a loss of heritage. The picture is from 2001 and is the bonfire being fed with the shacks that have just been destroyed.

But the cache must go on and I head up to Green Head. I pick up one of those pesky micro's (about 10mm in diameter and the same in length at a set of Seal sculptures;

Then into town I grab another.

Looking back towards Sandy Cape:

I then head up the coast picking up caches as I go. I also took Kahu the Courageous Kiwi trackable to move onto another cache:

It is quite hot today. So much so, I decide when I find a weed free bay I will have a swim. I get up as far as Deception Bay and find a couple of shacks that are yet to meet their fate. Going by the jetty, they just may be of those protected variety.

I spend too long in the hot sun on the beach looking for this cache. A willy willy comes over a dune, the sand removing 3 layers of epidermis from me and coating me like a lammington in fine sand, stuck to my dripping sweat. That is the final straw, I call the cache a DNF and head back to the luxury of the fridge in the car. The swim I longed for didn't happen either. All the bays were very shallow and the water full of churned up weed. I'll have a swim when I get back to camp. Or so I thought.

The wind today has obviously been from a different direction and now the bay at camp is also full of churned up weed. There goes the swim. So I have to resort to the bush shower. I think the birds enjoyed the shower as much as I did:

The rest of the last day was spent replenishing my lost fluids with the aid of a can from the fridge. Just a relaxing afternoon really. Dinner follows then bed. The following day, its chuck all the gear in the car for the 2 hour drive home. The next week, spent packing all the said gear away and cleaning the car.

Once home I find quite a few insect bites have started to emerge. They have been quite itchy. Then as I start to write this entry, I feel something crawling in my hair. I flick it out and find its a large tick. I had some suspicions about those bites and now I have it confirmed. I'm not sure where I picked them up, but I suspect it was from bush bashing in part I out to the lime tunnels. I must have picked up quite a few going by all the itchy lumps and bumps I now have to cart around.

Talk about unlucky. Blown out for 3 days, not being able to remove the yak from the rack. Then on Wednesday morning, a run out to Fremantle for work and its a glass off.

However, I now have the nights under canvas tally underway, so it hasn't been all bad. March will be a non event for me, but in April I will hit it with a vengance. Stay tuned.

And a big thank you to Pat the owner of "Jurien Shack legacy" for allowing me to reproduce his personal photographs in the name of lost heritage.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Nights under canvas? Part I

A question was asked on a forum: How many nights did you spend under canvas in 2014. Be it camper, tent or swag. I answered with a respectable 34 (see my 2014 archives). Not a bad effort I thought, a month under canvas with no major trips in that. But the question was baited. The proposer had spent 49. So the challenge was on, I need to pull a finger out in 2015.

I don't know what happened with January, before I knew it, it was gone and the closest I'd been to canvas in that time was on the sewing machine manufacturing more camping goodies. But February will allow me to make some amends. Two 3 day weekends in a row and perfect camping weather, if  a little hot. At the start of both of these I have 1pm finishes at work, so effectively, if I go somewhere local, I can technically expand that 3 into 4 days. Due to the temperature and the amount of bush fires we have experienced of late, water based camps take priority over the rural ones this time of year.

First up I thought a revisit to Preston Beach and Martin's Tank was in order. Since I was there last, the camp ground has had a major upgrade. Another reason to check it out. It was to be a solo camp except for the Saturday night, when the girls would join me. Unknown to them, this was a test to see how they would handle sleeping in a swag. On the radar, is a Canning Stock Route trip in 2016. This will be a 3 week test of endurance for them in a swag. I need to have them trained beforehand. Also, its a training session for myself. 3 swags occupy a hell of a lot of real estate. Real estate that is highly valuable for such a remote trip. I acquired an alloy tray for the right price a few weeks prior, smaller than I wanted, and smaller than I need, but the price was right. So the mission for the CSR will be to make it all fit.


 This is 4 days worth. How the hell am I going to fit 3 weeks worth in at this rate?

I had the car packed Thursday night and shot off to work at 0330 (the joys of an early finish don't come cheap. You pay for it somewhere). And I arrived at Martin's about 3pm. I had purchased a Coleman Event 14 sunshelter a few months back at a ridiculous price. This would make a great shelter for the swags, so up on the roof it also went. Now the challenge was to assemble it single handed. Which I did in about 30 easy minutes, in between emptying a brew. Its not something that will see the CSR, but overall, I was impressed with it.

The rest of the day was spent leisurely setting up the camp as I wanted dinner to be started about 6pm. With the camp having good gas barbeques, a camp kitchen and picnic benches, that meant a lot of equipment I did not have to unpack. People had been progressively coming in during the afternoon, but I had use of the facilities to myself. After dinner, sat at the camp table with some tunes and a camp mug of red, the night ambled away before it was time to retire. Not long before bed, I had a visitor to the table. Oh no, the evil possum. Visions of Sue's Bridge in 2012 came running back. However, he was a friendly critter, sat on the table with me as I drunk my red. I decided to grab the camera and the little bugger went back to ground. Then as I pulled the camera from the car, he shot off. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought he had gone beside me under the car. A quick visual proved this to be the case. So I just waited till he came out in the open again and took a few shots. Before long, he left my camp and made for where ever a Brush Tail Possum goes. I never saw him again.

Saturday was a nothing day really. A cooked breakfast and all I had to do was wait around for the girls to turn up around 2pm. The camp host had swung by and we had a chat. She was remarkably friendly (unlike the ones last time I was here). Friday afternoon, when she swung by to collect my dues, she marvelled at the event 14 and somehow during this I mentioned geocaching. She seemed intrigued about it. So I offered her the chance to see what it was all about which she jumped at the chance. I told her I would swing by at midday. In the mean time I just did camp chores. Set up the girls swags and my new rear awning which I had made myself recently.

Picking up the host I told her I wanted to find an old lime tunnel circa 1920. This was not to be a great introduction to caching due to the fact it was a reasonable hike to get there on a walk trail followed by a +100m bash through dense scrub. But I was like a bug to the light. I wanted to see this at all cost. I found this on the net: 

The nearby Yalgorup National Park contains a number of tunnels (13 is the number most often quoted), that have been dug into the side of a limestone formation. No one, so far, seems to know who created the tunnels or why they were dug in the first place. The tunnels are about 50 metres long and appear to have been dug by hand (as opposed to by machines). Dates carved in the walls of the tunnels go back to at least 1927. Some of the entrances were intentionally blocked during World War Two but others remain open even if they are not that easy to find.

at this site: Lake Clifton

I mentioned to the host to be warned. I'm very good at finding the hardest way to a place. And today did not disappoint. I found a walk track and we headed up. A kilometre or so in and we made a T- junction. A quick look at the GPS and I decided left. A few hundred meters down this and with a re-evaluation of the GPS  I decided we were heading the wrong way. So back we went, past the initial trail. Some time later I noticed we were heading back to the road I had parked up on. Again, we were in the wrong place. So we back tracked to the initial track and headed back down. I could see the cache was on the other side of a rise. There was no way to penetrate this scrub, so we decided to head back to the car. There had to be another track to the East of the rise. I would have to come back. We must have spent over an hour in this terrain, up hill and down dale all for nothing. It was quite warm today as well. I then took the host to an easier one on the way back to camp. 5 minutes at ground zero and I had it pegged. I called the host over and she was amazed. We opened the box, signed the log and returned to camp.  Just maybe I have made another convert??


After the girls arrived, we just hung around camp. We would do Preston Beach tomorrow. Progressively, more and more people arrived. It was going to be a busy night I think. 

We didn't have exclusive use of the facilities tonight though. All those people that came in also found the camp kitchen to be a great piece of kit.

And soon enough, it was time for little ones to go to bed. So excited about swagging it, she decided to do here reading time in there. Fully closed up under torch light. Then I told her it was sleep time. Without argument, lights went off and off into the land of nod she went. We sat up a bit longer consuming a red before it was time for us too to make lights out.

Sunday morning and another cooked breakfast to come. This camping caper cant be good for ones health? The verdict from the night before: The little un slept fine, the bigger one not so. Bugger, more training to be done. And the claustrophobia felt means another new swag and more roof top real estate no doubt.

Trev, a work mate was going to come down for the day for a play on the beach. He arrived on cue at 10am. A bit of a chat and we made the 7km or so trek to the beach. In the carpark, we deflated in preparation for the sand. Nothing too difficult really and we headed south to about 5Km's from White Halls. It was there Trev suggested he knew a good dune we should be able to climb where we could have a bevvie and some lunch. So we headed back towards Preston.

Trev found the dune and ascended first. The little zuk had to have a couple of goes at the steeper, softer upper part, but was up no worries. I showed him how good the geopaj was by going up first try.

At the top, we repositioned, rolled out the awning and I took a photo or two...or three or maybe even more. The little un had fun on the sand slopes.

 Seeing the sea breeze was in, I got out the little un's kite. Whilst she had a ball flying, we sat in the shade with a bevvie.


 Whilst it was just sandwiches for us, Trev cooked up a sausage storm. I suggested after lunch we could head off to the Old Coast Brewery for a pint. Everyone agreed. Back at the car park, we aired up and headed off to the brewery. It was reasonably quiet here. The little un had an ice cream and played on the playground stuff, whilst we had a pint and took in the entertainment. Pint done, it was now late Sunday afternoon. Trev left for home and we left for camp. At camp, the girls packed their car and left also. The camp ground now almost deserted. I spent a quiet night, with exclusive use of the facilities again and headed off to bed early.

In the morning, I had a couple of coffee's and started the task of packing up. Being so deserted, a mob of roos came in for a feed.


Packed and ready to hit the road by 10am, I went down to say goodbye to the host. The ranger was there as well and we chatted for a bit. I showed him the paperwork I had on the lime tunnel cache and he seemed impressed. I decided I would have another crack at it on the way home.

Looking for a trail on the Eastern side of the rise I was rewarded. About a kilometre up the wide sandy track I had made the turn point. Now it was a pure bush bash through thick vegetation. Scratched and bleeding, constantly on the lookout for any snakes, I finally made the tunnel. A crap picture taken with the phone camera:

The view to the North was nice:

And so it was, dripping with sweat (it was very warm today), I signed the log and claimed another geocache prize. From there it was a 2 hour meander home. Just in time to unload the rooftop cargo to spend the next week thinking about where to go for part II the next weekend.