Easter was upon us once again, and with the annual salmon run underway, we decided to bolt to the south coast for some R&R and a bit of exploring.
With some ominous weather on the horizon, we took off on the Thursday and headed south via our favourite shortcut through Dardanup and Boyanup. We took a bit of a detour from Balingup and meandered the windy roads to check out Wright’s Bridge and a few of the camping spots nearby for future reference. This was an area I had camped at when I was about 7 years old. You can have dogs there, so it’s definitely somewhere we will come back to.
As we drove through Nannup, the clouds overhead were a bit threatening, but we pushed on. We decided to head for the Yeagerup Dunes entry to D’entrecasteaux National Park. We turned off at Ritter Road and poked around the various trails and tracks until we reached the Leaning Marri campsite. All the signs about camp fires were very confusing and conflicting. One of the criteria for the weekend was that we wanted somewhere to fire up The Pig, so we decided not to stop here.
Instead we cut through the back tracks and navigated our way to the Heartbreak Trail – a 10km one-way loop on narrow, slippery gravel. No caravans allowed, but the KK handled the road with ease. After checking out the campsites, we chose Drafty’s and set up in the last remaining site. Within an hour we had the Pig cranked and dinner on the go.
Good Friday morning we headed back to the Yeagerup entry to the coast. There was a DPaW pit-stop with information and guidance on where and how to access the coast. The Rangers were fantastic [a good PR exercise for them] and most people appeared to follow the rules. They said it was their busiest weekend of the year with three to four hundred vehicles expected each day – they weren’t exaggerating!
We joined the convoy of 4WDs to the beach. Up and over the first Yeagerup hill was fun and there were cars everywhere. The track carried on through scrub and dunes until we reached the big dunes. There was a bit of carnage on the way with SUV soft-roaders struggling in the wheel ruts created by all the big 4WDs.
Along the beach it was busy! We’ve never seen so many cars and people fishing. Plenty seemed to be pulling in big salmon despite the wild ocean and massive swell. Over the course of the day we tried 6 or 7 spots, trying to find somewhere that wasn’t already taken but had a sand bank and gully worth casting into. Unfortunately, it was to no avail. However, we enjoyed the spectacle of all the 4WDs ploughing through the tail end of the river that couldn’t quite reach the sea, and then the ocean crashing up and onto the beach with the giant swell.
After lunch we headed down to Warren Beach and tried our luck there. From here we left the beach and climbed Calcup Hill. It was so chopped up from all the 4WDs going up and down all day, and probably plenty who had not let their tyres right down.
Alby handled the track no worries at all, just pedal to the metal and he ate it up. We bounced a bit through the deep corrugations and ruts at the base of the track, but the power in this car was incredible. A hot shower back at camp followed by hot dinner and a few glasses of red.
Before heading to the beach on Saturday we dropped into Pemberton for some bait supplies. It’s such a gorgeous little timber mill town. Lots of wood fires burning and a beautiful vista looking out over the forests.
Our route today was via the Warren Beach track. We got a bit lost trying to find it, but in the end hit the sand and rolled down Calcup Hill where we had exited the day before. Great view from the top, and plenty of 4WD action to keep everyone entertained. Again, a very busy day on the beach – every sort of 4WD you can imagine. ARB would have been proud seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear rolling past.
On the Sunday we took a lazy drive via Northcliffe down to Windy Harbour. We checked out the quirky shacks that are peppered around the bay – still no power or running water, but plenty of weird and wonderful designs that show their age and the impact of years facing the Southern Ocean’s winds.
Loads of people were heading to Salmon Beach, so we decided to enjoy the hill top walk and views rather than battle the crowd. On our way out of town we turned a hairpin bend to the right [south east] and followed the track to the Gardner River mouth. It was a creepy kind of place with lots of dead-ends and narrow scrubby tracks. We came across a very big ‘village’ of campers who must camp there every Easter. They were well established and we weren’t welcome. At the end of the track near the rivermouth there were a few very basic shacks and plenty of people enjoying the Easter weekend.
Back on the road out of Windy Harbour and we decided to take the Summertime Track to the coast. It was a bit of a hike through sand, (dry) mud and scrub. But we made it with plenty of time for an afternoon fishing session and a spectacular sunset. After trying several spots we decided to enjoy the view rather than persevere with the fishing…
By the time we left the beach, it was almost dark. Taking the Summertime Track out in the dark was a bit hairy at times. We had an entertaining radio channel to listen to, which seemed to be a few scout groups camping and checking in with each other for weather and track reports.
Back at camp again amongst the tall trees. The chill in the air was so welcome: fresh, cool and clean. Another night around the campfire, a long and restful sleep, then a slow morning with pack up and on to the road home.