Here is an excerpt from Sharon's personal journal:
In Porongurup National Park, there is a lookout called the Granite Skywalk perched on a huge granite boulder. It required climbing a 7-meter (23-foot) ladder to get to it, but before that, it required hiking uphill 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) then scrambling up about 100 meters (330 feet) over big boulders with handholds and a couple footholds drilled into the rock. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did it! The last 50 meters (165 feet) or so before the ladder were the worst. At one point, Jon literally had to lift me over the sharp edge of a rock before I could continue. My lack of height and of upper body strength just about did me in, but he pulled me through it. The views were pretty – would have been beautiful on a clear day, which this wasn’t – but my satisfaction in having made it up there was reward enough.
Porongurup (pronounced “prong-grup”) NP is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Albany. This mountain range stretches about 12 km. (7.5 mi.) east to west and stands 670 m. (2200 ft.) above the surrounding countryside. It is believed to have hosted life for over a billion years. The Granite Skywalk hangs on the flat face of a formation called Castle Rock, just one of many outcrops.
After our Porongurup experience, we continued north through the Stirling Range – real mountains, at least by Australian standards! The range stood tall and beautiful against the hazy northern horizon as we approached. The tallest peak, Bluff Knoll, stands 1,095 metres (3,593 feet) above sea level.
Continuing north through Lake Grace, we came out onto the plains of the Wheatbelt and spent a whole morning traveling the 16 kilometers (10 miles) of the Tin Horse Highway into Kulin. Some years ago the community “artists” created a sculpture of “found materials” to promote their Kulin Bush Races held in October each year. Since then, the number and quirkiness of the sculptures has grown to line the highway on both sides. We took pictures of at least 60 different “art objects,” ranging from the sublime (well, maybe not quite “sublime”) to the ridiculous (the majority, actually). It was all great fun!
Turning north at Kulin then east at Kondinin and through Hyden, we came to the main reason for this side trip inland from the coast: Wave Rock. This multi-colored granite formation looks like a gigantic wave set to crash onto the surrounding bushland. Standing 15 meters (49 feet) high and 110 meters (360 feet) long, it is believed to be nearly three billion years old. It was formed underground by the soaking and drying forces of water in the soil over the millennium and the eventual erosion of the soil away from the rock to reveal the flared slope.
Wave Rock is just one feature of Hyden Rock, one of four major rock islands forming a 20-kilometer (12-mile) rhomboid. Other natural features on Hyden Rock include “Hippo’s Yawn” and “The Breakers.” A small dam was built in the 1920s across a natural depression in the top of the rock to provide water for nearby communities. The Hyden Rock Walk took us up past the dam to the top of Hyden Rock where we could see stunning views of the countryside.
We had noticed a number of salty-looking lakes and ponds as we traveled north of the Stirling Range. Much area around Wave Rock seems to be devastated by the invasion of the salt lakes. On the 3.6-kilometer (2.2-mile) Wave Rock Walk Circuit, interpretive panels explained that when early settlers cleared the native vegetation for farming, it upset the natural equilibrium. The crops absorbed less of the rainwater than the native vegetation had; water tables rose and salts that had lain low in the aquifer for millennium were dissolved. Currently, about 11% of the grain-growing land in Western Australia is affected. That percentage is expected to increase to 30% before equilibrium can be reestablished by remedial actions now being undertaken by farmers in the area.
We also visited The Humps, another of the rock islands in the region, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of Hyden Rock. There we learned about the legend and the rock art of Mulka’s Cave; like most Aboriginal legends, it offers a moral life lesson. Again we saw the beautiful views offered by an easy climb to the top of this granite outcrop. About 25 km. (15.5mi.) northeast of The Humps is a remnant of the Rabbit-Proof Fence, now called the State Barrier Fence, which was built in 1901-07 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests from invading Western Australia. We had been talking about this fence since before we left the US, so we were glad to finally get a glimpse of it, even if we had to go 50 km. (30 mi.) out of our way to see it.