We seem to be about two weeks behind the famous wildflowers of Western Australia. We see pictures of these massive fields of colorful flowers, but so far none of those have presented themselves to us in person. American friends of ours, who traveled Australia 14 years ago as we are, stayed at Western Flora Caravan and Tourist Park along the Brand Highway north of Eneabba between Geraldton and Perth. It sounded appealing, so we modified our route a bit to spend a couple nights there.
The main draw for this park was a man named Allen, who had been the owner for 24 years. He does guided wildflower walks almost daily. It was a well-spent hour and a half. Allen has such a wonderful wealth of knowledge beyond just the botanical names of the plants. He goes much deeper into the reasons certain plants live where they live; and how various plants get their pollen spread around by wind, insect, or bird; and how their seeds are distributed; and why they are the colors they are. We learned that red flowers are pollinated by birds rather than insects because insects see red as black so they aren’t attracted to it. He picked a few samples and projected a microscopic image of the plant’s parts on a screen to show us pollen and hairs and other details that we couldn’t see with the naked eye. He pointed out that most of the pictures of fields of wildflowers that we see are one or two species of flashy blossoms, but if we know how to look for them, there are still wildflowers everywhere. They are just more diverse and subtle than the flashy fields. Very enlightening! And a pleasure to spend time with such a learned and passionate man.
Western Flora is in the process of changing hands, so Allen will no longer be offering his guided walks. However, the new owners are working to educate themselves to provide the same service and maintain the caravan park as a premier place to enjoy Western Australia’s floral abundance.
We then found our way to the Indian Ocean Road out along the coastline and continued south to The Pinnacles near Cervantes. These limestone pillars just seem to pop up out of the sand of the Pinnacles Desert. They look similar in size and shape to termite mounds, but they are not. The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Interpretive Centre introduced us to the history of the area, both Aboriginal and European; the geology; and the theories that might explain the existence of the Pinnacles. Theories of their origins indicate that some natural process involving plant material turning to stone created them hundreds of thousands of years ago. We walked to the Pinnacles View, and then we drove the four-kilometer (2.4-mile) loop out into the Pinnacles Desert. The flies were so thick and aggressive that we had no desire to do much walking. We did stop at the Desert View Lookout for a little while and walked out among the formations, but otherwise, we enjoyed the views from the motorhome.
Further down along the Indian Ocean Road we came to Club Capricorn Resort, near the town of Yanchep about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Perth. We mention this not as a recommendation but as an observation. Apparently there was quite a tourist boom in the 1960s and ‘70s because many caravan parks we stay in seem to have been built about that time and are certainly showing their age. This resort right on the shore of the Indian Ocean began with the caravan park in 1969 and added several chalets in the ‘70s and a lodge/restaurant complex in the early 1980s. Now the caravan park has overgrown weeds for lawns, cracked cement paths and pads with tall weeds growing through the cracks, and “ablution blocks” (restrooms) that we know are cleaned every day (because we often encountered the cleaning crew doing a good job), but they are so old that they never really look clean. In front of the reception office are old “statues” (larger-than-life busts, really) of celebrities that are actually quite grotesque. The restaurant is only open on weekends, and the kiosk (Australian for convenience store) is “closed for the season.” There is a huge housing development being built adjacent which might account for some of the neglect of the caravan park, and the chalets seem to be popular, but if they are going to continue to offer the caravan sites, they need to take care of them! They are not alone; we have seen it throughout the country, and it’s a real shame.
Now we are nearly to Perth. Lots to see and do in that area, so stay tuned.