Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stirling Range and Porongurups.

It's Sunday night in Western Australia and I need to get to bed, but I wanted to add a few pictures from the roadtrip Chris and I took this weekend.

Last Thursday we stayed over night in Albany. The next morning we didn't have any work to do, so we packed up and hit the road in a little Nissan rental (hired car, as they like to call them over here). We drove north out of the city on Chester Pass Road. About 100 km out of town we came to the Stirling Range. This is the highest mountain range in Western Australia. The tallest peak is over 1000 m above sea level. We decided to climb it the first day. I was feeling overwhelmed just approaching the mountain, but I knew the view at the top would be worth the 2 hour climb.

Stirling Range from a distance. The peak in the centre that is shaped like a wave is called Bluff Knoll. This was the first, and tallest, mountain we climbed over the course of the weekend.

View from the very top. We were so lucky to have nice enough weather to make this ascent. Any rain or wind makes the granite track too slippery to climb and it rained all weekend in Albany.

The little tiny carpark where we left our car.

Some of the other peaks in the range.

The track back down. Everyone we met on the way up told us that coming down is actually the harder part. No. Going up is much harder. Coming down is tougher than you might imagine, but it is no way near as hard as going up. On the way down I ran into a friend I had met at the SERI conference. She was actually starting the climb a little too close to sunset. I need to send her an e-mail to find out if they made it to the peak.

Bluff Knoll from the bottom.

After our climb we headed back to the campground. We met the Ranger, Eddie. He was a nice old guy and we lent me some wool blankets because I had forgotten ours at the hostel. I'm so glad he had some extras because it would have been one cold night without them. All of the campgrounds have these great BBQ set-ups. They have a flattop grill, two burners, and a stainless steel counter for preparing your meal. The propane is all hooked up and it's free to use. This prevents people from lighting campfires. You can also see the giant blue tent I borrowed from DEC in the background. I could stand up in it. It was great, but really didn't take the wind very well and this was not a sheltered area. The other two vehicles in this shot belong to older couples who are out traveling the country in their little pop-up campers. Once people retire in Australia this is what they do instead of buying cottages. One may refer to them as the Grey Nomads.

The next morning we went searching for wildflowers. The Stirling Range is famous for its brilliant displays of colour once the wildflowers are in bloom. Unfortunately, we visited the range about a month early and most of the shrub flowers were not in bloom. Fortunately, with some effort, we found a lot of little orchids, pea plants, and other wildflowers.

A whole bunch of pretty flowers.

We also came across some more parrots and I got some good pictures. These are ring-necked parrots on the side of the road.

This morning, we were up pretty early. We wanted to head on to visit Porongurups National Park before returning to Two People's Bay. Good thing too because we found some amazing rock structures. This is Balancing Rock. It is estimated to weigh 182 tonnes. I was scared to stand beside it.

Just behind Balancing Rock, Chris spotted two roos. This is a mother and her baby. The kid looked right at us the whole time.

Just past Balancing Rock are the Castle Rocks. We climbed up to the top on a steel ladder. This picture does not come close to conveying how high above the ground these rocks sit. I actually couldn't stand up because we were so high.

The Karri forest that we walked through was absolutely overflowing with this purple native wisteria. Karri is another eucalypt.

Once last shot I took from the top of the Porongurups. Soon after this the rain caught up. It wasn't bad though and we made it back to the carpark for lunch.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Albany for the day. On Tuesday I'm northbound for three days to work on the numbat project. I'll be back with more next weekend!

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