April 4 – Stockyard Gully caves

The sunset over the sand dunes was just as good as the sunrise. We headed down to see the shack settlement of Wedge Island but only really saw a small fraction of the place before we turned around not wanting to invade people’s privacy. On the air photos you can see it has hundreds of shacks that have evolved from a gaggle of remote weekend fishing shelters to an organised community with formal leases in place and they seem to be holding the authorities at bay who are sure to want to wipe these unique WA villages off the map.

We were up and going early so we took the opportunity to drive into The Pinnacles to check the place out before the tourist buses arrived and the backpackers woke up. Quite an incredible attraction – not just for the amazing rock formations but also the fact that you drive around the area, slowly weaving along a yellow sandy track – no need to get out of the car except to get photos and have a close-up look. As we hoped, there was only one other car which we only glimpsed once while we were there so this small unique desert was quiet and, yes, ok, deserted. But yet another amazing little feature of the country with spectacular pillars of rock exposed as the massive sand dunes shift across the landscape.

It’s Wednesday, and due to timezone differences with our school way over east, we have started Wednesday morning school lessons. Miss Swan has caught the travel bug after we posted back all the Grampians brochures for her to plan a trip and off she went. So today we were on the phone with Miss Alley. We found ok phone reception over on the coast at Hangover Bay and got our lessons done.

A bit windy so coastal touring was not as pleasant as it could be – so we decided to drive through and around the town and villages along the coast – Cervantes first where we didn’t get into town before the local cops had Amy on the RBT blower. Lucky we’d decided against the champagne breakfast today and it came up all zeros. We stopped at a few spots to check out the beaches and bays and then headed out to Lake Thetis which has a great boardwalk around a small, very saline lake and features stromatolites that seem to be rocks but are living structures based on communities of micro-organisms.

Cervantes Lake Thetis stromatolites

A bit further north is Jurien Bay, another spectacular coastal strip which today was windy, the water choppy and the crystal clear water not as colourful as we know it could be. Again a bit of a drive around hopping out to have a look around. We found a water tap in a park and used our hose to fill the water bladder up – topping up this 85litres to full whenever we can means we have ample supply to have nice showers when we are out in the bush.

Cervantes the Big rusty fish thingy

We decided to head east out towards some caves that we’d read about in a brochure. A loop through Lesueur National Park – amazing landscape that would be full of wildflowers and botanical tourists at the right time of year – something like 800 species of wildflowers in this one location. Otherwise, the drive was through a lot of cattle grazing country – pretty dry at the moment but lots of hay bales stockpiled from the better seasons of cropping before so the cattle had plenty of feed.

The road out to Stockyard Gully had pretty clear warnings at the start – no chance of making it 50 metres along the track without a high-clearance 4WD. The track was mostly sandy but wasn’t too boggy for the most part. Limestone rock outcrops popped up from time to time requiring  slow and careful navigation around the largest and sharpest-looking rocks. After a slow drive through heathy scrub we got to Stockyard Gully and stopped at the downstream entrance to the cave. The only other visitors were a tour guide and her two tourists.

Leseuer 2

We had no idea what to expect and what we found was pretty amazing – the sandy gorge of Stockyard Gully with large shady gum trees enters a massive tunnel carved out by the river which you walk through for several hundred metres – enough to be in complete darkness (luckily Uncle Nick’s head torches came in handy again!) and a great cool temperature. We found some microbats clinging to the roof of the cave and there are massive beehives hanging on the cave entrances.

The river flows through the tunnel but is dry now – a flood marker up very high shows that it gets flowing when it wants to. The loop trail goes up out into the daylight and heat to loop back to our car but we decided to backtrack and walk back through the cave. Another cave is close by in the gully but has barriers and warning signs about instability so we looked in from a distance.

Late in the afternoon we found a side trail on the edge of the reserve and set up camp in a very peaceful spot – lots of birds and the wildlife tracks across the sand were amazing – so many different little critters moving around.

Stockyard Gully campsite

 

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