Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nannup Of The South or Karri Us Away

Leaving the coast from Bunbury we plunge into the wilds of forested hills as the sky gently released rain and mist upon us. Of course, with the car controls switched 180 we activate the turn signals on the right lever and then flip the left one for the whipers. A small town appears named Donnybrook with signs boasting that it is the home of Granny Smith Apples. This is not enough to convince us to stop and we proceed down the highway

There are numerous cleared fields on either side of this Western Highway. Some are vinyards for the regions much praised wine industry, but most are grazing fields for incalculable numbers of sheep and lambs. Of course, there are also cattle and horses in places, but they are not nearly so numerous. There are also fields cluttered with what turn out to be rocks that look as if they might be vast herds of sheep until you get close enough.

Even though it is theoretically winter in Australia, the climate in the southwest corner of Western Australia is much like that of Ireland. There is lush greenery everywhere and generous misting rains and there accompanying clouds. The temperatures are warm in the day and cool at night. The numerous storms or rainfall are generated by the Indian Ocean and the winds that come from the west and push across this jutting corner of the continent where it meets what is called here the South Ocean.
Although it has been forecast to be quite rainy, we are very fortunate in that there the rainfall is very brief when it happens and clearing skies appear between these mild, short duration rains. Also, much of the rain occurs while we are driving rather than when we are out walking.

We have read that the drive between the towns of Bridgetown and Nannup is "spectacular." So, we decide to cut across to Nannup from the highway and then take this reportedly beautiful stretch of road back to the highway so that we are not doubling back. Actually, the shortcut over to Nannup turns out to be amazingly beautiful. We are in the beginning of the great forests that stretch across much of the Southwest and South Coast. There are incredibly tall eucalyptus trees which are called karri trees and grow up to over 200 feet tall, vying with our American Redwoods and Sequoia as the tallest on earth. We make our way on a narrow road with no middle stripe and no handy white stripes on the edges and no shoulder. So, when Don driving means that the passenger side of our car is close to or even over the edge of the road on the Wendy side he is prompted to move over to the center (no an exact quote mind you).

Little Nannup turns out to be a place where we decide to get out of the car a walk about. The name reminds us of a documentary about Inuit filmed long ago, Nannuk of the North.

After checking in at the visitor center, we go to what is called Blythe Garden, a home whose grounds have become a place of residence for various trees, plants and flowers that would impress just about anybody. A small donation of a "gold coin" (an Australian $1 or $2 come in this color) per person is requested at the gate by a small sign and then one is free to look about the yard. We do not see or hear from the owner, although the residence is clearly inhabited. Having lived with a film professor for some years who enjoys watching horror films, I have brief flashes of Freddie or Jason like faces peering out from the window, but I am quickly disabused of these thoughts by the beauty and pleasantness of the surroundings. One very distinct and unique tree to Australia is the Banksia, and we see more here (and skipping ahead I will reveal that we later on our journey we will visit a place devoted to them).

We make it safely out of Blythe garden and wander a bit down the road from the Nannup visitors center. In the distance is a grove of fascinatingly tall trees, so we head over in that direction.

We soon arrive in a park with deliberately planted Karri trees in a park that we take a short walk inside. Wendy spots a Kookaburra bird in a tree and takes a few photos of it. They are mostly brown and white and are well known in OZ for making a distinct laughing sound.

So, we get back into our vehicle and head down the highway to Bridgetown for the promised view of the forests. We are not disappointed. Several National Parks have been created throughout the Southwest and this highway travels through a few of them, so we see a lot of forest that is uninterrupted by farms or other development. Everything in nature here is so different from back home, except where certain hillsides have been clearcut and replanted with generic pine. During this drive, I make a pitch for staying in a place named Pemberton which is in the "heart of the Karri forests." Wendy agrees to go there and see before we decide where to stay. However, when we read in the Lonely Planet guide about a bed and breakfast named Glenhaven which features Scottish hospitality we are intrigued.


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