Australia

Hiking in WA

It is Sunday, December 23rd and I just enjoyed a very nice and may I say, well deserved beer. Why you may wonder? Because we have been hiking. No, not just walking around, we did some serious hiking…

After leaving our forest lodge, we headed east to the Porongurup National Park. We booked accommodation in Mount Barker, but wanted to do some hiking first. Because I had to go to the toilets, we stopped at the info centre. By that time it was already midday and when I got out of the car, quite hot. And quite hot here in Australia means extremely hot in Dutch terms. So, doing a skywalk hike sounded a bit ambitious. In fact, I could already hear mr. Scientist’s uncle say “It is very nice, but this is just the wrong time”. I double checked with the lady at the info centre and her reply on whether to go was simple: nooooooo! Luckily Porongurup is a large park so there were some other hikes that were ok to do with these temperatures. We had some lunch and decided to give the Hayward Peak and Nancy Peak Walk a go. A class 4, 5.5 km loop.

On our way we actually passed several wineries! We are around 6 weeks into our vacation and I think I got the Australia rhythm figured out: driving, hiking, drinking. I mean, that is in fact what we have done on repeat for the last couple of weeks! There are wineries EVERYWHERE. And the only thing in between is road and sand or rocks to hike on. I think I like it here 🙂

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Now back to the hiking part. Normally I can run 5 km in about 30 minutes, but this was something else. First of all: climbing. The prospect reads as follows: “The path climbs steeply, passing Hayward Peak, to reach the crest of the range at Nancy Peal lookout.” And when these people say steep, they mean it. But, very doable. We brought a couple of liters of water, had more than enough time and, thankfully, energy.

What we climbed was a huge granite rock. In fact: a piece of granite that came straight from the core of the earth, settled at the surface and became this mountain. At its foot are a lot of trees, but as soon as you get higher up, you can see that this is what you actually walk on:

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There was some heavy breathing, but we got to this top quite easily. From there on, the views kept on being amazing. And we were in luck: no one else was as stupid as we were to do this hike in the middle of the day, so we had the rock all to ourselves.

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No interesting wildlife here, but did I mention we actually saw emus on our way here? No, not on the mountain but while we were driving. Fun thing is that we were going through our Australian wildlife spotting list and what was left was the emu. Almost right at that second, there they were. Of course we parked to car on the side of the road and got out. Unfortunately these animals were scared off us and took off, but it’s still a funny picture seeing them run off in line:

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After our hike, we went to our hotel and had, keeping in line with Australian tradition, some beer and pie.

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Today we went the other way, to the Stirling Range. I quote the brochure again: “The rugged peaks of the Stirling Range abruptly rise from a surrounding landscape of lowlands, most of which has been cleared for agriculture. [A lot of sheep again!] The range stretches east-west for more than 65 km and is characterised by stark cliff faces, magnificent views and abundant, vibrantly coloured flowering plants.” Sounds good we thought! Since we were already close by this time, we got there in the morning. Of course we wanted to get to the top, so did the Bluff Knoll hike. In layman’s terms, we climbed this top:

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Looks all right from there, but this is what it looks like from the start:

DSC_0635.jpgAnd that nice road does not continue to the top. Personally I was alright with everything, but mr. Scientist had a tiny bit of a hard time today. The 580 meters to the top yesterday were fine, but these almost 1100 meters were a bit much for a Dutch – while apparently my Austrian mountain goat-blood kicked in. But, steady as she goes we kept on walking and at some point we did actually arrive on top.

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The walk itself offers some diverse scenery:

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And yes, blooming flowers:

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During the last kilometer down, I almost tripped over this fellow:

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In fact, he turned out to be a stalker! Because when I got to the parking lot, there he was again. Lurking around our picknicktable and then trying to steal our car.. But everytime I went to confront him, he walked away.

Oh, this is us right at the end by the way:

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We felt we had done a good job. And my run keeper app seems to agree. 6.3 km, in 3h 20 m, with an average pace of 31 min/km, which means I burned 469 calories. Nice. So what do you think we did on our way back? Visit one of the wineries of course! (There were like 5 wineries on a 50 minute drive…) We went to Caste Rock Estate and finally bought our first bottle of Australian shiraz. A very mild, but tasteful one. So dearies, this is it for today. I will try and get some evening sun in (it is pas 6.30pm by now), have another beer and then some lovely shiraz for dinner, paired up with Judy’s Christmas pudding!

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