The kids woke earlier than usual because they wanted to see their cousin before he went to school. School starts around 8am over here, so he leaves at 7.45. They had a bit of time to chat before he left, then they had breakfast and we watched a bit of the Olympics. We were hoping to leave around 9. There was a bit of rain as we were putting things back in the car and trailer, once again we were happy that we hadn’t had the tent out and weren’t doing a full pack up in wind and rain – plus it was pretty cold. Tony’s cousin’s wife brought out some clothes that she was sending to the op shop, Caitlin and I had a browse and were able to grab a few things – including a couple more warm tops which will be great for the trip home. While I was reorganising things in the car I found Caitlin’s handbag buried under a large pile of Millie’s animals – we thought she’d lost the bag at the Pinnacles, as we’d searched through the car several times for it and not found it. It was such a relief to know that it wasn’t lost.
We were ready by 9.30 and on the road well before 10 once we’d said our goodbyes. The car was still quite crowded as we still had all the extra blankets in the car instead of the tent, in case we’d needed them at our cousin’s. We drove through wind and rain to South Perth, where Tony dropped in to the De Bortoli office to get a bit more wine for our last couple of weeks. We had really enjoyed having a weekend off, not doing touristy things for a couple of days, and we were happy not to explore Perth as we’ve been here before and we’re not feeling attracted to cities on this trip – however it was nice to drive past the city and see the buildings and the Swan River and Kings Park. On the way out we saw the new sports stadium being built.
We headed out into the suburbs to call in on family friends of Tony’s – they are in Perth for a couple of weeks visiting their daughter, and wanted to catch up if it was possible. We popped in for morning tea and it was lovely to see them again (its probably been about 5 years) and to meet their daughter, who I got on really well with. A couple of her kids were home from school as they were unwell, so our kids stood in their bedroom doorway and talked to them, and all the kids got on well as well.
We left there around 12.30 (we’d hoped to be gone by 12) and got petrol then started the drive east. It really felt like we were going home now – still a long way to go, but we’re on the last leg. Perth felt like a nice break between our big long trip, and our trek home. The land was quite hilly here, reminded us a bit of the Adelaide Hills. The roads were windier than we’ve been used to, and the trees much much taller than those we’ve driven past lately. Once we were out of the hills we drove through farmland – very green and lush, some with crops and some with sheep. We saw dams on the farms and realised we hadn’t seen any dams for a long time, probably since before Port Augusta. The countryside here reminded me more of rural NSW. We’d been discussing where the wheatbelt was in WA and realise we were driving through the southern end of it, not somewhere either of us have been before, and great to see another part of Australia that I’ve heard so much about.
We stopped in Brookton for lunch around 2pm. It was really really cold outside the car, a wind was blowing and it was raining on and off, in between bits of sunshine. The kids played in a playground (and exercise area) near the sportsground while Tony made sandwiches, then we decided to eat in the car as we drove. We wandered around the town a bit to find public toilets, and ran through the rain to use them, before finally heading out. We had rain on and off throughout the afternoon, and the temperature indicator in the car said it was 10 degrees outside – our coldest day by far.
Our plan was to stop at a free camp just before Hyden. I was driving when we got there and Tony directed me along a few dirt roads to reach the camp area. The ground was wet but solid, so it shouldn’t be a problem to get out even if it rains more overnight. We reached the end of the road, where McCanns Rock was, but there were no signs about camping (and no one else there). We had a look around, there was a shed with chairs in it, a well built BBQ area with BBQs and tables, and another flat area that looked like a camping spot, but accessed by a rutted road that our car and trailer wouldn’t be able to traverse. We couldn’t see any toilets even though our app had said there were toilets here. We explored a bit further – Tony went along one track and LiAM and another – we found a large puddle that we decided not to cross. The 5 of us walked up the rock and found the dam, a dam like we’ve never seen before – a low wall built halfway up the rock, which must catch rain water as it runs down. There was one area that must be deeper because it was full right up to the top of the wall. The water is used as emergency farm water. The view from the top of the rock was incredible, looking across farmland as far as we could see in every direction – and it was freezing. It was well under 10 degrees up there and there was a howling, icy wind. The ground here was so cold that LiAM had insisted on wearing shoes.
Millie wasn’t sure about staying here, especially with no toilet. Just as we were discussing whether to go in to Hyden to find a caravan park, Caitlin found the toilets – and they were flush toilets, not drop! That helped everyone feel a bit better, and we decided to stay (in part because the sun was already down and we didn’t want to stuff around any longer). The sun had come out from behind clouds briefly before setting, and it made the place look much more inviting, which also helped.
The rain seemed to have stopped and we quickly set the tent up in the carpark area while the kids collected wood for a fire. Another car drove up the track where LiAM and I had found the puddle – a local couple and their puppy who had come out here to have dinner at the BBQ. Caitlin told them we’d considered sleeping in the shed and they said they’d done that a couple of times. Tony started cooking dinner and I helped the kids with the fire. We had egg and kabana sandwiches, and by the time they were ready I had a pretty good fire going – it had taken a while because it was hard to find dry wood. We sat around the fire and chatted and ate, then I went to set to the beds up, and noticed that all the clouds had gone, it was a clear, starry night. It was getting colder too, everyone was in gloves and beanies – it was lovely by the fire. Once the beds were up I got the hot water bottles out and we heate water on the fire for them, I figured tonight of all nights we’d need the extra warmth. We were all tired and cold and possibly a bit on edge – the other couple had left and it was weird being here alone – and everyone got a bit cranky as we tried to sort out the hot water. Eventually it was all organised and we jumped into bed – I found the easiest way to read and not be cold was to go completely under the covers with the book and booklamp – it actually became quite warm in there and the kids could still hear me – they all went to sleep with one of their smaller blankets over their head as well.