Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 55: Esperence and the Southern Coast

January 8, 2011

When I was working last year and idly planning my eight weeks paid leave, the plan was to spend a couple of those weeks in Esperence during the January holidays. Cape La Grande and Cape Arid National Parks, to the east of the town, offer some of the most spectacular turquoise water and white sand beaches in Australia and some excellent hiking possibilities. If we’d stayed with that plan, the long awaited thrill of time off work and a great holiday destination would have filled us with unbounded pleasure.

But after two months on the road and the view of home coming onto our horizon, our enthusiasm for this last stint of our holiday is in short supply. My dad sums it up nicely in an email I receive from his this morning: “Isn't it funny how trip-ends are often on the down side? All the enthusiasm has leaked out and tiredness/disorder/dirtiness has sneaked in.”

Spot on. As we travel south to Esperence, I organize the photos we’ve taken on this trip, discarding the rejects, renaming those worth saving. Memories of the many places we traveled through flit through my mind and emotions. But mostly what I see in these photos is enthusiasm, a bottomless well of energy to take on a new day of travel and discovery. Now it seems we have to push ourselves to find the motivation for this last chapter of our holidays.

“I remember how many times I was ready to get home before the planned time,” Dad continues. Yes, lately we’re opting for stacking up the miles rather than progressing at a leisurely pace and stopping at all the spots of interest. The lure of home and all its comforts plays in our imaginations.

But still, it could be the last opportunity to enjoy what Esperence and its national parks have to offer – perhaps we should leave it fate. It’s sunny and pleasantly warm when we cruise into Esperence in the late morning. The town is waving its holiday colours and an air of festive abandon drifts through the streets. First port of call is the Visitor’s Centre. Bad news (or is it good?): the national parks have been full for the past two weeks and, being Saturday, the prospects of getting a camping sight are slim. That settles that.

I take a walk through the breezy town, ending at the Jetty Café. Painted in a palate of bright colours, the old wooden building offers a laid-back atmosphere with views of the bay and a pricey menu. We order cake and coffees and sit on the lounge furniture casually placed on the patch of grass at the front of the café.

We resolve to continue westward, checking out the two national parks that line the coast to Albany. But when we stop at the turn-off for Stokes National Park for a roadside picnic, the wind is blowing a gale and camping on the coast doesn’t sound appealing.

Further west, in Ravensthorpe, we give it one last shot: can we get into the Frankland River National Park? The lady at the Visitor’s Centre doesn’t think so; because of recent rains the Department of Environment has closed most of the roads in the park to prevent the spread of dieback. It looks like fate is pushing us home.

For our last camping night, we find a brief section where the National Park touches the Coast Highway and pitch camp at the end of a dirt track with sweeping views of the park and the wheat farm that straddles it. The wind and the highway traffic die down simultaneously and we’re left with a still, quiet, cool night to end our journey.


Tea for Two at the Jetty Cafe

 Coast Highway camp at Frankland River National Park

Good morning!

Off to do Morning Meditation

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