Monday, August 31, 2009

Bush Camping Adventure

A trillion stars, a billion grains of sand, a million drops of rain, 3.5 thousand kilometers of road, hundreds of mosquitos, dozens of wild animals, two people, and one land cruiser--our bush camping trip from Perth to Adelaide was nothing short of amazing.
As we set out to explore the southeastern part of West Australia's coast and to cross the Nullarbor Plain, we hoped to have as much of an, off-the-main-road-outback-experience as possible. Rather than relying on conventional campsites and caravan parks, our goal was to find secluded spaces that would allow us to experience and appreciate the Australian wilderness. For the most part we were able to do this. Four nights were spent bush camping in fairly isolated National or Conservation Parks, and three nights were spent in more conventional National Park campgrounds. Other than wildlife, we had human company only on two of the seven nights.
Our first stop was just over 400 km south-east of Perth at the Frank Hann National Park. We arrived after dark but were lucky enough to find the faint and hidden trail that would lead us to Lillian Stokes Rock. It was here, on a granite outcrop that we set up our first bush camp. We were alone, in the middle of nowhere--no phones, computers, no TV's. The only sound to be heard was the occasional pitter-patter of rain on the roof, and our bird-chirping wake-up call. In the morning, as we walked amongst the bilabongs, we felt any tensions-related to our city life- slowly melt away.

Lillian Stokes Rock

We spent the next two days in National Parks near Esperance. Here we were treated to perhaps the whitest sand beaches and the bluest water in the Land Down Under. At Cape Arid we camped hidden among mallee trees, next to a meandering river. A moonlight mid-night walk included a frantic moment when I was charged by a very large red kangaroo. Fortunately, he veered off at the last moment. At Cape Le Grand we had to share the perfect view of a wide sandy beach with one other couple. Our afternoon hike was ruined by rain, but rewarded with a Southern Right Whale playing in the bay. Both evenings we were lulled to sleep by the rhythmic crashing of the surf of the great Southern Ocean.

Cape Arid

Cape Le Grande

It was at this point that our trip ran into a bit of trouble. The dirt track that we had hoped to take up the the Eyer Highway was closed and we had to take the sealed road which added over 200 km to our drive. The extra distance made us unsure of where we would stay that night. We had no desire to just pull over on the side of the road, like many people do (because of the long distances and lack of facilities). We also did not want to stay in a caravan park, they seemed so constrictive and depressing after our previous 3 nights. Just before Norseman, we passed a small brown sign that said Dundas Rocks. We decided to head up the dirt road and see what we could find. A small sign to the entry of the the picnic area had a caravan on it so we decided it meant we could camp in the area. Under a yellow flowering tree, once again, we found ourselves on our own. I was a bit worried that we would have troubles sleeping, since we were really unsure if we were really supposed to camping in this area and because we were fairly close to a town. However, sleep came as easy and as deep as the previous nights.

Dundas Rocks

As we studied our map the next morning we were unsure of how to plan our day. The detour had us behind schedule. The campsite we had planned to camp at the previous night was too close, yet we would have to drive over 9 hours to arrive at the park we had originally hoped to stay at that night. Our maps showed a small National Park just outside of Eucla, so we decided to give it a try. To our delight we arrived to find another perfect bush campsite located next to some impressive sandhills. Not only were we treated to a cloudless evening (perfect for stargazing), but we also had a magnificent sunrise. Because the sandhills provided a barrier between us and the sea, the only sound was the humming of our own brain.

Sandhills at Eucla National Park

On the sixth day of our travels, we were disappointed with the promise of a wonderful camp area at Fowlers bay. We could only hope that Cactus Beach would live up to it's reputation. We were greeted with the most conventional campsite of our journey, an amazing sunset, and hundreds of mosquitos. We were able to keep the mosquitos out of the vehicle, however my two trips to the dunny left me with over 15 bites on my rear end!!!! Needless to say our stay at Cactus Beach was prickly and cut a bit short.

Sunset at Cactus Beach

The second to last day, we were faced with torrential rain. Conditions forced us to once again change our travel plans. Instead of bush camping on the back roads to Iron Knob, we had to cross our fingers and hope that Lake Gairdner would provide us with a final campsite similar to those to which we had become accustomed. To our relief we found a campsite at the end of the rainbow. The salt water lake proved to be the perfect place to end our bush camping adventure.

Lake Gairdner


  1. Just gorgeous! I have yet to experience the true bush. One day!

  2. Lovely pictures and description of your adventure. The question is, did you take a picture of your mosquito bites???

  3. Gonzalee, I decided to spare you the graphic details. I am still trying to figure out how Mark got away without a single bite.