Northam, Pelicans, Kookaburras, Bushfires and a Good Samaritan


Continuing our general exploration of the Perth region we headed out to the township of Northam. The main reason for heading that way is that Northam is said to have the largest number of historic buildings in Western Australia (other than Fremantle).

Northam is just over 30 Km north of York, which we have visited before, and just over 90 Km from Perth. So just over an hours drive. Waiting until the Perth suburbs commuter rush hour was over we set out on a drive through picturesque countryside. Some might question the picturesque descriptor and certainly the countryside is nothing like the green and pleasant land that is the UK.

Driving out we passed through forests of trees, with fire blackened trunks, starkly contrasted by brilliant white gum trees. All topped of with leaves that are tinted close to sage green. All with a constant backdrop of a clear blue sky. Occasionally these forests give way to more open lands, presumably cleared to provide grazing for sheep and cattle. Although mainly open, these pastures are dotted with trees to give livestock some shade.

Countryside - Near Northam WA

Countryside – Near Northam WA

The landscape change as we enter the “Avon Valley”, becoming more hilly and open. The road changing altitude more frequently and, as we entered the outer suburbs of Northam, we made a short detour, following a sign indicating that there was a view-point on top of the hill.

The view-point gives good panoramic views over Northam and the surrounding countryside.

Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

The picnic tables up here have been vandalised and the whole area is looking a little sad. It would seem that it is a popular place for “hooning” around with cars and bikes.

After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.

After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.

There is also an information board which makes reference to a grave site accessed down a made path. Unfortunately, most of the information is obliterated but I was able to determine that the grave site is on un-consecrated ground and that it once held the body of a Mrs Iva Jane Burrows. Apparently she shot and wounded her step daughter before injecting herself with a lethal dose of poison. It was her wish to be buried without religious service or sermon. One other oddity was that her husband had the coffin bound with two chains prior to interment. Confusingly, despite the presence of the grave-site on the hilltop other sources on the web suggest that she was buried in the Northam Cemetary which is, presumably, consecrated.

On into Northam and we spotted a sign for the pedestrian suspension bridge and were soon parked up again.

At the foot of the bridge is a modern day wood sculpture, of a Bob Tailed Lizard, entitled Little Bobby.

Little Bobby - Northam WA

Little Bobby – Northam WA

The bridge has a 117 metre span and is 16 metres high. Apparently it can hold up to 400 people, evenly spaced, and is capable of withstanding 150 Km/hr winds. It is a popular vantage point for the famous Avon Valley Descent, so the live load capacity has probably been exercised on numerous occasions, since it was built in 1975.

Shire of Northam - Avon River Suspension Bridge

Shire of Northam – Avon River Suspension Bridge

We crossed the bridge, and yes it wriggles, squirms and bounces as you walk. I was told on numerous occasions, to stop making it bounce.

The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley - Scourge of the western world

The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley – Scourge of the western world

Having crossed the river, we ate a very pleasant lunch on the veranda at the RiversEdge Cafe. Here, I had a Curried Rice Salad with added Chicken Strips, while Gerry had a Peach Salad with added Salt and Pepper Squid. Mindful of the rising temperatures we washed the food down with some thirst quenching Iced Tea.

Apart from being the start point for the Avon Descent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Avon Descent is an annual, two-day, white water event involving both paddle craft (kayaks, surf skis) and small motor boats. It runs from Northam to Perth, Western Australia along the Avon and Swan Rivers, and is held in August of every year.

Sponsors and commercial support regularly changes, sometimes annually.

It is the only event in the world where both power craft and paddle craft race compete. The course has Grade 2–4[clarification needed] white water rapids and is 124 kilometres (77 mi) long.[1] The first Avon Descent was held in 1973. There has been an increase in the prize pool from 2007 of $10,000 providing an extra $6,000 for 1st, $3,000 for 2nd and $1,000 for 3rd fastest single paddle craft. In 2006 757 competitors started the event in 459 craft.

The top class in the powerboats is the 10hp sports class. These boats are made from foam and fibreglass, and have hydraulic jacks that enable the motor to be jacked up. The motors are unmodified and run a surface piercing propeller. These powerboats can reach speeds of approximately 70km/h.

Northam is also known for its many historic buildings …

133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam - A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style

133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam – A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style

 Northam Post Office & Quarters - a brick and iron building designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909

Northam Post Office & Quarters – a brick and iron building
designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909

Commercial Hotel, Northam - Built 1902-1903

Commercial Hotel, Northam – Built 1902-1903

Northam Hotel - The original hotel was built on the site In 1887 although a licence had been operating from the site since 1890.

Northam Hotel – The original hotel was built on the site in 1887.

Commonwealth Bank - is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934

Commonwealth Bank – is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped
Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934

During our walk alongside the river we were entertained by various aquatic birds. Ducks, gulls, moorhens, and a lone pelican. The Pelican was fishing, and seemed to be doing quite well. Sailing along majestically, plunging his enormous bill down into the water, then slowly lifting his head while draining the water keeping his bill closed enough to keep his prey from escaping. This would be followed by a uptilt of the bill so that whatever had been caught slid quickly down into his gullet.

Pelican - Northam Town Pool

Pelican – Northam Town Pool

The gulls spent a deal of time harassing the pelican. Everytime his head went under water, and his bum went up in the air, they would swim in close, as if to peck the exposed behind. Then when his head came back up they would move away. On one occasion, one of the gulls leapt out of the water and used the pelicans back like a trampoline to launch itself into the air.

Other birds on or around the water included an Egret …

Egret ?

Egret ?

…… a Heron ….

Heron ?

Heron ?

…. and a Cormorant drying it’s wings …

Cormorant

Cormorant

Western Australia is known for the Black Swans which feature on the state flag, but Northam is known as the home to White Swans which were first introduced to Australia during the 19th century.

In 1896 the White Swan was introduced into Western Australia by a British colonists. In the early 1900’s, it is believed a Russian settler and the town’s mayor, Oscar Bernard, introduced White Swans to Northam . The Avon River in Northam became the only place in Australia where the newly introduced bird survived and today it is still the only place in Australia where White Swans breed naturally in the wild.

After spending a few hours in an around Northam it was time to head back to Perth. Returning to the car I made a really bad decision. I knew that the car was low on fuel but decided that we would be able to fill up at a service station on the way. This was stupid as I then made a second dumb decision, which was to take “the pretty route” back. We drove for many kilometers along very quiet roads, with few other motorists. Slowly the fuel gauge dropped towards the empty mark.

Then nature stepped in to compound my dumb decisions. We started to see the signs of a bush fire directly ahead …..

Bush Fire - Gidgegannup, WA

Bush Fire – Gidgegannup, WA

Then we encountered signs stating that there was a road diversion ahead due to the fire. This was not good news, with the fuel tank virtually empty, we could not afford to be diverted onto even more remote roads.

Cresting a rise I spotted a guy and his vehicle on the opposite side of the road and I stopped to speak to him. The reason he was parked up was because his vehicle was LPG fuelled so no way through and, being low on fuel, he also had a limited range. He said that he was resigned to spending the night at the roadside.

When I asked if he knew where the nearest service station was he waved his hand towards the smoke and said “the other side of that”. This was not looking good.

Off the road, through the trees on our side, we could see some buildings. So we decided to go and see if anyone there might have some fuel to sell us. The buildings that we had seen were not inhabited but we could see a house further back and made it up to the front of the house.Luckily there was someone home, and, not only that but they had a can with about 10 litres of fuel which they gave us.

Thats right, gave us !!!

Twice I offered to pay for the fuel, but was refused. I siphoned the fuel although he offered to do that too. I couldn’t allow him to do that when he was donating the fuel. The fuel he provided took us back up to about a quarter of a tank. After thanking him profusely we set off on our way, me with the taste of unleaded on my lips and tongue. No amount of water seemed to clear that taste.

Shortly after leaving the “Good Samaritans” home we arrived at the detour which took us through some picturesque wooded roads. These roads were quite narrow, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. I guess I should be grateful that they were paved. En route we encountered this little fellow.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

I’m pretty sure he’d had an encounter with another motorist. He let me drive right up to him and even when I got out of the car he just sat there looking at me. Not very humane of me, I took a picture first before considering helping him. Looking at the displaced feather I thought I might have to move him off the road or even contemplate something more drastic. However, as soon as I got within a couple of feet, he took off and flew away through the trees. Hopefully he was just stunned.

A few more kilometers down the road and we began to see signs of civilisation and then we were ejected onto The Great Eastern Highway. Soon after that we arrived at The Lakes Roadhouse where we were able to fill up with fuel and I was able to get some mints to try to get rid of the taste of unleaded.

It took us another hour to get home and a nice hot cup of tea while we discussed the days adventures ……. or perhaps I should say, misadventures.

Here is how the bush-fire was reported on the day ….

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia-bushfires/wa-bushfires-gidgegannup-issued-emergency-fire-warning/news-story/39277d63a9c087f8c3aac13969fb839a

And, at the time of this post, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services had this to say some twenty four hours on …..

http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/alerts/Pages/Alert.aspx?ItemId=15727

And finally, once again, a big thank you to Paul for donating the fuel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s