Pemberton / Second Best Western


Our second day of travelling, south of Perth, found us bidding farewell to Margaret River and aiming for Pemberton. Travelling along Warner Glenn Road we crossed the Blackwood River where we stopped so that I could take a couple of photos. By coincidence a couple of kayakers were passing through…..

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Kayaks – Blackwood River, WA

The figure in the bow of the yellow kayak is that of a dog, proudly acting as lookout. As I walked up the slope from the bridge, back to the car, I noticed a small yellow sign…… lower left corner of the photo below.

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Bridge – Blackwood River, WA. Little yellow sign in bottom left corner indicates flood water levels.

The sign has a line, indicating the flood levels in January 1982. Which means that the bridge would have been totally submerged. Given the height of the bridge, over the current water level, that’s a significant amount of water.

Back on the move again we continued towards Pemberton. The “satnag” had routed us through quite a remote region and once again, well for Gerry and I, we found ourselves watching the fuel gauge.  However, it wasn’t really an issue and we were soon in the centre of Pemberton.

Pemberton is a small town named after original settler Pemberton Walcott. The main industry of the town was timber and there were a number of sawmills processing timber to supply half a million railway sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway. There are a number of associated artifacts dotted around the town.

Log Carriage c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Log Carriage c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Before touring the town we hunted down a cafe where we could have a bite to eat. There are a number of cafe’s and we soon settled ourselves on the veranda at the Crossings Bakery. This establishment self promotes themselves as the “Home Of The Great Aussie Pie” and advertises “Home Made Chunky Meat Pies” “All $5.00”.

Well I don’t know if they are “great” or if this the home of the pies but they hit the spot and when washed down by coffee’s and iced teas our little group were fighting fit to go and hit Pemberton’s tourist hotspots.

Suitably Refreshed - The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

Suitably Refreshed – The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

As per usual we headed for the visitor centre where we fought off the urge to purchase copious amounts of Koala Fart5J7A2559_edited5J7A2559_edited.jpg, but discovered that we had about ten minutes to get aboard the Pemberton Tramway which was about to set off on its last trip of the day. This journey is well worth the time spent and, if nothing else, means you get a cooling breeze as you trundle through the forests. In their own words ….

This unforgettable 1¾ hour service shuffles out of Pemberton, past the Saw Mill and descends deep into the Karri forest.  The tram meanders through the forest, crossing six bridges, stopping at the Cascades and ending at the Warren River Bridge where the Lefroy Brook Joins the Warren River.  Your tram then returns to Pemberton.

This is not the most comfortable ride you will ever take but it is fun and informative, the drivers dialogue will have you laughing, well smiling perhaps. We were lucky enough to see a Kookaburra take off from a tree branch and keep pace with the tram for quite some distance before zooming off into the trees.

I See No Ships - Waiting For The Off - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

I See No Ships – Waiting For The Off – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride takes you from one side of Pemberton, across the main road, past the remaining sawmill before plunging into the forest. The following photo’s were all taken from the tram.

Timber Yard / Sawmill - Pemberton, WA

Timber Yard / Sawmill – Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway - Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway – Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride paused at the Cascades where we were invited to disembark and explore the river below.

Tram - Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Tram – Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Apparently, at the Cascades, the Lefroy Brook transforms from a gentle flow in mid summer to a raging torrent in winter. I guess being December it was summer time and the flow was decidedly tranquil. Definitely a pretty spot, only spoilt by the hoards of tourists just dumped from their tram ride.

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton - Pemberton, WA

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton – Pemberton, WA

Oh yeah, I was one of those bloody tourists too.

I held back to take some shots when the tram horn blew, calling all the passengers back.

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

After a twenty-minute interlude at the Cascades the tram carried us further to Warren Bridge, the end of our outward journey. After a few minutes admiring the view …..

View From Warren Bridge - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

View From Warren Bridge – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

….. the tram headed back to Pemberton. The return journey was a lot faster, and with little or no commentary.

Once back at the Pemberton station I thought this grand only veteran railway engine was deserving of a mention.

W.A.G.R "V1213" - "V" Class

W.A.G.R “V1213” – “V” Class

This engine was built in England at  Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn’s Darlington works at a cost of some £55,019 . It was in service from 20th December, 1955 through to its retirement on 17th June, 1971.

This class of engine was designed to haul coal from the Collie mines to Perth and Fremantle and were also used for heavy freight on the Perth – Bunbury and York – Albany lines.

From the station we headed back into town to search out the hotel. All of us were feeling the need to freshen up. Our hotel was very easy to find, situated as it is, right on the main road as you drive into Pemberton.

First let me say that the photos on the  Best Western Pemberton Hotel website bear little similarity with our rooms. Dull, tired, dated, these are all descriptors that I would use for our accommodation. Certainly not bright and airy as the photos seem to imply. At least the room was clean.

Having freshened up we headed out to take a look at the Gloucester Tree. None of us had any plans to climb the tree which, at 58m, is way out of our league.

Gloucester Tree - Pemberton, WA

Gloucester Tree – Pemberton, WA

We stood and watched a number of people set off up the tree. Quite a few made it fairly quickly. A couple stopped part way and returned to the ground after only 10m or so. What really had us bemused were the number of apparently sane adults who were allowing their 8-10 year old children to climb, when they could barely span the step between the pegs. And, I know this is Australia, but climbing in thongs (English “flip-flops”). Come on folks.

After the Gloucester Tree we went exploring and came across Big Brook Dam. This is a man-made lake, built in 1986, to provide water for the Pemberton region.

Big Brook Dam - Pemberton, WA

Big Brook Dam – Pemberton, WA

This late in the evening the area was very quiet but looked to be a great place for  walking and picnics.

As time was moving on we thought we would find somewhere to eat and returned to Pemberton centre. Much to our dismay we found that all of the earlier eateries were now closed. The only choices seemed to be our hotel, a fish and chip bar, and a curry house. It seems that Pemberton goes to sleep between 16:30 and 18:00.

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

So, it seemed to us that the Pemberton Hotel is the “only show in town”, unless you want a curry or a fish supper carry out. Because of this the restaurant / bar was very busy and the food service was poor. There were four in our party and two of our starters didn’t turn up. Oddly it was the first two dishes we ordered. I had to go and enquire, seems they had lost / forgotten part of our order. Then we had to wait for nearly an hour before the mains were delivered. It felt like we were being punished for having the temerity to ask where our food was.

To be quite honest, the  quality of the food left a lot to be desired and wasn’t worth the wait. It was very poor, probably the worst we have had in WA. Over cooked, bland and the seafood batter was heavy, way too thick. I had Salt & Pepper Squid which seemed to have been cooked with out the Salt & Pepper !!!

When ordering our meals I had considered having the salad bar instead of a normal starter. The one and only healthy thought I had during this week away. When I looked at what was on offer I quickly changed my mind. There were just four dishes with some sort of coleslaw,  some tomato slices, some beetroot and some kind of pasta salad that had seen better days. It was like a time warp back to the seventies.

During our meal, my wife pointed out  to a waitress that someone was smoking, despite signs clearly stating that was not allowed. The waitress ignored my wife who was left to confront the offender who thankfully was compliant and moved away to the smoking area. In general the rest of the waiting staff were friendly but I think they were overwhelmed by the work load.

Somewhat depressed by our meal experience we headed off to our rooms. The room Gerry and I had been allocated had two single beds. It transpired that the wheels on my bed were not locked and the bed, like a supermarket trolley, had a mind of its own,moving around the room at will. Also, as I subsequently found out, the mattress hadn’t been set on the bed properly so the edge wasn’t supported. After having laid down for a while, when I first went to stand up, the mattress tilted down and I was spilled onto the floor. I sorted the mattress out but, overnight, it seemed to have moved again.

And a general note, the car park is limited for space not enough spaces for the number of rooms. Although we managed to park on site for check-in later in the evening when we returned we had to park out on the street.

So for the hotel I’d rate it as the Second Best Western. Pemberton gets a thumbs up although the early curfew is a pain. Many of the cafe’s could make a bomb if they opened a bit later in the evening.

Many of the properties in Pemberton are heritage listed. Some are in dire need of some TLC but all add to the charm of this country town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.