27/06/16 The 290km drive up the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula from Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay took five hours, allowing for a couple of coffee breaks along the way, a few sightseeing stops, and lunch on the point overlooking the bay at Elliston.
The Flinders Highway was a good stretch of road and we stuck to a steady 90kph. There was a strange absence of other vehicles on the road, which was good for me as I didn’t have to worry about traffic build-up behind us on the 110kph highway.
South of Elliston, green pastures became littered with white limestone rocks, some of which had been stacked along the fence lines. Soon, most of the paddocks were enclosed by waist-height drystone walls that stretched up and over the hillsides, and we wondered why anyone would bother to go to all that effort. We learned that these walls dated back to the 1850’s when paddock stone was a cheap and convenient form of fencing. There are many kilometres of this drystone fencing on the west coast. It seems that when the area was first settled by Europeans, shepherds looked after mobs of sheep on the fenceless plains. Gold was discovered in Victoria in the mid-1800s, and the shepherds deserted the sheep to go strike it rich in the goldfields. Faced with labour shortages, pastoralists then had to put up fences to contain their sheep and those with abundant paddock stone built rock walls, employing skilled Wallers brought out from England, Ireland and Scotland for this purpose. One way to clear the paddocks of troublesome rock, I suppose.
Most of the next day was spent just out of town on the Cape Bauer scenic drive, along some very rugged coastline. The well-maintained unsealed road loops around the cape, with many 4WD side tracks leading off to spectacular views of the Great Australian Bight from the clifftops and lots of photo opportunities. No whale sightings to report yet.
We’d heard that this area was well-known for fossilised weevil cocoons (Leptopius duponti beetle from the late Pleistocene era) locally called “clogs”, which are around 100,000 year old. We were excited to find a few at the first place we looked. At the next few spots, though, we soon realised there were thousands of them lying around underfoot. I had to make a real effort not to look at the ground, to stop picking more up. This part of Australia must have been knee deep in these acacia beetles back then!
The Whistling Rocks and the Blowholes were something to see, with the steam engine sound of air rushing from vents and shafts in the rocks with each incoming wave. Someone had written on the sign “A breath of fresh Eyre”. Very appropriate for the windy conditions.
The following day, we took a drive south to Point Westall where I spotted a solitary whale out to sea (didn’t count on Di’s Animals in the Wild List though as she couldn’t see it with the binoculars) and then on to Point Labatt, one of the largest Australian mainland breeding sites for the endangered Australian sea lions. From the clifftop above the beach, we counted 48 sea lions, including a pup having a feed from its mother and a couple of big bulls, lazing on the sand and rocks 50 metres below us.
A short way inland, we stopped at Murphy’s Haystacks, impressive formations of weathered pink granite sculpted by the elements to their present form about 100,000 years ago. Located on a hilltop in a green pasture, they were an imposing and remarkable sight.
We spent two days driving around the spectacular countryside and seeing truly magic places, just the two of us. No tourist hoards to compete with at this time of year. It’s too cold and windy and rainy. We were very fortunate, though, to have two days of clear weather to enjoy seeing the sights of the local area.
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” – Winnie the Pooh