“I’ll see you guys in 2 weeks!”.
That’s exactly what I said to my friends in Perth before leaving to Margaret River, in November 2017, after had completed our road trip from Darwin to the capital of Western Australia. The plan was pretty easy: complete my last two weeks of farm work and going back to Perth where all my friends were staying; I couldn’t imagine that those 2 weeks would have become more than a year. In Margs I have always felt at home, here I met a lot of amazing people, especially while staying at the local YHA Hostel and while I was working as a chef in a tavern in town. Here I also met the girl that has soon become my partner in crime. Nothing lasts forever though and after 14 months spent in this beautiful corner of Australia, it is time for a new adventure or, in this case, a new beginning. We are moving to Perth, and many hectic things have yet to come.
After a long time working full time in order to save money to enroll in a professional Photography course in Perth, I felt I really deserved a break; it would have been a pity anyway to leave this astonishing place to drive straight north to Perth, without having a look at what the southern region could offer us. That’s why I have decided to spend a couple of weeks exploring the southwest in the best way I know: on a road trip! As usual, I did not plan anything about this trip, except a few must-see places that I knew I could absolutely not miss, like the Stirling Range National Park, Esperance, and Wave Rock; as usual, I improvised the rest. After a couple of BBQs at my brother’s place to say goodbye to everyone and with all our things packed into my beloved Jeep, we were ready to go.
Our first stop was Pemberton, a small town just one hour far from Margaret River, better known for its lush karri tree forests. Some of those amazing trees are more than 300 years old and they can be over 80 meters tall: walking among them truly make you feel like a gnome among giants. Thanks to an unplanned detour, we found ourselves driving on the “Heartbreak scenic drive” in the Warren National Park, a quite steep but relatively easy drive through this beautiful park. Here we met a lovely couple that showed us how to catch “Marroon”, the largest freshwater crayfish in Western Australia: I had heard about them many times during my stay in Margaret River but I had never seen any of them. The Marron is usually caught with a self-tightening snare, which makes it pretty difficult and really tests your patience; you are legally allowed to catch up to 16 marrons per day, only if they are more than 80mm from the tip of the horn on the marron’s forehead to the back edge of the carapace. If the Marron is shorter than 80mm, it must be immediately returned to the water. While chatting to the couple they suggested we spend the night in one of the two campsites in the park, called “Drafty’s”, and so we did! After many hectic months spent working in a busy kitchen, I could finally fall asleep in the wilderness while listening to the singing of the birds.
Just some kilometers before Pemberton we stopped at the “Cascades” at the Lefroy Brook to have a short walk and admire the wildlife among the amazing Karri trees. No doubt the most known place in the area is the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree: this karri tree is about 75 meters tall and was first pegged in 1988 using 165 metal spikes. Once the tree was being used as a fire lookout, and after it was closed it became one of the main tourist attractions in the region. I personally found it pretty easy to climb, but I would not recommend it on a rainy or windy day. We then stopped in Pemberton for lunch, I was surprised there by the incredible and well-maintained amount of flowers that are growing in the park next to the main road.
Unable to contact the campsite at “Windy Harbour”, a 45-minute drive south of Pemberton, we decided to spend our second night at the Big Brook Dam, about 15 minutes north of town; this campsite is truly amazing as it allows you to sleep in the forest surrounded by giants trees and singing birds. It is definitely less touristic compared to the two campsites in the Warren National Park and this helps if you are looking for a more wild experience. A short walk leads you to the dam where you will find a lovely picnic area next to the shore equipped with several BBQs and tables to enjoy your entire day by the dam. After a long day spent walking we started feeling tired and hungry, so we decided to get back to our campsite and prepare dinner while the Kookaburras were laughing at sunset. During the one year I spent in Margaret River I had not been able to see Pemberton: finally got there and it did not disappoint me.
Text and Photo: Enrico Fabi