“You’ve got to go to Lucky Bay,” a friend tells me when she hears we’ve finally crossed the Nullabour, and were at Norseman, wondering which way to head.
We are sweltering in the heat, as we’ve reached Western Australia in the middle of a heat wave. The days are over 40 degrees, and still in the desert, there isn’t much shade for relief.
“Where’s that?” I ask.
“Head towards Esperance, and then follow the coast out about forty kilometers. That’s Cape Le Grande National Park, and one of the two campgrounds is Lucky Bay. It’s consistently voted as one of the top ten beaches in Australia.”
Well, we head down there but the campground is full. We’re not used to the time zone yet, and dusk is setting in 3 hours earlier than we were expecting. The kangaroos are fairly active, so we’re keen to pull over for the night.
But, being Western Australia, that looks like it’s going to be easier said than done. Anywhere that’s reasonable to pull over for a night is plastered with “No Camping” signs. We’ve heard the fines can be extravagant for illegal camping in WA. There’s a flat rule of no camping within 20 kilometers of a town, unless in a designated campground. This is making it harder, for although we are rural it’s not exactly remote or isolated territory around here.
Finally we find a gravel pit that’s unmarked, and figure that we’ll stay there. It’s the weekend, anyway, so it’s unlikely that we’ll be disturbed.
Each day we check if there are any vacancies at the national park. There are not. It’s stinking hot, and we’d love one of those beach front campsites so we can swim and cool down.
Three days later we finally get a camp site, and it cools down to 29°C. We’re disappointed as we drive through the national park.
“It’s more Cape Le Average than Cape Le Grande,” Jarrad comments as we pull into the camp ground itself after a bumpy ride along the dirt road through the National Park with way too many pot holes and corrugations to be considered comfortable.
The campground is only a few meters from the Lucky Bay beach, and from the car the water looks incredible. Getting out of the car, though, we are hit with the strong odour of something rotting. The offensive odour only gets stronger as we get closer to the sand.
Unfortunately, sea weed has washed up to cover the fine white sand. It’ss the rotting sea weed that was giving off the odour. The image is improved by the many kangaroos grazing along the sand, something that we seldom see.
“Shhh,” a man whispers as we walk up the path towards the rocky outcrop. Two boys seem to be watching something in the bushes, and as the kids get closer we see that they have found a goanna. We’re all shocked as suddenly the eight-year-old boy lunges forwards and grabs the goanna’s tail. The goanna writhes and spins, as the kid holds the struggling animal and its powerful claws away from his body.
The kid finally releases the angry goanna, which hurridly disappears into the forage and out of sight. Ten-year-old Peter states with bravado, “If I had picked it up, I would have grabbed its neck so it couldn’t turn around and bite me.”
Susan, Jarrad and I look at Peter incredulously. We know that he’d never have even considered picking up the lizard, and would have been far too scared of those sharp claws and its bite to have even entertained the thought.
“Uh uh,” replies the other kid, “If you get it by the neck it can use its tail to whip you. That really hurts, ‘cos it has a powerful tail.”
We scramble up the rocks to get a better view of the bay. The two boys, six year old Lucy, nine year old Susan and Peter run ahead of us, and followed by Jarrad and the other dad. I trail behind, woeing my poor fitness, struggling to make it up the steep sides while carrying three-year-old Edmund. The views are incredible, though, despite the thigh-ache and calf-ache.
The following day we head up Frenchman’s Peak, a rocky mountain that goes sharply upwards, though not particularly high. Peter and Susan race off ahead. Jarrad, Lucy, Brendan and I trudge along together. As the sides get steeper, Jarrad and I help the younger two up.
Finally as my phone beeps that a message has been received, Lucy announces, “Can I stop please? It’s too hard.” I stay behind with Lucy and Edmund, and we sit down on the rock to look out over the National Park and the ocean. We haven’t had phone reception since we got to the National Park a few days earlier, but apparently we are now up high enough to get a few bars of reception.
Several hours later when Jarrad and the kids come back down, they are bubbling with excitement about how beautiful the view from the top of Frenchman’s Peak was.
We leave, unconvinced that Lucky Bay is one of the top ten beaches in Australia. However, the walks and views from the rocky peaks have improved the place from our first impressions.