Driving through the Wheat Belt
The next morning we woke up early ate breakfast and drove out of the mountains towards the Australian wheat belt. After about 30 minutes of driving this was pretty much all we saw:
I drove for four hours through nothing but small towns and wheat fields to reach the small city of Hyden. This highway is so remote that it is only paved to fit one vehicle yet the speed limit 100kph. If a car is coming from the other direction someone has to make up their mind of who is going to get on the shoulder to let the other pass. It is a bit disconcerting when you are traveling down the highway and a roadtrain going a 100kph is coming right at you suddenly because it just came up over a hill. It took just one of these scares for me to decide to drive slow and just keep out of everyone’s way.
If things weren’t interesting enough, the wheat belt has been hit by a locust plague. Clouds of locusts were filling the air on some spots of the road and smashed into my windshield leaving blood and guts everywhere. I had to use my windshield wipers and fluid to get through each cloud of locusts. After a few near death experience and even more locust swarms we finally reached the small town of Hyden.
On to Wave Rock
The city Hyden couldn’t have more than 400 people living there. It had a few homes, a school, a post office, and one gas station with a restaurant; not much else. I gassed up the campervan there and made the 5 minute drive from Hyden to Wave Rock. I think there was more people at Wave Rock then the number of people who live in Hyden. A number of buses were stopped at Wave Rock. The majority of these buses were transcontinental tours of Australia from Sydney to Perth and Wave Rock was one of the stops along the way for them. As it turned out Wave Rock really wasn’t a bad place to visit.
What makes Wave Rock notable in Australia is it’s rock wall that looks like an ocean wave. The view of this unusual rock can be seen after a short walk from the car park:
The shape of the rock was carved over time by erosion and algae growing on the rock’s face gives it it’s wave like appearance. A welcome surprise for me was that Wave Rock was more than just rock face you see pictured. Wave Rock is actually one huge chuck of granite rock complete with a hiking trail that takes hikers around and over the rock. As it turned out Wave Rock does a pretty good imitation as the Ayers Rock of the Australian wheat belt.
Here is where the hiking trail begins at:
On one side of the trail is granite of Wave Rock while on the other side is dense bush land:
There was also plenty of colorful flowers to see along the way as well:
It was interesting to see how erosion from rain and wind continue to shape this gigantic piece of granite:
I continued following this trail around the rock and into the bush a bit before reaching an old aboriginal cave known as the Hippo’s Yawn:
From the Hippo’s Yawn I continued to follow the trail back into the bush:
Since the area adjacent to Wave Rock is state park land; it is interesting to see what the land looked like before the arrival of European settlers in the region. The trees and the bush in the park was actually quite thick, which stood in large contrast to the arid clear cut land that surrounds the rock.
To the Summit
As I came out of the bush the trail began to ascend up the side of the rock. I reached the top of the rock and in this picture you can see the summit of the rock in front of me:
While walking on the rock a number of these very quick lizards were racing around me as I past by. They were difficult to get a picture of because as soon as I got close to one of them, they took off at blazing speed. However, I persistent and was able to get a picture of one under a rock:
With so many lizards running around I also became a bit concerned about snakes but fortunately I didn’t see any. I continued up the rock and the summit of the rock loomed larger in front of me:
I climbed up to the summit of the rock and was rewarded with an outstanding view of the area. Here is a view looking towards one of the many salt lakes in the area:
These salt lakes are formed due to the deforestation of the land for farming and ranching. Prior to the arrival of the European settlers the bush and the trees had absorbed the water in an underground aquifer before it could reach the surface. After the land was clear cutted by the settlers the water began to rise to the surface over the decades and pushed up the natural amounts of salt in the ground with it. As the salt reaches the surface it begins to kill the plant life in the vicinity of the lake. As you can see in the above photograph this salt lake caused by the clear cutting for the surrounding farms is slowly killing the preserved bush land surrounding Wave Rock. How long before it reaches Wave Rock is anyone’s guess. I once read about this in National Geographic magazine a few years ago, but to now actually see it for myself really puts this huge environmental problem into perspective.
Here is what the top of Wave Rock looked like:
Here is a view from the summit looking back down the way I came up the rock:
Here is another view looking towards the north and the endless fields of wheat:
I began to climb down the side of the rock and was surprised to find a golf course:
This golf course actually has holes that are on the rock itself. This course may rank up there as one of the world’s most unusual golf courses. What is also kind of interesting about this picture, is that if you look closely at the top of the above picture you can see a cement retaining wall. This retaining wall nearly surrounds the upper reaches of the rock to funnel water towards a pond near the top of the rock. Yes, I said a pond, but first here is another view of the black rock behind the golf course:
I actually thought this rock formation was actually more impressive than the more famous Wave Rock formation. Here is a fairway from the golf course:
Shortly after walking past the golf course and back up on to the rock I came upon the pond:
This pond on top of the rock is what supplies the town of Hyden and the surrounding farms with drinking water. The water was crystal clear and on a hot day like this a felt like jumping in. However, there was a fence and plenty of signs saying you can’t swim in the pond because it is after all people’s drinking water.
From here I scrambled back down the rock and back to the car park. In all the wife and I spent 4 hours at Wave Rock which was longer than I expected. Was it worth the nearly 5 hour drive from Perth to get here though? Probably not if you don’t have much time in West Australia, but if you are like me and had a whole two weeks to check out southwest Australia than yes, it is worth checking out.
From Hyden we drove south to check out our next destination, the main mountain range of southwest Australia, the Stirling Ranges. However, first we would have to finish crossing the Great Australian Wheat Belt.
Next Posting: The Western Australian Wheat Belt
Prior Posting: South to Perth
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