Only Ever Served Disappointment

Tues. 14th May 2019

We're on the road to nowhere...We’re moving on again today and starting the loop back up to Perth (well, actually, Fremantle) and once more we have mixed feelings. Esperance is a lovely town with a lot going for it and although we’ve done a better job of seeing all we want than we managed in Albany, we wish we could stay longer. These feelings are compounded not only by the prospect of another 400km drive today but also by the research on the restaurant in the hotel where we are staying tonight (the only restaurant in town). One TripAdvisor review says that it ‘has only ever served disappointment’.

Can't get enough of these colonial era buildings. This one is 1907At least our driving directions for the day are simple – head back along the road we arrived on, turn right after 186km and stop when we get to Hyden in another 180-odd kilometres. In practice, it’s not quite that simple due to the need for driver changes, calls of nature, coffee, lunch, etc. First stop is in Ravensthorpe which I’d summarise as being of size one horse plus a bypass. On our way to Esperance we took the bypass but now is a good time to stop. Surprisingly, the first café isn’t the only (or perhaps even the best) and our pictures are of more than just the roadhouse that we saw on the way east.

At least we haven't run out of roadFundamental needs met, it’s back in the car with more miles to cover. Our next challenge is to find somewhere to stop for lunch. We spot that there is a clutch of lakes marked on the (Google) map – so, maybe there will be somewhere with a scenic lake view? No such luck as the lake has long since dried up and what might have been a bridge marked on the map is just a long straight road disappearing off into the distance. However, we do pass a (very) small tractor museum as well as a lorry that has run out of road. (No, we have no idea as to why it is there, but the juxtaposition was irresistible).

Wave Rock - like a wave, but in rockPreviously, there has been a good smattering of picnic areas dotted along the side of the road – some with only one picnic table but, even so, a place to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. Again, we are out of luck and as the minutes and kilometres tick by we give in and find a parking area where we can pull over and munch on our roll and cheese. The town of Hyden has 600 residents, 1 hotel, 1 petrol station / roadhouse and (we thought) only 1 tourist attraction – The Wave Rock. A wall of rock that has been eroded into the shape of a breaking wave.

One of Wave Rock's residentsWhen we get there, we find that although the rock is indisputably in the shape of a wave, there is actually more to the area than just the Wave Rock. Firstly, there are a couple of walks that can be done one of which leads up the hill of which the Wave forms one face. The route markers take us past a small reservoir that seems to be the source of drinking water for the town and along the crest of the hill. Placards periodically describe some aspect of the geology or the ecology of the hill – essentially, the flora and fauna have to be pretty hardy to survive around here. Just like this little dragon lizard we caught (on photo) before he scampered off running on his hind legs.

Hippo's Yawn - what else?On the top of the hill are groups of irregularly shaped, wind & water eroded boulders that very much reminded us of the Motopos in Zimbabwe. Once we get down the hill a sign points off in the direction of the ‘Hippos Yawn’. Of course this is irresistible, and we follow the path around the base of the hill discussing the resemblance to Uluru (though Uluru was much bigger and sandstone as opposed to the granite here). Also, like Uluru, the flies are buzzing around trying to get in ears and noses (fortunately not as bad as in Alice Springs, but still an unpleasant reminder). Its easy enough to spot what we are supposed to be looking for – it looks just like a hippo yawning! Whoever named it didn’t have to think too hard.

Which way up?Just love all the coloursAt the hotel’s reception, we pick up a leaflet on the area and learn that Lake Magic is nearby and with a name like that, how could it not be our sunset photography destination? Whilst we enjoyed Wave Rock, it is very much what we were expecting. Lake Magic was actually quite magical – not a large lake and accessed along a dirt road that runs around the circumference. Within five minutes of us finding a place to stop by the shore the slight breeze that had been blowing died completely and the water became mirror flat and a perfect canvas for reflections of the surrounding trees. In the soft golden sunlight, the competition to get that ‘just right’ photo became quite intense – especially as we could get all the way round the lake for different lighting effects. [One photo from each of us is included in the interest of balance!]

Janet's personal chefSo, Hyden itself (well the environs) were very much not a disappointment. What of the hotel and restaurant that we had read such scathing reviews of? Well, once again we were in for a pleasant surprise. Whilst the exterior was drab, actually our room was big enough, modern enough and clean enough to be completely fine. For sure, not the nicest room we’ve ever stayed in but a million miles from the worst (definitely in Littlehampton, West Sussex). The restaurant was unusual in that the meat was cook it yourself – make your selection from the counter (peri-peri chicken for me, pork chop in a honey-mustard marinade for Janet) and take it to the griddle to cook to your liking. Janet was mortally offended at having to cook her own food in a restaurant but then worked out that it was a barbecue and so it became my job. Veggies were then help yourself from a buffet. Whilst we weren’t quite quick enough to get any chips there was plenty of other veg and salad selection and Janet’s personal chef got her pork chop cooked nicely. All in all, Hyden was very far from a disappointment.

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