We pick up our From There to Here story in Esperance, Western Australia. Making landfall in Esperance after the long passage in and across the Great Australian Bight was welcome in many ways. Though the passage across the Bight was challenging, it was also amazing. Now that is was behind us, however, getting back to civilization definitely had its pluses.Read More
We'd walked around Bunbury, but we hadn't dinghied around inside the Leschenault Inlet and decided this might be a fine foray on a sunny afternoon. A low bridge and a narrow gate, as well as shallow depths preclude Nine of Cups from entering the inner lagoon, but the dinghy was perfect for this exercise.
An estuarine lagoon, i.e. rivers flow into it, French explorer/navigator Nicolas Baudin named the inlet in 1801 after his naturalist aboard, Jean-Claude Leschenault de la Tour. Rocks line the outer walls of the channel which cuts from Koombana Bay to the calm waters of the inlet. Cormorants lined the rocks and seemed non-plussed as we puttered by.
The inlet is separated from the Indian Ocean by a thin peninsula of sand dunes. The channel was cut through in 1950. The water was reasonably calm in Koombana Bay, but the change in the tides was very noticeable when passing through the cut. The water roils and eddies as water rushes in or escapes.
Once inside and away from the channel, the water was peaceful as silver gulls floated by in flotillas, undisturbed by our approach. We'd seen a couple of bottlenose dolphins here yesterday, but they were playing in someone else's yard today.
A grove of white mangroves take up a good part of the northeastern portion of the lagoon which experts claim to be 2500 years old. It's part of a nature reserve with boardwalks meandering through it. The local waterbirds obviously enjoy the area. Up to 62 species inhabit the area, especially the tidal salt-marshes. We saw ibis and herons feeding, their long legs perfect for the shallow, marshy water.
The inlet isn't much more than a mile long, so it doesn't take long to get from one end to the other. There are various boat ramps and marinas along the way and we moseyed along at a snail's pace just enjoying the day and the sunshine. We went around the mangroves, aware that the depths were probably not much more than knee-deep, but sufficient to keep the dinghy moving. The view is always different on the return where the cityscape became the prevalent view. We picked out the spire of the new (2011) St. Patrick's Cathedral, but of course, the Bunbury Tower prevailed as the tallest structure, along with the Marlston Lookout and the lighthouse.
As we headed back through the channel, we noticed a sign we hadn't seen on the way in regarding the closing of the floodgates. We're glad they were open as portage of the dinghy from here to the outer harbor might have been quite a hassle.
Tomorrow, we haul anchor early and head to Mandurah. We're looking forward to marina life for a couple of weeks before heading further north.
We've sufficiently recovered from our Steampunk exploits of yesterday to give you a feel for Bunbury, Western Australia. Located about 110mi/175km south of Perth, it's the third largest city in Western Australia (Perth and Mandurah are #1 and #2). That said, it's not a metropolis by any means. The population is ~35,000 people and you can easily walk from one end of the city to the other without breaking stride. It's called the City of Three Waters because it is surrounded on three sides by water … the Indian Ocean, lovely Koombana Bay (where we're anchored) and the Leschenault Inlet.
We were able to tie up our dinghy at a small, out of the way spot, on a very convenient wharf at the Marlston Waterfront. The walk to the Visitor's Center was only about 10 minutes along the foreshore where we also found a large Cole's Supermarket across the street. For cruisers, this is a sweet find.
With a city map in hand, we made our way to Victoria Street, the city's main boulevard. We passed right by the Bunbury Tower aka the Milk Carton and got a different view of the building. Up close, it looked in need of some upkeep and renovation.
Victoria Street is lined with sidewalk cafes galore and all sorts of interesting shops. We sauntered along and just because of their imaginative window display, we stopped in at Afez of the Heart, which specialized in Indian, Moroccan and Mid-Eastern wares. It was hard not to love the place … so much color and beauty all in one small space. Shops like this only whet my appetite for visiting the bazaars in Morocco and Turkey and India that offer all these wonderful creations.
We wandered around aimlessly for awhile taking in the street art at every roundabout. Colorful banners touting local historic figures and upcoming events fluttered in the light breeze. There were lots of smiling people about, all seemingly enjoying themselves and the day.
We cut up a sidestreet and headed for the Marlston Hill Lookout when we happened upon the Art Galleries and the steampunk exhibit which sidetracked us for a couple of hours. We got back on track again and headed for the tower. We had seen it as we approached the port, so climbing to the top was on the list of “to-do's”. Lots of stairs and the tiniest bit out of breath later, we reached the observation deck for a rewarding 360-degree view of the city, the bay and the Indian Ocean below. That's how we managed the first pic above.
Not far away is the distinctive, black and white checker-boarded Bunbury Lighthouse. Back in 1841, a storm lantern on a wooden keg sufficed as the port's beacon. The structure became more sophisticated over the years. In 1971, a formal 27.43m/89' lighthouse was erected on the hill and painted as we see it now.
We followed a short, pleasant beachwalk to Point Casuarina and headed back into the city. The day was waning already … so much to see, so little time when you wander as we tend to do. We've already decided to stay another day in Bunbury. Let's see what tomorrow brings.