In Western Australia, the peak season for wildflowers is August through December, but kangaroo paws like the one pictured are already in bloom as are Red Runners, also called Running Postmen. Winter rainfall in 2012 has been above normal and is apparently helping wildflower production. This was not the case when Ruth & I left New Norcia and headed for the Western Wildflower Farm in Coomberdale.
For more than 30 years Rhonda Tonkin, once a teacher and still instructing, has been a big part of Western Australia’s wildflower industry. She cultivates 4,000 acres of them, then dries and ships them to 11 countries. Every day during wildflower season tour groups stop in to see her operation and Rhonda takes them through, ending, of course, in her gift shop and restaurant. She had probably given the presentation I heard thousands of times, but she still had an interest in the subject. She did seem a bit distracted, though, as is she needed to get back to her colorful obsession as soon as possible. While others browsed dried-flower souvenirs, I doubled back and took pictures in the drying shed. It was a fairly unique and clearly successful operation, quite like nothing I’d seen before.
WWF is about 10 miles north of Moora where the Moore River that also flows past New Norcia flooded majorly in 1999, two times. Moora’s basically an unassuming wheat belt country town of about 1,500.
There weren’t fields of flowers alongside area roads but lots of quandong trees. Their fruit is both bush food and a source of liquid in dry times. North of Moora, Lonely Planet‘s regional map shows Wildflower Way with arrows pointing in every direction from the words. It must be spectacular in a good year, which this was not.
We stopped in Geraldton, a regional powerhouse of a town, for lunch but didn’t linger since we’d be spending the night here on our return. North of it and heading for Kalbarri National Park we started getting into the perpetually dry part of Western Australia. Along the way we stopped to see spider and hammer orchids and attention-getting grevillea, a drought resistant plant that smells like workout socks that have been used but not washed for several days. Its sweet, drinkable nectar is favored by Aboriginals.
We stayed that night in Kalbarri Palm Resort. Kalberri, a coastal town at the mouth of the Murchison River, survives on tourism and fishing. The Resort must have been pretty nondescript because I can’t remember anything about it, wrote nothing down, and took no pictures. Lonely Planet doesn’t even mention it among local accommodations. I began to wonder why my memory failed until I read in Lonely Planet, “Kalbarri’s most popular attraction is pelican feeding.” Oh.
The next day’s dugongs made up for Kalbarri. They’re not only memorable, they’re unforgettable.