It wasn't all bad news. We found some great camp sites beginning with the Caves at Yallingup. Then Big Valley, a working sheep property of 2500 head which stood naked on either side of the road as we drove in. There we met Steve and his three vagabond mates. All four were unemployed and semi-permanent residents of the camp ground; survivors in a world where unskilled labour has become the province of the poor. Steve had his issues but soldiers on. Another had once been a photographer doing corporate work, but when his marriage collapsed twelve years ago he took to the road and now spends nine months each year free camping in the Kimberely. God knows how he survives. I thought Steve might have been part of the shearing gang which had just finished the big shear that day. But no he's just finished working at a local dairy and is "between jobs". He was the fire meister - getting the communal blaze going and managing it closely. His other two mates were younger. One loved his tucker and was the cook - local fish he'd caught; the other was a young surfie with blonde dreads, tanned skin and bare feet. They all had that weathered Australian look. A long time in the sun. Front coming through tonight, they told us. Should pass through about mid-night. And sure enough it did, the skinned sheep bleating for respite from the cold in counter point to the wailing of the wind.
Prevelly was next. Tucked away behind the foredunes in a grove of trees. We walked to the beach but got blown back. Even the sea gulls were giving it a miss. Prevelly is famous for its big BIG surf break which is saying something considering the dozens of headlands and surf breaks along this stretch of coast. It's home to the Margaret River Bombie, a wave that forms over an off-offshore reef in certain conditions, and rises up to 8 metres before it crashes onto the treacherous reef system below. The local lifesavers are adept at rescuing people in ten foot waves and are often required to attend to serious injuries. We saw only the wild fury, not the "perfect" Margaret River tubes.
The Margaret River flows to the ocean here. Tea tree brown mixes with the turquoise Indian Ocean. These places (Yallingup, Prevelly, Gracetown) are home to wealthy Perth based families, but fifty years ago were only visited by surfers searching for that next BIG break. The houses here are definitely not beach shacks. That's not to say better roads and the occasional coffee shop hasn't made these beautiful wild places accessible, but there is a certain irony in the obsessive need of local councils to tidy them up with manicured lawns and giant children's playgrounds (Hey! Isn't that a beach with sand down those steps) and beachfront carparks for hundreds of cars. Thankfully, as soon as you step onto the beach the sand dunes obscure all that.