24-25 mars 2012
Back on the road, heading east towards Esperance!
History of Esperance
Aboriginal people have been in the Esperance area for over 20 000 years and their descendants still live here today. The local Aboriginal people are the most eastern of the Noongar Nation whose country extends out to Israelite Bay, 200k, east of Esperance. The Aboriginal name for this area is ‘Kepa Kurl’, ‘the place where the waters lay down like a boomerang’.
Esperance’s European history began in 1627 when the Dutch vessel, Gulde Zeepaard, under the command of Pieter Nuyts, passed through the Archipelago.
Unfortunately he did not sight land at this time. Discovery, however, is generally credited to the French when two ships, l’Esperance and Recherche, were forced to seek shelter from a storm in the Archipelago in 1792. In 1802, Matthew Flinders and crew sailed through the area while carefully mapping the south coast. Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove were named by this explorer (the ships had to seek shelter from a summer storm and chose these bays).
The first foreign inhabitants of these shores during the 19th century were sealers from the penal settlement at Van Dieman’s Land and American and French whalers. Subsistence was mainly from kangaroo, geese and fish, which were bountifully supplied by nature.
Edward John Eyre was the most famous overland explorer to visit having come from Adelaide in 1841 en route to Albany.
In 1863n the Dempster brothers drove sheep, cattle and horses from Northam to Esperance to take up the first land holding. Andrew Dempster was granted a lease of 100 000 acres in 1866.
In 1895, with the discovery of gold in Dundas, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, Esperance began an incredible transformation. Fortune seekers from Australia and around the world began to flood into this sleepy little port on their way to the goldfields.
By 1897, there were 2 newspapers, one brewery and 4 hotels. There were many rows of tents and the less fortunate slept on seaweed on the beach.
Development hopes next centred on farming the mallee country. Could this be made into the next wheat belt? Land was opened for selection in 1912 and nearly 60 farms were started. Progress was slow and hindered by a severe drought in 1914. The next year Professor John Patterson reported ‘one half of the area contains too much salt for profitable farming.’
Today Esperance is romantically dubbed the ‘Bay of isles’ and has had its beaches declared Australia’s whitest.
We stayed for a couple of nights at Lucky Bay. This beach is in the Cape le Grand National Park, about 56km from Esperance.
The weather wasn’t that good, definitely not warm enough to got for a swim, but the beach was beautiful all the same.
Turquoise water and white sand. Squeaky sand! So strange, when you walk on it, it makes a weird squeaking noise!
Lucky Bay is also renown for its kangaroos that come out to feed at night on the beach. They also hang around the campsite, hoping to be fed or find scraps (they are apparently becoming a bit of a nuisance, stealing food and being aggressive towards people).
One evening we forgot to shut the boot of the van. The next morning all my apples had disappeared! Devoured by kangaroos! Evil beasts!
A walk from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove
It was also at Lucky bay that we got an ‘unwanted visitor’ come and live in the van…some sort of mouse that comes out at night to eat our bread and make a right noise!
When leaving Esperance we stopped to climb up to the top of Frenchman’s peak. It was a really hard steep walk, about 3km. The view from up there was amazing. You could see all the little islands out at sea and the white sandy beaches on the shore. It was just a shame that the weather wasn’t any better!
Le Carnet de Voyage