Van Around Town – Hyden and Beyond

We get so used to a routine and having a sense of control over our day and this goes especially for those planning trips and travel. As someone with anxiety, not having a plan can be anxiety inducing which is exactly why I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and take a short trip with no destination, no schedule and a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure road trip. For a good road trip you need three things: good company, a good car and great snacks. I decided to hit the road with my friend and camera wizard Caitlyn who was also itching to get out of the house and see more of our gorgeous state. We hired a van, named her Gertie and off we set.

We knew we wanted to reach Wave Rock and we had booked a space at the Wave Rock Caravan Park so we headed out on our adventure. Along the way we stopped at Stumpy’s Roadhouse for some of the best hot chips you’ll ever find and enjoy the view (not the smell) of a nearby canola field in bloom. We continued onto Corrigin where we were constantly reminded that this is the town famous for breaking the world record of having the most amount of dogs and utes in a queue (1527 to be exact). Our final stop before reaching Wave Rock was a small lake where the water was so still it looked like a mirror. Standing close to it, it looked as though the sky and clouds had fallen to the ground. As we’ve been having a lot of rain lately, I’m assuming this area isn’t normally as full of water which made the experience all the more special. Near the water there statues of men working on the land depicting various farming activities such as checking the crops, waiting for rain and sheering.

This place had such a beautiful stillness about it and we could not find the name of where we were (if you do happen to know it, please let me know!). If you do find this magical place, keep an eye on your shoes as the mud is in fact clay which sticks to your shoes and builds up. It cannot be removed with water and you will definitely wish you brought a strong brush with you. We both changed shoes after this stop and removed the rest of the clay after we reached our stop for the night. I’ve never gone real camping or stayed in a caravan so I was a little nervous about the whole thing but the lovely owners of the Wave Rock Caravan Park were so kind, helpful and gave us loads of information. We eventually got our van hooked up, our stuff in some sort of logical order and our dinners were roasting most tantilizingly in the microwave. From our van site we could see Wave Rock which gave us the unique ability to see the amazing formation from different times of the day, if you get a chance to spend the night I would highly recommend it.

Road Trip tip 1: Bring more Hummus than you think you need

It get’s really cold in a van during a winter night! I think I wore more layers than an onion and I still found it super cold so we both woke up early and slightly disgruntled. It’s amazing what a cup of tea or coffee can do! Our plan for the day was to hang around Hyden and see as much of it as we could including Wave Rock itself, the Amazing Shoe Tree, Hippos Yawn and the Wildlife Park. After picking up a few supplies at the local IGA (more hummus mainly), we visited the Wildlife Park where we got to see many local (and some tropical) birds including emu’s, many kangaroos, some reptiles, a very growchy wombat and the owners super cute doggo. Part of the Wildlife Park is connected to the Toy Soldier Museum and the Lace Museum so of course we checked them out as well. The Toy Soldier Museum was a large collection of (you guessed it), toy soldiers as well as some creatures in jars, old tools and other oddities.

Next door at the Lace Museum (all in the same building which was great to find out on a rainy day), was the greatest collection of vintage lace I had ever seen. The walls had many cupboards with slide out draws filled with further samples of lace and other things delicate and beautiful. The room is also full of manequins wearing vintage dresses (most of them vintage wedding dresses) but the best part were the photographs attached to certain dresses from the actual wedding the dresses were worn at. It gave the pieces a little bit of a background and personality; I loved seeing who their owners were and a snippet of someones perfect day. I really loved the Lace Museum, for a vintage enthusiast like myself, it was a great way to spend some time and look at pretty old things.

After a quick fuel stop we heading out to the Amazing Shoe Tree which is an Aussie icon. Heading down a dirt road barely wide enough to fit two cars side by side on, there is a tree where us, as the advanced species we are, have thrown tied together shoes up into the tree in hopes that the shoes will tangle and attach onto the tree branches for all eternity. We didn’t actually have any shoes of our own to throw up into the branches but luckily there were a few pairs that had fallen out of the tree which we wanted to return. We quickly realised that we both lacked the proper athletic skills to successfully propel shoes high enough into tree branches. Although we got there in the end, we spent quite some time laughing and realising why I was always picked last for team sports.

To finish out the day, we went to Wave Rock itself where we had a floor picnic and watched the sunset lights beam off the stunning rock formation. It was wonderful for acoustics and of course getting pretty photos. Formed more than 2700 million years ago, Wave Rock is 14 metres high, and 110 metres long. The granite cliff resembling a wave about to break is on the northern face of a large erosional remnant called Hyden Rock. This curved cliff face is 15 metres high and 110 metres long which has been rounded by weathering and water erosion, undercutting its base and leaving a rounded overhang. It was formed by water dissolving and re-depositing chemicals in the granite as it runs down the cliff face. It was truly spectacular and I’m so glad to had finally gone to see it in person.

As we had a little bit of light still lingering, we quickly drove a minute or so down the road towards Hippos Yawn and marvelled at yet another amazing rock formation. Hippos Yawn is named because the cave looks like, you guessed it, a hippo yawning. We climbed inside and found some stunning rock formations which were certainly worth the climb. Opposite Hippos Yawn was a stunning bridge over a water body so we took some final photos for the day, watched the sunset, avoided the mosquitos and headed back to camp. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Upon waking up on day three, we had a nice cruisey morning and set out for Lake Magic. Unfortunately, Gertie was only two wheel drive and due to all the rain we had been having, the road to Lake Magic was pretty flooded and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck and not being about to turn around and head back to safety. So, it looks like we will have to plan another trip to see the lake in all it’s magical glory another time. Instead we turned back and headed towards Malka’s Cave. Along the way we stopped to help a tiny dinosaur cross the road and after he was safely across the road, we continued. The cave itself was really beautiful; it’s a wonderful chance to see aboriginal cave art which felt very sacred so we didn’t take photos in the cave. The name Mulka comes from an Aboriginal legend associated with the cave. Mulka was the illegal son of woman who fell in love with a man with whom marriage was forbidden according to their law. It is believed that a result of breaking these rules, she bore a son with crossed eyes. Even though he grew to be an outstandingly strong man of colossal height, his crossed eyes prevented him from aiming a spear accurately and becoming a successful hunter. Out of frustration it is said Mulka turned to catching and eating human children and he became the terror of the district. He lived in Mulka’s Cave, where the imprints of his hands can still be seen, much large and higher than that of an ordinary man.

Climbing through the cave, we spent quite some time sitting atop it and enjoying the view. We could see farms, canola fields and loads of bushland. The top of the cave had small pools of water which collected over the storms from the previous weeks which surprisingly had tiny tadpoles on them. We also marvelled at the rock stacks scattered around which hinted to travellers who had come through. It was a really beautiful place to finish our day in Hyden but we had to move on. We didn’t have a destination but we knew roughly what direction we wanted to head in. Depending on how we were feeling, we figured we would either end up in Lake Grace or Wagin. We headed down the Tin Horse Highway and along the way decided to check out Buckley’s Breakaway. Caitlyn had marked it on her maps app so we figured we would see what it was.

After a gentle climb down into a valley, we were greeted by a stunning land form where erosion has cut through the orange laterite and formed spectacular white cliffs and gullies from the underlying clay. It’s a beautiful mixture of white, pink, orange and cream tones etched into waves of rock. We were very lucky to be there during an overcast day so the lighting was stunning. It was so beautiful and I couldn’t stop looking at the rocks. We took this opportunity to shoot for local designer Beata Ridley which involved me attempting to climb up the rock, realising it was too steep, slipping down whilst desperately holding onto a rock lump. Due to laughing way too much, Caitlyn was also in hysterics trying to stop me slipping down the rocks in a ball gown and all she could do was try to push my bum back up the rock before we both decided to let go, slide down and laugh some more. Oh I also recommend wearing shoes because as cute as barefoot photos are, getting to different parts of the rock was a little slow and painful.

It was now getting a little late and we realised that we were not going to make it to Wagin so Lake Grace was our final destination for the day. We drove as fast as we could to the only IGA in town because we had once again run out of hummus and we didn’t want to risk the shops closing and a hummus-free night. We checked into the Lake Grace Caravan Park which was a really great place to stay (shout out to Cheryl the owner who really looked after us and helped us out). After plugging up our van, we started to wind down for the evening when suddenly, tragedy hit. Caitlyn dropped the hummus and it smashed all over the road. After a quick candle light vigil and a minutes silence of our fallen chickpea friends, we made dinner, showered in the cleanest caravan showers I’d ever seen, and chatted long into the night. Sitting on the edge of the van, our fairy lights hanging above us, dinner in our laps, I really appreciated my time and friendship with Caitlyn. We certainly had been through a lot in our lives yet we just get each other and accept who the other person is, faults and all. Despite all the wonderful things we saw and did on the trip, this is the moment that will stay with me for a long time.

That night it was really cold, like absolutely freezing! Now I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this but Caitlyn snores…sometimes pretty loud. At one point in the night I heard and felt Caitlyn start to rustle around for what I think was her looking for her jacket. In her sleepy state she started to lean over without realising and when I finally opened my eyes to check on her I realised she was no more than about 2 inches from my face and staring at me. When she saw me look at her she just said, “sorry” and laid back down to sleep. I had a bit of a giggle and rested back on my pillow. It was then I heard a shuffle coming towards me … then silence … then another shuffle … then silence. I started to slowly turn to face Caitlyn, only to have her let out the loudest snore straight into my ear. It was so loud I was sure Cheryl would come and evict us for making noise after hours. I couldn’t help but laugh, shuffle away from the snoring machine that was my friend and go back to sleep.

Upon the sun’s return, we left the caravan park to explore Lake Grace herself and boy she was a beautiful body of water. It just so happened that it was a super windy day so all the effort I put into doing my victory roll was undone in a matter of minutes and I was now sporting the windswept look. We headed into Dumbleyung where we explored the old buildings, the commemorative plaques and states from everything from the time they broke the water speed record, the Country women’s association and the Dumbleyung dunny before we stopped into the local tavern for lunch. We took advantage of the fireplace and friendly company to hatch a plan for the rest of the day. We were informed of an incoming storm with predicted hail so we knew that staying in Gertie wasn’t the best idea. No harm in heading home a day early right? So off we set with a couple more stops along the way.

I had always wanted to go to Wagin and see the big ram so thats where we headed and by golly what a big ram! We passed through a few more small towns, stopped for fuel and headed on home. Our last stop was a little road side petrol station and cafe where you could go feed the alpacas. Caitlyn had always stopped here on her childhood trips to feed the alpacas so I was more than keen to help her keep the tradition alive. It’s such an odd thing to do along a road trip but it kind of made sense knowing us. We also found it very amusing how upset the alpacas got after we ran out of food.

Heading home and looking back, it really was a wonderful trip. We laughed till our sides hurt, ate way too much food, drank copious cups of tea (which I regretted the one cold night when I had to leave the van for a wee), saw some beautiful sights and met really interesting people. I had never done a camping or van trip before so for this to be my first experience was really special. We are already planning a few more trips so we can see more of our beautiful state so if you have any suggestions of places to stop in and visit, please let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to see more photos from our trip check out our Instagram pages as well (Caitlyn’s is here, mine is here).

What a great way to adventure!

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Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

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