Lake Lefroy Things to Do
If you're a good photographer - or merely an enthusiastic amateur - then the interplay of light and landscape in the outback can make for stunning photography. Obviously the best times are when the light is oblique in the early morning or late afternoon, as the blazing overhead sun in the middle of the day tends to make images look flat.
I think that the best time to experience the outback is in winter (May-September), when the daytime temperatures are manageable and the nights are crisply frosty. The image in a grove of gum trees was taken on a June morning just after sunrise, when the trees were still shrouded with mist. In this sort of setting with the eerie call of kookaburras punctuating the silence, it's not hard to believe in yowies or bunyips!
Just one word of warning: bear in mind that the colder the weather, the more sluggish the reptiles and the slower their reaction time. So if you're wandering around in the bush, make sure that you have proper footwear and exercise due caution, lest you stumble across a snake that hasn't had time to get out of your way.
(work in progress)
I am reliably informed that Lake Lefroy is one of the best places in the world to 'land sail'. Apparently the size of the lake and the hard, dry, relatively uniform surface make it ideal for land sailing, and the lake even played host to the Pacific Rim Land Sailing Championships in 2006!
Like so many other things, landsailing reputedly owes its origins with the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese, who first propelled wheeled vehicles using sails. Today, under ideal conditions, skilled land sailors can reach speeds of up to 140 kph, which, to my mind, is way too fast to go on a souped up go kart!
There is a Lake Lefroy Land Sailing Club, which organises regular events, including a Sunday get together. Like most Australian sporting events, this doubtless culminates in a BYO barbie ('bring your own BBQ') and is lubricated with large quantities of frosty amber nectar (aka beer)!
For more information, see this link for information on land sailing events at lake Lefroy and access the weblink below for a video:
The Lake Lefroy lookout is an isolated elevated point in an otherwise pancake flat landscape, and offers a rare opportunity to get a panoramic view of one of Western Australia's largest salt lakes.
There are many, many salt lakes in Australia's arid interior, which, for most of the year - or sometimes years on end - are dry, shallow depressions in the landscape which only accumulate water after particularly torrential rain (in this part of the world, usually when the tail end of a cyclone from the north travels inland). Once the storm has passed, the temporary lake becomes progressively smaller as the water evaporates, leaving behind the dissolved salts, which become more and more concentrated with time. This impacts not just on the quality of surface water, but also seeps to the subsurface, and as a result, groundwater in this area has a dissolved salt concentration of anything up to 350,000mg/L of dissolved salts (about seven times as concentrated as sea water) - no wonder there's little in the way of agriculture or human habitation!
What is unusual about Lake Lefroy is its dazzlingly white salt crust (most of the other saline lakes have a brownish crust) ... or at least it was until mining commenced in this area. If you look out from the viewpoint, you can see what appear to be a series of dark islands rising up form the lake surface. Some of these are natural rock outcrops which become temporary 'islands' when the lake floods, but an increasing number are waste rock dumps, generated by the disposal of barren rock generated during the mining process. In order to provide all weather access to the mining areas for heavy vehicles, 'causeways' have also had to be constructed on the lake surface, which etch dark lines across the otherwise white surface.
Like virtually all Outback locations, the best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon, when its cooler and the sun is oblique (resulting in better photographic opportunities). If you're here, then it's worth taking some extra time to walk the Red Hill trail, which should take less than an hour: just obey the usual 'slip, slop, slap' rules, particularly if you're visiting in summer ("slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat") and carry some water.
Lake Lefroy Warnings and Dangers
If you've done a road trip in the Outback, chances are that one of your more enduring - and less pleasant - images will be that of the unexpectedly large amount of roadkill plastered over the roads. So, a few tips to assist you in avoiding roadkill in the first place, and managing the situation if you're unfortunate enough to find yourself in these circumstances.
Firstly - and for fear of stating the obvious - most roadkill happens at night, because the majority of Australia's animals are either nocturnal or more active in the cooler hours (particularly in summer). Furthermore, most animals are bamboozled by headlights, and in their dazed state, become disoriented and make some poor decisions about what to do, either just sitting there waiting to be hit or jumping towards the vehicle they should be avoiding.
To coin a pithy local phrase, you have to be a 'bloody idiot' to drive in country areas after dark to start with, so plan your journey accordingly. Also, if you are unlucky enough to have an animal jump out in front of you, it's likely to be too late to take evasive action that will save you both, so unfortunately here you have to make a choice. I would recommend that you veer on the side of caution and not swerve violently to try and avoid the animal: a dead roo is tragic, but a dead kangaroo + dead or injured passengers on a country road miles from anywhere is worse still.
If you are unlucky enough to hit a roo, a wallaby or any other native animal, remember that marsupials (kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas and the like) carry their young in a pouch. Often an impact that kills the mother will not kill the youngster, and as a result, they die a slow and lingering death. If you do check the pouch and find a live 'joey' (the unlikely technical term for marsupial young), wrap it in a blanket, towel or jumper to replicate the warm, dark, snug environment of the pouch and drive on to the next town where you can seek help. Most vets will take custody of orphans, and as Australian country towns tend to be small, closeknit places, even if you can't find a vet, then you won't have much trouble finding someone who will tell you where to go. That's what happened to the little chap in the photo (who has a splint on his left leg if you look closely), who was rescued by a mine vehicle.
Lastly - and perhaps least obviously - be sure to move road kill well off the road. The most obvious reason is that carcasses on the road (particularly of large animals such as kangaroos) are a hazard to other motorists, and if you hit one unexpectedly, you can easily lose control of your vehicle. Less obvious is the fact that many animals - particularly raptors (birds of prey) - are attracted onto the roads to scavenge from roadkill, and unfortunately they have as little road sense as the mammals. At night, the birds that you're most likely to encounter are owls, whereas during the day, wedgies (wedge tailed eagles) and other eagles, kites and hawks home in on roadkill as an easy source of food. Being hit by vehicles whilst scavenging roadkill is one of the leading causes of wedgie deaths, and it's an undignified and unnecessary end for Australia's largest raptor (or indeed any other animal).