The Dreaming is the beginning of time, when mythical spirits with supernatural powers rose up and travelled the once featureless wilderness, creating mountains, lakes, rivers, sea, stars and everything living on earth – and in the stories about the Stirling Range this is no different. The range is named after the first governor of Western Australia, but known as Koikyenunuruff by the Mineng and Koreng people who once lived in and around these ‘mist shrouded mountains’. Until today Noongar people believe the clouds covering Bluff Knoll or Bular Mial (the range’s tallest peak) are the ever changing visible form of a lonely, dead spirit called Noatch – and that’s why the sign at the bottom of the slope warnes climbers that ‘those who stray might get lost in her misty embrace’. Bluff Knoll therefore remains a place of great cultural significance for the traditional owners.
Standing proud in an otherwise flat landscape, the Stirling Ranges are the only obstacle to weather from the Southern Ocean. The slopes and peaks therefore receive relatively high levels of rainfall, and the numerous combinations of soil, precipitation, sunlight and exposition have turned this area into a true biodiversity hotspot. The thicket and mallee-heath habitats in the high parts, and woodlands, wetlands and salt lake communities on the lower slopes and plains harbour no less than 1500 plant species, of which many are endemic.
On the first day of our Easter break we couldn’t resist the call of Bluff Knoll. Unfortunately a front moved in from the south, covering the entire mountain in rain, mist and clouds, blocking the otherwise superb views from the top. But despite the fact we got down wet and rather miserable, we now know the feel of Noatch’s embrace – and also managed to get some moody shots.