Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Can Heather work out the prize recipe?

Cherry Drag Racing

Manjimup 15 – 17 December 2006

Decided to attend the Cherry Festival in this little town of Manjimup, so we settled into a caravan park so we could come and go easily. Peter had to go to the dentist twice on our first day there as he had cracked his tooth. The result was a bit unsatisfactory as the dentist was a bit slap-dash and it will need follow up on Monday, as he has a sharp bit needing filing. On Saturday Peter went off to his garage sales and bought a small cedar and pine table ($2) and a gas stove ($3), so the age of bargains has not yet passed. As Heather didn’t want the stove, Peter swapped it for a gas bottle refill and we are keeping the table until after Xmas. The Cherry Festival was fun, with a street parade, stalls, music, novelty races and a cherry spitting competition! Heather tried her hand (mouth?) at this skilled sport, but could only manage about four metres. The judging of the CWA cakes was listed in the programme and Peter did a great job of stalking the entrance awaiting the release of the cakes after judging. Hardly anyone was there and he very proudly came back with the cake ($5) that won first prize! And it deserved first prize! Chocolate cake with pieces of choc and lots of cherries and a dash of lemon rind. We decided it was so tasty it would be our Xmas desert! The fruit in town was so wonderful, plentiful, and cheap. The bananas were $3.99 and the cherries $10 kg. The area is a stone fruit area and every stone fruit was available! We enjoyed this lovely Aussie town!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Big Climb

Cape Leeuwin - Meeting of the waters

Diamond Tree (Manjimup) 14 December 2006

Drove through the trees toward Manjimup and we noticed that lots of the towns here end in … “up” which is Aboriginal word for “place of”. It is a bit like a foreign language trying to remember all the names of towns and trying to pronounce them. We saw very few cars until we came up behind an identical green Winnebago towing a yellow car. We had met them before near Katherine and we mused about this coincidence. As we travelled behind they overtook two bike riders who we instantly recognised as Moema and Alamo with the Swiss flag. We laughed at the thought that they would think it was us until they saw the yellow car. We then overtook waving! Imagine their surprise, however we could not stop and wait, as the road never had a pull-over spot.
On to Beedelup Falls in amongst really tall trees. The water was a real fizzer but the actual forest is impressive. The rainfall is mostly in winter and so it is pretty dry. We parked in Pemberton and had a lunch under the trees followed by a walk around the country town. Visited the tourist centre and enjoyed the old photos of the timber industry. Took the car off and went up into the National Park to experience the intensity of the virgin forest. The trees were amazing and really make you feel small. There is a very nice river winding along the area we explored where we stopped frequently to sit and listen to the sound of the bush. We saw a beautiful tree that was painted by Marion North over 100 years ago and shows little change in all those years - it must have been such a remote place then. We stood at the base of the Bicentennial Tree which is 50 metres high and has steel rods driven into the trunk right up to the top where there are platforms to look out. Amazingly it is open to the public to climb up with minimal warnings: this would not be on in “OHS” NSW. Peter climbed about half way, though we both were not in the right shoes. Heather climbed about 10 metres just to get the feel but no chance of going any higher as the rods seem so far apart and have no side support. Peter went to the first platform and came back with wobbly legs. One of the young fellows who came down from the top said the tree really sways with the wind!
We called into the only caravan park to find Moema and Alamo just arriving late in the afternoon. They laughed at the passing of the two green Winnies! They thought the first one was us and had a feeling we were going to turn up, but not so soon?
We moved out of town to the Diamond Lookout which is very similar to the Bicentennial Tree and stayed in the carpark overnight in the middle of monster trees!


Alexandra Bridge 13 December 2006

Up early to explore this very distant corner of Australia. We are starting to get used to a Melbourne type climate - four seasons in one day though this day felt like autumn. We saw our first large trees as we approached the coast and loved the feel of the enveloping canopy, but it does increase the sense of a darker season. We spent the morning at Hamelin Bay which was very attractive and calm and the weather quickly changed to a summer’s day. There was no crocodiles, but a sign saying that the big rays are friendly to people! A lady there said that they feed them in the evenings. The beach had the remains of an old wooden jetty used to load the Karri logs onto ships off to England during early 1930s but the whole thing finished because Karri went out of fashion! All that is left is a caravan park run by the National Parks and a very busy big new carpark full of visitors and fishermen. People next to us in the carpark were on a 4 month journey. They were towing a small caravan with two little kids and came from Picton. The kids were making compasses and raving about bearded dragons and what they saw them eating. It’s so easy to see how good this is for them!
We made our way down to the most south westerly point to Augusta and low and behold there was winter with cold and RAIN! Visited the op shop where the lady gave us a Santa in a jar with snow! Real a kitsch! Just right for Xmas day! The area is elevated a little to give lots of views of the bays and rivers. We travelled to the furthest point south at Cape Leeuwin about 10 km away, where a lighthouse is located. Well didn’t the weather give it to us! Wind and rain - we thought of England and the coast of Cornwall on a bleak day! We climbed up inside the lighthouse to the top and found it easy to imagine life here in 1900. Again we saw a beautiful crystal lens in operation and a lighthouse in original condition. Outside we enjoyed the idea that the closest land to the west was Africa and to the south Antarctica and this is where the Southern and the Indian oceans meet. Nearby, where they quarried the stone, is a wooden water wheel that has been calcified by the lime in the water and now looks like stone!
We moved on late (daylight saving makes the evenings so long) and travelled back to near where we started our day, and camped in the bush in a big space near Alexander Bridge. Kangaroo Paw grows more freely in these areas and surrounded our camp site. Another bush night and the only thing we didn’t see today was Spring!

Chapman Pool (Margaret River) 12 December 2006

After revisiting some of the wineries and buying a few extra bottles, we had a leisurely drive south, through a national Park and settled for the night in a bush camp. A couple of local cars turned up with young people who settled in at the bbq with lots of noise! We thought we might have been in for a rowdy night but they were really nice and left early so our night was quiet with nature again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ten Mile Brook

Smelling the roses at the Voyager Estate

Cockatoo at Ten Mile Brook

Margaret River 9 – 11 December 2006

Peter set out on his garage sale odyssey and brought back a few interesting items – he still dreams of the ultimate garage sale which is stacked with antiques and no dealers on sight. Said goodbye to Neil and Marie and headed down towards the wineries. Stopped at Cowaramup and bought a few yummy goodies, including red schnappers, raspberry vinegar, verjuice and some red apricots that were so nice we went back and got some more.
Onto Margaret River, which is a small upmarket town, a bit like Berry, but we were amazed not to find any large liquor outlet – we suppose they expect you to get your supplies directly from the wineries the fun way by tasting all the samples but paying top price! Indulged in a picnic lunch on the edge of town in Kate Park right on the tiny Margaret River with the ducks. Felt very lucky to have some very fresh Margaret River Cheeses that Marie got for us. Spent a couple of hours browsing up and down the main street, but did not find any antique or junk shops! Moved out to 10 Mile Brook Dam next to a national park amongst lots of birds and settled for a very quiet night. The next day we went for a 10km walk through the park that incorporated lots of tracks and bridges left over from the 1920s settler’s allotments. There are still lots of really monstrous trees there, and some Blackbutts were up to 350 years old and 40m high! although lots had been taken out by a mini rail system. We were taken by the blue wren and the large green parrots (yet to be identified). Although we “missed” the mass colour of WA wild flowers in spring, there are still many wild flowers out on shrubs and in the grasses and the diversity is definitely different to the east coast. Peter is being driven nuts by Heathers growing obsession to photograph every tiny flower! The native birds keep us both interested thank goodness!
Headed back into Margaret River to listen to a local blues singer in the pub. By late evening moved out of town amongst the wineries and found a cute spot on the corner of a winery to park ready to go sample in the morning. It all starts at 10am! Amazingly the corner has a lot of blue wrens here so it was extra cute! You can not believe how blue they are! All blue! In the morning we went to a number of the local wineries, the most famous being the Leeuwin Estate and the fanciest being the Voyager Estate. This is fairly recent winery and all the buildings are in the Dutch style. The gardens are superb and eight gardeners are employed to keep them looking spectacular. We had an enjoyable time sampling the different wine styles and learnt a lot more about the wine process. We ended up getting some wine from the Leeuwin Voyager and Redgate Estates (sorry, none for you Neil).

Cape Naturaliste

Ngligi Cave

Busselton 6 – 8 December 2006

The day invited us to get out and about early though with the cold start mornings we have been struggling to get up - it is surprising how cool it is at night. The jetty at Busselton is the main feature in the landscape and is nearly 2km long. We walked out and back enjoying the panorama as if on a boat. The water colours are very enticing with that wonderful aquamarine contrasting with the white shallow sands. The jetty is controversial at the moment as it is deteriorating rapidly and needs $22 million to restore. Well be blowed! The state government has offered to buy the entire foreshore (ie 4 – 5 parks) for housing development and give them $6 million towards it! Give up the foreshore for the jetty. It is crazy! It is like all old jetties! It’s dying and sadly it has to go!
Of course we had to bump into Moema and Alamo again: sitting at the café at the jetty! They had been here for the Ironman, gone back to Bunbury and just arrived back! They look so good and FIT! They are still on the road to Kalgoorlie after Albany and Esperance; however we will not see them again on the road as we are on different timetables now. They did this Ironman last year - oh to be that alive! More cold and windy day as we headed west towards Cape Naturaliste. At the end of the cape there is an interesting working lighthouse that we were able to visit and it was so well built that the only change they have made is to switch to electricity from whale oil. The original and most beautiful lenses are still in place. It is worth about $5million and was made in England in 1900. The romance of a lighthouse and the lives around it came to life there! The keeper had two assistants and they had constant 4 hour shifts day and night to wind up the pullies every 45 mins, like a clock, to maintain the rotation. Every half hour they had to go down stairs to refill the oil! There were three solid stone houses there for them and they all had lots of children. It would be a wild place, though back a bit on the hill in the low shrubbery.

We then moved on to the nearby limestone Ngligi Cave. The cave had two main chambers that opened up to cavernous cathedrals with stalactites dripping from the ceiling. We were the last tour through the cave as they were having a wedding in the afternoon – we could just image the grandeur of the ceremony, although we weren’t sure about the wisdom of using the massive amps we saw them dragging in – hope they all had ear plugs! Drove down to Gracetown, an attractive village surrounded by national park, with the ubiquitous housing estates creeping into the bush – the expansion going on along the coast makes Queensland developers look benign. This was the scene of a terrible tragedy in 1999 when 9 people lost their lives when a sand bank collapsed on them. It was marked by some very sensitive poetry about living your life fully with joy for we do not know what is in front of us. It also happens to be and exceptionally peaceful bay with wild headlands of pounding breakers and lots of young people coming to surf.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Canal Rocks - great development site!

Busselton Camp - Great View

Busselton 30 November – 5 December 2006

Up early to go to town to see the dolphins with the other tourists at the appointed spot, and guess what? They did not turn up! We left feeling very smug about seeing them the day before! The wind seemed wild as we travelled along the coast. Stopped and bought fruit from the back of a truck where quite a lot of people had stopped and we bought the best apricots and cherries we have had in years, at half the normal price. Moved on to Busselton which is also another attractive town with a wonderful 2km historic jetty that seems to be the main feature in the town. Enjoyed a good look around Busselton after arranging to stay with Neil and Marie. We camped next to them in Broome, sharing a few happy hours. They look after a waterside camp just outside of Busselton in a unique situation. About 40 years ago a farmer donated all his water front land to the state to control for charity/ church groups. Considering we are within walking distance of Alan Bonds old haunt on the water, and all the major controversy currently in the WA Court about this area, you can’t imagine how it will survive like this. There are about 12 camps in this most unusual situation along a strip of coastal land about 30 km long that is sheltered from the constant westerly winds making a bay like a Qld island with those beautiful blue water colours.
On Sunday the weather was sunny and warm again so we went to catch up with the Busselton Iron Man race. This is a big event for Busselton and attracts athletes from around the world. It was exhausting to watch!
After lunch we explored the surrounding area in the car and found a boutique brewery with relaxing music sung by three young singer/songwriters. Daylight saving started on Sunday so it seemed we had lots more hours left to continue to explore. Found a reserve called Canal Rocks, which as the name implies is a series of granite formations that have been eroded along fault lines to create (yes you have guessed it) canals. In contrast to the mild conditions at our camp, the wind was roaring and made it difficult to stand! Observed the new development, (plonked right in the middle of the national park on the waters edge near the canal rocks) that has Ex-premier Bourke in deep doo doo at the moment! We topped off the day with a visit to the Cave House, reminiscent of the hotel at Jenolan Caves. Lovely drive home passing through Dunsborough and yet MORE major development!
The next day was very cold- yes it is December – and we rugged up and had a look at a great local museum. They were selling two old irons for $5 each, so guess who bought them! The nights go down to 10 deg and we use BLANKETS!
Very cold night followed by a lovely sunny day. Seems to alternate! So out walking along the waters edge here for a very long walk. Absolutely gorgeous and the water seems warm, although the day will have to be warmer before we get in! We have been warned that they have stingers here after Xmas that spoils everything! They sound like bluebottles, except they are opaque and harder to avoid! Seems like there is no perfect paradise! We’ll just travel around enjoying all the best bits! Kiama still seems like a special place!

Busselton Jetty

Bunbury 28 - 29 November 2006

Had a quiet morning and stayed at the beach front til after lunch. Moved onto Australind and wandered around the sights in grey weather and drizzle. Met a local couple who had just finished building their camper and they told us about a great spot on the edge of Bunbury, which we found opposite a small dam with lovely birds. Quiet and pretty. The rain came down and it was a lovely new experience (i.e. the rain!) In the morning we had a look around Bunbury, which is an attractive town surrounded by water. Spent some time walking the commercial shopping streets (a vanished experience but easily forgotten!) Went out to an area called The Cut which is the major inlet into the lake system and a great fishing spot on a reserve. Our reward was seeing lots of dolphins playing in the channel as the channel has very big swell and they were really enjoying it! No signs saying “no camping” and very quiet, pretty public parking. No choice! Great place to stay the night. Another quiet night with just the sound of the waves crashing on the other, unprotected, side!

Bunbury Lighthouse

Australind 27 November 2006

After saying goodbye to Rod and Kerrie, we headed south to pick up our mail. This was the first time we had to drive through any city traffic towing the 4WD and it did get quite hectic – Peter was not very impressed with the manners of WA drivers, but perhaps he was out of practice with city driving. Checked out the Perth Ski Park for future camping and saw the rig owned by a couple we met in Broken Hill - David and Janet. We left them a cheerio note and were surprised we found them 7 months later. We noted all the coastal development along the water that is booming in WA and they are digging up all the natural bits in the prime positions – it looks like the water developments around the Gold Coast, with houses squeezed in and lots of artificial canals. Settled down north of Australind at a lovely camp we found – right on the beach and looking at a quiet bay untouched by development.