Sunday, November 26, 2006
Perth (Oakford) 23 -26 November 2006
Up early again. The morning feels warm! Headed south of Perth on our way to the southern part of WA. We thought we would respond to an entry on the CMCA site where a couple (Kerry and Rod) invite a limited number of members to stay on their acreage, half hour south of Perth, so we arrived about 10:30 and found everything to be wonderful. Only two motorhomes at a time and a lovely spot under the trees. To top it off the surprise was that they run a small business at home consisting of a bush lunch and Aussie poetry readings. We joined in and were thrilled with their readings, both traditional and humorous. Clancy of the Overflow was Peter’s request that they did superbly. The couple, Kerry and Rod, do lots of festivals and have won a few major competitions. Spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the closest town with a Laundromat and doing a small spot of shopping. It had a very run-down Mt Druitt feel and not a bit like the Perth we expected.
Decided to go to the Antique and Craft Fair in Perth the next day, which meant that we would go into Perth! Easy run on the highways in and skirted around the waters edge past Kings Park to the Showground. Had a great time looking at over 90 stalls of antiques. After lunch we enjoyed the craft section and caught up with Ian and Margaret, who were as busy as every demonstrating the Beeswax painting to a big crowd. Arranged to meet them after the close in Fremantle for tea. We left early and explored a little of ‘Freo’. Found the markets and checked out places to eat. Fremantle is a really cute town with the feel of an old city port. The buildings are attractive and the streets were lively. We were absolutely thrilled to bump into Alamo and Moema, the Swiss bicyclists, whilst in the fruit market. We exchanged hugs and a short version of our travels as they had to dash for the bus. They are off to Rottnest Island for two days but then they are travelling south. We may catch them again down there! Funny how the warmth of strangers seeps in! We met Ian and Margaret for an enjoyable meal in the mall with the Friday night crowds! Said our goodbyes again but have a funny feeling we will see them again as well. They have gone off the idea of spending time in Kalgoorlie as the temps are around 42degs and are now thinking of Esperance where it is about 24degs.Woke up nice and early again and started to discuss plans for the day when Peter suddenly said he felt like he had a virus. Lots of others around us have had it over the last few days, so it was no surprise. He has spent a low day in bed and is slowly recovering. Luckily the day was a pleasant 25deg with a sea breeze. Only Heather has to get it next! The hand washing procedures here would suit theatre nurses in her attempt not to get it! Oh well! 24 hours and its gone!
Beverley 22 November 2006
Left our beautiful rock and drove through the wheat belt across to the coast. Passed through a small agricultural town, Quirarding, with only 750 people and a really old fashioned 1960s atmosphere. Really tidy, trim gardens and lawns with lots of civic pride - way greater than its size and lots of big machinery shops with big shiny tractors.
Moved on through masses of locusts (they are getting very thick in the middle of the wheat belt) to the next town, Beverley, with much the same atmosphere. We enjoyed walking up and down the street, everyone was very friendly and we were given lemons and good advice on staying in the park near the river. The evening was hot and the forecast was for high 30os inland and high 20os on the coast. So it was time to move west! (Cooler!) The WA people complain of the same confusion in reverse when they go to the eastern states!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Kokerbin Rock (York) 20 – 21 November 2006
The hotel was deserted and we had the run of the place in the morning. The little town has 3 houses that are lived in and a few well preserved buildings. We were off early and explored the surrounds.
Off to the nearby town of York that was absolutely cute. It is a bit like Berry in our home area. We spent most of the day there by the river in town. Could hardly believe another very significant goal in the main street, all preserved and owned by the National Trust. It is part of a bigger compound of the two court houses, police station, stables, and trooper accommodation. Again, it was horrifying how tiny these places are and that they were in use until the 1980’s. The ball and neck chain for the Aboriginals is shameful. We are so glad those were not our times.
They showed a video of locals chatting about police stories. A very friendly Aboriginal spoke about an event in town when he drove his mate’s home and passed the local copper. Problem was he had been drinking and did not have a licence. The policeman visited his mum and told her to tell him to come in and see him ASAP. He didn’t go for a few weeks until he saw the policeman in the main street and was directed to come in. He did go and the policeman said “saw you driving a few weeks ago and thought I should give you your licence. Here it is!”
We lived in York, England, in 1982 and it was sentimental to be here. York was the second town settled in WA and reminded the early settlers of the pastoral land of Yorkshire. We can see it too but it would have to be a very good summer!
Drove out into the country through continuous wheat farms to stay at Kokerbin Rock that was recommended by a few locals. Arrived about 5pm and settled in for the evening watching the colours of the sunset reflect on the wheat covered hills.
Up early in the morning to walk around and over the rock before the heat struck. It stayed really pleasant with a nice breeze. We drew a mud map from the sign outside the toilets and set off. However, we very quickly realised that the track was non existent, though, not until Peter very persistently tried many other ways to get to the base! We were defeated at each turn by the thick shrubbery. It was a bit of an adventure and we finally found a way up to the top where the cairn was. Another perfect 360 dg view! The rock is really smooth granite with flaking sheets very similar to Uluru. We found a rock we renamed the Leunig character! What a shape! This time we saw vast expanses of the yellow wheat fields all at different stages of harvest. We are in the middle of WA’s wheat belt. Trekked around as best we could by using the high vantage points to try and find the feature of this huge rock. It is a mini Uluru! It turns out to be the third largest monolith rock in Australia. All a bit neglected as a tourist feature. Peter was itching to market it properly! The local farmer came over to visit in the afternoon and had a grand old chat! Said the harvest here was good – up 65%! We know up north it was not as good, though he did remind us that there is a dwarf variety of wheat around. The locusts are around and we drive into them a lot of late but they still seem reasonably controlled. In this camp spot in the bush there are quite a few taps which surprised us. There are no restrictions on them either. The farmer said it’s just normal tap water that is drinkable and its piped all over the farms from the same supply going to Kalgoorlie! Two other cars since we have been here. It’s very quiet and peaceful.
Greenhills 19 November 2006
Got up early and got to Greenhills for breakfast. Unfortunately there was only the Poets Breakfast left and it was finishing up. We were invited to join in the hot breakfast and tea and enjoyed the remaining humorous poems. This is one of the frustrations of travelling – it is often very hard to find out about current festivals. The locals raved on about what a great night they had last night and it is taking a bit of grief counselling between us to come to terms with missing out! Greenhills is literally a one horse town, so we pulled up next to the pub and settled down for a catch-up day. The actual hotel is fully done out in the appropriate heritage furnishings and feels like times gone by. It sits in the middle of wheat fields and is yellow all around! Green is the colour of winter in WA when it rains and has dry summers. All things are reversed here!
Monday, November 20, 2006
Viveash Reserve (Toodyay) 18 – 19 November 2006
Got up early for some more delicious bread from the bakery and then headed south, dodging the large road trains that all seemed to heading north, full of mining equipment. It is really strange to be so close to Perth after being 1,000 – 2,000kms away for so long. We are now starting to measure our travelling in hours rather then 400 – 500km away. Toodyay was a fascinating village going back to the early days of WA. Visited the old Newcastle Goal that is an excellent museum. The goals are really creepy (this one had a little hole for a window that was the size of a shoe box at ceiling height) and gave Heather nightmares. In every town they are always one of the few solid things left and are often turned into museums. The last one in Geraldton had a little local craft shop in each cell!We headed out of town looking for somewhere to stay and stumbled on a great little spot down on the Avon River. It was so peaceful we thought we would stay two nights until we read about a folk festival not far away this weekend. It was too late to go that night so we will get up early for the last day of the festival.
New Norcia 16 -17 November 2006
New Norcia is a really special place to visit as it is still centred around a monastery run by 6 elderly monks and the 70 people they employ to help run it. It was founded by Benedictine monks as a mission in 1849 and was a self contained with a flour mill, bakery, laundry, piggery, winery, orchards, blacksmith, lots of water wells etc. The Benedictine order is Spanish and hence all the buildings, which are still based around the monastery have a uniquely Spanish feel about it. They have an amazing art gallery with post-Renaissance religious art works. 26 of the major works were stolen from their frames in 1986 and all but one found and returned in a “devastated state”. They have been meticulously restored and recently opened to the public. They are bright and luminous in their freshness.We stayed 2 nights at their oval to stay overlooking their wheat crops. We strolled along the riverside walk, took the 2 hour tour and bought the fresh (warm) wood-fired oven bread for morning tea (fruit version) and lunch (wholemeal version.) They make their own wines, olives, speciality cakes and biscuits which we sampled. The whole set up is much bigger than we expected and as no development has intruded on it, it feels like an old European village. The central clock tower certainly let all the local birds know what time it was. The galahs responded to the bells from time to time at night! We drifted off at night to 1-3 bells every 15 mins and then the usual hourly calls. No street lighting and a good re-enactment of the past for us. The history was interesting and the ornate decorations in the buildings, chapels and the Abbey Church very elaborate. It survives on visitors and we were surprised that it was even on ‘Get Away’ last week - maybe that will be the death of it! Though the oldest monk is 94 and the youngest 56, it will be shame when it stops though the town is heritage listed.
Huarts Reserve (Cervantes) 15 November 2006
Lazed around Jurien Bay all day, a pleasant fishing village right on a perfect green bay. Walked up and down the beach, called in for our mail at the little shopping centre and nearly fell over when we saw a tiny block of land for sale, where we were parked, for $850,000. WA has caught up with east coast prices! Stopped the night at a delightful camping reserve with a surprising variety of wildflowers still in evidence.
Drove into Cervantes which may have been an even more beautiful bay with a very small shopping centre. Detached the car to visit the very famous Pinnacles. They were different to our expectations as most of the Australian icons have been. Photos we have seen do not show the expanse and dimensions of the scene. We were surprised that you just drive through them on a well marked 3½km sandy track as though it was a safari park. It was an easy one this time! They are larger than we expected in some places but it is an every changing landscape as the sand dunes shift 6 metres every ten years. The landscape along the coast was also intriguing due to very white sand patches in the dunes, interspersed with the encroachment of shrubs and trees by the shifting sand. It really looked like a snow drift. Moved east after lunch through the country side and saw lots of different native flowers from the changing landscape. However due to the drought, they were not in the great expanses we had anticipated though we did see was great diversity. We also passed a big wind farm, lots of wheat fields with visibly poor yields and a few attractive historic towns still alive and well (So near Perth we guess).
We arrived at the monastic village of New Norcia in the late afternoon and had a walk around the river. It looks a fascinating town.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Grigson Lookout 14 November 2006
On Tuesday we spent most of the morning chatting to our fellow travellers about encouraging councils to put in more rest areas. The upshot was that we devised a letter to give to councils that pointed out the benefits of having motorhomers in their town. Stopped at a lovely lookout with 360deg view across the sand dunes and salt lakes. There was one special moment as we watched three emus walking across the salt lake in the distance. The vegetation looked very special. It is of a low level (a few metres high) and just bursting with life. Everything seemed to have a flower on it and though not very spectacular the perfume was sweet nectar plus. The hum of the bees was loud and everywhere. Very big ones buzzed us and kept us on our toes though it did not feel like an attack! Up really early in the morning in the half light, after a very quiet night, the buzzing recommenced and filled the morning air. The information leaflet said there were 900 different plant types here! It really felt dense and rich and makes you realise what was lost in clearing land, especially where it was then abandoned as useless! Sounding GREEN? So would you!
Cliff Head 12 - 13 November 2006
Left Dongara and headed south and settled down for the night down the road at a beachside camp amongst the fishermen’s cottages where they are legally allowed to squat. This is a unique situation in Australia. Met Garfield (who looked very much like his name sake) and Carol and Darryl. They are all long-term travellers and were enjoying the camp and a spot of fishing. Garfield is a full on character who was knocking back tinnies as soon as they were opened! He is rigid with no neck from a degenerative cartilage disease he got from working in mines for 20 years, caused by sulphuric acid, a by-product of diesel fumes. Didn’t know anything about it!
Had a quiet day and went for a walk along the beach in the afternoon. The easterly breeze picked up and swung around to the west. The foreshore is pilled high with sea grass and it feels like you are walking on a trampoline.
We stayed another day and caught up on a few motorhome tasks. Met another couple who have been on the road for 18 years!! They are older now but were very content and happy! The laugh was their names were Barbie and Ken! But home was white not pink! Watched the activity on the water as all the Cray boats are allowed to put their pots in two days ahead of the season to “wet the pots”! The build up to us getting a crayfish is quite exciting. We certainly feel like its going to be worthwhile! I suppose they start selling very soon!
Dongara/Port Denison (Cliff Head) 11 November 2006
After a walk along part of Seven Mile Beach, we had a short trip to Dongara, usually a quiet fishing town, but today celebrating a fair. The main street is lined with 100 year old fig trees and they had various stalls selling produce under them. Heather was in her element and we were soon loaded up with jams and fruit. Spent a few hours right on the town beach around lunch, then over to Port Denison for a relaxing afternoon and evening waiting for the crowd to build up for the fireworks over the harbour. We moved out of town to camp and up and back to the water front for breakfast ready for the next big event, the Blessing of the Fleet. We were about ready to join the gathering crowd to line the harbour when a knock on the door came with a surprise invitation to join a big cray boat that was one of the boats to be blessed! It was such a random act of human friendship we were taken a back. This was marvellous fun and Peter and Lyn (our hosts) made us very welcome. Cray fishing is a big industry around here and there were about 30 brightly decorated boats in the parade. After the boat was blessed by the local priest, we headed out to sea for some high speed tag (full throttle in million dollar boat) and a water battles with water bombs and water guns. Managed not to get wet even when another boat used a water cannon!
Peter, the boat owner gave us some very interesting information about the industry including the annual licence fee per basket is $23,000 EACH. He has about 140 and is not allowed to put them all in at once, but has to stagger their release. He was very positive about the regulations that he believes will sustain the industry for hundreds of years and felt that WA is the world leader in this sustainability system. Can’t wait to get our first fresh crayfish when they hit the shops!
Geraldton (Dongara) 9-10 October 2006
As this was the first big town we had found since Darwin, we have been busy running around and getting work done on the Vitara and Jimmy. We visited the Geraldton Museum and saw some impressive displays, especially the section on the large number of shipwrecks that occurred along the coast in the past 300 years. Of particular interest was the information and relics from the Batavia, as we had both recently read a book on the grisly history of the wreck. The accompanying videos and information notes made it very real. The ballast recovered included all the carved stone for a portico for a court house in Batavia that was reconstructed using the original stone from Holland. The regional art gallery had a very unusual and confronting photographic exhibition. The other exhibitions were more mainstream but interesting.
The local fish co-op supplied us with top snapper, dhur, and whiting for a few meals. The big hum on the coast over the last few weeks is the imminent opening of the crayfish season. It will be all along the coast for a few months so we will not miss out!
We both left feeling impressed by the town – luckily it was not too windy or we may have had different thoughts.
Didn’t leave until all the work was completed (tyre alignment last) and after a short shower of rain - still a very unusual event for this whole trip! We set off about 4pm for Greenough. This is an old stone village that had been deserted and ( ironically) avoiding redevelopment until now when it is being restored by the National Trust.
Stopped for the night at Seven Mile Beach outside of Dongara. Once again we had the beach to ourselves. Fairly windy night but not enough to get sea sick! This did happen to Heather once in Qld!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Geraldton 4 – 8 November 2006
Up early again and arrived in Geraldton at 830am! Still very windy! Settled into a caravan park in town near the wharves and light house and very surprised how protected we were on this point. We took to Geraldton immediately! Seems like a comfortable town with good range of facilities and good infrastructure. We enjoyed wandering around the town. The waterside area is being redeveloped with parks and beaches and will be very attractive when it is finished.
On Sunday, Peter got up early for his garage sales, and then we went to visit some street markets. While there, we bumped into old travelling companions – Ian and Margaret. After catching up over coffee, we went onto a church fete, held at Nazareth House. It was built in 1913 as a convent and designed by Father Hawe who was also an architect. It is a very impressive structure in the Spanish Mission style. They have recently sold off land for $24 million and completed an $8 million refurbishment and is now a Nursing Home, Hostel and a Dementia Wing (new). While we were there Heather chatted to one of the nuns, who generously offered to show us around the nursing home. We had a half hour tour and really got into the nitty gritty of Heather’s forte! Met patients, staff and admired the new dementia wing with its chicken shed, men’s shed, raised gardens and an old out-door dunny. Also admired the old quarter with the big verandas and gorgeous, converted hostel rooms.
Enjoyed fish and chips on the beach, watching the shipping activities and the bulk carriers moving out and a visit to the cathedral was a surprise. It too was designed by Father Hawe, the architect, and was very inviting with its light and colour. The inside was all painted large orange and light grey stripes with extremely colourful stained glass window. The central dome was very open, large and full of light.
Melbourne Cup was a success. After drawing the favourite in the 2 sweeps we came out even on a small TAB bet on an outsider. We booked a 3 course Melbourne Cup lunch at an upmarket restaurant with wonderful food. Would love this to be in Kiama! Champagne cocktails sent us off for an afternoon sleep. The Cup runs at midday (3 hours behind the east coast) before you eat or get drunk and that felt really weird!
Oakabella Camp 3 November 2006
In the morning we headed inland to visit an old farm, now proclaimed as the Hutt River Principality. We were surprised to be personally greeted by His Excellency, Prince Leonard, who gave us a personal tour of his province. He is a very intelligent man, who understands the constitutional and legal aspects of his succession and has held the government at bay for 40 years. The whole province is rather run down now and looking rather sad. It is obviously not a threat to government but a clever challenge to the laws what we all think are so solid. It demonstrates that they are illusionary and we need to be careful about what the government proclaims as law.
We then headed down to Port Gregory and its Pink Lake that is coloured a pinky-purple - amazing stuff, with the colour much brighter than we expected. Port Gregory is a very small seaside village waiting for the summer rush. It has a large reef wall protecting it from the sea. In the afternoon, we travelled down to Northampton, which was a delightful town with historical buildings making up the living streetscape. It had the feel of Berry and Gulgong. There was a fantastic sunken garden in the fashion of an English garden. What a sight for a garden lover! It was getting too hot but then the sky blackened and an electrical storm set in, with monster rain drops on the edge.
Turned off down a very rough road for 3km to buy cheap fruit from an orchard. We glutted ourselves on nectarines and peaches. The box was $10 for about 5kg. Saw a few small fires in the wheat paddocks that had just started after the passing of the thunder storm. Camped in a roadside bush camp that looked out to the wheat fields.
Kalbarri 2 November 2006
Up very early for no particular reason. Seems the sun rises at 5.30am and that sets off the farmers and the birds. It is nice to respond to the environment that way. We had done everything by 7am and were shocked at the time! Had a relaxing trip admiring the countryside and stopped at Kalbarri NP. It was really strange to see cleared paddocks of wheat, as we hadn’t seen them since Dubbo. Hiked into the NP to see the Natures Window, which displays a large elevated arch overlooking the Murchison River. The river was very low and very green from algae. The land around the NP and the river still looked red and harsh and the temperature was 32 and the flies tasted foul! They came from nowhere for the first time on our trip. Then onto Kalbarri, which was an agreeable seaside village, slumbering quietly while awaiting the start of the holiday season. The wind really picked up and rocked the Jimmy! Drove out of town to the southern end of the coastal part of the NP to see some spectacular rock formations along the cliffs, resulting from the erosion of the soft calcium deposits above a harder sandstone layer. They were very wild and rugged with the wind whipping up the sea. Settled down for the night along the side of the road in a protected, quiet spot.
Nerren Nerren Camp 1 November 2006
As we had camped by the lake last night, we decided to have a look at the bluff before we left. Lucky we did, as there were spectacular views along the coast. The shallow water in front of us was so clear we could see about 10 sharks swimming around in the water – just near where Peter had gone swimming the other day! After that we retraced our steps to the main road and headed south. We are starting to see a change in the scenery, with rolling hills covered in thick trees and shrubs after dry, sparse country. Stopped the night at an enjoyable camp and had an early night.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Denham – Monkey Mia 30 October 2006
Drove onto Denham, another touristy village, which has evolved to service Monkey Mia and the Shark Bay attractions. Although it is late in the season, it is still quite packed with people heading out to see the dolphins. Dolphins! Smolshins! We just want to see the dugongs! The setting is much prettier than we expected. An elevated entrance leads to a sleepy little town spread along a magnificent waterfront. There isn’t much to Denham - a few tired shops along the high street, lots of new and old holiday cottages, a bakery that charged $5 for a loaf of wholemeal bread, an older butcher selling his meat in a traditional manner and a small school of 2-3 classrooms. We also saw a huge construction of multiple buildings on outskirts of town that turned out to be the new school. One classroom for every kid, the locals say!
In the afternoon we went out to Francois Peron NP and had a close look at the old sheep station. The park was only created in 1991 after the lease of the property ran out and it feels like the farmers just upped and walked away. It reminded Heather of the sheep stations she visited as a kid. It was fairly isolated and rugged and the shearing sheds were very authentic and reflected the conditions of a much earlier time. The beds, fridges, stoves, baths and washing machines were still in the quarters. The tools and machinery lay idle waiting the kiss of a shearer to wake them up.
After chatting to another traveller who told us not to miss it, we rather foolhardily, set off to explore the Big Lagoon. The 10k track was narrow and sandy and hard work for the driver! (Peter secretly loves these difficult drives with his newly acquired love of four wheel driving!), however we got through it OK, only getting bogged once! Luckily we always have a spade with us! The lagoon is geographically very interesting and the aerial photos attest its beauty and significance. But at the edge of the water and after a windy walk it did not seem worth all the hassle. Back to the caravan park (first one for over a week) to a really great elevated site looking directly over the beach to the other peninsular. The wind roared all night as this was an exposed position.