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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gibson Soak 28 January 2007

Our journey is 400ks from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. The road seems to be pretty well straight and flat but surprisingly well vegetated with trees and shrubs, saltbush and salt lakes. Main stop is Norseman, a non-descript village that is the gateway to the Nullarbor – the only exciting gossip in town was a letter in the local paper complaining about high prices and limited stock in the only supermarket (IGAs are in most small towns) saying any specials advertised are always out of stock! The town charges you $3 to use their dump point and asks for a donation to use the toilet!
Drove through a number small villages that became dots on a road to somewhere else. Enjoyed lunch in the shade of some big trees outside the school at isolate small village called Salmon Gums. The school kids had made up lots of straw kids to decorate the front of the school yard, one on a bike in the middle of a tree with a bucket on his head, and they had a fake speed camera made up near the school on the highway. It had a lively, happy feel to the place.Camped overnight in the park next to a very old pub at Gibson Soak and shared a drink and fish and chips with the locals. The local farmer said his wheat did very well this year. Reports vary from farmer to farmer though!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kambalda Salt Lake

Kambalda 27 January 2007

Spent most of the day doing spring cleaning before we headed off for Kambalda, just 60kms from Kalgoorlie. Driving out of Kalgoorlie, we noticed that the countryside remained quite lush, with a variety of small trees and shrubs growing everywhere. Somehow we expected desert similar to South Australia, but all we saw were a number of small dried up salt lakes. We had wanted to have a look at Lake Lefroy, a massive salt lake where they have land sailing. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get access to, as there are a number of gold mines on the salt lake, which restricts entrance. We camped for the night at a look out that had great views over the lake. The lake was much bigger than we anticipated and the views amazing. Talked to some of the locals picnicking nearby, who told us that the mines were going to be amalgamated by a South African company and would eventually produce an open cut mine larger than the Super Pit. Can’t imagine how ugly and damaging to the environment this large style mining will be and this remains a big concern of ours how they will rehabilitate these projects - they are really huge! We had a wonderful cool night and woke to a cold 14deg sunrise. We heard Perth was 30degs at the same time at 7am!

Australia Day Drink

Boulder Town Hall

Kalgoorlie 23 – 26 January 2007

We have a special feeling about iconic Ozzy places, so coming to Kalgoorlie was a unique experience. It is that first moment when you drive in and your mind starts comparing it to other places and to the impressions that you have in your mind. Kalgoorlie was larger than we thought and still has a strong sense of history with many fine, majestic buildings dominating the main street. The wide streets are very powerful in creating a spacious scene. Modern major chain stores are getting a foothold, as everywhere, and are changing the streetscape, though we did see a few examples of sympathetic signage in keeping with the old buildings. The best was the ANZ which used gold lettering for its name on the façade rather than the modern jarring blue. This town seems to be the winner for the most old hotels and pubs we had seen - one on nearly every corner!
The city is still dominated by gold fever – however rather than the small mines that operated up to 30 years ago - is now subjugated by The Super Pit, a 3km long, 330m deep hole in the ground that resulted from the amalgamation of 100 small mines. The mighty dump trucks, which are as tall as a 3 story building, seemed dwarfed by the size of the chasm. This pit felt double the size of Mt Tom Price! Most of the people you see seem to be working for the mines or associated businesses.
Boulder is a suburb of Kalgoorlie, but a poor cousin despite being a grand town in its own right in those early heady days. It has a rather shabby atmosphere with many vacant shops and is very close to the every expanding super pit. The lady in the art gallery has to constantly straighten the paintings after the daily mine blasts. The Town Hall is stunning and was a highlight of our trip, with a rare intact theatre curtain by Paul Goatcher, who has another curtain in a Melbourne Theatre. This one is of a scene of the Bay of Naples with a few sets of opulent curtains painted around the edges. The interior is all original and you can easily transport yourself to the excitement of the gold fields. Toured Questa Casa, which gave us an unusual insight into early Kalgoorlie entertainment that we shall not go in to!
Mt Charlotte, right on the edge of town, has a great view of Kalgoorlie but is more importantly, the town reservoir and terminus for the water supply piped from the Mundaring Weir. We have followed the route marked as The Golden Pipeline that traces the 650 km water pipeline from the coast to Kalgoorlie. The pipe line has many outlets to numerous towns along the way. They have a reservoir tanks nearby with a couple of days supply. This results in all these tiny villages having green parks surrounded by dust! The pipe follows the road very closely and seems to be never out of sight. There are 8 pumping stations along the way and the relics of the old stations make you marvel at this engineering feat. The pipe is the longest freshwater supply in the world and still working! The project was completed in 1904 and must have been a real wonder then. Prior to that, water was supplied from elaborate condensers at 2/6 (25c) per gallon in late 1890s.
Kalgoorlie Museum was great and featured a mine derrick rig that you were able to ascend in a lift. It had fantastic views of the local area from the top of the derrick. The museum also featured an impressive gold display that featured a number of large nuggets as well as the first gold ingot from Kalgoorlie.
We listened with interest to the new Howard initiatives for the water crisis. Hopefully this will alleviate problems along the Murray/Darling Rivers. One of the abiding features we have encountered through our trip was the lack of water for towns, as well agriculture. Except for Darwin and the Kimberly, the water crisis permeates all areas we have visited and is forever in our minds. Read about a serious water production model in WA that condenses water from cold air drawn from high atmosphere with windmills. It is an exciting concept because water could be obtained from any atmosphere however we will not hold our breath waiting for it to happen.
On Australia Day we went to Breakfast in the Park, and watched the Mayor naturalise some new citizens. The rest of the celebrations for the day reflected the unrefined nature of Kalgoorlie – wet shirt competitions and jelly wrestling that surprised all and delighted some - could not happen any where else in Australia?Australia’s National Mining Museum at the old North Hannah Mine was our next education stop that included an underground tour. It was sobering to see how tough and dangerous it was down the mines and Peter thought of his father who worked in the mines in Mt Isa. We also saw a gold pouring demonstration with a 500gm ingot that would have been worth $180,000 if it had been pure. The huts and early shacks that have been preserved on the site were fascinating in displaying their stark essentials. It was a tough life!

Kalgoorlie Streetscape

The Super Pit

Kalgoorlie Pub

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Coolgardie Mine Office

Coolgardie 22 January 2007

Got up early and drove 200km to Coolgardie. The town has a ghostly feel, notwithstanding 100 years ago it was the 3rd largest town in WA. Old photos show a vibrant settlement with streets of civic buildings and shops. Now there are a few very grand and dominant buildings and lots of empty lots – a result of massive fires and a downturn in gold production. Had a look at an historic property, which was the home of Warden Finnerty’s who was the first warden of the goldfields. He had the unenviable task of sorting out the numerous claim disputes. The guide said that the left over beer was used in the mortar as it was more plentiful than water.
Stopped for the night in a large rest area under the shade of some trees – it is very hot at last! The air-conditioner works very well off the generator.

Coolgardie Peak Hour

Southern Cross 21 January 2007

Had a look at the remains of the rabbit proof fence – once the longest structure in the world – but now a shadow of itself. Turned off to visit an old gold mining village called Westonia. The old mine there has been closed and opened at least three times since it started in 1901, the last closure being 1991. Well hells bells! It’s opening again now and is a hive of activity! It feels like it is nowhere but a local told us there was going to have a new land release and the blocks will cost $4,000 or $5,000. We were surprised they were not giving them away.
Moved onto Southern Cross, another old gold mining town and camped at the showground. When it cooled down, we went for a walk around the town and had dinner in an historic pub – the owner told us that he had spent $3 million on renovations – given that we were the only people in the dining room, he may take a long time to get his money back!
This town was super green and was pouring on the water. They all source it from the same pipe so we guess some people feel they deserve more. Having seen the source of this water supply in the dwindling dam near Perth, they need to review how they all use water, but unequal water use seems to be the norm across Australia.

Sandford Rock

Dam Wall at Sandford Rock

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Traffic Jam at Hines Hill

Burracoppin 20 January 2007

We are following the Golden Pipeline which highlights lots of little towns from the gold rush era. Some of these towns reflect their history in the main streets with the remaining shop fronts but the overall feel is that they are on the decline. Many have a very strong civic pride.
There are many monolithic rocks and some are very interesting. We explored and climbed all over Merredin Peak Rock Dam near the town of Merredin. This was another feat that astounded us. In the late 1800’s, before the water pipeline, the early settlers created a big dam by collecting all the run-off from a series of monoliths with rock walls all around the base and channelling it in rock drains to the dam. It was very hot climbing around the rock and the stories of how the horses carried all the rock of the monoliths to the bases with canvas on their hooves to prevent slipping were in our minds.
We stopped at Burracoppin - a tiny village with only a pub and no shops. We stayed in the park opposite the pub and went for a drink through the main door, but were directed around the back to a tin lean-to, which has been the temporary (9 years) pub while they fix up the main bar! This lean-to was the earliest pub that was transported from another town with its original big cool room. There were only a few locals there but enough for us to enjoy the chatter and watch them cook up yabbies on a fire on the dirt floor! Saw the comet again!

Peakhour at Kellerberrin

Salt Pan

Tammin 19 January 2007

Continued through another small village to settle at Tammin for the night. The small towns and villages echo the once prosperous farming and gold settlements that are becoming forgotten and empty. The wheat and sheep production seems to dominate the whole landscape. Stopped at the oval and walked down to the pub to have a drink and “dinner” (pizza) with the locals. The village had an interesting hydrology model demonstrating issues of the soil salinity and some of the methods being used to reduce it. Whilst travelling in these areas we are seeing many salt lakes and creeks filled with dead tree stumps.

The Unrenovated Burracoppin Pub

Come on Heather, no more photos

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Golden Pipeline

Friday, January 19, 2007

Meckering after the earthquake

Northam Church

Meckering 18 January 2007

Headed off to Kalgoorlie at last - it feels good to get out into the country again and for the first time we are heading east. We are now following the ‘Golden Pipeline’ which supplies water to all the towns and villages stretching 600 km to Kalgoorlie. Had lunch at Northam, which is a pretty little historic town on the Avon River.
Stopped for the night at Meckering at a very pretty roadside Tourist Park that allows you to park for 24 hours. At first glance it appeared to be a nondescript village, with a general store, road house and a particularly ugly hall. When we had a look around the village we discovered it was the site of the most severe earthquake in Australia – in 1968 it registered 6.9 on the Richter Scale! Virtually all the structures in the village of 200 people were destroyed, including all the shops and public buildings and they were never rebuilt. Some photos clearly demonstrated how the earth moved 5 feet up and down and 5 feet sideways! The epicentre was 2km from this town. The water pipeline to Kalgoorlie telescoped in and both railway tracks looked like soft liquorice strips twisted on the ground. We walked along what is now a park and encountered a row of plaques showing where the butcher, baker, post office, pubs, churches, town hall, etc once stood. It was a sobering reminder of the force of nature!
We looked out for the comet again and the tail seemed longer and brighter. Few more night to go as we head into the flat wide country where the air is clear. Enjoyed our own private rose garden in the park for the evening.

McNaughts Comet

Wanneroo Beach - Windsurfing

Swan Valley 17 January 2007

Moved from our campsite back to the beach for breakfast. While enjoying the view, we had a visit from a council ranger who was checking that we were parking not camping! It’s camping if you go to sleep! Heather had a frank and open exchange of views with the ranger and they decided to agree to disagree on the issue of free camping.
Drove up the coast to Scarborough and Hillarys Boat Harbour. This is a very narrow strip of beach and void of headlands, giving it a monotonous feel. The sand is very soft and white and the water ranging from blues and greens. It blew up very windy which seems to be normal for this area. Hillarys Boat Harbour is a fairly new development and is a protected recreation water area and is surrounded by upmarket shops and restaurants. There are lots of new developments along the coast and it was difficult to even stop and park due to the tightness of these areas. We passed an interesting development site of about 10 acres. Instead of having to deal with a hilly site, the developers simply dug out about 20m of sand and ha presto – everyone has a level site to build on! On blocks with a slope, they use rock terracing to enclose each site to make it level and then backfill it with sand, which looks very ugly and unnatural. It is obvious this is the way they deal with ALL the land, as it is entirely composed of sand. Bet Colin wished he could do this in the mountains.
Ended our day in the Swan Valley and stayed the night next to an oval and over the road from a brewery! Watched McNaught’s comet against the silhouette of the trees and were thrilled with the brightness and size of the tail - even better than the first night.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Heather enjoying the sun

For Sale - $85 Million, Suitable for Sudanese Village

Fremantle 13 – 16 January 2007

On Saturday we moved down to a caravan park 3km south of the city of Fremantle so we could explore it at ease. Fremantle - “Freo”, is a charming city with a huge number of preserved historic buildings. Even those not formally preserved are intact and create a strong sense of history. On Sunday we visited an old house, Samson House, which reminded us of our home and made us a bit homesick. Toured Fremantle Gaol which is the largest gaol preserved in Australia and was still used until 1991! Crikey! It is very primitive and would add to lots of material for anyone’s nightmare.
Had a drink in an Irish Pub, listened to some Irish music and saw some Irish dancing – great fun and then headed to the jetties. Sunday family outings were in full swing down at the wharf which was very crowded. We indulged in traditional fish and chips next to moored motor cruises indulging in the same menu. A touch of envy ended with the thought of our “land yacht” moored on the other edge of the water!
One of the strange aspects of Perth and Fremantle is the plethora of parking meters which we discovered still operate until midnight on a Sunday! Only 1 hour permitted during the day and only 3 hours after 5pm at $1.20 hour. It has been expensive to just park and difficult running around making sure we are legal! This is the worst we have every seen, though maybe we don’t really know Sydney?
On Monday we visited the op shops around town, however there was not much there. They are on to us and there are no bargains any more!
For once the weather is worthy of talking about, as it keeps changing - two grey days and a hint of rain followed by a fully sunny day with a strong afternoon wind. We took a 2 hour cruise up and down the Swan River and it was really enjoyable and gave us a veracious encounter with big money including $85 million property of a Rio Tinto shareholder for sale, Rose Porteous’ bulldozed property being subdivided, one of Kerry Stokes beach houses and multiple grand homes! The river reminded us of the Lane Cove River and was pleasantly wide in many places. Lots of big boats every where and Fremantle wharves were very busy and of great proportion!
We spent some time in the Maritime Museum and came to the realisation that the museum was built around our America’s Cup winner, Australia II, as this is WA’s biggest claim to popular fame!
Left “Freo” late in afternoon to find the best vantage point to observe McNaught’s Comet at sunset. Settled into a big carpark on City Beach with a growing crowd and were delighted to see the comet (with an amazing white tail), hurtling towards the horizon.

Steaming into Perth

Inside Fremantle Gaol

The Streets of Fremantle

Perth 9 – 12 January 2007

Found a pub in the city that holds the Perth Jazz Clubs weekly events. The venue was packed and we had a great time, but like good oldies were home by 11pm. The next day the weather was grey and felt like it might rain, but, no it doesn’t and the art gallery and the museum were the next attractions that engaged us.
The art gallery had a guided tour of indigenous art that we joined. This was a time to reflect on how much we had seen and learnt, as we recognised many of the artists and regional styles. The amazing aspect of the tour was that we sensed we had more insight into much of the art than the guide, who hadn’t been to the regions and used a European analytic view to interpret the paintings.
Then onto the suburb of Burswood that turns out to be a huge resort area on the south side of the Swan River. This was the location of the Casino, the only legal gambling outlet in WA, and was surrounded by a few grand hotels. The clubs in WA are very poor without the pokies and definitely don’t offer any cheap meals, or any food at all, in most cases. This was the first time since Darwin that we could get a subsidised meal. (Heather marvelled at the memory of the subsidised meals at Mayflower! Go Steve!) We tried our luck in the casino using all the free vouchers! The casino was decorated in the usual bad taste with massive amounts of glittering poker machines. After a meal, a drink and a flutter on the roulette table, we came out with $20 in front. The gardens in the surrounding parks and entrances were especially colourful with petunias on mass, much to Heather’s delight.
Spent one day exploring Perth Hills, including the dam that supplies water to Kalgoorlie 650 kms away. The pipeline was built around 1900 which seems amazing as they argue about the impossibility of building a pipeline from Lake Argyle in the north to Perth, although it’s estimated to cost $ billions. We enjoyed Kalamunda township which had a Blue Mountain character. Used the GPS to guide us back, as we felt completely lost due to all the changes in direction.

Best part of Perth Casino

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CBD from Kings Park

CBD from Swan River

Perth 5 – 8 January 2006

The weather is great now and we are not hot! We are able to get about so comfortably! No mossies, maybe because they have such a dry summer! We have already exceeded the monthly rain average of 8mm!
So off to explore the Swan Valley. Back to wineries and chocolate factories but lots more people out for a drive as this is so close to Perth and it seems to be the weekend activity with lots of kids about. Everything is a bit dry so the greenery of all the vines creates a lush look. The Swan River is a brown, normal river in the upper bush areas, so different to the city areas where it is made up of large expanses of blue. Stayed out for dinner in the Swan Valley and visited a big brewery that specialises in German beer and had a meal of German sausages cooked in many ways!
Sunday in Perth is different to Sydney because there is little Sunday shopping. There is little of anything in Perth – daylight saving on trial, no Sunday trading and no pokies. It is noticeable that there are many families out picnicking. We explored the foreshore, parks and old buildings around the wharf area. We tried to get the timetable for the ferries and the girl answered, “one every 15 mins” i.e. – there is only one ferry route! This seemed surprising as the river is so wide and teeming with homes and suburbs. It must be very easy road transport. We moved on to Kings Park and as we had no real concept of it, we were pleasantly surprised. The elevation from the hills gives wonderful views of the city and river and lends itself easily to lovely manmade features, such as a water stream meandering through rocks and pathways with the perfect green grass, water fountain with shooting bursts of water, a few monuments and a boardwalk affording extra views of the river. The central area of the park is natural bush for many acres and is surprising so close to a city. Then there are gardens replicating native vegetation according to climatic zones, so we could get up close to some really lovely specimens. Moved on to Subiaco and enjoyed exploring the suburb. It had a freshness and openness about it and we stopped to listen to a music concert in the park. With the later sunsets (8:30) the evenings are great.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Strolling down London Terrace

The Streets of Perth

Perth 4 – 5 January 2007

Left Herron Point for Perth! First stop was Pinjarra, where we visited a most attractive precinct that surrounded an old 18 room homestead and wonderful open garden full of mature park-like trees. We drove through lots of forests coming into Perth’s outer suburbs and were surprised at the amount bushland within easy reach of the city.
Popped into see Phil, who is the WA CMCA representative, and then drove onto Perth to settle down for our stay. Found the Advent Park easily and were surprised by the big, empty, shady, ex-caravan park that now houses the Seventh Day Adventists Church. Of course there are signs up for no alcohol or cigarettes but not one for no meat!
On Friday morning, after picking up our mail, we set off to explore the city. Perth was a surprise after the small towns we had encountered. We loved the fact that the city hadn’t succumb to ‘shopping centre-itis’ but was vibrant, alive and very busy. We had a bit of trouble getting back but listened to our GPS and it showed us the best way home!

Heather took this photo of a Splendid Fairy Blue Wren

The storm comest

Herron Point 1 – 3 January 2007

Happy New Year!!! What a night; we set off for the dance not expecting to be drawn down a time warp to 1955! The hall was quite crowded (about 150 people, young and old) and all doing the Canadian 3 step, which matched our 3 feet! However things only got worse as we encountered more dances that we had never heard of and could not dance! The foxtrot was interrupted by a Scottish reel display, though they had obviously not practised their dance routine and tripped over each other, which made a nice contrast with the professionalism of the other dancers! However the supper made up for it with tables groaning with home made goodies, which we took full advantage of. Really it was a lot of fun as we felt we had gone back to our childhood or beyond! The locals were very friendly and spontaneously poured out the local gossip!
We headed to the coast as our friends Robyn and John said they were staying at Heron Point, south of Perth. The road became quite windy and hilly and we were glad to stop at last, in a attractive little spot right next to a peaceful inlet. We also caught up with another lovely couple, Gary and Lyn, who we have bumped into a few times in our travels.
The big news event around here was the imminent storm that the Met Bureau was predicting to hit the general southern region, resulting from Cyclone Isabel converging with a deep cold front in the south. The first day and night were very threatening and rainy but the next day, when the storm congregated at Esperance, it was sunny and pleasant at Herron Point.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nice drop at Cuballing Pub

Peakhour at Popanyinning

Climbing the ladder of success

Popanyinning (Cuballing) 30 – 31 December 2006

Came to another wonderful little historic town with a big old pub (many pubs are now called taverns) and a number of restored historic buildings and not much else. The locals said that this was the fastest growing shire in WA which has left us bewildered. If 50 new people came into a town of 50 residents this means they have had an increase of 100%! We moved up the Southern Highway and stayed 2 nights about four kms south of Popanyinning on a farm stay. It is on the river with no water in it (which is like most rivers we cross) and the ground is yellow and dry. The weather is warm with comfortable cool nights and 30 - 35deg days. We are close to a large number of poultry (with a predominance of roosters, whose crowing starting at 3am!), sheep and pigs! We have decided to attend the local dance in the Community Hall for New Year’s Eve as there is nothing else. We drove into town at lunch time to make a few phone calls and Peter counted 1-2-3… as he noted the number of houses! We viewed the decorated hall and thought of bush poetry! We will tell the tale later!

Latest Camping Design

Dryandra NP (Narrogin) 29 December 2006

Travelled onto a slightly bigger town, Narrogin, with a cool streetscape of lovely green trees and a few bigger shops. Felt like a small Mudgee like town! The railway passes through the town and has all the old infrastructure of a much busier time. As we pass through all these towns with the old railway infrastructure we noted we have never seen a train since north of Perth! We stop and look at all crossings though! We spent a few hours under the big pine trees by the old railway in town. We booked a nocturnal tour in Dryandra Woodland, so we left late in the afternoon and settled in the depth of the old Mallet trees. These woodlands were settled around 1920 by forestry workers to plant Mallet forests for collection of the bark that was used worldwide for tannin for dying leather, saddles etc. (One of the true colours of our past!) The Mallet is a native tree but not from this area. When the industry collapsed (as so many of the old industries did) it was transformed to become a National Park. With other adjoining land it is now 28,000hectares. We had to drive deeper into the woodland to the 26 hectare enclosure where endangered species from the region are protected from feral predators (cats and foxes) and new populations supported to re-populate the outer areas. We sat in the moonlight waiting in different locations for the routine arrival of all sorts of creatures. We were rewarded with close encounters with Wurrup (Rufous Hare Wallaby), Boodie (bettong), Marl (bandicoot) and a glimpse of a bilby! They came very close but were nervous and flinched at the wind in the trees, the shriek of a settling bird and, unfortunately, the other few visitors who coughed, sneezed, whimpered, talked and shuffled in all the wrong places! We drove 10km back to Jimmy in a magic of reflection amidst the closely growing white gums. We settled in and were awoken throughout the night by possums on the roof. On observation they looked down calmly from our roof, and happily climbed up and down our ladder on the back of the truck. It went on all night as you could mostly hear the noises climbing the ladder! On one occasion we opened a hatch to scare them off but one possum just looked in iniquitously without fear!

Downtown Wagin

Katanning 27 December 2006

Headed north visiting a number of country towns and villages on the way – there certainly isn’t Xmas sale madness around here, with deserted main streets everywhere! The towns are fairly close together reflecting the history of early settlement, all with old banks, schools, parks intact and a sense of earlier civic pride. The wide streets are a feature of these towns, contrasting with the new housing developments around Mandurah, Busselton, and Bunbury! It’s sad to see the demise of real Australia. What is real anymore? Found yet another lovely bush setting to stay overnight, at the end of a really hot day.

Homeward Bound

View of Stirling Ranges

Borden 26 December 2006

After saying goodbye to our camp friends we sent off for the Stirling Ranges. This is one of the largest national parks in WA and has a number of tall craggy mountains – covered in vibrant green plants that were very rugged, coarse and spiky! They seemed very primitive with the leaves and the flower heads from a Banksia plant seeming to come straight out of the ground. The range is unique because of the silhouettes of each mountain. There is every opportunity to imagine the Aboriginal myths. The most important one tells the story of an old man kangaroo who went of playing each day and not hunting. The wife kangaroo got fed up with this, went off hunting, made a feast, ate it all and when he came home, he became enraged him and spears her to dead, so the young kangaroo son chases and kills him. The mountain peaks are then the shape of the deceased kangaroo lying down in death! The drive is about 42kms each way on gravel and the car proved its worth yet again. We rested for a cuppa in a gully called White Gum Camp and imagined the Aboriginals living here. After we left, we set off for a tiny village called Borden and set up at the showground. Walked around the town in 15 mins (pub was shut) and observed yet another wheat storage area bigger than the town!

Xmas lunch - yum, yum!

View of campsite on King River

Happy Xmas

The Lighthorseman at Albany

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

WA Xmas Bush

Peter on the Amity

Albany 20 – 25 December 2006

The morning revealed a grey sky and cool winds and as we drove into Denmark we noticed locals walking by in coats and beanies!!! Denmark is described in one of our books as twee; however we just found it to be a cosy and idiosyncratic town. The shops were different, full of character and sold an unexpected mix of goods. The river that meandered through the town was very high and edged with green banks of soft plants. The locals all thought the weather was just normal for the area (18deg)!
Arrived in Albany to windy grey weather and started to wonder about this part of the coast! As we heard lots of advice about the big caravan park being so crowded and pricey ($45/night) for the Xmas holidays, we bypassed the town to find one just out of town. We booked in for 2 nights (no more available) at Kalgan River Park and really felt the weather close in with heavy rain and cold winds, though we found comfort by turning on our air conditioner and putting on our winter jackets. While exploring the King River on a long meandering drive around Albany we found another caravan park on the river. We were looking for something special for Xmas and held our breath as we asked about any vacancies. It felt like a really green park, all manicured for Xmas and right on the river looking across to natural bush. As there was a cancellation, they gave us the best spot in the park, away from the other campers, except for one other couple! It was ideal for Xmas and we could come across on Friday.
We went into town to explore Albany, which is a large city, with a good range of services. It is positioned in the most sheltered part of a large harbour, whose many inlets and bays make it a perfect port. Albany is the oldest settlement in WA and has lots of historical buildings and churches that we enjoyed. We discovered lots of op shops and found a couple of special things! Thursday was still grey and wet so we explored the town museum with its full size replica of the Brig Amity. The museum enlightened us to the major exploration by French Naturalists of Australia’s flora and fauna. The size of their collections and the information they took back to France is amazing considering they did not claim the land, but only came as explorers of nature. The three vessels (the Naturaliste, the Geographe and the d’Entrecasteaux) carried out these discoveries and had some major adventures along the way and many areas having French names to honour their achievements.
On a wet Friday we moved across to our new caravan park and shortly after the sun came out. We put up our op shop decorations and enjoyed our site before we went off to explore the many attractions of Albany.
South of Albany there were some very spectacular cliffs, bays and inlets in an area called Torndirrup National Park, which curves around the bottom half of King George Sound. The area is virtually wild nature! The two most spectacular views of water lashing and cutting into the cliffs are at the Gap and the Natural Bridge. The day was cold and a bit windy, so we easily imagined really wild scenes. There were a few walks to high vantage points to see 360deg views. Yet again the vegetation was amazing in the diversity. The scrubs were very thick and about body height and hence out of the wind and in a fairly warm spot. The plants seemed very ancient with heavy leaves, chunky dense seed pods, lovely greens and lots of flowers making the air very heavy with nectar perfume. The paths cut to the peaks created the feel of an English maze.
At the top of one hill called Stony Hill was the remains of a military lookout from World War II, known as Misery Point. It would have been tough being stationed there! We explored the coves, know as Frenchman and Shoal Bays, where the sand was silky and white and creating the aquamarine colours that make the coast look so pretty. We looked in on Whale World from the outside, but decided not to go in as the idea of looking at all the harpoons and boiling pots was a bit gruesome. They promote it by showing lovely whale films but there is bile in the mouth when we think of it all.
We took another day to explore the vantage points closer to town, including Mt Clarence Lookout which has a wonderful statue of two horses and a soldier from the Lighthorse Brigade. There is a 25 year old Lone Pine at the site that unfortunately, looks very unhealthy with wind damage. Just down the hill is a wonderful restored military site from late 19th century with a very informative museum. Albany was the last calling place for soldiers on their way to war and the photos of Princess Royal Harbour full of ships made us think of the busyness of an international Airport! This was the hub of travel and masses of young people leaving on the adventures of war. The more personal stories in the museum and the memorabilia from WWI brought the horrors of the reality of war to mind.

Xmas morning came with full blue sky and a perfect temperature of about 26degs. Everything glittered and had a freshness of the perfect day. We used the oven to heat up the turkey and the yummy stuffing made the day before. Put the vegies in the electric frying pan outside and set up the table with all the little bits collected along the way. The tiny Xmas tree that Peter acquired from the back of the parking lot (it was growing in the wrong place!) with the decorations bought from the nuns in Geraldton for a few dollars, and set up in the garden, gave it a festive air. We invited Lou and Kerrie (from next door), to share our Xmas lunch with us. Finished the day with drinks around a fire with the other friendly campers.

The river at Denmark

Tall Timber Walkway

Denmark (Happy Valley Turnoff) 19 December 2006

In the morning we enjoyed the Tree Top Walk, which is a 600m steel bridge walk suspended about 40m above the ground. It gives you a fantastic view of the tree tops. The trees really look different up there! These Tingle trees are the biggest gum trees in Australia and occur in a very limited area. There were so many dead branches above the top which surprised us, however we found out these big dead branches are called stags and are a very important part of nature for big birds of prey to perch on. The bridge sways a lot and it was good too put your feet on solid ground. We then had a really interesting walk around the bases of these wondrous trees. They have gigantic bases up to 20mt girth to support the height up to 50mts and to counter balance the fact that many become hollow at the base. We could stand in the hollows feeling like a hobbit! Explored the coast and spent half a day at Peaceful Bay that was a lovely surprise as it was a tiny circle bay, very smooth, filled with smooth seal like rocks and poised between headlands. The sun was out and the wind dropped (a little!) We climbed over the sand dunes to find a very windy, rough, ocean beach and on the other side, a long sandy beach with a few four wheel drives in the distance. The little town had a number of 1950’s beach cottages and shacks and a caravan park all set low behind the sand dunes (probably good to keep out of the wind). So we moved on to another lovely quiet road side camp out side of Denmark with kangaroos, birds and cattle mooing again!

Valley of the Giants (Walpole) 18 December 2006

First thing on Monday, Peter had to go back to the dentist for his filling to be filed smooth. Just as Peter was to leave he found a flat tyre on the car. The locals were really lovely and offered a lift; however, with all the things to do we didn’t get away til noon. Headed down through a series of forests and national parks – very attractive and a real contrast to the sparse vegetation up north. Didn’t spend much time in Walpole, which is an ordinary village beside a beautiful large lake. The sky was grey, the weather cool and it was amazing to see winter flowers out in the planter boxes. Pansies, stocks and poppies! We moved onto a quiet campspot near the Tree Top Walk turnoff. Lovely birds and plants, with cattle mooing in the hills.