We are enjoying the hot weather. It means the duvet has been packed away, air conditioning is on and we’re making good use of our barbeque, fly swot and even Jura’s outside shower. We stopped in the town of Carnarvon for a few nights. Sadly it’s a little bit run down since the Tracking Station which supported many of NASA’s space programmes is no longer in use. The Space and Technology Museum however was well worth the entrance fee and we spent a couple of hours looking at the various interactive displays, dressing up as astronauts and watching the first ever live TV broadcast between Australia and the UK conducted by Raymond Baxter whilst sitting in a mock up 1960s front room!
We camped overnight at Quobba, loved the blow holes and did some snorkelling before heading on to Coral Bay. There isn’t a lot to Coral Bay but it is very pretty and the marine life is wonderful. We saw over fifty sharks cruising the shallow water at Skeleton Bay (what a name huh!) and I’ve enjoyed swimming and snorkelling in Bill’s Bay.
Coral Bay is where we are celebrating our 16th Wedding Anniversary. Coral is actually meant to come after 35 years marriage but I’m not sure if we’ll be fit enough to come back here then! Topaz is the traditional anniversary gift for 16 years and Paradise Beach here delivers on blue topaz for the colour of the sea and amber topaz for the sand.
For those that don’t know, Mike and I take it in turns to organise a special day which includes an activity, a meal and a present (or two). Last year, for example, it was crystal and we went up to London to see the Crown Jewels, I got some bath crystals and engraved crystal glasses (neither suitable in Jura!) and we had dinner at a Michelin star gastro pub in Henley. Past activities have included climbing the Eiffel Tower for our 6th Anniversary (iron) and visiting Australia to collect Sheila the Sheep’s fleece from our very good farmer friends for our 7th Anniversary (wool).
I really wanted the activity this year to be fossicking but that will need to wait until we get round to Queensland. Instead we ended up as the only two people signed up for the Turtle Trek Adventure, a two hour trip on quad bikes up to Five Fingers Reef. It was quite an adrenaline experience coming down some of the sand dunes and the best of it was we actually got to see turtles swimming on the reef below us. Just love nature’s camouflage.
There are only two main eating establishments in Coral Bay – Bill’s place or Fin’s Café. Both had seagulls hopping on the tables although the ones at Bill’s place had the decency not to shit on the carpets or furniture when we were around! We had our anniversary meal at Bill’s and my gin cocktail matched perfectly with the topaz theme although we were disappointed that the promised tablecloth did not materialise!!!
Trying to do anything in secret whilst living in such close proximity to each other is well nigh impossible. Thankfully I got myself organised before leaving the UK and using blue and amber topaz beads sewed together a map of Australia. All that’s missing is a piece of driftwood to hang it on and Mike to tell me his 16 favourite places so I can mark these on the map with small topaz crystals. I’d lay money on Kiama, Timboon, Robe and Esperance featuring among the 16 but definitely not Millicent or Bunbury!!! We still have four months to go!
Midwest Windscreens took care of our crack,
They lent us a car to get around and back.
We stocked up on tins, wine, steak and beer,
We don’t want to run short in our Pootling year.
The Murchison River was a beautiful spot,
Before Billabong Roadhouse which was awfully hot.
No jolly swagman or coolibah tree,
But showers and toilets were laid on for free.
It’s off season now so we’ve timed it just right,
To visit Shark Bay a World Heritage site,
Three nights for two at this Caravan Park,
For Monkey Mia it’s up with the lark.
“What is Monkey Mia?”, I hear you ask?
“It’s where bottlenosed dolphins come in to bask.”
“What about monkeys, do they come too?”.
“No, no monkeys, they’re kept at the zoo.”.
Six dolphins came, three with their calves,
Pelican and turtles joined too for a laugh.
Irrabuga’s the dolphins Aboriginal name,
It means “bad breath”. Really. What a shame!
Trillions of cockle shells stand ten metres deep,
There’s no sand at all in this gigantic white heap.
Then on to Hamelin to see stromalites,
They pre-date dinosaurs but thankfully don’t bite!
So there you have it this week in rhyme,
You can tell I’ve had a lot of spare time.
Carnarvon and Quobba are next on the list,
No poetry there unless I am … !!
As a child one of the best Christmas presents I ever got was a game of Monopoly. I was living in Belize, Central America, at the time and so it was the American rather than British version. In my best handwriting I wrote a notice, which remains stuck to the lid to this day, saying “This game belongs to Sheila Kay Matheson”. I still remember many of the Chance and Community Chest Cards and this week a number of them have come up in everyday life!
Next stop was Green Head where the photo opportunity to use my green nit cap again was too much to resist. I did get some funny looks though from passers by! We stayed at a lovely little rustic caravan park which means basically that it was a bit dusty and had limited facilities but great location, clean toilets, nice shower curtains and big shady pitches. A short walk from the campsite was Dynamite Bay whose claim to fame was that it was ranked the 19th best beach in Australia in 2017. It was a nice enough spot but definitely over-rated in my opinion compared with what we’ve seen so far.
There’s been a major cock up (excuse my French) over our replacement windows which were due to have been shipped over from Sydney to Geraldton after Christmas. Instead they have sat in Sydney with the guy responsible now off on holiday and not leaving instructions for anyone. Luckily the cracks in our acrylic windows haven’t got any worse and there hasn’t been any rain to test how waterproof they are. Looking on the bright side it means we’ll get to spend Australia Day in Geraldton (there could be a lot in that name!!!).
Currently we are in a town called DONGara but I will always think of it as PONGara for two reasons. Firstly the pungent smell coming off the sea weed and secondly the laundry room. For those unfamiliar with our pootling lifestyle, we are heavily reliant on the laundry facilities at the various campsites. Whilst I fully appreciate there are far more important things to worry about such as Brexit and Global Warming, my life currently revolves around ensuring I have enough $1 coins for the washing machines and holding out for a day or two if the washer price is over $4. Today I thought I’d struck gold when the machine actually took 2 x $2 coins (conserving my limited supply of $1 coins). Another gentleman was in the laundry room as I put my washing on and he was enquiring about the cost of the driers as he had some things he simply wanted to dry. As someone who never uses the tumble driers, I told him I didn’t know. He obviously worked it out for himself because when I went back to collect my washing, the drier was going full pelt. Now although I admit to being quite squeamish around blood and guts, my ability to stomach unpleasant smells isn’t too bad I thought. That is until today! The stench coming off the stuff in the drier immediately started me dry retching. It was as if the guy worked in a fish gutting factory and was simply drying off his wet work clothes. Try as I might to unload my washing, I just couldn’t. I was gagging so badly that my breakfast was about to end up all over my newly washed clothes. In the end I had to get Mike to rescue the washing so I could hang it out. Laundry products that promise to leave your clothes smelling like Sea Breeze will be avoided in future!!!
Jura coped well with the additional demands of catering for six rather than two when it came to serving up meals, toileting little people and providing shade from the scorching sun. Our visitors were less impressed by the fridge and freezer which did not keep up with the extra demands for ice cold water, beer, wine and ice cubes! The oven also played up under the very windy conditions and kept going out when Jenny was trying to roast veggies. Still, we did enjoy some great camp meals including paella, roast lamb and a delicious chicken salad. Eating out was also fun and we got to enjoy some peaceful meals when the children adopted my pastime of looking for sea glass. Fremantle had an excellent spot and the real thrill was that Sophie and Charlie each found a small piece of very rare sapphire blue sea glass that trumps anything I’ve found to date!
We travelled up the Sunset Coast and have seen some awesome sunsets. It has been good to move on again and we enjoyed the waterside vibe in Mandurah. Fremantle gave us the opportunity to visit Perth and then Rottnest Island which was a real highlight for all of us. The scenery was simply stunning. We took our electric bikes over on the ferry which made travelling round the island very pleasurable. We did feel a bit guilty though as Ben pedalled up some steep slopes dragging two little munchkins behind him! All worthwhile though to see their excitement at coming face to face with the friendly quokkas.
Putting up and taking down the two tents every couple of days was a bit of a chore for Jen and Ben but they seemed to enjoy the change of scenery after two weeks in Bunbury compound! Being together on the one site gave us a chance for some good quality time together, pair off in different groupings and share some fabulous experiences. At Burns Beach we were situated right on the sea front by a super cycle track. Yanchep National Park provided the opportunity to see kangaroos and koalas in the wild and for the McGregors to hang from the trees like monkeys. I was given responsibility for chaperoning Sophie round the two children’s courses and was amazed that such a wee person could smash it (as they say over here)!
Aside from the memories, the McGregors left us with some things they didn’t want to take home. My daughter knows how much I hate waste and so leftover conditioner, shampoo, olive oil and such like has been decanted into our bottles so as not to take up too much space. They also didn’t drink all the wine we’d bought so Mike and I can continue savouring some of the delicious wines we picked up en route. We didn’t visit Swan Valley in the end – perhaps a reason to come back over here in future. The generous thing Ben left behind was a better working knowledge of Jura. In particular he paired up my phone with the Blue Tooth radio both inside and outside the van and figured out how to switch on the LED awning lights so we can party to our heart’s content. We are set up with a new mallet and tyre pressure gauge and on future campsites we’ll be looking out for trees on which to hang the hammock.
Since saying cheerio yesterday, we have put a few kilometers between ourselves and Perth and are on the Turquoise Coast. The journey took us past many hills that looked like they were covered in snow but were actually sand dunes. We stopped in Nambung National Park and were taken aback by the sandscape which are The Pinnacles. We haven’t planned out our route for the next tranche yet but we’re now officially half way through our twelve month visa though technically not half way round. ‘Technically’ and ‘actually’ were two words the children used a lot – ahhh the memories just keep on comin’.
Two weeks at the same caravan park in this particular location has definitely been an endurance test! Local bar staff claim Bunbury used to be the ice capital of Australia and we aren’t talking about the white fluffy stuff for skiing! Reality struck home when we heard one of the other guests had apprehended a knife wielding person who had broken into his car on Christmas Eve and it wasn’t Santa Claus! The grandchildren have had a great time though and that’s what’s important. Charlie was accepted into a gang and they gave him nits and Sophie befriended a little girl who was keen to let everyone know her Mum was in prison!
We have taken the children out in the motor home and they loved it. The trip to the Apple Fun Park and Gnomesville were both a great hit and the children are not shy in posing with attitude!
The beach in Bunbury got very windy most afternoons. Great for hang gliding but not for surfer Ben who ended up driving back and forth to the Margaret River area to catch some awesome waves. Still it was nice to revisit some of the areas we’d already been to and make sandcastles for a change rather than visit wineries!
The two big draws for Bunbury were the newly opened Dolphin Centre and the New Year’s Day Horse Racing. Both definitely were worth the entrance fees and were colourful occasions.
Last, but by no means least, we enjoyed a walk in Wellington National Park to see the largest dam in south west Australia. The journey there was somewhat stressful as I hadn’t written down the correct sat nav co-ordinates. We ended up going the very long way round which also included a road with soft verges that we needed to do a three point turn on. I now have a few grey hairs but tan is coming along a treat!!!
We head off tomorrow and are hoping for good weather as the McGregors are camping alongside us in a Charity Shop tent built for two!!! Bumberry might have been tough but at least they had a luxury cabin to themselves. From here on in they’ll be roughing it but the scenery will change every 2-3 nights as we take in Mandurah, Fremantle, Rottnest Island, Perth, Yanchep and a mystery two nights that I’ve left the McGregors to organise!
The first two weeks are being spent in a Caravan Park in Bunbury. It has not been as busy as we expected but I understand most people will start arriving in the next few days. There has been lots of eating and drinking happening and Jura is likely to be much lighter from here on in as we’re getting through our cellar door purchases. My very favourite, the 2007 Sangioves, got drunk on Christmas Day and it was as good, if not better, than when we tasted it at the vineyard. Christmas dinner was two snapper cooked on the Barbie and there were some fun games to follow. One of the highlights was getting an early morning wake up call from two excited children keen to show us presents they’d got in their stockings. Much more lay undisturbed under the Christmas tree.
There was no Christmas Day Park Run in Bunbury but we joined the run on the 22nd December when it was 28 degrees at 8 a.m. We were parched – and slow! Hoping to tackle the course again this Saturday which would bring our total number of Park Runs completed in Australia to fifteen. Twenty was the target for the whole year so doing well!!!Merry Christmas everyone.
PS Freezer lock all fixed. Next issue to arise is two cracked windows – apparently quite a common thing to happen – but luckily covered under warranty but we’ll have to wait till we’re way north of Perth before reaching a service agent on our travels!