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!
Don’t let the title put you off – the “good” accounts for over 95% of this week’s adventures here in Western Australia. Today in particular has been a really fantastic day that just kind of happened in an unplanned kind of way. The loose plan had been to visit a couple of wineries around Donnybrook – a place most Australians have never even heard of even though it lays claim to the following:
1. It is the home of the Granny Smith apple and where Lady Williams apples were developed.
2. It is famous for its sandstone which has been used to face a number of high profile buildings across the state.
3. It has the largest free fun park for children in Australia.
So here we are in this little big town killing a few days so we don’t get to our Christmas destination too quickly. Mike does his usual homework to see what cycle tracks, walking trails and producers of alcoholic beverages are within easy reach and decides today we’ll visit a couple of boutique wineries (just for a change)! We cycle up a very steep hill to Barton Jones’s Cellar Door only to find it no longer opens on a Monday. It changed hands a couple of weeks ago and the new owners have decided to only open Friday to Sunday. Never mind, says the lady owner, as soon as my husband gets here with the keys we can open up and serve you something to drink and eat if you’ll just bare with us. So glad we did. We were there for a good two hours sampling incredible wines and hearing how Preeti (an anaesthetist from Reading, Berkshire) and hubby Brad came to be owners of this amazing vineyard. The Cellar Door is literally a house built of straw bales, covered in limestone and the views outside where we sat and had lunch were lush. Lunch was quickly rustled up and included yummy local cured meats, sheep’s milk brie, home made humous, chutney, olives and extra scrummy sun dried tomatoes. We added three more bottles to our Christmas wine cellar – a white, a rose and a red!
Just prior to the weekend where it rained on and off for two whole days, we had several scorching hot days in Busselton. Strange as it may sound, for the first time ever this trip, I actually felt as though I was on holiday! Most of the time we rock up in a new place, go adventuring (!!!), do a bit of shopping and laundry and then move on. The Caravan Park we stayed at in Busselton was very quiet (no kids or pets) and it had a beautiful swimming pool with sun loungers that were all unoccupied (no Germans!!!). I spent two afternoons lolling around, taking the odd dip in the solar heated pool (it was actually too hot) and did some Christmas beading. It was wonderful. We also did a long cycle ride one day and ended up at a gorgeous beach where I stripped off and went for a swim. Don’t worry, I had my cossie with me! There was a conveniently located wooden bench for Mike which had a carved out bit with instructions to “Place Cold Beer Here” and a bottle opener fixed to the arm rest! So Aussie.
Son-in-law Ben promised us mango trees growing by the sides of the road all over Australia. No sign of that here but we are enjoying the local cherries which are a big thing out here at Christmas time and the Jacaranda trees are now in full bloom. All very pretty.
Not so pretty are the make-overs some fences and trees get whether it be underwear or soft toys. Today it was gruesome looking teddies that adorned the fence round the sandstone quarry. Why spoil this lovely countryside I ask?
The not so good story of the week was the wee problem we had with our freezer door. Mike went to get me an ice cube for my gin and tonic and he couldn’t get the door open. Sought advice from the RV dealership and Facebook Groups and in the end had to do a 300 kilometre round trip to a specialist service agent who diagnosed the problem, took over an hour to prise the freezer door open and removed the broken travel lock. A new part has been ordered and we should get this fitted in the New Year at a repair shop more local to where we’ll be staying. Meantime freezer is still working (ice cubes for me, Magnum ice creams for Mike) and gaffer tape keeps the door shut tight while we’re pootling along.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest mainland lighthouse in Australia. It was certainly worth the effort of climbing the 176 steps to the top as the views out over the ocean were fantastic. This is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and we couldn’t have chosen a better day to see the impact.
Augusta, the town closest to Cape Leeuwin has an amazing new harbour. I suppose if you spend $36.4 million you should expect to see a marked difference between the old and the new!
Margaret River came highly recommended by friends as being really pretty. It was a place that grew on us as we got away from the touristy town centre and explored some of the gorgeous river trails, nearby beaches and fabulous wineries. Our Caravan Park was right by the river and this cheeky chappie kept Mike company whilst he was outside barbequing dinner! The Park Run followed the river but it got quite hilly in places so no PBs. Thankfully this week’s Park Run at Busselton promises to be a flat course.
We rocked up to the Christmas Carol event in the local park at Margaret River. Little did we know that everyone else came loaded down with chairs, rugs, food hampers and bottles of wine!!! We found a patch of grass and stayed for about an hour listening to Hark the Herald Angels Sing and that other well known Christmas Carol, Jingle Bells!
The Margaret River region could do with taking a leaf out of South Australia’s book when it comes to bike trails, but we did not let this deter us when it came to checking out their wineries. We only visited four wineries and one distillery (not all in the same day!) and would have to acknowledge they grow some mighty fine grapes down here. Mike was particularly chuffed that he got to Xanadu but there was no duet with Olivia Newton-John (some of you will be too young to remember, but in 1980 she performed the song Xanadu. She’s perhaps better known for her duet in Grease with John Travolta)! McHenry Hohnen winery was all organic so we bought wine and free range sausages, Bethany’s was all French so we bought wine and nougat and at Madfish the only fish we could see were swimming in a pond outside so stuck with the wine.
We’ve visited some more lovely beaches this week. The most ‘crowded’ have been those that attract the surfer dudes and boy did we see some fabulous surfing going on. Son-in-law Ben is going to love it when he gets here in a fortnight!
Two signs you’re not likely to see back home caught our attention. Only four salmon!
This week has also been special because I got to celebrate my birthday as a summer baby. The day started with an amazing natural spa at Yallingup. This place used to be a well kept secret but there were a few other people there besides us. I was the only one brave enough to go right in – and it was simply amazing. After this I went off for a relaxing Swedish massage where Tara worked her magic on my knots. Dinner could only ever be seafood washed down with a very delicious white wine.
Biggest surprise on my birthday was receiving a bouquet of flowers. My daughter had found out from Mike where we were staying and arranged a delivery of my favourite, yellow roses – or lemon sorbet yellow roses! Who needs a vase when you’ve got a perfectly respectable loo brush holder!
It all started with an innocently titled book called ‘Australian Birds’ which son-in-law Ben kindly gifted Mike as we set off on our journey (I got a head torch which I’m looking forward to using sometime!). We have not taken up ornithology, and the photos leave a lot to be desired, but we are now recognising some of the bird song native to Australia. Bill Oddie eat your heart out.
The Kookaburra’s loud laughing call is very distinguishable, as is the “zit, zit, zit” song of the White Cockatoo and the “Mjerp, Mjerp” of the New Holland Honeyeater. A few weeks back at Two People’s Bay we heard the Noisy Bird but didn’t actually see it and we’re still looking out for the White Breasted Robin which is common in South Western Australia. Our old nemisis, the Magpie, appears to have now stopped swooping but has taken up tap dancing on our camper van roof instead!
The area we have been staying in this week is called the Southern Forests. We haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees! Less cycling this week and a lot more walking. One day it involved a 16 km hike along the Bibbulmun Track to the Giant Tingle Tree. This is a huge fire-hollowed red tingle tree with a circumference of 73 feet. It is the largest known living red tingle, or eucalypt, in the world and was pretty impressive
We stayed over in Shannon National Park where hot showers were a Do It Yourself affair (we didn’t)!
We followed forest trails and now know our Karri Oaks from our Jarrah trees. Shannon Dam was very peaceful especially since no fishing is currently being allowed as its part of an ecological study.
Whilst conscious that I included photos of wild flowers in my last blog, I couldn’t resist a few more taken during a lovely walk through Kondil Wildflower Park in Nannup. There are over 8,000 species of wildflower in bloom across the region – here are just four. Isn’t nature incredibly beautiful?
We continue to buy local produce whenever we can and this week it included award winning chunky meat pies at Pemberton and avocados and mangoes at Nannup’s Saturday Market. Lemons can still be picked up free of charge at some campsites and non-grocery outlets! Christmas decorations are starting to go up and these two made us smile!
We are most definitely front seat passengers on this roller coaster ride around Australia! What a ride; what a country! Our whole trip could be described as the WOW Trail. This week we have cycled the Wilderness Ocean Walk (aka WOW Trail), cruised down Denmark River, swum at Greens Pool, walked through the Tree Tops in the Valley of the Giants and learnt the secrets of sandalwood oil extraction at Mount Romance!
After eating Anzac biscuits at the Anzac Centre in Albany, we had to have Danish pastries in Denmark. Mind you, just behind where this photo was taken we spotted a boat with a rather unusual name. Back home on the River Thames we often pass a boat named “Yes Dear” – somehow we don’t think Queenie would be quite so happy having this one moored up alongside her at Windsor Castle!
Fish and chips were served up on the Denmark River Cruise as well as sightings of osprey in the wild and a beautiful sunset.
Ocean Beach was pretty special and those two happy and relaxed individuals are indeed us. A little further on we stopped for coffee and just looking around us we found all these wild flowers – no idea what they are called although one looks a bit like a geranium!
The WOW Trail is undulating, to say the least, and so our electric bikes came in handy for getting up some of the steep inclines and escaping snakes. Saw a huge one but didn’t stop for a photo.
The Elephant Rocks and Green Pools at William Bay National Park were worth a visit and I was pleasantly surprised that the water really wasn’t that cold once I got in!
There was a suggestion from one of our avid blog followers that we should make our way to the Jungle where “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” is currently being televised. Well, the big news is there were two new contestants this week!
We enjoyed our Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants where we were 40 metres up into the forest canopy. We also walked through the trees at ground level where a 400 year old tree has been named Grandma Tingle because of her gnarled and wrinkled appearance!
Today marks the end of four months on the road. After month one’s disgraceful expenditure statistics, we decided not to put ourselves through public humiliation each month disclosing our alco-frolic tendancies!!! For those who may be remotely interested, our average weekly budget is coming in at around $800 (£450) excluding phone and insurance premiums and we are getting around 24 miles to the gallon (8.5 kms per litre). We have cycled over 1,500 kms on our bikes and driven over 9,500 kms. Margaret River is on the horizon as well as my birthday and Christmas with the McGregors – exciting times!