National Treasure

The first National Treasure grabbing our attention this week has been the National Parks here in Western Australia. There are over a hundred if you count in the Marine Parks, Nature Reserves and Conservation Parks and so we thought it worthwhile to invest in an annual all parks pass. The permit is not needed when we’re cycling but we drove through and camped at Stirling Ranges National Park and stopped off at several places in Porongurup National Park. It won’t take us long to break even as we plan to visit many more over the coming months.

Walking was to have been the main focus of our stay but unfortunately Mike’s hiking boots gave him nasty blisters on the 4 km walk in to Toolbrunup Peak’s base camp so we didn’t actually manage the climb. Next day, however, wearing his trusty Skechers the climb to the Granite Skywalk at the top of Castle Rock was easy peasy. Not so easy peasy for me though – I haven’t got a great head for heights and the last part of the climb required me to scramble over rocks hanging on to strategically placed metal hoops and climbing a ladder to the suspended walkway. I gave up on my first attempt and let Mike go on ahead. Whilst waiting for him to come back I started talking to a couple of woman who were older (and a good bit heftier) than me and when I heard they had done it I gritted my teeth and decided to give it another go. Success – maybe not quite as challenging as the Cat’s Spine in Iceland, but still had my heart racing!

The Caravan Park at Porongurup (pronounced Prong-Grup) sold beautiful avocado pears and free range eggs which we took away with us and instead dined at the Karri On Bar right next door. No prizes for guessing what Mike had – I had their mini hamburgers in brioche buns with the most delicious barbeque sauce.

Karri On Bar

Right Next to our Caravan Park

Weather has been quite wet and windy this week. We’ve got soaked through twice whilst out cycling and I was most put out to have to pay $2 to tumble dry clothes that had been dry before the rain caught us out! Still they had gone through a full hour’s wash cycle that only cost us $2 compared to the usual $4 charged at most caravan parks. Two People’s Bay was not at its best but makes a change from all the sunny beach photos!

Throughout this blog I try and keep the dialogue entertaining and informative. I make no apologies for the fact that the next newsworthy item is serious stuff and therefore there will be no funnies. The National Anzac Centre in Albany is a National Treasure and is a must see for anyone visiting this area.

It is set within a huge parkland reserve overlooking the very location from which the first and second convoy of ships left Australia bound for the Great War carrying over 41,000 Australians and New Zealanders and 13,000 horses. A third of the men and women never made it back and only two special horses returned. The exhibition creates a really deep connection with the past and I was particularly moved by the water feature that continuously runs through the names of all those who left on the convoys. It takes 11 days to run through the full list. When you go in you are given a card with the name of one of the actual service men or women and interactive technology allows you to follow their experience from recruitment, through training, the conflicts at Gallipoli, the Middle East and Western Front and, for those lucky enough to survive, their return home and adjustment back into society. My hero was called Sergeant Alfred Foster, he spent a lot of time as a stretcher bearer and thankfully lived into his nineties.

Another aspect to our visit to this National Treasure was to visit the special centenary display called Field of Light at the Avenue of Honour. Here 16,000 green, white and yellow fibre optic lights come on at dusk symbolising the national flowers of Australia and New Zealand and the troops that did not make it home. We were only able to stay until the first splashes of green appeared as we had a half hour cycle back to camp on bikes we haven’t fitted lights to (yet).

One of Scotland’s National Treasures is its whisky. Mike tried a couple of the award winning whiskies at Limeburners Distillery but they didn’t make it into the shopping basket on this occasion.

We’re off to Denmark next and the ‘Wow Trail’!

+8 Hours Precisely

Meridian 120 Degrees

Western Australia Standard Meridian Marker


In the last blog I was explaining that the different time zones were confusing us. Not so this week. We crossed the baseline for Western Australia Standard Time at the Meridian of 120 degrees East longitude meaning we were ahead of GMT by exactly 8 hours!

Whilst Esperance’s Pink Lake is no longer pink, the turquoise sea along the Twilight Beach Road more than made up for this. What a cycle ride.

We enjoyed a visit to the Mermaid Leather factory where discarded fish skin is turned into luxury leather goods. Our token purchase was a fridge magnet and a shark skin hair clip! Some other shopping experiences this week were not quite so successful: such as the local fish shop that didn’t open during opening hours, the Op Shop (Charity Shop) that people come from miles around to visit that only opened Wednesday and Saturday mornings (we missed it), the coffee shop that was only serving instant coffee as their machine had broken down and the much acclaimed restaurant serving wood fired pizzas (but only on Saturdays)! Good job Gnornbup Winery was open. We got to sample two sparkling, three whites, three reds and two fortifieds (ports) before settling on a Sauvignon Blanc and a lovely Ploughman’s Nip to add to our shower cellar!

Mermaid Leather

Genuine Fish Leather

Esperance provided the venue for our first campervan dinner party. Our guests actually brought along most of the food whilst we provided the Christmas tree (talking point) plus plastic crockery and wine! Karen and Chris are another English/Scottish couple doing a lap of Australia in a motor home and we have been following their blog since they set off in March. We always hoped we’d get to meet up somewhere along the journey as they are going round anti-clockwise. Shame we hadn’t heard about Cape le Grand before they told us about it as it sounds like it would have been a great place to visit – oh well next time!!!

The insect repellent recipe using Dettol and baby oil has not been a great success. First time I applied it Mike said “What’s that smell?” Yes, it was me, I smell like a toilet! Fly nets are working a treat!

No Flies On Us!

No Flies On Us!

We have previously shared tales of our cycling adventures on the Riesling Trail and the Shiraz Trail. We have also been on the Oyster Trail. This week it was the Snail Trail (poor snail, long way to the shops!) and the Jesus Trail (if you can walk on water)!

Continuing to move westwards, we moved on to Bremer Bay. The Main Beach isn’t much to shout about but some of the little bays accessible by bike or on foot were lovely.

Next week we’re heading off into the National Parks so for a change it may not be quite so many photographs of beaches!

N.U.L.L.A.R.B.O.R.

This week’s adventure has been to travel across the infamous Nullarbor Plain from Ceduna in South Australia across to Norseman in Western Australia – a distance of 1,180 kms or 773 miles. In true pootling style we took our time and did it over four days but it could have been done in two. Horror stories of gas stations running out of fuel and there being nothing much to see was not our experience. Fuel was plentiful (if expensive) and there was lots to see along the way as this blog will illustrate!

N is for No Trees or Nullus Arbor
Strictly speaking there are lots of trees going across the Nullarbor, but there is a treeless area as captured in the following changing vegetation sequence.

U is for Unknowns
Two things we weren’t prepared for. The first was the Quarantine Restrictions. We thought we had it sussed now in terms of fresh fruit, vegetables and honey and had used all of these up in advance. It came as quite a surprise to learn from a lovely couple we met in Ceduna that our supply of nuts and rice would have to vanish which was especially annoying as we’d only just replenished them! We couldn’t have donated our nuts to a nicer couple though (welcome to the Blog V & J) and ended up cooking all the rice!!! The Quarantine official who came into our van and checked inside the fridge, freezer and larder cupboards thankfully wasn’t that thorough as I suspect we might also have had to part with our frozen prawns!

The other unknown was how much of a time difference there was between SA and WA. At the other side of the Quarantine Station there was a police patrol. The policeman said “Good Morning” to which Mike corrected him with a “I think it is Good Afternoon”. “Not here mate” said the guy “It’s 10.45 in the morning” and then promptly asked Mike to blow into the breathalyser machine!!! We actually thought the time difference was a mere half an hour behind SA. It turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes difference for the first few hours of driving and then changed again by another 45 minutes – making a total of two and a half hours difference – something we’re still adjusting to!

L is for Learner Driver and
L is for Longest Road
I always said I’d give driving the van a go when the roads were quieter and not too twisty. Well I got my opportunity driving Australia’s longest straight road – only trouble was every time I got into the driving seat it rained and so I had to operate the wipers as well!!! I did actually enjoy the experience although I’m not quite ready for towns or reverse parking!

A is for Ancient Things
Although we couldn’t get down the road to the Eucla Telegraph Station Ruins, we did see the original Nullarbor Roadhouse and visited the Balladonia Museum to learn some amusing facts. For example, when they brought the first camels ashore in 1894 they did not know for certain whether they could swim, so one was dropped overboard. It promptly rolled onto its side and swam to shore, leading the way for the remainder! The only camel we saw was the stuffed version in the museum although a local man told us there were still around 200 roaming around the place.

The other interesting fact was that a trail of space debris was scattered across this part of Australia in 1979 when a US satellite burned up on re-entry and crashed. American President, Jimmy Carter, rang the Balladonia Roadhouse to extend his apologies. A few days later the largest piece of debris was exhibited on stage at the closing ceremony of the Miss Universe contest in Perth – unfortunately the stage collapsed under the weight!!!

Also on show were a pre-Second World War Boiler, a wool press and a replica RedeX Round Australia Reliability Trial car. An eclectic mix if ever!

R is for Road Trains
Mistakenly we thought the roads would be fairly empty of traffic. The roads were not busy by UK standards but we were surprised by the number of road trains hurtling along. The only thing we overtook was cyclists!

B is for Bight
That is the Great Australian Bight. No whales to be seen unfortunately but the Bunda Cliffs are spectacular along this marine conservation area.

O is for Orange Sunsets
Even after a thunder and lightening storm the sky turned orange.

R is for Roadhouses and Rest Areas
This was our first Roadhouse experience. Roadhouses are a bit like our Service Stations in the UK – expensive fuel, meals, shop and motel. When we booked into the Caravan Park we were told about Happy Hour between 4 and 5 p.m. Not wanting to be unsociable we duly wandered over and the only other people in the bar were a couple of bikers and two guys playing pool. I felt my namesake – a right Sheila!!!

The next two nights we made use of Jura’s onboard self contained facilities and stayed in beautiful Rest Areas. These were large areas off the highway you could park up overnight. They came with concrete picnic tables, drop toilets and wonderful sunsets – all for free!

We have now been on the road for over 100 days. We haven’t achieved anything like as much as a certain Mr T did in his first 100 days of office but we’ve had a lot of fun and there’s been heaps of learning.

West is Best IMHO

In my humble opinion, the West Coast of the Eyre Peninsula is much nicer than the East Coast.


e.g. West Coast at Coffin Bay above, East Coast at Port Lincoln below.

The Eyre Peninsula is a great deal longer and wider than Yorke Peninsula where we were last week. To break our four hour drive down to Port Lincoln we detoured off the main road to stop for lunch in Tumby Bay. It was not quite the thriving centre we expected but we could have had a Beer, Burger and Bet for only $17 (£9)! For us the best thing coming out of Tumby Bay (literally) was the silo mural which we would have missed if we had stayed on the main road. Silo art can be seen right across Australia and we have seen some really magnificent ones so far but haven’t been in a position to stop and photograph any up till now!

Eating out is still a rare treat for us as it is quite expensive and we actually enjoy home cooked food where we know what we’re eating. That said, we were aware that the Eyre Peninsula is celebrated for its delicious and abundant seafood and Mike does love his fish and chips! Sadly, despite a very long walk into town at Port Lincoln, the only restaurant we found was the Ming Inn Chinese. The irony is that the meal we had in the Chinese Restaurant was indeed mingin (Scottish slang for disgusting) and we skipped dessert!

Ming Inn Chinese Restaurant

Fine Dining for Scottish Clientele

Dessert Menu

Followed by Deep Fried Ice Cream!

Less than 50 kms from Port Lincoln on the other side of the Peninsula is the beautiful little town of Coffin Bay. Despite its spooky name, we thoroughly enjoyed Oyster Walk and a long day’s cycle through the National Park to the spectacular dunes at Almonta Beach. The area is renowned for its world famous oysters and I decided to give oysters a second chance having previously not enjoyed their snotty texture. This time it was a case of downing them in one and despite the faces I pulled they were OK.

We made a few other stops on the way up the West Coast and enjoyed our stay at Streaky Bay. With temperatures up in the mid 30s it was tempting to take all our clothes off and streak but the flies were a nightmare! One of the Facebook Groups I follow (Nomads of Australia – The Best Bits) provided some good advice on coping with the fly situation including using fly nets, making up an insect repellent solution using baby oil and Dettol or purchasing a product called Nature’s Botanical. I will be using all three in future!

Streaky Bay

Streaky Bay Foreshore Caravan Park

Whilst at Streaky Bay we did a long cycle to Hally’s Beach, the Whistling Rock (more of a hum) and visited the replica of the 5 metre long Great White shark that was caught on a fishing line offshore in 1990.

No Park Runs for a few weeks as there aren’t any around in this neck of the woods. Instead we are getting Jura ‘ship-shape’ ready for the long drive next week across the Nullarbor.

Fifty Shades of Blue

Marion Bay Photo Frame

Airborne!


As Britain prepares to set their clocks back for winter this weekend, we are delighted to report that the warmer weather is now over here in plentiful supply. We’re slapping on the Factor 50+, donning our sunnies against the dazzling sunshine and have packed away the blankets and thick jumpers. Mike even went as far as getting his hair cut this week from a really nice barber who looks a lot like the guy in the poster on his wall! Our travels this week have taken us down to the tip of the Yorke Peninsula and then over to the Clare Valley. The Yorke Peninsula is all about the fishing and the Clare Valley is all about the wine. We were spectators when it came to the fishing but took an active part in sampling when it came to the wine!!!

First the Yorke Peninsula where the town of Warooka proudly says it is the Gateway to the Bottom End! The Peninsula is shaped a bit like Italy and hangs down to the west of Adelaide. The landscape was quite different from what we’ve seen up till now with huge sweeping fields full of golden wheat and barley. The people we met were really friendly and we were told how to go about catching blue crabs with rakes and we saw a guy with his full quota of herring after only 3 hours out on the pier. We were totally blown away by the beauty of the Innes National Park and Cable Bay and Gym Bay are just two examples of this magnificent coastline. Our e-bikes have again served us well and today the odometers recorded we’d done over 1,000 kilometres since purchasing them – that’s only 5,000 less than we’ve driven!!!

Clare Valley is another of South Australia’s wine growing areas and is renowned for its Riesling. Mike had again researched which cellar doors to knock on and he did well. We visited the Mad Bastards Winery en route to our caravan park in Clare and unfortunately our height meant we couldn’t get up the long driveway. Not a problem walking though as it gave us a chance to see all the mad signage along the way warning us for example to Beware of the Wabbits and the Woos and Lollipops for Children over 60. We laughed a lot at one sign which said “Turn Around No Exit” until we realised it was genuine and letting people know that it was a one way system LOL!

We have counted up that we have now done wine tasting at 26 different wineries and bought wine at all of them!!! We have also fitted in four distilleries and four breweries. We have eaten some excellent food at some of the cellar doors and today managed to squeeze in puddings – Rhubarb crumble for him and Panna cotta for me. The wood fired pizza at Marion Bay was also pretty yummy and we joined other campers last night for a BBQ Meat Roll followed by poetry reading of the hilarious kind. Next week we’re off to Eyre Peninsula where I’m going to have to give oysters another go (gulp)!

Kangaroo Island

Loving Kangaroo Island!

She Sells Sea Shells On the Sea Shore!


Following our very jolly time in McLaren Vale, we headed down to Victor Harbor for a couple of nights before catching the ferry over to Kangaroo Island. Sick bags were at the ready as it was a rough crossing but thankfully it only takes 45 minutes.

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. You could fit two Lewis and Harris’s into it (these are Scotland’s largest islands not children). With KI having only 4,700 residents, it means each resident has almost a square kilometre to themselves.

We did not have the best of weather for two of the days unfortunately but made the most of it adjusting our head gear accordingly!!!

The wild life was as spectacular as we had been led to believe. I decided not to bore you with more photos of kangaroos and koalas (of which we saw plenty) but ringing the changes this time with photos of seals, pelicans and my favourite little bird, the common blue wren. The 85 microchipped platypus managed to allude us at their waterhole though – wrong time of day apparently! Sadly too late to make a difference to this little starfish that was washed up at Emu Bay. [For those of you who do not know the Starfish Story, do please Google it for inspiration.]

Pelican Crossing, Emu Bay

Pelican Crossing at Emu Bay!!!


The Remarkable Rocks were just that and Admirals Arch even on a bad day was Awesome. We cycled over 50 kilometres (there and back) to get to these iconic sights within the Flinders Chase National Park. So glad we have electric bikes as the terrain was very hilly. During some of the descents we reached speeds of over 50 kms an hour which was exhilarating and scary at the same time. With no bull bars to protect us against kangaroos I decided the best course of action was to scream “yeah ha” at the top of my lungs into the wind – and just go for it.



We did some bush walking and bush camping but the only bush tucker we tried was KI local honey. Coming over to the island we had to throw out our Woolworth’s own label honey but the Organic Stringy Bark Honey we bought as a replacement is pretty good! We would have bought a bigger jar but were told that we’d have to discard it when we cross into Western Australia next month so not much point really. Mike seems pleased with his purchases don’t you think? No wine tasting this week but the island is renowned for its award winning gin and since stocks were getting low I did some gin tasting instead at Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS). Their Wild Gin is delish and as the label says “You’ll never forget your first KIS”!!!

Last, but by no means least, the beaches here were to die for. If we had gone onto unsealed roads we would have been able to visit many more of the beautiful bays but Browns Beach and Emu Bay were magnificent. Schools are back after the mid term holiday so it meant we had the place to ourselves. Shame though as the “grandies” (as they call grand children out here) would have loved it!

The Story Continues

Story Telling

Hans Christian Anderson Memorial Reading Seat

Once upon a time an English man and a Scottish woman travelled to a far off land called Australia to see what this Great Land had to offer. They had heard stories of the Great Sandy Desert, the Great Dividing Range, the Great Barrier Reef and even the Great Ocean Road but nobody had shared the secret of the Grape Wine-Ding Valley!

Why not they wondered, it seemed such a magical place?

It had a Chapel at the top of a Hill and a communion table like nothing they had ever seen before.

Here's the Chapel

Here’s the Chapel, where’s the Steeple?

Open the door and .....

Open the door but where are the people?

Everyone talked the same language about Cellar Doors that had funny names and even funnier staff like Tristan. He loved his job as he got to play his favourite music like Led Zeppelin and drink wine all day with his customers.

The English man and the Scottish woman were given honorary membership of the Black Sheep Club although the woman was sure she’d been a member of this club before when growing up! They were pleased there were no horses heads in evidence at Coriole’s Vineyard where the 2007 Sangiovese scored top marks. Liverpool won hands down at Goodieson Brewery but unfortunately the tourists lost the Battle at Bosworth.

Psst ….. pass it on

Twitter Account

Twitter Gossip

Once you’ve tired of The Grape Wine-Ding Valley, you can leg it down to Glenelg where you can almost imagine you are back in Manly.

Glenelg Beach

Adelaide’s Manly Equivalent

Glenelg

Adelaide’s Corso Equivalent

Turn left, instead of right, and you’ll be hopping over to KI which coincidentally happens to be the title of the next Chapter! Till then, keep smiling and we’ll keep pootling.

The End

The End