Poetry in Motion

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.

Standing Out at Aldi!

Standing Out at Aldi!

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.”.

Monkey Mia Resort

Pelican and Dolphins at Monkey Mia

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 … !!

Anyone for Monopoly?

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!

Let’s start with Get Out of Jail Free. Although we had planned to visit Fremantle Jail, we found out we’d just missed the start of one tour, there was no option to just wander around on one’s own and the length and content of the tour wasn’t really suitable for our 7 year old grandson. Instead, we chanced upon a much more informal jail or gaol experience when we visited Geraldton. The curator could not have been more helpful and thought that as British citizens we ought to know the full story. No entrance fee, just a donation and her undivided attention for over half an hour! She told us that if Western Australia had to accept a quota of convicts then they stipulated that they would only accept the better ones i.e. young men who were fit and healthy and with skills that could be used in mining, construction and agricultural. For those who re-offended, a small jail was built in Geraldton to avoid them needing to return back to Fremantle Prison. Geraldton’s Gaol, together with the on site hospital, remained operational for over 100 years and only closed in the 1980s. There were interesting stories about those convicts who ‘Done Good’ and became pillars of the community as well as a few naughty ones. Apparently a third of all Australians know or believe they have convict history. The jail cells are now individual craft shops and the buildings have been beautifully restored.

Instead of a Chance Card about Building Repairs, we picked up a charge for Bicycle Repairs. Whether its the heat, the dust, the fact that we’ve done over 2,400 kms or a combination of all three, our electric bikes have started cutting out at inopportune times and so we decided to get them serviced. The $215 included a new tube for Mike’s bike and a diagnosis that his bike has a more serious issue that will need repairing under warranty. Only trouble is they will need to send off the motor and wait for it to come back which could take a couple of weeks. Looks like we’ll need to spend a bit more time in Broome than we planned.

We did not take out medical insurance as we’d heard that provided you register with Medicare, there is a reciprocal health arrangement between Australia and the UK. The system worked a treat for Mike who walked into a local Health Centre yesterday and was seen within 10 minutes to have his ears syringed. No cost and his blood pressure and pulse were also declared to be in good working order, phew! He needed to be fit and healthy for the walk up to Nature’s Window at Kalbarri National Park at the crack of dawn this morning. The advice from the Visitor’s Centre was to go as early as possible because the temperature is always another 10 degrees on top of what it is in the town and since it was 37 degrees yesterday, we got up specially early. Equipped with flynets and many litres of water we were pleasantly surprised at the lack of flies and actually it didn’t get that hot. The only nasty surprise when we got back to the van was that it had somehow developed a foot long crack down the front windscreen!!!

So that’s where our next Monopoly card comes into play – the Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 one. Our insurance company were really quick in linking us up with their local representative and there is no charge or excess payable because apparently you’re allowed one free window replacement a year. Wish we had that in the UK. The only down side is that we need to return to Geraldton to have it done which is 160 kms south again. Still we did stop at some interesting sights on the way up. First there was Northampton where they have a strong connection to sheep farming. There are artistic Sheila the Sheeps everywhere but none with earrings. The local cafe is named the Shearing Shed and serves up the very best vanilla slices we have ever tasted. Whilst we were enjoying ours, a couple of leather clad bikers came in who had travelled over 50 kms just to pick some up. I did smile when I saw them leaving the shop with the vanilla slices being carried in a vivid little picnic cool bag which was not quite so Hells Angels! With it being Australia Day and places being busy we spent the night on the local golf course free of charge.

Next stop was Port Gregory where there is a very pink pink lake as well as a delightful stretch of beach where the waves crash against the reef. Not so delightful were the blue bottles. In the UK blue bottles are annoying large house flies but here in Australia they refer to something that looks like a penis vagina and are also known as Portuguese Man-of-War Jellyfish. There were loads washed up on the beach which meant there must have been hundreds in the water. No swimming for me which is a shame because I’ve just bought myself a snorkel, mask and flippers.

Australians may be good at Monopoly but I’m sure they are even better at Catchphrase. Everything over here seems to get named very simplistically. For example, there are loads of Shelly Beaches (beaches with shells), Diagonal and Long Flat Roads (so named because they either go diagonally or are long and flat), we’ve gone over the Wet Creek and today we visited Mushroom Rock – yup, a rock shaped like a mushroom! The coastline is a must for geologists.

We are getting more accustomed to the Fremantle Doctor (the wind) that comes up from the South West but it doesn’t half do some damage to the poor trees who look as though they have bad hair dos or stiff necks.
Bad Hair Day!

Bad Hair Day!

Lastly, Monopoly wouldn’t be Monopoly without property sales and acquisitions. We haven’t said anything up till now and certainly don’t want to jinx ourselves, but this week we’ve had encouraging emails about a potential property deal back home that could result in us becoming homeless but not penniless!!!

What’s In A Name?

Turquoise Coastline

Turquoise Coast

The clue is in the title and this week it has been all about place names and their pseudonyms! Two hundred and twenty kilometres north of Perth is the pretty coastal town of Jurien Bay which lies on the aptly named Turquoise Coast. We spent four nights here unwinding after our busy time with the family. Although we took a task centred approach to re-organising the van, we also followed a therapeutic approach and enjoyed cycling along the Turquoise Way, eating fish and chips and watching the sun set over the water most nights. Skydiving looked fun but too much like hard work or maybe we just weren’t ready for the adrenalin rush!

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.

Green Head

Green Head!

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!!!

South Beach, Dongara

One of the Pong Sources!

Memories plus more!

My daughter and family flew back to Sydney yesterday but their three and a half week visit has left us with so much more than a collection of wonderful photographs. Alongside the children’s laughter, cuddles, squabbles and playfulness, we have a whole new collection of precious memories to keep us going. There was the time, for example, when Sophie challenged a shop assistant who was dressed to the nines as a fairy. “You’re not a real fairy”, said Sophie. “Yes I am” said the lady. “Where are your wings then?” said Sophie. “Here” said the lady doing a twirl and showing Sophie her floppy sewed on fairy wings. The look of utter disgust on Sophie’s face was priceless. Then there was the time when after finding an actual creepy crawly in my hair Jenny massaged Moov Head Lice Solution into my scalp. A passerby commented how lucky I was to be being treated to a head massage by my lovely daughter – if only she knew. No requirement to visit the parlour next door which went by the interesting name of Cockburn Massage!!!

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’.

We Survived Bunbury ….

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!

Beach Belles

Beach Belles

Pevney Beach

Surf’s Up!

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!


Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights at the Caravan Park

How lucky are we to get to spend Christmas with family out here in Australia. There is son-in-law Ben, daughter Jen and their two beautiful children Charlie (7) and Sophie (4). They flew over from Sydney to Perth and are joining us for three and a half weeks. Blog updates will likely be a little thin on the ground and photos of the family may over ride scenery! We did however get down to the beach early morning to see the dolphin come up close and personal. They are very tricky to photo or perhaps Cracker (born Christmas time) and Anzac (born in April) were just a bit camera shy!
Elusive Dolphin

Cracker and Anzac

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!!!

Christmas Park Run Bunbury

Very Hot Christmas Park Run

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!

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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.