Leaving paradise? – Sunday 15th April 2012


Last time to go to the beach.
Six months traveling, finding what life can be like as a ‘retired person’.
Learning to be just me, not just a headteacher.
This must be one of the best ‘last’ days anyone could have.

We took a picnic to Greenfield beach. It’s just to the side of Hyams Beach, at Jervis Bay. A lovely deep beach, surrounded by trees, not a house in sight, a small stream running by its side. The sand is brilliant white and fine as Hyams. Fine sand that is so easily brushed from the skin, and, when dry, it squeaks as you walk along it. There is very little seaweed in the water, next to none on the beach itself. We head to the clear water, blue, bright and incredibly calm. The rhythmic sound of filigree white waves against white sand. It’s beautiful!
Someone has made a structure of branches stuck in the sand: a shelter of dry leaves creates sufficient shade to allow us to spend hours in the heat.
Without sun glasses it is nearly impossible to see along the beach. It’s so bright! It’s a paradise or an advert. The water is pristine, when someone swims through a wave you can see right through the water before they emerge.
It’s impossible to resist swimming in the clear, cool water. Unlike most seas, the water does not cloy your skin; it feels fresh.

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Over and over again we talk around how lucky we are, how much we have grown through our travels, how much we have enjoyed each others company. Well, that’s good! We will be spending a lot more time together!

I lie on the beach, soaking up the warmth and wonder…why am I going home? Could I do this every day? Possibly. But friends and family…I need them too.
And variety. I am notorious for becoming bored quickly!

Eventually, the sun sets behind the trees and shadows cover the beach. Damn these tropical days when night comes at 6 pm, I’ll never get used to that. As we stroll back to the car, I turn for one last look, searing the image into my mind to remember on cold, sad days.

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Watching the world go by – Friday13th April 2012


We are so much better for a good night’s sleep and the kind of morning that allows a leisurely breakfast in bed and lots of reading. Wifi connections are appalling here, so we abandon our frustration at not being in touch with friends and family, and not being able to catch up with blogging.
It’s colder inside the ‘budget bungalow’ than outside. So we walk all of 10m to the river front, sit on the wooden chairs, drink coffee, and lemonade and read and talk. There are birds to watch too.
Terns dive frequently into the rising tidal river, the oyster catcher has procured an excellent patch of shellfish, which he picks over as fresh water drenches them, pelicans fly majestically overhead, three cormorants sit and idle the time with us, each on their own jetty piles.
Along with the tide comes paddle boards and canoes but by high tide all seems very still. We bask in the sunshine, peaceful and not traveling anywhere!

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Only when the late afternoon shadows envelope our spot by the jetty do we finally move. Out through the town and along the sandy beach. Not quite white here! As we wander further and further from one beach to another we discuss the most apt descriptive title: buttermilk, says John, no, say I, more like white bone china clay.

Perfect! Relaxing, warm. John and I have come to enhance our relationship in so many ways through this long journey. Peace…

The whitest sand in the world – Thursday 12th April 2012


Just a 2 hour journey today. After weeks of traveling relentlessly towards Sydney, we are going to stop for a few days and enjoy ourselves. Jervis Bay was recommended by our friends in Melbourne, but we have seen it rated as on of the top ten “whitest sandy beaches in the world”. Who could we not want to come?

We have two hours before we are able to book into our ‘budget bungalow’. After the past few cabins in holiday parks, I am beginning to get an eerie feeling that the title of this is not good. There were beautiful photos of bungalow 1 and Waterfront Bungalow, but only a stark ‘older kitchen in budget bungalow’ photo. Still it is considerably less expensive than the others and brilliantly located as absolute waterfront on the river.

First we head off to Hyams Beach. This is said to be the beach with the whitest sand, according to the tourist books and Internet. We look at the smaller section first, to the left of the main beach. Yes, the sand is white, but seaweed covers much of the beach and the grain of the sand is slightly course. I feel irritated with myself for having such high expectations.

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John insists he has not warmed up yet from the cold of yesterday, which had actually been warmer than the day before. He stubbornly sits on the beach with his jumper on. My concept of tropical beach has difficulty coping with this.
We move onto the larger Hyams Beach. This lives up to my imagination. The sand is talcum fine, and brilliant white. It is truly hard to see without sunglasses. The water contrasts beautifully with the white. Even John is warmed by the view and his jumper magically disappears. We sit in awe of the beauty that surrounds us, envious of those in the sea; we have swim wear lodged in the murky bottom of our cases back in the car.

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Eventually, we quit the beach for an impromptu lunch of hummus and bread from the food bag out the boot of the car.
Finally, at two o’clock, we arrive at Husskison at the budget bungalow. The setting is just as I wished for, grassy, well kept with a long wooden jetty protruding into the estuary. Two wood chairs and a small table invite us to take coffee and admire the view.
We spend the late afternoon wandering round the town. They too have a sandy beach, where we have brought our swimwear and simply soak up the sun, until the evening shadows force us to return home.
But the bungalow itself is, also, as expected. The kitchen is large with two modern yet already aged sofas and a smell of unkempt, unloved cupboards. The bedrooms are good enough and we set to making it comfortable. The best bit is the verandah, where we bask in the evening sun and eat our meal.
Best of all though, we are staying here a while. Four nights to recover, to relax, to get to one the area better.

Last one night stand – Wednesday 11th April 2012


One week to go!!
Next Wednesday we take the plane back to London and its the end of 6 months travel.
Today is also, thankfully the last pit-stop we make on our drive from Adelaide to Sydney: our last one night stand!

There’s a change in energy within us: less narrowness in vision. We are no longer just pushing on, we allow ourselves to enjoy it all again.

Tilba Tilba attracts us with a signpost offering a “National Trust Village” and a cheese factory. We love cheese. Cheese therefore becomes our lunch, a cheese platter of various flavours: olive, chilli, cracked pepper. Then we explore the village around the corner. Nearly every residence has turned itself into a shop with cafe. Offering leather good, jewelry, clothes, it makes an interesting stop. We buy some glass rings for our daughters.

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Mosquito Bay did not draw us with its name! However I had heard about the Jervis Bay Marine Park and I did notice that sign. Where we stopped was clearly a favourite fishing beach, with houses overlooking the bay.
“That’s the kind of house we need to buy in England,” we agree. Whether we could ever find the like, I have no idea.

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Our cabin in Clyde View Holiday Park is slightly more modern than last night, but still has a spartan air. The best thing about it is the location: absolute beach front! It’s a strange sand, fine silt pretending to be golden sand, but the firm quality makes it very good to walk along. We walk its length, and return via the town of Batehaven: a simple row of shops, several caravan parks and a feature of a rather run down looking bird and wildlife park.

Long drives – Tuesday 10th April 2012


Time is now divided into long drives. Days have ceased to have meaning. One motel is definitely beginning to look like another. The standard of them is not getting any better. We are now living out of a suitcase instead of unpacking. Although we stop, share the driving, listen to The Hobbit, the car journey predominates all time.

This is strange really: the day is about 10 hours long, with a lazy morning and twilight coming at 6pm, we only drive for half a day at a time, but we have been doing this for quite a while now. If you count the two weeks in Western Australia in the campervan, the drive from Adelaide has been mainly one nighters. Its been like that for 10 days now. It is wearing us out. It’s as though we cannot stop. We HAVE to get to Sydney.

Today however, we stop at Cape Conran. It’s a detour that leads to the ocean road and a little beach. Strewn with seaweed, surrounded by forest, it’s a rocky beach which has claimed lives in the last 30 years with shipwrecks. There’s a walk through the forest, which loops back along the beach. Although not as cold as yesterday, we set off at a brisk pace, glad to be out of the car and walking. It proves to be a tonic, and we indulge in our favourite pastime of photos. Waves occupy John, while I find some pretty seashells.

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Marimbula is a resort town and our ‘villa’ turns out to be an ordinary cabin on a caravan park. We have searched for cheap accommodation to balance our campervan expenditure back in Perth. This place only cost $99 per night and yesterday was even cheaper. They are plain affairs and usually smell of over-powerful disinfectant, or dirt. I prefer the former. Their textures feel soapy, but that might be grease from millions of hands. I’d rather not think about it too long. There is often the odd stain or two, but we have learned to settle quickly, focus on cooking a good meal and getting as comfortable as possible. We usually walk around the town, mostly for the exercise and to get the lay of the land. Marimbula’s character seems defined by its oyster beds.

Albany: a town with history -Friday 23rd March 2012


So, it was a commercial campsite,and it was windy, but the view from the van door over the estuary is so lovely. Hundreds of ducks, scores of black swans and tens of pelican inhabit these waters with many migrating companions.

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We feel refreshed after our two night stay. As a final destination with the van, we want to head to Albany, and it’s only 50km away.
Proves to be a very large town, sprawling with history.
What a strange concept, for someone brought up in England. In UK things date back to 1066, well even earlier because there’s Stone Henge and Roman towns like Bath and remnants of Roman roads and Saxon kings and Sutton Hoo…so, local history has always been long, for me.
Albany goes back to 1840 with the first consecrated ground in Western Australia, an early goal, a whaling station (no longer used, of course) and a brig on which the first Europeans arrived (sadly a replica). Even things from 1926 are worthy of merit as part of their local history.
There is a large area dedicated to WW1 and the Battle of Gallipoli, where ANZAC landed in 1915.

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This pie shop serves excellent pies but we are not persuaded to stay the night. Camp fees are twice what we have been paying and they seem overcrowded and unappealing.
Our strategy is to
1. Find some more sun- but the forecast is not favourable
2. Find somewhere pretty with space to stay
3. Find somewhere cheap

We end up far further East than we had intended at Cheyne Beach, 19km off the highway with immediate access to a beautiful white sand beach. At one end of the beach a mountain of seaweed has built up, but at the far end, it goes on forever, white, clean and squeaky. It’s true, the purest, finest white sand really does squeak underfoot when dry!
We walk for miles enjoying the space and tranquility.

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Back at camp a family of kangaroos graze and it’s warm enough to have the van doors open while we cook. Things are improving but, we really want to end our travels with more sun. Tomorrow we consider heading back to Perth and then further North to find more warmth.

Agony and Ecstasy – Wednesday 21st March 2012


Funny! We slept well, loved the campsite, loved yesterday, but this morning as we move on, we are both in a mood! Nothing grand! Just … What is it?
We drive through forests, the sun is not shining.
Well, that’s one thing. We are never as happy when the weather is poor.
We stop at Walpole: there is nothing much here. A toilet (useful), an info site but we can’t be bothered to go in.
That’s the second thing. We are underwhelmed by tourist sites. Should we have taken a four wheel drive? That way we would be able to access more beaches, more roads. At the moment we are bound by the highway.

Was this actually an expensive experiment? The campervan? Everyone told me I was not suited to it! Should we have driven North from Perth?

Neither! I think we are experiencing two phenomena.

We have been traveling for 5 and half months, and will go back to UK by 18th April. A fear and a longing to go home. A jaded greeting to another new experience. I keep hearing about this pressure which occurs about this point in a long voyage.

Secondly, this van somehow induces us to keep moving. We spend all our time on the road and in the van. Sometimes when we stayed in motels, even hostels, we spent days exploring an area. Maybe we should have stayed in Shannon, where we had so much pleasure.

Re-think! Let’s do the tourist thing. There is a very famous tree walk round here; Walpole-Nornalup National Park. We go round the tree walk twice and delight in the swaying motion. Once we say, “how many tree walks have we done in our life?” but the Tingle trees are old and we respect them.

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We are still feeling the agony of indecision and missing the ecstasy of Shannon forest. Next campsite: let’s try a beach.
First one: full.
Second one: horrid commercial thing.
Third one: commercial but it s getting late and e can have a pitch right on the waterfront and watch hundred of black swan, ducks and pelicans. It’s got wifi, electricity, water. Ok let’s stay two nights.
And we cosy down, email friends, Facebook and begin to feel happier.

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Russell and the four poster bed – Sunday 22nd January 2012


The four poster bed in Triton Suite Motel is a simple affair. A modern, stylish, simple four poster with some white muslin draped over a basic wooden frame. However, it’s huge and comfortable and neither of us wish to get out of it this morning. So we don’t! We read, email, snooze and relax. This is the life!
Finally we microwave some sweet corn, the way Lianne showed us ,with the leaves on, for lunch and then, we get going!
Just around the corner, up the hill, which is reasonably steep, the road leads to Flagstaff hill. As we march along, crickets, or cicadas, or something, chirrup loudly. But, we notice an additional low 4-6 beat, like a repetitive drum.
The hill summit opens on two sides of a car park. On one side a massive sundial, which John checks for accuracy and splendid views.

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On the other side is a flagstaff over which the English and the Maori scuffled a few times, so it had to be replaced quite often!
Following our noses, we walk down as far as we can through rich, green tunnels of shady trees. The cricket and drumming is incessant and we discover the culprit- a massive green creature, a cross between a dragon fly and a grasshopper.

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Whilst using its tail for a high singing, it drums the hard edge of its wings on the tree branch to give the additional drumbeat. I’d love to know what this is, if you know, please tell me!

Down on the little pebbly beach, we wander over rocks and rock pools. We find a small trilobite or three, clinging fiercely to the rock surface. We scramble over the rocky promontory to a larger beach and explore this before deciding that we would like to return to Russell via the beach, if it were possible.

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Despite a very brave effort on John’s part we cannot scramble beyond two small beaches. Even if John had made it, I doubt he would have been able to get me through! I have very poor coordination or balance.

So we double back on ourselves, and go back up cricket alley, through the beautiful trees and find an alternative way, down another path to a beach, slightly nearer town.
Russell is a lovely, lively place in summer. I think we connect, partly because it has a history. The first pub in New Zealand can be found here, the Duke of Marlborough., which began in 1827 serving whalers and sailors, and probably escaped convicts from Sydney! Apparently, their behaviour was appalling and caused complaint to the King of England.
We have a quiet pint here, looking over the view and love it so much we decide to have fish and chips too, which were excellent!

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Then we walk to look at the town. The museum, which honors Captain Cook was closed as were many of the shops by now. But we found a brilliant gallery with some memorable glassware which was vibrant and colourful. They also had an amazing carving of a coat, hanging on a peg and an artists bag, magnificently sculpted from a block of beautiful wood and valued at some $20,000 which I reckon it was worth. Sadly, no photos allowed!

Long beach and Devonport – Wednesday 18th January 2012


I think I am getting addicted to outings! It is such a pleasure to have someone else decide where is best to go and then taking you there.
I had loved taking the dogs out, so today we set off for Long Bay Beach, reasonably early because they close the beach to dogs after 10 o’clock. It’s a broad beach when the tide is out and full of dogs!

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They all seem to love the social event as much as the chance to run free. I think Tyler got a little confused after she had run off excitedly greeting every dog she came to. When she joined a group of adults talking with their dogs, we thought at first that she was still being sociable. Although we called, she took no notice; our voices blown from her by the wind. But as we got closer she greeted Lianne with such joy and bounce that it was obvious, even to a non dog person, like me that she had been asking the group if they knew where her mum was, and no one was listening! She stayed a little closer after that.

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After admiring the view we went round the local school. I never tire of seeing other people’s schools, especially those in other countries. For a little while, just before I retired, I had been an advisor, helping other heads with their school development. This school had such fabulous grounds and so much space, but in essence I felt it mirrored many features of British schools.
Then we went back for a little lunch before going to see Devonport.

20120122-190556.jpg We found the prettiest coffee which also tasted good!
Devonport has a good range of shops, with some interesting galleries. Sadly, the thing I loved most was a 7 foot sculpture in black granite, selling at $8000 and not really easy to pack in the suitcase. However, there were several good shops for gifts including a fabulous material shop.
The rest of the afternoon we begin to plan our next steps for travel.

Coff’s Harbour 2nd and 3rd December 2011


Coff’s Harbour is a sprawling town with large shopping centers. However, for ease of enjoying this town we hire a car, which opens the area up for exploration. Today was the day I learned to blog. I spent ages researching which blog site to use, then began the task of transcribing my handwritten diaries onto the blog. For readers I am sure it is frustrating to get so many posts in one day but I had lots to catch up on! (Sorry!)

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Yet another fantastic beach lies down the road from our lovely apartment. On our first visit we bump into the National Australian Surfing competition. My son-in-law makes surfboards, this has given me an interest in this sport.

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The rules, the atmosphere and the maneuvers are absorbing. We sit in the shade of a banner to watch Eli Stone win the men’s.
The botanical gardens are wonderful and we spend an afternoon in this great mix of formal and natural. There’s a boardwalk mangrove walk, and ponds with blue fish- well maybe it’s blue water but you judge!

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We take the path alongside the creek and I am suddenly hopping because an ant has bitten my toe through my thongs (flip-flops) it hurts like crazy and I worry it might be a red backed spider. However, after half an hour I am walking well again!

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