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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Too many beaches to choose from – Saturday 14th April 2012


Overnight, the sky has clouded, but the heat remains. We are no quicker getting out of bed, still recovering from our travels. Suddenly, I remember the couple we met on Bondi beach in October 2011 when we began our journey. They had been travelling for three months through Vietnam, Thailand and were on their way to meet their son in New Zealand. “Don’t do what we did,” they advised, “staying only one night over and over is so tiring!”. Damn right!
Still we are up by 10.30 and ready for action, of sorts.
I’d like to see the end of Jervis Bay peninsula so we drive past Hyams Beach to find a pay booth for Jervis Bay National Park, $10.
It is so similar to Wilson’s Promontory where we went with my Melbourne friend: beautiful, wild and full of beaches. We begin with Cave Beach, (yes, it had a cave!): half a mile of buttermilk sand, which brushes off like talcum powder. John rushes off to the sea, leaping through the waves. There are boogie boards and surfers in the sea, but I reckon the surfers were beginners because the waves were not that strong.
There is little sunshine, but it is warm enough to lie for an hour, people watching. We also walk the length of the beach and find crab sand ball patterns like we did in Northern Queensland. We nearly forget that we wanted to explore all the beaches.
Off to Green Patch, such a sweet beach with a stream down one side and greenish sea. We explore Jervis Village briefly, mostly related to the marine corps I think. Then there is Murrey beach and, suddenly we have run out of daylight. If only this was UK. Our summer days last until 9pm! Here we have darkness by 6 on a dull day!

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We have run out of food, so drive the 30km to Nowar, the nearest big supermarket and buy up.. What to eat tonight? Pre-cooked chook! It’s a Tudor feast with no vegetables just roasted chicken and some bread, all the better of not having to do any cooking myself.

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.

Perfect day – Tuesday 3rd April 2012


All morning we relax in our YHA, just the two of us, no hurry! Watching birds, reading, drinking coffee. Once a couple of guys come up looking for a wildlife reserve and we search the maps provided by the YHA and help them find their way, and decide it sounds like a good idea.

The Cleland Wildlife Reserve is about 2 km from us. A perfect blend of natural forest and simple enclosures. A range of native animals are gathered here and they sell kangaroo food for $3 per bag!

The walk to the reserve is undulating and pleasant. When we arrive we become concerned that this may be more commercial than we had thought. You can hold a koala and pay for the photo and, of course, pay for the entrance fee, but that is where ‘commercial’ feeling ends.

We meet all kinds of creatures roaming round the park. Most kinds of kangaroo, in separate fields, and many small potoroos! Never heard of them? No well, they lookalike fat rats, but don’t tell them! A marsupial, naturally and very fond of kangaroo food.

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There was a shy bandicoot in with the echina.

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Tasmanian Devils lived up to their name by screaming devilish threats at each other during feeding time, and then devouring whole chicks, feather and bone. Apparently they behave like this during mating too and one female had a 10 inch gash across her back from when she was dragged by her partner to his den. It was treated and healing.

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Note: their ears go pink through aggression and return to greyish when calm.

Dingo feeding by contrast, was more like well trained dogs, except they too eat feather, bone and flesh of their prey.

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Several hand reared koala take it in turns to perch on a tree stump, being given a succession of eucalyptus leaves while the keeper talks to 2-4 people at a time about their lives and let us stroke them. Their fur is wonderfully soft and deep.

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Kangaroo abound here, separated only by their species. All tame enough to feed.

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Three wombat live here. Two were asleep behind glass sided dens, but the third was out and about, looking for all the world like a furry hippo.

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In one field emu joined kangaroo. They seemed more threatening, emitting a low rumble echoing in their chest at various speed or looking you accusingly in the eye. I think they wanted kangaroo food, but they went about it all wrong! Approaching with menace!
A second group of emu came helta-skelta towards us, possibly fleeing from some unknown terror. We took their minds off this as they developed an urge to demand a peck at our camera. John was not too impressed by this behaviour either.

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A Whole YHA to ourselves! – Monday 2nd April 2012


Raking through the options to fill our accommodation around the Easter Break, I stumbled upon this YHA gem. It begins with a trip into Adelaide city to pick up the keys, then a trip to the supermarket to purchase all food and water to keep us going for a few days, and finally we head out for Mount Lofty.
It’s not far, just down the freeway. At the foot of the hill is a botanic gardens, at the summit a large restaurant, serviced by a car park, and an information centre. Here is a vast viewing platform, and what would seem to be a lighthouse (?) below is Adelaide spread before you.

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The YHA is some 400 m below the summit, down a gravel road protected by a fire gate. The whole YHA must be booked by one group, all two of us, and no warden or other staff are present. It’s stone built with a verandah. The boys and girls have separate bathrooms outside, under a converted porch. There are three bedrooms, 2x doubles and one with 3 sets of bunk beds. There’s a living room with bare tiled floor, three plastic sofas and a tv which cannot receive any channel. Lastly, there is a kitchen which could serve 10+ in typical YHA style: loads of hot plates, large sinks etc.

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Basic? Yes! Clean? Moderately so but I ask John to brush the bedroom for spiders, and I note the clear instructions for bandaging a patient who has been bitten by a snake plastered on the wall!
The view, the peace, the concept is wonderful. It’s colder in than out and reminds me of sending year 5 camping in the New Forest each year and the staff comments on accompanying this trip (sorry guys!)

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We climb to the summit to watch the sunset, and observe the sun setting on one side and a thunderstorm on another. Although we cannot hear thunder, the clashes of lightning discharge form an upper cloud to a lower and just occasionally to the ground.
Operatic stuff!

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We walk back to our YHA by torchlight, but soon realise we don’t need this. The moon is bright enough to ought our way.
Magic!

Camp site or shanty town? – Wednesday 28th March 2012


Our last full day with the campervan! I can hardly believe I have enjoyed it so much, or that the time has flown by. Where shall we go today?
Myalup beach is the first stop. High rise sand, banked up against the tide, short waves, azure water… We walk over the sand and stare in amazement. Clearly this is a fishing beach. There is an eager group of fisherfolk, casting their lines. One set have driven their 4×4 onto the beach, parked up by the sea and taken out picnic chairs, where they sit, each with their own line in the sea. All of them over 65 if not 75! These retired people get everywhere!

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Looking on the map, many possible routes suggest themselves with good campsites. The most varied pitches seem to be inland. Just past Harvey, we take a right to the Logue Dam. I’m really not sure why we pitched here, except the owners were so proud that they were on our road atlas and it was really cheap for a powered site.
What a strange place!

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It’s a shanty town of holiday retreats. Caravans have been sealed into place, the equivalent area of cabin has been built onto the caravan and then, in the case of the most prestigious, a grand covered patio has been erected with gas barbecue, and rugs in situ.
These dwellings, triple the size of the original caravan, make up the vast majority of the site. We are so out of season now! There’s hardly anyone in any of these amazing creations.
On the far side of the dam, we could have had $7 per person pitches but we were not certain of the water supply. Anyway, it is different!
John washes down the van, while a flock of parrots come to join us for coffee. They perch on our washing line, our chairs and eat from our hands.

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The reservoir is very low, revealing cracked, hard baked red clay. We wander down and are amazed that the camp owners suggested we swim here. Maybe not!
Despite the bizarre setting, we find we are quite comfortable. I seem to have adapted well to camp life! Who would have thought!

Yet more sun sea and body boarding – Tuesday 27th March 2012


The kookaburra returns for breakfast and brings a mate with him/her. The mince is finished but we offer chicken or bread. Bread is best apparently!
By 11.00 we are at Yallingup. It’s a short walk down to Smiths beach, not a soul can be seen unless I screw my eyes up and peer to the far distant end of the beach where theymay be a man and a dog.
For a while we sit and judge the waves. John goes out on the body board and gets some good long runs. At times he is inundated by cross waves. In my turn, I slightly improve my technique and for two hours we play on the beach before going back to the van for lunch.

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We camp near Binningup, another National Park camp. It has a very clean long drop toilet and is virtually deserted. A family of kangaroos are constantly in the distance and dozens of birds. It has a certain charm, but also has mosquitos, so I stay inside or most of the evening!