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!

Fremantle – Saturday 31st March 2012


I could live in Fremantle, it’s brilliant! The buildings are well proportioned and older than we have become used to in Australia. There’s a sense of solidity, grandeur even. But, on the other hand it is a very manageable size, has lots of art galleries and two lively markets, where things are really a good price. It buzzes with energy.
Initially we are attracted to the shops and the markets. Time to buy a few things to take home! All the while I look at the sky; huge clear blue, with a massive pattern of white cloud gently laid over it.

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This homecoming work of art graces the area near the E-shed market. Love it!

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I love the way the artist has provided a seat for interaction here.

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Throughout Fremantle we find groups of teens undergoing the same kind of team building we had seen with business men and women in Perth. Seems to be a big thing here. This tall ship was also used by teens on a team building exercise prior to going to sea for a while.

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Little Creatures Brewery has a great range of ales and offers a sand pit and toys for little ones while Dad and mum have a beer together! Great idea!
Opposite the brewery is an ‘eye’: well that’s what we call it in London.

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It’s easy to spend the day in Fremantle: honestly I would have loved to spend a week there but…

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On the way back we stopped at Cottesloe beach where we saw a wedding being photographed. Perhaps a little chaotic but lots of fun.
Once we got back to Perth, the serious work began. We have to find somewhere to stay for Easter weekend. For about three hours we scour the websites and maps to make a meaningful link within our journey of available accommodation. Sometimes we find ourselves dragged into the pros and cons of one particular place, endlessly we consider the price, always we look for somewhere with a kitchen to keep our costs down.
Motel rooms, hotel rooms, cabins, YHA are all considered.
Slowly the jigsaw forms a picture which we can live with. There is only three days missing from Easter Monday to the Wednesday but I am sure we have cracked the worst of it.
Breathe a sigh of relief and go to sleep exhausted!

Perth – Friday 30th March 2012


I’m not going to live near a railway! Perth’s YHA is very convenient for the station but the trains pass by really close and love to sound their horn as they travel: even at night!
I wake with a mild headache, and a concern about Easter!

Last night at the Korean restaurant, we had been joking about the strangeness of celebrating harvest festival at the same time as Easter. For someone from the UK this does not make sense and I’d never thought of it before. Today, I realise that Easter is next week!

Next week!

And we have not booked any accommodation at all! And when I make enquiries, everyone tells me it is a very busy time and all families go on holiday and accommodation is at a premium. Haven’t you booked already, they say amazed!

Sure enough Wotif shows us that Easter weekend is fully booked!

Hmm…

Oh, we’ll how bad can it be? We only have today to see Perth, let’s go!

Perth has three free buses. We choose the red CAT because it stops very near the YHA and because it’s circuit travels the longest distance along Perth city.

It’s a bit disjointed initially, spacious, several medium sized green spaces, all the shops and businesses you might expect of a large and successful city.

Kings Park, larger than Central Park NY,we are told, has a whole range of interest, from children’s corner to botanic garden. We make our way round, impressed by the number of team building groups we find, sporting T-shirts from various major multinationals.

Once we reach the viewing platform we get a sense of what this city is about.

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Like Sydney it is based around an estuary system. The river mouth is enormous providing an incredible natural harbour. Housing spreads right round this water and the efficient transport systems are very evident.
The CBD offers a proud and confident skyline and way off in the distance, bush land surrounds the city. The panoramas are wonderful, especially from a viewing platform beside three cafes. Under this platform is an aboriginal art gallery, which we explore. There are some wonderful modern pieces here. Firstly I select two cushion covers, which are gorgeous. Then I fall in love with a piece made from hand made paper, constructed in 3D in red depicting a topography of a journey around water holes.

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Purchases made, we explore the botanic gardens and their collection of Banksia plants, before finding the Bell Tower down by the harbour. Nearby, is a massive sundial. As part of John’s work concerned time we spend a while examining this time piece.

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There are so many wonderful things to see in Perth, I am sure we missed loads. We walked until we could walk no more, finding quaint, English style alleys and brash modern buildings. Eventually we need a drink. The first place we poke our noses into is noisy beyond belief, we spy “The Nest” up high and make our way up there. This is also quite noisy, but with a vibrancy we love, full of people who have just finished work. I wonder if they had to do their share of teamwork games, it seems very popular here.
Back at the YHA, we begin the thankless task of finding somewhere to live over Easter. Not as easy as I thought. We only secured one night so far!

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Last day camping – Thursday 29th March 2012


So, this is it, then! Last day of camping with the van. Very mixed feelings: I’ve enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It is top of the range! The toilet was a brilliant idea. The shower was really effective. I loved forest living, chance encounters with wildlife, like the 5 kangaroo the other day, the parrots who came for coffee yesterday or the kookaburra who liked mince beef. I’ve loved beach life in a van. The instant ability to rustle up a sandwich. The ability to move from beach to beach, choosing the best attributes to suit your mood, the comfortable changing room! And if you forget something, you can just walk a few hundred meters to get it rather than spending the whole day wishing you had brought a hairband!
It’s offered new experiences which I may never have tried, like body boarding. But the bed is hard, living is cramped and having enough water is a chore.
I ask John if he would ever consider buying a van, and he pauses long enough for me to know just how much he has loved it.

There are several pages of map to cover today but it’s all easy driving. There is a list of instructions on handing the van back. John takes them very seriously and wonders how to replace the gas bottle. I sit back and say “This has cost us a fortune and they can get their own gas bottle!”. Not a nice attitude I know….

By 11.00 we are parked by azure water, waves not suitable for body boarding, sand – golden. We stroll, eat, read and then make it back to base, handover the van. No gas bottle required- we had paid an excess not to need it. So that was lucky for me!

Next we take the train to Perth and settle back into the YHA.

We go back for another Korean BBQ where they bring coals to the table and allow you to cook your own. Only I burn things and cause enough smoke for neighboring tables to cough! Twice the waiter comes over to check we are ok! Yes! We’re fine thank you

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I lie in bed, thinking about the parrots who decided to join us for breakfast this morning!

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!

Surf and the kookaburra – Monday 26th May 2012


Just a short way from Hamlyn is Gracetown, made infamous in Australia recently due to a man being attacked and killed by a shark! Happily, we are there before the attack took place and have no idea of such a danger lurking!

The campsite at Gracetown is very empty. There is an ‘end of season’ feel to the region.. However, there are two beaches just down the road, one for surfers and one town beach. We go to look at the surfers. About a dozen try their luck at catching the perfect wave. My son-in- law makes surf boards by hand. They are beautiful things and he has an eye for the perfect line. He would have loved these waves!
We go to the town beach, and laze in the sun. John swims for a while and a couple of hours pass without problem.

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The idea of taking the perfect wave photo has obsessed John for a while and today he adds dozens of shots to his portfolio.

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Apart from spray in digital form, we are also looking for good body boarding opportunities. However, the surf is either too rough or too short. We move on to Prevelli, where there is a lot of choice but the surf is truly up here, despite us looking at 3 different beaches. We could not cope with the conditions and remain safe.

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Braver souls than us throw themselves into the ocean, just for fun. Some are on surfboards, one on a body board and one (!)just plays in the sea, diving through waves that tower two meters above him!

Back at camp, we begin dinner, when I notice a kookaburra, nearby, smashing his beak on the ground as if killing a fish (though I can see nothing in his beak). Intrigued I go to watch him, and he clearly watches me. I slowly step toward him, and he bravely flies towards me.
What do kookaburras eat? Fish! I have none. Meat, maybe. I do have some minced beef. So I offer him a tiny piece. This goes down a treat, and he stays with us eating from the hand for some 15 minutes or so. Indeed, it goes dark, while he waits with us.

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Magnificent Sunset – Sunday 25th March 2012


I thought South Island New Zealand was quiet but the roads here in Western Australia can mean that nothing passes you, if you are static for at least 20 minutes and often half an hour; and that’s on the state highway!
We are heading back to Margaret River. John does the driving, I have not even tried to move the Transit yet. Today, I feel I really should, but John seems very confident.
We spread the journey by breaking for lunch and toilet stops, but most of today we drive.
We end back at Hamlyn Bay, where we saw the ray cruising round the beach.
Although the best of the sun has cooled by the time we get there, we go down to the beach. I swim for a while and we laze on the sand catching the last rays, admiring the view. Then a short walk takes us up the headland to see the neighboring beach. By the time we return the sun is going down. Sunset over the sea…can you beat it?

There is a group of photographers with a woman in a gold dress capturing the moment, but I prefer to snap with my Ixus. It is really good with sunset!

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Nothing like it for beauty, in my opinion. John and I gaze in wonder at the colours and reflection.

A turn for the better(white sand and turquoise sea) Saturday 24th March 2012


It’s amazing that some of the least planned things turn out to be the best! As we peer through the curtains from the van this morning, there was a hint of blue sky, but even as we have breakfast, the clouds blot it out.
Yes, that’s it! Drive back to Perth!
We are on the road by 9.00 and just detour to the headland, where we see a guy pull out an enormous fish from the ocean. He bends to inspect it, has his girl friend take their photo, and holds it up when we shout our congratulations. Then he releases it back to the sea!
Within 5 minutes he has another, different fish again around 70cm and he…releases it!

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I don’t get fishing!
This guy is on really slippery rocks, with large waves crashing over him at times, his clothes are soaked, his girl friend looks unimpressed and he just wants to pat a fish? Ah well, chaqu’un à son goût.
The light improves as we drive back to Albany. This is the best way to Perth. We just need some supplies before we start off. By the time we get out of the supermarket, the weather is glorious: hot, hot, hot! It would be crazy to miss it and be in the van all day, driving. Who cares about Perth!
We set off with no direction in mind, past Denmark. A hunch, tells me to turn left: we do so!

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Amazing place. Greens Pool. A beautiful lagoon protected by enormous boulders, behind which huge waves crash, flinging spray high into the air. The contrast is incredible against the calm lagoon. We snorkel, see a few fish, lie on the sand, promenade along the white waters edge. It could not be more perfect!
This evening we find another National Park to camp for $14. We erect a washing line to dry our swimwear, sit under the shade of dark branches and begin a wonderful evening.

And to think! We nearly went to Perth!

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