Lesvos – Sunday 20th May 2012


After the first part of our voyage, with swell and wind and sailing, today’s calm sea and total lack of wind means travel must be by motor. It is less romantic than sailing – and noisier but the seascape is different every day. On one side of the boat the sea wears an oil grey blue silk which ripples softly to create texture. On the other side the light creates two tone blue in water colour brush strokes.
As we approach Lesvos island, some 30 miles away, the hills are clad in grey cloud. The foreboding rain threatens from the distance, but as we approach the harbour, we find we have brought the sun with us.
Plomari is on the South coast and one of the largest towns we have stopped at. The houses date back to the 19th century when the town became wealthy from ship building. Today, however it is an Ouzo capital. The town has a good number of tavernas, none of which seem able to produce good food. The streets stretch along the contours of the hillside and connect with steep stairs of uneven depth. Outside the houses the women gather to gossip, family groups are seated in shaded gardens. The men seem to haunt the bars and look horrified when John and I sit down to join them to drink coffee. There is not another woman in sight, and I certain seem to be drawing attention to myself, without trying!

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Sailing along – Thursday 17th May 2012


Sailing is, of course, all about wind. The direction, the strength: the gusting, the continuity of it makes or breaks a sail.

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Overnight, in our isolated bay, I was aware of the motion of the ocean, and could hear the anchor chain drag over the seabed, yet, we awake to find our anchorage held well.
After breakfast, gazing over the green shore (not a building in sight), we sail off to another bay several miles away. Each morning Captain briefs us on the wind forecast, and our course. Various possibilities are considered and our day is agreed.
Out at sea, the wind gets up; 25-35 knots so we achieve 9 knots speed at times. The sails are reeled almost to pocket handkerchief size and we still zoom along. The beginning of the journey offers calm seas, but as we approach our destination, the sea begins to churn. The waves reach 2 metres high. This is the Mediterranean Sea, where tide and wind is far calmer than one might expect on the open ocean. Nevertheless, this is an exciting ride. You need a strong stomach as a sailor – and it helps if you like fairground rides (which I don’t).
Our bay for the night is very well sheltered. We can tuck right in away from the wind, so we need to motor in. Sadly, this reveals a problem. The engine is not cooling properly and we need to call out the engineer.
Such amazing service! They offer to come straight out if we are in danger. But we are fine, quite safe and settle to preparing the evening meal on board. Tonight I take my turn to be head chef. The food is good but the atmosphere is tainted by the prospect of the engineer arriving at 9.00 in the morning and what they might find.
Will they be able to get us going again without having to interrupt our itinery?

Cast off – Tuesday 15th May 2012


Last night the engineer was still at work on board until 11.30 at night. Seats had been dismantled, lockers emptied, carpets lifted and the stairs between decks had been removed for access to the engine room. (Actually it is a simple thing to put the stairs back in place!)
This morning, our task is to it everything back in place. We wake at 7.30 to arrange passport control, and get the ship in ship shape condition for sailing. There are plenty of small tasks, removing a stain from the cushion, scrubbing the deck where some chemical had been spilled – and breakfast, of course.
By 11.30 Captain says we are ready to cast off. We leave Turkey today and sail to Greece. Goodbye to the lovely warm showers at the marina and the posh restaurant. Whilst the marina sea is flat and calm, as soon as we reach the open sea, we find out that the gentle breeze is, in fact, quite strong. This is good for sailing, but creates a ‘lumpy’ sea. Short bursts of high and low rock or toss, depending on your constitution. It is always a shock at first until your body gets into the swing- pun intended!
We hoist our sails and set off. Both John and his friend instantly parry with each other to be at helm. Our friend is 70 this year, but you would think they were both 7!
After 4 hours, with wind of around 20 knots and a speed of 8 knots we land at Pythagorio. This is the island of Samnos, on which Pythagorus lived, becoming the famous mathematician and triangle buster!
It’s a tiny harbour near an airport. There are a few other yachts. There are several good restaurants to choose from and we eat in a garden, covered by vines.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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