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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Body boarding – Sunday 18th March 2012


Waking in the National Park is awesome: silent, sun streams through the trees and gradually the birds stir.
Breakfast takes an additional edge as we sit virtually alone, watching birds: parrots, wax eye, fan tails and birds whose names I cannot guess.
We drive North to Prevelli. This weekend there is a surfing competition here, but we cannot get close to it. Instead, we park by a bay, observed by life guards.
The surf seems strong against the rocks, coming in short bursts near to us. John asks advice on the best place to body board, weed and rock free, just down the sandy beach…off we head.

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John just gets better and better at it, riding over higher and higher waves. I love watching him. Mostly I enjoy swimming today.
Despite being a wine growing area, well perhaps because of this, it is incredibly arrid. Dust lines the roads, blackened trees remind the grim possibility of fire.

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Because there is very little of colour, the sea seems an even more vivid blue, the waves shine brilliant white. It’s very inviting.

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Eventually we just sit on the beach in the blistering heat before admitting we need the shelter of the van.
By 2pm we have found our next campsite. We get a corner plot, take on water, empty the toilet cassette, which proves to be less difficult than we had thought. The dust is hopeless. This is a sheep farm and the sheep are grey. I think back to New Zealand sheep and their white coats.
As we sit under the shade of a tree, a strong wind sets up. Whilst it cools us, it also picks up the dust.

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Perfecting the camping experience – Saturday 17th March 2012


Now we are more familiar with the monster, Transit Van, and we have the special map for finding campsites, we feel much more laid back. We have no need to do anything! The camper van has become an end in its own right. It’s like being a snail, your home is always with you.

When we hired the van, there were a list of extras. To be honest we felt we were already paying lots for the van, but a picnic table and chairs seemed essential and a body board…

Now, my son-in-law makes surfboards by hand. He has a wonderful eye for a line. The boards he makes are works of art in themselves. He is a pro-surfer, entering competitions, able to judge them. His life was built around them until he met my daughter, but that is another story.

Anyway, he is always telling us to try surfing. Once, I tried swimming in the huge waves he loves so much. He taught me to dive through them, under the crest so it was safe. But I never, never felt I would like to get on the board.

Maybe that is why I wanted to take the body board with us in the van. Today would be a good day to find suitable waves.

The first beach is too rocky and only has small, really gentle waves.
The second beach is beautiful, but only the softest waves lap the golden sand.

Is this sounding too much like Goldilocks?

The third beach is a resort, an area for swimming has been cordoned off with a long pontoon. A little further along a massive pier stretches as far as the eye can see and a train takes those who wish to spend $29 to view the underwater observation area. There is a serious volley ball match on the beach and lots of families lounging under trees enjoying their weekend.

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No waves, no open swimming and too public for a first attempt.

Fourth beach: more promising. A boat ramp, waves just right, lovely sandy beach but sea full of sea weed.
OK this is getting a tad irritating. But John spots the ideal place just a few hundred meters away. And it is lovely! A stepped sandy beach, clear waves you can almost see through, a few people sun bathing and others swimming.

This is where the van comes into its own. We change into swimwear, leave everything locked in the safe, walk straight down to the beach. An ideal nursery board site.
We take turns to ride the waves, taking photos for evidence.

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I once saw a photo of John about 10 years old. He was in the sea, riding a piece of plywood, a body board. His face at 10 is the same as now, in the waves. Excited, full of adrenalin, achieving something a bit scary!
We spend ages taking turns. I have to admit that John seems to manage longer runs than me. The old pro!!

Done it! Hooray!

We picnic by the trees on the beach, dry off and set off South, again to Margaret River. The next site in our “Camping 6” book. For $14 we stay in the Canto campsite in the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. The individual pitches are spaced to provide complete isolation. There’s water but no power – thank goodness for our solar panel!

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We dine outside and watch the Milky Way intensify. As John says, it’s magical! It’s the perfect combination. Totally at one with nature, but with the luxury of our van, providing for us.
After dinner, John stays for ages admiring the stars, while I read. Then I join him, silently: the two of us sit in total darkness pondering infinity.

Traveling on – Tuesday 6th December 2011


It’s a lot easier packing when you wear jeans and a jumper! Everything fits!

I’m very sorry to be leaving our lovely apartment. It has been a total luxury, set out as a permanent living space rather than just a holiday rental. But we have to leave at 10, although we have the car until 2. We drive to the harbour, to walk the breakwater to Mutton Bird Island.

There are huge concrete blocks alongside, when the cycle comes it should offer some protection. I enjoy peeping between them.

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Out by a rocky protrusion, there are particularly large waves. Wet-suited surfers ride them, jumping off before they are taken too far.
“Look, John! Sharks!” suddenly a fin protrudes close by the surfers. Within seconds it is obvious I am wrong, these are dolphin fins. They swim around checking out the surfers some 50 m from them. Is this evidence of dolphins coming to the aid of humans? If they had been in trouble would they have tried to rescue them? What ever the answers the dolphin slowly make their way out to sea and a long time we watch them rise for air.

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Mutton Bird Island is eye-shaped with a long footpath down its spine. The wedge tailed shearwater come from Indonesia each summer to nest. They burrow into the soft earth and at this time of year sit underground, incubating. Their main predator, the board informs us, are mice and rats, who eat their eggs, and people who leave the path, squashing their fragile homes. I’m not leaving any path. I’m still suffering from the ant bite and snakes and kangaroos encounters.
We see no shearwater, but the views at the summit are spectacular, even in this grey weather. The variation of the seascape, the undulation of the land is poetic and mesmerizing. There are no words for it. John and I just smile knowingly at each other and think, again, how lucky we are.

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Luck does not come into the the final part of our day! The Greyhound came as expected and dropped us off at the appointed stop in Port McQuarie. Down the road to the beach, turn right to the next house. We set off, dragging our cases.

Truly it was miles! It took over an hour and much of it up huge hills. I hardly moaned once, despite the rough ground. Those tiny wheels on our cases should have become red hot. At times I thought my shoulder would dislocate. But we made it. We were so glad to have arrived we hardly noticed the bare cold quality of the house. We would do later. For now we rejoiced we had arrived and rewarded ourselves with a Mexican meal as the restaurant was thankfully in the next block. Hooray!

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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