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Travelling Oz – Day 141 to Day 147

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Day 141 to Day 143 – Wednesday 2nd to Friday 4th November 2011

Last I left you, we were staying in a rest area outside Jerramungup, heading to Wave Rock the next day. However, after much deliberation over our worn out maps, I changed my mind (as usual and again). There was just nowhere to stay on the way or way back, only the caravan park there, and it was a lot of km’s out of the way! (Really, I think my mind has jumped ahead to realising that we’re on the last stretch now, and the thought of seeing all you lovely people is getting exciting!) I do love travelling, I’m glad it’s not over, but right now my thoughts are more on spending some time with you than seeing another tourist attraction.

So, the point being, we drove past the Wave Rock turnoff and carried on to a rest area opposite a roadhouse, our last ‘up’ town I believe, Munglinup. To the boys delight, there was a playground there and they spent many, many fun filled hours enjoying themselves on it.

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Happy Birthday my wonderful sissy!! Miss you xx

The next day, onwards to Esperance. A quick visit to the Information Centre then on to book into Pink Lake Caravan Park. The usual caravan park chores and a quick look around the town and visit to another playground. Unfortunately, Esperance is not an overly caravanner-friendly town (they don’t even have a public dump point, shocking) and the only places to stay are caravan parks or the national parks, which, get this, would have still cost us $33…for camping!!

Therefore, we chose to leave Esperance the next day (also, the weather was not nice, raining and stormy, and the best part about Esperance is it’s beaches). But then lovely Ros offered her mother’s driveway, which happened to be just around the corner, so we checked out of the caravan park and onto Judy’s lawn. Judy lives right in town, just down the road from Woolies and the library, and she is just as gorgeous as her daughter, so we had a wonderful time staying in her yard and spending some time with her.

Day 144 – Saturday 5th November 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday my little man!!

Happily, the rain cleared for a while today so that we could go out and celebrate Daniel’s birthday. After opening presents in bed this morning (Bob the Builder figurines & trucks, which he is really into at the moment) we headed out to the mini train, which rides around a park for about 1.8 kms I think. The boys all thought it was great fun, and we got a double ride as it was the last one of the day.

 

Daniel yelling ‘Bob!’ as he opened his presents.

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We also did the ocean tourist drive and had a look at all the stunning coastline. Really the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. (That’s two people in the water to the left a bit, for a bit of perspective).

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We were also invited to go and take a look at Judy’s father’s shed. He is a very clever man who has created loads of gadgets and gizmos – flying planes and monkeys climbing up ropes, things that play songs and things that are powered by water wheels. I can’t even describe it really but it was totally cool and the boys thought he was brilliant. Rightfully so.

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We got Red Rooster for dinner, including some chocolate and caramel mousse for a birthday cake…mmmm! Then the boys played with balloons and had a little ‘party’.

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Day 145 to 146 – Sunday 6th November to Tuesday 8th November 2011

Some stormy days meant spending most of our time inside Judy’s house watching movies or checking out her wonderful artwork or  going to the library. Judy had us over for dinner one night which was lovely and it brought back some memories – recognise this cutlery Mum?!

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Anyway, after a fond farewell to Judy on Tuesday morning, we headed up to Norseman and, as you all know, began our Nullarbor crossing. The flies are shocking at the rest area we are at – hopefully not a sign of things to come!

 

Thanks so much for having us Judy!

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Well, I rushed through this blog so I could get it posted before we lost reception, but it appears I’m too late and we’ve lost it already. If I come across a little hotspot I’ll post it then. Otherwise, speak to you all soon from South Australia! XXX

(**Posting from just before the border – my last post in Western Australia! Update on Nullarbor crossing posted in next few days**)

Travelling Oz – Day 130 to Day 140

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Day 130 to Day 133 – Saturday 22nd to Tuesday 25th October 2011

Well, we had a very enjoyable few days ‘trapped’ at Big Valley farm, watching the farmers rounding up the sheep, relaxing under the trees or in the sunshine, even sharing a bottle of wine with the neighbour one evening (as well as being given two bottles as a gift from another neighbour!). A very nice stay with some lovely people, both fellow travellers and the farmers. It was sad to leave, but on to more adventures!

Day 134 – Wednesday 26th October 2011

After all the standard food and water top ups, we were off in the direction of Pemberton and the home of big trees. First stop, Beedleup Falls, with a 300 metre walk down to some falls and then a couple of hundred more metres to a ‘suspension bridge’ crossing. It was very reminiscent of the shrek/donkey scene in Shrek, wobbling and all, and the boys were big fans. They had to go back and forth over it about seven times.

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On our arrival back at the car, Andrew discovered that the brakes on the caravan had ‘gone’ (that’s the extent of my knowledge about it, I forget the details) so we decided to skip the climbing Karri tree and leave it until the morning. The road we were on actually bypassed Pemberton itself and we made our way to our free camp for the night, some old sawpits about 15kms out of town. Unfortunately, our out of date Camps book was inaccurate and the place is no longer available for camping. However, with the brakes gone and the need to go back into town in the morning for parts, we decided to take the risk and stay anyway.

Me and the boys took a look at the old sawpits while Andrew took a look at the brakes. No solar panel today as it was too drizzly. I doubt we would have got any sun anyway – the trees are so big now, we’re lost in the forest with barely any sun.

Day 135 – Thursday 27th October 2011

We got up and left early – mostly to avoid any potential ‘capture’ and subsequent fine for camping in a no camping zone – and headed straight into Pemberton. On arrival, we quickly realised that it was not the kind of town we were going to find spare parts. It was much smaller than I’d expected! However, we found a nice spot to park and have breakfast before heading north – and 40 km’s out of our way – to Manjimup, which was the next biggest looking town anywhere near us.

Manjimup, with it’s numerous car part places, still could not help us and advised that the next closest place would be Albany (where we had planned on skipping in the interest of heading inland to Hyden instead). It was still a helpful visit though, as we were able to grab some more bread and milk from Coles. (Small town = general store, Medium town = IGA, Big town = Coles / Woolies).

Already being out of our way, and with a day of constant drizzle, we decided to give the big climbing Karri trees a miss. I didn’t want to pay the $11 national park fee and then not even be able to climb it because it was too wet. So one more thing on the ‘next trip’ list – hey, we’ve got to save some of the good things for next time! So instead we headed straight for a rest area just outside of Walpole, near the Tree Top Walk.

We’re really in big tree country now and our little van was dwarfed by the forest surrounding us at our rest area.

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Here’s a little mate I saw just at my feet as I got out of the car. Nearly trod on him! He was smaller than a blowfly. How gorgeous is that!

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Again, no opportunity to get out the solar panel today, so our batteries are slowly diminishing.

 

Day 136 – Friday 28th October 2011

First thing in the morning, we headed into Walpole to the visitors centre. We were disappointed that we’d eaten breakfast already when they advised us that they had a fundraiser on with a fully cooked breakfast for $5! I contemplated fitting more in anyway, but considering all the jeans I brought on this trip are now too tight (Margaret River didn’t help) I gave it a miss.

On to the famous Tree Top Walk! This is a big walkway, going up to 40 metres high, walking through the treetops in a big forest of Karri trees and Tingle trees (which reach up to about 70 metres high). It actually sways a bit in the wind and I thought it was pretty fun. Andrew was not such a big fan of the height and was pleased to be back on firm ground again.

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After the Tree Top Walk, you do the Ancient Empire walk, which is another walk around all the trees but on the ground this time, with some interesting looking trunks, like this “Grandma Tingle”. See her face? It reminds me of that old garbage pile in Fraggle Rock.

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At our rest area just down the road – again, dwarfed by massive forest, and no solar! – we met a lovely family with two girls the same age as Ethan and Jack. They had lots of fun running around and playing together. You know kids are getting along well and feeling comfortable with each other when games like ‘let’s wear our undies on our head’ starting coming out.

Day 137 – Saturday 29th October 2011

We left the rest area in the late morning, after some more playing for the kids, and headed into Denmark. This was quite a nice looking little town and we soon found a brilliant big playground to spend the afternoon in. More bread and milk shopping (IGA sized town) and Andrew tried his luck with the auto parts places, but no go. So on to Albany it is.

We didn’t leave Denmark until later in the day, so we headed to ‘Cosy Corner’, another right on the beach, sand dune campground. For the first time in four days, we managed to get a bit of sun on the solar panel, but it was no way near enough to bring our batteries back to a reasonable level, so it will be a caravan park for tomorrow night. All this drizzly, overcast weather!

We went for a walk down to the water but it was blowing a gale, so the boys had a good time playing in the sand just outside our van instead where it was a little more sheltered. The views here are fantastic, great coastal scenery and we can see the Albany wind farm in the distance. (photos don’t do it justice so not putting any up).

Day 138 – Sunday 30th October 2011

Wanting to get the van brake thing sorted out asap, we headed to Albany bright and early. Having previously told fellow travellers that we were skipping Albany, every single person told me not to worry about it, that Albany was just another big town and not worth going out of our way for. WELL, I’m extremely glad that destiny sent us here anyway because I really love it! So there. I didn’t know the historical significance of Albany before – being the first European settlement in Western Australia – and if I’d known I would have made sure we came anyway, if for nothing more than a history lesson for the boys. The town is full of old buildings from the late 1800’s and it’s just gorgeous. It’s quite hilly with lots of the houses being set up into the hills amongst the trees and overlooking the ocean – feels like Tuscany or something. I think it’s very picturesque.

And besides that, there’s LOADS we want to do here, so after checking straight into a caravan park for two nights, we headed off on our first adventure – the Brig ‘Amity’. This vessel carried the first settlers to Albany in 1826, and they have now built a replica that you can look through. It cost $15 for a family pass, but it was well worth it because we all enjoyed it immensely. It was incredible to picture the living conditions of the men inside – even the Captain’s cabin, which was massive in comparison to the others – was very tiny. The atmosphere was great below decks, with minimal lighting and some wave / wood creaking sound effects playing. They had a couple of dummies in there which added to the feel of it, but they were so realistic it was a little bit creepy!

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The captain in his quarters – I almost expected him to blink!

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Drink up me hearties, yo ho!

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A pleasant surprise, we happened to be visiting the ship while there were some local teen bands playing, so we got to sit on the lawns and have a bit of a chill out, listening to some new talent.

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We were also right next to the museum, so we had a look in there and the boys got to paint a plaster frog each for free.

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It’s been a big day, so we’ll have to save the rest of the things on our list until tomorrow.

Day 139 – Monday 31st October 2011

This morning we headed to Princess Royal Fortress, the first federal defence of Australia, opened in 1893. At $22 entry, it was a bargain for how much we got out of it. We spent four hours there, exploring the many barracks, buildings and grounds. With field guns, slit trenches, cannons, torpedos and underground bunkers, it was a little boys (and big boys) heaven.

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It also encouraged lots of interest in World War 2, so the boys were voluntarily engrossed in yet another history lesson.

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These guns still had the working mechanisms for moving them around and up and down, so Ethan took great pleasure in aiming at his mother. He thought it was hilarious. He’s in there somewhere.

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Back home for a rest after another big day and a lot of walking around. Albany hot chips for dinner.

Day 140 – Tuesday 1st November 2011

Raced to the supermarket to do a quick shop – food and Daniel’s birthday presents – before checking out of the caravan park. One more sight-seeing venture before we leave Albany – the old Convict Gaol.

Once again, quite good value at only $12 for a family pass, and it was fun to see all the old cells, sit on the beds, etc. They’ve done a good job of setting it up with lots of old bits and pieces from the time and more posed dummies – not quite so realistic as the Amity, though I thought this one looked like Angelina Jolie!

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Ethan in the ‘black hole’ cell.

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Now that we’re in Albany after all, it’s just as easy to do Hyden as a little side venture and head in the direction of Esperance, instead of inland, from here. So tonight, en route to Esperance (via a detour to Hyden’s Wave Rock) we’ll be staying in a rest area with probably no reception so I’m posting this now, from a town called Jerramungup, to placate all you diehard fans out there who are going into withdrawals (you know who you are).

Won’t be long til we’re home now! I’m missing everyone, but I’m glad we still have more travelling to look forward to after Christmas or I’d be disappointed that it was over. I’ve not quite had my fill of gypsy-ism yet.

XXXX

Travelling Oz – Day 121 to Day 129

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Day 121 – Thursday 13th October 2011

This morning we left our picnic area camp spot and made a little detour inland to Moora, where Andrew’s sister Liz lives. We had a quick but lovely visit with Liz and the kids. We realised that it’s the first time we’ve been inside a house since we left! The boys were pretty chuffed with sitting on a lounge and watching all their old favourites on ABC 3. Daniel made good friends with Liz and was quite taken with her.

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Liz had to work at midday so we said our goodbyes and were back on the road, heading towards Perth. We stopped for the night at another rest area, just down the road from Yanchep National Park where we wanted to visit in the morning.

Day 122 – Friday 14th October 2011

Up early to pay a quick visit to the supermarket at a town called Two Rocks, then on to Yanchep National Park. This is quite an interesting national park, as it has the standard ‘natural’ type areas for bushwalking, etc, but then it has an area with a lake, a chocolate shop and cafe, the information centre, and manicured gardens with green grass, big trees, ducks and kangaroos. There was also a koala boardwalk, the purpose of our visit this morning, and we managed to spot 10 of the  11 koalas living within the enclosure.

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After a play on the lawns it was on the road again to find a caravan park in Perth. We chose our caravan park based on price and ended up staying in an interesting park that was mostly made up of interesting ‘permanents’. It didn’t matter as we weren’t planning on being in the park much.

Day 123 & 124 – Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th October 2011

This morning we paid a visit to King’s Park, with a brilliant playground, for a couple of hours of playing while we waited for Renee and Ashley to be home for a visit.

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Renee and Ashley live right in the city in a big apartment building. After driving around the block several times we finally concluded that there was absolutely nowhere to park! A quick phone call to Ashley and he was able to get us permission to park in the apartment buildings loading zone. It’s way bigger and busier than Adelaide.

We spent a lovely afternoon on the 15th floor in Renee and Ashley’s apartment, and we were lucky enough to have a perfect view of the aerial acrobatics of some stunt planes that happened to be doing tricks right out the front, over the Swan River. The boys loved it. (Time to play, spot the plane).

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On Sunday we came to visit again, this time with caravan in tow, and luckily were able to park in the loading zone again. Today was quite warm so we went for a dip – well, the boys did – in the pool on the 4th floor, but the water was freezing.

More stunt plane antics viewed from the balcony, and another delicious lunch care of Renee and Ashley’s wonderful cooking. Thank you!

After saying goodbye, we made our way to a rest area about an hour out of Perth, and just down the road from Pinjarra, where we plan on shopping tomorrow.

Day 125 – Monday 17th October 2011

Visited the Pinjarra shopping centre to do our weekly food shop, and then on to Donnybrook, a small country town with the largest free entry playground in Australia, thanks to an anonymous benefactor who donated $1 million for it to be built!! Hundreds of volunteers and a bunch of local businesses also pitched in, and it’s quite an impressive sight.

We booked into the Donnybrook Transit Park and dropped the van off before heading back down to the playground, which is walking distance from the transit park.

It was extremely busy, with over 100 children there by my headcount! It’s very well thought out, with a toddler section up one end, with exercise machines for the mummies right next to it, a ‘medium’ kids section in the middle, complete with huge, 4 storey towers & curly slides, then a bigger kids section at the end, with rope climbing and rock climbing things. Then there’s the drink fountains, toilets, grassy area and undercover bbq area. Definitely worth the little detour to go through Donnybrook if you’re anywhere near there.

The boys spent several fun-filled hours here before we headed back to the van, with the promise that we’d visit again tomorrow before leaving.

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The transit park turned out to be a lovely spot to stay. It’s very picturesque, nestled between the town’s green, white picket-fenced oval and a tree-filled river bed. The bbqs, kitchen and toilet blocks are all brand new and we had the key to an entire bathroom – with shower, basin & toilet – all to ourselves! No little cubicles with other people right next to you – it was great.

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After a very overcast day, it rained all night.

Day 126 – Tuesday 18th October 2011

Luckily, the rain stopped long enough for us to get another play in at the playground, before heading to Dunsborough and the home of ‘Simmo’s Ice-cream’. Simmo has created something like 100 flavours, with about 40 to choose from in store at any one time. There is also a big playground out the back of the store.

After much deliberation, we chose –

Ethan – Vanilla choc chip

Daniel – banana choc chip (okay, I chose that one for him)

Jack – Boysenberry sorbet

Andrew – Snickers (mmm!)

Me – Lemon Cheesecake (it had the biscuit crumbs and everything!)

Some bizarre flavours – like licorice! – would have been nice to try but I didn’t want to risk buying an entire ice-cream of it in case it was more weird than yummy.

All five flavours we tried were delicious. I think the Snickers was yummiest, but my cheesecake one was awesome too – it tasted exactly like frozen cheesecake.

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I would have thought the boys would be all playgrounded out, but they still had a good time playing at Simmos.

The ice-cream was too good to share with their pet emu.

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Down the road a bit more and into Margaret River, which is just beautiful with lots of green fields and forests. Our drive into the farm we chose to stay at, Big Valley Campsite, was stunning.

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This is a working sheep station – they have about 600 acres – and the grassy area just by their house and sheds has been made into a campsite for tents and caravans – showers, toilets, dump point & washing machines – everything you could want from a caravan park but without the bad parts. The area is really lovely and we are camped right next to a paddock full of sheep. And all for only $30 a night! We haven’t stayed anywhere that cheap since Wyndham.

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We all very quickly proclaimed it our most favourite place ever.

Jack’s quote, while sitting on his chair under a tree, watching the sheep grazing – “Doesn’t it feel like you’re doing the right thing when you’re this close to nature?”

Only one little negative experience today – while running my hand absent-mindedly through Jack’s hair this afternoon, I felt a little bump and found…a tick!! Bleeaargh! Worst of all, I can’t even think where he would have got it from, except the Yanchep National Park, and that was DAYS AGO! Yuk. We had been warned by a fellow traveller that we were entering tick country, but I thought nothing else of it.

Needless to say, being the paranoid mother that I am, all children have now received extreme hair cuts to enable fast detection of any such further unwelcome, blood-sucking visitors. (Ethan and Jack have number fours, but we thought that might be a tad too harsh for Daniel).

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Day 127 – Wednesday 19th October 2011

Ahhh, I love the smell of sheep poo in the morning.

After a glorious morning waking up on the farm, we headed out to see what Margaret River had to offer. A trip down the main street revealed a playground to waste some time in, a glass blower (closed, but we’ll come back and visit later) and a fudge factory. Free tastings of four different flavours, then we let Ethan and Jack pick a flavour each to buy a pack of. Unfortunately, their vision only extended to ‘mint choc’ and ‘banana choc’, so I think we’ll have to pay another visit for some peanut butter fudge, or cheesecake, or passionfruit, or one of the other very interesting sounding flavours. It was still delicious though.

After browsing the other interesting little shops in the main street we headed off for a scenic 4WD drive through some forest – very pretty.

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Back at the farm we extended our stay for another four nights, then the lovely owner gave the boys some buckets of food to go and feed some of the sheep and some goats, and also showed us their chickens and rabbits (for eating).

We also sat and watched the men shearing for a while, which was actually quite fascinating. I thought we’d get over it after watching one or two, but we ended up sitting there for quite a while.

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Day 128 – Thursday 20th October 2011

Next thing on the list for Margaret River, the chocloate factory and cheese factory! A few nice tastings at the chocolate factory and a very expensive, one little choccie each ($1.80 each for a little round truffle!). Jack had rasberry, Ethan caramel, Andrew coffee, Me honey, and Daniel had a little cookie flavoured white chocolate. They were quite potent so one was enough anyway.

Not being ‘cheese’ people really, we only tasted the vintage cheddar at the cheese factory, but it was delicious so we bought a little waxed block of it to have for lunch on some crackers.

A quick visit to Cape Mentelle winery for my mummy’s favourite wine (and maybe one for us too – because it will go so nicely with the cheese).

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Now on to Amaze’n, a place with a big hedge maze and a bunch of other little mazes and puzzles – a bit like what puzzle park used to be like I guess. As well as several mazes, bbqs and a playground, they also had hoola hoops, frisbees, skipping ropes, quoits, bocce, and some tables in the gardens with snakes and ladders, checkers and other games. It was a beautiful place, with lots of time and care put into their gardens. We saved the hedge maze for last and did the smaller ones first – a ‘turn left’ maze – a hedge about knee high – where you could only turn left or go straight, you weren’t allowed to turn right. I figured it out after about 10 minutes, then on to the stepping stone maze where there was a guy who had been trying to figure it out for about an hour he reckoned. Andrew got that one first, in about ten minutes, and I felt a bit sorry for the poor chap who was still standing there staring at it!

The hedge maze was really fun – apparently it took about 15 years to get it to the stage where it had grown enough to be open to the public, and it has a full-time gardener. It also has 1.5 kilometres of paths! It took us 35 minutes to solve, and you also had to find 8 bench seats inside it, each with a different animal, like this crocodile one. We all really enjoyed it.

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Day 129 – Friday 21st October 2011

Hopped in the car this morning to go on our next Margaret River adventure, and the car wouldn’t start! Even with a dual battery – the other battery wouldn’t start it either. We ended up getting a jump start from another guy staying here, and when he checked our voltage it was found that the batteries weren’t charging (same problem as we had back in Yulara).

So, we drove straight to the auto-electrician who confirmed it was the alternator. He reckons that it is probably the same problem from Yulara, but the soldering that Andrew did back then in Alice has probably just bought us time up until now. Luckily it’s happened here, instead of at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, and it just means that now, instead of leaving on Sunday, we have to stay until Tuesday when he can fix the car.

Ah well! Being stuck at Big Valley farm in Margaret River is far from a chore. It’s quite lovely, but a shame that we can’t use the car in the meantime and instead will have to just hang out here.

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So, that’s the last week or so. Nothing spectacular to report blog-wise, but a very pleasant week for us, with visiting family, playgrounds galore, and scrumptious food and wine to be had.

We’ll be here til Tuesday, then will probably take another week to get over to Kalgoorlie, then won’t be long before we’re crossing the Nullarbor. ETA, last week in November.

Speak soon XXX

Travelling Oz – Day 113 to Day 120

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Day 113 & 114 – Wednesday 5th & Thursday 6th October 2011

Here I am again, writing an entire weeks worth of blog a week and a bit after it happened, so I apologise in advance for any boring bits and lack of minute detail!

On Wednesday we drove straight from stinky roadhouse to the little seaside town of Kalbarri. Usually little anyway, with a population of 2000, but this jumps to around 10,000 apparently during peak season, which being school holidays, it was.

We had not expected to have to book into a caravan park, we usually just rock up, but when we drove up to this one it looked PACKED. And, bizarrely, not with the rows and rows of Jayco Expandas and Windsor Rapids like we normally see, but rows and rows of tents! Yes, these were not our ‘fellow travellers’, but loads and loads of families up here with their kids for school holidays. Brilliant, you may think, for the boys to have other kids to play with, but we’ve become accustomed to our rest areas, camp spots, and quiet, run down caravan parks, and this caravan park just felt too super busy for me.

However, we were due for some water, power, showers and washing machines, and we wanted to explore Kalbarri National Park tomorrow without van in tow, so we stayed.

First stop was a visit to the parrot breeding centre, where there is a large free flight aviary to walk through, as well as many other caged parrots. It was very interesting with lots of birds I’d never seen before, some beautiful colours, and walking through the free flight aviary was gorgeous, with birds just flying and hopping around right next to you.

I was pretty excited to see a female red-tailed black cockatoo, as I’d never seen one before, or at least not noticed the difference, and was quite surprised to see how ‘tiger-striped’ their tail feathers are!

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On Thursday morning I bundled everyone in the car bright and early to get to the foreshore for ‘pelican feeding’ time, only to find a sign saying that the pelicans were ‘on holidays at Lake Eyre’. I think I was more disappointed than the boys. I was looking forward to seeing Daniel’s reaction to the pelicans!

On to the national park, where the highlight of the trip was a 1.2km walk to ‘Nature’s Window’, which is an amazingly perfect natural ‘window’ that frames a view of the Murchison River below.

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Got back to Kalbarri and played at the playground on the foreshore and had some hot chips for dinner.

Day 115 – Friday 7th October 2011

We left Kalbarri today and took the coastal drive down past some little fishing towns. First stop, Port Gregory, with a total population of 42! We saw two of them sitting on a verandah, but apart from that the town looked completely deserted. There was a nice beach and a caravan park, and we wished we’d stayed there instead! Such a quiet little spot. The main feature of Port Gregory, and the reason for our visit, was the famous ‘Pink Lake’, which gets it’s pink colour from naturally occurring beta-carotene – the same thing that makes carrots orange! It was a bizarre thing to see.

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We stopped again just outside of Port Gregory to explore some convict ruins – buildings built in the 1850’s where convicts used to stay while working in surrounding mines. This is the old ‘prison’ part, where apparently there are names and initials that the actual convicts engraved on the walls, but every other Tom, Dick and Harry has also engraved their name on here so you can’t see what’s history and what’s just graffiti. Pity.

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Next stop, Northampton, another quaint little town with pretty, historic buildings dotting the main street. We found a little playground in a lovely, grassy park and spent a good while playing, having a picnic and climbing a brilliant tree. A beautiful spot that just had that ‘something’ and I could have stayed forever.

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Coolest climbing tree ever.

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This photo was an accident but I love it!

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There was a beehive in a nearby tree and some honeycomb on the ground!

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The beautiful church in Northampton, built in the 1850’s.

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After the picnic in the park, lots of tree climbing, a nosy through a little art exhibition, a quiet moment in the church, and a walk down the main street looking at all the old buildings, we thought the day couldn’t get any better than this. But then I spotted a book out the front of a second hand shop that I thought would be great for Ethan now that he is an avid reader – a small kids mystery book – and it was free! That was pretty great, and when Jack looked in the freebie box and spotted a little book on making amulets, he proclaimed that he’d always wanted one of those so he was happy too!

We walked along happily towards the supermarket, the boys engrossed in their new books, me thinking how exquisite our day had been, when what do I see in the reserve in front of us but…a wedding! Seriously, what is with this town? It’s just too gorgeous!

I just could not get over the absolute deliciousness of our day, but surely going into a supermarket could not possibly make things any sweeter…or could it?

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That’s it. I was sold. Officially my favourite day of our trip. Pink lakes, convict ruins, gorgeous towns with climbing trees and free books. What more could you ask for?

Somewhere to camp would be nice. Our planned rest area for the night now displays a ‘camping prohibited’ sign, so we took a detour and ended up at another rest area that was absolutely jam-packed (I guess because we didn’t get there til dinner time). It was fine though, and we all had a good night’s sleep after our big day.

Day 116 & 117 – Saturday 8th October & Sunday 9th October 2011

Today we drove quickly through Geraldton to stock up on some food before heading out to Ellendale Pool campground, about 45 kms out of town. This is a pretty little spot on the river, with toilets and a playground. Our first night was fairly quiet but on Sunday all the locals turned up for their Sunday bbq’s. Having a playground at a camp spot was great and it kept the kids busy most of the time. There was a sign at the river saying ‘swim at your own risk’ because the water may contain something causing meningitis! All the locals were still swimming but not us! It wasn’t hot anyway so we weren’t missing out on much.

I just realised that I didn’t take any photos of this spot, I guess because there was no reception so my phone was off all the time, but I’d recommend it if you’re going that way as it’s pretty and cheap, $5 per night.

Day 118 – Monday 10th October 2011

Happy Birthday Emie! Welcome to the world gorgeous girl. Well done Mummy and Daddy! xx

Today we left Ellendale Pool and headed to a rest area a bit closer to a town, as I needed internet reception to submit an assignment. We passed by a paddock of rams and I couldn’t believe my eyes – Check out the balls on this thing!! How does he walk?

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Day 119 – Tuesday 11th October 2011

Left the rest area, drove through a town to get a bit of food, then on to Green Head, another small coastal town about 250km from Perth. The drawcard of this town is that it’s closest to where we want to go tomorrow – Stockyard Gully National Park. Apart from that, nothing to report here.

Day 120 – Wednesday 12th October 2011

This morning we left the caravan park bright and early to get to Stockyard Gully in time to see it and be back to remove the van from the park by 10am checkout. The track in is 4WD only and we can’t take the van with us.

Stockyard Gully is a small national park with one drawcard – a big, limestone cave, named as such because stockmen used to use it to stay in overnight en route to wherever they were going. It was a natural ‘yard’ for the cattle. Signs at the entrance warn you of all the grave danger you are about to face when you enter the cave – First of all, you need to get past the ‘aggressive, feral bees’ that make their hives at the entrance (brilliant, with two kids who are allergic to bee stings), next you need to watch out for flash flooding (should be okay as it hasn’t been raining…much), then it is recommended you wear a hard hat (oops), take spare batteries and spare torches (well, we’ve got five torches between us so I think we’re okay there) and then, if you even make it through the cave alive, you need to watch out for the quicksand – yes, I said quicksand! – at the other side!

Fabulous. Let’s go.

The 300 metre walk through the dry creek bed up to the cave entrance was very pretty…and safe.

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As we headed to the cave entrance and heard the familiar droning sound, I started to worry about the killer bees. Quick boys, into the nice safe cave!

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The cave curves around a bit, so within a few metres you cannot see the nice, light opening anymore and you are literally in pitch blackness. Really black. I have never seen anything so dark before. The torch light didn’t even have anything to reflect on so the only thing you could see was what was literally in the beam of light and everything else was just nothingness…and completely and totally silent. Yes, even Daniel. Thank goodness because if he had squealed he might have brought down one of the massive, ‘unstable’ stalactites bearing down on us from above. If one of those babies fell on you I don’t think a hard hat would have made much difference to the end result.

The occasional large rock on the ground (aka fallen stalactite) made me a little, okay, a fair bit nervous. The dark and the quiet didn’t frighten me, that part was pretty awesome actually, but the thought of being crushed under a big falling shard of limestone was enough to make me walk that bit faster. As amazing as it was, seeing the literal ‘light at the end of the 200 metre long tunnel’ is quite a relief. Once we got to the end, however, and had to decide whether to take the ‘loop walk’ back or go back through the tunnel, the boys voted for going back through the tunnel, so we did. (I must admit, once we were safely on the other side I was glad we’d done it again. It was pretty cool).

Jack’s quote on the way back to the car – “I’ve ALWAYS been into cave walking”.

Well, what could top that morning but driving to ‘The Pinnacles’ near Cervantes for the afternoon. This ‘desert’ has more limestone – this time limestone pillars sticking up out of the sand. We spent quite a while here, the boys playing hide and seek amongst the pillars and me just marvelling at the weirdness of it all, these thousands and thousands of pillars on acres and acres of bare sand, while right next door are beaches and fishing towns and scrub.

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And tonight, a record broken, as we sleep in an ‘unofficial’ rest area (it’s actually a day use picnic area, but who’s checking?), we are all alone! First night ever to not be joined by another soul.

Until next time folks! Love yas XXX

Travelling Oz – Day 106 to Day 112

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Day 106 – Wednesday 28th September 2011

First, apologies for forgetting to mention Hilda’s birthday on last week’s blog! I didn’t forget her birthday, just to write it on the blog because it was only the day before and I thought it would go on the next week’s blog. So Happy Birthday Hilda! Hope you’re feeling well. We’re thinking of you and can’t wait to see pictures of your beautiful little girl.

We left Robe River rest area this morning and headed around 200kms down the road to the next nice looking spot, Barradale rest area on the Yannarie River. This is the biggest rest area we’ve ever come across! At first sight, you see the toilets, dump point, tables, etc, but then you notice a few little tracks going off further and you can drive for ages out into the scrub or even into the dry river bed if you wanted to. We set up about 500 metres away from the main area and had a massive area all to ourselves. I think the closest vehicle was about 200 metres away. It was nice not to have to worry about how much noise the kids were making! I even managed to drag Daniel away from the red dirt and get him to play in the nice, clean riverbed sand instead. Bliss!

Our home amongst the gum trees.

Our home amongst the gum trees 

Camouflaged again.

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Day 107 – Thursday 29th September 2011

This morning we headed off for our day trip to Coral Bay. This tiny town has a few houses, two caravan parks and an overpriced supermarket, and that’s about it. Apart from the beach of course, which is gorgeous. This is our favourite beach so far (yes, much more so than the ‘famous’ Cable Beach) and was an absolute toddlers delight. The shallows stretched out for ages and were so crystal clear. Just after it dropped off a bit deeper there was a coral reef, great for snorkelling, and this protects the entire bay from big waves, big sharks, etc. Apparently it’s a great place to snorkel and see lots of marine life and even the boys, who were playing in the shallows up to their knees, had a stingray swimming around with them! It was really cute. Andrew went in deeper to check out the coral and swam right next to a really big fish. Even Ethan and Jack were allowed to swim up to their necks – it was just that calm and clear. We managed to spend the majority of the day just swimming and relaxing on the beach – pretty much a first for us to spend that much time at a beach without going, yeah, okay, let’s go now. We all really enjoyed it. (Thanks, Renee, for the heads up to make sure we checked it out!).

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Heading out of town, we were able to fill up our caravan water tanks for $1 per 10 litres at the caravan park, which was great as we were nearly empty and had a few more days of free camping planned. We stopped for the night at the closest rest area with a bunch of other travellers who had spent the day at Coral Bay. Sadly, just before reaching the rest area we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. For those who remember, the last time we crossed this line was heading out of Alice Springs, and it marked the immediate cessation of wet, rainy weather and the introduction of t-shirt weather every day. We have not had one rainy day since. Crossing back over onto the ‘wrong’ side felt very ominous. The topic of conversation amongst fellow travellers that night turned to the dreaded crossing as the wind started to pick up and the evening became chilly! As many of us women went and put jumpers on, several of us started discussing whether we oughtn’t turn around and start heading back the other way again.

The kids didn’t seem to notice the chill, and after ‘losing’ them temporarily, I found them all having their own ‘camping’ experience behind the van with their mouth organs and their sultanas.

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Day 108 – Friday 30th September 2011

Happy Birthday Chloe! 4! What a big girl!

Today we drove towards Carnarvon, but took a turnoff to the right just before reaching the town so we could go and visit the ‘blowholes’ where sea water shoots about 20 metres high from holes in caves below. We set up camp just next to the blowholes at Point Quobba, a quirky little campsite for $5.50 a night where you’re camped right on the foredune amongst funny little fisherman’s shacks that look like they’ve been built from scrap metal and other bits and pieces. It’s looks like they’ve been put together very ad hock and kind of reminded me of something you might see in South Africa, not on the beach in Australia! We learned afterwards that the Shire of Carnarvon is working to get these shacks removed and the campground shifted further back so as not to damage the area so close to the water (apparently the shacks don’t even have any waste water management at all).  I see the point but I’m glad we got to stay there the way it was.

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True to our expectations, the sky looked bleak as we settled in for the afternoon.

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By the time we got to the blowholes and drove up to the lighthouse, it was raining on us. Our first rain in months! It was a bit sad to be saying goodbye to our long streak of sunny weather but at the same time, if it’s going to rain, I’m glad it’s a stormy looking afternoon, camped 10 metres away from the choppy, roaring ocean.

Blowholes blowing – it made a great, whooshing sound as it came up.

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The rain didn’t last long and subsided early enough for us to have a nice walk on the beach, which was deserted bar a couple of fisherman. A really peaceful and interesting place to stay the night.

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Day 109 – Saturday 1st October 2011

This morning we got up bright and early as we wanted to get to the Carnarvon fresh produce markets. On the way in to Carnarvon were lots and lots of banana plantations and my mouth was watering at the thought of being able to buy bananas for the first time in almost a year! The markets were small but quite nice – there was some craft there as well, a sausage sizzle (thank goodness as we had left before breakfast) and a little kids colouring in table to keep them busy while you made your purchases.

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Not wanting any to get wasted, I bought two hands of bananas thinking that would be good for a few days, a big punnet of strawberries and a bag of apples – total spend $12. We also had a sausage sizzle and a mango smoothie for breakfast. Mmm! Saw several familiar faces at the markets. It’s amazing how often you bump into the same fellow travellers over and over again.

After a full day at Coral Bay not putting the solar panel out, and then a rainy one at Point Quobba, we were due for some battery recharging so we booked into the Coral Coast Caravan Park. We had initially planned on checking out the town, but after catching up on washing and schoolwork, playing on the playground and lazing around eating a full punnet of strawberries and 3 bananas each (that’s them gone, wish I’d bought more!) we didn’t really find the time.

You wouldn’t guess it from the photo, but Daniel found a new love – the flying fox. He loved being pushed back and forth on it, and wanted it over and over, but for some bizarre reason his face always looked like this during the actual ride. It was only afterwards that he laughed. It was hilarious.

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Day  110 – Sunday  2nd October 2011

We left Carnarvon this morning in two minds about what to do next. We were still tossing up whether or not to do the 300km return trip up to Monkey Mia – during school holidays – to see the dolphins being fed. Deciding not to make a decision until closer to the turnoff, we had a quick stop at Wooramel Roadhouse to purchase a freshly baked Apple and Custard danish for me – the man who runs the roadhouse used to be a pastry chef! It was delicious, and even more enjoyable because you were able to purchase it in the middle of nowhere. We then stopped at Gladstone Scenic Lookout for the night, where the weather turned foul again and we spent the entire afternoon inside the caravan. The wind was enough to give me an earache and it didn’t stop drizzling. It was a great test to see how well the caravan was designed and she passed the test beautifully. Not once did we get on each other’s nerves or underneath each other’s feet. The boys played on the floor for hours. We also matched our record of only one other vehicle joining us up on the lookout for the night (and they were hundreds of metres away anyway). The only other time we’ve been joined by only one other was our very first night on the road where we were silly enough to stop at a rest area right next to the highway. Maybe no-one else camped up here because of the wind?

Day 111 – Monday 3rd October 2011

Happy Birthday Shane!

This morning the rain stopped long enough for us to get out and explore our surroundings. You could see all the way to the ocean from the lookout and the boys found another rock pile to add their rock to. A lot of people had written their names on their rocks, or written little RIP’s for people who had died.

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And just behind the rock pile we made another discovery. A bunch of gnomes and other characters have made their home up here overlooking the vastness of Western Australia!

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Along with numerous gnomes, there were toy soldiers, a surfing man statue, some children’s toys, a spanner with names on it, some coral, a shell, various rocks with RIP’s written on them and a proper, marble plaque with an RIP on it. Not wanting to visit without making a contribution to the developing community, we thought it only fitting to leave our very own ‘Ayita’ doll – who was meant to be our mascot on the trip and who ended up being shoved in a cupboard and forgotten. She will be much happier here and we sat her next to a friendly looking chap with his leg cocked in the air (after filling her with rocks so she wouldn’t blow away).

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Heading south today, we decided to do the dolphin thing anyway, despite how busy we knew it would be, and so headed up the Peron Peninsula to Shark Bay. We camped for the night at Eagle Bluff, which is free to camp at but you have to register with the information centre first and they only let 4 vehicles at a time camp there. Before finding our camp spot though we checked out the lookout/boardwalk at the bluff, which overlooks some very shallow water so is great for seeing any marine life – of which there was none! It was a pity, as just off the shallows is large areas of seagrass meadows which are a feeding ground for dugongs (10% of the world’s dugong population are found here! Just not today). The wind up here was unbelievable. Luckily, Daniel was safely in his pram with the storm cover attached but Ethan nearly blew away.

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We drove down to a little lagoon filled by an inlet from the sea and set ourselves up to camp. The lagoon was lovely and warm and shallow. It was a pity that it wasn’t nice weather for swimming but the boys had a quick wade anyway (fully dressed mind you) and found themselves their own private island. Daniel also enjoyed a dip in a puddle made by tyre tracks. Lovely.

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Several cars came and went but none stayed to camp and we started enjoying the fact that we might be camping all alone for the first time ever tonight! We took a stroll on the beach in the late afternoon – our very own, private beach – and played in the sand dunes.  This, apparently, is also Ethan’s ‘thing’ (along with the clambering over rocks and climbing mountains) and he was off on his own, exploring and not wanting to come back for ages. On coming back home, we noticed two more vans had pulled up after all, but were still around 100 metres away from us.

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We spent the evening discussing whether or not we were in fact above the high tide line where we were camped, as the sand was quite wet (but it had been raining), we were quite close to the water, and no-one else was camped anywhere near us! Considering high tide wasn’t until 3am there was nothing for us to do but move anyway to be safe, or hope that we didn’t drift away (or more likely get bogged) in the middle of the night. We chose the latter and I think we all half hoped to wake up at 3am to hear water lapping at the wheels!

I did wake up at 3am but to Jack complaining of a sore throat, not drifting away, and he woke up in the morning feeling a bit worse for wear.

Day 112 – Tuesday 4th October 2011

Left bright and early this morning as the dolphins come in to feed anywhere from 8am and Monkey Mia was still half an hour away. After paying our $16 fee to enter the Monkey Mia reserve, we joined a tremendous crowd on the beach. This is only about half of them!

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We chose not to stand idly with our ankles in the water, and instead played in the sand while waiting  patiently for the dolphins. These dolphins are wild and have been coming to feed at this beach for decades, originally being fed by fisherman, and now in a more controlled environment. They only feed them a small portion of their total daily intake to ensure that they learn their own hunting skills. They also only let them spend about half an hour up near the shore at a time so as to not neglect forming social bonds and feeding their young (who can only feed in deeper water).  As 8am headed towards 9am, one of the workers announced over a loudspeaker that we should all go and relax for a bit (maybe buy a coffee at their restaurant or a snack from their mini-mart?) and he would call everyone back when the dolphins came. The crowd moved in one big wave towards the restaurant and I wondered why they’d even bothered standing for so long with their feet in the water, to give up their place so easily as soon as someone brought it to their attention that the dolphins were, in fact, not here yet! We stayed on the beach and were one of the first to spot the dolphins swimming in, jumped up and ran down to the water and got to stand at the front anyway. The talk was very interesting and it was great seeing the dolphins up close, but with so many people and so few fish, not many got chosen to feed one. Ethan was petrified of being ‘picked’ and stood behind my back, and Jack walked away sorely disappointed that he didn’t get chosen (I had warned him beforehand that it was very unlikely, with so many children there, but it was still a bit sad).

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We had originally planned to leave here and drive for four hours to get to a nice rest area recommended to us just outside of Kalbarri but after two hours we’d had enough – I was tired and Jack wasn’t feeling well – and stopped instead at the Overlander Roadhouse. Only $11 for an unpowered ‘site’, aka patch of mud out the back of the toilets, which at any one time may smell like diesel fumes, cow trucks, or sewerage pipes, or a combination of all three.

Tomorrow we are heading for Kalbarri where we’ll stay in the town for a couple of days and check out their national park. Is it warming up at home yet? Or should we slow down?

Speak soon XXX

Travelling Oz – Day 99 to Day 105

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Day 99 – Wednesday 21st September 2011

After saying goodbye to the peacocks at Sandfire Roadhouse we were back on the road. As advised, the trip was indeed just as boring as yesterday, and we travelled longer than usual again to get to Port Hedland. (There was a lovely looking rest area by a river about an hour before Port Hedland that we’d been planning on staying at, but due to a lot of long, dry grass around the place and not much cleared space, we thought it not a good place for the kids to be wandering about).

Apparently there is not much to see in Port Hedland and it is very much a working port town. There is only one good caravan park (a Big 4), the other one having a lot of permanents with questionable toilet habits. Unfortunately, the caravan park feels the need to have a sign in the toilets saying ‘please do not defecate in the showers’!? Enough said. Any caravan park that even needs to put that sign up is crossed off my list! A young family that we’ve bumped into several times on our travels did try there first and apparently got abused by the person in the office just for asking the price. They ended up at the Big 4 with us. It’s a nice enough park, Big 4’s always are, with a playground and pool. Pity you pay so dearly for the luxury though – at $10 per child we were charged $70 per night! ($63 because we got our Big 4 discount).

The boys made friends with a lovely girl named Kirah who lives in the park with her mum, who works at reception. They had a good play on the playground then she came back to our place until tea time and played Lego.

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Also had a refreshing swim in the pool, which was nice looking but chilly, as usual.

Day 100 – Thursday 22nd September 2011

Happy Day 100!! (Maybe we can justify the $63 last night by saying that it was our Day 100 treat).

Another big drive today to get out of this monotonous stretch of road. Passed a nice, shady, riverside rest area about an hour out of Port Hedland and in hindsight we should have stayed there, because the next couple were all full. Thankfully, the scenery has started becoming a bit more interesting again and we ended up driving all the way to Karratha.

Drove straight through Karratha and headed to Dampier (about 10 mins further and on the coast). The sight that met us as we turned into Dampier was quite exciting. Four massive cargo ships (or whatever they’re called) were all at the dock (or whatever that’s called) loading up with iron ore or salt I guess. (This is iron ore and salt country, and the ports in this Pilbara region are responsible for 25% of Australia’s income!!). The ships are far more massive than I would have imagined, and only really put into perspective when you see them against a standard little fishing boat (bottom left hand corner).

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We booked in for two nights at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park (transit because you can only stay there for three nights maximum) for the bargain price of $24 a night powered. You can’t connect to water but there is a tap available to fill your tanks. From here we could see the ships perfectly, and got to watch the little – but mighty! – tug boats pushing and pulling the huge ships around so that they were facing the right way. These ships take between 24 and 36 to fill!

In the afternoon we walked down to a little beach, which was quite rocky and the sand was mostly little shells. The boys had a ball jumping about on the rocks and finding little rock pools and shells.

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Day 101 – Friday 23rd September 2011

Today we went to check out Dampier. First stop was the library, which was closed when we arrived but luckily had a playground out the front. We played for 15 minutes or so until the library opened, then went inside and had lots of fun playing with different toys, reading different books and perusing the photo albums they have with photos of the real Red Dog and newspaper articles from the time.

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Ethan’s quote while playing on the playground in Dampier – “I like this town. It’s like Wyndham. So peaceful and sweet”. Obviously he’s a small town boy at heart too, luckily for us.

Next we drove to the Burrup Peninsula, which is apparently the most prolific Aboriginal rock art site in the world, however we couldn’t find the turn off so we didn’t get to see any! We did stop at a popular beach on the peninsula, Hearson’s Cove, but there was a warning sign up saying there had been a recent croc sighting so, needless to say, we didn’t swim there. I thought we were out of croc country already. Clearly not!

Stopped at another playground on the way home and ended up staying for a couple of hours – the boys were just having such a nice time and it was lovely and shady.

When we got back to Dampier transit caravan park, we found the young family (from Port Hedland Big 4) stalking us again! This is the fifth time we’ve been in the same park at the same time – Wyndham, Broome, Sandfire Roadhouse, Port Hedland, and Dampier. It’s not as uncommon as you would think, bumping into the same people over and over, and just goes to show that we’re not really travelling slower than anyone else after all!

Day 102 – Saturday 24th September 2011

Today we were planning on leaving Dampier and heading to a lovely looking rest area a few kilometres out of Karratha, Miaree Pool, and relaxing a few days there before coming back into Karratha for shopping day on Tuesday.

On the way out of Dampier, we stopped and saw the Red Dog statue. Ethan said, “I can’t believe I’m touching the real Red Dog statue!” and Daniel kept saying, “pat, pat” and giving him cuddles. I’m glad we all got to see the movie at Wyndham – it made seeing the statue far more exciting.

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After travelling around 30kms to get to Miaree Pool, we were very disappointed to find a big ‘camping prohibited $1000 fine’ sign! Here’s the nice rest area, with a lovely fresh water pool to swim in.

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Daniel was still asleep in the car so we just drove back to Karratha and booked into the Big 4 there, where the receptionist kindly told me that there was ANOTHER camping area at Miaree Pool, a little further up the road and on the other side! Oh well. The boys weren’t fussed, we got a spot right next to the playground and next door to a family with two kids to play with, Lachie (aged 9) and Keely (aged 6). Perfect! And Andrew was happy because he got two beers from Pete, Lachie and Keely’s dad. Apart from the carton for his birthday, it’s the 3rd beer he’s had on the trip I think.

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Day 103 – Sunday 25th & Monday 26th September 2011

These days were spent relaxing at the caravan park, with the boys playing crazily with the kids next door ALL day long. They literally did not stop playing together – either at the playground or at the pool – from 8am until dinner time. They played beautifully the whole time, but they were worn out, and the next morning Jack’s body must have felt a little out of sorts because he woke up feeling terrible, went back to sleep for an hour, then vomited! Oh no! Our SIXTH vomiting episode this trip! I was all ready for another bout of gastro, and thinking how ridiculous it all was, but immediately afterwards Jack proclaimed he was starving (and his hands were shaking like low blood sugar) and after scoffing four weet-bix he perked up immediately and was ready to play. Obviously just pushed himself a bit too far yesterday! Needless to say, it was a day for quiet playing today.

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Day 104 – Tuesday 27th September 2011

After filling up with fuel and doing our big food shop, we left Karratha. (Did I mention the cool cable gate that the caravan park has? Instead of a boom gate that drops down from up high, they have a ‘cable gate’, which stretches out across the road and drops to the ground all floppy when you go through. I’ve never seen one like it).

Heading south for about two hours, we’ve stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, only to find I have 3 bars of reception!! I think it must be because we’re near the turn off to Pannawonica (wherever that is). It’s quite a nice rest area next to a river, and the breeze is blowing so it’s pleasantly warm but not too hot. I suppose we should make the most of it because by the look of it we’ll be in the cold and rain again soon enough.

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We were originally heading for Exmouth, but have since changed our mind due to it being school holidays here and likely to be very busy, and instead we’ll do a quick visit into Coral Bay before heading on to Carnarvon.

So, not an overly adventurous week this week. There seems to have been a lot of driving through not much to get to nowhere special. There are places I’d love to go back to in Australia, but this top north west corner is not one of them. We’re still enjoying ourselves though. As long as you’re seeing new things and meeting new people it’s all fun.

Speak soon XXX

Travelling Oz – Day 92 to Day 98

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Day 92 – Wednesday 14th September 2011

Leaving Doon Doon Roadhouse this morning we headed through more mountainous country and stopped at a well frequented rest area right by the entrance to Purnululu (Bungle Bungle Ranges). Some travellers leave their vans here for a night or two and drive into the ranges (which is 4WD only) and there was one van left unattended when we arrived. I think I’d be too worried that it might get stolen. What if we came back and everything we owned was gone! Anyway, we’re not doing the Bungle Bungle because we’re not set up for camping away from the van, no tent, etc. Also, we’ve loved this area so much, and seen so little of it, that we already know we will come back one day and do a trip more dedicated to this area. Having decided that, I’m far happier to skip things because it just feels like ‘saving them’ for later.

The toilets here are revolting and I’m glad we have our own! Pit toilets are one thing, but pit toilets with a little, filthy concrete ring that sits at about shin height instead of a seat is just yuk. What are you supposed to do…hover over it?

We are camped down by the banks of a river which still has a little water in it. After telling the boys they could wade through it to cool down (only about 30cm deep and clear, so I could see there were no crocs) they eventually ended up actually ‘swimming’ in it, lolling about up to their necks, which I thought was a bit gross considering it had some slime it it but they’d already done it so I let them go a bit longer. They had a great time. (We were told a few days later by a fellow traveller that they met someone who’s kids also had a swim there, until they saw a freshwater croc sunning itself on the bank).

Didn’t get any photos of this place unfortunately as my phone was off and put away with no reception. About 7 vehicles here tonight, including one unattended caravan and one broken down bus (big motorhome style) waiting for a spare part to be delivered.

Day 93 – Thursday 15th September 2011

Packed up and headed for Halls Creek today. After initially planning on stopping in the town just long enough to download some required uni work, before heading to a rest area, we changed our mind with our thoughts once again on our newly acquired air conditioner. So, softies that we have become, we ended up booking into Halls Creek Caravan Park, a big, red dust bowl with a nice pool and an absolute Aladdin’s cave of a reception/shop. They sell everything! Toys (even a range of pushbikes!), baby gear (even walkers!), dinnerware, jewellery, perfume, hair dye, a huge range of ‘chemist’ stuff, not to mention the regular supermarket and hardware items. Maybe it was to service the entire town because they don’t have a department store? Either way, it was fun to browse around.

The pool was nice looking, but a little on the chilly side. We didn’t need to do any shopping while we were here so we just enjoyed being able to escape into air conditioned comfort.

Out of the car window on the way to Halls Creek

Day 94 – Friday 16th September 2011

Almost every traveller we have ever come across who is going in the other direction recommends we stop at Mary’s Pool rest area, in between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. So stop there we did. I can see why it’s recommended. It’s a picturesque stop beside a (now mostly dry) river, it’s a massive area with enough shady trees for everyone to have the ‘best’ spot, and it’s really far off the road so traffic noise isn’t a problem. It even has flushing toilets (though they were still a bit grotty).

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We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy the larger part of the day here. The boys were allowed to get their bikes down off the roof racks (a privilege usually saved for places we’re staying more than one night) and Daniel found himself some toddler friends right next door – Hi Flynn and Aidan! We had a nice chat with our neighbours and the boys had a good afternoon running and riding around and generally enjoying the free reign.

 

Mum, can I ride Flynn’s bike?

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I strolled back down to the bit of road that crosses over the river at sunset as it looked really pretty, and there were a few other travellers with the same idea. It was a beautiful spot to watch it with the riverbed in the foreground. It’s amazing to think that we can be out in the middle of nowhere, yet still be joined by so many like-minded people, enjoying a beautiful sunset in an ideal setting, and staying here for free!

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Record breaking night, with 30 other vehicles here by nightfall.

Day 95 – Saturday 17th September 2011

Again, due to uni work commitments, we opted for booking into a caravan park with internet reception tonight. On more recommendations, we chose Fitzroy River Lodge caravan park, which turned out to be very nice and quite reasonably priced. There was excitement the moment we arrived as the lady next door had just found a green tree frog in the power box as she went to plug in. She thoughtfully gave it to the boys thinking that they would like to hold it and release it, which of course they did. I had to stop Daniel from trying to grab it though. Who knows how his ‘cuddles’ might have ended up.

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We set him free in a nice, moist garden, then walked the million miles (that’s what it felt like anyway) to the pool, which is part of the ‘motel’ side of the caravan park, so is actually quite far away from the caravan section itself. The pool was nice, but cold. A lady already in the pool noticed me coming in with three kids, and warned me that the pool was very deep with not much shallow end. ‘Can they swim?’, she asked, looking at Ethan and Jack preparing to jump in. ‘Yes, they’re fine’, I was able to respond. It was so nice to be able to say that! I’m so proud of them, they’re swimming beautifully.

The boys caught up on some schoolwork in the afternoon while Daniel watched his new favourite over and over on the laptop – the fire truck song by the Hooley Dooleys (they used to be Jack’s favourite too). He absolutely loves it, and we all walk around singing ‘Ding-aling-aling-aling-a Wee-awww Wee-aww’ because it’s stuck in our head! It’s so cute, every time he wants to watch it he says ‘wee-aww wee-aww’ (that’s the siren sound for those who don’t get my little sound effects).

Day 96 – Sunday 18th September 2011

The next conveniently placed rest area on the map was called the Boab Rest Area. No-one had ever mentioned or recommended it, and it didn’t have toilets (which at least meant it would be less popular) so we didn’t know what to expect. Upon arriving, I immediately proclaimed it my favourite rest area ever! Of an average size, and average proximity to the road, with no facilities bar a few picnic tables and bbqs, my favourite part (aside from the Boab, which I’ll get to shortly) was the obvious lack of red dust! The entire rest area was covered in tightly packed white gravel. It was absolute bliss…it was so CLEAN! The boys could play outside all day and not get dusty. They could run in and out of the van and not cover the floor in dust. They could go without shoes and not complain of prickles. It was magnificent.

And even better than the gravel was the centrepiece of the rest area, a giant old Boab tree, who was absolutely gorgeous. My favourite one so far I think. Just as big as the one at Wyndham, which is proclaimed to be one of the oldest known boab trees and estimated to be over 2000 years old. And, as with the prison tree at Wyndham that we drove 30 kilometres on dirt road to see, this one was also hollow and you could crawl inside. It was the perfect place to leave the boys for a day while we drove into Broome to have a look around and get some peace and quiet! Seriously though, it was a great spot for Daniel to play because he couldn’t get out! 🙂

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With the tree itself, the gravel rocks, and the chain fence surrounding the tree, the boys found plenty to do all afternoon.

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The sunset was beautiful and it made some amazing colour changes on the Boab. My photos don’t do it justice – it changed from pink to purple to blue.

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This photo of Daniel’s hair, however, is completely accurate. This is what he looks like in the setting sun, no longer camouflaged by red dirt but ‘glowing’ proudly against the white gravel.

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Day 97 – Monday 19th September 2011

This morning we decided to do the last 3 hours to arrive in Broome today (instead of Tuesday), so we were planning on making an early start and stopping for some morning tea about an hour down the road. After a fond farewell to the Boab rest area (and no sweeping out the dust as we left) we headed for the next roadhouse. Once again, another brilliant stop. We pulled up outside the roadhouse which, as expected, was all red dust, aside from a big section out the front that had green grass…GRASS…and sprinklers on. Wooh! As you can imagine, the boys had a ball running through the sprinkler and rolling around on the grass (the likes of which we haven’t seen for ages – funny what a treat simple grass becomes).

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The frolicking lasted a good hour, then it was time to move on again. Before that though, a quick use of the amenities, where I discovered a very interesting sign posted above the hand basin I chose to use (it was one of two).

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Am I the only one who has no idea what this could possibly be referring to? I almost wanted to ask the staff. I should have because it’s had me thinking. What sort of emergency…and designated for what??

Back on the road we saw a city of termite mounds (which have become small again) that had survived everything else being burnt around it. We see fires nearly every day now – I’m not sure how many are intentional burning and how many are not.

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Again, going on fellow traveller’s recommendations, we arrived in Broome and headed straight for Cable Beach Caravan Park. I was slightly apprehensive as I had also heard many negative reports about Broome being overpriced and ‘touristy’ (yes, I know I’m a tourist too) but I was pleasantly surprised when I found the staff to be friendly and check-in relatively pain free (yes, still expensive compared to what we’re used to, but we’re lucky it’s not peak season prices anymore!). However, my ‘pleasant surprise’ didn’t last long once we actually drove in and found our site. Welcome to sardine city. We have been so used to staying in lower budget, lower key caravan parks for so long, I think we got used to the more relaxed atmosphere and the extra space. This caravan park was by no means full, it’s off peak season now, but people were certainly still jammed in like sardines. We had barely pulled up when the charming man in the site behind ours came rushing out to advise us that we’d parked half a metre over the invisible line that defined our site from his. So sorry!

With the not so lovely atmosphere of the park, we quickly set up and headed straight back out to visit Gantheaume Point, the location of some real dinosaur footprints! We knew we wouldn’t see the actual footprints, as they are under water and can only be seen at very low tides, but we had heard that they had some concrete casts of them up at the top of the cliff. The boys were a bit disappointed to find only one cast of one set of footprints (we thought there were meant to be four, at least there are four types of real ones under water) but the place was so spectacular that they soon forgot the footprints in their new game of playing on all the red rocks overlooking the ocean. It was really beautiful, and looked quite ‘other worldly’, with lots of strangely shaped rocks in lots of reddish colours. Had to be careful not to lose Daniel again.

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This little round pool was dug out by hand by one of the old lighthouse keepers for his wife, who had arthritis and couldn’t manage the scramble down the cliffs to get to the water. It’s named Anastasia’s Pool after her. I thought it sounded quite romantic. I guess it fills up at high tides. At least you wouldn’t have to worry about sharks or crocs!

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Next stop, the famous Cable Beach – and not a moment too soon, for Daniel had been begging, ‘pool, pool’, ever since we got sight of the ocean. And yes, it is a beautiful beach, though I’m not sure it is worth all the fuss it gets. Or maybe I’ve just discovered on this trip that, although the beach is lovely, I’m a mountains person at heart. I miss them already.

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The water was lovely and quite a nice temperature, apparently we don’t have to worry about stingers until November, and Daniel is a crazy kid who would rather be knocked face first into a wave than hold my hand. The boys had an absolute ball swimming and playing in the sand. We had some hot chips and watched the sunset over the ocean, and Daniel had his first experience feeding the seagulls, which he loved.

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Back to the caravan park for a shower (which reiterated my annoyance with the park – it went boiling hot every time someone flushed the toilet and then freezing cold. Would hate to think how it copes in peak season!). Anyway, we will finish off our last minute things in Broome tomorrow and then carry on south. It’s okay here, but we don’t love it, and there’s still so much to see and so little time!

Day 98 – Tuesday 20th September 2011

Left the caravan park bright and early to do our weekly food shop and a few other bits and pieces. Also popped in to ‘Broome Beads’ to check it out for Mum and see if there was anything we might love to have at Weaverworks Art Emporium, our wonderful art supply store in the Adelaide Hills, with children’s and adult classes run by some brilliant artists, workshops, art supplies, beading, and lots more. Check it out at www.weaverworks.com.au. For anyone randomly reading this blog. 😉

Anyway, about the size of our kitchen at Weaverworks, the majority of the stuff at Broome Beads was extraordinarily similar, if not exactly, what we’ve already got. Yes, I suppose they had more, but just more of the same really. Their 3 ‘special’ glass cabinets did have some very nice looking beads, and so they should have been at an average of $45 each! Some of the really nice ones were called Tibetan something-or-other, and were like  a big stone looking bead surrounded by various styles of metal casings. The nicest beads of all were their handmade polymer clay beads, with lots of swirly colours and little patterns. We could make these ourselves – well, you could Mum.

On the road again, and finally heading south! Now it really does feel like we’re on our way home, albeit slowly. Now, I loathe to say that any drive through any part of Australia is boring – even the centre of Australia always had something to see out of  the window – but the drive south from Broome is BORING! Sometimes it looks like this…

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And other times, you have a refreshing change of scenery and there are some low shrubs for a while, like this…

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There was a very exciting moment there when we saw a whirly wind on the side of the road – highlight of the trip!

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We had intended on stopping at a rest area 2 hours down the road, but when we pulled up and opened the door it was so damn hot, and there was not a scrap of shade (see above photos) that we had a quick stretch instead and carried on. For an image of the next two hours driving, just see above photos. Daniel was very good for the next two hours and kept himself occupied reading up on travelling tips.

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At last we arrived at Sandfire Roadhouse (yes, I was thinking of you Dad!) and paid for an overpriced powered site so we could use the beloved air con. (She nearly charged me for Daniel as well until I questioned the reason for charging extra for babies, and she grudgingly scribbled out $45 and wrote $40 – it’s so ridiculous. I want to own a caravan park one day just so I can NOT charge for kids).

Red dust again, but fun for the kids with plenty of room to play, plus an array of animals to look at – bulls and cows, a camel, a flock of geese and some peacocks including an albino one that had it’s feathers up. Quite a sight! (sorry the photos not great, it was far away).

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Daniel loved the bull, kept saying ‘cow, cow!’ and doing his version of ‘moo’, which is really quite funny and sounds more like a long grunt – he doesn’t do it from his mouth, he just makes the noise in his throat. He also ran after the peacocks shouting ‘cock, cock’ but we won’t go into that one (and his noise for peacocks is ‘beep beep’ after they kept honking at him).

Had a nice chat with the neighbours, who also dislike Broome for the same reasons, and confirmed that the drive will indeed be this boring until we get to Port Hedland. They’ve travelled a fair bit and reckon that this stretch of road is the most boring in all of Australia. So, we’ll probably be travelling a bit faster than usual for the next few days! That, and it’s so hot we’re looking forward to getting a bit further down. (Not too fast though, apparently it was raining in Exmouth a few days ago. Rain! Haven’t seen that for a while).

That’s all for another week. Looking forward to our trip being ‘coastal’ now, though I miss the mountains and the boabs already. 😦

Hope all is well back home. Speak soon. XXX