Thursday, 9 February 2012

IATTOUR January 24-Feb 7 Oz wks 2&3

Jan 24: Bundaberg
Well yes, we were on our way to Rockhampton and hoped to make it to the Capricornia Caves (area lies on the Tropic of Capricorn), but the weather dissuaded us.  The monsoons began again and the roads started to close around us as Tex and Gordon had cautioned us.  The radio reports suggested not driving at all and at least avoiding the worst areas.  We turned around and headed back down the coast.  This time we drove to Bundaberg, found a motel and had a great time wandering around the historic downtown while the rain streamed down.

Jan 25: Mooloolaba
After narrowly missing being stuck in Childers (the Bruce Highway was temporarily blocked by a flash flood) we pressed on.  After a bit of lull in the storm we were off again, electing to retry the highway rather than getting stuck in the more rural overland routes.  Success!  This time we moved to the holiday town of Mooloolaba (which is really just part of a mega Sunshine Coast district  including Morychadore and Budderim) and hoped to be able to spend Australia Day there, then make it through to Brisbane on Friday for our flight out to Perth.  Mooloolaba was full of holiday-makers, hanging out at the beach, filling coffee shops and parked at MacDonald's, typing away.  Even the whipped up chocolate brown sea didn't deter the faithful.

Jan 26: Mooloolaba
 Happy Australia Day!  As befits a national holiday, merry-makers were up early, decked in Aussie gear (flags, blue body paint, tattoo decals, green and gold clothing along with a wonderful holiday spirit).   We managed to find a local Geocache to deposit the last of the travel bugs that Elaine has been carrying for various students and friends, they are now safely released. Mooloolaba’s beaches were strewn with debris from the flooding rivers, but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the surf and sand.  We watched cliff-side as surfers balanced on their boards over the big waves, Dragon boaters practiced in the surf, sea-doers flew up over the crests and one group of boaters challenged the giant waves in their small aluminum skiff.  All of this amidst a drizzle that continued on and off all day—definitely nothing gets in the way of fun—I really like that about Australians!

Jan 27: Brisbane
Can we make it?  Alright, Tony guessed that he could avoid a giant delay by taking a small detour.  Well done!  We are back in Brisbane, but it is still pouring so we hole up in the hotel, do our laundry and drive to the small market.  Goodbye to the West Coast—as Tex said—April might be a better time to visit if you want consistent weather.  Off to Perth where it is 40 plus degrees tomorrow.

Jan 28: Perth/Bunbury
Off to Perth in the early morning, we find ourselves stepping into what feels like Bikram Yoga with the humidity turned off.  Perth is a large modern city.  We choose to visit city later because of the heat and find our way to the Van rental then drive out of town south to the coast…we aren’t sure where.  After enjoying mile after mile of beautiful South West Coast grasslands, lovely rivers and giant trees (reminding me of the large oak meadows back in Victoria), we arrive in the pretty town of Bunbury.  As this is still summer vacation for the school children, the store clerk doesn’t give us much chance of finding accommodation.  Lucky for us we stop by the information centre and the ladies phone to reserve the only site available in a local caravan park.  We know this because the person arriving just before us is turned away.  Thanks to Murray for the helpful suggestion to use the information centres for assistance!  The campground is still packed with kids using the pool and the “jumping pillow”—a large in-ground inflated pillow (alternative to the trampoline), but the beach looks great.  We’ll check it out tomorrow.

Jan 29: Bunbury
Bunbury’s beach is noted for friendly visiting dolphins, but try as we might, we don’t manage to find any.   We missed the whales (they swim by in Spring), but catch a beach volleyball competition.  Our fabulous neighbours, a retired Scottish couple with a son in Australind (who have been coming here for the past 15 summers) loan us their bicycles and we spend the morning cruising through Bunbury’s downtown section, out to the surfing beaches and past the upscale waterfront with cool artwork/historic walk/giant lookout tower.    After a nice swim/float, we watch the highlights of the Australian Open and the continued deluge in Queensland.   We hope all is still well with Tex and Gordon!


Jan 30: Augusta
A nice leisurely drive down to Augusta starts out well with a stop at the Bussselton Jetty (2 km pier out into the Ocean).  The water is an incredible glacier blue against stretches of clean white sand.  No wonder there are tourists everywhere!   We stop to sample some of the Margaret River’s bountiful wine and then head to Yallingup for a snorkel.  We hear that this is the place to come for the best surfing and the parking lot traffic confirms that.  This is where surfing started in WA! Things start to become more difficult from here as the wind picks up and Tony is forced to wrestle the Van down the highway.   By the time we pull into Flinders’ Bay in Augusta, he is exhausted and we decide to leave the exploring for morning.

I think the wineries out in WA have lots of money!

outlaw Ned Kelly's last hurrah
Blown away in flies here!
Jan 31: Walpole
In the morning the wind has died down enough for us to stand up straight so we check out this corner of West Australia, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.  Although the water looks pretty stirred up, there are plenty of locals in the ocean—practicing for triathalons or trolling for sharks—we aren’t sure.  From Augusta, we head into the Walpole Wilderness.  The forests are full of poetic sounding giants—Karri, Jarrah and Tingle Trees.   What isn’t full are the waterfalls, but we do manage to find a suspension bridge and take photos of where the waterfall would be.  Camping by the inlet in Walpole we wander down to the beach and a stunned to find a large Manta Ray hunting along the edge of the waves.  Amazing!  We also bump into a like-minded Australian couple, Geoff and Cathy, who are heading the same direction we are—to the Tree-top Walk—tomorrow.

Feb 1: Denmark
Why don’t we have one of these in Canada, I keep asking (or perhaps we do?).  How fabulous to walk up into the tops of the gigantic Karri trees and have a bird’s eye view of the forest.  The walk is well-chair accessible, with a ramp reaching up to series of platforms on towers and suspended ramps between each of these.  It is quite the marvel of engineering and a great tourist attraction (replacing the original   attraction, a “drive-through” giant Karri tree).  We spend all morning there with Geoff and Cathy, before heading to the next big attraction—Greens Pool in Williams Bay.   This pool turns out to be quite possibly the nicest beach in this part of the world.   Again, the water is a clean, clear, warm beautiful blue with fine white sand beach and a scattering of huge boulders sheltering tropical fish.  Simply lovely!  It is hard to drag ourselves away and into Demark, but finally we need to wash off the salt.  We are down the road from the beach in Demark, but spend our time chatting with  Cathy and Geoff and watching the local kangaroos and beautiful birds.

Feb 2: Albany
After an endurance hike up the sandy cliff-side on the end of Denmark’s beach, we start out for Albany.  The weather has turned now, with rain starting to fall as we drive down the scenic route to Albany.   It reminds me very much of the Fraser Valley without the mountains.  We drive past pastures of cows, sheep and outlying businesses, but inadvertently miss some great wine country.   After checking out a couple of sites, we check into the caravan park at Emu Beach, then head downtown to check email at MacDonald's (along with many other people, it seems).  This is the second largest city in W Australia and turns out to have been another stop on Captain G Vancouver’s route.  He stopped by in 1791.  Albany has many other claims to fame—we’ll check those out tomorrow.   Later, we are surprised to find that our site is a shared site—we are a little confused as another van pulls in beside us—then leaves at 0 dark 30.  Hmmm…we deduce that the 3 people sharing the pad have actually been helping themselves to the facilities—pretty cheeky—we’ll park across the space tomorrow.

Feb 3: Albany
Today is all about exploring Albany and the local area.  First, we go to the Memorial to the Light Horse Brigade, which has been returned from Egypt and positioned to look out over the Southern Ocean.  It is very moving to see this tribute to the young men who died in Gallipoli.  Then, we visit the Natural Bridge, Gap and Blow Hole (along with a parade of other traveller's that we recognise from the Campground).  Some of the vegetation looks very similar until we look more closely and the landscape is very much like that around Peggy’s Cove.  You can almost feel Antarctica in the distance.  After a short diversion to the Sandalwood Factory, I make it into the Albany Gaol—built by convicts to house convicts (how convenient).   It was pretty creepy there when I found myself alone with a replica of the death mask of a man who claimed to be Jack the Ripper—and just about got locked in the Gaol. 

air attack planes all over WA..for Carl!
I got Elaine good here in Albany, I was into the store while Elaine stayed in the van to enrich herself on the local Australian Women’s Day magazines.  I came out early because the choice was not available and it just happened that Elaine got out of the van without seeing me, I then locked the van from afar.  What a look on her face when she found she could not get into the van; what a candid camera moment!  We both laughed hard.

We are really enjoying the park and the travellers here.  It helps to have a communal BBQ and kitchen.  Tony has picked up some information on Fremantle/Perth from Rachel and we spend out evenings talking to Geoff and Cathy as well as a lovely couple from the Netherlands who are travelling with their 18 month old daughter.  What a delight to discuss world politics with people from other parts of the globe.  We certainly share many concerns and frustrations.
a bit of r&r reading in the van

Feb 4: Mandurah
Today it was time to say goodbye to all of our new friends/fellow travellers and head back toward Perth.  Hopefully they will stop to see us in North Saanich someday soon.  We turn back toward Bunbury and drive through multiple vineyards, forests and pastureland—thankful to have chosen this route.  After stopping at a Cidery In the delightful town of Bridgetown and again at a Gourmet Food/Wine Event in Donnybrook, we stop short of Freemantle in the town of Mandurah.  Onward tomorrow.

Feb 5: Freemantle and Perth
It was a short easy drive to Freemantle after figuring out some of the various unfamiliar roadways, but we got there OK.  Freemantle is a great little port city with tons of character and a wonderful place to wander about in the brilliant sunshine.  Being , Sunday the Freemantle Market was in full swing with everything from alligators to wallabies on sale; the place was absolutely packed.  This is a vintage town with a ton of historic buildings and lots to see.  We found out that there was going to be a free concert this afternoon at the Fine Arts Centre so made a point to take in the band “Toby”.  What a great venue in the gardens of the centre, with a heap of local citizens of all strata taking in the exceptional music and surroundings.  We checked out a local caravan park in Freemantle, but decided it was lacking and we would try our luck in North Perth at the Karrinyup Waters Resort.  Again once after we figured out our directions, we got ourselves situated in a very nice place for the next couple of nights. Time to relax with lots of other international travellers to talk to through the evening.

Feb 6: Perth
Another gorgeous day to wake up to!  A couple of things to do today: see King’s Park and get our Hep B booster shots.  Getting on the internet (had to pay money…groan!) found a clinic conveniently located Subiaco (district in North Perth) that we could get into this afternoon.  Spent the morning strolling through the Botanical Gardens at King’s Park; world class is all we can say with stunning views of the harbour and city.  We were early for our shots, so we headed to North Beach for a swim in the surf.  The water was divine, just what the Dr. ordered.   We will put in a plug for Capstone Health services, they were great to get us in, give us our Hep B shots, fill a prescription for some lost meds in Tony’s missing bag and not even charge us the full consult fee for 2 patients!  Back to the caravan park, sat around the very nice pool (best in our trip) and read for a bit.  Elaine chatted up some touring retirees from the UK while I adventured out to get dinner and gas up the van to have it ready to return tomorrow.

Feb 7: Off to Bali
Caravan safely returned to the depot with nary a scratch, then off to the airport..albeit a few hours early to satisfy Tony’s predilection to  not being late!  No problems with the flight, and were picked up by Teja at Denpesar airport to be taken to Villa Selaras, the home of Fraser and Shary Rea friends from Sidney.  What a beautiful place to drop into and very gracious hosts.  Lots more and pics in the next post.

PS—thanks to the following for making their part of the world a better/friendlier place to travel through and live in (not in order of importance):

  • Many Campgrounds across North America for providing free WIFI for guests—imagine not having to leave your tent to SKYPE home.
  • Volunteering Veterinarians who have changed the outcome for animals in places such as Roratonga.  Spay/neutering programs =no packs of marauding dogs chasing scooters and living on the beach and fewer feral cats preying on local birds.
  • The country of Australia for providing free Barbeque's in all of their parks.  Grill your eggs, steak, etc. in the open air and enjoy—brilliant (not to mention a great way to meet your neighbours and avoid accidental fires)!
  • MacDonald’s in Australia—for providing free WIFI (unless you are induced to buy a coffee or two because of guilt)
  • The Country of Mexico for thoughtful hiring practices—many of the airport security staff in Mexico City Airport have mobility challenges—and a great job.
  • Countries such as Argentina and Australia for subsidizing public transportation in big cities (i.e.: Buenos Aires and Perth) so that it is incredibly cheap and easy to get from place to place (what a way to cut down on traffic in the city)
  • The province of Quebec for running its competition between communities to build and maintain the “the best rest stop”—resulting in some of the nicest places to stop when driving across North America.  One even had a local self-guided “eco walk”
  • Salem, Mass for providing downloadable self-guided audio tours for their historic “witch trials” sites.  Great low-cost way to entertain tourists!  This could perhaps be a secondary school history project in any community.
  • Washington, DC for providing free access to all to their marvellous Smithsonian Museums.  Surely the best value we have met anywhere in the world so far!
  • Roratonga on the Cook Islands for providing rotational protection to their incredible coral reefs (moving marine parks).  It may cost to get and stay there, but this plan protects that incredible sea life which is just a step away and free for all to view.  

1 comment:

  1. I stayed in Subiaco when I lived in Perth. I loved visiting Freemantle and the little island just off from there, Rottnest has the cutest little marsupials that are unafraid of tourists and their bikes.

    Sounds like a whole lot of fun!