Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199902 Australia-WA

Monday 1 February 1999   Not such a good nights sleep.  Steve gets up early and watches the American Superbowl final on TV.  Gus is going to need an operation but as he is their daughter Angela’s dog she is dealing with it.  Drive down "Sunset Coast" which has miles and miles of lovely beaches with fine white sand and continues into Perth. We travel in the van and the garage say the repair to the radiator needs a new hose which with labour will cost $450 (£180) and can’t be done until tomorrow.  Kings Park has spectacular views over the town and we take a walk and have lunch there.  Steve has a go at driving and manages without any problems.  Whilst showing us how things in the van work the CD player breaks so we have to take it to repair shop.  The journey takes us through the centre of Perth and some of the suburbs.  Not too many high rises and a nice feel to the city with rivers and lots of parks completing the picture.  In the evening Angela, husband Dudley, daughter Emma (4) and son Samuel (20 months) join us for a meal.  They used to travel a lot and we compare notes.  Samuel reminds us very much of Daniel.  Later Fred helps us to plot a provisional route around Australia taking into account our meeting with Sandra in Alice Springs on 21 June and hopefully Claire, Daz and Daniel’s trip to Perth before we return the motorhome by 15 December.
Tuesday 2 February  Up at 7.00am and out by 8.00am.  Maureen takes us to the ferry port at Fremantle where we catch the boat to Rottnest Island – $32 (£12.80) return. It was named by the Dutch man who first found it and thought the resident Quokka marsupials were rats.  The island used to hold the Aboriginal prison and is small but full of lovely beaches with fine white sand.  A beautiful hot day with clear skies.  On arrival on the island we take the courtesy bus to Parakeet Bay and enjoy a couple of hours sunbathing and also spot a very tame Quokka.   We return to  Thomson Bay on the bus for $5 (£2) which gives you all day use on a circular route.  Pop into the shower block and Steve finishes first and calls to me to join him round the back for a beer.   The courtyard with tables, a case of beer and a "Fosters" banner is really where the workers live and the man is surprised when Steve orders beer.  Len explains that this is his homestead but sees the funny side and insists we join him for a beer anyway.  The circular bus tour takes an hour which leaves us time for the walking tour of the old settlement before the ferry leaves at 4.30pm.  We return to Hillarys marina where Fred picks us up.  What a great day.
Wednesday 3 February  Lie in whilst Fred and Maureen go out and finally get up at 10.00am.  By the time we make it down the road to the beach the afternoon breeze has got up and it is too windy to be comfortable so it’s back to the sheltered garden for sunbathing.  I start to load our things into the van and find plenty of space to put everything.  The mobile phone in the van rings and it is Claire with a bit of news and also checking that the phone number is correct.  Should any of you want to contact us the number to dial from UK is 0061 1891 2471 but please remember we are between 8 and 10 hours ahead of BST!  We take Fred and Maureen out for an evening meal to the Chinese restaurant at the end of the next street.  Superb views of the sun setting and a great meal at only $13 (£5.20) a head for prawn crackers, crispy wantons, spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, chicken and cashews, beef in blackbean sauce, garlic fish, fried rice, ice cream and coffee.   Spend our first night in Dew Drop Inn but don’t sleep too well having been spoilt in the house.
Thursday 4 February  A shopping trip to the local mall sees us not only with groceries but Steve a new pair of black jeans for $20 (£8), flips flops and me a T shirt.  I burnt my neck on Rottnest Island even with my cap back to front and factor 15 sun screen so I now have a shirt with a collar I can turn up!  Pack the goodies in Dew Drop Inn and later take Fred’s other mini camper van to drive South to meet John and Lesley at the other side of Perth.  They live in the suburb of Winthrop, a nice area of executive houses and we met them in Venice in June 1997 whilst they were touring in a camper.  Their house looks like something from an American movie –  Art Deco style and huge.  Lesley greets us and can actually talk more and faster than I can.  John arrives later and cooks a BBQ for us all.  It is great to see them again as we meet very few people of our age group when travelling and these guys are just on our wave length.  They are expecting visitors from Ireland tomorrow and suggest we all go on a River dinner cruise together on Saturday night.  Spend what is left of the night in the mini camper on their driveway.
Friday 5 February  Up at 7.30am and into the house for breakfast.  John and Lesley have their own business as wholesalers for souvenirs – good job as they are sure to be late for work today.  9.30am park in Fremantle –  the harbour for Perth and the main port for Western Australia.  80% of the state population live in or around Perth so it seems people did not travel far after they arrived here.  A lot of old wooden buildings make for a nice stroll around and a coffee at one of the many pavement cafes in "Cappuccino" street.  The harbour sheds are now markets where I buy a pair of zip off trousers at $45 (£18).  I need these as my calves are starting to burn in shorts.  The jail looks very interesting but we decide to leave the tour until we have Claire and Daz with us.  We are keeping their visit in mind as we look out for things that would be good to do together.  A little further North across the Swan River is Swanbourne Naturist Beach.  The "Fremantle Doctor" wind forces us to hide in the dunes but we still manage an hour sunbathing.  The temperature is now well into the 30`s and expected to rise as high as 39 by Monday.  Back to Fred and Maureen’s and then out again at 5.00pm for the "Trots" – not what you think.  Call at Red Rooster for a take away meal.  Steve doesn’t notice that the same meal as a combo gets you fries and a drink for an extra $1.  I notice but don’t realise that you have to help yourself to the drinks in the fridge and end up with just the fries extra!  Gloucester Park is the setting for the Trotting Races every Friday night.  Horses tow a two wheel carriage around a track and you bet in the same way as a normal race meeting.  Maureen’s sister Mavis and husband Robby join us as do their son Warren and wife Elana and a friend called Ann with Mrs Scott her 87 year old Mum.  Eat our meal and buy a few beers to wash it down.  Just Steve and I walk around to the "Birdcage" area where you can see the horses before the race.  We get a bit lost on the way back and find we are walking up the horse ramp which leads directly onto the track – wonder what the odd would have been on us trotting round!  The races begin with the horses going round the track following a car which has bars fanning out in both directions from the roof.  When the horses are level and a certain point is reached the race car pulls away quickly, brings the bars in and then moves to the outside of the track.  It is a balmy evening with a great view of the Casino lights across the River.  Lots of families sit on the grassy bank with face painting and other activites to keep the kids amused.   Our betting is a bit hit and miss but we don’t loose too much and consider it all part of the evening out.   Mrs Scott tells us how she used to live in the outback when younger and they had a rustic version of the "trots".  She won $40 one night (a lot of money in those days) and her friend took it to the bank in the nearest town the next day and it is still there.  Leave around 11.00pm and pick up a take away Pizza on the way back.  Decide that we won’t bother with a formal contract for our exchange as we have covered most points in our letters and feel happy to go on trust having met each other.  Bed at 1.00am – seems to be unusual for us to get to bed before midnight now.
Saturday 6 February  Up around 9.00am and Fred has collected fresh croissants from the bakers.  Lennard Pool the beach area at the bottom of the road is busy and very appealing without the wind.  Maureen makes us a tray of quick vanilla slices to take with us.  (Lay Jacob’s type cream crackers in the bottom of a tray side by side.  Whisk a pint of cream with an instant custard powder mix and then spread on the top.  The top cracker may be spread with jam before putting on top of the custard.  Spread icing over the top layer.  She says they are even better the next day if you can leave them that long!)  Finally make our departure at 2.30am and head down to Swanbourne Naturist Beach.  Very hot, no wind but big waves coming in from the sea.  This coast is known for the good surfing beaches but also has beaches with calm seas.  Off the beach at 4.30pm and back to the car park where showers are provided.  Drive to the centre of Perth to Barrack Street pier.  We have a Perth street map and find the driving very easy with not much traffic.  The car park we had planned to stay on is full as are the others nearby.  Tonight there is an outdoor opera concert of Hansel and Gretal and because of this  they are allowing you to park on adjoining grassland.  $5 and we can sleep overnight as well – not bad for parking in a state capital on the riverside with wonderful views.  Meet Kevin and Pauline from Dublin and board the cruise ship.  John knows the owner and gets us a special price of $50 (£20) instead of the normal $69.  Snacks on the table, spring rolls and crispy wantons brought round and then all you can eat buffet with enormous prawns and thick slices of roast beef followed by dessert and coffee.   All you can drink of Beer, Wine and soft drinks also included.   There is a commentary as we cruise up to Fremantle and a disco on the way back.  A brilliant night made even better by the good company.  Dock at 11.30pm and return to the van where we all sit outside on the grass drinking and enjoying life to the full.  The party ends after 1.00am when the others catch a taxi home having arranged for us to meet up at their holiday home in Busselton on Friday.
Sunday 7 February  Having returned to find quite a few cars still parked up last night we notice them being collected as the car alarms start to sound.  By the time we leave at 8.00am there is just one car left.  Sunseekers Naturist Club is in the John Forest National Park near Hovea and about 1 hours drive east of Perth.  We are made very welcome but begin to regret the name on the side of the van as everyone seems to think it is their turn to "Dew Drop Inn" on us!  The temperature soars to 37degrees and we keep hopping into the pool to cool off.  We can’t seem to stop drinking and now understand why they have a completely separate fridge for drinks.  Maurice and Betty take us for a drive in the afternoon to Mundaring Weir where water was originally pumped over 500kms inland to Coolgardie gold mines.  I fall asleep before 8.30pm whilst watching "Ballykissangel" on TV and Steve does the same shortly after.
Monday 8 February   An excellent nights sleep broken rather abruptly by the very noisy and unusual sounding dawn chorus.  There are lots of parrots and big raven type birds here and it feels like we are in the middle of a jungle. An even hotter day with the temperature reaching nearly 40.  At last with only a few people at the club I manage to catch up with the diary and look in further detail at our planned route.   The things we thought were large rabbit droppings turn out to be "roo poo" as the kangaroos visit here regularly.  Hilton gives us information on New Zealand as he used to live there and Ian the caretaker here fills us in on Australia.  We are almost overwhelmed by this as we have to keep adding to our planned itinerary.  We pay the fees of $16 (£6.40) per day ready for our departure early tomorrow.
Tuesday 9 February  The predicted cool and humid day turns out to be 27 degrees and slightly breezy.  We linger and linger into the afternoon.  Ian sells us his solar shower second hand for $10 (£4) – shame he hasn’t got a sun lounger and wind break to sell also.  Trot down to the pool for a last swim – I do 20 lengths and then Steve makes the mistake of jumping in the deep end of the pool but near the edge.  There is a ledge all around the pool and he lands rather abruptly on it jolting his feet.  He heard a crack as he landed and his right foot is painful.  He is struggling to walk on it so we try an ice pack and a massage but it is no better and would not be good for driving.  Bandage it up and decide to stay overnight and either move on tomorrow or go to the local hospital for an x-ray incase he has broken a bone or two.  Set up the front bed for the night to give us more space to stretch out.  Watch TV which consists of nearly as many British programmes and American and Australian ones.  "Trial and Retribution 2" by Linda La Plante is especially good but we will have to be careful not to become Telly Addicts.
Wednesday 10 February  Steve’s foot is not good, he can’t walk or put any pressure on it. I drive us into Midland to the Swan District Hospital.  The receptionists tells us that they have reciprocal agreements with Britain (i.e. we needn’t have taken medical insurance) and we just have to give her our basic details.   An X-ray shows no bones broken but the Doctor recommends tubi grip for support and rest for a few days.  Round to the local shopping mall for a stock up and lunch at Hungry Joes (just like Burger King) before returning to the site.  Claire phones in the afternoon with news of a possible buyer for their house – will keep our fingers crossed that all goes well.  Steve sits in the club house most of the afternoon and evening watching cricket.  I sit in the van watching films and an episode of "The Lakes".  Ian knocks on the door and tells me there are Possums in the tree by his chalet.  The look a bit like squirrels with the head of a cat.
Thursday 11 February   Prepare to leave the site.  Ian pops over and tells us there is a bob tailed lizard in the grounds, so it’s video and photo time again.  Leave at 2.00pm with me driving and Steve navigating – not the best combination!  The roads here are excellent with good signs and not much traffic.  Lots of signs to pull over for "Free coffee for the driver".  Stop in Pinjarra to walk on the rope suspension bridge.  Turn off the highway just north of Harvey.  Fred has lent us some books showing free or minimal fee camping areas in Australia and Hoffmans Mill sounds good.  20km of dirt track and gravel road brings us to a nice clearing by the stream with a toilet block (flush toilets)  picnic tables, BBQ pits and firewood.  Morry and Dawn are the only other campers and they invite us in for a few beers.  This is a minimal fee area which charges $5 (£2) overnight for 2 people and they say the Ranger came round the other day and said the Warden probably wouldn’t be round to collect the fees as he died in a car crash last week!  The cameras come out again to photo Kookaburras and Green Parakeets. 
Friday 12 February  Up and away by 8.00am.  I make better progress along the track and manage to ride between the ruts and get the speed right to coast over the corrugations.  Arrive in Bunbury and park by the dolphin centre in Koombana Bay.  We dash down to the beach and see a crowd of people in the water with the dolphins swimming amongst them.  There is a special interaction area where you can watch or swim and snorkel with them.  Brilliant.   A lovely beach and so we stay awhile to sunbathe and the dolphins return again later.  They are completely free to come and go and some days none will come but other days many of the 90 who swim near here choose to come to this area.   Late afternoon to Busselton through the Tuart Forest National Park.  Claire phones but the reception is bad.  Call back when we arrive in Busselton.  The reception probably wasn’t bad – just Steve holding the phone to his ear back to front!  Things are moving fast on Claire’s house sale as they have already agreed a price with a buyer.  I stroll to the Post Office to pick up some mail and post the disc.  Keep getting caught out without sun cream when I pop out for a walk.  Lots of parking here as it is the main holiday resort for people from Perth.  Just now it is nearly empty but with the whole of Geographe Bay lined with sandy beaches it is easy to see why it is popular.  Just West of the town is Geographe Bay Holiday Park where John and Lesley have a Park home.  Along with Kevin and Pauline they arrive just before 6.30pm and we dash up to Stilts bar to try and catch "Happy Hour" which ends at 6.30pm.   No chance.   We still stay for a few hours of drinking and snacking.  Notice lots of old cars here and John explains that because of  the climate you don’t get rust and people just keep putting new parts or even new engines in them.  This explains why Dew Drop Inn has 208,000 on the clock and Fred’s other car over 400,000km’s.
Saturday 13 February  A cloudy and windy start to the day – most unusual.  John takes us for a stroll to show us the site and beach.  Take Dew Drop Inn into Busselton where we all wander round the shopping centre.  Steve and I pop to an Internet Cafe where for 15 minutes you pay $3 (£1.20) to use the computer.  One message received from New Zealand and two sent.  I find that with the restriction of time and a different machine my typing is much slower so will stick to sending discs to Netty with regular letters.  Not a cloud in sight which is unbelievable after the way it was a couple of hours ago.  Busselton has the longest pier in the Southern Hemisphere and for $6 (£2.40) each return we all hop on the train which takes us 2km to the end.  An impromptu picnic on the tables behind the beach follows.  Finally start to head back.  You can only buy alcohol in Australia at a bottle store, usually drive through (except when you have a high vehicle).  Park the bus and John, Kevin and I walk to get some supplies in and everyone laughs and stares at us as we walk back with 3 x 30 cases of beer plus wine – guess it looks like party time.  4.30pm when we get back so just enough time for a late siesta before joining everyone for a meal.  Les has cooked a "Sunday" dinner with roast beef and all the trimmings.  Loads of meat which is much cheaper here.  For example the price in Australian dollars per kilo is roughly the same as we would pay in British pounds per pound (i.e. about 1//6th of the price).   Dinner is followed by a hilarious game of Pictionary followed by the inquest.
Sunday 14 February  Nice lazy day sitting around the pool occasionally taking a cooling dip.   Steve’s foot has improved a lot and he tries a game of tennis against John.  At 5.00pm Steve and I drive into town to a Motel where they do a free spit roast every Sunday.  Chat to some interesting people and find out that "There’s Something about Mary" is showing at the drive in tonight.  The spit roast is served at 7.30pm and consists of bread rolls, sausages, onions, chicken drumsticks and piles of lean roast lamb.  Excellent for a freebie.  Quick drive to the cinema.  $8 (£3.20) a head gets you in to see two films.  Doctor Dolittle is on first.  Park near the back (for obvious reasons) and tune our radio in to receive the sound.  A strange experience and we are not sure we like it – find it hard to stay awake (although I do brew a cup of coffee) and you don’t have the atmosphere of other people laughing as well.   Had a good few chuckles at "Mary" – can recommend it.  Looks like we will be coming again tomorrow as Steve wants to see Private Ryan and on Tuesday I want to see Parent Trap and A Bug’s Life. 
Monday 15 February  An early swim in the pool.  The site Manager asks that if we are staying a few more days can we move onto a pitch instead of staying in the car park.  She offers us an en-suite site for $10 (£4) a night instead of the usual $30 (£12). You park right beside a building which has a toilet, shower, two sinks, fridge and electric hook up.  The price is for up to 6 people and includes use of the swimming pool (we already have free use as John and Lesley’s guests).  May have a few nights here with Claire and Daz.  Back into Busselton where I have no success trying to buy a windbreak or sun lounger.  We follow John and Lesley’s car to the Bootleg Brewery.  Although called a brewery it is now a restaurant serving different types of beer and excellent food.  A lovely setting with children’s play area and a small lake.  We go our separate ways after and we head to the Shearing Shed for the 3.00pm demonstration.  Steve the owner shears one sheep and explains all about sheep farming.  The dogs then give a demonstration of their skills.  Our Steve gets a chance to haul a sheep out of the pen and sit in on it’s haunches ready for shearing but fortunately that is as far as he goes.  We are given food to hand feed the sheep in the pens. Yet another spot on the list for Claire.  Detour to Yallingup on the South West coast – all of which is said to be a Surfers paradise.  Back at the site I nip over the road to the shopping centre and pick up a "fish bucket for one".  Crab stick, prawns, two pieces of fish and dim sum plus chips for $8 (£3.20),  plenty for two.  Back to the drive in to see Private Ryan or in my case for a snooze.  Not my scene at all but Steve enjoyed it.
Tuesday 16 February    A jobbing day today so we drive in Busselton.   At the Mazda garage Steve buys the sealed unit replacement head lamp but they want to charge £30 (£12) labour for removing the Roo bar in order to fit it.  Do a big shop and return to the site for Steve to fix the bulb.  He gets the bonnet off without removing the bar but the sealed unit is the wrong one.  Back to town to change it then to a different garage as Mazda don’t have the correct one!  Borrow a step ladder to fix the roof vent which came off it’s hinges when we drove off with it open – oops.  Sitting by the pool in the afternoon the heat goes out of the sun.  It is a totally clear sky and we suddenly remember that today there is an eclipse.  Back to the van to grab a black T-shirt to look through.  At around 3.20pm the moon covers almost all the sun but it is still light and bright. This area sees a 92% eclipse but a little further North in Australia they get a 98% one – amazing.  Our farewell party constitutes a BBQ at our place.  John, Lesley, Kevin and Pauline join us just before 8.00pm.  John brings his Australian style flat plate portable BBQ and shows Steve how to cook the chicken drumsticks, sausages and steaks on it.  I have made coleslaw, salad and double baked jacket potatoes to go with them.  Steve bought something called Lamb Flaps at the supermarket – 50p a tray full.  They look like the outside skin of 3 sides of lamb and smell terrible as the fat sizzles and smoke billows out.  You can just imagine the jokes that start to fly around.  Steve and Kevin give them a try before depositing them in the bin.  However the home-made vanilla slices topped with passion fruit icing go down well to cleanse the palate.  Kevin (the Irishman) is an electrician and by 11.00pm when everyone is merry he offers to repair our faulty dual cigarette socket.  Steve, John and Kevin all set to work in the van – how many Irishmen does it take to change a cigarette socket?  Steve is trying to learn the job whilst John just keeps winding Kevin up by making sparking noises and pointing the torch in the wrong place.  Eventually after much laughter the job’s a good one.
Wednesday 17 February  Up early to make a getaway today –  wall to wall clouds.  Call at Lesley’s for breakfast before saying our farewells.  Kevin and Pauline fly back on Saturday and they are having a trip out today before heading back to Perth tomorrow.  Set off at 10.00am in clear blue skies and head West to Cape Naturaliste.  First stop Sugarloaf Rock with beautiful coastal scenery and lots of  birds. Next the Lighthouse on the point then Bunker’s Bay a fantastic huge bay yet again with clear blue sea and white sand – I cannot enthuse too much about the beaches around here.  Sunbathe and stroll until 2.00pm and then move a little further to Eagle Bay.  Lunch in the van before another sunbathing session – shorter for me as I am starting to burn even with factor 15.  The laws on Wild Camping here are a bit grey and the car park has "no camping" showing a tent but we are not sure if this applies to us.  Move into the corner and hope for the best.  Scrabble comes out for the first time.  Fred dug it out from the cellar and Maureen checked that all the letter were there.  Some are wooden as they lost a few and replaced them with some from another set.  What she did not mention was that they replaced them with whatever letter they picked up and not the correct ones!  We find there is no Q and not enough of some letters and too many of others.  Spend the first half an hour re labelling the set to make it correct.  Settle down for an early night – our first real night of Wild camping in Australia.
Thursday 18 February  No problems overnight.  Cars start to arrive quite early in the morning presumably with fishermen or early morning swimmers or walkers.  I get up at 8.00am.  Steve can’t seem to grasp that if he goes to bed early he should get up early – he seems to enjoy about 12 hours in the pit and especially the last hour or so when he has the whole bed to himself.  Back on Eagle Bay beach Steve comes out of the water clutching his chin.  There are a type of tiny jelly fish in the water here called Stingers and one has got him on the chin.  You are supposed to put vinegar on it but we cannot find any in the van and have to make do with Tiger Balm.  Move further round to Meelup Beach which is much more commercialised.  Grassy banks lead down to the perfect beach and there is a toilet and shower block. Behind the car park is a BBQ area with tables, chairs and BBQ pits with wood for you to burn.  People seem to come and go all day.  Many appear after work with the kids for a quick swim or a picnic.  We join a number of locals in the BBQ area and Steve manages to do a pretty good job cooking us potatoes, onions, sausage, steak and lamb chop. 
Friday 19 February  Another peaceful night at the back of the beach.  Set out the table and chairs to enjoy our breakfast with a magnificent view – a cyclist  comes by and passes comment on what a terrible place this is to stay!  Everyone here is very friendly and always speaks.  Sunbathe awhile and leave at 11.30am as a few clouds start to gather.  Back to Dunsborough for a quick shop – brown vinegar at the top of the list.  I buy some special sun screen for my lips and when I put it on it is white and Steve says I look like an Australian cricket player!  Following  Caves Road a little further down the coast is Smiths Beach which John has recommended for us to have a go at body surfing on the board Fred lent us.  Great beach but not much surf and it is too windy for sunbathing.  This is the main wine producing region for WA and we call in at a couple of the wineries.  The wine is good but much more expensive than in the bottle shops.  Gracetown is the town where lots of people were killed on the beach a couple of years ago when the cliff collapsed on top of them.  Same problem again with the strong wind.  Margaret River is the main "big" inland town here.  Apart from Perth none of the towns are big at all and most are so quiet they feel like they have been deserted.  Still no luck getting either a wind break or sun lounger.  Out to Prevelly where the Margaret River flows into the Indian Ocean.  This is the top surfing spot in Australia.  In the morning there are gentle winds for the surfers and in the afternoon strong winds suitable for wind surfing.  We spot a man fly/kite surfing with a parachute type sail attached to himself.  He surfs along pulled by the sail and frequently takes off.  Looks like the wind is going to be a problem all down this stretch of coastline.  Find a nice slightly sheltered spot at the back of the car park for our overnight stay.
Saturday 20 February  Another good  parking spot.  I am wide awake and raring to go at 7.00am so get up to do work on the computer and leave Steve in relative peace.   A cloudy start to the day and we head further South through the Leeuwin National Park.  Lots of areas of Karri and Jarrah trees in the forest have been burnt out and it looks like the road stopped the fire spreading even further.  Through Augusta and out to Cape Leeuwin the most South Westerly point of Australia where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.  $3.50 (£1.40) entitles you  to climb the 187 spiral steps to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the blustery view.  Back in Augusta we read in a local paper that there is an arsonist on the loose and the area we just drove through was the scene of a fire last Friday.  11 fires have been lit in the last 3 weeks so we had better avoid camping in the forest near here.  Our book tells us of a nice rustic campsite at Alexandra Bridge just East of here –  in the forest!   Claire phones and says they have put in an offer on a house in Market Drayton just a bit further along from Mum’s.  On the banks of the river we park up for $3.50 (£1.40) each per night.  Chat to Carol and Arthur from NSW who are travelling with John from Queensland.  An old man called Kevan is out here with his son Michael and his friend Shane for a mans weekend of fishing.  The lads are sleeping in swags which are basically sleeping bags with a small tent area above them.  We all sit together round the BBQ fire chatting and telling jokes and Steve samples the Kangaroo stew.  This is very much how I imagine American’s enjoy their weekends away in the forest.  Steve mentions that he has never been fishing on a boat and Michael invites him to join them in the morning.
Sunday 21 February  Steve is up at 6.00am for a cooked breakfast with the "lads".  The fishing trip sets off at 7.30am.  They have hired a speedboat so they can find the best fishing spots along the Blackwood River.  I chat to Jo and Digby an elderly couple from Queensland.  They have a new pop top caravan and 4WD vehicle and I ask if they may be interested in a swap next June.  They think not but will take out details and pass them on to others who may be.  At 10.30 the fishing trip returns.  Steve nearly caught  two fish and between them the others got 4 bream which Michael fillets and gives to us.  Steve insists that the fish he nearly caught were even bigger than the bream – a fishy story?  Next stop in another forest at Cambray where we park by the old railway siding and the remaining ruins of the old town.  There are a couple of natural pools here and the larger one is suitable for swimming.  We come across march flies for the first time.  Great big flies which buzz like bees and bite like mosquitoes – it’s not even March.  A few people come and go throughout the day but we are alone at night.  I am a little bit unsure as we are about 20 minutes of slow driving along a dirt track from the road.  Steve says that yesterday John said he had been camping completely alone in the forest for years and felt safer than at home and the only spots he thought were a bit risky were in towns with an Aboriginal community just outside.  I fry some of the fish in butter with salt and pepper.  The skin falls off as it cooks and there are very few bones.   Fish butties on the menu tonight – who would have thought I would ever cook and eat fish that had been freshly caught and that I had watched being gutted – not Mum I’ll bet especially after the Paris incident.
Monday 22 February  A very peaceful night without too many Kookaburras squawking.  I find it hard to believe as I dress that we have worn shorts every day since arriving in Australia and probably will for the foreseeable future.   Back into Nannup to the tourist office which is inside the old Police Station and complete with cells.  The tourist route takes you along the edge of the Blackwood River towards Balingup.  Up means river or water in Aboriginal which is why a lot of the place names have it as an ending.  Stop by the river for a 10 minute coffee break which turns into 1 hour or so.  Rejoin the main South Western Highway at Balingup heading South which means we now see 1 or 2 cars instead of 0 or 1.  Detour just before Manjimup to see King Jarrah a 600 year old tree.  The Jarrah tree produces a type of mahogany wood and along with the Karri tree provides wood for the logging industry in this area.  Detour just after Manjimup to Fontys Pool.  A small natural spring was found years ago and a watering hole created  which has now become a swimming hole.  A bit commercialised with an entry fee of $1.50 (60p), grassy banks, picnic tables, a diving board and rubber rings to swim with.  A little further South we stop to visit the Diamond Tree.  The only fire lookout tree still in use in the area.  51 metres climb in a spiral around the trunk hanging on to metal rungs and not for the feint hearted.  Steve would not like the sensation of climbing and looking down through the rungs so I go it alone and photo and video the distant views from the top.  Steve chats to another couple who have just finished the climb.  Paula (25) from Waterford Ireland and Jamie (23) from Cockermouth in the Lake District are here on 1 year working visas.  Between jobs and traveling in an old Escort car with a tent they decide to stay here and camp by us for the night.  Set up camp and sit around drinking and chatting whilst Steve lights the BBQ to cook the remainder of the fish and bake jacket potatoes.  Retire after midnight following a game of cards.
Tuesday 23 February   Steve gets up at 7.00am to start the BBQ fire to cook breakfast.  Fried eggs, toast and coffee for four are ready in no time.  We are getting quite proficient at this country living now.  Away at 9.15am to visit the Gloucester tree.  There is a park ranger collecting fees and we pay $45 (£18) for a one year pass to visit all the National Parks in Western Australia.  This tree is even higher than the other one at over 60 metres and I feel like a monkey being sent to perform.  My legs ache from the big stretch between the rungs and my hands are sore from gripping the rungs to hoist myself up.  Will pass on the third climbing tree in this area.  Call at the tourist office in Pemberton and sign up for the free timber mill tour tomorrow morning followed by a guided forest walk.  At the Trout farm you can catch you own fish but the owner tells us today is not a good day for fishing and you can buy them ready caught for the same price or a little extra for filleted ones.  At $13 (£5.20) kilo the rainbow trout seems reasonable so we buy one at $8 (£3.20).  Just North of the town is Big Brook Dam with a beautiful man made beach.  The clear pleasantly warm water makes this a super spot.  Very peaceful until a mini bus arrives with kids and canoes.  The 15 year olds are here to do a type of group initiative test with clues and challenges.  Good fun to watch, in fact I wish I could take part.  Sausages on the BBQ which we have to keep an eye on as the Magpies come in close in the hope of pinching a few.
Wednesday 24 February  The "bunnings" timber factory tour proves interesting as does the forest tour which follows.  Return to the dam in the afternoon to cool off.  Leave late afternoon to visit the Warren National Park which comes highly recommended.  Yet even more forest driving on unmade roads, yet another tree to climb (but I don’t) and a campsite which is only accessible for cars and tents – in other words a waste of time.  Heading further South we pull up at Brockman Sawpits and park next to a big converted bus owned by Danny and his wife.
He is just off to the River to collect his wife and do some fishing (in the dark).
Thursday 25 February  The march flies are a very big problem here so we get up early to walk to the sawpit intending to leave straight after.  Danny sees us coming back and invites us in for coffee.  His wife Katye comes from Lyon, France and they are in their mid 30’s travelling looking for work.  He convinces us to stay as he wants to spend time talking to us.  Plan a combined BBQ lunch which starts with Marron claws.  They caught 4 last night and they are very similar to Lobster.  Next course the trout which I marinated and stuffed with peppers, onions and tomatoes and serve with jacket potatoes.  The main body of the marron has been cooked in a creamy garlic sauce and is served with rice which is all followed by a fruit cake which Katye bakes in a special tin which goes in the BBQ fire.  An excellent 4 hour lunch break enjoyed by all and followed by Danny shuttling us to the river on his scrambling bike.    Bathe and cool down before returning to play cards.  They teach us a game called Rummy Cup which looks like being addictive.  We are having a few problems with the van and now realise that the fridge which only works on 12v or electricity is using more battery power than the solar panel puts in.  This means that after 2 or 3 days the batteries are flat and must be charged either with electricity, the portable generator or driving for a long time.  We are also out of fresh water as there is no gauge to show the level and the tanks are steel which we can’t see through. We feel a bit like the novices we were when we first started out on the road.  Will have to get an electric hook up tomorrow and then start to turn the fridge off at night.
Friday 26 February   Force ourselves to get up at 7.00am as with no power or water we must make a move.  Stop in Northcliffe for diesel and enquire about a laundrette.  The garage owner also owns the adjoining campsite which has a laundrette.  One thing leads to another and we check into the site at $10 (£4) including hot showers and electric.  The washing machines are brilliant.  $2 (80p) a load in a huge fast and efficient American style machine.  Two loads gets all the bedding, towels and everything up to date.  No way will I bother to try and do any hand washing from now on.  Stock up on groceries and drinks. The fridge has to be washed out and the perishable food eaten quickly.  Peppered steak goes down well with a huge $1 (40p) portion of chips from the garage which is also a fish and chip shop and restaurant.   
Saturday 27 February  Our plan to leave does not materialise as the weather is good and the march flies not so bad here.  Mid afternoon a man shouts us over to join them for a drink.  Barry and Janelle live in their 40′ bus converted into a motorhome.  Barry works for 6 months of the year and they travel for the rest of the time.  Time passes and they invite us to stay and join them for a BBQ with some other friends.  Gary, Kathy and girls Jesse (8) and Chelsea (6) live just outside town.  They have built their own house by filling hessian sacks with the local clay mud.  They stacked them all up and then wet them to solidify the walls.  They are very environmentally aware and try to be self sufficient and even home tutor the kids.  The BBQ is excellent.  Barry and Graham caught a load of marron which they cook along with steak, sausage, hamburger, tomato, pineapple, mushroom and onion and serve with rice salad, pasta and home baked pumpkin and chive bread – yummy. 
Sunday 28 February  Been in Australia for a month now but we are only about 5 hours direct drive south of Perth!  So initial thoughts on Western Australia – great weather, friendly and interesting people, cheap prices for almost everything, little traffic, lots to see and do, fantastic beaches, good food etc.  Any complaints – yes, they won’t let us come and live here!  Still find it strange to be in an obviously foreign country but with people speaking English.  The last couple of years we have got used to pricking our ears up for the occasional word of English.
Last night Kathy invited us out to visit their homestead and so Janelle takes us over in their 4WD.  They own acres of land which includes forest and an area of sand dunes.  Their home is quite big even though it is the smallest size you are allowed to build in Australia.  What they have done is almost unbelievable but 2 years on it is still very basic and a long way from finished.  Gary had an accident 6 years ago and is now disabled so until the compensation comes through they cannot do any more.  Kathy practically did all the work on the building herself with Gary planning it through and a few friends chipping in.  A bit like the "Good Life" which used to be on TV.  Finally leave the campsite at 11.00am and notice the logging wagon in town staging a protest against the "greens".  Further south we pass the "greens" camp at the side of the road protesting about the deforestation.  The Shannon National Park provides a scenic drive with radio commentary at the interesting spots.  Detour down a 5km track for lunch by the river.  A fabulous spot with a ford across the river and possibilities for swimming and sunbathing on the rocks – all marred by the swarms of march flies.  Call at the Herb and Aromatherapy farm just North of Walpole.  I disturb a snake in the gardens and we find out it is the black tiger snake which is poisonous.  Into the Tingle Tree forest where there is a walk.  Get a bit lost and end up following yellow arrow signs with a black snake on.  Eventually accept that we are on the wrong trail and the signs are most probably warning about the snakes in the area.  The proper trail is to the largest Eucalyptus tree in the world and also a huge hollow tree which you could drive a car through.  The car park seems a good place to settle in for the night.   

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