Saturday, 26 October 2013

Swan Valley

The night before we left Geraldton the weather was pretty bad. It was blowing a gale and we really copped it as our caravan park was right next to the beach and it was raining and cold. The sea was wild.

What better a night to have a baked dinner so I cooked a roast chicken dinner in the van for the first time and it turned out really well. The oven works as it should and I even managed to make some gravy just like at home. Having the oven on kept the van nice and warm too! Its not a very big space to heat.

We left Geraldton at about 10am after going into town to buy a doona as it had been so cold the night before. Thankfully the wind had died down quite a bit and it was another lovely sunny day. We stopped at the small towns of Dongara and Leeman and had lunch at Jurien Bay. The sea was very calm here, very different from the day before.

Soon after leaving Jurien Bay a strong headwind took hold. Mike was unimpressed as it makes towing the van much more difficult and impacts on your fuel economy quite significantly.

We saw some amazing sand dunes which were huge.

The vegetation was low and dotted with grass trees. There were thousands of them. There was also another wind farm. You can just see the huge turbines in the picture below.

We had to stop in a tiny town called Guilderton to buy some fuel as it was getting dangerously low due to the headwind. It was about 4km off the highway. We passed these strange rock formations which were altogether in small gully on the side of the road. The flies were unbelieveable!!

Anyway we set off on our way again and made it into the Swan Valley which is only about 20km out of Perth on the north western side.

The Swan Valley is famous for its vineyards and we were right amongst it!! Excellent. Its a very pretty area.

The caravan park was quite nice but a bit too close to the airport. I dont think they have a curfew in Perth because there seemed to be planes coming and going all through the night. Once again it was really windy the first night we were there and again on the the last night. Not very conducive to a good night's sleep.

There were lots of permanent residents in the park and many of them had lovely little gardens. The one that caught my eye was this one. Not really a garden as such but a collection of pots.

I wish my pots looked this good!

We started the first morning in Perth with a visit to Carols of Midland. Midland is a really big centre and not far away from where we were staying. There are an enormous number of businesses here and a big shopping centre. This is the first patchwork shop I have found on the whole trip and boy was it a good one. Its a huge shop and has a fantastic range of fabrics and lots of other sewing notions and supplies. I could hear lots of chatter and laughing from the back of the shop where the classroom was.  I could have stayed in there for hours. I picked up some lovely fat quarters and after drooling over all the beautiful quilts on display and all the kits that went with them I extricated myself reluctantly from the shop. It was so nice........

We then drove to Fremantle and had a look around this historic area. We went to the dock area and there were these poles with all sorts of lovely sculptures on top. This was my favourite.

The port area is huge and there were these enormous cranes there which are used to unload all the containers from the ships.

We also visited the historic area of the port called Arthurs Head which includes the Roundhouse. It was opened in January 1831, just 18 months after settlement, and was built to hold anyone convicted of a crime in the settlement. It was used as a gaol until 1886.

View of the roundhouse from the city side.

View of Arthurs Head from the beach.
The tunnel you can see in the picture above goes through to the other side where the old part of Fremantle is. There are many beautiful historic buildings in the nearby streets. The tunnel is quite long and has a piano in it!! How strange....


We had some lunch then went for a train ride into Perth. It took about 35 minutes and stopped at 16 stations. They are so close together. The train no sooner gets up to speed then it slows down and stops again. Anyway we went through some very pleasant looking suburbs such as Cottesloe and Mosman Park. A later perusal of revealed why it looked so nice.It was a very expensive area indeed!!

As we were leaving Fremantle we passed the docks again and saw a huge ship which had been unloading cars.

Anyway we had a nice time wandering around in Perth and did some people watching over coffee and waffles in the mall in the centre of town. The we caught the train back to Fremantle again then drove back to the van. It was a lovely day.

The next day we set off to explore the local area and visited Jane Brook Winery. It was nearly midday so we decided to stay for lunch which was a fantastic platter of cheese, pate, cold meat and olives. Of course we bought a bottle of nice wine from the cellar door so it made for a very pleasant lunch. The restaurant overlooked a brook (as they call creeks over here) and some grape vines.

After lunch we went exploring again. We drove up hill and down dale and then unexpectedly came upon a level crossing which had the boom gates down and bells ringing. A very long train carrying some sort of mineral crossed in front of us. It was a bit like the trains we saw in Port Hedland. It was really really long....

Anyway we ended up at a place called Bells Rapids and while we were there a rescue helicopter arrived, circled overhead, dropped a paramedic (or some such person) down into the gully nearby and then came back again to pick up the person in need of rescue. It was all happening!!

After all that excitement we headed back to the van. We stopped at a place called Lilac Hill which had a lovely park next to the Swan River. It was very pretty.

One of the original lilac trees after which the area is named.
The bridge over the Swan River
The flowers on the lilac tree had a beautiful perfume.
The bridge in the picture carries a lot of traffic, even though it is only two lanes wide, and is very close to the township of Guildford which is a beautiful leafy suburb full of historic houses. It has a lovely old pub called the Rose and Crown. We didn't make it to the pub but had dinner at nearby Padbury's Restaurant which was excellent.

The Rose and Crown

Another lovely day. It was an extra good day because on the home front, the predicted dreadful fire day at home didn't eventuate and the threat from the fires was reduced. A great outcome, assisted by lots of hard work by the RFS volunteers and a little unexpected rain. Fantastic.

Friday, 25 October 2013

A little bit more of Shark Bay

When I wrote the Shark Bay post I left out a couple of funny things that we saw. I just had to share! They were too good to keep to myself.

Firstly, while we were driving between Carnarvon and Denham we stopped at a rest stop (about 100km south of Carnarvon) which was high up on a hill and had a great view. Once we got up there we noticed some mounds on another part of the hill which had coloured things on them. They looked a bit like cairns and I thought perhaps they were memorials for people who had died.

This is the view of the mounds in the distance that we thought we would investigate.
So we walked over to have a look and were astonished to find the following! This one is a random collection of rocks and other items that people have added to when they have called in for some reason.... Not particularly interesting but ....

then there was this one, which was bizarre. A collection of gnomes!

And this is the view that the gnomes were enjoying.

You can just see Hamlin Pool (part of Shark Bay) in the distance.

The other funny thing that we saw was this house that we drove past in Denham .

It had teapots stuck onto the fence all the way around the front and down the side. There must have been a couple of hundred of them. I wonder what they would do if they wanted to sell the house?

We also saw another house that had the whole front yard paved with the words 'Everton FC' spelled out in pavers in the middle, and another house that had a whole garden bed full of kangaroo statues!!

I love it when we see unexpected quirky things!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Shark Bay

Our next port of call was Denham which was another boring drive south from Carnarvon. I know I sound like I'm hard to please but these endless roads of nothingness are taking their toll!! Every crest you come to reveals a view exactly the same as the one before and it just goes on and on and on...... Western Australia is a very big place so I guess its to be expected. I promise I wont whinge about it any more!!

Denham is a small town on the western side of the peninsula, in the area known as Shark Bay, and a short drive from Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia consists of a resort and a nature reserve so its not actually a town. So we decided to stay in Denham and then visit Monkey Mia for the day. It was very windy in Denham on the day that we arrived. We put the awning out as usual but soon realised that was a mistake and rolled it up again. It was flapping around madly so we just couldn't leave it out.

This is the main street of Denham from the town jetty.
Its an absolutely spectacular place.

We arrived at Monkey Mia just as the first session with the dolphins had begun. They are absolutely gorgeous and come so close. The main adults were called Nicki and Puck and have been regulars everyday for many years.

The conservation staff that manage the sessions are allowed to feed the dolphins a small amount of fish three times each morning. However its up to the dolphins what time the feeds happen. We were lucky enough to see two sessions. It is very strictly controlled and only certain dolphins are fed. They don't feed the male dolphins as they become too aggressive. They keep extensive statistics on the feeding and how many dolphins turn up and they test the water all the time to make sure that there is no bacteria in the water that is not supposed to be there. You are not allowed to touch the dolphins either. Its sooo tempting when they come close but even the rangers dont touch them.

As well as the dolphins we saw some other wonderful creatures at Monkey Mia. We saw turtles, stingrays and gorgeous pelicans. I just adore pelicans. It was also so exciting to see two huge turtles in the wild.

Aside from the wonderful creatures Monkey Mia is just a spectacularly beautiful place. The only buildings are those connected with the resort and the visitor centre. The water is crystal clear and the sand so pure and white.

Another place we checked out was Eagle Bluff, a lookout just off the main road out. The view was spectacular.

As you can see it was a breathtaking view, with a great boardwalk to enjoy it from along the edge of the cliffs.  It was probably a 60 to 70 metre drop down to the water. We had a good look through our binoculars and saw a shark and some very large stingrays in the shallow waters close to the shore. I was very impressed to see a shark in Shark Bay!! Apparently it was named after the very large number of 'nervous sharks' which inhabited the area when it was named. I'm not sure why they are called nervous sharks. They are very small. Maybe that's why they are nervous.....

The next day we visited a nearby aquarium which was about 10km out of town on the same coastline as the lookout above. It was great. The guide was very well informed and had a sense of humour. We saw lots of different fish, strangely many of them were described on the basis of their taste and how challenging they are to catch which I found unusual. Usually fish in an aquarium are spoken about in more revered terms!

We did see some sharks too.

One thing we saw was a tank containing stonefish which are poisonous and their sting is apparently excruciating. You would never notice it was a fish if it was hanging around in between rocks and sea grass. They don't do much, just sit there. We went right off going in the water after we saw a warning sign on a nearby lagoon.

After the aquarium we enjoyed a coffee and cake in the cafe which had the most spectacular view of the coastline. Its really hard to describe how magnificent the view was. Even the photos don't do it justice.

We also visited a place called Little Lagoon. There is also a Big Lagoon but that's a lot further away in a national park. Little Lagoon was lovely. We saw the little creek that flowed in to fill the lagoon and the lagoon itself, which was actually quite big!

The West Australian coast is amazing. Parts of it are so remote and it is so unspoiled and beautiful.

On our way out of Shark Bay we stopped to visit the stromatolites which are strange growths of bacteria (doesn't sound good does it), which are millions of years old. They only appear here and in Brazil, Mexico and the Bahamas. I have to say that it was not very exciting. I'll let you judge for yourselves.

From Shark Bay we headed for Geraldton. On the way something exciting happened. It rained! I got so excited when it started but it only lasted for about 4 minutes!! However the closer to Geraldton we came the clouds gathered and it ended up being a very rainy, windy and cold night, the first on our trip. We snuggled up in the van and listened to the wind and rain outside. It was very cosy.

Geraldton is in the heart of the WA wheat belt. There are huge paddocks of wheat everywhere by the road. There are large silos near the port in the city where ships are loaded to take the grain overseas. There were seven ships we could see from the beach waiting to load up.

The next day turned out to be a lovely sunny day so we took a drive to a nearby historic settlement called Greenough. We ended up having a really lovely time looking at all the old buildings and having a yummy lunch outside on the patio of the cafe. The old town had several churches, a courthouse and police station, a school, a shop, a hall and some houses. It is run by the National Trust and was very interesting.

Whenever I look at old buildings I am always drawn to the domestic side of things.

Kitchen in the police station building
I had to take a photo of this old cot with patchwork coverlet
After leaving Greenough we set off to find a nearby railway museum which was in another small town called Walkaway. However we ended up going down the wrong road and so Mike took the opportunity to check out the beach behind some large dunes.The beach was lovely. Then he decided that another dirt road needed to be investigated. It went like this.

Mike: I just want to see whats down here.
Me: It looks a bit sandy... 
Mike: Oh the sand is not a problem! 

Just after that we got stuck in the sand on the narrow track through the dunes. We couldn't go forward and we couldn't go backward. This was not good. I just sat in the car and tried to stay calm. (I was too preoccupied to take any photos!)  Mike always stays calm and looks for a practical solution, so he got out and let some air out of the tyres. Once he did this, we were able to reverse all the way back down the track to a spot where it was wide enough to turn around which we did.  Thankfully we got out fairly quickly and were able to reinflate the tyres with the compressor that we have in the back of the ute. Sand is not to be trusted! It was quite scary. We were a long way from anywhere and nobody else was around.

After that bit of excitement we set off on our quest to find the museum. It was fascinating and absolutely bursting with a huge collection of things from the local area.

Again the domestic pieces interested me the most, along with some typewriters. When I first learned to type I did so on a manual typewriter so I was reminded of how awful that was when I saw the collection in the museum.

This sampler was made by Mary Anne Jones in 1872. 

On the way back into town we had a look at the leaning trees. All around the area the trees lean over as a result of the winds the frequently blow in from the ocean. Even though there are huge dunes between the sea and the fields the winds must really roar through. There is a huge wind farm nearby too so at least the wind is harnessed for energy.

All in all it was a great day.