Christmas 2015

2015 is ending and it’s Christmas again…….. it’s been a while since I put up one of these but here we go.
Well 2014 finished with Christmas at Tony’s for a grand gathering and monumental feast. Then once again we travelled to Anglesea with Paul’s family for our Christmas holidays and to celebrate the New Year. How can we resist those markets? This year we also visited the Nightjar market for a bit of food and free entertainment from local bands Kite Machine and Residual. The girls were instant fans and collected autographs and photographs.
Consultant jobs big and little kept Cath busy for the early part of the year as her fears of having no work as a consultant turned to fears of having too much work. Busy times and quiet times followed as Cath settled into a pattern that seemed to suit her idea of working for herself better. The garden make over is now well in progress and many other projects around the house have been started.
Come Easter it was time for a family trip up to Sydney to catch up with Paul’s relatives and visit the Royal Easter Show with the MacSweens. Sheep, goats and pigs, dressage and woodchop, stunt cars and crazy bikes tricks. It was all there! We also met Paul’s latest grand-nephew Travis who had us besotted, naturally.
We were hardly back from Sydney when we were flying up to the Gold Coast for a grand O’Dwyer gathering for the marriage of Cath’s nephew Matt and Laura.20150418_160314 All those cousins dressed up and on show was quite impressive. Cath and her siblings also scrubbed up well. There were a few other relatives present too we hear. 20150418_143555
While the middle of the year settled into a routine of work and school, the September holidays burst into a flurry of activity.
Once more we were talked into going Alpaca Shearing, though took the easy path this time and stayed in a motel for night. How long can we keep doing this and what are they doing with all that fleece?
After that we travelled to Griffith for a reunion of Cath’s maternal family – Harrison. Cousins & second cousins refreshed old bonds and created new ones in the wonderful hospitality of John & Karen Harrison.
Meanwhile Paul’s sisters Sue and Liz were off to Europe for a tour down the Rhine and we volunteered to mind cousin Josh for a week. This entailed trips to Werribee Zoo, Science Works and the David Bowie Exhibition.
Siobhan is working regularly at bakery now. She is becoming a valued employee and financing her tastes for clothes, make-up and concerts. The big news is her braces are off!!!! Year 11 subject selections caused stress for a while but now we will settle down and see what happens. Siobhan has turned into a top Psychology student and a new career option seems to have taken her interest. She continues to develop her guitar skills and is on call for every college performance. We’re not sure how her blue hair will go down when she gets back to school next year…
Kiara still netballing strongly though she is finding it a bit more challenging moving into division 1 of U/15. New found friends are bringing fresh smiles and lots of parties. She is looking forward to Year 9 and the chance to do subjects of her own choosing (Robotics and Electronics, Visual Communications, Food Tech and an Outdoor Ed based subject). She is also helping up the Alpaca farm whenever she can and is ready to take over anytime now.
While Siobhan and Kiara hit their own concerts, Cath and Paul have been reconnecting with live music through regular trips to Caravan Club on their own or with company.
Til next year and stories of our further adventures.
Paul, Cath, Siobhan & Kiara.

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Journeys End

Well day 51 begins with home in site, though dimly through a foggy Keith morning.

Wake up to icy cold conditions, literally. There is ice on the tent and ice on the car. We mostly pack up and leave the tent, hoping the rising sun will warm and dry it. Over to the local bakery for a warm, hot breakfast. Though we stretch this as long as we can we finish by nine and still the tent is frozen. Some of the nights moisture has pooled on the roof now and turned to ice. This tent is not drying!

So we dry and fold as best we can and head off. Soon crossing the mighty Murray and then the border. No quarantine inspections for once but it is still cold. Onward we drive stopping at Nhill for a bit of a shop and Dimboola for lunch of soup and cheese rolls. Nice and warm unlike the weather. Then its full steam ahead for home.

Finally back in Melbourne we are greeted by a traffic jam on the Monash Freeway just to let us know we are back in civilisation. Still we stagger home and collapse for the evening, pausing only to unpack some things and start the first loads of washing. Oh and uninterrupted hot showers.

Now two days latter all is unpacked – nearly – the photos are being uploaded and archived, the last load of washing is on and the tent is drying in the drive way. Were we ever away? Ah well, I will take some time to sort through photos and upload some to pad out this blog and maybe do a photo album. Then we can start planning our next trip.

Keith – almost home

Day 47 – After the trials of Cocklebiddy, Eucla turned into a little gem. Warm and cosy in the motel room, we still managed dinner in the camp kitchen and settled in for a comfortable night, even if we did watch TV for too long. Found a bit of time to glance through the small museum in the motel and fill up the gas bottle. In the morning drove down to the old telegraph station, now half buried in the sand dunes and wandered around in the fresh sunshine. Then on to Border Village and another time change. From Central WA Time to Central Australian Time
Photo stop as we reach the western end of the Great Australian Bight. Sand dunes and plains to the right, sheer cliffs and crashing waves to the left. Then on to flat plains as we enter the Nullabor Plain again. Another photo stop and we are about half way along the Bight. Just sheer cliffs that make the huge waves crashing against them seem small. Next stop for lunch and then a coffee at the Nullabor Roadhouse with its whale sculpture. These windblown places seem placed only to offer fuel and shelter for travellers as there seems little else around them for hundreds of miles. Oh and a place for tourists to find work. Soon after we turn off to Head of the Bight and a bit of whale spotting. Between showers with stand and marvel at about a dozen Southern Right Whales that we can easily spot by eye from the viewing platform. Most are said to have calves and the two frollicing about 100m off our lookout certainly did. Just as well the rain came or we could have been there for hours.
Onwards now as we race the weather to Ceduna. Past the end of the dog fence we saw so far away and long ago. Through Nundroo then Penong, town of the windmills, another quarantine check point and then we are in Ceduna settling down for the night.

Day 48 – rest in Ceduna. Sleep in, shop, National Trust Museum ( a grand collection of everything and anything from Maralinga memorabilia to spark plug collection), buy oysters and prawns (for dinner, yum), Pinky Point for the seals (not there). Denial Bay and McKenzie ruins – he use to distil sea water into drinking water for locals – which I found fascinating. Yummy dinner of Caesar Salad and grilled prawns (oysters for Cath). Nice day.

Day 49 – Ceduna to Mt Remarkable NP. We drive and drive. Did we stop at Minnipa or Wudinna. Maybe both, once to eat then once for someone to go to the toilet who forgot. Or maybe it was Poochera before that? Towns starting to look alike with a big grain silo, a rail yard and a Lion’s Park. Apparently we are in granite country with some fascinating granite formations to see as part of the mitcha body and the gawler extrusion (or something like that) but we are too tired and pressed for side excursions. Do notice some nice granite sculptures including one to the farmers as we go by . Past Iron Knob were they are slowly turning a mountain into a mole hill as they remove the iron ore. Through Port Augusta which is so industrial and grey and flat. On to a bush camp at Mt Remarkable National Park amongst the River Red Gums and Baroota homestead ruins. A bit damp but very relaxing apart from the noisy nomads down the track. Emus wandering by at the sunset.

Day 50 – Mt Remarkable to Keith. Driving again. Slow start because of overnight rain as we try to dry off the tent. Through rolling farmland to Port Wakefield for lunch. Intriguing port area, seems to be too small for the trade suggested in ore. Certainly runs a roaring trade in coffee shops for travellers. Down through Adelaide – factories, shops, traffic lights and freeways. Escape the other side and on to Keith for the night. Last sleep before home.

Eucla – day 46

Day 43 – up earlyish to visit the stromatolites at Thatis? Lake. Similar to but different to Hamelin Pool ones. Climb a sand dune for a veiw of the coast. Rather disorganised and not sure to go next so head back to camp and settle down and plan afternoon. Bit of a shop for a change – general store at Cervantes really doesn’t have much. Head out in the afternoon to see the Pinnacles, timed so we will be there at sunset. Interesting and imposing but covered with tourists. Many weird and wonderful shapes of small to massive examples. Some rather rude. Hard to take an interesting shot that doesn’t have a car or people in it. Manage to get a few good ones and sunset is spectacular even if there are dozens of tourists cars and buses spread around the place.

Day 44 – Cervantes to Coolgardie, long days drive and Siobhan’s birthday. Start with some presents which she loves. Then I throw my back which we hate and a delayed start. Leave town greeted south of the pinnacles with white, white massive sand dunes. Then into Lancelin for morning tea and “best coffee in town”. Lived up to advertising as did slices. Drove past fields of grass trees, hundreds of grass trees even amongst the army firing range.
Then cut across through various small towns and big as we start across from the coast. Land changes from scrubby with occasional manicured paddocks to more varied paddocks and vineyards and orchards and sheep, goats, alpacas! Grass trees keep turning up. Past the Gravity Research Centre. Stop for lunch at Toodyay with its own live steam model railway. (Not running today 🙁 ). Then onwards we drive into Northam and pick up the main highway to Coolgardie flanked by the railway and the water pipe. Accident stops us for a while and we are heading ever east so it is quite dark when we get in. Bare looking caravan park but it has a great camp kitchen and the owner recommends the pub for dinner – Denver Hotel. Great call as it is a top meal even if Kiara is a bit hyper. Good end to Siobhan’s Birthday.

Day 45 – from Coolgardie to Cocklebiddy. Long day again. Might be getting homesick. Bit of a look around Coolgardie as we shop then onwards. Norseman and the corrugated iron camels and a bit more shopping. Good sausage rolls at the BP for lunch on the go. Not always treeless but weird and flat, usually. Did the 90 mile straight. Boring. Manage to beat sunset into our campsite but it is rather flat, open and windy. Bit of rain on an off. Why did we stop here?

Day 46 – Too cold and windy at Cocklebiddy, so shelve plan to hang around and visit the Eyre Bird Observatory. Take it easy and a slow start then on the road again to Eucla. Meet guy riding from Perth to Melbourne for Kids Cancer Project. Meet some of support crew for a runner who is running around the world. Hear about Shane Crawford riding the other way and see lots of ragged signs about various charity runner. The world is a funny place. Lots of Wedgetails on the road and don’t seem bothered by us. Go over Medena Pass to the Roe Plain. Beat rain but not wind into Eucla. Plan to camp but give in and crash in a motel room. Snuggled up warm and dry.

Cervantes

Approaching the end now. Two days here then we start heading east and home. But what else has been happening?

Day 40 – on advice start to visit cliff sits near Kalbarri. Take loop walk out to Mushroom Rock and back up Rainbow valley. Lots of geology and wildflowers to photograph. Back for lunch then out to Red Bluff for a look. Spectacular, high, windy and a bit scary. Then on to Natural Bridge and Island Rock. Nature at its grandest. Spotted some whales on the horizon then spot a pod of porpoises playing in the waves at the base of the cliff. Cool. Drop into Shellhouse, but can’t work it out. Back for quiet dinner of dahl, again. Did we get to Eagle Gorge?

Day 41 – visit the Murchison Gorge. Hawks Head Lookout is very spectacular. Go down to the river from Ross Graham Lookout. Spend morning wandering up parts of the river bed with and without water. Buzzed by Wedge-tailed Eagles, egrets and grebe. More wildflowers to take photos of. Very peaceful. Drift back to camp for afternoon tea then drag ourselves out to visit the rock pools at Blueholes and take photos of dead and living banksias. Dinner of burgers with the lot, thanks Kiara.

Day 42 – heading south from Kalbarri. Get away well, but then have to check the tyres and buy some presents and top up the lunch stores, so it’s not so quick. Land rapidly changing from scrub to manicured country side. Black faced sheep and common cattle. Pass Hutt River province. Is that still going. Hutt Lagoon passes, very pink and pretty though less so as we pass the salt works. Pass old convict distribution? camp. Hamilton, a heritage town, for early lunch, though nearly everything seems closed on Sunday. Not as attractive Greenough settlement which has lots of old stone buildings and ruins but is a bit scattered along the highway. Hit Geraldton our first big city for months. Scary. Down the coast road pass Beekeepers NR to Cervantes. This seems to be the lobster coast. Also lots of shacks along the sand dunes fronting the Indian Ocean. Pretty though sea weed is fairly dominant over sand at the moment.

Kilbarri – day 39

day 37 – hanging around Denham, doing some washing then checking out the scenery and beaches around Shark Bay. Eagle Bluff gave us a view of the west bay with maybe some sharks then a brief detour to the beach. Shell Beach was a unique with the layers and layers of shells making up the beach. Peaked in at Whalebone but not much there if you don’t fish. Found an impressive specimen of Stuart Desert Pea in someones drive way!

day 38 – up early to see the dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia then out for a cruise around the bay. Out to the black pearl farm to have a look at another process. Then back down the bay to search for dugongs and turtle (nope) and dolphins (heaps) Saw the legendary sponge dolphins in action then heaps of dolphins playing and frolicking. Quiet lunch and ice cream at the resort then dropped into the old Peron Homestead to look at their bore water hot tub, the old wool shed and the plans for “New Eden” on the Francois Peron Peninsular.

day 39 slow start then on the road to Kalberri. Stopped in to check on the Stromatolites again but otherwise just another long drive. Only point of interest was the change from scrub to cultivated pastures as we approached Kalbarri region.

Here in Denham – day 36

Day 34 – WE SWAM WITH WHALE SHARKS. I swam with a whale shark – I nearly drowned but at least I swam with one and saw it swim by under water, trailed by many little fish, jelly fish and a gaggle of tourists.

Cath and the girls swam again and again with a number of whale sharks. We nearly had to drag Kiara out. They also swam around the coral seeing a host of other amazing creature. We sighted a dolphin and a dugong and paced two male humpback whales as they tried to catch a teasing female. It was an amazing day.

Day 35 – we headed south towards Monkey Mia stopping at Coral Bay to see the clear blue water and white sand, drove over ancient sand dunes and spotted our first wild goats. Those Dutch have a lot to answer for. Ant hills are back in many vary and strange forms, before petering out again. We are passed by a number of wide loads as buildings and big gear head north. Weather started to turn and rain began as we arrived at Carnarvon, staying within sight of the radio telescope.

Day 36 arrived wet and cool as we head south again. Packing a wet tent is no fun. More old sand dunes, salt planes, cattle, sheep and goats and more goats. Weird. We also pass by the widest of our oversized loads and have to actually pull of the road. The mining game is obviously going strong. We stop at Red Bluff for our first view of Shark Bay and a slightly spooky gnome monument. Then we stop in at Hamelin Pool to view the stromatolites. Crystal clear waters and a hazy horizon gave a magical view. The beach is also shell not sand which is a bit noisy but seems standard for Shark Bay. Stop in for Devonshire tea at the old telegraph station there as well.
Pass Useless Loop Road – leading to the salt mines at Useless Loop, finally reaching Denham and settling in for a few days as we air our wet tent and gear, do some washing and settle back for sausages and mash.

Exmouth – Day 33 (really 21/6)

How plans change.
Day 31 -Headed down the road again. It is very flat and dull down this coast. Can’t remember seeing much but sure there must have been something other than scrub and red dirt. Arrive at Pardoo Road House ready to sample their famous sausage rolls but they had sold out. Settled in for a stay any way and enjoyed a bit of quiet time.

Day 32 – Up early for a longish day. Pack up then try to get some sausage rolls but they had sold out again (at 8:30?). Do these sausage rolls exist or are they a myth. Decide not to wait and set out. The stops start to roll by. Port Headland, Roebourne, Karatha, Dampier and in between mines, quarries, gas plants. Really does seem like we are digging up the country and selling it off piece by piece. Occasional dramatic hill or range, many of which seem in the process of being reduced to ore piles, but otherwise very boring country again. Take big gamble and decide to push through to Exmouth and pick up a day. Lots of rock plains go by, occasional river and rolling sand dunes for the road to carve though. Oops miscalculation and arrive at Exmouth at 7:30 for fish & chip dinner and setting up in dark. Grumpy caravan park owners for keeping them up.

Day 33 – look around Lighthouse Cape and realise the road in was really boring, we are across the road from the beach and down the road from North West Cape. That is one big radio recieve they have set up there. Time to stock up on goods, indulge a sticky bun fix at Brumbies and book a Whale Shark cruise. Yes we are swimming with the whale sharks (we hope) tomorrow. After that a bit of a cruise around, check out the light house (top view up and down the peninsular) wander the beaches and relax. Tomorrow the excitment begin. Oh and its due to rain on Sunday

Still Broome – day 30

Day 28 set style for lazy days in Broome. Morning at the market, then home for a snooze then wander back to town late afternoon. Strolled through Pearl Lugger display and read plaques. Back for some shopping and then leave girls to cook dinner while Cath and I walk down to Cable Beach to watch the sunset – very pretty.

Day 29 rush down to Gantheaume Point to look at where the dinosaur prints would be if the tide was out enough (as in next week) then back to Pearl Information Centre for a talk on pearls. Hour or two later we know more than we want to about pearls and stagger over to Pharaoh’s Kebab House for lunch. Back for some shopping, repairs to the stone guard (successfully) and then leave Kiara to cook dinner while Cath, Siobhan and I walk down to Cable Beach to watch the sunset – very pretty again.

Day 30 sleep in then wander down to the Sisters of Saint John’s museum for a look around. Rather interesting. Then across verandah to exhibition on the Queen’s visit to Broome in 1963. Cool. Cruise around town, then chill for awhile then shop before charging down the beach for a Camel Ride for me, Cath and Kiara. Corny but fun. Did you know camels are very tall and have no suspension. Watched sunset – very pretty.

Planning now up to date so a three day trek down to Exmouth and then a week or so on the Coral Coast. Sun sand and snorkeling, unless it rains.