In true Parfitt fashion nothing quite goes to plan. We had every intention of leaving Albany by Friday or Saturday at the absolute latest but didn't end up leaving until the Monday. This was due in part to the long weekend (difficult to get into most places) and also because we discovered that there was to be a wine festival on Sunday at Porongurup which is only 40 kms from Albany. It sounded like fun so off we went. You know its time to move on when you go to a festival and bump into 3 groups of people you know. One lot (Geoff and Alison) we met on the road, Stuart, the guy form the plastics shop (great shop!) and the other was Wayne and his family (from the Aluminum shop). Almost locals already. It was a really good social day with a dozen or more wineries present, live music, food stalls, and all sorts of entertainment including grape stomping competitions.
It was a lovely warm summer's day with a cloud free sky, set in a gorgeous vineyard, in a pretty country town, in the foot hills of the Porongurup Range. Couple this with all those wineries tempting you with samples of their best wines on offer and we were onto a winner.
Monday did finally see
us pack up and
move on. Our
first stop was Denmark. This is a very cute small town with
lots of 'crafty' shops. It very much reminded us of Maleny in the
Sunshine Coast Hinterlands. We spent
a couple of hours poking around and even went to have a look at a
caravan park that is for sale.
Our next stop was the
'Valley of the
Giants Tree Top
Walk'. This is
quite an engineering feat that allows you to walk in the canopy of the
Tingle forest. The construction consists of six 60 metre long
bridge spans supported by seven pylons, reaching a maximum height of 40
metres. The spans were especially designed to sway slightly as you
walk. Chris completed the walk with a pained look on her face that was
similar to the face she pulled during child birth, and was not at all
impressed that they could not build this thing so it did not sway (no
engineering appreciation). As
for the rest of us we took great delight in trying to terrify her even
more during the walk. At the end of the walk she informed us all that
she enjoyed it. The 'white knuckle syndrome' I am afraid told another
During the walk we again bumped into Geoff and Alison. By the time we had finished chatting to them and another lovely couple we met it was getting on for 5-00pm. We had planned to actually make it into Walpole but decided to find a spot off the road and have a freeby with Geoff and Alison. They had spotted a suitable area just outside the gates to the Tree Top Walk so off we went. It was a nice spot and more than suitable for the night.
Next morning we set off early for the 10 km drive into Walpole and we were at the caravan park we planned to stay at by 8-00am. This is what I call getting good value for money. We all had a shower and used the toilets, did all the washing and we were ready to go out sight seeing by 10-00am. In future if we are arriving in a town late in the afternoon this is what we are going to do, otherwise you are giving the park owners $30-00 and then just going to bed.
Our first stop was the giant red tingle tree (pictured on the left) which has a base circumference of 24 metres. These trees belong to the eucalypt family, have a life span of over 400 years and can reach a height of over 75 metres. Unlike other eucalypts, tingles do not have a tap root, but instead has a shallow root system that spreads as they get older, causing the tree to buttress.
The area under this tree is actually large enough to fit a car in. It is unbelievable that they are able to keep standing. The forests in this area truly are amazing and something that is well worth seeing. Their sheer size and numbers are like nothing we have ever seen. We then did a few scenic drives and hit the main street (all 3 shops) and then headed back to the van.
An early night meant an
Destination- Pemberton. This trip was a total of 120kms (a big day in
the car) and managed to take us well over two hours.
We had been told about a
free camp only
9 kms from town amongst the forests and very close to 'Big Brook Dam'.
The dirt road into the area was in excellent
condition and the camp area was brilliant. Very good pit toilets,
fireplaces and tables and lots of open space. Reminded us a lot
of 'Cedar Grove' near Gympie. The ranger visited daily, supplied
free fire wood and cleaned the toilet. All this totally FREE. As there
is a lot to do around here and because we were due for a rest day this
ended up being a 4 night stay. Now for the solar versus generator
debate. Solar is good when the going
is good , but we have struck a lot of really lovely camp spots in the
forests when even having 50 solar panels would be as good as useless.
For the past 4 days we didn't make even 1 amp in the whole day
due to the really dense tree canopy. Without the generator we would
have been on our way after two nights. We survived by running the
generator for a few hours in the morning and again in the evening. I
don't think anybody even realised it was going. About a 1 km walk or a
kms drive from our camp is Big Brook Dam. This supplies drinking water
to town. The
facilities at the dam are1st rate. Great toilet block, plenty of
tables and barbecues. The best part is that the dam is full of lovely
warm fresh water and a white sandy beach. In fact as far as you can
walk or see is white sand. Much nicer than the mud you
normally get at these dams.
Pemberton is a nice
little timber town
in the middle
of huge forests. It only has a population of 800 but has a good
range of shops. We had told Harry that we were going on a train ride so
had to do it the first day to put the poor child
out of his misery.
Because it is fire
season the steam
train can't run
so our train
trip turned out in fact to be a tram trip. The return trip took nearly
two hours with a couple of stops along the way. The running commentary
was excellent and we learnt a lot about the local area. Harry in
particular was so excited. He had a permanent grin the whole time.
Although Alex plays the whole train thing down a little now that he is
a big 8 yr old he still really enjoys them.
Next it was off to see
In this area
there are three huge karri
trees that have been set up for fire spotting complete with platforms
at the top. The Gloucester and Diamond tree are 61 metres high with the
Bicentennial tree being the tallest at 74 metres. The way to the top of
these trees is by climbing up on 16mm steel round bars that have
been driven into the tree. They stick out of the tree about 700mm. This
ladder spirals up the tree and has a bit of chook wire at the end of
the spikes (not sure why as it certainly wouldn't stop you from
falling). At places the spikes are a fair distance apart, especially
closer to the top. Despite what you may have been told in the past this
is very high and extremely dangerous. No safety line, no instruction,
no responsibility taken. There was a constant stream of people with no
fears, or something to prove conquering this monster of the forest.
As for us, well I made it about 1/3 the way up and seriously feared for my life. Alex of course wanted the go the whole way (that was not going to happen) with Chris going up about 5 rungs (just far enough for a photo). Let me assure you this is bloody high and even up only 1/3 was scary. If you are over this way put yourself to the test.
We sat and had lunch and watched endless people (mainly foreigners) take on the challenge. Luckily everybody survived the ordeal on the day. A total of only 3 people have died doing this climb in the past (apparently most due to heart attacks).
Next day off we went to
about 30 kms
from our camp site. And the attraction- huge shifting sand dunes. These
really are amazing. These sand dunes are moving inland at a rate of 1
metre a year. What makes it interesting is that these dunes are in the
middle of a karri forest. In fact under the dunes is the remains of
the forest. The dunes are now about 3-4 kms for the ocean, literally in
the middle of nowhere.
The fun part was that
you can drive up
and over them
and then down
to the ocean. The guy at the information centre said we needed to let
our tyres down to 18psi to get to the beach and then down to 10psi to
get back over the dunes. Chris of course was not at all fussed on this
idea and was convinced we would be spending the night sleeping in the
car on the top of a dune (no faith). This was a blast. You drive
this really dense forest then from nowhere you are confronted by this
huge dune that is engulfing the forest. Down went the tyre pressure and
went. Once on the top you could see nothing but endless sand. It was
like being in the middle of a desert. To find your way across the dunes
they have placed big sticks in the sand that you follow. Without them
you would get lost. The sand was very soft and very powdery. To
Chris's delight we bumped into another couple on their way up the dune
so we kept in contact over the UHF radio.
We made it all the way to the ocean down a very steep sandy decline. How the hell are we going to get back up this hill!!!!!.
We let our tyres down to 10psi as instructed and up the hill we went in low range. It was a real slog but the Nissan was triumphant. The other guys in a Land Cruiser decided to leave their tyres at 18psi. First attempt at the hill - failed. Second attempt tyres down to 16psi.-failed. Three more attempts all failed until their tyres were down to 10psi and then they made it -just. It doesn't look very steep in the photo above but let me tell you it is. It was even hard to walk up. It was so funny we all thought we were going to wet ourselves. It certainly demonstrated to me the importance of letting your tyres down in very soft sand.
Our next stop will be Hamelin Bay and then the famous Margaret River region.
This is another little
that a lot of
told us about. There is no doubt the location is excellent but the
caravan park is unfortunately expensive at $35-00/night and a bit on
the grubby side. I don't mind paying top dollar for a top grade park
but object to paying top dollar for a "D" grade park. We decided this
would only be an overnighter. As we had arrived early we had a bit of
time to explore the beaches and get a bit of washing done. I got
chatting (as I do) to an old guy who told me about the local salmon
fishermen. He told me that usually around 6-00am the fishermen are on
the beach and netting schools of salmon.
The next morning off I went in the freezing cold to view the action. They were all there and so were the fish but not where they wanted them. This gave me a bit of time so I ran back to the van and woke the family so they could also see the action.
As we got there a bloke got in his little row boat and rowed around the school of fish putting the net in place. Both ends of the net were then attached to the front of a couple of Toyotas and they slowly pulled in the nets. A couple of blokes then dived into the water and tied the opening of the net with a heavy rope so now all the fish were trapped, like in a big sock. They then got four four wheel drives all tied together and when a nice little set of waves came through they all took off, dragging the 8 tonne of fish out of the water. As you can see from the photos they were large and lots of them.
Chris then had the pleasure of filleting the fish. Much to her surprise when she cut it's head off a whole herring was inside the salmon. Must have just eaten it.
Hamelin Bay is also well known for it's very large and tame stingrays. We had lots of fun hand feeding these lovely creatures of the sea. When you stood in the water they would come right into the shallows and bump into your legs and then suck on your toes. True story. They are unbelievable.
Next stop- Margaret River. We are pretty excited because we will be seeing Suey and Mark who are over this way on holidays. It will be good to see some familiar faces.
This is Western
town and a place
where all the
beautiful people like to be seen. I think I will fit in here nicely!!
The caravan parks in town are of a good quality and some are even
reasonably priced. We ended up staying at Gracetown Caravan Park which
is only 10 minutes from Margaret River township and very much in the
thick of the wineries. We have a lovely grassed site overlooking the
basketball and volleyball court, the playground and the tennis court.
Really lovely people and well priced.
In keeping with our normal routine off to the tourist information centre we went. It is flashier than the foyer of the Hyatt and as expected very wine orientated.
There is a heap to see
and do around
here so let the
On Tuesday Suey and Mark arrived and booked into a cabin in the park. We had a great night catching up with all the gossip. Next morning off we all went to the Chocolate factory. This place makes seriously nice chocolate with plenty of free samples. The amount of work that goes into making choccies is amazing. As you would expect we left with an armful of goodies. Next stop was the Lavender farm. Beautiful gardens with lots of nice smells. It is amazing what they can do with lavender. I thought it was just to put in your undies drawer, only to discover you can even put it in ice-cream. Tasted OK too. Suey and Mark then had to head back to Perth so for us it was off to a couple of cheese factories then home for a hit of tennis. What a life.
The next day was full on with a trip to Augusta and Cape Leewuin. Our first stop was to visit some people we have met on the road who are staying in Augusta. Next stop was the Cape Leewuin light house. This is the first lighthouse any of us have been in. This is still a working lighthouse that stands 39 metres high at the junction of the Southern and Indian Ocean. You actually get to climb the 176 internal stairs and stand next to the 100 year old glass lens. It is now fully automated but has only been this way since 1982. Prior to that the lamp was kerosene powered and the lens rotated thanks to a pendulum clock mechanism. On our way back to town we did a tour of the 'Jewel Cave'. The caves in this area are world class wet caves and every bit as good or better than those in the Blue Mountains in NSW. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience with Alex really soaking up all the information. What a classroom. What an experience.
On Friday we headed off to Perth without the caravan to visit the 'Caravan and Camping Show'. We stayed with Mick and Caz who we first met in Streaky Bay and then saw again in Kalgoorlie. They kindly offered to not only give us a bed for the weekend but also look after the boys while we went off to the show.
We had a great time and
was very much appreciated and hopefully we can do the same for them on
their next QLD visit. We will definitely be catching up with them when
we finally get to Perth for our proper visit.
The caravan show was very small compared to the "Brisbane Show" but we still had a good time. We met up with Tony and Gail (another young nomad couple) and had fun getting the best price possible on a new Engle fridge. The salesmen were pleased to see both Tony and I leave. Tony ended up saving close to $200-00 on the deal and we had plenty of fun in the process. Sunday Caz took Chris on a leisurely bike ride - three hours and 25km later they returned, Chris not sure if she'll ever be able to sit down again!!
We think we will be around Margaret River for a few more days then off to Yallingup and Busselton.
As predicted it did take us a few more days to move on. I must say that Margaret River has a really nice feel about it. It's a little alternate with the township nestled in a forest with the ocean close by.The attractions and wineries are very spread out and you do have to cover a lot of kms to see it all. I imagine 10 years ago it would have been sensational before that scurge of the 21st century, 'Progress' took over.
A long time family
friend lives in
Margaret River so
organised. I have known Kel since I was a toddler but have never met
his wife Jayne or the kids Amber and Kelsea. We had a great time and
talked and laughed late into the night. In true scabby Parfitt
tradition we took to dinner a couple of 'clean skin' bottles of
local wine only to discover that Jayne is a bit of a wine expert and
works at one of the local wineries (I told her the labels fell off in
esky-Don't think she believed me). To her credit she did drink our wine
before bringing out some upmarket bottles complete with labels.( I
should have kept those labels and put them on our bottles. Bugger)
It has been well over 20
years since I
last saw Kel
when he came to
stay with me on the Gold Coast, and certainly hope it's not another
20yrs before we see them again. We will be off to see his mum in the
next few weeks who now also lives in the west (bloody defectors).
Our last day in the
out a few more
wineries. One in particular that we will never forget was 'Voyager'.
The guy who owns this place is the son of Ron's Hancocks business
partner. The poor bugger receives $14,000 per day in Iron Ore royalties
from his father's estate. And what does he do with his spare cash? Well
let me tell you. I have no idea what their wine is like but their
gardens and buildings in this winery are magnificent. Dead set
you would not see better at Buckingham Palace.
What has been very obvious to us is that the bigger the building and flasher the gardens seems to be really important in this industry. There is either a hell of a lot of money to be made in owning a winery or a lot of very rich people own them. Not real sure which is the case but think I would put my money on the latter.
Next morning saw a
pack up for the
big 40km trip to Busselton.
This is another place
that we have all
seeing. The photos of the 2km long jetty with the colourful little
beach houses on it is something that is imprinted on our minds. There
are a lot of high quality caravan parks in town as well as 'The Golden
Mile' of campgrounds. This Golden mile is an amazing concept. The
story is that years ago some old lady donated a mile of beach front
land. This parcel of land was split into at least 10 lots and
then given to mainly religious denominations as well as the scouts.
They are all operated as family budget campgrounds. They all
differ slightly as far as facilities go, with some even having tennis
courts. The only common denominator is that they can never be sold
off to my pet hate- Progress. Thank the Lord for that.
When we arrived in town
it was a
day. There are two caravan parks in town that actually have
indoor heated pools. As we planned a few down days while here the
indoor pool was a big draw card. So which one do we choose. That was
not a difficult choice. The first we looked at is a Top Tourist
park and was going to cost us $44.00 / night. The other, 'Amblin' is
actually owned by the Australian Navy's Recreation Club. It is a lovely
park with a large indoor heated pool (32 degrees C), 2 x tennis courts
and the most often cleaned toilet block in Australia. We are sure that
somebody rushes over and cleans after every time you use them. It is
right on the ocean and is only costing $23.00 /night. No
Day 1 we had a look
around town and
off to the
'Tourist Info'. They
were bloody hopeless and then to rub salt in the wound charged us $1.00
for the tourist map. Unbelievable. Not to be outdone I wrote to the WA
Tourist Bureau and told them exactly what I thought. Hope we are not
Day 2 and 3 were spent
at home. Chris
and the boys
journals while I downloaded and burnt DVD's from our digital video
camera. I must say this has been a bit of a nightmare of a learning
curve and am very relieved that I have finally sorted it out. I was
ready to sell the video camera off very cheaply.
Finally the sun decided
shine. We have been
so lucky with
great weather since leaving home that when we get a bit of
overcast, drizzly weather we think our leg has been amputated. So off
Dunsborough , Yallingup and surrounding area we went for a day of
exploring. It is so much nicer visiting beaches on a sunny day. Now let
me tell you, if Margaret River is trendy, Dunsborough is the grand
daddy of trendy. It is as cute as, trendy as and as expensive
as. There was a market on when we visited and Alex insisted we stop and
have a look. He is rapidly turning into a sensitive new age groover.
Yallingup reminded us so
much of Agnes
Water. Set on
the side of a
hill, a lovely seaside caravan park that is still a caravan park (Oh
yeah, that's the only difference) and some of the best surf on the WA
coast. We could have been in good old QLD.
Next stop was an
'Canal Rocks'. This large, narrow canal is interesting and
unfortunately the photo above does not do it justice. This area is
very popular with fishermen and of course the dreaded tourists, of
which there are no shortage over here. Home late, a quick swim in the
heated bath, dinner and off to bed.
Our last day in town was
spent at the
Busselton Jetty. We
have all seen the photos of the jetty with those lovely little beach
houses on it. Well it is actually better in real life. This is one long
sucker of a jetty. In fact it is nearly 2 km long and very narrow
in places. It normally has a train that can take you out and back but
due to some bridge renovations it isn't running. So walk it we did. At
the end is an underwater observatory but as we have been to
'Underwater World' at Mooloolaba a couple of times we decided to give
it a miss. We had yet another late lunch and then back for a
game of tennis and you guessed it, a swim.
Next day we left the coast and headed for Bridgetown and Nannup for a country change ('tree change' they call it here!). We will spend a few days in a National Park and then head back to the coast at Bunbury and then Perth.
We all really enjoyed
our stay in
Busselton and like
so many places
we have seen we could have stayed longer. The main street of Busselton,
like a lot of towns we have visited runs straight to the beach.
There is something very appealing about a town that has incorporated
the foreshore into the CBD. To be able to shop and look out to the
ocean has a degree of romance about it.
So off to Nannup we went
for a bit of
a tree change.
This is only a
very small town of 500 people but is bright and colourful and really in
your face from the minute you drive into it. The main street is full of
little cafes and restaurants, boutique jam factories and arts and craft
shops. It is situated on the Blackwood River and has lots of lovely
green parks throughout. It is only 30 minutes from Margaret River and 2
hours from Perth. If you have a few bucks to invest this would be the
place. Property values have increased here but not crazy like the rest
of the southwest of WA.
Our plan is to visit a
about 29km from
here and then
come back and stay the night at the Nannup Council Caravan Park in the
of town. That is what happens when a town makes an effort. The tourists
also make one. The effort we made is that we changed our plans and
backtracked just to have a better look around.
Only about 5 kms out of
Nannup we saw
a sign to a
Factory'. As we have seen about 6 different cheese factories of late we
almost drove past but the sheep bit had us all a little intrigued. So
in we went and what a laugh we had. This is a fairly large concern
run by an ex-copper and his wife who is an ex-theatre nurse. Both
were sick of the public service life so decided to do something about
it. He was an absolute scream and had us in stitches. You have never
seen anything like it. The wife is the cheese maker and Bruce does
everything else, including shearing which the kids were able to watch.
The milker sheep come in twice a day and just
like cows, get put in a stand and have mechanical milking cups applied
to their udders and hey presto. Sheep milk. You must be joking. The
milk then goes through a similar process to the normal cheese
production. Their cheese, unlike the Margaret River cheese has a full
bodied flavour, be it a little unique. So off we went with an armful of
cheese to be consumed at the next happy hour.
So our first two nights
in the bush
were spent at
Bridge. A very nice free camp with very clean toilets, fireplaces and
free wood. Our day was spent doing a few short walks and some journal
work and me doing a few boy maintenance type jobs. As we were the only
ones there we did as we pleased and that included us all showering in
the open naked. Some quality bonding time for the family at one with
nature. We have taught Alex how to use the video so while Chris and I
were showering of course out it came. He thought it was hilarious, as
for us - well!! We are just glad he hasn't worked out how to email
Give him time and goodness knows what you might receive.
The next morning we made
the epic 29km
town and set up
in the caravan park. Not sure what we did all day but it was fun.We did
check out a local prominent business that is for sale. As I often say
who knows what is around the next corner.
The next day we set off
and then on to
This is very hilly country with narrow winding roads that traverse this
rapidly changing landscape. Sheep are very common around this area
along with tree plantations, cattle and marron. For those that are not
with marron they are a fresh water crayfish that grow to quite a size
and then sold commercially. Marron farming in large dams is a thriving
industry around here. This country side reminds us a lot of Tasmania
and like Tasmania would be freezing in winter.
We visited 'Roo Gully',
delighted in patting a baby wallaby. The lady who runs this place has
made a documentary, which will be screened on the ABC (6 part series)
starting May 9. She does some amazing stuff.
Sandra then took us to
home of a local well renowned artist,
Sandy Chambers. Sandy and his wife Jackie are absolutely charming and
showed us all around their amazing place. His water colours are
brilliant, in fact some of the best we have ever seen. He is also a
sculptor (his life size sand sculptures are dotted around town) and
does these amazing life size holograms of people's heads
that appear to follow you as you walk past. They are a bit creepy. In
his spare time he has built about 10 large aviaries and has all sorts
exotic birds, most of which we have never seen or heard of before. And
of course they have a resident Camel (as you do) and Llama. The camel
loves carob (a natural base for chocolate) which looks like a big brown
bean about 6 inches long. As you can see from the photos we all took
delight in feeding the carob to the camel using our mouths. No, she
didn't have bad breath at all, and actually had very clean teeth,
but did have big hairy lips (no different to what I am used to - sorry
darling!) She managed to skillfully remove even the smallest piece from
mouth with minimal slobber. We talked and laughed about it for hours.
Our last day was a bit
at least the
weather was, so we
had a day at home. Ian has a sensational workshop (with almost as much
crap as I have) so I had to find a project so I could get my hands
dirty and stop the tinkering withdrawals. Since meeting Ken in Streaky
Bay I have wanted to make some fold out towing mirrors that are
attached to the bullbar. So off to the local hardware store and dump
secured enough gear for the job. I was in my element. Steel, cut off
saw, grinders, welders and then presto. We now have a completed bull
bar mounted fold out mirror. I must say I am very pleased with the
So tomorrow we are off
Back to the beach
Well, it is hard to
believe that we
completed week 16 on
the road. It seems like we only left yesterday but when we look back at
photos of the beginning of the trip it seems it was an eternity ago. We
have done so much, with so much left to do. 16 down, 42 still to go.
We have driven just on 12,000kms since leaving home with car and van traveling well. Long term travel is poles apart from going away for 2 weeks or even 6 and we all continue to learn new tricks along the way. We continue to rearrange things in both the van and the car but think we are getting close to having it right, for now at least. All the planning has paid off as there is nothing we would add or remove for our set up at this stage.
The boys are learning so much that it staggers both Chris and I. Their depth of knowledge on things they have seen continues to amaze.
They are certainly not missing out on any education, what they are learning could never be taught in a classroom, and is knowledge they will never forget.
Harry has really come
out of his shell
and goes off
anybody which is something he would have never done. Alex continues to
suck it all in and analyze it all. As for Chris and I we could just
keep going forever. This time with the kids without the normal
pressures of life like work, sport, homework etc has been better than
we ever imagined. No, we are not sick of each other's company and are
much closer as a family because of it.
Western Australia is
great. Cost of
living is about
the same or
cheaper than the east. Beer is as cheap as with a 30 pack of xxxx gold
costing about $24-00 and the wine we pay $23-00 at home is around
$16-00 over here. Fuel costs about the same which is surprising as QLD
's fuel is Govt subsidised. Shouldn't that mean it's cheaper??????
Real estate prices in most of WA have gone through the roof. Much much dearer than QLD. The mines over this way and the extremely high wages inject a vast amount of money into the community. Thus the high real estate prices. Not sure what the average wage earners do.
To get a house built in
Perth at present
takes between 2-3
years to complete from commencement. All due to a shortage of
tradesmen. And where are they all? At the mines of course, earning big
And the residential
rental market in
Perth is even
You don't just go to a real estate agent or grab the Saturday paper to
find something to rent. Believe it or not this is true. You go to a
rental auction. You actually bid weekly rent and bonds to secure a
property. The highest weekly rent wins. This is of course is great for
the landlord but as for the tenant?? Very interesting concept, but one
that I hope we don't see in the East.
So there you have it for
will see us in
and beyond. Please continue to keep in touch. We love the calls and
emails from family and friends..
Until next month.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.