The Eagle has landed – best sunset ever

Have you ever seen a more unique sunset than the one below? 

We had driven down Cable Beach a few afternoons ago, not intending to stay for sunset. However, the huge cloud formation above reminded us of some sort of bird, and started to look promising. The surrounding clouds seemed to highlight the single, dense cloud adding to the impression of a big, giant bird speeding down towards the water. The sun peeping out behind it’s tail feathers further added to the illusion.

We stayed on a while longer to watch what would eventuate. This is how it progressed:

We thought we’d seen the best of it, so headed back through the rocks to come home. However, it just got better! We just had to stop again.

 Our final photo shows it in it’s true glory, seemingly with it’s landing gear drawn well up ready for landing, it’s tail feathers streaming out behind. Looking at the beak area, a jet comes to mind, with the eye area ressembling a cockpit window. Perhaps it was an eagle crossed with a 747!

Those of you who have visited Broome will no doubt have witnessed some stunning sunsets, as have we. But this, well, it was just so unique and in our humble opinion this one takes the cake. What a pleasure! What a pleasure it is to be back in Broome again!

Getting to Broome 2020

The travel plan for our trip north – 2020

We usually try to get to our destination quickly when travelling to the top end to get away from the southern winter. Being mindful of fatigue and road safety, we will often travel distances of between 400 to 700kms a day, always staying in tune with our body clocks and travelling only at the times we know we’re alert and fully awake. For us that means early morning starts and making sure we’re off the road before 4pm. Both Paul and I are definitely morning people, so being off the road before any sign of dusk is vital for us to avoid travel fatigue.

This trip we decided we’d try something different with slightly shorter travelling days, and more of them. We carefully planned all our travel days  with none to be more than 450kms. We wanted to focus on the journey this time, not just the destination. Using Wiki Camps we made our plan. 337kms on our first day took us around the outskirts of Perth and saw us to our first destination, Wannamal (near New Norcia).

This has become both our favourite first, and favourite last stop on our trips to and from the north of our country.  It skirts the city of Perth and seems to get us on the way quickly. See the map below for the full travel plan of overnight stops:

So how did it go, did we stick to it? (We’re notorious for not sticking to plans. ) Almost! We found we had time for a more leisurely breakfast, and for Mr Tilly to enjoy a short walk before we set off each morning, and we were still on the road most days by around 8.30am.  We arrived at each days planned overnight roadside stop some time between 12.30 and 2pm. This meant we had a few hours of daylight to enjoy a good walk and to explore the surroundings, and to wind down at the days end. We stayed with the plan for all the stops with the exception of Stanley, the very last one. It was prior to mid-day when we arrived at Stanley, and Broome was calling. With only 209kms to go and so much time left in the day, we decided to keep going. 

Picking our overnight free stops

So, how do we pick an overnight stops. We look at all the available destinations on Wiki camps, and by clicking on them we find what is available there, and how many stars the place has earned from independent travellers, people just like us who are travelling the roads. I’ve used Kirkalocka as an example below. You’ll see that the first thing that pops up when clicking on Kirkalocka is the facilities available there. (We have previously marked Kirkalocka as a favourite – hence the  heart)

You can see that a 24 hour stop is allowed, dogs are permitted, there are toilets, a dump point for caravan toilets to be emptied, bins, fire pits and picnic tables there. There is also telstra reception, and it is suitable for tents, mobile campers, camper trailers, caravans and big buses. It has gained more than 4 stars so, it’s likely to be a reasonable place, and will attract travellers in sufficient numbers so as we’ll feel safe. 

Next we read the independent reviews on Wiki.

And we look at the photos that people have posted on Wiki.

The road side places are usually free, although some require a small donation (Wannamal asks for a small donation).

With the stops planned, and knowing the distances between places we start to look out for the signage to alert us as to when we need to start slowing down and signalling that we’re turning off the highway. The signs are blue, some with just a ‘P’ and perhaps a picture of picnic table indicating what sort of a stopping place it is. Or if it’s a big, well equipped place such as Kirkalocka, it’ll be quite a big sign showing the availability of toilets. See below:

I always think the etiquette at overnight free stops is similar to the etiquette used in an elevator. You space out according to the amount of people there, that is, if you are the second person to arrive you park no closer than coo-ee distance from the first person who has parked up. You don’t park bumper to bumper, but you can park close enough to feel the safety of being within shouting distance for safety. If the place fills up, then people start to fill in the gaps. There have been times when we’ve awakened to no more than 12 or so vans spaced roughly at equal distances from each other, and there have been other times when we’ve woken up to more than a 100 travellers with lots of small vans and tents fitting in wherever they can. Most of the places with facilities such as those at Kirkalocka have the capacity to fit in hundreds of travellers at a time.

The stand outs from this trip

As always, the scenery in the wide open spaces of the Australian outback impresses. The words of Dorothy MacKellar’s poem, My Country, always come to mind, In the opening  verse Dorothy acknowledges the countryside of England speaking of ‘ordered woods and gardens’, as a love she cannot share for her ‘love is otherwise.’ Then starts Dorothy’s most famous verse starting with, ‘I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains…’ and in her final verse more words than resinate with me on our road trips, ‘all you who have not loved her, you will not understand’. I love Australia, and I understand her poem fully. I can happily sit in a car for hours with vast expanses of wide open plains broken every now and again but scenery such as this to look it. 

Our stand out overnight stop this time was at a place called Albert Tognolini. It’s situated off the Great Northern Highway with Karijini National park in the distance. There’s a look out several hundred metres off the road, and from there, there are tracks that lead up high for miles inland offering spectacular views, especially when the sun rises in the morning lighting up the deep red ranges below. You can only stop there if you’re self contained, but it’s stunning, panoramic scenery has earned it almost 5 stars on Wiki camps despite it’s lack of facilities.

So that’s our trip up to Broome for 2020. We’ve now been here for a week, and have seen some more of the stunning sunsets that Broome is famous for, but nothing could have prepared me for one of them. Soon I’ll post some of pictures of the most amazing and unique sunset I’ve ever seen, so watch this space…..

Tell me again please, why are we here!

Paul tries to play golf at least once a week on Busselton’s Par three golf course. He’s trying to make a habit of playing in the Thursday morning Men’s Comp, and when he can he gets a second practice round in on another day. Two Thursdays ago the weather forecast was for severely wintery weather so he stayed at home in the warmth. The morning was beautiful! Then the next Thursday the forecast was equally as bad, but the skies were clear and blue, so he chanced it.

It was freezing, but apart from one shower of hail he managed to play his round without having to take shelter.

Having the house to myself I enjoyed a couple of hours of pottering around doing a few household chores. A short trip outside had me scurrying back indoors out of the cold. The temperature of around 9°. It felt closer to zero. We had decided we wouldn’t make our annual winter pilgrimage to the top end of Australia this year owing to Covid. However with Western Australia having successfully contained the virus to date, I had to ask myself why we weren’t being more flexible with our plans.

Paul returned from golf, so I posed the question, “remind me again why we’re not going up to Broome this year?” I asked. He informed me he had asked himself that very same question while sheltering from the shower of hail at golf. Needless to say in less than two hours we had made our plans. Commitments and appointments on the home front were either postponed or cancelled, and a booking was secured at the Broome caravan Park. Plans were in place to leave the following Friday, the 26th June.

it’s now Wednesday morning on the 24th June,and I’m snug in bed inside the caravan after waking up on the first morning after day one of our trip. We had the van packed, and could see no point in sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for Friday, so here we are. We’re booked into the caravan park as of Monday, so, for once we are going to actually do less driving each day. We always plan shorter days but get impatient to get to our destination. It’ll take us a week to get there but it’ll be a more relaxed journey with the shorter driving days. Hopefully the dog won’t get the huff with us from the back seat this time. Mr Tilly won’t even look at us after more than four hours of sitting in the back seat on previous trips.

We use Wiki Camps for our trip planning as you can see below. All planned overnighters are pleasant roadside stops, either completely free or require only a small donation.

In case you’re not sure what the attraction of Broome is during our winter months, just check out the consistent weather. It’s like this day after day, week after week for June, July and August (our winter). The dry season in Broome is actually dry, unlike North Queensland where it can bucket down day after day in their dry. For us the weather is perfect, and that goes a long way towards making it perfect holiday.

And then there’s the beach….. Enough said!

Apologies again for poor photo inserts and alignments – WordPress continues to frustrate!

Frustrations with WordPress

I started experiencing a few minor frustrations with WordPress last year. The problems coincided with a time when I was ready for a bit of break anyway, so I didn’t do a lot about it at the time.

Fast forward several months and I’m starting to re-kindle my blogging interest. However, the small problems I had been encountering seem to have multiplied. Not being particularly computer literate I find it hard to relate what my problems are. Computer terms that may make it easier to describe the problems allude me. Seeking help via Web chat with the WordPress tech gurus is like asking for help in a foreign language with only a smattering of words in common.

In the past, when I left a comment on someone’s blog I would receive an alert if that blogger responded. As I recall this notification was by way of both email, and the little blue WordPress icon displaying a number which indicated the amount of comments awaiting my attention. The first of the problems was that when this little notification showed up on my desktop, clicking on the blue WordPress icon had stopped taking me anywhere. As I was ready for a bit of a break from blogging at the time I didn’t follow up on this.

I’m aware that in settings I can tick so as to to receive an email alert when comments are placed on a blog I’m following. I tried this with the result that I received hundreds of emails in a day, one for every single comment placed on all of the blogs I follow. I can’t seem filter the comments so as to only receive comments relevant to my own. This means the only way I can now enjoy the blogging conversations I used to enjoy is to continually scroll through everyone’s blog comments looking for the thread relevant to me. So apologies fellow bloggers for my lack of engagement with you all. I have been trying from time to time, but trying to engage with you all is just ridiculously time consuming- not that you aren’t all worth it, but there just aren’t that many hours in the day.

I’ve tried to sort this out via word press. I thought I’d finally managed to get my web chat person to comprehend what I was describing, but they couldn’t offer me a solution. The conversation was left with a promise that I would receive a response via email once they’d looked into it. That was over a week ago now, and nothing more. I guess I’m going to have to chase it up again, but where to start…..

Once I can get get that sorted out maybe I’ll move on to the other problems, and there are many. These include problems loading photos, problems with choosing a category when publishing, problems with inserting a key photo, difficulties doing anything other than a draft on the iPad, the list seems to be endless. I keep putting it off but I shall have to remember, ‘once begun, half done’! Maybe tomorrow I’ll begin…..

Mr Tilly and that ‘bike’ word

“Wanna go for a walk”, the master asks quietly. Mr Tilly, who has been sleeping soundly, jerks his head around so fast it’s a wonder he doesn’t get whiplash. From then on he watches Paul’s every move. He follows him around, only inches from his heels as he patiently waits for him to get ready.

The same happens if we mention the ‘beach’ word. It can take anything up to half an hour from the thought of us going for a walk, or going to the beach, before we actually head out the door. We have to get out of bed, shower or wash, brush teeth, pull clothes on and don shoes before heading out the door. All the while Tills looks on, patiently stretching, watching and waiting.

The same whiplash reaction happens when we mention the ‘bike’ word. “Do you want to go out on the bike”, I ask. He sits to attention watching for signs of preparation. Only he’s not so patient. If we take to long getting ready he starts to whine! Yes, going out on the bike is definitely his favourite outing.

He sits in a basket on the back of Paul’s bike, and Paul rides out in front. The basket is a tad small for him but he doesn’t mind a bit of discomfort. He looks right and left as we ride along the beach path, and constantly checks back to make sure I’m keeping up.

Basket is a tad small, but he doesn’t mind a bit

Recently we went for a bike ride with some friends and I wasn’t in my rightful place, behind him, where he could keep an eye on me. Talk about whinge – he wasn’t having a bar of it. A re-group saw him happy again and we could continue our bike ride in peace. As an aside from Tills, what a thrill that was – to phone up friends to arrange an impromptu bike ride. I haven’t done that for well over 50 years – made me feel like a teenager again.

When we first started taking him on the bike we worried that he’d try to jump out when we passed another dog. There’s nothing to worry about there though. He just looks at them as we pedal past with a superior look on his face. He doesn’t know all dogs don’t get to sleep on the big bed with their people, or to snuggle up together as a pack on the couch together as the sun goes down. But there’s no mistaking that look on his face when we pass a dog walking on the beach path. He definitely knows this bike riding gig is something that only ‘canine royalty’ gets to enjoy, he thinks he’s just the bees knees. Perhaps we should change his name from Mr Tilly to King Tilly.

Wish I could take photos of him as we ride along – alas I’m a two hand on the handlebars person.

He loves the wind in his hair as we ride along, and loves that he gets to enjoy new territory. So do I. Riding along on our gorgeous beach path on my new bike, with Paul and Tills up front – what a pleasure!

Are we in the eye of the storm

I can’t help thinking the majority of Australians seem to be thinking we’re over this Covid thing, that our government managed to contain it, and that life can get back to normal. Despite the fact that experts are telling us the virus will be part of our lives for a long time yet to come, there’s almost a feeling here in Australia of jubilation and celebration as if the war on this pandemic is over and we, in Australia have emerged victorious.

Personally I think we’re only in the eye of the storm, a storm that’s gathering momentum. We battened down the hatches as the first phase of the storm hit, and here in Australia we did it well. We locked down early enough which prevented our hospitals from becoming over-run. Our health system used that time to re-group, and the amount of ICU beds and ventilators has been increased. We’ve weathered it well to date. But as we’re all well aware there’s a balancing act going on, a balancing act between the economic health of a country, and the physical health of its people. I think this calm sense of security we’re all feeling is because we’re in the eye of the storm and I think more is coming.

Our restrictions are slowly lifting and people are returning to work. Our new cases of Covid are hovering at or below what is considered to be a manageable amount. Here in WA we currently only have three active cases, none of which require hospitalisation. NSW and Victoria aren’t doing quite as well, but compared to much of the world they’re still doing brilliantly. With the restrictions now being lifted I can’t help feeling it’s only a matter of time until we will again be hit with the full fury of this pandemic. All we can do is watch, and wait, and wash our hands, and stick to social distancing. Let’s not get complacent. It’s not over yet, in fact it may have barely yet begun!

Be prepared – part two

Today’s relative affluence compared to the generations before us has perhaps led us into a lifestyle of expectation and almost instant gratification. We don’t need to scrimp and save for several months to purchase anything anymore, we just put it on the ‘card’, or sign up to buy now, pay later, feeling secure that our pay check will be in the bank at the end of the month to pay for it all. However, recent events have shown us that the lifestyles many of us have taken for granted can be lost in the blink of an eye. For many the security of that regular pay cheque has disappeared. Currently the government is bailing many of us out, but what happens if, and when their coffers run dry? It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realise that a second, third, or even mutating continuing waves of this pandemic could see us all back in lock down with no job, and without the government assistance that has been forthcoming in these early days. To put it mildly – we’d really be up the creek without a paddle!

Enticements to debt – debt that without a job can’t be paid for

We saw the supermarket shelves get stripped bare within just a few days as the possibility of lock down loomed. Clearly it was to late to begin putting food, and other supplies away for such a drastic change in circumstances such as the change that some of us have experienced recently.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought and putting in time researching ‘stockpiling’. There are extremes at either end of the stockpiling spectrum. There are those that rely on restaurants, cafes and take out for their sustenance, often with maxed out credit cards to pay for it. The supplies in their own cupboards would barely keep them going for a day or two. Then at the other end of the spectrum are the doomsday preppers that have five years of supplies and a bunker in which to lock it, and themselves away in, should the need arise. I wouldn’t be comfortable with either of those scenarios. The first because I just wouldn’t want to be that vulnerable if my circumstances should suffer even a small or short downturn. The second scenario – well if doomsday should come, I think I’d rather be amongst the fallen than be living amongst the crackpots who lived their former lives preparing for doomsday.

I’ve taken stock of what’s in my cupboards. Should anything happen that prevented me from restocking regularly, after about one week I’d be out of some things that I’ve come to rely on. After two weeks I wouldn’t have the makings of a normal meal as I know it. By the end of a month I think my cupboards would be almost completely empty. I don’t feel ok about that anymore, I want more! I’m thinking supplies that Paul and I could live on, eating balanced, and appealing meals for around six months is a reasonable amount to stockpile. But where to start….

Current supplies would last less than a month

It makes sense to build supplies around meals similar to some of the meals that we often eat. Rice, pasta, pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, and canned fish will no doubt form the mainstay of my stockpile. Oats, milk powder, nuts, seeds, dried and canned fruits – supplies we use almost daily anyway, so there’s no harm in keeping a good stock of those too. Then there’s crackers and spreads (peanut paste would be our preferred non refrigerated topping). Some lentils, cans and packets of beans – green beans, kidney and black beans, and and I figure we’re well in the way to a sensible food stockpile.

Long lasting, every day items already in my pantry can be added
to to form good stockpile

Having a good idea of what we’d like to be eating should we ever be struck by a disaster of any length of time gives us the opportunity to buy in bulk when products are on special. My recent research has shown me that I can apply filters to search the major supermarket chains so as to find only their 1/2 price specials. I didn’t know I could do that before – bonus! My plan is to build bulk supplies of pantry staples at half price where possible. Then all we have to do is store everything in such a way that makes stock rotation easy in every day life. By having a clear idea on what we’d want to be eating based upon meals that we already eat, by buying in bulk when on special, and by careful rotation of our home supplies, we will be not only putting aside for a rainy day, or for a real crisis, we’ll be saving money in the long run too.

I’ve started by organising some cupboard space.

Racks added to pantry door to free up some space on the shelves

now it’s time to begin….

A new bike

About three years ago I purchased a cute little retro styled bike. I grew up riding a bike with back pedal brake, so when I saw a brand new, replica, retro style bike, complete with back pedal brake, I just had to have one.

Cute little retro bike

I fell off that cute little bike the first time I rode it. Unhurt, I got straight back on, but my confidence never returned. I didn’t know if time and age had taken its toll on my cycling ability, or if it was the bike itself that wasn’t quite right. The bike was the right size for me, but the steering was very twitchy and sensitive. For months at a time the bike would sit unused in the shed before i’d give it another go, and another white knuckled ride would take place. I couldn’t relax riding it, I just didn’t feel safe.

With much trepidation I started browsing second hand bikes. I didn’t want to buy another bike only to discover that no matter how good the bike was, it wasn’t going to be a bike I’d ride. I saw a used bike advertised on Saturday morning that tweaked my interest. Some quick research indicated it could be a good bike for me, so I contacted the seller around 8am. She had listed the cycle for sale only about an hour earlier, but it had already sold. I had heard that cycles had been selling like hot cakes since the beginning of the pandemic. Perhaps now was the time to advertise my own cute little bike.

Paul gave the bike a quick clean and we decided to try our luck. In little more than an hour the bike had found a new owner, and at a price I wouldn’t have thought possible for a three year old bike, no matter how cute it looked.

We decided to look at another new bike. Sunday morning of Mother’s Day we headed to Dunsborough for a walk, calling past the cycle shop with the intentions of seeing if they had any in their window. What a surprise, the shop was open. Apparently they had been so busy lately that the owner had come in on the Sunday to try to get some work done. They had a bike that was the right size for vertically challenged me, a bike that he felt sure would feel stable enough for me to enjoy riding. A quick trial ride, and yes, I think he may be right.

An hour or so later we were home again and cycling up our own beach cycle path, me on my brand new bike. I rode it again the next day, and intend to ride it again today. It feels safe, and I’m not gripping the handlebars for grim death. Will I keep riding it? I think I will! It wasn’t a good feeling to be thinking that I’d become to old to be riding a bike at only 64. Busselton is flat and we have so many wonderful cycle paths. In fact I think it’d be safe to call Busselton a cycling paradise for unfit seniors.

New cycle with no ‘twitchy steering’

I think I can relate to the the saying “it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how”, only I’ll add a little proviso to that, “ providing the bike you’re riding is the right bike for you.” I think I’ve found a bike that’s right for me – and I can’t tell you how good it feels to know I wasn’t making excuses when I didn’t want to ride that cute little bike. For me, it really wasn’t a safe bike to ride. The new bike that’s, so far, a joy to ride – what a pleasure!

Preparing for the possibility of harder times – part one

The announcement of the pandemic showed up some peculiar human traits. First came the hoarding, and strangely toilet paper seemed to be the first thing to disappear from the shelves. Then the supermarkets sold out of the things I would have expected, flour, sugar, rice, pasta, and pasta sauces all became hard to get.

Supermarket shelves emptied quickly at beginning of pandemic

Vegetable seeds and seedlings have been selling out within hours of arriving in the plant nurseries. There has been a huge demand for DIY including the materials to build backyard henhouses, and once built, the egg laying chooks to live in them.

Clearly people’s thoughts, perhaps driven by a primal survival instinct, have turned to preparing for a major recession, or worse, another Great Depression. One things for certain, Covid-19 is, and will continue to have a definite, and probably long lasting effect on the world economy. The relatively high standard of living that a lot of people in our part of the world have come to expect, could be about to change.

Some people will sail through the tough times that are no doubt coming with barely a hitch. A few people who just happen to work in the right niche will thrive above and beyond what they would have achieved in the pre-Coronavirus world. Some will bounce back over time and their lives will take up where they left off early in 2020. But some people’s lives may never return to the financial prosperity they had prior to this global pandemic.

Peoples reactions have caused to me to ponder times gone by, and possible changes that could be upon us in the future. We’re almost definitely going to live through some leaner times as a result of the pandemic lock down and the resulting downturn in the economy. But what if that isn’t all…… There is a lot of blame being directed at China, and world leaders are demanding answers. What if it escalates into a war! What if we come under siege! Ok – dramatic thoughts I know. But it wasn’t that many decades ago when if someone had suggested that Sarajevo was about to come under siege, the residents would have laughed. Yet early in 1992 Sarajevo did come under siege, a siege that lasted almost four years

Monument in Sarajevo serves as reminder of siege

Their water and power was cut off early, then their food supplies and medicines run out. Those that survived the siege did so on a basic diet of rice, flour, beans, and canned foods that came from United Nations food drops.

Although I don’t consider that I was panic buying at the beginning at the start of this pandemic, I did, like everyone else, buy things like rice, pasta, and toilet rolls before my home supplies had reduced to their normal replacement levels.

So what now that the supermarkets are all re-stocked, and the rationing of certain products has been lifted! Should we all just return to our normal shopping habits? The current situation hit us completely out of the blue, but what if the situation takes a turn for the worse, or what if another, unthinkable situation were to hit us. What if something came out of the blue, something that threatened our lives, not by a pandemic, but by starvation. I’m sure no amount of preparation would have seen the people of Sarajevo eating a normal diet throughout four years of siege, but some preparation, both mentally and practically, could have perhaps helped in the early stages.

My thinking has led me to start a bit of an experiment. I’m going to see how cheaply I can buy my basic grocery shopping while still shopping for meal plans similar to those that I already follow. That doesn’t mean I won’t buy extras, but any extras I buy over and above what’s needed for basic living, as well as food to stockpile, will be bought in a separate shop. I’m just curious as to how much money we could survive on eating meals similar to the meals we’re used to eating, should the coming downturn in the economy have a major impact on us personally. Of course in the event of a long term drastically changed situation, no doubt we’d end up eating meals drastically different to that which we have become accustomed to.

I’ve always kept a well stocked pantry and freezer and could easily live off the contents for two weeks without any additions, probably up to a month if I really had to. Clearly, from the speed that basic household supplies disappeared from the supermarket shelves at the start of this pandemic, should we ever be hit with a more serious, longer lasting, crisis, food supplies are going to run out very quickly. Should that ever happen I don’t want to be saying, “could have, would have, should have” been better prepared. So, my experiment is going to include pantry supplies that could sustain us for a bit longer than a month. I’m thinking that supplies that could be eked out to last six months would give us a good start if ever the need came.

A good stockpile