A walk in the park

With a few hours to spare today we headed to Meelup National Park for a short bush walk.

The short section of the coastal walk track that we chose for today’s walk commenced at Castle Rock, just over 30kms from Busselton.

Castle rock

From there we walked north/west taking in Meelup beach, Gannet Rocks, and then on to Point Picquet. The walk is less than 5 kms return, but at this time of year it’s a favourite walk of ours. It’s a shame it’s through a national park though as in Australia dogs aren’t allowed in National Parks. Mr Tilly would have loved the trail, and we would have loved to have him with us. Some owners aren’t in control of their dogs though, so we understand the need to protect the native fauna. The South West of WA is full of national parks, so Tills has to miss out on a lot of walks that’d he love. Never mind, he always gets his early morning beach walk whatever we happen to be doing later in the day.

It’s an easy to walk track that follows a stunning coastline.

The track follows a stunning coastline
Passing by Meelup Beach

Once we arrived at Pt Picquet we sat a while to look for whales. This section of ocean has a deep Chanel just off the shoreline, so thousands of Humpbacks, Southern Rights, and Blue Whales can often be seen as they head back down to Antartica after their journey north to bear their young in warmer waters. We sat for about 40 minutes today and saw about 20 whales, all humpbacks I think, although I’m no expert. None were in very close today. We saw a few approximately 100 metres off shore as their massive bodies broke the surface when they rose up to breath, but for the majority we only knew they were passing because of the splashing out towards the horizon. Some were clearly breaching, or slapping the water with their fins, as whales do, or we’d spot their big blow when they’d come up for air. Sometimes we’ve been blessed with whales that will put on one of their slapping displays, or will repeatedly breach, throwing their massive bodies right out of the water only 20 or so metres from the shore. Just depends on the day. We call there as often as we can at this time of year, as when we’re lucky enough to get a small pod close to shore putting on a show, it’s one of the most magical things one could possibly see.

Finishing our walk back at Castle Rock, coffee beckoned, and what better place to enjoy a coffee than at the Bunker Bay Cafe. Bunker Bay is a few more kilometres up the road towards Cape Naturalist.

The view from our table at Bunker Bay Cafe

Today we were lucky it seems. As the staff shortages that started with Covid continues to plague our hospitality industry, service just ‘ain’t what it used to be’. It was around 1pm when we arrived, but we didn’t need lunch, just a coffee and one of their famous muffins. We were told that due to staff shortages they normally finish their coffee and cake service in favour of full meal service at 11.30am, but as it was unusually quiet today we were in luck. Bunker Bay Cafe is a dog friendly cafe, so it’s one of our favourites – we’ll have to remember the new food service times if we head there with our fur baby hoping for just a coffee in future. We might not be so lucky next time.

Twas a lovely couple of hours – mild weather, a gentle bush walk alongside stunning coastline, and we were lucky enough to get to enjoy a coffee and muffin afterwards. How lucky are we!

An eRa ends

We farewelled our son and daughter-in-law, then packed up the caravan and said what we know will be our own final farewell to Broome from a caravaner’s prospective. Five days later we were home. It took us two days to get the caravan completely emptied and cleaned up. Five days more and the caravan was sold, and so that era in our lives has come to an end.

This blog started so as to record our full time caravan travels when we set off from Perth in 2014 with the intentions of living on the road for many, many years. lifeofrileyow.com begun with the ‘ow’ being an acronym for ‘on wheels’. It seems the universe had other plans for us, and after several unplanned interruptions to our journey we rejoined traditional house living late in 2016. The blog morphed from its intended travel journal into being virtually a diary in which to record our travels, our home renovations, and all manner of other things. The ‘ow’ in lifeofrileyow.com, changed from ‘on wheels’ to being an acronym for ‘on whatever’. I wrote on whatever inspired me to write. Of late I’ve been finding less and less inspiration to write about anything. So I’ve been pondering, what next for my little blog?

I enjoy blogging from time to time. Sometimes the desire to have something to write about will encourage me to get out of my comfy chair and get out exploring the great outdoors just so as I’ll have something to write about. When I’m out exploring I take more notice of my surroundings knowing I’m going to be writing about my experience. Anticipating writing enhances all my senses. If I know I’m going to write about something I tend to see, hear, feel smell, and taste with much more awareness than I otherwise would.

I’m not sure which direction this blog will go now, but I think it’ll find a new direction. Perhaps it’ll showcase more of our beautiful south west. Being surrounded by all the Margaret River wineries, restaurants, picnic areas, beaches, and glorious outdoor walking trails, there’s plenty to write about. Perhaps I’ll seek out more of the ‘dog friendly’ local places to review. And as we’re now intending to fly to our holiday destinations we’ll have a whole new holiday experiences to review and record. I know I’ll continue to write, and I know I’ll continue to write ‘on whatever’ takes my fancy. I’d kinda like to develop a set theme, but somehow I don’t think that’ll happen. The blog will probably just continue on its merry way, just as eclectic and erratic as I am. One things for sure though which ever direction it takes won’t include caravan wheels any more. That era was great, but for us, it’s now a by-gone error. For this blog, a new life awaits….

Broome 2022

We’ve been in Broome for a little over two weeks now. Checking into the caravan park we were given what has clearly become a standard spiel, ‘don’t leave anything valuable out, especially car keys, and don’t leave your car keys hanging near the door inside your caravan’. This was followed up by an email stating the same. Apparently it isn’t uncommon to awake to find someone inside your van who has managed to snib the door open while the occupants sleep.

We’ve seen and heard things over the years that indicate the local youth and sadly, in particular, the local indigenous youth, have been becoming aware that the tourist season opens up opportunities for theft, especially car theft. Now it seems that Broome is joining the rest of the northern parts in Australia in resembling what can only be described as a lawless society. The crime rate is definitely escalating. Broome is losing its sleepy little town in paradise feel. Sad indeed!!

Our son and daughter in law were due to leave Darwin a couple of days after we arrived. They were bringing a tent, but not being able to get a site at our caravan park, had booked somewhere a little out of town. Hearing about the warnings heralded a change of plan. They cancelled their site, and instead have their tent sent up on our site, their portable fridge chained to our caravan wheel, and when we go out, their electronics and valuables are hidden away and locked in our caravan.

Kelvin has spent time in Broome previously, but this is Dara’s first visit. With everything secured as best as possible, we’ve been out and about. They are loving it.

Swimming during the day at Cable Beach, then playing around as the sun go down in the evening.

Exploring Ridell Beach and Entrance Point.

There’s no way I would have been tempted to climb into that hole…. He may have turned 50, but there’s still plenty of the thrill seeker from his teenage years left inside. Pleased there weren’t any snakes down there.

Rock pools to explore at low tide

We’ve managed to get into a few restaurants, you have to book, sometimes weeks in advance. The Aarli Bar has been the stand out so far – it always is. We went to Ladies Day at the Broome races – left early, and decided we’d give the Broome cup race day a miss. Went fishing a few times from town jetty, caught nothing except a cold.

Today we’re heading up to Cygnet Bay pearl farm for a boat tour. I’ll let you know more about later, but now I’d better go and get ready.

Peacocks at Sandfire

We spent our last night at Sandfire Roadhouse before getting to Broome. It’s not normally a place we choose to stay at as usually we take advantage of the free 24 hour roadside stop overs, but on this occasion we had an engel full of frozen things so we needed power to keep everything frozen. As well as that, as this is most likely our last hurrah in the caravan, it will be the last chance for us to see the peacocks that Sandfire is famous for.

Even though they didn’t fan out their feathers for us, they didn’t disappoint. There certainly was plenty of them, and they were stunning.

Ive seen photos of this white one displaying the glory of his full plumage, but not today.

In the evening we had a beer and shared a burger in their el fresco area. I hadn’t realised peacocks roosted in trees overnight, but they clearly do. We were very careful as to where we walked.

Wouldn’t want to be walking under this one when he got a call from nature.

We’ve been in Broome for four nights now. The weather has been absolutely perfect, approximately 30 degrees every day, soft breezes, and cool enough for a good nights sleep overnight. Meanwhile storms, winds and heavy rains are lashing our home town of Busselton….. We’re happy campers!

More on Kalbarri

As a teenager Alice went to Kalbarri on a school hike – she hated it! But that was almost 35 years ago, and gear has changed considerably over that time, as has Alice. As I remember it, the hike was in the inland gorges and took several days, with the gear divided between each of the hikers to carry. They didn’t have two person tents weighing less than a kilo as we do know, nor did Alice have any lightweight hiking gear, or sturdy boots. I think her pack weighed approximately twice the recommended weight for a person of her weight. She now loves hiking, and I’m sure given half a chance she’d gladly re-trace her footsteps from her school days, and with today’s gear, I’m sure she’d love it.

Kalbarri is almost all national park, with rugged and beautiful gorges inland, all fringed by the most amazing rugged coastline. We had intended to do a couple of the shorter inland gorge walks, but it was school holidays, and the amount of cars in the car parks at the start of the walks caused us to think again. How wonderful that so many families are taking advantage of the school holidays to immerse their children in nature at it’s best. We left the inland gorges for the families to enjoy and Instead headed for the coast. I posted several of the photos a few days ago. Here are a few more, including a couple of videos.

This is one of my favourite photos from all time. I hadn’t realised how moody the sky was when I snapped it. A pleasant surprise!

We stayed at Red Bluff Caravan park for this visit, which is a little out of town. We’re so pleased we did as only two minutes walk from the caravan park took us down to, what we thought was the best of the coastal cliffs area. On the first night the sea was quite ferocious so we couldn’t safely venture to far, but on our last night the water was a lot more gentle allowing us to venture around the rocks far enough to take the above photos and videos. On a wild night, such as the first night we were there, the power in the ocean is frightening, and has to be respected. Hence our videos show a gentle sea in comparison to how wild it can be. I hope you enjoy them anyway.

We enjoyed Kalbarri. We’re now in Carnarvon, the fruit bowl of WA. We’ve restocked our fridge with delicious avocados, cucumbers, capsicum, cabbage, beans, broccoli, and loads of sun ripened tomatoes. Our washing is all done, the sun is shining, and tomorrow we’re ready to move onto Coral Bay – a place very close to our hearts. But tonight the spud van is due to arrive, and with it I believe there’ll be entertainment (we’re at the Wintersun caravan park, and there’s always plenty going on at the Wintersun). I’d better go and tidy myself a bit …..

Kalbarri’s rugged coastline in pictures

The humpbacks are on their journey north. can you spot the whale in the first photo?

This small beach was a good place to sit and have our lunch – a bit of a trek down to it, thank goodness Paul helps me! He’s a bit of a mountain goat, i’m definitely not.

The waves crash into the rocky shoreline. i wish you could hear them in these two photos.

Wild country – just stunning!

Arriving in Kalbarri

We’ve been to Kalbarri twice before and both times it’s been so windy that we’ve left earlier than planned. Arriving at the Red Bluff caravan park at 11am yesterday we hoped this time would be different. A gentleman came out to us on his quad bike, ”do you have a booking?” he asked. We confirmed that indeed we did. ”You’re to early”, he says, ”check in time is 2pm”.

Mmmm – welcome to Kalbarri. We drove into town, parked up and went in search of lunch. Lots of places not open, two pubs that served lunch between 12 and 2. We arrived at the first at 12 only to be told that as two tables of people had already arrived, nothing would be available until 1pm. We tried the second pub, they hadn’t finished their lunch prep yet, and weren’t taking orders until the prep was finished. Next we tried the bakery, but they didn’t have tables. We wandered on.

Next stop, a fish and chip shop with a couple of outside tables. That’d have to do. They didn’t do coffee. We sat outside and ate our mediocre fish and chips, and yes it was windy, and a little drizzly, but we were under a roof, and managed to drag the table to a spot with some wind protection, so that was ok. Next we went in search of coffee. I think we managed to find the only place in Kalbarri serving coffee on a Thursday lunch time. Thank goodness it was before 2pm, as they closed at 2. Paul also ordered a cake. The coffee arrived, but the cake had been forgotten. They were apologetic though when reminded, which was the first indication since arriving in the town that someone at least had a general idea of ’customer service’. The coffee was really good.

Back to the van park at 2pm to join the queue of arrivals. We both went to reception to book in, however there was one person already there. ”only one person in the office at a time”, we were told. ”as per covid mandates, and the sign on the door”. I went back to the van, while Paul waited his turn to humbly enter reception on his lonesome.

From then on things magically transformed. The gentleman on the quad bike escorted us to our site, and skillfully directed the back in before presenting us with an envelope with the key for the ensuite, and the park rules inside. The park only has grassed, ensuite sites. The grass is immaculate (no ground sheets allowed), and the ensuite was spotlessly clean and completely dry. Ah! now I understand the later than usual check in time for caravanners – they use the time to bring all the sites up to their high standard. All is forgiven.

We set up, had a cuppa, then the noise of the waves crashing to shore close by beckoned. It looked like quite a distance to the water, but it was only about a three minute walk, and what we saw when we arrived took our breath away. I’ll let the photos do the talking!

Pleased i wasn’t under that when it fell

We were gobsmacked. Raw nature at it’s absolute best, and soooo close to where we’ll be spending the next four nights. I’m happy.

It’s now 7.50am on the morning of our second day. I’ve been typing this in bed, as I listen to the waves crashing onto the rugged, rocky coastline only a few hundred metres away. There’s no wind today and the sky is blue. I’m thinking – I‘m going to like Kalbarri!

Cervantes

We had planned to leave early this morning with Cervantes as our first stop. However, by 3pm yesterday we were all packed up and were eager to get going. We set off and took an hour and half off todays trip by staying at a free overnight stopping place on the way. Without power it was freezing, but we were still pleased to have shortened today’s travel time.

Setting off before 8am this morning and with only 302 kms to travel today meant we arrived before lunch. We usually travel long days so when we arrive at each day’s destination, there’s usually only daylight hours left for a quick leg stretch, dinner, and a game, before we hit the sack for the night. It was a nice change to have a relax for a bit before making a sandwich for lunch, and then setting off to explore the surrounding area on foot.

Cervantes is a very small Cray-fishing town. Nearby are the famous Pinnacles – a sort of desert with fossilised tree trunks. (don’t quote me on that rough description, I have been there many years ago, but I’m a bit vague as to their origin).

Today’s walk took us down the beach with the big Cray-fisherman’s houses on one side and their cray-fishing boats moored just off shore on the other side.

And just up the beach from the big houses is the surprising Lobster Shack. We were so tempted – but I had roast chicken in the caravan all cooked ready for our dinner.

The place is huge, with just as many tables inside as there are out. Some of the meals looked really enticing, as did their iced coffees….. I resisted (that’s a first). I imagine a lot of tour buses bring their Pinnacle tour patrons here for lunch. I think they’d be impressed.

We’ve been promising ourself shorter, slower days in the caravan for ever. It’s taken us to our last trip to actually do it. It’s rather nice – I wonder why it took us so long!

The last hurrah

Two days ago we dropped our dog, Mr Tilly, off at our daughters in Perth where he’ll stay for the next two months. Being retired, Tills is usually with us almost 24/7. He sits beside us on the sofa at night, and he sleeps between us on our bed. When one of us is out of the house he sits on the bed where he can watch out for the return of the car and with it, the absent member of his pack. He’s very loyal, and great company, but he does get anxious when his pack isn’t all together. It broke our heart to leave him, but I believe he’s settling in now. My daughter has two small older dogs, so they’ll be good company for him, and all three dogs are welcome on the sofa in the evening, and sleep on the main bed at night.

We’ve loved our caravanning life, but Mr Tilly has struggled with it. He came into our home when he was only seven weeks old and has been caravanning with us ever since. We did all our homework before we got him and knew our road trips wouldn’t be as free as they’d always been. We realised National Parks would no longer be an option, but there were still plenty of other options available. The one thing we didn’t factor in was that perhaps he wouldn’t love it. He’s now almost five years old though, and it’s clear he’s not faking it – caravanning turns him into one very anxious little dog, so much so that he’s often physically ill when we’re away. It’s become clear he’s not going to get used to these travelling escapades no matter how much time we give him, and his stress effects our enjoyment. We haven’t been enjoying our caravanning trips as much as we ought to be.

Of course, leaving him with our daughter is always an option, however, we prefer longer trips of two plus months than short 2 – 3 week breaks away, and we don’t think it’s fair to either our daughter, or to Mr Tilly to leave him for months at a time. So we’ve made the decision to make this our last caravan trip, our last hurrah!

There are a few more reasons for our decision though. There’s the cost of the fuel, the increasing cost of caravan park fees, and last but not least, the crowds now on the road. With so many people now on the roads there is no room for spontaneity any more. Without advance bookings it’s almost impossible to get a spot anywhere without bookings made months in advance. In 2014 when we took to the road full time the only times you had to book long advance was during school holidays. Out of school holidays we’d turn up at caravan parks and were usually offered a choice of sites. It’s just not like it used to be.

On top of that, our move into our retirement lifestyle village has totally changed our lives. Our lives at home are so busy now, bowls, golf, bridge, walks, dinners – so much so that long trips away are no longer as tempting. So, whilst we’re laying the blame at Mr Tilly’s feet, there’s really much more to it than that. The truth is we don’t enjoy being away from our home for long periods of time any more. There’s just to much going on all the time on the home front.

We’ve left Mr Tilly behind this time and are going to make the most of this, our last hurrah. On the itinerary for this trip is hiking in Kalbarri national park, a walk on the Kalbarri skywalk, and dinner at the famous Finlay’s Fish restaurant. Then we’re heading on to Coral Bay for four nights. Coral Bay has always been a favourite place of ours, but with dogs not allowed on the main beach there, we’ve been by-passing it for the past five years. It’s fitting that it should be included in our last hurrah.

Between Coral Bay and Broome we’ll include a few days at Pt Samson, and will stay a few nights at Eighty Mile Beach, the most strategic stopping point on the home stretch into Broome. The owner at Eighty Mile Beach apparently tried to seperate two vicious dogs several years ago and was mauled badly in the process. Dogs have been banned there ever since. Then we have four lovely weeks in Broome, and our son and daughter-in-law are coming down from Darwin to meet us there. We’re looking forward to being able to do justice to sharing time with them including dining out at the local eateries and pubs. Hopefully this last hurrah will get us that illusive photo we’ve been trying to capture of a bat as it flies across the face of the full moon. Goodness knows there’s lots of opportunities for the photo, but snapping it at just the right moment is the trick yet to be mastered.

Come early September we’ll return home with a couple of nights at Karijini National Park on the way. Then we’ll be advertising our little van and a new era of shorter overseas holidays will begin. In the meantime, watch this space. I’m sure I’m going to have some lovely photos to share with you, hopefully even that one that has so far alluded us of a bat silhouetted against a full moon.