Enjoying Broome’s glorious sunshine and beaches

Anyone familiar with Broome will know that the consistently good winter weather entices more than it’s share of visitors from the south of the country during the colder months. Years ago the Broome caravan parks could name their price, and had strict booking conditions. Whilst the prices still remain high during peak season, the rigid booking conditions are now more relaxed. On our first camping trip to Broome some of the caravan parks would only take a minimum booking of two weeks, and only from Saturday to Saturday. Of course, you could depart earlier, or arrive later in the week, but the payment was in accordance with the Saturday – Saturday fortnightly schedule.

I’m pleased to say the conditions are now a lot more relaxed, and vacancies are usually obtainable, at least somewhere in the town. People who arrive in town without a booking can usually be accommodated, if not in one of the proper caravan parks, at least into one of three additional overflow sites that are now allowed to open for the peak season. Up until this year, it was only in the overflow sites where one could stay if any pets were on board. Anticipating nowhere else for us and Mr Tilley, we arrived at Broome Pistol club’s overflow site where we stayed for the first week.

Whilst we were grateful for a place to be able to stay with Tills, the rustic, dried out, grass sites were full of seeds, and weren’t proving to be overly compatible with Mr Tilley’s scruffy coat. Fearing it was only a matter of time before a seed managed to embed itself in-between paw-pads, or down an ear, and finding out Broome caravan park is this year, trialling accommodating pets, we secured a booking for the remaining two weeks of our time in Broome.

So – that’s where we have been, and are currently staying. Now onto what we’ve been doing. Fortunately we’ve been to Broome several times so have ticked off all of the must do’s. The absolute stand out highlights have been, The Horizontal Falls, Cape Leveque, and last year’s trip up the Gibb River Road using Broome as our starting base. If you’re planning any trips to Broome, you really must factor those places in.

With those things ticked off, we’re free to just relax and enjoy acclimatising Mr Tilley to the pleasures of caravan life. Learning to quietly adapt to people, their pets, and children coming and going from neighbouring caravan sites is uppermost, and for a twelve month old puppy, he’s doing remarkably well.

We start most days with a lengthy walk and ball chase on Cable Beach to ensure he’s used up a considerable amount of his puppy exuberance early in the day.

Cooling off in the shallows after relentlessly chasing his ball

he runs till he’s knackered! and would still run some more if we’d let him

It took us a while to connect his sudden bursts of disobedience with being physically over stimulated. Now we’ve made the connection we’re able to regulate his behaviour (most of the time), by interrupting his break neck speed of ball chasing and beach running, with some quiet trick training.

Time out – ‘right paw shake’ – yes, he knows his right paw from his left paw

Eagerly awaiting the next request (and accompanying treat)

“beg” – yep, but only with a bit of help. Balancing isn’t his strong point yet

A few minutes of quiet mental stimulation provides some much needed respite from all the hectic physical activity, and he remains a reasonably obedient puppy throughout the walk.

Then, depending on the tides we may pack up a lunch and return to the beach for a couple of hours of people watching. Or we may pack up drinks and return to the beach for sunset drinks.

Some things just go together – Bread and butter, flowers and sunshine, Cable Beach and dogs! Mr Tilley understands quite a few words now including, ‘Beach.’ A question of, ‘Do you want to go the beach’, gets an almost whiplash response, followed by his undivided attention as we get ourselves organised to go.

Our long travel days spent getting here seem to be well forgiven and forgotten. I suspect if Mr Tilley could talk, and we were to ask him what the highlight of his life so far has been, the answer would definitely be, “visiting Broome’s gorgeous Cable Beach.” Introducing and sharing this gorgeous spot with our canine companion –  a pleasure that’s sure to be repeated.

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Three nights, four days, Busselton to Broome road trip

Before I commence telling you about this years road trip, let me first explain that the WA roads are fantastic for a long days travel. For this trip we chose to travel up the Great Northern Highway, a road used extensively by the Pilbara mine traffic. Big, BIG, mining vehicles use this road often, so it’s maintained in absolutely perfect condition, and with long, straight sections overtaking is never difficult. Comparing roads throughout Australia, I have to say WA has the best by a country mile, and travelling 1000 kms in a day is not out of the question. I thought I’d just point that out before anyone starts to panic at the thought of our lengthy days of travel. And now onto our road trip – Busselton to Broome for this year.

Our plans for the year, as per usual, didn’t go to plan. The caravan trip we had in mind had been to head up to Katherine via Broome to see our son, Kelvin, and then come home via the Red Centre and South Australia. A few things seemed to get in the way of the original plan, not least of which, was I think, that we were still settling down after the topsy turvy past couple of years.

The rain, winds and cold of a Busselton winter finally saw us glad to be on the road, albeit with an alternative, and much shorter trip than the original plan.

Paul had carefully selected the route and the van was packed and ready to go by 1st August. Four decent road side stops, all a comfortable 5 – 6 hours apart, would have seen us arriving into Broome early on the fifth day. Another plan that went awry……

DAY ONE (742kms)

A couple of hours out from home and the predicted wet weather met us head on. No problem – the caravan was towing well, and we were snug and warm inside the car. Our travel music (mainly 60’s and 70’s songs that has us singing along) was playing. We had our flask of coffee for our morning tea and lunch time stops, and we had an easy to prepare lunch waiting for us in the caravan. We found pleasant places to stop for both, but with it being absolutely freezing and pouring down outside, Mr Tilly didn’t get the walking break a one year old puppy needs on a lengthy car trip!

We realised the pelting rain was going to see us confined inside the caravan at our planned, Mt Gibson, overnight stop from around 2.30 PM. A quick plan revise saw us instead heading 155 kms further up the road, to Kirkalocka for a later stop.

Kirkalocka, all the basics of a WA roadside stop over

With an hour or two before dark we took Mr Tilly for a bit of walk around on his lead. It was freezing – in fact so cold that Paul thought it was going to snow. Then a bit of dinner, a game of cards, and leaving the van hitched up (as you do when in roadside overnighter), we headed to bed early for a dawn departure the next day.

DAY TWO (782 kms)

Having made up a considerable part of day two’s trip on the first day meant that by lunch time we had arrived at what should have been our night time stop,the south branch of the Gascoyne River. A lovely place, but to early to stop for the night.

Gascoyne River, Southern Branch

Again we revised, and headed further up the road to Mount Robinson. Being close by Karijini National park, Mount Robinson is particularly gorgeous as far as road side places go. It’s spacious with plenty of room to put between vans, and is a considerable distance in from the road, so there’s little in the way of road traffic noise. It has good long drop toilets, and a dump point for our caravan toilet – so all the basics were well met. Oh, and did I mention – it’s a gorgeous  spot….. We’ll stop there again that’s for sure.

Scenic backdrop at Mr Robinson

DAY THREE (726 kms)

Just passed dawn on the third day we set off again. It was a cool 2 degrees outside – freezing! We passed our third night’s planned destination of Two Camel Creek early in the day and with our favourite stopping place of De Grey River being currently closed due to an outbreak of some sort of weed infestation, there seemed to be a shortage of suitable places to stop on the Port Headland – Broome section. We would have preferred a shorter day but with a shortage of suitable places we decided one more long driving day was needed. We arrived at Stanley, our planned fourth night stop, around 4pm on the third night.

Plenty of space at Stanley rest area

Although Paul and I are used to long driving days, in fact we quite like them, it was clear Mr Tilly was just a bit, ‘over it’. By mid day on the third day he had turned his back on us, and when we attempted to talk to him he’d respond with the most fleeting of glances before turning away again at a speed that was likely to cause whiplash. It was clear he definitely had the ‘huff’.

DAY Four (218kms)

The last day was a very short and relaxing 218 kms and saw us into the Broome, dog friendly pistol club.

We set up camp and took Mr Tilly to Cable Beach for a much needed run – more on that later.

Retrieving his ball on Cable Beach – the lengthy travels are forgiven

A puppy’s first birthday party

Bailey’s birthday cake

We had no idea what a doggie birthday party would be like. Would it be a room full of dogs doing what dogs do to leave their scent (peeing and pooping everywhere), would there be any fights, would Tilly remember his siblings……

I’m pleased to say the first two things weren’t particularly in evidence, and sadly, Mr Tilly was the only one of the birthday boy’s siblings who showed up. Did Tills remember his brother Bailey – it was hard to say, but there weren’t any obvious leaps of joy at being re-united with one of his big brothers. His cousin, Lily though was another matter. Apparently Lily and Tilly are of a similar age, and they grew up together in their first few weeks of life.

Miss Lily coming to say hello to Mr Tilly

I’m not sure if Tilly remembered Lily, but he was certainly enamoured with her, and with good reason. Whilst Mr Tilly and Bailey had the snip early in life (7 weeks old), and all of the other male dogs there had also been neutered, Lily is expected to one day mother a litter or two, so hasn’t been sterilised. She’s been kept safe from any would be father dogs during her recent season, which was nearing it’s end on Saturday. Needless to say, the scent of Lily at the party had Tilly’s attention, and the attention of several of the other dogs. I don’t think Tilly knows he doesn’t have the necessary tackle to do the deed – not for the want of trying though!

Mmmm, she looks a bit of alright!

Who’s courting who!

Tilly didn’t know quite what to make of this

I’ve gotta say, in human terms of courtship Mr Tilly was an absolute gentleman. Whilst the other interested dogs there just wanted to ‘go for it’, Tills took his time getting to know his beau first, and letting her getting to him a little (the way dogs do – a sniff here and there, a lift of his rear leg to let Lily check him out, a bit of pretended nonchalance). No wonder Lily thought he was just the bees knees!

So, apart from Lily providing the equivalent in entertainment of what could only be likened to a female stripper at a bucks night, what else happens at a puppy’s first birthday party I hear you ask? Well there’s party food, some for humans and some for the canines (all of the doggie party food was home made).

Home made doggie donuts and treats

There’s play equipment to play on (the party was at a doggy day care centre), and most of the dogs made good use of it. There were games of chase, and games of wrestling, none of which had to be organised – the dogs thought up the games all on their own. Apologies for not counting the dogs in attendance, but at a guess I’d say around 12 – 15. They all seemed to have a great time.

Doggie day care play equipment

How did Mr Tilly go – well he seemed a bit reticent around the general pack, but then again, he was very much preoccupied with the divine Miss Lily. A few times he tried to put a bit of distance between himself and his first love, but Miss Lily wasn’t going to have that. More than once we noticed her seeking him out and reeling him back in to attendance. Clearly Lily wasn’t aware he was of absolutely no use to her – ha, he had her fooled.

After almost two hours of romp and play the birthday cake was presented to Bailey. I must say he showed astonishingly good manners. Sitting with his neck chiefs around his neck, and his birthday hat atop his head, he handled the cake ceremony like a pro. He is a stunning looking one year old, and I’m sure his mum and dad are very proud.

The birthday boy showing great decorum when presented with his birthday cake.

Sid’s campground

A lot of thought went into planning the inaugural trip in our new caravan. Our requirements were firstly fine weather. Then somewhere that welcomed dogs, somewhere that had fire pits, and somewhere with space so as we wouldn’t be camped on top of someone else. Using Wiki Camps, Paul thought Sid’s campground, near Northcliffe looked like it would fit the bill perfectly,  and the week-end looked like it was going to be clear of wind and rain. We hitched up and headed off.

Paul had done his research well. The place was perfect.

A lovely bush setting with plenty of space

At $5 per person a night, this place is fantastic. Or for $10 extra per site there was even power. We chose to have power for our first trip so as we could try everything out. We were directly opposite the fire pit and camp kitchen, and our site faced the north sun – perfect!

A big fire was lit every night for campers to sit around and swap stories. Unfortunately Paul forgot to take his camera when the fire was burning bright

Sid has put a lot of work into welcoming campers to his 100+ acres of natural bush. There’s several little rustic camp kitchens throughout the camping area, each equiped with the basics for cooking and washing up,  including wood heaters with plenty of wood for burning. Also dotted around are several toilets, or toilet/shower rooms, including a loo with a low window providing a great view of the forest. The water’s hot, the loo paper plentiful, and there’s even liquid soap at all the basins. It’s better equiped than most caravan parks where we would be paying the better part of $40 for a night.

There’s a lot of thought and work gone into creating walk tracks around the property for campers to enjoy.

Perfect tracks for dogs to walk

“come on you two”, he waits patiently for us to catch up

Lots for dogs (and people) to look at

Flowers planted around the camping area

with interesting pots for the colourful plants

Tall trees to walk under

One of several dams to walk around

Such a peaceful setting – note the table and seat in the distance, one of several dotted around for campers to find a quiet place and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the bush

Our first two night trip to christen the new van couldn’t have been in a better place. There’s clearly lots of wild flowers and orchids just waiting for spring to bloom and we’ll certainly be back to see them. Sid’s campground – what a pleasure!

 

Goanna Cafe and Gallery

On the last Wednesday of the month my walking group celebrate any birthdays from the month over lunch. The choice of venue is made by the birthday girls. It was my choice in May, so I chose the Goanna Cafe and Gallery, a regular choice with the ladies, and one that never fails to please.

Two tables this month

The second table sharing a joke

Located in Quindalup, towards the northern end of the Margaret River wine region the licensed Goanna Cafe is best described as quirky, unpretentious and relaxed. Their menu showcases the best and freshest of locally sourced ingredients in a choice of simple, understated dishes that taste superb.

House Lasagna of pumpkin, cauliflower, parmesan with sage and walnut beurre noisette, charred broccolini and mixed leaves

Sunja’s Korean Bibimbap, mixed rice with Asian vegetables, marinated beef mince, fried egg, kimchi with soy sauce & Korean hot sauce on the side

I choose the Korean Bibimbap – it was delicious. There were of course lots of other choices on the menu but I’ve only mentioned the ones I took photos of. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals, and followed with coffees and sweets chosen from the cake cabinet.

Mmmm – what to choose. I chose the home made rocky road, it hit the spot perfectly

A small gallery on the premises carries an evolving range of local artwork, jewellery, scarves, homewares, and produce, with a focus on handcrafted and quality pieces. The cafe predominantly gives space to emerging artists allowing them an opportunity to develop their work in a supportive environment.

I love scarves, but resisted on this visit

More items in the gift shop

The cafe is very popular on weekends, so it’s wise to book. There’s a normal playground for the ankle biters, as well as an adventure playground. Dogs are welcome too in the outside eating area with plenty of undercover tables to choose from.

Adventure playground to keep the young ones entertained

It’s situated in a lovely bush setting, which has been taken advantage of by the addition of a Sculpture Walk.

One of several sculptures

It’s not the first time the Walkers who Lunch have dined here.  As always there were no complaints, so it certainly won’t be the last.  Goanna Cafe, as usual, was a real pleasure.

Vasse Felix

What a busy time we’ve been having lately. Sunday 27th May, my birthday, commenced a busy week of wining and dining, and wow – did we commence it in style.

Paul took me to Vasse Felix winery and restaurant for lunch.

We arrived just on time so didn’t have time to take advantage of the wine tasting. Walking upstairs to the restaurant the first thing you see in the huge, and tastefully rustic dining room, is the suspended fire – I want one!

A warm welcome

We were shown to our table, and our waitress for the day introduced herself, and explained the menu. It’s a small menu, exactly how I like a menu to be. When it’s small there’s a much better chance of everything being fresh. The menu changes daily according to seasonal produce. With things listed like, Straciatella, Betel leaves, Bigoli, and Duck Yolk it definitely needed some explanation. I hadn’t heard of most of them, and even if I had, I’d never tried them.

Explanations given, we made our choices. Firstly a glass of bubbles for me, and a half glass of Cab Sav for Paul to have with our starters of sourdough with whipped burnt butter to share, marinated olives for Paul, and Marron, orange, chilli, and rice in a betel leaf for me.

The marron came as a shelled tail with the other ingredients in a betel leaf, served on a small hot rock. I was told that I was to roll the leaf around the marron tail and eat in from my fingers, much like a small taco.

The verdict on the starters: The marron – very different, and yummy. The bread delicious, the burnt butter – so good I’ve tried to replicate at home (the waitress told me how), the olives – ok.

Next came our shared entree of Duck parfait, stout and  chicken skin, served with Lees crisp-breads. The Duck parfait was a sort of whipped pate, very light, and I gather the stout was an ingredient in the parfait. I believe the crispy crumb sprinkled over the dish was the chicken skin. The Lees crisp-breads are made from the left over yeast sediment from the bottom of the chardonnay barrels.

The verdict on the shared entree: Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I have never, ever tasted food so good before. I moaned in ecstasy trying to savour every bite, but at the same time trying not to cram it in quickly so as to get more than my share. I hope I didn’t sound like Sally in that famous scene in, When Harry meets Sally.

Next our mains. Paul chose a fillet steak with Davidson plum, beetroot and hay (not sure what the hay was,  it wasn’t hay that a horse would eat). I chose the Pork, eel, eggplant and miso. We had a side of broccolini, romesco, lardo and almond with it. I had a half glass of the cab sav with mine. I’m happy with only a few sips of any wine, so Paul had to finish it for me (no hardship for sure).

The verdict on the mains: Paul declared his delicious. Mine was tasty but nothing memorable (perhaps that was because I was still in seventh taste heaven after having the parfait).

Then onto deserts: I chose the Mandarin, honeycomb, milk. Paul opted for Cropwell Bishop Shropshire cheese served with blackcurrant gel and lavish crisp breads (plus an additional portion of the Lees crisp-breads that we had with our parfait)

The verdict on the deserts: Paul thoroughly enjoyed his cheese and said the blackcurrant went perfectly with it. The Mandarin desert, which was a sort of a mandarin mouse with a mandarin sponge topping – well if I hadn’t just had the best food I’d ever eaten by way of the Duck parfait, I may well have been declaring the Mandarin desert the best food ever. It was light, and creamy, and absolutely delectable.

We spent nearly three hours over lunch. That length of time for two people can sometimes indicate the service was slow and the courses dragged out. Not so – everything including the timely service of the drinks and each course was absolutely perfect. Needless to say, Vasse Felix has jumped to the top of our list for special dining in the south west. It’s in front of anything else we’ve tried by a county mile.

And now before I close off this post, I’ll give you a bit of photographic tour around the public part of the winery.

Vines in all their autumn glory

Underground cellar in the distance, a bit like a hobbit home built into the hillside

A granite sculpture outside the cellar

A good selection of wines in the cellar (so I’m told – I wouldn’t know a good wine from a bad wine)

The wine that first saw Vasse Felix hit the world market in 1972

There’s lots of big sculptures, here’s another one

And there you have a bit of a summary of Vasse Felix winery, located on the corner of Caves Road and Tom Cullity Drive, Margaret River. A dining pleasure!

 

 

Storm batters south-west WA

We awoke this morning to the sound of battering winds and torrential rain. Winds of close to 110 kilometres an hour battered our coast. The rain was the heaviest I’ve ever seen. At one stage it was so heavy that I could have sworn we had ocean waves crashing over the house. To say it was ‘sheeting down’ was an understatement.

By mid-day the worst of the front had passed over and we were able to take Mr Tilly for his walk. Usually we incorporate a beach stretch for him to have a good romp off his lead. However, when we arrived at where our beach usually is, it was nowhere in sight. The tide was high and we had big waves surging as high as the beach shrubbery.

Our boat launching ramp under water with seaweed dumped well above usual water line

The small jetty beside the boat launching ramp

Several residents were out inspecting the beach damage, with some even braving the elements on zimmer frames and motorised gophers. It was clear what we were seeing was mild compared to the fury of the storm and tides during the morning hours. The walking track that runs parallel to the shoreline showed evidence of the waves having washed over the path. The path was littered with sand and seaweed. Benches had been ripped off their stumps and dumped high up in the beach shrubbery, or overturned in the water.

A concrete bench seat washed into the ocean

The fury of the ocean has washed out tonnes of sand, carving away at our shoreline.  The normally calm waters were frothing and awash with thick seaweed long after the worst of the weather had passed over. I have no doubt that once the water settles from it’s fury, it’s going to be leaving most of that seaweed where our sand should be.

The water awash with sand and seaweed

Residents were chatty as they inspected the damage sharing stories of previous storms. One resident said they hadn’t seen the ocean so high and wild since when Cyclone Alby hit in 1978. Others said it’s just winter as usual.

Usual or not, it’s going to take a while for our beautiful beaches to return to their normal pristine condition. Will Mr Tilly care – not one bit, just as long as he gets to romp along the shoreline.  As far as he’s concerned, the more seaweed on the beach, and the smellier it gets, the more fun he has. A messy beach, while not my cup of tea, is a joy to our Tills. He’ll be prancing around and charging after seagulls just as soon as there’s any visible sand to romp on. To him it’ll enhance his beach experience, he’ll be jumping for joy amongst the seaweed, and thinking to himself – what a pleasure!