Sunday, October 20, 2013

Western Australia - Pt 7 (and final)

On our last full day, we left early and drove to The Pinnacles, a 190 hectare area of limestone formations  caused by erosion. They are quite spectacular to see.

We went for a walk through them (guided by trail posts otherwise we may still be there!) and marvelled at the various shapes and sizes.

After that, we had to jump back in the camper and race off to New Norcia to join the 1pm tour. New Norcia is a Benedictine town built in 1847, with buildings in a Spanish style of architecture. The paintings and buildings are quite spectacular. 

We stayed our final night in a dodgy caravan park near the airport. The next morning we cleaned out the van, packed our bags, repacked our bags to redistribute the weight and repacked again :) We dropped the van off at the hire company, and took a taxi to the airport, where we checked in about 8 hours early for our flight. We spent the rest of the time sitting at the airport trying to fill in time before we flew home. Don't ask why :)

We flew overnight and arrived home at Newcastle Airport the next morning, drove home, picked up KitKat from the cattery and collapsed in a heap...

So all up we did approx 2,500 km by the time we made all our side trips. The map roughly shows the route we took.

I hope you've enjoyed the brief look at our holiday!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Western Australia - Pt 6

The next few days involved a LOT of long days driving.

Before leaving Albany, we had to visit Dog Rock - reliving another childhood memory for me! This is a rock in the middle of town that's shaped like a dog's head. There's both Aboriginal and urban legends about the rock but regardless, I think it's pretty cool :)

We left Albany and drove towards Esperance, stopping briefly along the way to look at the remains of the Rabbit Proof fence (aka the State Vermin Fence). It was a pest-exclusion fence constructed between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests, from the east, out of Western Australian pastoral areas.

(Actually to be honest, we stopped because there was a geocache here - we were on a mission to do a cache every day of August - and we achieved it. We did choose this cache because of the history though.)

Now the fence wouldn't even keep a cow out, let alone a rabbit!

It was coming into wildflower season in WA, so there were stunning native wildflowers in many places along the roadside - and in the remaining green spaces that hadn't been turned into canola fields...

After about 6 hours driving, we finally arrived in Esperance, a port city known for the whiteness of its beaches. Esperance Wharf was the setting for a scene in an audio book Billy had listened to, so he was keen to see the town. It was dusk by the time we arrived and did some grocery shopping.

This does NOT look like one of the white beaches - presumably they were elsewhere! You can however see the jetty and the lights of the wharf in the distance.

On our way out of Esperance the next morning, we detoured to look at the Pink Lake - a salt lake that can appear pink in colour when the right temperature, salinity and algae concentration are reached. Obviously the time of year we were there didn't have the right conditions, as it was just the usual blue. Still pretty anyway!

We had to retrace a couple of hours of our previous day's journey, before heading north to Hyden, home of Wave Rock, a natural rock formation shaped like a breaking wave. It is stunning and quite awe inspiring. The colours changes depending on the light.

This gives you an idea of the height of it.

We stayed at Wave Rock overnight, then left early for another long day of driving. We were on the tail end of the trip by now, and getting quite weary.

I think the only interesting part of this day was the stop at the Dog Cemetery at Corrigin. This stop was also because a geocache was placed in an interesting location!

There are over 80 dogs buried here, some with touching tributes like this one:

We stayed overnight at a caravan park in the tiny hamlet of Ledge Pt (north of Perth). We had dinner in the nearby sports clubs and had possibly one of the nicest, friendliest meals we'd had all trip!

Homeschoolers Medieval day

We had a great day today. A couple of the homeschool mums had organised a medieval re-enactment and jousting group to present a morning for our homeschooling group. We had a great turnout - with just under 200 people (school-age and up) attend.

We split into 2 groups to begin. Our group firstly learnt about 'The Making of a Knight'. The presenters discussed the various armour and weaponry of the time periods and demonstrated the advantages and shortfalls of each type. We were able to see how heavy much of it was - like the chain mail and graves.

An impressive display of armour...

Testing out the armour with sword and axe!

After about 45 mins, we swapped groups and then learnt about medieval society and customs, including clothing. Some fascinating information. I'm pretty glad I live in modern times :)

Discussion of clothing, purses, writing tablets etc.

At the end they asked who knew how to play trumpet. I volunteered Billy (who was cowering behind me in embarrassment! - hey, it's my job!) and he got to blow the Viking horn!

Following that, we combined back into a single group for a display of equestrian skills including archery, sticking, using a lance, sword etc.

Large and enthusiastic group!

Thanks to the organisers - we had a fun day and learnt lots!

On the way home, we stopped into a shop which I remember from my childhood called The Elephant Shop. It's a treasure trove of gemstones and crystals. We spent a delightful hour wandering the shop, looking at everything and learning about gemstones we'd never heard of! (And *ahem*, we couldn't resist buying some to take home!)

I love these amethyst crystals!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Western Australia - Pt 5

The next day was a special 11th birthday so the morning started with opening a few presents. He'd received some before the trip so I didn't have to lug them all the way over to WA :)

Then we headed to Whale World, an historic precinct on the site of Australia's last whaling station. The station ceased whaling in 1978.

An example of the roadside scenery.

Dodging rain showers, we began by exploring the whaling ship Cheynes IV...

...before taking a guided tour of the facility. It was quite gruesome and gave us a great appreciation that Australia is no longer involved in whaling. I was here as a kid in Dec 1978 - which would have been just after it closed and reopened as a tourist facility - and it reeked to high heaven. Thankfully the smell has dissipated in the passing years!

Not sure why I'm getting a filthy look in this photo :)

We had lunch at the Whaling Station's cafe - it was warm and outside was freezing! - then off to nearby attractions Natural Bridge and The Gap. Spectacular - and on a warm day it would have been nice to just stand and appreciate it longer :) As it was, we were soon bundled back in the van.

After doing a few things in Albany itself - like getting my glasses fixed and buying a birthday cake - which was a long story involving no bakeries and me getting absolutely drenched! - we booked into a caravan park. 

I was planning to catch up with an online friend to have a quick walk and chat, but the rain made that impossible so she came to our van for a cuppa. Birthday boy received a few birthday calls, and we chilled out.

We went out for dinner that night, then came home and celebrated with cake.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Western Australia - Pt 4

After a look around the Margaret River wine district (still raining), we visited Lake Cave. It's a small cave but has one of only two (?) suspended table formations in the world. The reflections were amazing.

Unfortunately, this cave is right at the bottom of a large doline (hole in the ground) which meant a descent of 350 steps to get to the cave entrance. And what goes down, must go back up!

View from the top showing the staircase - the cave entrance is the blacker section in the middle.

Did I mention it was still raining? It absolutely poured down as we got to the top and we were drenched by the time we got to the car. Luckily it was only a short drive to Augusta where we spent our next night.

The following morning (still raining), we visited the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, on the most south-westerley tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southen Ocean meet. Because we hadn't climbed enough steps the day before, we climbed the 186 steps to the top of the lighthouse!

The view from the top was spectacular but VERY windy and cold! I went around the exposed side with the camera and had to hold on as the wind was forcing me backward!

I loved the spiral staircase though!

Another cow welcoming us to the area!
Nearby the lighthouse, is an old waterwheel that used to supply water to the light house keeper's cottage. It's now calcified making it look like it's carved from stone. This was something I really wanted to show Billy as I have a photo I took of the waterwheel when we visited when I was about his age!

We had a big drive for the rest of the day, and with it being too wet to do much, the only place we stopped at was the Valley of the Giants tree-top walk at Denmark. They've built a metal board walk 40 m above ground to allow you to walk among huge Tingle Trees (don't you love the name of them - to me they sound like they should be in Harry Potter or Dr Seuss books!) A type of Eucalyptus, they are native to this area, can grow to 75m high and 24m around the base and live for 400 years.

We stopped for the night at Denmark where we were visited through the night by a mob of kangaroos grazing on the caravan park lawns!