This is a long one and I’ll write it in two parts, hopefully you won’t get bored. I’m still training with this website so please bear with me.😘
Since we made the decision to pack it in and go travelling the time has literally flown by.
I’m starting this blog on Tuesday 31st October 2017, our last day of work for at least the next 12 months. It was a strange feeling walking out the door at 5pm today feeling happy that we’re unemployed, mixed with a feeling of excitement and apprehension at the same time. Keith having been with the same employer for the past 30 years. No more pay packets to rely on and our budget will have to work if we want to stay on the road as long as possible.
2 days and we’re homeless as we hand over the keys to our flat to our tenant Sophy for next year or so. We spent our last night in Guernsey sleeping on the sofa at Shane and Kate’s house before we left on the flight from Guernsey to Gatwick. It was good to spend this time with the kids, we are gonna miss them though.
We’ve been so busy planning our European trip that we’ve almost bypassed any planning for our trip to Australia. The main reason for the trip to Australia is that our beautiful daughter Jodie is at last getting married to Shaun. They’ve been together for 13 years and this wedding has been a long time coming. Whilst here we will be picking up a campervan and heading south from Perth for 2 weeks with Denise and Bougs, then back to Perth to spend time with Jodie before flying home.
We haven’t seen Jodie or Shaun since August last year and can’t wait to spend time with them on their side of the world. They’ve been in Perth for the past 2 years, the longest they’ve settled anywhere and we’re really excited to finally see their house and visit all the amazing places they tell us about when they Skype us.
Our trip to Gatwick and our subsequent flights to Perth were uneventful and nothing to report apart from being very long. We had opted to do the journey with a 2 hour stopover in Dubai making it just over 22 hours travelling, exhausting.
We glided through passport control, although I was feeling a little nervous as Jodie had asked us to bring some Guernsey sand with us, which you’re not allowed to do, but all was fine and we passed through fine.
Jodie and Shaun were waiting for us with their Guernsey and Australian flags, a very welcoming sight. Of course I was tearful as I gave her the biggest hug I could. We spent that evening catching up and preparing ourselves for the next month of enjoyment.
It was hot in Fremantle we had arrived in late spring with summer just around the corner and sizzling temperatures of between 30-36 degrees for the first few days, hotter than normal apparently. Australia doesn’t have daylight saving, so it gets dark by about 7pm and daylight arrives around 4.30am in the morning. Waking up at this time of the morning to the strange call of the Kookaburra, they sound like monkeys and you could believe you were in the middle of the jungle, not a suburban street. The crows also have the most unusual call, sounding like sheep, yes, birds that sound like animals lol.
Jo and Shaun introduced us to breakfast Ozzie style, I loved it, but a little too green and healthy for Keith. For Jodie and Shaun breakfast is better then going out for dinner they tell us and they introduced us to the best places, we never had a bad breakfast, well not me anyway. Keith always having to choose eggs on toast options with bacon and mushrooms on the side, no full English here lol. The Larder was a great place, the garden green shasuska was my favorite dish. Another morning we went to a Lebanese infused cafe, I had a fish pie for breakfast which was to die for absolutely delicious. The Australians really have got this meal spot on and everywhere was always busy no matter what day of the week it was. Coffee is also a big thing here, coffee shops everywhere, I’m not a coffee drinker myself but there was always a good range of herbal or spiced teas, peppermint being my preferred choice. Jodie introduced me to Turmeric Latte, delicious and now a new favorite for me and I hope I can find this in the coffee shops around Europe.
We spent a couple of days at the beach. Fremantle is very windy with the beaches full of surfers lazing about in the surf waiting for the next wave. Helicopters patrol the beach at regular intervals looking out for sharks that might be too close to the shore. You can get an ‘App’ which is linked to the patrols so you can see what’s going on. There are two types of shark the patrols are looking out for, ‘tagged’ sharks, and ‘unidentified’ sharks, but any shark near the shore is not welcome as you can imagine. We were at Leighton Beach one afternoon when the helicopter came past, it circled and came back flying lower, then circled again before hovering about 70 metres off the shore. If a shark is spotted the helicopters sound an alarm, and it went off. There must have been about 100 people in this area of water, and most people quickly got out the water and stood and watched as the helicopter hovered for about 5 minutes before slowly making its way out to sea. The helicopter flew off into the distance, but what do we do now, no all clear sound, no flag nothing. After a while people started to venture back into the water, Keith however waited for the fatter, slower swimmers to swim out before he ventured in again and he always made sure someone was swimming out further than him lol. Jodie and Shaun have never heard the sirens in all the time they’ve been here. It was all rather exciting.
Over the next few days Shaun’s parents arrived and by Sunday all 10 wedding guests were safely settled in Perth.
We caught the ferry over to Rottnest Island. It’s a beautiful little island and reminded us of Herm and Sark mixed in together. The only vehicle is a bus which does a loop around the island collecting those that found the terrain on a pushbike hard work. The beaches are amazing, white sandy bays with turquoise water. Rottnest is the primary home for the Quokka and is the only mammal which is native to the island and can be found everywhere on the island. They are a cross between a large rat and a small kangaroo, not my cup of tea at all. We spent the day cycling around the island stopping off along the way to test the beautiful water. Cycling was a little challenging in the heat with little shade along the way. It was a great day out and would recommend anyone in this part of the world to pay a visit.
Jodie and Shaun have a really relaxed attitude towards the wedding and it’s planning. For weeks I kept asking Jodie “have you sorted this, have you booked this, etc”, “nah, not yet, plenty of time” she would say. We wondered if they had actually booked anything and not really getting married at all.
The wedding was to take place on Tuesday 14th November at Yanchep National Park. We were staying in tents for 2 nights, no electricity, but there was a shower and flushing toilet, that’s good then!
The days leading up to the wedding we spent with Jodie getting nibbles and bbq food for the second night. On Sunday Jodie decided that we were going to make her a flowered headdress and ring style bouquet and we would choose the flowers and make it on Monday night. I wasn’t particularly happy about attempting to make such important pieces but I’d have a go. Thankfully on the Monday morning we popped into the florist to choose the flowers and convinced Jodie to allow the florist to make the headdress. “Yes we can do this for you, when’s the wedding?” “tomorrow!”, thankfully they could make the headdress and it would be ready for collection at 9.30am the morning of the wedding.
Jodie and Shaun didn’t want their wedding to be traditional and wanted to do things their way and this included the wedding cake. They often got donuts from their favourite stall, Lindy-Lou in the Fremantle markets. Huge donuts decorated with cream, custard, chocolate and sweets. We were at the beach on Monday afternoon when Lindy-Lou called to say they were delivering the donuts and no one was at home. “Leave them outside the house” says Jodie, it’s 36 degrees outside! Thankfully we were home before to much damage could be caused to them, they looked absolutely delicious.
Shaun’s wedding ring hadn’t arrived by Monday lunchtime, “I’ll make him One this afternoon” says Jodie and sure enough she gets out her jewellery making kit and knocks him up a wedding ring, this is how relaxed they are!
Monday evening it was arranged for the wedding party to meet up at The Left Bank for bite to eat and a few drinks, but it wouldn’t be a session we all needed an early night to be fresh for the next few days. The Left Bank is a bar/restaurant right on the river, its the perfect place to watch the sun setting with the river, bridge and the harbour cranes making it a photographers playground. It’s a popular place and has been busy every time we’ve been. We managed to get the upper terrace to ourselves and had a great evening, you know the type of evening that could end messy if you took your eye off the ball, but we called it a night at 11pm, lol.
The morning of the wedding arrived and Shaun loaded the Delica with all the wedding stuff that they had purchased over the past few months, plates, glasses, table decorations, food, and more alcohol than is sold in the local bottleo. Shaun had to collect a generator and a commercial sized fridge that he would tow behind the Delica, that would cater for 12 adults eating and drinking for the next 3 days.
Keith dropped me to the hair dressers with strict instructions to collect the headdress from the florist. I drew him a picture and told him to ask the florist if she had time to make the bouquet ring as well. I drew him a picture of a ring with only half of it covered in flowers, simple, he can’t get that wrong, or could he? Keith collected me from the hairdressers an hour later with the headdress and bouquet ring carefully placed on the seat. The headdress was beautiful, but the ring was completely covered in flowers, not what I’d asked him to get or drawn. However it was beautiful and Keith’s reply to me was ” I thought you were in a rush and hadn’t finished the drawing!!”.
Back at the house Jodie was getting herself ready. The air conditioning was on full blast, with 6 adults in the house showering, hairdryers blasting it was very hot, outside temperature was climbing over 30 degree and it wasn’t even midday yet.
Jodie loved the bouquet ring, which Keith took credit for lol. She loved the headdress but was anxious she would look like a child with it on her head, why, I have no idea.
As soon as I saw Jodie ready with her dress on, that was it, I became a very emotional Mum, “Mum, don’t make me cry” she said lol. The headdress looked absolutely beautiful and our baby girl looked absolutely stunning and far from a child.
The car arrived, it was a VW T2 split screen camper-van, absolutely perfect. The drive was about 1 1/2 hours. With Jodie’s music choices on the system, champagne popped we were on our way.
We arrived at Yanchep. Jodie and Shaun had booked the whole of the camping area to ensure no one could spoil the wedding by finding themselves in the wedding photos or complaining about the noise. There were 6 tents and a larger communal tent.
We arrived 30 minutes late and guess what, Shaun wasn’t yet dressed, no surprise to those that know him lol. Jodie dropping to the floor in the camper and Shaun running around the Delica so they wouldn’t see each other, very funny if not a little stressful at the time lol.
Jodie wanted both Keith and I to walk her ‘down the aisle and give her away’. Once everyone was in place we took the 10 minute walk to the ceremony location it was a very hot walk with little shade, the temperature up to about 34 degree by this time. Everyone was sat in a semi-circle looking like they were being roasted alive in the heat and using the homemade paper fans that Jodie had made to swat the flies away from their faces. The location was amazing, Jodie had made a huge macrame piece which was hanging from the arbor it looked amazing. Just as we reached the spot the Kookaburras let out their famous call much to the amusement of everyone, lol.
The ceremony was conducted by a celebrant who was introduced to Jodie by one of her friends. Jodie and Shaun wanted to do their own vows and both had been sitting for hours during the past week writing them, both had beautiful words to say to each other, it was clear to us all they absolutely adored each other and loved each other unconditionally, we were all very proud parents to hear and see this. But what no-one had noticed was that Jodie had loving placed Shaun’s wedding ring on his finger on his right hand, doh.
A ceremony was conducted joining the sand we had smuggled in from Guernsey and sand from their favourite beach in Fremantle, a sign of their past and their future being joined together.
We all make our way back to the tents, whilst Jodie and Shaun headed off with the photographer we all had a chance to choose our tents and put our stuff away. The tents were bell type with blow up double mattress with crisp white sheets, duvets, and white towels. A small side table and chairs, with dream catchers hanging from the central pole, they looked amazing. The communal tent was decorated with mats, fur rugs, blankets, comfy cushions, lights and dream catchers hanging from the central pole, it looked very comfy.
A long table was laid out in front of the communal tent, the dads had to construct an ‘A’ frame construction so that the lights could be hung over the table. Shaun had thought of everything, wood, screws, rope. After about an hour the dads sat back with a beer and admired their handiwork, they did a cracking job and Jodie and Shaun were over the moon with what had been achieved.
Shaun had arranged for a musician to sing and play his guitar for the next two hours. To Jodie’s surprise it was their favourite singer who they go and listen to in a local bar. Jodie had tried to book him as a surprise for Shaun, but he had got there first lol.
The sun had gone down, the lights were on and the kangaroos were hoping around, the Kookaburras and other birds were settling down for the night, it was all just perfect as dinner was being served about 7pm. But now the flys had finally given in for the day, it was now time for the misquotes. The Yanchep Inn had agreed to cook a bbq of steak and crayfish tails, and delicious salads, it was amazing and enough was left over for the next night. Family had emailed video wedding wishes and we played these after dinner. Our grandchildren, Hollie and Riley did an absolutely cracking job of sending their wedding message and had everyone rolling with laughter, taking the micky out of nanny’s famous singing and dancing, it was hilarious 😂. Shaun then made his speech, which had me in tears. Once dinner was cleared away we settled down in the communal tent chatting and drinking until the early hours, it was very cosy.
The next day was spent doing whatever we wanted, before we all met up again for dinner. Dinner was a bbq with everyone mucking in. If the flys hadn’t been enough during the day, just as the sunset the grass erupted with thousands of flying ants, there is always something in this country that wants a piece of you.
We’d had a fantastic couple of days at Yanchep National Park and Jodie and Shaun had managed to pull off an amazing wedding despite their extremely laid back attitude, and memories that would last a life time.
We collected our campervans and headed south from Perth. It was the first visit to Australia for Denise and Bougs and the first time in a campervan. We’d booked two vans for 2 weeks.
We headed off to Dwellingup for our first camper-stop. Jodie had suggested that we spend the night in the National Park, we chickened out because it only had a drop loo and we were yet to experience the use of one of these and didn’t feel we were ready yet, we opted to stay on a fully serviced campsite with showers and a flushing toilet (luxury).
It gets dark early, by 7pm it’s pitch black. The noises we can hear from the bush is amazing, mostly birds, thank goodness. The kookaburra are the noisiest making sounds like a group of loud monkeys, followed by the Australian magpies. The cockatoos settling for the night in the tree above the camper, watching them settle in one by one, they are huge birds. Sitting outside by torch light eating our dinner the bush comes alive, the biggest May-bugs we have ever seen (no Mum I won’t be doing my party piece I could only get 1 in my mouth!) we can hear them crashing-into the side of the van, falling to the floor, getting up and doing the same thing again.
The flies and the mosquitoes are the only thing we have to complain about. Keith suffers and reacts badly to the bites, his feet have swollen from the misquote bites that he’d received from the wedding, in his words he looks like a fat overweight old woman.
Next day we headed down into Bunbury so we could see the dolphins and swim at Koombana Bay, unfortunately the whole of the beach front is being redeveloped and there was no access to this beautiful beach, we stayed for lunch before heading down to Busselton. One of the strangest things we’ve seen on this trip was a long neck turtle crossing the road, where the hell it had come from and where was it going we were nowhere near the beach or a river as far as we could tell. There were Road signs warning us of the turtles, it did make us laugh when we saw it.
The Busselton Jetty is 1.841km long. It is the longest timber piled jetty in the southern hemisphere and is operated by a non-profit community organisation known as Busselton Jetty Inc. Proceeds from ticket sales contribute to the jetty maintenance and conservation. We took a slow walk along the jetty, a walk that can be done in 25 minutes to the end and 25 minuets back, it took us an hour and a half as we took our time to bumble along. It was a lovely walk, no flies, maybe we can park the campers here for the night, unfortunately not lol. If you didn’t want to walk you could catch the Stocker Preston Express an electric train that travels on the train tracks up and down the jetty.
We then headed up to Margaret River for our next few nights of camping. We’ve booked two nights at Prevelly Camping ground which is near the beach and the start of the river mouth.
The weather is starting to get much cooler down south, 22-26 degrees, cloudy and a little rain during the evening (whilst we’re sleeping). It makes walking during the day so much more comfortable, we took a 5 minute stroll down to the beach, it’s surfers paradise down here. The waves are huge. The sun was starting to set, but we hadn’t bought our headlamps with us, so couldn’t stay for the sunset. The campsite is quite busy, mostly surfers, Prevelly beach is a haven for surfers and as the sun was starting to set the surfers look like seals bobbing in the surf waiting for the right wave to appear.
The next day we took a walk along the beach. Surfers Paradise at one end and the Elephant Cafe at the other. It was extremely windy, but warm. After a lovely lunch at the cafe we headed down to the beach for a swim. We could see the clear blue sky at one side of the beach and big black clouds at the other side slowly making their way into shore. By the time we had had a swim and got dressed the rain was upon us, but it was warm rain.
We decided to pop into town to do it of shopping and got caught in a drink drive stop by the police, lucky both Keith and Bougs had opted for coffee at lunchtime and they passed the breath tests with flying colours 👏👏👏👏. We got into town about 2pm to find the shops already starting to shut and by about about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon most were closed, what’s that all about?
Back at the camp we decided we would drive to Surfers Beach to watch the sun setting and have our tea at one of the many bbq sites dotted around the coast and thought I’d drive for a change and let Keith have a few beers with his tea. Unfortunately the rain put paid to having a bbq, but the sunset was still impressive.
We booked a canoe and bushtucker activity for the morning which included wine tasting. After our close brush with the police we thought it best to book another night at the Prevelly campsite in case we overdid the wine tasting. Shock and horror when we realised halfway through the canoe trip, we’d booked the wrong one, no wine tasting 😧
The activity turn out to be very good indeed. We rowed 5km up river and back down again stopping for a swim. Then to a small clearing at the side of the river for lunch which consisted of Kangaroo, emu, crocodile and a few other Australia delights, thankfully Whitchity Grubs are in short supply these days, so our guide opted for haribo snakes instead 😂😂
We trekked our way through the bush into a cave where the option to crawl though a tunnel was offered, none of us took the offer I’m sorry to say. We saw a very impressive European honey bee honey comb with the bees still busy building, a small Irish kid on the tour with us picked up a stone and wanted to throw it at the bees, thankfully he was stopped in his tracks with a very stern telling off 😡🤬
The highlight of the day was when Bougs spotted a Carpet Python curled up on a tree whilst we tracked our way to the caves, everyone wanted to come over and take a look. It was very impressive if not a little scary.
Later in the afternoon we drove 35 minutes down the coast to Hamlin Bay to see the Skingrays come into the shore, unfortunately we only saw a short glimpse of two huge ones as they made their way into the kelp.
Tomorrow we head off to Walpole, stopping at Pemberton to climb the Gloucester Tree and see the Valley of the Giants. It’s been Keith’s long life ambition to climb the Gloucester Tree.
Built in 1947, the Gloucester Tree was one of eight karri trees that between 1937 and 1952 were made relatively easy to climb so that they could be used as fire lookout-spots. The suitability of the tree as a fire lookout was tested by forester Jack Watson, who climbed the tree using climbing boots and a belt. It took Watson six hours to climb 58 metres, a difficult climb due to the 7.3 metre girth of the tree and the need to negotiate through limbs from 39.6 metres up.
Another forester, George Reynolds, pegged the ladder and lopped branches to facilitate climbing the tree, and a wooden lookout cabin was built 58 metres above the ground. The wooden lookout cabin was demolished in 1973 for safety reasons, and was replaced with a steel and aluminium cabin and visitors’ gallery. Currently the climb is done by stepping on 153 spikes that spiral the tree. Only 20 percent of visitors climb to the top of the tree; most make it only part of the way before turning back. Keith climbed the tree with his Go-pro on his head, all you can hear is his heavy breathing as he makes his way to the top.
The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk features a stunning walkway positioned 40 metres above the ground amid the spectacular heights of the tingle forest canopy. The 600-metre walk is accessible and suitable for children of all ages, wheelchairs and strollers. A walk trail links the Tree Top Walk to the Ancient Empire, where a sealed trail meanders across the forest floor between 400 year old red tingle trees. Interpretative information along the trail follows the story of the lost era of Gondwana. Much of the plant life in this forest is unique to the south-west of Western Australia. Trees such as the tingle only occur in this small area and as such provide a window to the past. Some of the plants have origins that can be traced back 65 million years to the super continent Gondwana when Australia was joined with what are now Africa, India, Antarctic and South America.
On our drive down to Walpole that afternoon we had a serious encounter with a kangaroo. Driving along a country road doing about 60/65 mph when a mummy kangaroo just hopped out from the side of the road right infront of us. I looked up, it was already halfway across the road “oh my f%@k”. Keith kept his cool and did exactly what we were told to do. If a kangaroo jumps out don’t swerve because you are more than likely to roll your vehicle, and we’re not insured if we rolled the campervan. Luckily we didn’t run it over and didn’t roll the van and just clipped it’s tail as it bounced off into the forest. But Denise and Bougs were driving behind us and saw us slow down just as joey hopped behind us and in front of them. No they didn’t run it over but came close as it bounced off to find mummy. We stopped to gather ourselves. In all seriousness I really thought that serious damage was about to be caused. Very very scarey.
We found a good campsite right by the river. Our first encounter with the cheeky Kookaburra. We were reading a billboard by the river when a Kookaburra came and sat on it. It was so close we had to move back to take a photo. They are quite big birds. Anyway we were busy taking photos when it suddenly flys past us. Some guy cooking his steaks on the bbq had piled them up on a plate. The Kookaburra flew by and snatched a steak off the plate much to our amusement but to the annoyance of the guy. Next thing the guy was walking from the bbq with a plate piled with steaks in one hand and a plate piled high with sausages in the other. The Kookaburra flew past again knocking the steaks and sausages to the floor, another Kookaburra came from the other side and swooped down to collect a steak and the pelicans came in to take the sausages and seagulls tried their luck. Poor guy had half the steaks and sausages left lol
Next day we headed to Denmark. On the way we stopped at Green Pool and the Elephant Rocks. Green Pool is the most beautiful little beach, with white sand and gorgeous turquoise water. The beach is sheltered by huge rocks just off shore which stop the waves crashing onto the beach to create a beautiful calm pool. We stayed here all afternoon soaking up the sun. Elephant Rocks are huge rocks which look like a herd of elephants.
We opted to stay in a campsite on the estuary. It was in a great location with fantastic views of the river, 15 minute walk into town. The highlight of this site was the pelicans. There was a flock of about 20/30 birds. In the morning about 6.30am the local fishermen came to use the fish cleaning post, basically a purpose built hut for cleaning fish, the pelicans together with the seagulls jostled for the best positions to catch the unwanted parts of the fish that were being thrown away. It was fantastic to watch. We opted to stay here for 3 nights, the hosts were very friendly and accommodating. The first night we cooked our dinner in the communal Bbq area and played bingo.
The next day we explored the beautiful beaches, however it is still incredibly windy. We found ourselves a sheltered spot together with our own saltwater pool. In the evening we went on a steak night river cruise. The river was beautiful and calm, but once we got out into the estuary the wind was blowing so much we had to turn back. In parts the estuary was less than a metre deep.
The next day we went on a free wine tour which was organised by our camp hosts. It was really interesting and we each purchased a couple of bottles of very nice wine. As we were leaving the winery we noticed how dark the sky was. It was a strange grey colour, the sun was bright orange with a coloured ring around it, it made the trees look really really green. The lighting was very spectacular and I would imagine a photographers dream. We were told it was caused by the smoke from a controlled burning of a forest some 30 miles away. That evening we walked into town. We thought we’d treat ourselves to a meal out. The only place open was the pub, which looked more like the local dole centre, although they were advertising fish and chips which we wanted we opted to give this one a miss. We walked around the town, absolutely nothing open. Some guy recommend a nice pub about 300 metres up the road so off we start walking, he pulls up beside us in his car winds down the window, “sorry I meant 300 metres past the garage which is about 400 metres away” we were already walking and hungry so we carried on, he didn’t offer us a lift though lol. The food was great and it was a nice pub. We didn’t want to walk back to the campsite in the dark, Australia has to many scary things that come out at night for me so we asked the barmaid to order a taxi back 😂 .