Friday, 31 October 2014


Looking over Middleton Beach where we stayed.
Fiela caught King George Whiting and Squid in the bay here.
The water was freezing and the weather pretty ordinary at times, but there was still the odd crazy kid jumping off the jetty into the crystal clear water.
 Tired of writing blog entries, I decided to  use our double stop at Albany as a break from endless typing. However, I've realised that I was much too busy having an AWESOME time in Albany to take any decent photos. So I offer nothing more in this post than some substandard shots of an incredibly interesting city...

Angels at the ANZAC Memorial- quite possibly the most beautiful and moving I've ever been to.

The view from the ANZAC Memorial.


The Brig Amity; a reconstruction of the first boatload of illegal immigrants, sorry, I mean white settlers to arrive in Albany during the 1800s. You can climb onboard and go into the holds beneath. Men and women were obviously shorter and less worried about confined spaces back then. There is a myriad of historical sites throughout town.

A view over Middleton Beach, Albany.

The coast line of Torndirrup National Park on a blustery cold afternoon.

The Natural Bridge, Fiela on top.

Torndirrup National Park.

Two Peoples Bay and its beautiful beach.

Two Peoples Bay.


Coastal wildflowers... aah spring!

Albany wind farm. 12 turbines producing up to 80% of Albany's power needs.  Unsurprisingly, it was pretty windy when we were here.

Noisy turbines.

Birthday party for the kids courtesy of Nana and Poppy + random children who smelt cake and icing in the air.

Kangaroo at Torndirrup National Park.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

20 Million Reasons to Visit Pemberton.

Karri Tree.
Our next stop after Margaret River was so loved by the UysHuis that we did it twice, and both times in the freezing cold, with wild wind and rain. Where is this vortex of crap weather and magical wonder? Sleepy Pemberton, oh you gorgeous little thing.
Karrri Forest.

The drive from Margaret River to Pemberton was well worth it in itself. Forests of coastal eucalypts give way to the karris with their towering and enormous trunks. And just to make sure you don't forget how small and insignificant you are, every now and then the road opens up and an emerald green paddock with a tiny house will reveal itself suddenly from behind the trees, a human attempt at forcing back the forest so it can stand with its menacing sentries on the barbed wire fence.
Pemberton, a little drier the second time around.

The weather when we went with the McGary's was all of the above with the added inclusion of torrential rain. It was quite busy, and since we wanted to have two sites together, those allocated to us were at the bottom of the barrel, and not particularly aesthetically pleasing, its main attraction being a view of an electricity box.   But just down there, in the hollow next to the raging creek was a tonne of sites looking awesome. Did I mention the cold, the wind, the rain, the creek? I'm no girl scout, but I'm sensible enough to know that camping in the wet near a creek with the forecast set to bucket down is probs a bad idea. And after a fairly heated discussion with my beloved on this very point which ended with my last rather ridiculous point being: "You're putting all of our lives at risk!!!" we set up, down there. More on that later.
Fluffy ducks.

The temperature plummeted, but we were all still on a high after lunch at Silkwood Winery, a place of alright wines but pretty amazing food. Actually, it was awesome food. (We went back here with my parents, and Mum in her infinite wisdom ordered the tasting plate which will forever be known as The Best Tasting Plate I've Ever Tasted. I'm annoyed I didn't take a photo.) Anyway, even as the temperature dropped to single digits and our fire seemed to emit more light than warmth, there was something about Pemberton that was just lovely. Maybe it was the baby ducks, the brooding forests towering over the town, the whispering torrent or the little houses with their chimneys and thin strips of smoke smudging an already grey sky, or perhaps the loud rustle of the treetops as the wind whipped around them. Maybe it was because I was verging on hypothermia, but Pemberton has that romantic vibe about it that makes you want to stay.
Parrots and the Boet Bird Man.

There's a mountain bike track running passed the town, the Munda Biddi track,  and the 1000 km Bibbulman walking track also goes through it. Next to the caravan park is a "natural" swimming pool akin to the one in which I learnt to swim at Bangalow, that is to say a creek with a cement pylon at the downstream end to stop you from floating off into the never never.  There's also a bike track with professionally built jumps, a park,  a tramway taking you through the hills, a trout farm, cooking school, art galleries, wineries,  road side stalls with eggs for $4 a dozen and the creamiest avocados at $2 for 4... And that beautiful forest is never far away.

It was all made a little more romantic by the weather, though this didn't transfer all that well into the Uyshuis, especially as on our first morning there we had to wade through water to get back in the camper after a trip to the toilet. It was so wet that the water would seep up through the ground sheet as we walked across it. The McGary's  had had the sense to move to higher ground in their wheeled mansion, but we were stuck in the muck, unwilling to go through the rigmarole of packing everything up only to move a few metres. I felt justifiably self righteous, and luckily our friends, and later my parents, were gracious enough to let us into their massive, warm and mostly dry motorhomes so we could be reasonably comfortable during the lengthy, heavy and frustratingly regular downpours. Camping really does suck in the cold rain.
At the bottom of the Gloucester Tree.

The 'steps'.
So through all of this, we still loved Pemberton. We climbed the Gloucester tree, a Karri with spikes driven into it all the way to the top 61 metres above the ground. I'll admit to getting to the very top and fighting the urge to lie face down on the platform while I hyperventilated. The view was amazing, but when a big gust of wind came through and the tree started to sway, I took my photos and scrambled carefully back down. Of course, this being the first real bit of exercise I'd completed since running up and down dunes at Warroora, walking anywhere over the next few days became pretty problematic.
The view from the top...
...and down to the bottom

With Mum and Dad we went out to the Bicentennial tree in the Warren National Park and Fiela climbed up its 71 but I got to the first platform 20 metres up,  and feeling the tree sway already in the wind decided that that was far enough. We went for a walk down to the Warren River lookout which was lovely, the trees and forest wonderous in its size and quiet.
Walking at Warren National Park.

Fiela and I also managed to get to a few of the wineries courtesy of the Nana and Poppy Babysitting Service, our favourite hands down being the Lost Lake Winery: every wine here was a winner and their chardonnay was awesome. The winemakers were actually doing the tastings,  so it all got a bit technical and there was a moment where the discussion of tannins made my eyes glaze over, but it was nice to meet people being incredibly passionate about what they do. I'd highly recommend a visit here, they also do local tasting platters and lots of outside areas for kids.
The Bicentennial Tree.

Are you convinced yet? At Manjimup we went to the Truffle  Company,  where black truffles, the most expensive fungus in the world are harvested by cute dogs you aren't allowed to go anywhere near lest you ruin their delicate noses. More great wine and food here, along with some information on how this tiny industry is overtaking the French one in quantity and quality.

When it was time to move further east, both times the weather had been incredibly disappointing, but like everywhere we’d been thus far in the South West region of Australia,  we'll be back when it's warmer and drier.
A day trip from Pemberton to nearby Windy Harbour. As the name suggests, it was windy.


The Bicentennial Tree.

Pemberton Pool looking a bit more user friendly than its Bangalow cousin...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Margaret River

Aah Margaret River. How do I love thee!? Let me count the ways.
Aaron Lily.
Seriously, there is so much to see do and drink in this little South West corner of West Australia, I was beside myself most of the time. The coastline is unbelievably dramatic, with a 6 day Cape to Cape walk traversing its length. There is great surf (the Margaret River High School Surf Team had just been crowned State Champions when we were there) beautiful beaches, cool green forests and in spring, wildflowers and carpets of Aaron's lilies

Oh and there's wineries, wine, gourmet food and boutique breweries. And wineries.  Did I mention the wine?
Capel Vale Shiraz tasting plate.
Before we arrived I was a bit worried about all this winery action, afterall trying to denote whether a wine has a berry or plum nose, an acidic or smooth mouthfeel and all that other wanky stuff is pretty hard to do when your toddler is eyeing off that really delicate looking arrangement of bottles and or screaming about going outside. But all that worry was for naught as almost every winery/brewery/anywhere is catered for kids, some with a full playground or enormous sandpit with a thousand toys in the middle. And most of them are fenced (= Yes! + fistpump + only call for me if you're bleeding).
Capel Vale Chardonnay tasting plate.
We covered this beautiful area twice, first with the McGary's and then three weeks later with my parents, so if I mention a lot of wineries it's because we did it twice. Plus we're complete pigs who probably have an unhealthy obsession with wine. So much so that we almost bankrupted ourselves on wine and lunches whilst our (read: my) waistlines grew much larger by the end of our time in the south west.

The weather didn't help, being rainy and freezing, the enemy of bush and beach walks but terribly conducive to long meals by the fire.

We picked up the McGary’s in their wheeled mansion from the hire place in Perth and had a good look at the inside before we actually headed off. It had a little kitchen, beds aplenty and a tiny ensuite... Aaah such luxury! When we questioned Tim whether the ensuite would be used he replied with an emphatic and clear "Hell no! That's disgusting!!" in regards to emptying the toilet cassette. Fiela and I found this to be quite amusing, especially since we considered ourselves to be hardened campers after our chemical toilet escapades at Warroora. We stood around, discussing the toilet issue when in a quick count of little heads we realised a small McGary had gone missing. After a short and frantic search we heard a little voice from inside the motorhome inform her parents that not to worry, she was just on the toilet, doing a poo. Luckily all the kids went inside to get a good look at how this was done, which allowed Tim, outside, to swear unhindered by the presence of  impressionable young  vocabularies.
Happy times. The Uys and McGary families employing some quality parenting techniques at Capel Vale Winery. And Tim's leatherman- an implement he showed off at every opportunity but was unable to make any reasonable use out of. Much like his other implement.

And Tim, proving to be less than reliable in the babysitting department.
Gathering ourselves after the Great Poo Disaster of 2014, we drove down the coast, with a quick stop for lunch at the Capel Vale Winery before settling into the Yallingup Beach Caravan Park. We stayed here three weeks later with my parents, and whilst it's not the cheapest place we've stayed, it is certainly an excellently maintained and positioned one.  There is a beautiful grassy common area out the front, with barbecues and tables, perfect for checking out the surf and having your winey sundowners.
Sundowners at Yallingup.
And what to do? A Walk along the cliffs on the Cape to Cape track? Or a swim or surf in the beautiful clear waters? Perhaps a beachcomb amongst the rockpools and gorgeous sandy beaches? Maybe in warmer less windy and wet conditions. Luckily for us, there are some world class eating and drinking places just around the corner...

Our favourite brewery was the Eagle Bay Brewing Co, the Margaret River Bakery was exceptional, Xanadu Winery was fantastic on the kids + fine wine and dining vortex, Vasse Felix had the most consistently delicious wine for tasting, whilst Voyager was an amazing child free fine wining and dining experience. We tasted a lot of wines from both big estates and small, and it was rare if there wasn't at least one or two we really liked.
A typical South West day at Bunker Bay, a brief bit of sunshine to warm our cold bones before the rain hits.
Our only regret was that we didn't get to experience more of the natural wonders of this beautiful area. We had a look at the Ngilgi Caves, near Yallingup which were really impressive, but all our other sightseeing was done from the car.

So until next time Margaret River when the sun is shining and the sea is sparkling, we'll come back and do more than eat and drink our way through your beautiful landscape.  We can't wait!

More photos...
Marguerite and the Capel Vale alpaca.

The crew at Busselton Jetty.

Lunch at Eagle Bay Brewing Company- the best pizza and great wine and beer...

... and the BEST sand pit EVER!!!!

The descent into the Ngilgi Caves.

Ngilgi Cave action.

Ngilgi Cave.

Strange formations in Ngilgi.

Even stranger.

A child's haven- this is the 'natural' section of Yallingup Maze, where there's also a jumping castle, playground and a maze.

Fiela attempting to put Caesar asleep in the pram at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery. There was a little bit of hard work done in the Margaret River!

Kangaroo paw.

At the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, where actually, it's just a big shop of chocolate.

Morning scene from Big Valley Campsite, a spot about 10kms out of Margaret River. A lovely spot but a bit too far from the action.

Bunker Bay

More Bunker Bay. There was a school group here surfing. The girls were all discussing the Maths Test they had next lesson when they got back to school. Cool! 

Yallingup and Nana goodness.

Jumping pillow.

More jumping pillow fun.