Accommodation and Latte totals on Julie's broken phone… We hit $300 at about $5.45 per day average for accommodation and lattes are close behind but its rare to find a free camp close to quality coffee.. :(
The weather again was perfect for a swim so we headed out to Goode Beach, one of the beaches on Frenchman's Bay - it was good. Crystal clear water, white sand and a view across the bay. The water was not too cold, which is the reason the locals give for not swimming. We've only been here when the water has been well and truly warm enough to swim.
In the afternoon we met Emma and headed to Denmark. We boosted the latte total with coffee and cake at an organic café owned by a friend of Emma's. Julie rated the coffee better than the William Creek latte, so best yet. The food was also top notch. The fresh organic ingredients and the interesting recipes combined to produce some lovely food. Next it was out to William Bay to visit Green's Pool and Elephant Rocks (Julie's wallpaper on her phone for the last 3 years, since our first visit) The afternoon had turned a bit cold and windy (here west of Denmark, Albany had a scorcher)and uncharacteristically Emma beat Julie in.
Next day we were up early to get the car and camper into the various places to get repairs. The camper still had problems with the Redarc battery charger but finally it seemed that would be sorted properly. The car was getting the air conditioning repaired. We borrowed Emma's car and went for coffee and updated the blog. The car was quickly ready - just a loose connection and it seemed the camper had been fixed too as when we set it up we finally got a decent current from the solar panels. (post script - actually it now didn't charge on the car and another trip to Albany was required a week later)
There Be Whales!
Thursday morning we woke very early for a 4am departure to drive to Bremer Bay to once again try to see orcas (killer whales which are actually part of the dolphin family). This time we were armed with the sea sickness tablets recommended by Brooke. We arrived at the wharf at 7am to tales of how brilliant yesterday was (which is great because that day the boat was filled with politicians and other decision makers and the incredible sight of a 6 tonne male orca repeatedly breaching near the boat should surely ensure this amazing place is preserved for future generations) The show we got was not as spectacularly impressive but we were in no way disappointed with what we saw. To see wild orca buzzing the boat was a truly amazing sight and we were absolutely blown away by it. If you look at the video (I don't know how to put video on the blog, but I could on a normal website… maybe I can link to a file.. But anyway it's on facebook. Anything that can have Julie so awestruck she forgot to take pictures must be special.
Aside - Speaking of special I'm writing this in the middle of a huge thunderstorm in the bush at Warren National Park where we spent a couple of days with Trudy and the kids, swimming and kayaking and catching up over a drink or three after the kids were worn out for the day. After Trudy and the kids left we went to bring the kayaks up from the river but took the opportunity to have one last paddle before we went. The sun was hot and the river like dark glass as we glided downstream (I think it was downstream, it's pretty still actually so I'm not sure what way it runs) surrounded by towering karri trees and birdlife. We were packing up when the storm arrived so we decided to spend another night as there is a large camp kitchen to take shelter in. The sun is shining the rain is falling and thunder is crashing and the frogs are now chirping and the bush smells absolutely wonderful. Photos can never do this experience justice.
Back to the ocean and Glen didn't get sea sick at all, we were both able to eat and drink and thoroughly enjoy the experience in the 2m swell. The researchers were able to pick up the crumbs of an orca meal - a piece of giant squid about 40cm square. Many on board were very sick and Glen felt for them but was pleased not to be one of them. The orcas had been on tv the night before and people had turned up at the dock hoping to get on. The woman who takes the bookings had melted down on the phone to the captain after over 100 calls that night. They limit the amount of passengers as the purpose is research to preserve the habitat of these amazing animals. Passengers provide the funds to take out the boat so the researchers can get out there. If you get the chance get the good sea sick tablets and go out with Naturalise Charters and witness the spectacle yourself.
Back on land we headed to the Wallstead Museum and café for lattes before heading back to the camper at Albany.
Albany and The Porongurups…
The next day we just did a bit of maintenance on the car and camper and the following day we headed to the Porongurups, about 40 minutes from Albany. We tackled the 2 hour Castle Rock, Granite Skywalk in the morning. Glen was very proud of Julie scrambling up rock faces near the top to get to the walkway. Even on the walkway the wind rushes up the rock face and through the openings of the floor then right up your shorts - a real Marilyn Munroe wind! The views were spectacular and worth the climb and even though it's not peak wildflower season there was enough flowering to keep Julie's camera very busy.
We met Emma for lunch at the bottom but due to the march flies the girls made it the quickest picnic lunch on record and we were soon off to our favourite of the region, Duke's Winery. Glen told Julie she could only buy 4 bottles. We were greeted by a smiling Duke, a very hale and hearty man in his 70s, his loyal golden lab and 30 odd guinea fowl who made a tremendous racket when the dog went near them.
Julie thanked Duke for the Riesling he sold us to have with lunch the last time we were here and we set about tasting his entire range as we chatted about all sorts of things from wine and the legendary James Halliday to Albany to yoga. With all but the sparkling shiraz on the must have list we eventually left with 10 bottles.
Since James Halliday had asked to visit Dukes and Castle Rock winery the last time he was here we decided to drop in on Castle Rock Winery on the way home - just to pick up a single bottle of Riesling.. And walked out with 4 bottles of various white wines. Self-control is not our strong point. That night we went to a BBQ at Ben and Bec's. It was great to see Dave and Imogen again.
Sunday morning (Happy Valentine's Day) was a relatively early start for boxing, we were late again but had a ball getting almost as much exercise from laughing. Scenic route back for a shower then out again. On the way down Frenchmans Bay Rd "Fresh Crabs" sign had us calling into a farm where we bought 3 blue swimmers for $15. We continued to Oranje Tractor Winery where we had a wine tasting and latte with plum crumble. They are organic, grow fruit as well (we bought some of their surplus) and are cyclist friendly, offering a free shower, water and fruit to cyclists. Some of their wines also have part profits going to build mountain bike tracks in WA.
After a couple of youtube video viewings we were ready to cook and pick the crabs. As the beautiful blue (dead) crabs were lowered into boiling water they instantly turned red. They tasted pretty good but they are a lot of work…
As it was our last night in Albany Helen honoured us by opening the bottle of Shiraz she was given for a retirement present. It was so good we decided to meet in 7 years to try the 2013 Dukes we bought against a 2013 Jacobs Creek.
On our final morning in Albany we looked at a townhouse which would have been the perfect investment for us but alas the bank had other ideas.
Not far from Albany we pulled into Parry's Beach Caravan Park, run by volunteers so people can experience traditional affordable camping on the South Coast. They specifically exclude larger vans and the monstrous motor homes. It's $15 pn and all 46 sites are unpowered. After dinner we went for a walk to the beach to look at the stars and found that the dishes under the taps were full of frogs! The next morning the guy camped next to us was working on making a violin. Syd, (although that isn't his given name, Syd was the name he was called in the Bernados Home he lived in as a child in England, he found out his real name when he got a birth certificate to join the Navy at 18. He served on a mine sweeper) was enjoying his current hobby of making violins. Naturally Glen couldn't resist going over to find out more. Syd was making 2 violins at the time, both for his grand kids. He roughs them out on the road then finishes them in his workshop at home. Everyone seemed to know Syd. He was a really nice, knowledgeable, generous man. Later in the morning Syd gave Julie a rig to fish with and instructions for its use so we decided to stay a second night so she could fish in the morning. Glen pottered around anchoring the plastic food drawers in the back of the Fun Truck and in the afternoon we went for a swim. As usual we were the only ones swimming. That night we had a campfire ($5 a load of wood from the caretaker, seems some places in WA you can have fires between November and April) and invited Syd over for dessert by the fire and we spent a very enjoyable evening listening to his stories. Syd had been at the camp for 3 weeks and would be there for another week. He lived without refrigeration by using long life milk, catching fish to eat that day and canned food.
We said goodnight and set the alarm for an early start for Julie to actually catch a fish on the rod we carry around with us. 6 o'clock came and Julie decided she was too tired and it was too windy to fish so we went back to sleep. When we finally rose at 7:30 Syd had been out and caught and cleaned 9 herring for us and good naturedly stirred Julie up for the rest of our stay. :) Julie felt bad but blamed too much red wine the night before… After a leisurely morning we packed up and went for a blustery walk along the beach, said our goodbyes and thanks to Syd and, without much of a clue where we were going exactly, headed in the rough direction of Walpole and Pemberton.
Walpole, briefly before returning to Albany
Moving on is the way to charge the batteries of the camper. Solar only gets us by in good light. It had been overcast and we were under trees so the camper fridge had gone into standby…again!
After lunch we did one of the tourist loops around Walpole and we came across a stunning looking bottlebrush and a kangaroo that we thought had put its head against some wet paint. The roo and it's two babies were in no way troubled by Julie walking up to take their photo and she got some great shots. The doe and the eldest joey both had white markings. We've never seen that before. We were high on a mountain overlooking Walpole on our way to camp when Glen checked on the batteries only to find they were not charging at all! Phone calls to the person who fixed it in Albany, Redarc in Adelaide well after closing time and having the camper open in a misty rain gave Glen a good idea what was wrong but in the interest of making sure it was right and not voiding any warranty from the last repairer saw us head back to Albany and the hospitality of Helen and Emma. We slept in a house for the second time since Christmas Day.
The following morning we got the camper sorted so we hit the road again, this time headed to Warren National Park to spend the weekend with Glen's niece Trudy and her children. We pulled into Drafty's Camp on the banks of the Warren River and set up in a site that would take us all. Trudy was driving down from Perth after picking the kids up from school. She didn't arrive until 11:30. We were in bed, it was pitch black. She did well just to get to camp with no map or GPS but then to find us in the dark was impressive. We got the tents set up and the kids out of the car and said goodnight.
Next morning the kids were up early and so were we. Unfortunately so were the March flies! They were terrible from dawn to dark. We must have easily killed a hundred or more between us each day. The kids were so excited and wanted to do everything straight away :) Eventually we got down to the river with the kayaks when Amelia spotted a tiger snake swimming across the river towards us. Hunter was keen to go in even with the snake still swimming along the bank. Julie arrived and Glen tried to play down the snake so Julie wouldn't get upset. She handled it better than expected and some 5 or 6 hours later after 10 or so people had been in Julie even went for a swim. The kids were shown how to paddle and they were off! The rest of the morning was spent in or on the water. Even Harmony went for a ride in the kayak with Glen and with Trudy. In the evening poor Hunter was covered in bites and super itchy so out came the sea sickness(/hay fever/allergy) tablets and Hunter got the recommended dose for his age. Let's just say he shouldn't have operated any heavy machinery after that and we saw him next morning. Sunday morning we paddled upstream as far as the river allows without portage (800m or so) and it was magic with tall trees and smooth dark water. We saw marron, fish and freshwater shrimp around the jetty but no snakes today. The rest of the morning was pretty much a repeat of Saturday with paddling and swimming. After lunch Trudy and the kids left to go home and I described earlier what happened with us. Next morning we left and did some of the forest explorer drive. They have radio transmitters set up in the bush and you listen to 100 on the FM band and you hear about the forest around you. A fantastic idea which should be adopted by all National Parks.
We headed to Margaret River via the little town of Nannup. We are staying at a farm stay next to the Watershed winery. I'm writing this at 11:30 pm and can hear the sound of the mechanical harvester working in the vineyard. Not loud enough to disturb anyone. Last night we looked for gliders in the trees behind our camper. Today we visited a few wineries, had chocolate and cheese tastings and drove via Caves Rd to Redgate Beach, a karri forest and Hamlin Bay to see stingrays and the sun drop into the water. We also had lunch in the bush at Canebrake Pool. Another great day. :)