Month: October 2018

Margaret River, Western Australia


Monday, October 28, 2018

Sign in The Henley Brook, a restaurant with a chicken theme
I dream of a world where a chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.

Margaret River
“Did you see a whale?” I asked a woman we met on the windswept bush trail on the way to the Indian Ocean lookout. “Yes,” she answered, “whales and snakes!” My eyes from that point on were firmly fixed on the path. In fact at the lookout we did see a whale breaching completely out of the water sending up a grand plume of spray. Fortunately though no snakes!

This is our 46th anniversary weekend and we have returned to the wine, chocolate, cheese, mango yoghurt and food centre of Western Australia. We are at Rosewood House, sleeping in a bed with a real mattress and best of all an ensuite bathroom. For 6 weeks it had been the climb down the ladder at 3:00 a.m., the walk to the communal bathroom, and the trek up the ladder again that reminded us we were truly camping.

What gives Margaret River its character is the landscape. On the same tree canopy lined road will be grazing Angus and Holstein cattle, eucalyptus trees and wildflowers, sheep, a brewery, a winery, pottery gallery, a furniture design studio, an olive oil and specialty food shop, cheese shop and art gallery plus bistros and restaurants associated with many of the wineries and breweries. Pastoral scenes of sheep and cattle are framed by vistas across mini lakes. One breathtaking scene gives way to another especially as the afternoon sun slides through the gum trees.

Food Highlight
Miki’s Open Kitchen has two sittings a night at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The menu is set. There is the option to add wine or sake pairings. Food is assembled right in the restaurant and lucky guests, like us, have a seat at the counter surrounding the chefs.

The menu had 6 (!) courses with 3 or 4 items per course. It looked daunting. Would I be able to finish everything? Each item was at most two bites – one scallop, one asparagus spear and my favorite – if only for the shock factor, a shot glass of exquisite broth with a squid tentacle. Geoff’s squid was short and meaty, mine was obviously a tentacle. I was so tempted to put the thicker end in my mouth and slowly suck the tentacle down waving it about. I didn’t but it would have made a great picture.

Each course was presented on a round metal tray, in a long ceramic dish or in separate tiny dishes just so in front of us. The server described every item to each guest.

I can’t remember having eaten so many entirely new flavours, every one exquisite. A dinner to remember.

Community Garden
In the centre of town community gardeners have created a quirky oasis with native trees, grasses and flowers. Pathways lead to small open spaces with brightly coloured benches. Hanging from branches and propped up at the base of trees someone has painted quotations about gardens, flowers, peace and solitude.

Every child is born a naturalist.
His (her) eyes are in nature open to the glories of the stars,
The beauty of the flowers and the mystery of life.

The first morning of spring
I feel like someone else.
~ Matsuo Basho

There was an air of wildness about the Garden.
It was the sort of garden in which you could garden if you wanted,
but if you didn’t, it would not matter.
~ Mona Walling?

If you have a garden and a library you have everything that you need.
~ Marcus Julius Cicero

In the open area with tables and chairs near the potting shed and next to the kitchen and community room, there was a couple with a guitar singing. For a donation everyone was invited to help themselves to tea or coffee and homemade sweets which of course I did.

Touring Day
At the Saturday morning market we found Gordo’s wines. We’d had his wine at a restaurant for our anniversary dinner 3 years ago in Margaret River and learned that he only sells it at the market, and he still does, and it is still good.

The surfers and sailboard surfers were out at Prevelly Beach on a windy afternoon. Margaret River started out in the 1960’s and 70’s not as a foodie paradise but as a surfing hippie town. The waves here range consistently from 2 to 20 feet making this a surfing mecca so this has become the site of the one of the world surfing championship beaches.

Food, food and more food…a seafood broth soup for me and a ploughman’s board for Geoff at the Eagle Bay Brewery. For lunch we sat with a view across pasture and lake, out to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse and beyond that the Indian Ocean. Planters with herbs and vegetables provide much of Eagle Bay’s produce and all the water for the beer is rainwater. Rainfall has declined 20% in the past 25 years which makes water conservation a high priority here.

Tomorrow we leave Western Australia, one of our favorite places for new adventures in Adelaide and South Australia.



Kalbarri, Western Australia


(Click any picture to enlarge it.)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Leaving Denham
Denham will forever be fixed in our memory for the night the wind defeated us. It was so intense, the shaking of the car so vigorous, and the sound of the whistling wind so harsh and unsettling, that at 9:00 pm, having gone to bed at 8:15 on a cool 15 degree evening, we unzipped our sleeping bags and got dressed. Geoff collapsed the tent and we slept in in the front seats of the car! We had a surprisingly good night in comparison to the previous windy night upstairs.

As compensation, in fact more than compensation, we drove in the early morning to the hot bore tub at the historic sheep station we’d visited the day before only this morning we were the only people in the place. Birds sang, muscles relaxed, and we began the day in great spirits.

Kalbarri National Park
Some days beg for superlatives. This is one of those days.

The sermon at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Kalbarri was theologically grounded, though like all the sermons I have heard in Western Australia it was from the epistles. In only one service has there even been a reading from the gospels which leaves me wanting to hear more about Jesus and less about Paul. The upside was that pastor and I had a really good chat afterwards. I am always seeking to build relationships across the theological divide in the Anglican Church with the Diocese of Toronto and the Diocese of Western Australia on different sides of that divide. So in spite of my early misgivings, our conversation was a good beginning to the day.

This afternoon we followed the park road south along the coast. At one lookout the woman beside me was scanning the ocean with binoculars. “Are you seeing whales?” I asked, which led to another conversation. “Weren’t you on the snorkeling cruise out of Coral Bay?” her husband asked, which led to a longer conversation about my chat on the boat with her husband’s sister who migrated from Scotland to Perth in 1988 and how this woman and her husband have just recently also migrated here from Scotland. To be in a place where we know no one, and then to find a connection however recent and tenuous, feels like a gift.

Then there were whales – many whales far out to sea but still visible as they rose from the water falling back in a spume of white spray. Again and again and again. Watching is sheer delight. Why do they expend all this energy? Is there a scientific reason, or is it, as I like to believe simply joie de vivre?

We walked from the headland down to a beach surrounded by red and gold and sand coloured sandstone shaped into waves by eons of water and wind. Overhangs create sheltered caves where I half expected to find aboriginal art.

At dinner in the local brew pub part covered with a wood stove for warmth in the evening, wasn’t there yet another conversation with a couple at a nearby table that I’d seen in church. They were explaining to the waiter that this was their 1st anniversary. He was 80, she 75. So I introduced myself as having seen them at the morning service. He told me that they and their spouses had been friends for years and had each nursed their spouses through long illnesses. Neither were looking for another relationship but…drives to church led to dinners together and friendship to love. Frieda said that this past year has been the happiest of her life, every day an extended honeymoon. They held hands entering and leaving church and the restaurant. Life is filled with the unexpected Frieda continued, every day is important.

A day of sheer delight and gratitude for Norm and Frieda’s joyous loving.

And did I mention laundry!!! My favorite caravan park activity – hanging sheets on the line in the wind and sun.

October 23, 2018
On the way from Kalbarri to Geraldton, where we are now in the library we passed Pink Lake also known as Hutt Lagoon. Pink as can be with salt crystals ringing the lagoon, it is filled with an algae that makes it the strangest coloured body of water I have seen.

Note to readers
We are on the road for the next few days and then into Perth to exchange the LandCruiser for a car and a quick drive to Margaret River – the land of chocolate, mango yoghurt, wine, Saturday Farmer’s Market, our anniversary on the 28th and one of my favorite churches in Australia.

So no blog entries until the end of October. Keep warm and enjoy Hallowe’en.

Denham, Western Australia (Part 2)


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Hamelin Pool
Not much here except for the biologists among us, and for them this is a big BUT – here are stromatolites, the earliest form of life on earth. Their ability to photosynthesize sunlight and create oxygen led to more complex forms of life. The ones at Hamelin Pool are only (!) 2,000 years old.

Monkey Mia
It’s a rare event and we were here. Dolphins are fed 3 times a day at the beach and just 4 days ago a new calf was born to Piccolo who is part of this dolphin pod. This calf was so new he/she was swimming non-stop leading mom on a merry chase. In another few weeks the calf will figure out that the safest place to be for the next 3 years is snuggled down under mom’s side where there is protection from sharks and other predators. Today however, we were treated to a frisky youngster newly born, not entirely coordinated and exploring the wide world.

Historical Homestead in what is now Francois Peron National Park
When this was a working station as recently as the 1960’s the highlight of the year, according to respected stockman Arthur Pepper, was the sheep shearing. A good shearer was able to finish one sheep every 2 minutes. The hardest worker however was the cook who was baking bread before the station was awake and was still cleaning up and preparing the next day’s meals after the others had knocked off for the day.

There is always a shortage of potable water in Western Australia with much drinking water distilled in desalination plants. There is less of a shortage of bore water which may or may not be drinkable. Occasionally bore water is warm (32 degrees), as at Wooramel Station and sometimes it is a deliciously hot 40 degrees continuously replenishing the large old cement hot tub at the homestead.

Which is where we met-up again with Matt and his unnamed wife who we’d met on the Rio Tinto access road when their van had a punctured tyre (Aussie spelling) and we stopped to help. We saw them again at the pool in Millstream Chichester park, at Yardie Creek and finally had a long visit with them in the hot tub. They are on a one year trek around Australia. She’s a chemical engineer and he plays Aussie Rule Football, coaches, cycles competitively and works for moving companies on and off. Meeting people several times is not all that unusual as we are visiting the same places on our way south.

This area was first visited by the Dutch in the early 1600’s who were blown off course on their way to the Dutch East Indies. It was later mapped by the French which is why many names along the coast are French. Louis XVIII sent a scientific expedition to gather specimens and make notes on this new land, all in the spirit of the enlightenment. Though one ship met an inglorious end shipwrecked off the coast of South America on its way back to France, the other ships returned with specimens and descriptions of plants, animals and minerals as well as accounts of their encounters with indigenous people.

Imagine how different Australia would be today had it become a French colony.

Denham, Western Australia (Part 1)


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Final Note from Exmouth
As if one emu in the campground wasn’t enough for the tourists, the next morning a father emu followed by his 3 youngsters strolled past. Once the female has laid the eggs, it is dad who raises the chicks.

Coral Bay
Beaches don’t come any more perfect for swimming than Coral Bay. Turquoise blue, fine sand, no rocks and a short walk from the caravan park.

We are still on the Ningaloo Reef here where the coral formations on the inside of the reef are much healthier than the now over-touristed Great Barrier Reef. Fortunately we’d seen it 25 years ago with Erin, Colin and Kate when it was still vibrant and colourful.

The catamaran was mostly under sail with only the occasional use of motor which made our 4 hours on the water wonderfully peaceful. The first snorkeling stop was over mostly brown coral but with schools of darting blue fish, zebra striped fish, large yellow/green/blue fish, what appeared to be long sea cucumbers and countless other sea creatures slipping in between the corals.

Later in the sail the wind, and consequently the swell increased so that snorkeling took more effort especially swimming into the current. But the coral was worth the work. Shapes varied from floral looking blooms to long branches to round mounds rising up from the seabed 10 – 15 feet or more. And the colours! Greens, rose and the most spectacular royal blue. At the end of long white coral spears startling blue tips gave the appearance of a blue Christmas tree light.

Wooramel Station
It pays to talk to fellow travelers in the camp kitchens. How else would we have come to Wooramel Station? This 365,000 acre or 1,430 square kilometre property raises sheep, goats and cattle. In Canada we would call this a farm or ranch; in Australia it is a station, property or downs and it needs to be large because the land cannot support many animals per acre.

Horses and calves wander the campground grazing and finding shade under the shade kitchen roof. One calf munched meagre grass not 4 feet (1+ metres) from where I was finishing my tea and book, camped under a magnificent river gum beside the dry and dusty riverbed. Whimsical works of art in iron were scattered throughout the camping area. The tip, or dump, housed relics of many decades – cars, truck, motorcycles, old motors, various bits of machinery and then the kitchen appliances. Wringer washing machines gave way to automatic machines, ice boxes sat next to fridges, then fridges with freezer compartment and finally, a computer. Why that should have a been so much fun I’m not sure but we loved the artistry (?) of it.
Come evening campers gathered round the campfire pit, beer/cider/wine in hand. The couple next to us were more “grey nomads,” people who have sold their business, house and only stored family treasures and their bedroom suite. Home now is a caravan pulled by a 4WD vehicle. After 6 months on the road they have no destination.
My treat was the warm artesian bore pool. Minerals in the water are said to be good for the body and that may be so but sitting there among eucalyptus with the smell of smoke from the firepit and the evening sun slanting onto the dry riverbed, oh how it felt good for the soul.

Exmouth, Western Australia


October 13, 2018

Yardie Campground – Cape Range National Park
(Ningaloo Reef UNESCO Site)
Nowhere else in Australia is the coral reef so vibrant and healthy – and luckily for divers and snorkelers, so close to beaches. Turtles who left these beaches as hatchlings return 20 years later to dig deep holes and deposit up to 130 eggs.
Having said all that, the turtles who we heard were mating nearby must have had a sudden fit of shyness and were nowhere to be seen, and we are saving our snorkeling for a boat cruise next week.

But the stars! We have seen Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus and the new moon this week. On one shivering middle of the night outing to the toilet – down the ladder, pad along the campsite road to the single toilet, no headlamp – I was once again overcome by the beauty and immensity of the stars and Milky Way. We mortals are but grains in the sand in the universe, yet we are each precious too.

Aside from the night sky the highlight was the Yardie Creek boat tour hosted by Peter Meier who has lived in Exmouth since childhood. The creek is separated from the sea by a sand bar at the mouth. Every 20 years or so a cyclone or storm opens up the mouth and floods the creek with salt water allowing fish to swim in and out, refreshing the water and creatures who live in the creek.

We saw rock wallabies scrambling along the cliff walls and a nest with a baby egret. One osprey nest still in use today was first documented in 1898! Clearly a valuable real estate property.

Yardie Creek is a birders paradise. The bower bird nests here too. Peter told the story of a local woman whose home backed on to the bush. She was outside cleaning her jewelry when the phone rang. A few minutes later as she returned several pieces had vanished. Knowing the male bower bird’s predilection for nest decoration she headed out to the bush and in a very nicely decorated nest found her missing jewelry.

Exmouth was home to a large defence base during WWII when Japanese planes were a danger to western Australia. From this area a team of Australian and British intelligence officers smeared with oil to make their skin brown and wearing Indonesian clothing sailed the Krait an Indonesian fishing boat into Singapore harbor, attached limpet explosives to ships and got out safely, destroying 37,000 tons of shipping and setting off a furious and fruitless Japanese investigation into which locals were responsible.

More beach swims, snorkeling for Celia and a tour of the outstanding Visitor Centre with an aquarium, cyclone room, reef photos and local history. Cyclone Vance in 1995 destroyed much of the town. At 290 km/hour (estimated) it had the highest recorded winds in Australia.

Celia treated us to a fine dinner at Whalers the night before we dropped her off at the airport Friday morning. The small one room gate at the airport was filled with Fifos, workers who fly in and fly out but live elsewhere.

Fun sighting – an emu casually wandering through the campground!