Tuesday, December 23, 2008

festive ponderings

We have had a busy few days in Sydney socialising and catching up with friends- I think we spent too long alone together in the van and developed mild social agoraphobia because sitting at at table of 20 diners in a busy restaurant was almost overwhelming! Great to catch up though and the new pimpmobile made the trip with no dramas.

Back in Mudgee today helping with the last minute organisation as large numbers of Georgie's family descend. We are making ice cream and stocking up with wine, not a difficult assignment.The weather here is rather wet so fingers crossed for some sunshine tomorrow.

Obviously, after the Pope's Christmas message yesterday, we have no right to be taking part in this christian celebration. Good old Benedict XVI has pointed out that 'saving' humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is as important as environmental issues such as saving the rain forests.

One is tempted to point out that our number of moral and social deviants on the whole refrain from breeding and are actively saving the planet from overpopulation thereby helping the rain forests somewhat more actively than a religion that condemns birth control. Benedict should shove his bigoted, hatred mongering views back up his pious frock. This sort of comment is shrouded with menace- history shows that such intolerance can insidiously lead to ethnic cleansing and holocaust.

My soapbox has now been shoved back into its closet....all that remains is to wish all of you:


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

....the run up to christmas

It has been a busy few days.I have been back at the Mudgee Vet hospital doing some honest graft and Ness has been child minding and farm work as at least there is some cash returning to the depleted bank balances.

On the home front the last week has been extremely stressful as my mother has been in hospital having aortic aneurysm surgery but thankfully she is back home and all appears to have gone well.I was persuaded by the family not to dash back to the UK but it was difficult dealing with the worry when so far away so working was a welcome distraction.

Off to Sydney at the weekend to catch up with friends then we will return to Mudgee on Christmas Eve for the festivities. The pig farmers are being sticklers for tradition ( UK style ) so the organic free range turkey has been ordered and should be amazing with Ormiston festive chestnut chipolatas.

Only problem is when/where/how we will fit in our Christmas shopping. Some things never change.

At the weekend Em was a Christmas tree at the local dance class annual show....how cute is she?

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

second hand car dealers and estate agents

We have spent the last 2 days looking at second hand cars. It looks like we are going to be here for a few months and decided that Geoffrey needs a well earned rest in the orchard, so we went in search of a 4WD or a ute. I do not think you can truly call yourself Australian without owning a ute, it is yet another rite of passage.

Choice in Mudgee is limited, and we are the impatient types who, once a potential acquisition decision has been made, want in NOW. A Toyota Hilux ute was on the shortlist but we have been old farts and stuck with what we know so the Toyota RAV 4 will be collected on Friday. It is a splendid machine in shiny, window tinted black and looks like it would be ideal for filling the glove box with crystal meth or loading up the rifle for a little light drive-by shooting. We are the proud owners of a pimpmobile.

We have also snuck into a few real estate agents and collected information on several inappropriate over-budget houses in the area so we are now being bombarded with calls from agents desperate to sell to innocents from overseas who may not have noticed that we are on the brink of an overwhelming global recession.

Why is it that after a day spent in the company of car salesmen and real estate agents you feel a strong urge to dash home and scrub yourself clean?

Meanwhile I have signed up for some locum work at the lovely local practice, so I will be back in harness on Friday which will feel extremely peculiar.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

back in mudgee

We have come full circle and are back in Mudgee- and it feels like home. The feet did not touch the ground before I was off to Sydney peddling premium Ormiston pork products at the Pyrmont market and Ness was back home at the ranch tending to the pigs in the proprietor's absence.

It is amazing how in the last 8 months the free range pig farm has escalated from a dream to a reality and a viable business proposition, and this week the article in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald transformed the demand at the Pyrmont market. People were clamouring to buy the produce, making the 4am start well worth the effort. In fact by 8am half the produce delivered by refrigerated van from Mudgee had sold out. By 10 am we had nothing left to sell and it was all PR and encouraging pre-orders for the next market in a month.

Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald

It was such a pleasure spending time with customers who are on the same wavelength regarding animal welfare and very excited about the product. Being a salesperson when you are so wholeheartedly behind the ethics and methods involved in free range slowly reared local food was a doddle.

Also being back in Sydney was a joy.....although after 3 days it was a fantastic feeling to drive back west to the amazing scenery this side of the Blue Mountains.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the story of sturt's desert pea

From trek phase 4
Long, long ago, a pretty young girl fell in love with a handsome young warrior from a neighbouring tribe. Unfortunately she had been given in marriage to a mean, jealous old man. One night, having learned of her fate, she ran off with her warrior.

They were happy together living beside a lake of clear, sweet water.

One day the jealous old man found out where they were living. He gathered loyal members of his tribe to attack the people who had taken them in. Everyone living by the clear, sweet lake was killed.

Next season the jealous old man returned to gloat over his enemies' bleached bones. Instead, he found carpets of Sturt's desert pea. The petals were the colour of the blood that had been spilled, and each also had an ebony eye.

The jealous old man turned to flee, but the spirits were angry and a spear from a cloud above struck him down. The tears of the spirits fell into the lake, turning the sweet water salty and fragments of spear turned to pebbles along the shore.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

broken hill

It is a funny old place Broken Hill. In the middle of the little chunk of NSW outback, it is a steeply sloping mining town with attractive street names like Bromide St, Kaolin St, Cobalt St. Uranium and Plutonium Sts ( who would want an address like that) so it feels like driving around a real-time life-sized periodic table.

The first European to discover the region, 28 years after the first crossing of the Blue Mountains was Sir Thomas Mitchell. Charles Sturt also noted the presence of a 'broken hill' as he passed through in 1844 on his way to discover the 'inland sea' ( many expeditions set off towards the middle of the continent hell bent on finding the mythical inland sea, many armed with small boats.It is a shame that they were a few million years too late to actually find water and many perished in the desert).

In 1883 Charles went prospecting for tin and discovered silver and lead and zinc.This ore body became the largest and richest of its kind in the world, yielding minerals worth over $1.5 billion.
The town grew rapidly and within 8 years had a population of over 20,000 including many shanty towns housing Afghan cameleers ( Ghantowns).

In 1915 Broken Hill was the scene of the only enemy attack on Australian soil. Four months before the Anzacs fought the Turks at Gallipoli two locals of Indian/Afghan origin, and Turkish sympathisers, hid in an ice-cream cart and opened fire on a railway carriage full of picnickers, killing 3 and wounding 6 more before being gunned down themselves. This led to the internment of all 'enemy aliens' in town.

The town retains many unspoilt buildings and you can easily picture the bullock carts and trains of camels passing through.

The sculpture park outside town is built on a hill offering great views over the desert terrain.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Not sure that all the natives are friendly....

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

yorke peninsula

We have spent the last 3 days exploring the Yorke peninsula and putting Geoffrey through his paces.The weather remains wet and extremely windy. The area is intensively farmed- all cereals crops, interspersed with iron ore mining and large industrial ports.

We missed out this area on our way out of Adelaide first time round, and although the weather has not helped, I must admit that we should have left it well alone second time of passing. Not the most exciting part of the country, and all the best beaches and coastline not accessible without a 4WD vehicle.

Currently sheltering from yet another thunderstorm, and planning on heading for the Flinders Ranges tomorrow, then head back to NSW via broken Hill.

across the nullarbor 1840-41

Having been rather stressed crossing the Nullarbor in a slightly broken van, it hardly compares with the difficulties faced by the first Europeans to make the attempt in 1840-41.

Edward John Eyre and his team, assisted by the ship 'Waterwitch' made several attempts to cross from east to west inland along the Great Australian Bight, a stretch of coastline unsafe for ships to come ashore. His attempts started in November 1841.

During the next two months Eyre made three attempts to round the Head of Bight. Water was always in critically short supply - particularly so on his second failed attempt when Eyre was clearly distressed to lose three of his best draught horses to exhaustion, thirst and the blistering Australian summer sun. After the second failed attempt to reach the Head of Bight Eyre realised that travelling with drays was impossible in such desolate country. There were just too many sandhills, and where there weren't sandhills, the scrub was too thick to make for rapid travelling.

He set off again at the end of February with John Baxter, an aborigine called Wylie, two native boys and packhorses.
They were all close to starvation and suffering the effects of lack of water by mid March.

By March 10 Eyre had scouted ahead of the main expedition party in the hope of discovering a break in the Bunda Cliffs that lined their route, but none were to be seen. Eyre was concerned for his pack horses which had been travelling for 4 days without any water whatsoever. The condition of Baxter and the aboriginal boys was hardly any better - with all suffering parching thirsts.

Despite the expeditions cruel lack of water and the real prospect of death, remarkably Eyre still possessed a romantic vision of the Australian wilderness. In his journal Eyre was moved to write:

"Distressing and fatal as these cliffs might prove to us, there was a grandeur and sublimity in their appearance that was most imposing, and which struck me with admiration. Stretching out before us in unbroken line, they presented the singular and romantic appearance of massy battlements of masonry, supported by huge buttresses, and glittering in the morning sun which had now risen upon them, and made the scene beautiful even amidst the dangers and anxieties of our situation."

By 29 March Eyre's expedition had consumed their very last drop of water. The situation was now very grave and required a desperate solution. Eyre's plan of action was carried out the next morning when he observed that there was a heavy dew hanging down from the grass and shrubs. With a sponge in hand Eyre dabbed at the dew and squeezed water into a quart pot. The aboriginal boys did likewise, gathering dew using a handful of grass instead of a sponge. Altogether Eyre's party had gathered 2 quarts of water. In the very best of British traditions Eyre's party then indulged in the luxury of brewing up some tea.

By April 7th Baxter became convinced that their only chance of survival was to turn back east the way they had come. Eyre noted in his journal:

"Finding that I have made little progress in removing his ( Baxter's ) doubts on the question of our advance, I resolved to pursue the subject no further,until the time for decision came, hoping that in the interim, his pinions and feelings might in some degree be modified, and that he might accompany me cheerfully..."

Unfortunately Baxter probably did not manage to modify his feeling towards cheerfulness as he was shot to death on April 28th by the fleeing two native boys who feared death by starvation should they remain.

Eyre and Wylie continued west, and in early June were rescued by a French whaling ship 'Mississippi' near present day Esperance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

circle completed

We are back in Port Augusta, the western circle now complete.We were last here at the end of July before we hit the Stuart Highway straight up the middle. The winter weather then was wet and windy, the summer weather now is wet and windy.

The Flashlube altered the campervan engine problems- after use the fault status changed from intermittent to permanent. So the engine burped and belched and generally eructated its way along the last 700 km of our journey across the Nullarbor.

Miracle of miracles we found a fully kitted out Iveco dealer here in town and this morning the fault ( dodgy electric connection to fuel injectors ) was diagnosed and repaired. Geoffrey may well be a big solid brute of a machine but it appears that his Italian engine adds a temperamental continental streak. We may need to rename him Giovanni.

We are remaining here until Monday as we decided to book Giovanni in for a full service and overhaul . Then we need to decide where to go next..................

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

harry potter and the curse of the nullarbor

We have managed the first 1,000 km of our Nullabor crossing.Geoffrey has intermittently flashed warning lights at us but up until yesterday a stop and a rest has put us back on track.However yesterday the engine struggled and we limped into a roadhouse on the 'Treeless Plain' leg of the journey, so not sure how he will perform today.

On the advice of mechanics at the roadhouse our problem may be due to contaminated diesel or inadvertent use of a biodiesel mix, so last night we added 2 little bottles of 'Flash-Lube' to his fuel tank. This may sound like a sex aid but allegedly may help our problem.

The first 3 days have not been overly summery- in fact we have yet to grasp the enormity of the desert due to torrential rain, cloud and very limited visibility in conjunction with regular drownings by oncoming road trains. However yesterday afternoon was clear and we did get to see the stunning cliffs which this part of the route passes alongside.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Our in flight entertainment has been provided by the talented Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books which help to pass the time.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

We are now across the border and into SA, so if we end up being towed they will hopefully take us onward to Adelaide and not back to where we started!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Norseman is a historical gold mining town and gateway to the Nullarbor.

Established in 1894 when, legend has it, Laurie Sinclair tethered his horse 'Hardy Norseman' to a tree overnight and by morning it had pawed the ground and disturbed a chunk of gold-bearing quartz. Over 5 million ounces of gold have been mined since making it the second richest goldfield in WA.

It also has a roundabout with tin camels on it- who could ask for more?

From trek phase 4

Before we set off tomorrow, here are some fascinating Nullarbor facts.

The Nullabor Plain:

  1. has the world's longest straight bit of road ( 146.6 km)
  2. has Australia's largest population of feral camels
  3. has Balladonia roadhouse- briefly famous in 1979 when chunks of Skylab fell on it
  4. has no trees
  5. has the world's longest golf course. Due for completion in 2009, the former manager of the Balladonia roadhouse Bob Bongiorno is building an 18 hole cross-country course. At remoter locations tees and greens will be made of synthetic grass. Some holes are designed to give overseas visitors an unparalleled taste of real Australia and are located on sheep stations, wheat farms and alongside gold mines.
  6. crosses 2 time zones
  7. is the largest single piece of limestone karst in the world

Friday, November 14, 2008

the start of the nullarbor

The next phase of the trip is the trek across the Nullarbor Plain from Norseman to Port Augusta, a distance of 1,700 km.

It is said that until you have spent the time making your way across this endless, mostly treeless, plain you have not fully experienced the true loneliness that Australia can provide. It's been driven, walked, cycled, trained, and even skateboarded, and has come to represent everything that is vast and intensely featureless about much of the Australian Outback.

For the next 700km or so we will have no mobile phone/internet coverage, and it will be sporadic for the ensuing 1,000 km...............so thank you Geoffrey for pretending to be mended for the last 700 km and then this afternoon starting to blink the fuel injection failure light again. I guess the piece of insulating tape did not exactly fix the problem.

Our choices are: 700 km back to Perth in the hope the fault can be correctly diagnosed and fixed,

Or: hit the Nullarbor and see how we go ( 2,000 km to Adelaide)

We are going to sleep on it, but I suspect that we will continue with optimistic hearts and crossed fingers. We are 80 km outside Norseman, so will make the decision when we get there.

I guess being towed by a road train would be fun. Or we could just spend the rest of our days living in a broken van at a roadhouse pumping fuel and making sandwiches. We will keep you posted as things develop.


The seaside town of Esperance was our next stop. It got its name after the two French ships L'Esperance and Recherche were forced to seek shelter from a storm in 1792.

The first foreign inhabitants of these shores during the nineteenth century were sealers from the penal settlement at Van Diemans Land and American and French whalers. Subsistence was mainly from kangaroo, geese and fish.

Edward John Eyre was the most famous overland explorer to visit having come from Adelaide in 1841 en route to Albany.

In 1863, the Dempster brothers drove sheep, cattle and horses from Northam to Esperance to take up the first land holding. Andrew Dempster was granted a lease of 100,000 acres in 1866.

With the discovery of gold in Kalgoorlie, Dundas and Coolgardie, Esperance began an incredible transformation in 1895. Fortune seekers from Australia and around the world began to flood into this sleepy little port on their way to the Goldfields.

By 1897 there were two newspapers, one brewery and four hotels. There were many rows of tents and the less fortunate slept on seaweed at the beach.

The coastline is fabulous with granite outcrops and multiple small islands, and the sea is a very implausible shade of blue.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

James dog had several long beach walks, and once Vanessa had found the deserted nudist beach there was no stopping her, one of her many charms being a complete lack of inhibition. The temperatures were too low to tempt me to get naked ( and being more conservative I tend to need dinner and a movie at the very least before ripping my clothes off ) so I stayed clothed with my camera.

I have been banned from posting the pictures on this blog, but can email them on request for a nominal fee!

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

back on the road

We are on the road again after our interlude back in Albany. The intermittent fuel injection problem appeared to be due to an exposed wire shorting out, and judicious use of insulating tape and a garage bill of $46 has put us back on track.

Managed to source a new modem so internet access has been reestablished.

Albany was unseasonably cold and wet when we first visited. Unfortunately a week later it was wetter and colder so we are glad to be heading east again. The Nullarbor desert crossing gets ever closer so we need to stock up on supplies in case Geoffrey decides to have another glitch.

Albany does have a big rock that looks like a dog (sort of) so things could be worse.

From trek phase 4

Sunday, November 9, 2008

normal service may not be resumed for some time

Geoffrey is going to the menders this afternoon- meanwhile I have dropped my usb modem on the floor and it is broken, so no internet access. The unhelpful Telstra dealers do not have a replacement so we are stuck, homeless and without contact.

No idea where we are sleeping tonight, or what to do with james the dog. We may be in a doorway covered in newspaper and cardboard. The forecast is for rain in Albany. Currently huddling together for warmth in an internet cafe.

Friday, November 7, 2008

......never camp in a cemetery

Last night the free camping options were few and far between but Ness located a deserted cemetery with a lovely place to park Geoffrey and the bonus of a fresh water supply to top up the tanks with. A horror movie about large squishy venomous aliens invading New York was the dvd of choice and suited the ambiance perfectly.

Well it appears that our misdemeanour has backfired because now Geoffrey is broken. The fuel injector light keeps flashing and he has lost his oomph. We phoned a mechanic who reassured us that the flashing light was probably a computer malfunction and was 'not a drama and no worries' ( typical Saturday afternoon advice I suspect) but the problem is worsening.

We paid for Winnebago assistance but the man on the helpline desk was not overly helpful. It transpires that breaking down a long distance from an Iveco service centre is just plain silly and should be avoided, and that they only cover us for a maximum tow of 150 km. He could have tried to call someone with a tow truck but did we realise that it was Saturday!

The upshot is that there is a bloke in Albany( 350km away) who may be able to fix it, but the nearest centre with the diagnostic computer that we will probably need is in Perth over 500km back the way we came.

It appears that our only option is to backtrack slowly and hope that we make it to Albany, after which we may or may not have to return to Perth .Whether that trip is made under our own steam or on the back of a towtruck remains to be seen so watch this space.

Meanwhile we are by the seaside enjoying the view, and we will slowly trundle back west tomorrow and see what happens.

The curse of disturbing the dead is upon us.

wave rock

Inland to Hyden, home of Wave Rock. A large rock that looks like a wave about to break (porphyritic granite if anyone is interested).

It is 110 metres long,15 metres tall and 2,700 million years old. Now here is a new word or two- the rock is an inselberg also known as a monadnock. Anyhow it is an impressive lump of sexily shaped stripey granite.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The weather continues to be extremely unkind with heavy rains and a strong wind coming straight up from Antarctica.Not a good time to be in a campervan parked up with an ocean view. Albany is a picturesque town but we did not even manage a picture of the old post office due to mist and rain.

It looks like we will be heading inland tomorrow to look at more interesting rocks.

We did manage to take a good look round a banksia farm at Mount Barker between showers. I had not realised just what a diverse and clever group of plants these are until we met Kevin, an incredible plantsman with a deep passion for his subject. The farm has examples of each of the 78 known species of banksias.

Kevin's banksia farm

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Just had to mention a recent incident in Sydney which made me chuckle. A Sydney family went to the Coogee Bay Hotel to watch the National Rugby League final.They had a few problems with their meal and the noise levels spoiled their enjoyment of watching the game- they complained a lot to the staff.

To compensate for their dissatisfaction they were given a complimentary dish of gelato ice cream by the management. To cut a long story short, the chocolate ice cream was not what it appeared and it transpires that some inventive member of staff ( allegedly ) creatively served up a frozen turd.

In the mother's words:

"There was no doubting what it was. The whole family became hysterical. My poor son screamed at one of their staff: ‘You made my mum eat poo."’
"The minute I put the spoon to my lips, the stench went through my nostrils. I retched and spat it into the napkin,"

"My friend thought I was over-reacting, but when she smelt it, she started screaming: ‘Oh my god, they’ve served us s—."’
In my day the concern about complaining about a meal or the service ran the risk of a waiter spitting in your food. How times have changed.

I have to admire the foresight and supreme advanced planning to ensure that such a pre-frozen item was ready and available.

The family are now suing the hotel for $1 million in damages, samples have been taken by the Health Department and the material has been verified as excreta. The family are now being DNA tested to eliminate ( pardon the pun) them as passers of said poo.

Now that would be an incredibly clever con-complain vociferously about service in a hotel, assume that you would be given a free dish of ice-cream, pop a pre frozen turd in the dish, scream and retch, collect 1 million dollars.

giants of the forest

There are a lot of trees to visit in southwest WA, and I mean lots of trees. The area is awash with brown tourist signs encouraging tree visits, and multiple National Parks devoted to trees. I can honestly say that after 2 days of solid wood watching I am feeling pretty treed out.

The climate and soil conditions are just perfect for the forests of enormous trees such as jarrah, karri, and tingles. We are having problems working out which are which but can confirm that they are all very old and extremely tall.

The karri tree can grow over 60 metres in height and traditionally in the 1940's the tallest tree in the forest was used as a lookout post to check on the presence and progress of forest fires. A spiral ladder was constructed using metal rungs and then a lookout was built at the very top. Casting health and safety issues to the wind any member of the public can climb the lookout tree if they so desire.

From trek phase 4
Above is the Diamond Tree Lookout, a karri tree 52 metres high. The sign at the base suggests that if you have a heart condition, are unfit, or have a fear of heights then climbing the tree is inadvisable. Do not climb if you are wearing thongs.

It fails to mention that ownership of an ounce of self-preservation or common sense would be also a precondition for not climbing. Fortunately we were wearing thongs.

Not sure if the diddy little cubs pictured below were sent up to the top, we did not stay to watch the carnage.

From trek phase 4

Apparently half way up the climb the council has thoughtfully put a sign which declares : "That was the easy part.It gets a lot harder now and if you're having second thoughts it is best to head back down"

On to the Gloucester Tree, 62 metres high with 153 rungs- Ness had changed out of her thongs and was keen to do the climb, leaving me yet again regretting the lack of life insurance policy. Fortunately there was a queue of foolhardy tree huggers so her plans were thwarted.Only 6 people are allowed up the tree at any one time- I assume that restriction is because the local hospital only has 6 intensive care beds.

The next day we moved on from karris and jarrahs to tingle trees.These are tall, but also wide and buttressed and often hollow

From trek phase 4

If we were not confused enough by identifying the tree species, just as we thought that we had tingles sussed we discovered that there were red tingles and yellow tingles which look exactly the same to the untutored eye. In the 1950's John Rate, the first district forester in Walpole proved that there was a third tingle species which was named the Rate Tingle.

John Rate was killed by a falling tingle tree in 1969.

We did another of those stupidly scary treetop walks- we really should learn by our mistakes. This walkway was 40 metres above the ground, wobbled and swayed in the wind, and scared the Bejesus out of us.

From trek phase 4

Sunday, November 2, 2008

giants of the sea

The weather improved and on Friday we managed to book a trip from Dunsborough on the Geographe Bay to look for humpbacked whales which are on their way back to Antarctica to feed after breeding.

It is surprising just how difficult it is to photograph such enormous animals, they really do move quickly! We followed several groups for a couple of hours and they are truly awesome creatures. To be close enough to watch them and hear them was a privilege.

The Humpback whales that visit Australia's coastal waters spend their summer months feeding in the Antarctic. With the onset of the southern hemisphere winter the Humpbacks migrate an average of 2,500km from polar waters to their tropical breeding grounds, undertaking some of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom.Whereas most migrating whales avoid land masses, the Humpbacks follow the coastline reasonably close to shore, which makes them an ideal species for whale watching and rendered them an especially vulnerable species in the days of whaling.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

The following day we drove to the point of the bay and watched them from the viewing platform on the cliff.We could have stayed there for weeks.

The south west area of WA has got everything- rolling hills, green lush pastures, wine regions, great towns and fabulous coasts. Has definitely made the shortlist of desirable places to live, the only downside being that it is so far away from the rest of the country. There is a feeling about WA that it is a separate country that by some bizarre anomaly is accidentally attached to the rest of Australia.

spiralites and pendulites

The weather continued to be wet and windy so we spent a couple of days exploring vineyards, caves, cafes and shops.

The jewel cave near Augusta has some features we have never seen before, including spiralites (horizontal confused formations undecided whether to be stalagmites or stalactites ) and bizarre pendulites ( huge heavy lumps of calcite suspended from implausibly fine straws).

From trek phase 4

The vineyards in the Margaret River Valley are somewhat more pretentious than ones we have visited to date, with grand European chateau style buildings in exquisite formal gardens.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4
I have to confess I prefer the no nonsense smaller wine producers without pretensions- it is more fun sampling 'tractor shed shiraz' with someone wearing a polo shirt with a cartoon fish logo than listening to the flowery descriptions about late harvested rieslings from a beautifully coiffed and designer clad front woman.

We visited Cape Leeuwin Australia's most south westerly mainland point, where the Southern and Indian Oceans collide, but the weather was blustery and misty so we did not climb the lighthouse.

From trek phase 4

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Busselton is a neat and tidy seaside town on the fertile valley of the Vasse Rive and was one of the earliest settlements in Western Australia.

The early history of European exploration of the area focuses on the French expedition of 1801 which brought Nicholas Baudin, with his ships the Geographe and Naturaliste, to the coast of Western Australia. It was Baudin who named the bay, Geographe Bay, after his vessel and named the river Vasse after a sailor who was lost, believed drowned, in the area.

No one knows what happened to Vasse. He disappeared when one of the Geographe's boats capsized in the surf. However when the area was finally settled by Europeans there was a story told by the local Aborigines of a white man who had lived with the Aborigines until his death and who spent most of his life wandering the shores of Geographe Bay waiting for a ship to return.....poor chap.

The town was named after John Garrett Bussell whose family was one of the first to settle in the region. Bussell's description of the area depicted it as a kind of paradise:

'Here was a spot that the creative fancy of a Greek would have peopled with Dryad and Naiad and all the beautiful phantoms and wild imagery of his sylvan mythology. Wide waving lawns were sloping down to the water's edge. Trees thick and entangled were stooping over the banks.'

He sounds like a verbose and pompous old git who probably bored for England at dinner parties.

His mate George Layman settled in the area in 1837 and established a cattle station, but he was a nervous chap who was never comfortable with the local aboriginals who appeared rather aggrieved by his presence. He described how the area was so dangerous that in 1837 members of his family were afraid to leave the house because of the danger of being speared by the local Aborigines.

'We dare not leave our house to shoot anything. I have 12 head of cattle and I fear before the natives can be made peaceable some of them will be speared as I am forced to turn them out in the bush without anyone to mind them. The natives are very savage.'

On February 22nd 1841 Layman did eventually leave his house and was speared to death by a local Aborigine. Ho hum.

Anyway, Busselton's claim to fame these days is the second longest wooden jetty in the world at 1841 metres- the world's longest being Southend-on-Sea at 2410 metres!( Southend is in England, for those of you reading this in Texas).

From trek phase 4

It is undergoing extensive restoration and at the end there is an excellent underwater observatory which takes you 8 metres below sea level to watch the marine life.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

We left Busselton this morning for Augusta where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, but the weather is so windy and wet that we have camped out in a sheltered site and will see what the morning brings.

WA weather

For the last couple of days the storms have set in, and it is windy and wet especially on the coast. Our plans to take a whale watching cruise have been thwarted, although we did manage an hour on a boat looking at dolphins.

From trek phase 4

We have moved on to the Margaret River region the reasoning being that a fine thing to do when it is raining is visit vineyards. We should rename this blog 'alcohol and marine mammals' at this rate.

Vanessa did however insist that we take a detour from the coast to go to Dardanup where there is a roadside grotto which is home to over 1000 garden gnomes, complete with all the appalling gnome puns you could ever imagine....and then some. I rather liked the gnomo-sexuals, but thought that Assgnoma Bin Laden ( in a small cave ) was pushing it a bit!

I was reminded of my friend Jules ( now in Sydney ) and the time, many years ago,when we visited a gnome sanctuary in Devon which was equally dreadful and made worse by the eccentric lady who ran the place insisting that all visitors wore pixie hats. At least here headgear was discretionary.
We should have brought Norman, he is so alone in Mudgee.

From trek phase 4

It is supposedly a harbinger of bad luck if anyone should choose to destroy or steal a gnome, but I have to admit that when I saw the line-up below along the side of a small creek I recalled my mother's expression.....' the things you see when you haven't got a gun'. Target practice would have been so satisfying.

From trek phase 4

butter would not melt?

From trek phase 4

Appearances can be extremely deceptive- the above canine may look cute and appealing but 2 days ago when she elected to roll in a very large and very dead lizard and then proceeded to spread the stench ( and flesh) of reptile in advanced stages of decomposition all over the confined space of a campervan she was decidedly unpopular. Words cannot describe the smell.


Fremantle just south of Perth started life as a port where convicts were landed and detained but is now an independent city built by convict labour. It is a trendy place with the mandatory antique shops, cafes and art galleries and the port is the busiest and biggest general cargo port in WA. Plans are underway to deepen the port to allow entry to bigger container ships.

A guided tour around the prison was highly entertaining due mainly to Brendan the extremely amusing Irish guide. The prison was only decommissioned as a maximum security gaol in 1991 so was used continuously as a place of incarceration for almost 140 years.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

Many cells and areas of the prison depict prisoners' artwork, including that of the 19th-century forger James Walsh, whose artwork was hidden beneath layers of white-wash for decades.

From trek phase 4

From trek phase 4

The gallows room was the only legal place of execution in Western Australia between 1888 and 1984, with 43 men and one woman hanged in this period. Not an enjoyable room to visit, there was an aura of extreme unpleasantness.

From trek phase 4