Category Archives: Animals

Dog-gone!

We recently came across this small but special cemetery near the town of Corrigin in the WA Wheatbelt….
A Doggone 1
You guessed right – it celebrates the special bond between dogs and their human families.
A Doggone 5 A Doggone 4 A Doggone 3
Lots of love and quite a bit of quirkiness has gone into these final resting places, and a local resident has voluntarily maintained the cemetery since 1974.
A Doggone 2 A Doggone 6
Corrigin is also famous for holding the world record for the Most Dogs in Utes they can parade through the town – 1527 currently. For our American readers, a ute is short for utility, and is the Aussie lingo for a pick-up truck.
Funds raised are donated to the fabulous Royal Flying Doctor Service and other local charities.
So a fabulous doggie town… we’ll let you know when the next parade is on!

Esperance and the South Coast

Rather than heading directly west to Perth and to continue our coastal trek, we turned south at Norseman as we were keen to explore the southern coast of WA. First stop was Esperance where we stayed at the Pink Lake Caravan Park. The lake is not even vaguely pink – don’t ask!

This is a lovely seaside town of 14,000 although you need to be prepared for cool weather. While enjoying a delicious lunch at Taylors Beach Bar overlooking the sea, we were thrilled when our waitress lit the fire – in December. The beach foreshore area is well laid out, with further development under way to extend this recreation area.

Next day was warmer and we headed 50 kms out to the national park at Cape Le Grand. We were pleasantly surprised by to find a bitumen road all the way as this makes this wonderful region so accessible to visitors. There are so many beautiful bays and landforms. Lucky Bay was stunning due to the contrast between the ice blue and deep blue water along with the super-white sand. Even a magical caravan on the beach serving hot chocolate and damper with quandong jam – yum! Such a magic place and now high on our list of camping spots for another day.

A Lucky Bay 1 Cape Le Grande 7 Cape Le Grande 4 Cape Le Grande 2 Cape Le Grande 1 A Lucky Bay 3 A Lucky Bay 2

Mt Le Grand and Frenchman Peak are two examples of huge granite outcrops, exposed after being submerged under the sea for a long, long time (OK, 600 million odd years). There is a beautiful variety of wild shrubs and flowers, especially banksias all along the way.

We then headed southwest to explore the Fitzgerald Coast, with first stop at Hopetoun. We felt as if we were staying in a nature reserve at the Hopetoun Caravan Park  – wonderful gardens and the dawn chorus of birds was a beautiful wake-up call.

A Hopetoun park

The Fitzgerald River National Park covers a huge strip of the coastline extending inland between Hopetoun and Bremer Bay. We found this an amazing place to visit as the scenery is so varied – rugged cliffs and gorges, pebbly beaches, rivers, mountains, plains…. plus lots of birds and wildlife. The area has gas barbecues and toilets provided at various locations and are in first class condition. A lot of thought has obviously been applied in the layout and design of these picnic and camping areas.

A Hamersley inlet 1 A Rock 1 A Rock 2 Hopetoun scenery 1

Hopetoun scenery 6 Hopetoun scenery 5

A bungarra

There were still some beautiful wildflowers and bushes to see although it is close to the end of their season.

A Bottlebrush 2 A Bottlebrush 1 A Bottlebrush & Ginny A plant 1 A Flora

Again, first class roads and a range of camping options – that list is just getting longer!

From Hopetoun we circled around the mighty Fitzgerald National Park to end up in Bremer Bay, another delightful coastal town.

A Map

A visit to the Wellstead Museum revealed lots and lots of early pioneer memorabilia and agricultural equipment – tractors, bikes, coaches, antique vehicles and even a horse drawn hearse. We then enjoyed dinner at the Bremer Bay Resort prior to making an early morning start to Albany.

This lovely town was the last Australian port for ANZAC forces leaving for World War I, 100 years ago. This was commemorated recently and we watched the ceremonies live on TV, so it was great to see the new infrastructure built specially to mark the occasion. A visit to the National ANZAC Centre at the Fortress at Mt Adelaide is recommended. We took in the conducted tour of the old guns and other installations which have been updated and are very interesting and attractive for tourists.

National ANZAC Centre Albany Memorial 1 ANZAC memorial

The Mt Clarence Memorial to the Light Horsemen was also a highlight of our visit.

ANZAC memorial 2 ANZAC Memorial 1 Convoy lookout 1 Lone pine 2 Lone Pine 1

A couple of whinges:

1. It is sad that many WA restaurants do NOT serve evening drinks… ‘no sorry, dinner begins at 6.30 pm’. Don’t they realise that while we are there with our drink that we will check out the menu, maybe come tomorrow night or at the least, pass on the lovely experience to our neighbours? Hybla on Middleton Beach was a notable exception, welcoming us for a great glass of Shiraz at their beautiful location overlooking the sea.

2. We were disappointed that the former Middleton Beach Hotel, built by Paul Terry some years ago and since demolished (?) has not been replaced and the site remains overgrown and very unattractive… Ian had stayed at this hotel and it was the best and newest in Albany at the time. Why did it need to be demolished, who now owns it and what is going to happen to the area?

Albany maintained its reputation as a cold, windy and wet destination at any time of the year… We were back into wet/cold weather gear for most of our stay. Next morning we packed up the caravan in windy and wet conditions and it was a real relief to get into the car and head off for home… We stopped for breakfast at Williams and changed into shorts and T-shirts again! Then we managed to roll into the backyard at Greenmount at 12.30pm.

The caravan has covered almost 10,000km and the car a little over 25,000km in 8 and a half months. Phew! This trip is over – BUT we are already researching our next one, and plan to showcase some beautiful places to visit in the Hills region of Perth in future blogs – so stay tuned!

Great Ocean Road

One of the experiences we have most been looking forward to on this trip was the famous Great Ocean Road… and it really lived up to our expectations!

First though we caught the ferry across Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff to catch up with old friends in Geelong for a few days. Kathy and Geoff Strachan took us for a magnificent dinner at Man Bo,  and it was great to see the Fitzpatrick’s new home and catch up with Tim as well. Ginny enjoyed walking along the waterfront esplanade down to Eastern Beach – a beautifully restored Art Deco swimming enclosure, fountain and kiosk which is very popular with both residents and tourists. Ian was also impressed with his visit to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook.

A Be2 A Bristol Boxkite A DH Tigermoth & Be2 A Vampire 1 A Vampire 2 A Walrus

Thanks to the many people who gave us good advice on the best way to enjoy the Great Ocean Road. Towing a caravan along a busy, winding and fairly narrow road is not much fun, especially for the driver! So as suggested, we chose several spots to stay along the way. We then retraced our steps or moved further along, returning to our base camp each night. An unexpected bonus was the beauty and diversity of the regions just inland from the coast.

A Grt Ocean Rd 1 A Seascape 1 A Shipwreck coast A Wye R camp

Stop 1: Wye River, staying in the lovely caravan park and ambling up the hill to the pub or out to the beach. Koala-spotting became our newest hobby but we didn’t expect to see our first one racing towards us on all fours along the river bank! The wildlife in this caravan park is marvellous to experience. All manner of birds are attracted to the trees and shrubbery in the park and are a constant presence here… Very pleasant.

A Koala 2 A Koala 1 A King parrot 2 A Gang-gang 2 A Duck 1

Stop 2: Bimbi Park. We were surrounded by the beautiful manna gums which are the preferred food source for koalas, so we felt privileged to see so many in their natural habitat doing what koalas do best – eating and sleeping! Once again a wildlife wonderland.

A Bimbipark Koala 1 A Bimbipark koala 2 Sulphur Crested cockatoo Wild Koala

They also make the loudest noises. Apparently they have a unique voice box that allows them to make a ‘belching’ call that only large animals like elephants are capable of usually – read about it here. Very weird the first few times you hear them – listen here and see what you think!

The nearby Cape Otway Lightstation has been operating since 1848 – the fact this area is known as the Shipwreck Coast probably gives you the rationale for that! The views from 80m up were spectacular.

A Cape Otway lighthouse 1 A Cape Otway lighthouse 4 A Cape Otway A shipwreck coast 2

Two day trips stand out in our memory:

1.  Tanybryn, Forrest and Deans Marsh and back to Wye River via Lorne

A Rainforest 1 A Rainforest 2 A Seaview 2 A Superb Fairywren 2

2. Lavers Hill, Beech Forest, Skenes Creek and back to Cape Otway. A narrow road wends through beautiful forest, tall stands of plantation timber and huge tree ferns between Beech Forest and Haines Junction – very beautiful, but put your headlights on!

Next blog – further west on the Great Ocean Road…

The Sunshine Coast & Brisbane area

Our base camp at Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park was great for exploring the Sunshine Coast…. walking distance to excellent shops – loved Think Pinq!  plus the beach, marina and the Surf Life Saving Club for sundowners or lunch with friends Shauna and Allan.

Mooloolaba Beach 1 Mooloolaba Beach 2 Mooloolaba Beach 3 Mooloolaba Beach 4

Dadds & Smiths Mooloolaba Surf Club

Two great day trips stand out; firstly our drive north along the coast to explore the many beautiful beaches. We stopped in Noosa Heads to window-shop along the pretty streets, listen to live jazz in the mall, drool over amazing restaurant menus and finally settled on a gelato – too much choice! We returned south via the inland route and visited some sadly disappointing tourist spots (think overpriced and underwhelming).

Another fun trip was travelling west into the Hinterland, a big change from the coastal sun and surf, and we could easily have spent a week exploring this beautiful region. First stop was the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World for beautiful views of the Glasshouse Mountains. The gardens were delightful, the Devonshire tea was magnificent (truly amazing scones with proper teapot and all!) but our top pick was the tour of the aviary which only opened last year. Our guide managed to impart so much information; survival tips e.g. which bird would pinch your earrings or hearing aids! as well as the history and habits of each bird species.

Maleny Botanic Gardens 1 Maleny Botanic Gardens 2 Glass House Mts 1

 

Exotic bird 7 Exotic bird 9 Exotic bird 12 Exotic bird 17 Finch with feather 4 Ginny with Macaos Macao 1 Major Mitchell 3 Swan chicks 1

Walking around the town of Maleny was a joy, especially when we discovered there were FOUR bookshops (we have been to many towns where there are none – so sad but apparently we are all buying our books online now?) The Pallet Life Gallery and Cafe was fun – our family is very fond of recycling pallets but there were lots of new ideas here, plus good coffee!

Ginny in pallet chair

Our stay at Brisbane Holiday Village was perfectly located (5 minutes from the city!) for us to catch up with friends. Brisbane is a hilly city, so our first stop was the highest peak Mt Coot-tha to get our bearings. This is a great spot with a botanic garden, a planetarium and many walking and bike trails to explore, plus a cafe for those in need.

Brisbane from Mt Cootha 1 Brisbane from Mt Cootha 2 Dragon Ginny Mt Cootha

Ian was keen to get photos of koalas so off we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We sometimes feel ambivalent about going to wildlife parks or zoos as some just don’t measure up – both for the animals and the people visiting. However this sanctuary is not at all glitzy with the animals definitely being the stars, along with many knowledgable staff. Plus there is a waiting list for volunteers to join up (pretty rare these days!)

Les Patison 1

Of course the koalas were gorgeous, doing what they do best i.e. sleep and eat, and the one above really hammed it up for the camera – don’t you think he is grinning?!

Koala 3 Koala 1

The sanctuary rehabilitates all sorts of animals and birds that have been injured. Unfortunately many can’t return to the wild but here they play an important role in demonstrating their skills to us mere humans. This was very evident in the Birds of Prey display.

Wedge tail 2 Sea Eagle 5 Sea Eagle 3 Peregrine Falcon1 Barn Owl 4 Barn Owl 3

The black kite in particular thrilled us with his speedy (scary) flights through the audience.

Kite 6 Kite 1

It must be so rewarding for the staff to see amazing creatures like the sea eagle take to the sky again. Great to see so many families enjoying this place, with many using public transport or combining their visit with a daily launch trip on the Brisbane river.

Next stop… Tweed Heads to visit friends and explore the Gold Coast.

Hervey Bay, Fraser Island and the magnificent humpback whales!

No wonder that Hervey Bay is such a popular tourist destination with the magnificent Fraser Island beckoning, and whale tours galore! We were quite amazed by the size of the city – for some reason we had been expecting a small coastal town. Our stay at the Fraser Coast caravan park in in the seaside suburb of Scarness, one street back from the esplanade was lined with lovely shops, cafes and hotels – a great base for exploring.

Fraser Island is simply amazing, an island completely made of sand but it grows beautiful variety of trees and plants! Apparently this happens because of mycorrhizal fungi that naturally occur in the sand and these release nutrients in a way that plants can absorb. We feel really privileged to have seen such a variety of landscapes and ecosystems in one place.

A Fraser Island 1 A Fraser Island 3 A Fraser Island 4 A Fraser Island 5 Aircraft Fraser Island 1 Lake McKensie 1

Only 4WD vehicles are allowed on the island and we enjoyed exploring the inland regions while most people seemed to descend on the beach in droves. One interesting site was the Maheno wreck, a steamer which operated on the trans-Tasman route in the early 1900s. Once decommissioned in 1935, it was sold for scrap to a Japanese company. En route, a freak cyclone in July separated it from the tow ship and it was grounded on the eastern coast of Fraser Island. It became a training base for Z force and an artillery target. Such a sad story but she still captures the imagination of more than 250 000 visitors each year!
Maheno 2 Maheno 3 Maheno 4Seeing a pod of the mighty humpback whales swim and frolic around us rated way up there on our Richter scale of amazing experiences. Freedom Whale Watch guaranteed that we would see whales in Platypus Bay and it was a brilliant showtime as they seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in them. We also now have a greater appreciation of the female humpback’s lot in life… a mere 15 days after giving birth to a gynormous calf, she is ready to conceive the next one so the males are pretty much courting her ALL THE TIME. This causes lots of angst and jostling ‘whale-style’ while mum and her calf just ‘keep on swimming’…

All in all a great day out with a fun crew including our return transfers to the marina and yummy home catering.

Whale 1

Whale 2 Whale 3 Whale 5 Whale 6

Bundaberg

Great to catch up with friends Jamie and Jan again in the lovely city of Bundaberg, famous in Australia for what else but Bundy RUM – Australia’s favourite spirit! So off we went on a visit to the distillery that was set up to use the molasses left over after sugar was refined. They certainly faced hardships over the years with two enormous fires – in 1936, the rum escaped into the adjoining Burnett River, and the local paper noted:
‘Strong men stood with bowed heads and a suspicion of a tear in their eyes as they watched the bubbling toddy just stream past them.’
True tragedy Australian style!!! Tasting the array of rums and liqueurs was fun even for non-rum drinkers like us. Unfortunately no photographs could be taken on the tour and Ian had to take out his hearing aids as well (supposedly the batteries could cause an explosion) so as far as he was concerned it was pretty underwhelming…

The Botanic Gardens were pleasant to walk through although the main draw-card for us was the amazing bird life (apparently 100+ species) concentrated on a large island in the middle of the lake. Ian took some great photos….

Australian White Ibis 2 Black duck Darter Magpie gees on wing 2 Noisy Minor 2 Plumed whistling duck

The magpie geese were just so funny – these big birds land on the most tiny little tree branches creating a constant seesaw motion for them all.

The Hinkler Museum is also located in these gardens. Bert Hinkler was born here in 1892 and was a famous pioneer aviator throughout the early 1900s. The Bundaberg community is justifiably very proud of him. For example, the home he built in Southampton while he was designing and flying experimental aircraft in England has been dismantled and rebuilt alongside the museum. It now overlooks the lagoons where as a boy he sat and studied the ibis in flight – probably dreaming about the famous Ibis aircraft he would later build and fly!

Hinkler

Next stop – Hervey Bay and Fraser Island…

Wildlife Photography Workshop – Malanda FNQ

I recently saw a pamphlet at the Malanda Dairy café and gallery advertising a weekend wild life photography workshop with Steve Parish and Martin Willis. I have admired Steve’s work over a number of years – I’ve always thought of him as the ‘calendar bloke’. Martin’s work is on display in the gallery and I was very impressed. I decided to enrol and take the course.
A Pigeon 1 Frog 6 Steve Parish Stick insect 1
It was a revelation – I learned a great deal from these people. These blokes are top notch photographers, extremely passionate about their subject and photography. They had arranged for people from the wildlife centre at Kuranda to bring some animals for us to photograph and the 13 of us on the course had a lot of fun getting images of them.

Gecko 1 - Copy Martin Willis - Copy Mantis 1 King parrot 3 King parrot 1 - Copy Python 4 Python 2 Python 1

It was a privilege to spend some time with Steve and Martin – not mention Martin’s partner Samantha who looked after us very well. Here’s some happy snaps taken at the workshop – I hope you enjoy these couple of photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Western Australians may be interested in several workshops Steve is holding in WA in the future.

Watch this space as I start to offer photographs for sale later in the year.

More FNQ…

In our last post, the peacocks and bats in the tree above our caravan were making life difficult. All was resolved when a large goanna (aka barnie or perentie) took up residence in the tree, and apparently under our van when we were out. All arguments ceased – the male peacock still slept there each night but was well-behaved without the peahens, and the bats disappeared!
We were happy campers again, and have even had mostly sunny weather the last couple of weeks. The wind however has not let up except for the occasional day. Eastern States people reckon that the WA coast and Perth are windy, but up this way it is a lot worse.
These photos were taken on the Daintree River Wild Watch with Ian (Sauce) Worcester who really knows his stuff and has been doing tours for about 18 years.
Daintree River 2
Kingfisher 2
Tree snake
Croc 4
Sunset 2
These little yellow sunbirds were checking out our awning for a nest site. They evidently have realised that if they build near people they are pretty safe as we scare off any predators. Our neighbours who stay here for 4 months every year often have to remove their pendulous nests before they can move out.
Yellow Bellied Sunbird 1
We are now at Ellis Beach until 7 July when we head into Cairns for the van to be serviced (done 10000 k’s!) Here is the view through our caravan door – a lovely beachfront spot as we got a last minute cancellation (it’s the caravanner’s version of winning Lotto as people book for 2-3 years ahead for this slice of paradise). Within walking distance there is good food at the local bar and grill ($1 oysters on Sundays so Ginny is in hog heaven) and great beach walks…
Ellis Beach 3
Ellis Beach 2
Ellis Beach 1 View from van Ellis Beach
Ian is booked in to a nature photo workshop over two days with Steve Parish and another pro Martin Willis on 2-3 August, so we will be spending more time around this area and the Atherton Tablelands until then. We are really enjoying our time in FNQ – still find the wet tropical rainforest a bit overpowering and claustrophobic, but it is interesting and the wildlife is prolific. Keeps Ian and his  camera on the go!

Cobbold Gorge

After leaving Undara, a tyre repair was required so we stopped in Georgetown – not the fab suburb of Washington DC that we also love, but a truly great little outback town. While the local tyre fix-it man a.k.a. ‘the Chinaman’ toiled away, we managed to eat icecreams, find op shop bargains and buy award-winning sausages from the local butcher (yummy) and even found … joy of joys – a clean toilet with toilet paper, soap, water AND papertowels! What an amazing start to the day. The fuel outlet put together the BEST corned beef and pickle sandwiches as well…
Then off on the 42 km trip out to Cobbold Gorge. The owners had warned us that there was a section of gravel road with some ‘hairy bits’ s ( two parts, totaling about 70km of dirt ). It was a slow trip with our caravan, but no problems. We lowered tyre pressures all round, car and caravan, and had a much more enjoyable gravel road experience…
The Terry family own Robin Hood station and provide access to tours on and around the gorge. Funnily enough, they had always swum in a local waterhole but hadn’t realised it was fed by this beautiful gorge. It wasn’t discovered until 1994 when one of the sons went exploring in a dinghy!
The rest as they say is history, and the whole experience was very pleasant – think real outback, dusty roads, hot temperatures … and contrast this with an infinity pool overlooking tall gum trees, a great bar and really skilled staff and guides. As well the caravan park was very quiet with a lot of bird life and trees.
Bar Cobbold 4
Cobbold 2
The 3 hour tour started with a bush walk and our tour guide Alex spoke about the local plants and their various uses by local Aboriginal people – fascinating, and subtly different to what we know from living in the Kimberley region.
Cobbold gorge 1
Cobbold gorge 7
Gidji-gidji berries
Cobbold gorge 5
The grave of John Corbett was near the banks of the Robertson River. His gravestone reads that he had been “murdered by blacks” but in retrospect it is far more likely that he was set up and murdered by one or more Europeans after his gold. However the blame was laid on the local Aboriginal people and the authorities killed many men, women and children in what was described as a  ‘meritous retribution’. A chilling story.
Grave Cobbold 1
Grave Cobbold 2
A visit to the butterfly caves was a great chance to see a multitude of the Common Crow or oleander butterflies hovering all around us – such beautiful creatures.
Next was our trip up the very narrow gorge in an electric pontoon about 6 foot wide. As it was so quiet we were able to sneak up on Clyde the Freshwater Crocodile, sunning himself!
Cobbold gorge 6
And the very pretty green tree snake making himself scarce…
Green tree snake 1 Green tree snake 2
The good news is that both Undara and Cobbold Gorge can be visited without 4WD access or even a vehicle! We met several people who had travelled from Cairns on the Savannah Lander, an amazing outback train tour coordinating tours with all these interesting places. Great for overseas visitors, or anyone who is a bit over being on the road….
The turn off to both Cobbold Gorge and the Undara Lava Tubes are from the Savannah Way, the highway that crosses northern Australia from Cairns to Broome. This is on our soon ‘to do’ list of trips… Maybe next year or 2016. Watch this space.
We would love to hear from anyone who has done this trip…

The Undara Experience!

We deviated from the Great Inland Way west to the Savannah Way to visit the Undara Lava Tubes as this trip had been highly recommended by the locals.
Back in 2008, we saw the ongoing lava flows on Big Island in Hawaii that ooze out to the sea creating huge steam plumes – very spectacular and basically what happened to form the lava tubes at Undara. The tubes are formed when a lava flow melts (1200C or more) the surrounding rock and then a crust forms of cooling lava over the liquid river… In Undara this happened thousands of years ago.
Lava tube 7
Our guided tour through these lava ‘tubes’ which were formed by one of the Earth’s longest lava flows was fascinating as we explored the beautiful underground caves and their very colourful rock formations. The entrance to these is where the tube roof has collapsed in places. These collapses are plainly visible from above as they have vegetation growing in them which has been spared the periodic fire that the plain above has experienced.
Lava tube 1
Lava tube 3
Lava tube 8
These ancient volcanic rocks cooled under different pressures – the scoria was full of gas and frothed like the head on a good Guinness whereas the granite was formed under intense pressure and now is as hard as a …rock really!
Undara 5
The nearby Kalkani Crater was a more traditional ‘fountain’ volcano and we walked up to the top and around the rim. This huge hollow is home to many birds and several species of wallabies that were new to us.
Undara 3 Rock walaby 2
Undara has many types of accommodation and tours and is the venue for the two annual music events; Opera in the Outback’ and the Outback Rock and Blues concert – what a magical place to visit!