Western Australia Part 2

Prt 2 WA-Cocklebiddy-Exmouth Including Eclipse

In Part 1 we had called into the roadhouse at Cocklebiddy,  before leaving I felt compelled to ask the shopkeeper if the population of eight shown on the sign was genuine, she assured me it was and quickly rattled off their names one by one. She added that occasionally there was more in busy times, The 8 residents all worked and resided at the roadhouse. Lovely friendly people who said it was difficult to survive sometimes. Covid nearly killed them, but they just kept on going. True-spirited Aussies doing it tough.

We were in the last stretch of the Nullabor. With another 219 km driven, we pulled up at yet another roadhouse. Quite a lively place with a caravan park, motel, and petrol station.  Balladonia where we had been advised to check out the museum apparently centred around the Skylab crash in 1987.

The museum was neatly presented although only a tiny section of the somewhat small display was concentrated on the Skylab crash with a replica of a part of Skylab. Not exactly authentic but interesting. It’s a good rest stop and breaks the long drive, other than that we cannot be more generous about it. On the last stretch now to Norseman. This is probably the most tiring section being another 220kms and I have to say less interesting landscape than previously. So, the Nullarbor is done, and the anticipation is now gone. The sense of achievement is good and the realisation that it is not hard, not boring and in fact quite interesting. The rest of our trip will see us cover many more kilometres of long stretches which would easily challenge the degree of difficulty of the Nullarbor.

Leaving the Nullarbor, we are heading further into the outback to visit the mining areas on our way to Exmouth. The first stop is Kalgoorlie, nearly 200 km from Norseman WA. The road was good, but the landscape was very sparse all the way with very few signs of civilisation. Out of the blue, a sign for a café grabbed our attention. We turned left and drove a couple of kilometres to our amazement we came across a small town with every facility you could need,  Motels, a caravan park, Woolworths, a gym, and sports ground, etc.  I believe the town was Coolgardie, but we have no idea where the residents resided. Later in our trip, we realised there are a huge number of mines pretty much hidden all over the countryside and other than the odd fence sign you would not know they were there. Obviously, a lot of workers needed supplies, hence the town of Coolgardie.

Next, we arrive at Boulder/Kalgoorlie. My first thoughts are it is a grubby town with lots of old equipment, old buildings, and disjointed infrastructure. Pretty much what we expected. We immediately came across the road to the Super Pit. It was blowing a gale at the top of the hill but thankfully there is a large, covered area over the information boards and a fantastic viewing platform that looks over the mine. Taken from one of the boards:- “In June 1893, Paddy Hannan, Thomas Flanagan, and Dan Shea found nearly 100 ounces of gold in the dry red soil of what is now Kalgoorlie-Boulder. This sparked a gold rush and the discovery of the area known as the Golden Mile, which is one of the richest gold deposits in the world. By 1903 there were 49 operating mines, 100 headframes and more than 3,000 km of underground workings on the Golden Mile.”

Looking through the window you are faced with a  huge deep cavernous hole with walls layered in varying gold, red, grey, and brown layers of colour. Dotted with yellow trucks together with red and yellow hard hats, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Leggoland with model trucks using makeshift roads to move the endless piles of potential gold from one layer to the next. Surreal and yet an actual working masterpiece. After checking out some of the older buildings in the town we stocked up on fuel and groceries. I have to say there was a large contingency of Aboriginals congregating around the local community centre and shopping centre who were becoming quite boisterous we did hasten our steps a little.

As we were moving into more remote places, we decided a map of WA was a good idea. The mobile had been good to date, but when there is no reception and many km of road seemingly going nowhere a printed map is vital. Popping into the Information centre, I had a chat with the local expert and found out about a couple of interesting sights to visit as we continued along this Golden Mile. Approximately 8 km out of town we pulled onto a dirt road and drove a couple of km when we came across a very large circular tin structure. Two large openings and bench seating following the curve of the shed led our imagination to a very verbal and boisterous game of two-up. I believe considerable dollars had changed hands here on many occasions. To the right was a dilapidated tin lean too with a painted sign “Mens” and further over another sort of structure which we believed to be the ladies although not marked as such.  The interesting part is knowing that this dusty piece of land was still being frequented every Sunday in the present day. I can only imagine the value of the cash passing hands today.

A little while later we turned off the highway at Broad Arrow to visit the local tavern. Nothing much there but a whole lot of evidence of who had been there. The beer was cold, and the locals came and went. Both the inside and the outside walls were totally covered in scribbled names and messages. Not a patch left bare that I could see. Such an intriguing establishment. The stories that must have been told on those bar stools would surely be worth hearing.

Menzies is another tiny town, and we were only passing through on our way to see the sculptures on Lake Ballard. It was late afternoon when we arrived but just enough time to check out a couple of the 51 iron sculptures placed all over the 7 square kilometres of this vast Salt Lake. Absolutely fascinating concept. If the rain had fallen it would have been a red muddy and unpleasant walk, but we were in luck it was dry and hard and therefore easy to navigate. Free camping is allowed, with drop toilets available. The night was pitch black with the stars shining brightly. There was absolute silence even though there were several caravans and campers scattered around. The next morning, we woke to a clear day, and an eagerness to explore. Antony Gormley was the British artist responsible for the stark black steel family of sculptures. Apparently, each one represents previous residents of the town of Menzies. They are all a little different, men, women, and children each now connected by the millions of footprints in the red salty ground.  What also makes It interesting is the out-of-place conical-shaped hill that seems to rise out of the dry Salt Lake. Covered in scrub and rocks it was quite a scramble to the top which I did attempt but gave up very quickly. Ken managed to climb up about ¾ of the way but the continuance of little avalanches of rocks deterred him from reaching the summit.

Another pleasant sight was a young boy on a bicycle having a lot of fun riding on the Salt Lake and a large brown dog expelling a lot of energy running endlessly over the dry lake.

After returning to Menzies our next stop was Kookynie town. It has been labelled a ghost town but the fact that 20 people still lived there refutes that fact.  It was quite a way off the highway and a little disappointing once we arrived. History depicts a flourishing and vibrant working town and certainly, you can see the remnants of that, but many of the buildings have fallen apart and replaced with information boards. There are some brilliant rusted-out vehicles together with plant and machinery. The brochures indicate the town is growing and I hope for their sake this is correct however I do doubt its prospects. A drive out to the Niagara Dam surprised us by actually having water in it, to date we had seen a lot of dry water holes. It was quite hot and dry but an easy walk across the dam wall.  Apparently, as soon as work started on building the dam, the town discovered an underwater bore and therefore the dam was not actually needed. Such a waste but hopefully as Wikicamps has it listed it will be enjoyed by more travellers as a free camp down near the water’s edge under the shade of the trees.

Gwallia is a mere 152 km north and it is an actual Ghost Town. Right on its edge is another very large mining exploration happening today. Luckily, they have seen fit to preserve the buildings of Gwallia as they were. There is a grand hotel, some old shops, houses, and other establishments.  We visited the reasonably thorough Museum of the Times, with a café in the old heritage home visited by Edgar Hoover before his USA presidency. It was beautifully preserved, and the tea and scones would have been thoroughly enjoyed had we not been sitting on the wide-open veranda which had a pleasant breeze to cool us down but unfortunately, the flies had the same idea. an Australian staple we were quickly tired of. Time for working and washing again so we booked a caravan park at Leonora,10 minutes from there.

The advertising for Leonora was such that I was expecting a well-looked-after town with some interesting things to see. I can honestly say this was not our experience. The people we encountered were lovely but there was little to see and the caravan park we were booked into had razor wire topping the entire perimeter. This is a little unnerving. The party started late afternoon/ early evening as some of the locals become extremely verbal. A lot of screaming, aggressive music and abusive language continued through the night.  We were going to stop for 2 nights but chose to limit it to one and hopefully find a free camp further along. I did manage to get some work done, the washing finished, and we had showers so no complaints but obviously did not sleep well that night.

Our plan at this stage was to continue our way to Karijini national park despite the current cyclone off the coast of WA above the national park. We were following it closely but at this stage, the forecasters were indicating a move to the Northern Territory, so we stayed on our planned itinerary.

Our next main stop was Mount Magnet some 432 km to the west. About 280 km along we pulled off just before the town of Sandstone following an advertised tourist trail. Sandstone was formerly a gold rush town and later nearly a ghost town, however in 2021 its population was 109 people who apparently are very proud of their town as the homes are neatly kept and overall, the town is nicely laid out and well looked after. Its claim to fame today is the greatsights you see on The Heritage Trail. Just two of the things we liked were The London Bridge and the Cave Brewery. London Bridge is aptly named and worth the drive. The scenery is wonderful and needless to say a frequently photographed tourist attraction. The Brewery is intriguing. Developed by an Irishman who built the pub at the top of the mound of limestone rock and then ran the pipes down to the cave below to keep the barrels cool.  This place is very remote and hard to imagine people going that far for a cold beer. Ken pointed out there would have been many gold seekers in need of a thirst-quenching beer after the tiresome effort of searching for their fortune all day in the summer heat.  It was getting to mid-afternoon, and we hurried on to our free camp which was not far out of Mount Magnet. Once we arrived it was a little rockier than the reviews on Wikicamps and of course, while trying to decide on the spot we gashed a rather large hole in the front tyre. We were just over half an hour from town, but it was late in the afternoon. A quick call to the local mechanic led us to believe he may be able to get us a replacement tyre. Hurriedly changing the tyre to our space-saver spare tyre, we drove the distance to the town. Alas when we got to town, he had closed along with the rest of the town, so we had to stay at a caravan park. Luckily, we were able to find a spot. Again, another caravan park that was monitored by police. A couple of phone calls the next morning convinced us we needed to drive the 350k to Geraldton as nothing was available anywhere else.  As it turns out our plan was to head for Karijini national park, but we were concerned as a cyclone had crossed into an area a couple of hundred k’s short of where we were headed. At least going to Geraldton, we would miss the bad weather from the cyclone but sadly we would miss the opportunity to see Karijini National Park. This was bitterly disappointing but unfortunately, we had no choice.

So off we went, bright and early and made it to Geraldton in time to get the new tyre. Thank you to Tyrepower who fit us in, changed our tyres around so they were evenly matched and did not overcharge us. A consolation was that the cyclone did in fact hit land nearer to our original destination than we would have liked so we were saved from some very treacherous weather by heading to the coast.

While in Geraldton we checked out the memorial for HMAS Sydney. This is quite large and beautifully designed.  The gardens surrounding it are nice and the lookout is quite appealing. Leaving here we drove down to the Esplanade. The sun was hot, and we stretched our legs with a walk to the end. Here we found a huge Crystal ball on display. Depending on the angle you can see your reflection and the ocean through the glass. Really neat and different.

Now where to stay, it was getting late, so we headed just out of town to a camp referred to as an Eco camp. We drove in and there was a house unattended and a sign to say park and leave your donation. Showers, toilets, and a camp kitchen. We drove around an oval and found some old numbers on trees which we determined were campsites. Picked one which was near the camp kitchen and set up. There was quite a large group just near us who were using the facilities and turned out to be a rowdy bunch. As the facilities looked old and unkept we decided to just use the toilet. I am not sure of the meaning of Eco camp but looked more like ‘Look after yourself Camp’.  We were up and out of there early the next morning.

Another long 480km north and we arrived at our destination, Carnarvon, we found an inexpensive caravan park that was run by a young woman who was super happy and a very hard-working lady. We stayed here 3 nights as I had work to do and we needed time to just catch up with washing, shopping and to relax a little. Once again, we expected a larger more commercial town. There was a nice esplanade, some small gift shops and coffee places and more industrial-style businesses but otherwise, an ordinary town.  We must mention though that we did visit the Space and Technology Museum which proved very entertaining with hands-on activities and a wealth of information. This was a tracking station for early space missions such as Gemini, Skylab and Apollo. It was easy to spend a couple of hours going through all the exhibitions. A very worthwhile visit. It appears small but is jammed pack with interesting and interactive highlights.

Having sorted ourselves out and prepared supplies for our 5 days at Exmouth we left on the 18th to head for our eclipse headquarters. It is 364 km to Exmouth and other than a coffee break we drove straight through. Getting close to the Exmouth turnoff Ken saw a hawk in the sky and just happened to comment that he had not seen an eagle for some time. As if by magic we passed 5 eagles hovering over roadkill on our right. As it happened Ken checked the km at that point and realised it had changed dramatically as we were going the wrong way. We had to turn back and as we drove toward the point where the eagles were feeding, we stopped and Ken walked quietly down to try for a photo. He was rewarded generously as one very large eagle held back until the last minute and he was able to photograph the eagle in flight. It was a brilliant photo and very unexpected. We of course were quite happy that we had missed that turn-off.

 It was amusing to see the many traffic warnings along the way. There were many warnings of traffic delays due to upcoming events, and frequent roads blocked off.   We personally experienced no delays of any kind and drove easily to the entrance of the overflow camp where we had booked along with hundreds or possibly thousands of others. We were cordially welcomed and were instructed to follow the man in the high-vis yellow jacket madly peddling his bicycle to our allocated spot. They were very organised, with many helpers and all just as excited as we were. We had a great spot with few vans around us. We did have to be self-sufficient so up went the annex for the first time along with the Joolca shower and toilet tent. The weather was brilliant. Hot but with a nice breeze. It was afternoon so after unpacking we went for a drive to the centre of town to find a pub and a cold beer. We had no trouble and arrived at the Froth Hotel which quite a few others tried out as well. A short drive around town we were able to get our bearings as to where the beach was, our expected viewing site for the Eclipse. It was conveniently within walking distance from our camp.  We settled down for the night in anticipation of a mass arrival of campers the next day. As it turned out there was a steady stream, but the area was huge and accommodated everyone very well. We did notice that our little corner was still not crowded out.  We were close to an exit which made it very easy to come and go. That morning we had a visit from an acquaintance, Mandy, and her husband Brian. Ken had spoken to Mandy before in relation to a visit we made to Lightening Ridge.

Mandy writes for The Outback magazine for RM Williams. She wanted to ask us about what to expect regarding the eclipse as it was her first experience. They are a happy friendly couple whose company we enjoyed. She will be doing an article, whether we are in it we will have to wait to find out. We hope she enjoyed her first eclipse as we were unable to meet up with her after the event. I am sure she would have been very busy interviewing many people about their experiences.

The morning passed quickly, and we met up with some other friends that evening for a meagre feed of sausage sandwiches accompanied by beer and wine. Earlier in the day we took a drive up to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, one of the few places where both sunset and sunrise can be observed over the ocean. We also visited a local beach and went for a brief dip at Town Beach. The water is warm and shallow, and you can walk knee-deep for quite a way out.  The next morning was eclipse morning, and it was decided we only needed to move a few metres from our camp. Ken had decided he would not bother trying to photograph as he wanted to be able to watch the eclipse without interference and in the end was very happy with his decision. It is a spectacular experience that everyone should endeavour to see at least once in their lifetime. It is also one of the hardest things to describe and one of the most difficult to put into words. This was my 4th eclipse and Ken’s 6th, of course not all are successful, but all are meaningful. All I can tell you is that if the sky is clear, it is an exceptional occurrence. The sky changes, the moon covers the sun and at the final moment when the sun is nearly completely covered, the image of a diamond ring appears as the last rays push through peaks and valleys  Once the sun is completely covered you will see eruptions or prominences sprout out from behind the shadow. As the sun was quite active at the time, we were lucky enough to see white baileys beads and red prominences which were a bonus. This eclipse was very short, only 57 seconds in our position. Within moments there were cheers from the field. The number of cameras clicking at the time would have been phenomenal and the number of photos showing up on Facebook pages later in the day proved the absolute joy of those who were privileged to view it. Certainly, an experience that is hard to forget. Absolutely worth the 5,500 km we had travelled so far. I look forward to 2028 when hopefully we can be a lot closer to home in the Blue Mountains of NSW when this event will occur once again with a 5-minute duration.

It was all over as quick as a wink and there was more to do and to see. We decided to try for a drive to the local national park. Some of the park had been closed off to travellers and much of the park is 4wd only. We drove out not sure of what we were going to be able to see. We passed the lighthouse from the previous day and drove on for many kilometres. Passing several side roads leading to beaches eventually, we pulled over to the Yardie Creek Gorge car park. The walk along the top of the gorge did not look too difficult and was about 3-4 km return. At the opening of the gorge and still, on a flat walking trail, there was a river barge taking people for a leisurely trip up to the centre and back. Together with some kayakers slowly meandering up the gorge, it was quite a serene picture. It was not too far up the track, and you could appreciate the beauty of the area. The high cliffs of red rock meeting the deep blue of the ocean water were worth the effort. The gorge turned around to the left and the track headed up to higher ground which looked quite manageable, until of course it wasn’t. We came across a deep ravine that would have to be navigated if one wanted to get to the top.  A little boulder hopping and then a whole lot of rock scrambling got us down and up the other side. I must admit it took a massive amount of self-talk and some encouragement from other walkers to keep me going. I am used to coming up against obstacles in our walks and usually, the challenge means there will be a reward at the end. Part of the problem with this walk was that it was hot, and I had worn a light dress with bike shorts underneath, not the best outfit for climbing. Regardless I soldiered on thinking it would flatten, not long after we came across another canyon to master! Ken turns to me and says just watch where I put my feet and follow on. Well, if my legs were as long as his and I was 20 kilos lighter I would have so much less of a problem. The challenge was met and beaten not without several cries of “I can’t do this“ once again. The sense of satisfaction is tremendous. We find ourselves above the gorge looking down onto the cliffs once again. The wind is blowing, and the sun is beating down as we stand alone looking far and wide across the many ridges. It gives one a feeling of beauty and solitude. It makes you realise just how much of Australia is untouched by humanity. Unfortunately, we had to traverse the same route on the return trip. Of course, we made it back in one piece tired and hungry. A very tasty late lunch at a waterside café and an evening of wine and cheese with our friends saw the day come to an end. Another day exploring the town and our time at Exmouth and this leg of our trip had ended. An early night and early start the next day where we headed back.

Western Australia Part 1 WA Trip 2023

Trip to Western Australia – Main purpose is to witness a total solar eclipse in Exmouth WA on 20th April 2023

We are travelling in a Mazda CX5 AWD and towing our new cub explorer, camper trailer.  We are travelling for around 7 weeks from Blue Mountains NSW Australia, through South Australia and onto Western Australia. There is a lot to see so I will be writing this as I go in sections.

Hazelbrook, Blue Mountains to  Broken Hill.

Currently writing this blog while crossing the Nullarbor Plains. An experience I would never have contemplated over the last 70 years.

It is interesting that the feeling we have when leaving Ceduna, the start of the Nullarbor, is one of excitement, given that we have just travelled over 2000km from Sydney via Broken Hill, Port Augusta, Gawler Ranges, along many long roads with very little  distraction to break the endless plains. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres either side of the road . The prospect of continuing that pattern with even less obstacles to take the eye away from the endless broken white line should seem daunting, rather than exciting.

Of course, so far along the way there has in fact been points of interest which could easily be dismissed if your mindset does not appreciate the history or the beauty of the Australian landscape.Starting off from home the rain was gently falling, leaving us with  a feeling of trepidation.  We left at 7.30am with a 7 to 8 hr drive ahead of us.The prospect of our first night being one in the rain was not exciting. Never fear as we left Sydney we left the rain behind us. Cobar NSW approximately 600 kms being our first stop.The first day of driving was passing through towns familiar to us so little to report. What we did experience later in the day was the massive wide load trucks transporting machinery across the countryside. These require  lead warning vehicles to clear the road. We came across several, some with 2 or 3 lead cars. Each time there is a need to slow down, pull to the side of the road or even stop. Add to this the very lengthy road trains which are frequent and constant, it makes a long drive interesting.

Entering  Cobar, you are confronted with a huge rusty iron, town sign representing  the  look of  the mining industry in all its glory.

Our main purpose here was to find a free camp for the night. We relied on the wiki camps  app and headed to Cobar Reservoir, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful spacious  campground surrounding a reservoir of water in the centre.  Once setup we took a walk around the water to stretch our legs before settling down with a cool glass of wine  and a relaxing evening. It was a quiet, free, and safe spot.

The next morning, we planned an early getaway, anticipating another long drive to Broken Hill. Along the way we visited Mt Grenfell historical site. Passing, many goats, kangaroos, and emu’s the drive was pleasant and a short walk from the car park we were able to site  a significant show of aboriginal art under a few overhanging rock formations. Pushing on we stopped for petrol at Wilcannia. Such a surprising place, the contrast of preserved  historical  sandstone buildings  next door to  abandoned  residence’s and  dilapidated, bordered up shops. It created a vision of beauty and a yet a feeling of sadness. Even though the town itself sits along a running river, appears to have some pretty parks the distances to travel for work would surely pose a problem for the towns people to thrive.

With 200 km to Broken Hill we had a quick lunch and hit the road  with the hope of getting into another free camp for the night. We were not so lucky This time. It was our intention to stay at a caravan park within the “Living Desert Sculptures”  We had a quick stop for some supplies, then headed out to our destination. As we arrived at the gate, we were told we needed to book online. The ranger pointed us in the direction of the sculptures at theTop of the hill as the reception was better. Alas once there we discovered nothing available for that night. As it was late in the afternoon Ken quickly took some photos of the sculptures and we headed back down to town to secure a spot to sleep. As it turned out the free camps were a distance from the town. We settled on Broken Hill Caravan Park at the end of town.  The cost was $35 but we had the luxury of very spacious and clean showers and toilets. Not surprising at all was how warm flowing water over the body is very soothing at the end of a long dusty drive.

Broken Hill has a few good attractions, one being, The Living Desert Sculptures as mentioned. Worth the trip to photograph the unique sculptures.The second recommended site would be Pro Hart Gallery. We did not visit as we were short on time, however we have been before, and it is an interesting experience whether you like his art or not. The third thing worth mentioning is the recent addition of a memorial to the miners in the area. Placed high on the mounds of iron ore rising above the town there sits a sombre dark brown iron like structure surrounded by memorabilia of old disused mining equipment. There are information boards along the walkway. A viewing platform gives a magnificent view of the entire city and a very expansive view of the mine areas. The names of all the miners are listed. Those who having given their lives in various ways to the harshness of the  surrounding land which provides many of us with the standard of living we possess today. A memorable display with a red roses lining the columns of many names of miners from near and far. Noted were the different reasons for dying and how that changed over the years.

Broken Hill to The Nullarbor.

Our first stop is a town called Peterborough (originally known as Petersburg ) a small but pretty town focused on their train heritage. The houses are small, brick and reasonably well kept. A few plagues around the centre of the town were nicely displayed  and gave a brief story of the history . We did not take the time to go through the museum but I am guessing a train enthusiast would be happy to browse it.  Another fleeting stop to take a photo of the Manna Hill station Hotel. A town of no population so not sure why such a gorgeous building exists. I have been unable to find anything much about it.   We were in fact trying to make it to Port Augusta so we hurried on.  Closing in on our destination the skyline was dotted with hundreds of wind turbines. Huge structures which in the right place, can look quite aesthetic. Another thing noticed on the road in and out of Port Augusta was quite a few trucks towing bulk kayaks or canoes.  We are assuming there is a boat building factory there., as yet we are still debating that question. Lots of hours on the road together creates lots of interesting conversations.

Port Augusta is a busy commercial working town with a military base and airport. I did expect it to be a bit more picturesque than it was. There was major work happening on the main bridge crossing the river which disrupted the traffic flow a little.  A quick stop for supplies and we headed to our next free camp. This proved a small challenge. Instruction was to go passed the military base and we would see the turn off to Question Mark Hill. The clue was in the name. The Hill in question was not huge so we missed the tiny blue caravan sign. After a second attempt we found our spot. Very isolated but looked quite safe. There was a sign on the fence running along the open area, warning us about the unexploded bombs in the area and therefore no access. We just hoped they got the fence in the right place.  We settled down to be presented with a beautiful sunset, a powerful storm in the distance and a rainbow against the brightened sky. Quite spectacular half hour.  We spent the evening watching the huge road train lights glide along the very distant highway.  The area was dark and  other than the  glowing lights of human existence on those trucks , the stars were our only neighbours. The night was silent, but the morning bought unexpected rain. Up until now we had been able to neatly pack up our gear each day  which  was not the case today. We shoved everything in wherever we could, quickly folded down the camper and headed off to find some breakfast and much needed coffee.  No problem as we pulled up to get petrol a restaurant beckoned us. After a Big breakfast which would see us through to dinner, we were off to see the sites. The Flinders Ranges Red Cliffs lookout which is among the Desert National Park. in Port Augusta. On the drive into the car park we had to wait on the way for the little family of kangaroos having a meeting in the middle of the road. Not the first time we had encountered this common occurrence.  The area beckoned us to walk along the cliff edge to view the cliffs and the bridge over the river. The deep red of the cliffs are a contrast to the grey mangroves which lap at their feet, add to that the blue of the water and you are faced with  a picturesque scene. The desert gardens surrounding us  display many of the species the naturalist Robert Brown examined and collected from the area in 1802. These species were completely new to science at that  time.

On the road again and 150kms west brings us to Kimba. Driving into the town there are signs for the Silo Art , the Big Galah, and the sculptures. Petrol is needed so we headed to the Big Galah. Quickly noticing the silo, we stopped to photograph yet another typical country scene appropriate to the area. The silos are huge, and the information plaque informs us how much paint, how long it took and the name of the artist. They are always fascinating, and we, personally think they are a piece of beauty  decorating the harsh reality of the imposing cement of the silos. I must mention the dreaded march flies at this point. We have encountered them before and found they love our blood way too much. In our opinion they are a large silent destructive annoyance of the Australian outback. They land, bite and are gone and one is left with  swelling itchy painful lumps. We kept the bushman’s aerosol  handy after that. Next, we introduced ourselves to the very large Pink Galah  sitting  perched  in front of a roadhouse. After taking one of those photo’s  you just must take even though you know everyone has one the same.  Petrol problem solved we went in search of the advertised sculptures. Stretching  our legs, we walked  up to the lookout to find a life size  iron statue of John Eyre and an aboriginal  man by his side. Continuing this road, we headed to the Gawler Ranges national park.

We were aware this area was best travelled in a 4WD however information gained told us it was suitable in places for  less than that.  It was not too long before we hit the orange dirt of an unsealed road. Even though the camper and the car handled the corrugated rough road, it was a slow and careful drive.  100 km’s later we pulled into a our pre-booked camping spot. No person or vehicle in site, we were happy to see the place completely deserted. No Internet, no people, no traffic. The quietness experienced in these areas is quite addictive. After unpacking we took off on a 4 km round trip walk to a rocky granite  outcrop. Some interesting boulders at the end made it worth the effort. The following day we had a long drive around the Park to see what is known as the pipe organ. . On the drive we stopped at a homestead, built, and occupied in the 1800’s. Surprisingly we were able to enter inside. Photos and information posters were displayed giving us a history of the past families and a small window into the way they lived. The surrounding area was interesting and well preserved. The wind was blowing, and the rain was starting to dampen the red earth. The conditions that people lived in were rough enough but the harsh weather in these places would have been unforgiving. Moving on toward the main attraction, the pipe organ rock formation we were disappointed to discover we needed a 4WD to see them. The road was very uncertain. We had the choice of camping another night and trying the next day or moving on. The weather was a deterrent, so we decided to keep going to our next destination. The road out of the park was a lot rougher so we lowered the tyre pressure  which made it a lot easier. Luckily the rain diminished and  fortunately we spotted  a sign to the Pildappa rocks. This was something on our list to see but thought it was further afar. Quickly turning back, we followed the sign and were met with the massive  granite rock formations.

The rocks are an impressive sight being the highest and longest wave formation on the Eyre Peninsular. It is pink granite and dates 1500million years. There is some free camping around the area so rush to investigate the entire site. If visiting for the day you are able to  drive or walk the perimeter of the rock and in fact can climb to the top. When at the top you can see the countryside for many kilometres. Quite an amazing feeling and certainly not a difficult task. It was a little too windy for us to camp, so we headed back to the main highway very satisfied that we had not missed this natural phenomenon. Further down the road we came across another tourist sign to Tcharkuldu Rock. or boulders.  Not expecting to see much we were pleasantly surprised at this large array of boulders. Some sitting precariously looking ready to topple any moment. Another photographers  delight and something we had not expected to see. Now to find our next campsite.  Once again thanks to Wiki camps we secured a great spot in a town called Wirulla. It was Good Friday so the one shop and one hotel in the town. were closed. We had been looking forward to showers and getting some washing done but at first sign that was not going to be possible, as the shop was the place to pay and secure access to the facilities. We decided we would stay anyway and were lucky enough to be offered an access key by another camper who had arrived the day before. Washing was not possible as no coins available. but the much-craved shower was enjoyed immensely. The red earth which is a major part of this trip so far had started to grind its way into our skin and into everything else.The hot shower made up for the fact that our secret little camp was in fact quite quite noisy for sleeping as the highway trucks were persistant and closer than we thought.

Ceduna, the town at the beginning of the Nullarbor plains were around 140 kms where we stocked up, filled up with petrol and started on the unknown challenge of crossing the Nullarbor.  Surprisingly we stopped for petrol and ran into some friends heading the same way. Quite remarkable to actually be in the same petrol station after travelling so far.

As previously started this particular blog was started as we started our journey along this most anticipated road. The Nullarbor plains stretches in full approx. 1100kms. Many years ago, I think to drive it would have been quite dangerous and harrowing. People were afraid for us even today because of the difficulties of others in previous years. We had done quite a bit of research and believed it would not be as difficult as some thought. However the unknown is always a little fearful. . The land is desolate but the number of travellers are prolific.   Our first stop was Penong, home of the windmill museum.  An arrangement of windmills of all designs and sizes is such a quirky start to this leg of the journey.  Moving on the next time to stop is at The Head of the Bite” an obvious description of this lookout. There is a whaling station, visitor centre and a lookout, where in the right season, whales and dolphins can be seen. There is a fee of $8 pp. It is the first glimpse of the ocean and the fascination of seeing what is known as The Great Australian Bite. It would certainly have been worth the money had we seen whales, but it was.the wrong time of the year for us. The view is very nice though. Stopping for petrol at the Nullarbor roadhouse we hurriedly moved onto to what our  next free camp would be, on the edge of The Bunda Cliffs, a place  we had been. eagerly waiting to see. The view along the cliffs, the contrast of  the  blue ocean and the  wild white waves  striking  hard against the red, white, and grey cliffs leaves you with the  feeling of beauty. and danger simultaneously.  No safety fences, no structures inhibiting the view, just the jagged edge of the cliff face meeting the harsh plains of the Nullarbor. There were a few caravans already there. so, we found a spot a few metres back from the edge and opened the trailer.  The cliff extends for many kilometres so before the sun set, we went for a long walk up and down the cliff edge. Beautiful experience indeed. As time passed the light wind started to intensify a little and our cub camper canvas walls billowed in and out.  It is hard to move your mind away from the thoughts of the van being.lifted and sent over the edge. You know it is not going to happen, but the underlying  thoughts remained throughout the night.  We awoke early to a beautiful sunrise and an appreciation of having this.experience and the prospect of travelling further. A couple more side roads gave  us different views of the cliffs which were all breathtaking.  We then reached The Border Village the cross over between SA and WA.

So far there had been long stretches of driving with nothing but low lying scrub for many kilometres but there are many stops. along the way  for fuel, food, and places to stay. Certainly, better suited to caravan or campers as there are not only caravan parks but numerous spots for free camping

A  very large Kangaroo greets you as you drive into town. Other than that, there is a  petrol station and quarantine station. Being stripped of the few remaining veggies we had on board we were able to move on to  Eucla  to see the

Derelict sand covered postmasters’ residence. There was enough building left to be able to determine the overall size and function but what destroyed the e view was the human element of graffiti.  It never ceases to amaze me that people can be so  thoughtless and destructive. I cannot fathom what makes scratching your name in a wall satisfying. It is just demoralising to think there are people like that in the world.  Walking to the beach behind the hills of the residence you will see a fairly substantial  disused jetty built in 1890.  A photographic gem. Carrying on we see the famous 90mile sign indicating the longest straightest  stretch of road in Australia.  There is no

Arguing with that statement. The scenery does not change much, and the road can be seen so far ahead. It is quite surreal. More petrol and coffee stop until we eventually.

Get to Cocklebiddy.  A famous sign found at the roadhouse state some interesting facts. See photo below. 

Part 2 you will follow us from Norseman at the end of the Nullarbor Plains through to Exmouth WA.

I hope you are enjoying and contemplating doing similiar yourself. So far it has been a wonderful trip and our Cub Explorer has served us well. It is easy to tow, everyday it is getting easier to setup and then the pack up. We have our jobs sorted now.

Our Australian Travels Via Camper Trailer.

Our first venture in the Camper Trailer.

It is not my intention to write every event we will be having in the camper trailer. This was our first experience, so I think it was noteworthy.

The astronomy club we belong to have a property near Ilford NSW.  Its purpose is purely for astronomy but many of us enjoy the social side of meeting up with friends with a similar interest.  The property has all the facilities you want, showers, toilets, and a fully functional outdoor kitchen together with very spectacular wood fire. We took the easy way out to try the new trailer knowing we had complete backup on hand.

Arriving early evening on the Thursday it was cold and windy. We were not exactly prepared for it, understandably, it was the middle of January 2023. It had rained on and off on the drive up to the site, so we quickly got started on the setup. Opening the camper was easy and went smoothly. We then attacked the awning with a few teething problems. Before too long we had unloaded the car, made the bed and were ready to cook. We had a few visitors coming over to check up our setup, so it was late when dinner was finally started. Ken put on the steak, and potatoes, added some pre-chopped salad veggies, followed by some beer and wine and we were ready for our first nights sleep. The wind was certainly putting a chill in the air now. Lying in bed I was quite chilly and needed more clothing under the thin doona. I admit I tossed and turned a lot that night. It was not the best sleep and I worried this was going to be something I would not handle well. I am a person who likes her sleep and her comfort. The problem was solved the next day by using the very good sleeping bags we had stored in our old caravan on site. I can assure you I woke the next day feeling very relieved. That morning, we saw blue sky and sun during the day but were hampered by winds once again. Some bacon, eggs, tomato, and mushrooms together with  some hot coffee filled our bellies and helped to get the day started. We spent the day setting up our Joolca shower tent and toilet alcove not without having to refer to the instructions of course. It’s always simple once you figure it out. What made it a lengthy event was putting it in the wrong place and the leads and fixture would not fit. After realising this we swiftly moved it to the other end of the camper. Testing out the shower was fun and reassuring. We also set up the porta potti and of course tried that out also. All worked beautifully. the rest of the day we relaxed a bit playing on the Ipad and catching up with friends as they arrived for the weekend. That night Ken cooked up a chicken caciatore casserole, we drank some more wine with friends around the fire and headed to bed ready for a solid sleep. We were a lot warmer and slept more soundly that night. It was all a learning experience and a fun one at that.

Saturday, we went with cereal and coffee and prepared to head to Mudgee for a light lunch, a trip to Woollies and Bunnings before a sunny afternoon drive via the beautiful wineries and valleys surrounding us. That night we were feasting on beef curry casserole which was very scrumptious. Ken has become a bit of a master since we bought the Webber Baby Q. He has tried a good variety of recipes and this one stood up to the test.  A friend offered some Panettone cake and rocky road chocolate for a  pleasant finish. Another night with great conversation around the fire with a glass of wine. We retired to a comfortable bed and listened to the rain pattering on the roof overnight.

We were able to use lots of the accessories we had purchased and at this stage felt we had not wasted money, and all had worked efficiently. Although some warmer weather would have been welcomed, we were in fact able to try things out in less ideal conditions. Our last day, Sunday, was cold and wintery with cycles of rain and wind hampering activities. We had breakfast, an omelette and bacon, took our time over coffee, fair-welled a few people heading home and then idly sat appreciating the quietness of the day. After lunch we decided to watch a movie, which was quite a cosy experience in the camper. Overall, a leisurely day ending with Pizza for dinner.

We started our final morning with an easy breakfast of cereal and coffee. We figured we would pack up and then have our second cup of coffee an hour later. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I have to say nothing was hard to do but there was  a lot of stuff that had to get packed up and fitted back into the trailer and car the way it started. We all know that never works. How in the world does one get that large piece of floor matting back into that little plastic pouch, I will never know. After several different tries at folding, quite a bit of groaning on my part, the result was the casing ending up lying on top. We found ourselves making many trips walking back and forth with single items which needed to be packed in Bin 1 or Bin2. In future the rule will be to put things back where they came from at the time of use, another lesson learned.   

We had it done in 2 hours which is not that bad but also not good if you need to get on the road early. We learnt from the experience and now know we must do a little the night before and a little more planning in the future.

We headed back home via Wallace Lake so we could look at their free camping grounds for our next short stay. Stopping at the local take away for hamburgers and coffee. The park surrounds a glorious lake and has many shady trees to camp under. We were able to find an outdoor table and bench under a shady tree to enjoy our lunch and were pleasantly surprised at the beautiful peaceful surrounds.

There is a great park for the kids, a lot of open space for walking and exploring. We noticed lots of people fishing along the waters edge. Generally speaking a very pleasant are. Practically speaking we noted toilets and we think there were showers also. a dump site and rubbish bins to be able to offload.

We headed back home feeling the whole weekend was a relaxing learning experience and left us feeling confident with our next adventure.

I hope you enjoy this little insight into our world. I look forward to your comments. Do you have a camper trailer or caravan. What has been your favourite spot to camp. What is your tastiest camp meal. We are embarking on a trip to Western Australia in April this year 2023 for 6-8 weeks. Any comments and advise are welcome. Please give this a thumbs up before you leave.

South America Part 3-Peru

South America Part 3.-Peru

  • This is the third largest country in South America
  • Population nearly 27million.
  • Language-Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and various dialects of the Amazon Jungle
  • Three natural regions :- The coast, the highlands and the jungle.

Another flight and we find ourselves in Guayaquil airport where we are staying close by at the Holiday Inn.  An early flight the next morning took us to Lima, the capital of Peru. Founded by the great conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Our hotel was in Miraflores, 30mins drive from the airport. Most of the drive is along the ocean front. A beautiful introduction to one of the more affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It is a town known for its shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs and popular with the tourists. That afternoon we wandered from our hotel down to the Parque Del Amor, on the water’s edge. Checked out the shopping, the fantastic views over the water, beautiful parklands and watched a picturesque sunset. The next morning, we were up early for a tour of the city of Lima which proved very interesting. The first main attraction was the San Francisco Monastery. A glorious Barrroque building known for its boned-lined catacombs( containing an estimated 70,000 remains). A spectacular cupola or dome over the main staircase was carved in 1625 out of Nicaraguan Cedar.  After visiting the main square Plaza Mayor, Government Palace, and many more major sites of Lima we headed down to the Huaca Pucilano, the adobe pyramid that was ancient Lima’s ceremonial heart. This is a most fascinating place to see and with a very informative guide, we learnt the history of this massive  excavation site. A more detailed account can be found on the website http://huacapucllanamiraflores.pe/huaca-pucllana-hoy/   This site was amazing to walk through and to be able see the massive works being meticulously completed to their original status.

The afternoon was free time, so we tackled the huge local markets, wandered through Spanish style buildings and colourful streets, and then investigated a local art gallery. With tired feet we headed back to our hotel for a fine dining treat after which we fell into bed exhausted.  

The next morning, we are picked up for our flights to Cusco and then driven to our Sacred Valley of the Incas (8500feet elevation) accommodation. The river valley is very fertile with lush green slopes surrounded by mountains in the distance. Our hotel was very pretty  and as rest was recommended at this stage, to allow our body to adjust to the altitude, we had no problem taking it easy and enjoying some much-needed quiet time.

The following morning, we headed out with our guide to visit the people of Chinchero and visit the Inca’s Balcony. We were treated to a tour of the streets,  introduced to occupants in traditional dress and shown the ancestral way in which they process the wool and how they obtain the vivid colours used in their textiles. Chinchero is an ancient town and a wonderful place where you can still feel and see the Inca culture as it was in the past. The streets are tiny, the people are beautiful, and the way of life is simple. I was fascinated by the cute three wheeled vehicles known as Moto Taxi’s  Of course, there were markets to wander through, souvenirs to buy and many stairs to climb. A glorious ancient church to investigate and time to watch the various breeds of Lama’s grazing.

A light lunch and back on board our bus to visit Ollantaytambo, one of the most monumental architectural complexes of ancient Inca Empire. It is well known for the terraces dug into the slopes of the mountains. The terraces were used for agricultural purposes. The terraces are quite large and high. Unfortunately, I did struggle to reach the top as the altitude and the sheer height was a little too much. I ventured maybe 3/4 of the way and promptly sat myself down and waited for Ken to return. I feared, if I was struggling with this, would I make it to the top of Machu Pichu. I would soon find out. For now back to our hotel to pack for our trip to Machu Pichu the next day.

Inca Balcony’s
Inca Balcony”s
Moto Taxi’s
Streets of Chinchero
One of the many variety of Llama
Traditional Dying of Textiles

Ollantaytambo station is where we board the Vistadome train to take us to Aguas Calientas. The trip is about 1.5 hours in a carriage with panoramic windows to view valleys and mountains throughout the whole trip. Morning refreshments and a commentary keep you entertained. When reaching our destination we are shown to our hotel with a couple of hours to investigate our surrounds. At 12.30 we had to board our bus for Machu Pichhu. We lined up with many other travellers to board the bus for the half hour trip to the mountain top. We headed out of town and started up the mountain drive. The road was quite narrow with no guard rails. On one side, in many places it was a sheer drop to the valley floor, and on the other the looming face of the mountain was close. Taking the bends was a skill known only to our driver and passing other buses on their way down the mountain was a huge challenge. My knuckles were white from clenching the top of the seat in front the whole way. Finally reaching the top safely we alighted with the many other people waiting in line to buy tickets etc. On a booked tour we were lucky enough to get entry quickly.

We had seen the pictures, heard of its grandeur from others but until you are there, you cannot really appreciate its beauty. Machu Picchu is a very special place. It was misty when we arrived which added to its mystique. A guided tour helped us to understand the lives of the priests and their servants and craftsmen who inhabited this citadel. The mystery of the destruction of this settlement remains today as there was no written records kept. Some excavation has discovered skeletons, artefacts and some woollen clothing. Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel set high in the Andes Mountains. Above the Urubamba River valley one feels like they are above the world. Even though surrounded by crowds of people the isolation of the settlement could still be experienced. Built in the 15th century it is renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar. The stonework was intricate and precise. The intriguing structure of buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. It is not a place you can describe fully. Photo’s do not do it justice. There is a feeling experienced here that is unique.The scenery is stunning even in misty rain. The trip to get to this place is massive and the intrigue of how anyone ever lived here is mind blowing. We wandered the many tiers and walked the many levels. Our bodies were exhausted and our minds full of wonderment. Another hairy drive back down the mountain, a wander through the streets ending with dinner. Collapsed into our bed that night we slept well satisfied with what we had experienced. The next day started with blue sky and sunshine. Our tickets allowed us a further visit the next morning so Ken chose to head back up the mountain for more photographing. I decided to investigate the town a little more so headed out to discover some history, beautiful architecture, massive markets and the school and shops which the locals call home. I must say they are a very hardworking community with the town being built on the side of the mountain. All deliveries of building materials including bricks for housing, food, supplies of all types are delivered up and down the mountain on hand drawn trolleys and carts. I struggled pulling myself up. Their tenacity is remarkable. The next day we headed back to the station for our very entertaining train trip back enjoying a fashion show of authentic alpaca apparel. Most interesting experience. Overall this last few days were an incredible and unforgettable journey.

I hoped you enjoyed this post. The next leg of our trip part 4 is Cusco, Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Argentina. The final chapter – part 5 will cover Atacama Desert and a visit to Easter Island.

Please feel free to comment if you wish. If you have been to these places I hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.

New Adventures in Australia-2023

With covid monopolising the last 2 years we have decided to do what many others have. Discover Australia rather than travel abroad..

As you would have read in my previous travel blogs there is usually an eclipse happening at some time during our travels.Our next big trip will be no different. Exmouth in Western Australia will experience a Hybrid Solar Eclipse on the 20th April 2023. A good excuse for us to discover the beauties of the western coast of Australia.

Our first discussion were how would do this, Car, Boat, Airplane or Train or a combination. All options were available but we knew in 6 months time the options would reduce as places book out. It is expected that thousands will make their way to this tiny peninsular to see the spectacle that is an eclipse. Add to that a picturesque place and the school holidays and you have an accommodation problem.

As we want to see as much of Australia as we can, our decision was to drive ourselves. Now, do we use our car, hire a car or a motorhome. Weighing up the costs for each method the answer became clear to us. We decided to purchase a camper trailer with the idea of being able to sell it when we had enough of driving ourselves around.

We have had one before, ie 30 years ago when we were much younger, fitter and more adventurous. I believe my hesitation was valid. We started to look at what was available which promptly eliminated the possibility of my wish for pure luxury. The caravans and motorhomes were way outside our budget which is why we settled on a camper trailer. These are definitely more comfortable than they were in the 90′”s. We opted for an Australian built Cub Explorer. For one it was towable by our existing car and even though a little more expensive than we expected was doable if we were careful.

As noted previously many people had the same idea so our wait period was just under 6 mths. We picked up the van early December 2022 with much delight. We can only speak for Cub but the handover procedure is intensive. Over 3 hours of instruction and advice. We wondered why on earth it would take that long but it did. There are a multitude of little things one needs to be clear on. You do receive a manual also but the actual instruction is absolutely necessary. After the very exhausting 3.5 hours with a quick lunch break the instructor helped us hook up the trailer and checked the lights which to our dismay were not functioning correctly.

Not a great start and a way to add some apprehension to the whole idea of roaming around the countryside on our own. To the rescue, Cub were straight onto it and immediately sent us across the road to the factory to check it out. Once there the staff jumped into action and told us to go for a coffee and relax while they find the problem.

After a half hour or so we received the call to go back and pick it up. All fixed with much apologies and guarantees that everything would be perfect going forward. A huge sigh of relief and we were on our way home, towing our 2nd home behind us. We are home and are happy as it fits into the garage perfectly, allowing enough room for the car and comfortable movement about the garage.

The following day, the first challenge is to open the camper as per the instructions. Season the canvas and then close the camper as per instruction. Opening it is easy and trouble free, maybe 10 mins maximum. Once inside we were elated and our minds started visioning us set up outside the camper, sitting back in our chairs with a wine in hand while watching a sunset or snuggling in our bed listening to the rain on the roof. That daydream was pushed aside quickly as we attempted to close the camper.

Out come the instructions and away we go. All went well for 5 minutes. There is a detachable deluxe awning with the model we purchased and it is recommended this is left on the camper when closing it up. The instruction sounds easy and we watched the instructor do it all by himself when we were at the factory. We gave it our best shot once, then again and again but to no avail. There appears too much awning to be able to close the trailer down without force. On top of that the canvas walls were looking very crooked and strained in places. After many sighs and murmurs of frustration we decided it needed to be reset. Again instructions are fairly clear so we reset the canvas, but still not sure and still with difficulty we eventually got the trailer closed and decided to try again in a few days. Xmas was looming and celebrations waiting to be to organised.

We waited a few days and tried again with the idea of being prepared to go somewhere for a few days over the xmas new year break. Again it opened without problem but appeared completely out of shape again. We, rewatched the videos regarding the resetting and also the close up procedure. We tried again but unfortunately it was quite a hot day and we were a little short on energy. I was beginning to think we had made the wrong decision and my spirits were a little deflated. We managed to get some things packed into it, getting an idea of the weight and eventually got it closed again. All was not easy sailing. Our next try now would be after Xmas day instead of going away we would work on it again.

Once we were refreshed after the xmas frivolities we started from scratch again, reset the canvas again and in doing so realised our error as we went. Finally we were able to get it right and achieve the process fairly quickly. Practise makes a difference and my thoughts were heading in a more positive direction.

Now for the fun part we need to pack it and weigh it. This was going to be a challenge.We knew we would have to be careful with the tow ball weight. A spreadsheet had been started. Over the previous 6 months we followed a few travellers on YouTube, watched many videos and listened to much advice from existing cub owners. The message was clear although conflicting. You will always pack more than you need and always be prepared for something going wrong. Needless to say the spreadsheet set-up changed several times with bins and crates, food and tools all being tried here and there many times until we came up with something that worked physically. The weighing finally happened only to highlight we were overweight. A couple of quick shopping trips to get things right, divorce close on our heels we repacked, eliminated and we redid it all again until we got it right. Finally we were seeing the light. Patience and tenacity were ruling the way.

It was the eve of the new year and our street party was about to happen so the camper trailer was put to bed until 2023 I am hoping my next blog will be about our first venture out in our new home.

Please like and share and comment if you have experiences similar. Hopefully I will have more to report soo

South America 2019 -Part Two-Galapagos Island

Part Two – The Galapagos Islands – UNESCO Heritage Site

  • Situated in the Pacific Ocean – 1000km from the Ecuadorian coast of South America,
  • Approx. 30,000 people live on the islands which make up the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
  • In 1959, approx. 97% of the emerged surface was declared a National Park.

Leaving Quito, we fly to Seymour Ecological Airport, where all travellers pass through an inspection point to ensure no foreign plants or animal matter are introduced to the island.  A guide was to meet us and drive us to the harbour.  When we arrived, we had to wait for our bags to be inspected and headed outside the terminal. There was a multitude of buses waiting and guides hustling everyone aboard.  We met up with a couple of guys from London whom we found out were going on the same catamaran we were on. We had our tickets and headed for the bus that looked like ours. He took our tickets and hoarded us on the bus. We took off on a bumpy, lengthy drive to the water’s edge. They then hurried us all onto a ferry, hurtling all our bags onto the roof. This all looked a bit dodgy, but everyone seemed to be going with the flow. The ferry boat was very crowded, and it stopped when we were about halfway across the waterway.

Someone passed by everyone asking for a couple of dollars to keep going. It was at this point that we were getting a little worried. We had no cash, so our newly acquainted friends kindly paid for us. The boat continued and pulled up at a jetty, where everyone alighted. No signs and no instruction came our way. Most of the travellers headed off to a bus waiting nearby. We were sure this was not where we should be. Everyone up untill now spoke no English, but we approached a female guide who indicated we were in the wrong place. She would fix it for us and told us to wait on the dock and not go with anyone else.  So, we waited, and we waited. We could not get any reception on our phones, so after discussing together, we approached what looked like a security person mingling with a few suspicious-looking gentlemen around a simple timber structure. He spoke very little English but said he would try to call someone. I am not sure how long we waited, but eventually, a second ferry arrived and shuttled us on board. Again, halfway across, they stopped to collect more money. I am guessing they would toss us in the water if we did not pay.  Arriving at the dock again, they indicated a bus would take us back to the airport. The only problem was we had no ticket for the bus to return, so we had to pay again.  At long last, we unloaded back at the airport and were approached by a guy holding a sign with the name of our catamaran on it. He had been waiting there the whole time.  We breathed a heavyy sigh of relief and eagerly jumped onto the correct bus this time.

A short bus drive to the waters’ edge, and we could see our catamaran “The Archipell” safely anchored, waiting for us to board. We were happily greeted by the other guests (two other couples) who had been patiently waiting for the lost party to arrive. The boat was extremely comfortable and beautifully outfitted, and a friendly and experienced crew was looking after us.  That afternoon we settled into our room, chatted with the other guests, and waited for the chef to prepare our dinner. The weather was superb, and the ocean was serene.  A few drinks, an excellent meal and a few more drinks before we settled down to a peaceful sleep to the rhythm of the sea lapping on the sides of the hull.

While we were sound asleep, the crew were in full force travelling and preparing for our first destination.  After a great breakfast, we were allocated our respective inflatable dinghy and started on our journey along the eastern arm of the caldera of Genovesa Island, shouldering the massive 80ft high walls. Landing on a natural platform of rock, we are led up the  Prince Phillip Steps, a steep climb to reach the plateau of the crater. We could see and hear the birds overhead, but nothing prepared us for the experience of standing on the surface of  natural and unspoilt land.

The birds and animals that inhabit were in abundance. I had been hoping to get just a glimpse of something rare but ended up overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds we could see in a matter of minutes. Our first sightings were that of the silky black feathers of the male Frigate bird contrasted by his vibrant red pouch. The sheer size of these birds soaring through the air is magnificent. Then, sitting and watching the intricate antics the male and female exhibit while mating is quite captivating.  Cameras clicked feverishly, thinking this may be our only opportunity. We crept behind the guard, ensuring we stayed on the crude track to avoid disturbing anything. Amazingly we came across a pair of blue-footed Boobies courting each other on the trail. Their ritual is unique; the male lifting his blue webbed feet up and down, waiting for a response, arching, and spreading their wings high over the back, they dance for the female’s attention. They are oblivious of the mere humans standing nearby, this is their turf, and they are not to be disturbed.

We were mesmerised and could have stood there for hours. With more to see, we moved on. Glancing to my right, I saw what looked like a colourful statue of an Iguana. It was within a few feet, maybe two feet long, with a sizeable scaley body. The colour was multiple browns, gold, and yellow. No scurrying away as we stooped to photograph; he just stood, looked at us, and waited for us to move on. This was his land, and we were passing through. Everywhere we looked, there was something to catch your eye. More  Nazca Boobies, red, blue, and grey footed, some mating, and many were resting and watching. We came across more Frigates, iguanas and lizards and then, as the area opened a little more, we saw the Cormorants, little Finches, and a few colourful insects. A rough sandy beach stretched between the scrub and the rocks, with the sea spray from the ocean heralding the rocky surface. To our surprise, there was a small colony of fur Seals idling away the day, lazing in the sun and playing in the ocean. More birds, too many to name flew overhead as we started our return journey.

Heading back to the steps to our waiting dinghy was full of thoughts of what we had been privileged to see. The crew were ready and waiting. A light lunch was devoured, and the prospect of seeing all the wonders of the sea below was ahead. Our boat was heading to Darwin Bay. First, the adventurous would be kayaking in the calm and pristine waters surrounding us. I forego this exercise as I did not think I could manage to get in and out of the kayaks. Ken braved it, and with the guides close behind, they all took off briskly, gliding through the water with ease. We waited and watched as they faded from sight. Eventually, returning at what I felt was a much slower pace. Watching their manoeuvre as they pulled closer to the boat, we saw some exhausted and sore bodies. The next challenge, at least for me, was to try my hand at snorkelling. I have never done this before, but I was determined to give it a go. Once again, the guides were so patient and helpful that it was no time before I had it mastered and was transcended to another place. It is stunning to observe a whole world where there appears to be no sense of time passing.  My only regret, there were no photos to be able to show the absolute beauty and intrigue of what is just beneath the surface. We all returned to the boat to settle down with a glass of wine, a beautiful sunset, a nourishing three-course meal and a well-earned sleep—what a way to finish our day.  If we had to go home right then, we would have been happy, but this was day one with two more full days to come.

Day two – A Day to learn and explore

Bartolome Island, named after Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, a friend of Charles Darwin, is one of the archipelago’s most visited islands. We landed across a small bay opposite what is known as Pinnacle Rock, a small volcanic cone. Ahead is a 600-metre trail to the summit, some 114 metres up a wooden staircase. Looking up is pretty daunting; however, as you move up the stairway, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you are given a running commentary of the plant life, the lizards, and geological wonders along the way. It helps keep you preoccupied and a little more capable of moving onward and upward. I am grateful there was no pressure to hurry and much encouragement to keep going. Reaching the summit is worth the effort. The feeling of accomplishment is substantial, and the view is phenomenal. Looking back down to a panorama of the entire archipelago is a site to behold. The isolation, untouched beauty and the bright blue the ocean gently lapping the rugged volcanic rock is very easy on the eyes.  The walk back down was a lot easier but still lengthy, so we were all ready for some refreshments. We returned to the catamaran for another array of delicious snacks and beverages.

 Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island was our next stop. It is the youngest of the islands. Geologically it is a volcano islet born out of fire. When stepping on what appears to be a lifeless stretch of rock, one imagines stepping onto the surface of the moon. It looks barren and eerie. The lava flow formations are varied and can look like twisted ropes or giant seashells with swirls on their back. There were broken rocks that resembled petrified wood with circular rings covering the surface. Walking on the surface is safe but tricky as we noticed where the rocks were severed like in an earthquake, and one could see a range of colours deep in the crevices.  There are huge hidden holes, and jagged areas butting up against smooth flowing waterfalls of rock.  We were wrong in thinking it was a lifeless area as it was alive with various plant life and cactus peering out from among the shiny lava. An occasional lizard would scurry past. We came across a beautiful piece of white driftwood sitting on the black rock, a photographer’s paradise.

 We then headed to the beach area for a refreshing swim and a wander along the shore. If you are lucky, you will see the Galapagos giant tortoise heading out from the ocean to their hiding place in the shrubs. Unfortunately, we missed them, but we did see the tracks in the sand on their morning escape to the water’s edge. We also saw a couple of cute lava lizards sun-baking on the rocks. We watched a mother-and-child penguin playing in the water close to the shore.  For the next hour, we passed the time by photographing various crabs, frolicking, fighting, building, and resting all over the sand and rocks. Stunning to watch the varying colours of bright reds, vivid orange and mixed burgundy and purple running quickly in and out of the rocks. They range in size from thumbnails to ones larger than the width of your hand. It is captivating to watch the complex behaviour of each one. 

That afternoon we stayed on the boat and mingled with the other seven couples. Four of us were leaving the next day, so a slap-up dinner was being prepared for us all. While relaxing on the deck with a much-needed beer, we watched overhead as several  Albatross showed us the way, dipping and swerving perfectly with the boat’s movements.

On our last morning, the boat took us to Isla Santa Cruz. We sadly said our goodbyes to those lucky enough to stay longer and headed for our tour bus, which would take us to The Van Straelen Exhibition Centre. Here we visited the breeding and rearing centre for young and adult Galapagos giant tortoises in captivity. The centre provides opportunities to observe 11 subspecies of tortoises up close. In the rearing centre, hatchlings are nurtured and, when possible, released, around four years old,  back onto their home islands. Those that cannot be released will find their home at the centre with the adult tortoises. We were able to visit Lonesome George, estimated at 100 to 150 years old.  Our time here was over, and the bus took us back to the dinghy, where we made our last boat trip back to the Seymour Ecological Airport. Our luggage had been sent ahead, and our guides once again looked after our transfers, tickets, and flights.  We had nothing to do but marvel over the last four days.  I would love to say this was the highlight of our trip, but I would be mistaken as we still had so much more to see. What I will say is go if you can. There are several ways to stay and see the Galapagos Islands, and I can safely say whichever you choose would be worth it. It is an extraordinary experience.

I hope you have enjoyed our trip so far. Next we visit Peru-Lima, The Incas and Machu Picchu

Feel free to comment and be sure to follow if you would like to see more.

South America 2019

Late in 2018, my husband turned 70 and we reached our 50th wedding anniversary. We treated ourselves to this trip to celebrate in style. I personally cannot speak highly enough about the whole experience. From day one we were amazed at the culture, the beautiful people and the spectacular scenery in every country we visited. As this was a non-English speaking continent, we decided to go with a tour company. After a few inquiries we settled with South American Tours www.southamericantours.com.au  They work with Condor Travel in South America. I would highly recommend this tour company. Our liaison with them was all via email, they were extremely helpful, versatile and obliging while planning the trip. They were also honest with the advice they gave. Once arriving in SA we found each individual guide was friendly, informative, always on time and immaculately presented throughout the entire trip. We really could not fault them.

Part One Santiago-Valparaiso-Quito

  • Flight Sydney to Santiago Chile is approx. 14 hours no stops, crossing the international date line.
  • Santiago is  the capital of Chile. The official language is Spanish, and the currency is Peso.
  • Avge width of Chile is 120miles, length is 3230miles. Population is 15,400,000-36% live in Santiago.
  • Highlights- Experiencing a new culture, The variety of architecture, the uniqueness of  Galapagos.

We arrived at Santiago airport tired but excited and a little wary. We had been given some tips on the potential dangers of arriving in a foreign country.

There are several exit gates, so we followed the crowd which turned out to be a mistake. This was where the dodgy taxi drivers hounded the passengers for a quick dollar. We anxiously scoured the crowds looking for a tour guide holding up our name. Unfortunately, this took a while and a few tense moments. Once we returned at the correct exit, we saw our guide and were immediately relieved. We were whisked away to a comfortable vehicle and an easy, although busy drive to our hotel. We were then left to our own devices for the afternoon/evening to discover a little of the area where we were staying.  We quickly settled in and took off to pound the pavements. Such a vast difference to what we were used to. It was a busy town, with many churches, alley ways, old buildings crowded into every available space.Horns honking frequently and the driving was at the least erratic. We noticed electrical cables dangling outside apartment windows with no apparent destination. Windows with broken shutters, some with curtains flapping in the hot air and washing dangling from the ledges. Following our crude map we eventually came across the massive, large city square. The meeting and resting place of all the city dwellers.There was a long corridor of eating places on the side and a massive area to congregate. We were led to believe, after lunch it was common for the workers to siesta on the benches in the square. Hence what we thought may have been the homeless were just those surviving the normal work day. We could understand this as pounding the pavements in the heat of the day is quite draining. After wandering for a few hours, we headed back to our hotel for some much-needed food and rest. The following day a walking and driving tour of the city was booked in, showing us the different aspects of the new and the old, the rich and the poor. Up to San Cristóbal Hill for a panoramic view of the city and its vast array of old and modern architecture. A very informative tour with plenty of time left in the day to explore the many parks and museums of Santiago. That evening we found an area nearby made up of tiny alleys and small streets housing a multitude of cafés from which to choose . Finally selecting one, we scoured the menu to find a few words that we could recognise sufficiently to be able to order a meal. So far, we were doing ok as far as choosing our food and drink. It was early days though and our knowledge was very limited.   

The next morning, I awoke feeling little unwell. Was it the sip of water I had or that apple I pilfered from the foyer, I am not sure, but my stomach was feeling a little queasy. However, our car was ready and waiting and so we departed on time for Val Paraiso. Unfortunately, I remember little about the drive as I was very desperately trying to prevent the unleashing of my breakfast all over this very clean car. Thankfully I was able to hold off until we reached our destination. A quick visit to the restroom seemed to help. The residence, namely La Sebastiana, was the home of the Nobel prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. This unique three story building set high on the hill was worth the visit. The stories and artefacts displayed, portrayed a very quaint and artistic personality. Afterward a drive through the colourful labyrinth of hills, which make up Val Paraiso was special and entertaining. It is a university town full of creative people, displaying their art on many of the buildings. We were then left to meander down the hillside and to experience the uniqueness of the funicular railways (two counterbalanced carriages permanently attached to opposite ends of a haulage cable). We then travelled with our tour guide to Vina del Mar, Chile’s fashionable beach resort for lunch and a walk around the town. Our last afternoon and night finished with another great meal sitting on the sidewalk with some wine and street entertainment. An early night due to an early flight the next morning.

Quito is the capital of Ecuador which has a total population of approx 14mill. Language spoken is Spanish and Kichwa.

  • Quito is the capital of Ecuador which has a total population of approx 14mill.
  • Language spoken is Spanish and Kichwa. English is widely spoken
  • Main cities are Quito, Quayaquil and Cuenca. Currency is USDollars.

Quito is a city where modern architecture meets the beauty and the strength of colonial buildings. On first arriving it appears a little old and poor but when you look more carefully the creativity can be seen everywhere. After settling into our hotel, we took a walk around the nearby streets and parks. Quite modern and everything you may want is available. We went to the large impressive museum, there was a couple of very interesting exhibitions and the grounds are quite beautiful. We then wandered through the expansive central park looking at the artworks and the street performers all within a few city blocks of our hotel.

The following day we were guided by car and foot to the older side of Quito, visiting the well preserved colonial centre. We first stopped at the Virgin of the Panecillo, because whether religious or not it is something to behold. The view from the top shows the whole of Quito and beyond. Moving onto the tourist hotspot you are greeted with magnificently well preserved, grand buildings of intricate 16th century architecture. The Plaza de San Francisco is a huge area for the people to relax and mingle surrounded by churches and and many highly distinguished buildings. It has a party atmosphere and a great place to rest your tired limbs. Further on, a highlight was the “Church of the Society of Jesus” the interior richly decorated with gold ornamentation. It is overwhelming and one feels quite humble in its grandeur. Walking up and down the streets and alleys we saw some beautiful quaint little streets, dotted with flower pots and colourful flags. Continuing on, we came across plenty of cafes, boutique shops, more churches and the occasional park. Many hills later, we arrived back at our hotel pretty exhausted.

More walking the next day to see the “Basilica del Voto Nacional” the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas, building began in 1892. A magnificent church with Gargoyles and spirals reaching to the heavens. Ken tells me the view from high in one of the spirals, reached via a dodgy looking bridge of scaffolding, and a steep ladder to the top, was worth the effort.

There is so much more to see and do in Ecuador. If time permits it would be good to stay for longer than a couple of days. That afternoon we organised our washing and packing, as we were off to Galapagos Island tomorrow. This very special place deserves a blog of its own so watch this space for Part 2.

Ballarat/The Grampians/Mungo National Park

Ballarat to Mungo National Park 30th March to 6th April 2022

In April 2018 Ken was attending the NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) held bi-annually over Easter. That particular year it was held at Ballarat, NSW from 30th March to 2nd April. I decided to join him, and we extended our trip to encompass The Grampians in Victoria and Mungo National Park in NSW.

We had not been to Ballarat for quite some time. We arrived at the Mecure Hotel at Ballarat the day before the start of the conference. We first went for a drive to a local area called Lal Lal Falls. This town originated in 1885 as a sheep station. It is only 20 mins out of Ballarat with a tiny population of under 500. The waterfall was not flowing but there were a couple of very easy walks close by. It is a very pretty countryside with an abundance of kangaroos leaping through the trees. The conference is a series of talks on varying astronomical subjects and a visit to the local Ballarat Astronomical Society’s clubhouse to meet up with the local astronomers and view their facilities. We met some friendly, interesting people and enjoyed a  light dinner before wandering back to the hotel with an early start the next morning.

We visited the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, one of Australia’s most significant cool climate gardens. The grounds are beautifully kept with many features such as a conservatorium and a hothouse together with many statues including the avenue of prime ministers. Lunch in their café and then off to walk the six kilometres around Lake Wendouree. The lake is an artificial man-made shallow lake opposite the gardens. It has a paved walking track completely around the perimeter which can be taken at your own speed. It is long but easy with many different views to be taken in. The ducks and swans, birds and artifacts surrounding the water are very pleasing. A very relaxing day overall.

The Great Ocean Road is the next leg of the trip. From Torquay to Allansford. The road is over 100 years old and is 243 km of ocean views. We have been on this road many years prior, in fact, I think there may have been 12 apostles the last time we were there (some had collapsed in the intervening years). This time however a lot less. The road is easy, the views are fantastic and it with now improved facilities, tourists are well catered for. This is a good thing for the country but obviously more people and more traffic frequent the area.  We still loved it and highly recommend it. Whether it is sunny, cloudy, or rainy the beauty of the coastline is not diminished. There are many things besides the ocean to see, lighthouses, artifacts, walking tracks and activities are plentiful. On this trip, we were not stopping off too much as we had more to see.

After visiting the highlights along the road, we turned off and head to The Grampians National Park. This park spans an area of 413 thousand acres. It is a series of low angled sandstone ridges. The area has bushwalking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, camping, animals, pubs, café, lookouts and much more. It is peaceful, spacious, and the animals are friendly and plentiful. We were there for the great walks and lookouts. Hopefully, the photos below give you an idea of its beauty and its accessibility.

We spent a couple of beautiful days here and then headed on our way to Mildura and the start of our short stay in Mungo National Park around 115 km from the town centre.

There is approx. 80 km of dirt road into the park and then a further 80 km out the other side to exit.  We had arranged to stay at the lodge in Mungo for two nights. The worry with this entry is that if the road is not accessible then you are stuck at the lodge. It is a bit of a concern but everything we had read indicated it was worth the effort. Go to mungolodge.com.au for information on accommodation and tours. According to Wikipedia, the park is part of the Unesco World Heritage-listed Willandra lakes region. It covers an area of 274,210 acres. The main feature of the park is Lake Mungo, the second largest of the ancient dry lakes. The Park is noted for the archaeological remains discovered in the park.

We grabbed a takeaway coffee and drove out of Mildura with some trepidation about the quality of the road we were about to endure. The long and wide dusty road stretches in front of you with the typical low lying Australian bush lining the sides of the road. Looking ahead the vast blue skies, green foliage, and deep orange of the road project a stunning view into the wilderness. The road was deserted, we passed the odd vehicle heading back to town. About an hour and a half into the drive we come across the Mungo Lodge. What a pleasant sight. The lodge area and the cabins are laid out in a large circle dotted with shady green trees. The lodge itself is clean, bright, and welcoming. Once registered we headed to our cabin. It was just perfect, large, clean, and very comfortable. A beautiful breeze flows from front to back and a quaint veranda out front and a small porch out the back. All the comforts for a relaxing couple of days. We had booked tours so unpacked and headed over to the lodge for more details. The owners and the staff are super friendly and helpful, and we find ourselves on the Walls of China Sunset Tour.

A small group of people, an excellent guide and a perfect night resulted in a very awe-inspiring evening followed by dinner and drinks. I am hoping the photos say enough as words do little to describe the beauty of the area. The changing colours of the landscape minute by minute were awesome to see. 

The following day after a quiet relaxing evening was very interesting. We did a small drive and a walk to the surrounding area. The landscape is lunar-like, featuring dried up lake beds and sand dunes for miles. Scrub and berries, small trees, and desolate areas where you think nothing could live. Keeping our eyes alert, we found a small kangaroo and her baby, lizards, and other crawling beings. 

After morning tea another organised tour began. The Mungo Woolshed and Visitors centre, the Zanci Station Homestead. Once again, our guide was very knowledgeable, easy to listen to and had many stories to tell. The land is harsh and from the stories told, the people that lived on it were warm, resourceful, and very resilient. We were told The Mungo Lady story, of bones that were discovered in 1968 by a geologist named Jim Bowler. They are said to be about 40,000 years old and show clear signs of intentional cremation and a ritual burial. A further search in 1974 disclosed the bones of a man, buried on his back with hands crossed in his lap and red ochre sprinkled on his body. The details of this ritual showed signs of an advanced culture.

To finish the day a walk around the grounds of the lodge had some interesting moments. Emus, birdlife, lizards, and kangaroos. Dinner and some wine under the stars saw us heading to bed, happy and content with our visit.

An early breakfast before packing and heading the opposite way out of Mungo along another dirt road toward Balranald approx. 2 hrs away.  From here we headed to Orange to meet up with some friends for dinner and an overnight stay. 

That ends our extended trip and we head home to normality once again. I encourage you all to travel around this beautiful country of ours. There is so much to see. I look forward to reading your comments below. Have you been to any of these places and what did you like or dislike about them?

Thank you for reading.

Crackenback Snowy Mountains NSW

Today we started on our way to experience the snowy mountains in summer.  Ken bought me a short stay of four nights in Crackenback Resort for Xmas. It has been raining continuously here at home so we have made sure we packed some wet weather gear and lots to do if we have to stay indoors. The drive which is around 5-6 hrs depending on stops can be mostly highway or like us you can go via Mulgoa road, through Narellan and then onto the main highway toward Canberra. This way you see a few smaller towns and the major development happening at Badgery Creek airport. Highways of course are quicker but can be boring. We were lucky as the sun shone the whole way. Actually the most sun we have seen in quite some time. We stopped off to photograph Lake George because there was water. A rare event I do not remember seeing in my lifetime. It is interesting to see the fence posts poking out just a couple of inches from the waterline. Certainly changes the outlook from the road.  A quick lunch and grocery pickup and we were on our way again. We arrived at the resort and of course as we alighted to take a couple of photos within the grounds of the resort, the rain saw us coming and graced us with its presence once again. Just lightly, but enough to make us scurry back to the car. Driving on a little way we looked for our accommodation nestled at the foothills of the mountain in walking distance to Lake Crackenback. After spending 15 minutes trying to find the key we eventually located the front door. The place was small but perfectly clean, modern, and with every amenity on board. We unpacked and tried to venture down to the lake when the rain decided to visit once again. Back indoors, a glass of wine and some dinner as we watched the clouds and mist settle around the lower part of the mountains making a stunning backdrop. The rain cleared and the cool crisp air was very pleasant. We encountered some very large Pied Currawong’s, a couple of Kangaroos including a Joey and some beautiful Fallow Dear wandering the base of the hills just behind the unit. Movie and an early night are on the agenda before a big day tomorrow. 

Day 2- Roughly 28 years ago we took our six-year-old daughter to the Snowy Mountains and proudly completed the walk to the summit of Mt Kosciusko. What possessed us today to it again I will never know. What we knew but did not realise would add to our kilometres travelled by foot, was that the mountain bike festival/racing was being held in Thredbo and every parking place was taken quite early in the day. Never mind we opted for a car park quite some distance from the chairlift. No shuttles running, not a worry when you are starting out the day. We walked a good kilometre to the chairlift and bought our tickets. Jumped on the open chairlift and away we went. Straight up for 15 minutes with views everywhere. The rain decided to stay at home today so we were afforded some lovely sights. Once alighting from the lift we prepared ourselves for the walk, telling ourselves we can turn around at any time. The first kilometre and a half are pretty steep, so very taxing at the beginning. Having done it before we were able to stay motivated as we remembered the walkway levelled out further afar. Well, we found out that was not exactly the correct recollection. We heard a guide say to another senior couple, “Congratulations, the hard part is done. It is quite undulating and not so difficult for the next few kilometres.” Spoken like a true hiker, who only recognises hard. We continued and my feet started to burn a little. Undulating yes but there is still a lot of uphills to contend with, and did we mention the wind? The boardwalk makes it a little easier but when you look ahead and see nothing but mountains and a small red boardwalk winding around, up and down and seemingly into the unknown, it is very daunting. The positive is, on the entire walk you are surrounded by mountainous hillsides, varying wild flowers in many colours, boulders of every shape and size and babbling brooks meandering under bridges and throughout the hills. You pass by the highest lake in Australia before you reach the highest point in Australia. When the sun shines at the right angle the blue of the water in the lake sparkles against the few patches of white snow spotted here and there. Eventually after a lot, and I mean a lot of self-talk, pauses and groans you will reach Rawsons Point. You would have covered many steps, with pretty strong winds and the sun beating on your forehead. Here a longer rest was needed mainly to psych oneself into continuing on. The sign says 45 mins to the peak( 1.5 kilometres) That sounds easy but is it? The quick answer, not when you are 70 plus. It is an uneven gravel road winding up and around many bends and as you approach each one you are convinced the top is around the next turn only to be confronted with another stretch of gravel. My feet burned, my chest was tight, my legs were objecting severely but my head kept saying you cannot turn back now. I gave in and listened to my head and now I am very glad I did. There is a massive sense of achievement when you round the bend for the last time and see the cairn, which marks the peak, staring back at you. You did it, you beat the challenge and all that was left was to sit and ponder and enjoy the crisp air that is the summit. The hard part is done or so I thought. We took a little time and ate our sandwich, some chocolate and rehydrated. We relaxed for a bit and took the token photo of ourselves standing next to the cairn. Admittedly the views from the top are certainly not stunning if you choose to compare them with other spectacular mountains of the world, however, the vastness of what is The Snowy Mountains, the history of Strzelecki’s work followed by many other explorers braving the elements and the personal achievement of getting there is without argument very rewarding. You can see it and hear it emitting from those who are there waiting their turn to take that one photo. The picture captures each persons face of self-satisfaction.

The last Chairlift down leaves at 4.30pm meaning, if you miss it a further 550 metres of walking almost vertically downhill would be required to get down the mountain. With this in mind, we started our return journey down the mountain thinking to ourselves that it should be a breeze, as it was mainly downhill with a few ups and downs in the middle. I am laughing to myself as I write this. When one uses muscles that have been dormant for some time, forcing them to walk uphill for a lengthy period of time, I believe they must be supported by many parts of the body supported by the mind motivation that helps you along. When you reverse that process and try to use another set of muscles to go down you will discover the result is quite a painful reaction. The kilometre back to Rawson’s pass is straight down on that same gravel road. My sock on one foot was creating friction on my little toe, my hip and thigh muscles complaining immensely and my body tensing from keeping oneself from giving in and slipping the whole way down. This turned out to be quite a frightening and challenging experience. Ken was not much better with his hips objecting loudly. All we could think of was how in hell were we going to get back the 6.5 kilometres to the chairlift and do it by 4.30. What we thought was going to be quick was now looming as impossible. Finally, we reached the last bend where the Rawsons’ pass could be seen.  Our first sigh of relief. The adjacent toilet block allowed a short stay, repositioning of my shoes and socks and a welcome easing of the tension and pain. The muscles were feeling manageable so we decided if we could just keep a steady pace the rest of the way we should be ok. Time was ticking so off we went, we were overtaken by many which were pretty disheartening but we soldiered on. There was still a lot of downhill sections of course which were gruelling but the many flatter sections allow the body to recoup each time. At last, we saw the workmen who were relaying some of the boardwalk. We knew once we got up this hill we only had 1.5 kilometres to go. Checking the watch we also knew we were under pressure. That little hill climb was very taxing and took up valuable time. We reached the top and saw the next downhill section and not far into that section we were very relieved to see the roof of the chairlift building. Motivation increased and a fine sprinkle of rain was with us now so we found ourselves at the pace of a near jog all the way down this next section ( jogging seemed to be easier on the muscles than dragging the body along at a slow pace). Not quite believing it ourselves we made it with 10 minutes to spare. Jumped (on reflection I would say, heaved would be more accurate) on that chairlift and let our bodies relax enough to enjoy the feeling of the cool rain on our aching limbs. Watching all the bike riders weaving in and around the many tracks, some tricky, some muddy, they made it look easy. It is quite fascinating to see young children to seasoned veterans, many in the bright team colours, doing exactly what they love.

Alighting with a heavy thud and our legs frozen from the short spell of inaction we had to stop for a few minutes to enable the blood to flow once again. All that was left was the kilometre walk back to the car. OMG, the last straw. We started and I think I made it 2/3rds of the way until Ken pointed out how long to go. There was no more fuel in my tank. I stopped and could not continue. Poor Ken had to go get the car and come back for me. After a short wait the car pulled up, Ken looked at me and said are you able to manage as I cannot get out to help. I laughed, struggled to move but got the backpacks in the car and flopped onto the seat with absolute exhaustion. We drove back to our accommodation in silence, showered and had a cup of tea. Surprisingly we were ready to hit the road to find the wine and the steak our body was yelling for. Afterwards feeling refreshed and accomplished we happily returned home to sleep.

Day 3. We woke this morning with a little pain which was quite surprising. Both of us expected to be immobile. We thought we would be flat on our back for the whole day.  After taking our time over breakfast we decided to test the limbs and do the walk around our resort while the weather was good.  We started off and not very far onto the walk, Ken stopped abruptly as a snake crossed his path heading away from him. We later investigated to find out it was a Highland Copperhead. We were able to watch it slithering along heading to the river edge. It was a shiny black with distinct yellow markings along the underside. Quite beautiful to watch. We ventured on to see a very young duckling sitting together with his sibling on the edge of the lake. After only a short time one ventured into the water leaving one little fluffy body seated alone. We watched for a few minutes and after what appeared to be much trepidation he faltered and eventually hit the water. Once in, there was no catching him. It was only a short time before he caught up with mum and the sibling and continued on safely. Moving on watching the ducks, of which there were many and all very active we crossed a small footbridge heading to the start of the walk that had ironwork sculptures dotted along the track. The grounds are kept clean and neatly laid out but still allowing them to look quite natural. The facilities in the park areas are extensive for all ages, walking tracks, bike tracks, fitness tracks, children’s trampolines, canoes and kayaks, archery, a cafe, a restaurant, and of course the gift and ski shop. The resort boasts an indoor pool and spa and gym so there is little to complain about. We finished the lake circuit taking in all the unique iron sculptures and headed back to our unit. We decided to drive into Jindabyne to obtain our national park pass, have lunch and take a slow wander around the lake. Lunch was fine and the pass was secured, however, our body was now telling us enough is enough. We were both now feeling the effects of yesterday. A quick decision to take a drive to Perisher and Charlotte Pass instead. It is such a pretty drive with many sweeping views of the surrounding vegetation and waterways.  We got to the end of the road and what faced us was a short 15-minute boardwalk. Should we, should we not. Of course we did and found ourselves among some beauitful ancient snow gums. It was a superb and simple walk but of course at the end, a looming staircase.  Once again you cannot leave without reaching the top. So up we go and again not disappointed. The hills and mountain ranges reached far and wide. Heading back we concentrated on the snow gums which were hundreds of years old. Over the many years of existence, the wind had moulded and twisted them into remarkable shapes. A small area but some fantastic specimens all together to be marvelled at. Walking back to the car we were quickly convinced that a horizontal position at home was needed quickly. Some recovery time was vital. After a few hours rest, we headed off to the resort cafe for a beer and pizza.  I decided I could manage the little walk home so took myself off while Ken took the car home. The wind had dropped and the air was clean and nice. I encountered many birds and three kangaroos who appeared to object to me being in their space regardless of the fact it was a human walking track they were grazing on. I moved aside and skirted around them. I am sure they were wondering why I was in their space. Looking at me with a look of bother in their eyes. Quickly hurrying on as the sky was darkening with nightfall, just a few metres from our accommodation a large mass moved suddenly in front of me. Before I could get the camera activated it scurried to the right and down the hill. A large wombat I believe heading to the hole in the gully we had seen earlier in the day. A nice way to end the walk. Another glass of wine and an early night to rest this very tired but satisfied body. 

Day 4 – It is the last day of our stay at Crackenback and we discussed last night that we would take it easy and just lounge around all day. Well, that was the plan and you know what they say. We started out slow and then Ken came across a waterfall walk which looked pretty flat and easy. We decided why not, let’s do it. Our legs had restored and we just did not want to waste a day. We donned our walking gear and drove up toward Perisher Valley, parked the car and started off. We knew it was a 6-kilometre return easy walk with few stairs. We had no time limit so we went slow. The walk was a pretty, natural bush track surrounded by unbelievably tall snow gums. Straight up with fantastic colours and craggy trunks. The water droplets from the mist hung on the leaves making the bush sparkle. The many spider webs twinkling in the sun. Not far in we see a medium-sized kangaroo sitting on the walking track. He raised his ears, looked at us intently for several minutes and then quickly moved a few metres into the bush. We followed his eyes and noticed him still watching as we passed by.  A little further along a joey was watching inquisitively and not far behind, his mum was guarding quietly. No matter how many times I see them in the wild, I find them intriguing. Maybe it is something to do with my feet bungling through the bush and watching their boundless leaps which seem effortless.  

There were many tiny bush flowers and many snow gums to take our eye along the way. After nearly 3 kilometres and a few muddy spots to manoeuvre we came across the waterfall. It was quite pretty and flowing freely. Worth the effort and my legs were feeling ok. We were both however a little tired and Ken’s face was showing the grief of his unyielding hip pain. The track headed up a little which was a bit gruelling but nothing we could not handle. We located a large fallen tree trunk to sit and rest our bones and enjoy our rissole sandwiches and fruit with a little chocolate for energy. Once rested we took off again. There were a few mutters along the way as we did seem to be climbing quite a bit. So much so that we questioned ourselves as to whether we had missed a turn and were on the wrong track. Ken found a faint signal on the mobile and located our whereabouts to determine if we were going in the right direction. There was no sun at this point to guide us so we took note, tramped along for about what we thought was a kilometre and checked the map. We were a little relieved as it looked like we were making progress in the right direction. Turning a bend we saw a plethoria of magnificent boulders on the side of the track. It is a little strange when you are walking among bush and trees and suddenly from the ground, massive rock structures impede your way. Like giants forbidding you to go further. They stand immovable, imposing and intriguing. Children would relish the challenge of mastering these natural monsters. The track wound on but it was starting to feel like we were heading down now. A couple more kilometres and we reached the bottom without incident.  By now my legs were feeling the strain and Ken was certainly battling the pain. Back to our car and a quick drive to Jindabyne for some much needed Tiger Balm ointment and even better a beer and a glass of wine. Some takeaway Chinese food for dinner and home to settle in for the night. A pat on the back for both of us for making the effort. It is interesting as Ken and I have been doing this type of walk and adventure throughout all of our married life. I constantly say it is not my thing but I go with him trekking through the bush many times and I always finish up feeling accomplished and satisfied. Why I complain, I have no idea, a habit I guess. If you asked me what I like, I would say sitting on the rocks at the beach, watching and listening to the waves tumbling, or sitting with friends in a cafe with non-stop conversation, both of which are just a tad different to bushwalking. I guess I just like doing something.

Day 5-We have to head back home today, our short stay in the Snowy Mountains finished. We had breakfast, packed our bags, removed the rubbish and we were on the road again. We stopped briefly at Jindabyne to photograph a memorial and the many seagulls lining the shore of the lake. We had intended to do a small walk but our physical bodies were not agreeing. We headed off to Cooma to visit the graveyard. I have been doing some ancestry investigations on our families and I know both my mother’s parents lived in Cooma and surrounding areas at some point. It is a very laborious task researching birth certificates etc and trying to substantiate the connections. I wanted to see if there was an old section in the cemetery where I might find some relatives. I managed to find one very old grave of the wife of my Great Great Grandfather who died in November 1902 at just 40yrs old. I will now have to connect it to a death certificate so I can be sure.  Pretty happy I was able to find anything at all.  We drove onto Queanbeyan for lunch which was pretty ordinary.  Ready now to return to our haven at Hazelbrook. Overall a really great five days which we vowed we will do a similar trip again while we are still able. I have also added a few photos of the animals roaming free at the resort at Crackenback. Would definitely recommend this place for everyone.

Hope you have enjoyed following us around and will come back and visit again soon. Please feel free to comment and follow my blog for further travel and life experiences. Enjoy your day.

50th Wedding Anniversary Holiday

23rd November 2018, 50 years to the day we married at the Sydney Registry office NSW.  During this time, we had experienced trips to New Zealand, Hong Kong, North and Sth America and different states of Australia. We have enjoyed all of our trips.New Zealand was a particular favourite of ours as it is a short plane ride, inexpensive with very beautiful countryside and friendly accommodating people. 

As a complete surprise to me Ken decided our next trip to NZ would be to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in my style of holiday. Normally I organise everything with discussions with him about modes of transport and particular interests. Our normal way of seeing a country is to move daily from town to town visiting the vast array of scenery and specific highlights on offer for the region. During our travels we cover a lot of ground on the premise that we may not get back to the place again and therefore want to see as much as we can. I have found myself on occasions expressing a desire to stay put for a few days and visit more of the city. I was about to get my wish. On this occasion, Ken organised everything, unbeknown to me. This is a  massive undertaking  for him as he is not used to the whole process. He booked the flights, organised an air B&B, planned and booked tickets for our excursions. It was very organised, and I did not have to lift a finger. I had no idea where I was going until we had to check in at the airport.  As it was, he had to reveal to me that  we were flying somewhere as he had encountered a small problem when booking the airfare. Apparently, he had been doing really well with the plans until he had to produce the passports.  He scrounged everywhere not knowing where I had stored them, luckily came across them and proceeded to enter the details. To his horror he discovered that my passport had expired. With great disappointment he had to tell me what was happening, with the hope that I could renew my passport quickly to avoid cancelling the whole idea.

He was so disappointed in having to tell me this and as happy as I was to find out about this surprise event, I was more concerned about what he was saying as I was positive my passport was in order.  As the story unfolds’ we discovered he indeed had my passport, but it was an old one which had most definitely expired. What he did not know was that weeks earlier I had needed my passport to prove identity for something and had my current passport in my handbag.  It was well and truly up to date and the catastrophe was averted.  I know knew something but not everything, part of his surprise was still in a secret.

We headed off on the train to the airport when I finally discovered our destination as we checked in for the flight. Once seated he handed me the itinerary all neatly presented in a folder. I was so surprised and felt very special that he had managed to do this and keep it a secret. We could have been going to the next town and I would have been happy. The surprise was the doing.

So we arrived in Christchurch airport very late 12.30 am, picked up a hire car and headed to the city. Our accommodation was at the Heritage Hotel, Cathedral Square in the middle of downtown Christchurch. It is a grand and opulent building designed by Joseph Clark Maddison in 1909.  It is a restored Italia High Renaissance palazzo style building. Originally designed to centralise various government departments. It opened in 1913 and housed those government departments until 1980. The building sat idle and was in threat of being demolished when it was purchased and resold in 1995 at which time it was converted into a hotel. It is now made up of fully self-contained apartments. Our particular air B&B was immaculately clean, modern but still with the heritage air about it. Luxuriously comfortable for our weeks stay.  We had the next seven days to leisurely make our way around the city taking our time seeing the sites.

Walking around the city you are faced with both destruction and beauty. The massive effort from the locals to restore their city is very noticeable, as is the love exhibited in the beauty of the memorial wall built for those who lost their lives to the earthquake of 2011. Not only is Christchurch a wealth of heritage buildings and beautiful churches it is also a modern town with modern structures, plenty of eating and entertainment areas and at the same time it is quiet and peaceful wandering the streets.

The following day we visited the Botanical Gardens and the Mona Vale Gardens. Both of these gardens are in the city and very accessible. The Mona Vale Gardens show many flower varieties in full bloom and in plentiful supply. The grounds are in exemplary condition with a river running through the centre and a glorious house open to the public. After spending a couple of hours, wandering and photographing we headed back into the city to check out the Botanical Gardens. Equally as impressive. The grounds are extensive, with lots of grand old trees and the River Avon running through the centre. There is a stunning conservatory with a very intense display of a variety of flowers and plants and some very interesting Cacti. We had lunch in the gardens and wandered back to rest a little before our planned anniversary dinner that night. My legs and feet had survived a massive walking day and were looking forward to a relaxing evening.