Our 'Shake-down trip ~ July 2004

Thursday 15th July 2004

Our holiday actually started Wednesday evening. On Wednesday afternoon when the mail arrived we received a voucher for a free dinner for two at the Manse Restaurant. Peter had entered a competition in the local paper, and won. We had a really nice evening out, it has been so long since we had dinner out, just the two of us. (The reason for this is my diet).

We intended to leave at 10 a.m. but as usual for us, we left late. It was so much better getting the 'van off the block next door the day before. I felt very strange getting the house ready for the house-sitters to move in.

The trip went very smoothly. We stopped for lunch about two hours after we left home. It was great to get out of our car and go into our 'home', take our lunch out of the fridge and more importantly . . . use the loo!

We kept pushing on as we didn't want to arrive too late and be setting up in the dark. In the end we had to stop for a five minute toilet break and have a drink and stretch our legs.

We arrived without any map-reading hitches at about 5pm. The couple who run the caravan park are very nice and friendly. We are right on the beach at Port Denison. The shower and toilet block is very clean, bright and airy with fans, music playing and soap! We set up without any problems and cooked our dinner using the camp's BBQ. People seem very nice and friendly. We watched TV, our new flat screen is lovely, we received very good reception and watched the ABC (what else?).

Friday 16th July 2004

We had a good night's sleep. Slow morning, Peter was helping Bill (next caravan) repair his brakes. Beautiful day but the wind a little chilly. Had a look at the beach, beautiful and deserted. Went into Dongara. 1st stop was the old Post Office which is now the Tourist Centre. We bought the booklet which explained the Heritage Trail. We started the walk at the old Police Station which is now a museum . We thought we had been given a life sentence as the curator kept talking and talking and we couldn't get away, but we did learn a lot about the history of this area.

Next stop was the Telecentre (not on the map but we wanted to check out how the system works). We found out that down and up loading is easy and sending emails was also straight forward. We can print off letters and pictures as well.

Having digested all this information we walked across the road to a coffee shop and enjoyed a very nice coffee. The coffee shop was situated under a Moreton Bay Fig tree. The whole street is lined with these trees giving the road a canopy effect. After the coffee we walked over to the park and ate our picnic lunch.

We resumed our Heritage Walk – we headed off to the Royal Steam Roller Mill. The planning of this mill was done by Henry Simon in Manchester, which has some significance for Peter as he completed his apprenticeship with HS. The old building was intact but hollow inside and full of pigeons. We then walked back towards the town, on the way passing some historical buildings that were noted on the map in our hands.

We then headed off to the cemetery to view graves of the long and not-so-long departed. The cemetery was very interesting some people dying in the 1800's, a lot of young people too, so it illustrated how hard life was then. Some graves had whole families in them.

We then decided we'd had enough walking and headed back to the car. We decided to make our way back to the caravan but on the way there we noticed a sign for Priory Lodge, another historical building worth looking at. No, of course we didn't know they had a bar! After a couple of drinks we headed home.

R & R period before cooking dinner. We used the camp BBQ which is so quick and easy, no smell of cooking and no pans to wash.

Saturday 17th July 2004

Nicholas Paul's birthday. Tried twice to phone him, left messages. In the end he phoned me. He is celebrating with friends.

I have decided not to record 'a good night's sleep' every day – as every night is the same so far, so I will only record when something out of the ordinary happens.

We had a lazy morning then after lunch we walked along the beach to the fishermens' memorial and obelisk. (Four sided structure with a pointed top.) The views from the obelisk were quite magnificent. We could see for miles across the ocean one way and across the countryside in another. After about an hour, and having chatted to a couple who were also admiring the view (the man came to Australia from Liverpool in 1949), we descended back into the town. Walking home we found a licensed café so I had a coffee and Peter had a beer.
We watched the sun set and Peter took some photos, chatted to a couple from Perth. They prattled on a bit so it was nice to get away from them.

Sunday 18th July 2004

Another lazy morning, then after lunch we went for a walk, following the River Irwin to its mouth. It was very pleasant and we met a few different people at the mouth of the river. The river was separated from the ocean by a sand bar. We saw plenty of water birds – pelicans, egrets and cormorants.

On the way back to the 'van we again called in at the Priory Lodge for drink. They were very nice and friendly people.

We are off to Kalbarri tomorrow morning. I really enjoyed Dongara/Port Denison. I found the town very picturesque and the people very nice and friendly. The locals have a sense of pride, community spirit, and know about the history of their township.

Monday 19th July 2004

We set off for Kalbarri about 10.30am. We had an uneventful trip in that everything went very smoothly again. Except . . .

. . . I had a very bad pain in my abdomen, very much like a gall stone attack. It was extremely painful then eased off only to return again about 10 minutes later. It was so bad I had visions of checking out Kalbarri hospital. We stopped for a lunch/toilet break and I had a walk around and the pain disappeared completely. Very strange.

We arrived in Kalbarri about 2.15 pm. First impressions of the caravan park was unfriendly and not so nice. The toilet and showers were only average. Later we found a newer block and they were a lot better. No paper towels or soap.

We set up camp and then walked to the shops and to check out internet services. We found the internet service in the second hand book shop. We will take the laptop back there tomorrow.

The supermarket was a little disappointing as the shelves were bare, I guess that is because of school holidays - lots of families in Kalbarri. On the way back I remembered from last time that there was another supermarket, so when we got home I looked it up on our guide and sure enough it was there. I walked up to that supermarket and found that if we spend $30 we will get a 4% discount on fuel which will be good as we intend filling up before we leave.

We decided to go out for dinner and celebrate Da's life (Peter's father who had just died) or have a drink and a meal in his memory. We timed it very well as when we were dining the funeral party would also be dining and drinking in memory of Da.

We enjoyed the evening very much but drinking and eating in the evening does not bode well for a good night's sleep, hence we both had a restless night. It is also much warmer here at night.

Tuesday 20th July 2004

We didn't do much in the morning as the weather was not the best. Peter updated the website and I read. After lunch we went to the internet place, checked our emails and uploaded the new version of the website. We then did some shopping and returned to the caravan. The weather got worse and it poured down. Lucky for us, the caravan is cosy and the toilet is one of Peter's better ideas. (Funny how all the good ideas turn out to be Peter's!) During the night the storm was so bad the caravan was rocking in the wind.

Wednesday 21st July 2004

The day started well with a good weigh-in. I lost the weight I put on from the dinner out plus another 250 grams. A very good result.

We took a walk up to the Post Office, stopping on the way to book our trip to Nature's Window for Friday; we will have to remember to get up as we have become very lazy in our retirement.

We then walked along the beach to the jetty at the far end of Kalbarri. Had a coffee before making our way back to the caravan for lunch. It rained quite a lot this afternoon so it was another afternoon keeping ourselves amused in the caravan. It brightened up later so we went to watch the sunset, then walked on the beach. We walked back to the caravan along the footpath so we literally fell over the pub. Well you do have to keep the local economy flowing, don't you?

We like Kalbarri but enjoyed it more the first time. I guess as we have seen it all before it takes some of the shine off it. It is still a very pleasant place to be though. A very relaxing, laid back sort of place.

Thursday 22nd July 2004

We had rain and more rain today so we didn't do much. After lunch we went back to the internet place to check our emails and update the website. We went for a drive up to the coastal gorges but the rain was so bad we could hardly see anything, so there was nothing for it but to call for our usual drink at the local pub. Stayed rather longer than we anticipated but then again we do not have to rush anywhere.

Today was treat day for me - a glass of red wine. As I partake very rarely these days, I really enjoyed it.

Friday 23rd July 2004

The day does not look too good, overcast and raining off and on. We were collected from the main gate at 8.00am (very early for us these days) by Kalbarri Coach Tours. We headed off to the Loop and the Z Bend which involves sitting in Nature's Window.

The road was pretty bad, very wet and bumpy. The road was closed to all visitors except for those on organised tours. We had an excellent time; our tour guide named John told us all about Kalbarri, wild flowers and the gorges. Peter and I had our photo taken in Nature's Window to compare with the original one. I looked so different, the new photo is now on the website. By the time we got back to town the sun was shining and the day had turned out beautifully.

We had lunch then went for a walk. On the way back we called in at the pub. Soon after leaving there a car pulled over - it was Bill and Julie whom we had met in the caravan park at Dongara. They had been up to Shark Bay and had experienced bad weather.

We continued our walk and ended up in a coffee shop, which also houses a museum. In the museum they had a collection of dolls. The owner had built a mine underneath the building. After looking through the museum we had coffee sitting outside watching the river and ocean. After we had finished our coffee we moved across the road to watch the sunset.

Saturday 24th July 2004

The sun was shining so it was chore day today. We had a whole heap of washing to do and some shopping. We also took the carpet out of the caravan, washed the floors and gave the carpets a good beating - makes a change from beating Peter. We found washing line space was rare as everyone wanted to wash on the first sunny day in a while. Anyway we got it all done. After lunch we went for walk and called in the pub on the way back. They had a fishing competition running. We listened and watched a stack of fish being weighed. I guess it is not too boring if you are a fisherman, but as we are not we found it a little boring. We had to stay as we had bought two raffle tickets. We didn't win.

Sunday 25th July 2004

Woke up to another beautiful day. We were on the tennis courts by 9.00am and raring to go. Peter thrashed me in the first set but only won by the tiebreaker in the second set. We hired the court for an hour so we couldn't continue with a third set, thank goodness, as we were both whacked.

We headed back to the caravan for coffee. We then walked up to the jetty and sat a while watching any activity on the river but being Sunday there was not a lot happening. We then wandered over to the fish and chip shop for lunch. (I had grilled fish and salad). After lunch we wandered back to the caravan for a toilet stop and Peter decided he wanted a Nana nap (or in his case a Grandpa nap). I sat outside in the sun reading.

We then took a walk up to the headland along the beach. At the headland there is a lookout. When we arrived there we found a bunch of excited people watching a school of dolphins surfing the waves. It was delightful to watch. As we were about to leave and make our way back we noticed another lookout further up the hillside so we made our way up there by means of a path Peter found. He was okay, he was wearing jeans. I had bare legs and bore the scratches to prove it. I didn't realise we were going bush walking. Once up there we found there was a really easy path leading from the road! The view was well worth the climb and Peter took some photos of the place where the River Murchinson meets the ocean.

We walked back via the pub. Re-reading this journal it sounds like we are always in the pub - but we enjoy a drink. Peter has beer and I have diet coke, but I think it is more the social side of things than the drink.

Tomorrow we head off to Hamelin Pool.

Monday 26th July 2004

We managed to get away from Kalbarri by 10.30am which is very good for us. It was 286 kms to Hamelin Pool. We had a couple of stops on the way, one being for coffee at the Billabong Roadhouse.

When I worked in the transport industry the drivers used to stop at the Billabong Roadhouse for meals so I was curious to see what it was like. Billabong has a certain ring to it. Anyway, surprise surprise, it was just a plain old roadhouse but the lady who served us was very nice and chatty.

We arrived at Hamelin Pool about 3.00pm and wondered what this place was that we had arrived in. First impression of Hamelin Pool is that it is basic, even using your imagination! The caravan site is small, the water from the taps is not fit to drink but you can fill a kettle from the rainwater tank. Luckily Peter filled both our water tanks before we left Kalbarri. The people that run the 'park' are really nice and friendly, the ablution block is old but very clean. The power is from a diesel generator that is turned off at 11.00pm and is restarted at 7.00am.

After the first hour of being here we found we really liked the place. It is small but very picturesque and the people staying here are very nice. Everyone in caravan parks seem friendly and you always find someone to chat to. Amazing what information you can pick up when doing the laundry! At Hamelin Pool everyone seems a little more friendly. Maybe it is because it is smaller, or could it be that the school holidays are over so we are left with the serious travellers. Like us. After setting up camp we read for a short while, had a nice chat with a passer-by then headed up the hill to watch the sun set, along with quite a few other 'campers'. Tomorrow I will also take a drink as everyone else seem to have one. No one will know it is diet lemon if I put it in a wine glass.

Tuesday 27th July 2004

It is very relaxing here and, as there is not a lot to see, we had a late start to the day. We went for a walk on the Boolagoorda walk trail. This walk takes you through a shell quarry which was really interesting. To mine it they would cut blocks of it to use for building. Further on we came across the stromatolites, also very interesting but I found the shell quarry of more interest.

We bumped into 300 French geology teachers who were a lot more interested in the stromatolites than we were. We decided to go back to the caravan, have lunch and read a while until the day visitors had left.

After they had all gone we went over to the Telegraph Station which is a museum. We had our own personal guide who explained everything to us. It was fascinating to hear about how people communicated in the late 1800's. In the museum they had two different types of telephone exchange, both of which I had used in my early working days. We had a coffee in the 'teashop' and then made our way back to the caravan. The teashop is situated inside the old Post office.

Wednesday 28th July 2004

Left Hamelin Pool for Nanga Bay which was only 48 kms. We both really enjoyed our stay at Hamelin Pool. Being city folk and being used to turning on a tap or flicking on a light switch it was an education for us. When you think about it there are places all over Australia similar to Hamelin Pool. It made me wonder what it had been like for the early settlers, they wouldn't have had bore water or generators.

We arrived at Nanga Bay well before lunch. We set up camp, had lunch and went for a walk, it didn't take long. The beach consists of the little shells similar to those at Hamelin Pool. Very pretty bay. At least I wouldn't get lost in this caravan park.

When we first arrived at Kalbarri I ducked off to the ladies and left Peter setting up. When I left the ladies I turned down the wrong path and wandered right over the other side of the park. I was in so much of a hurry to 'go' I didn't make a mental note of the caravan bay we were in. Eventually I saw the office and was going in to ask 'where am I' when I decided to try another path which lead to Peter standing outside our caravan wondering if I had gone to the ladies via Dongara. Things one will do to get out of some work!

But I digress - back to Nanga Bay. It is nice here for an overnight stop but not much more unless you are fishermen or a family on a camping holiday.

One thing I have realised with our shake-down trip; even though we equipped the caravan so that we would not have to take things from the house, there are certain things you miss, only small but never-the-less if we are going for two years on the big one, I will want to take them with me. For example, I am sick of drinking out of a plastic mug – I want my favourite china mug.

Thursday 29th July 2004

We left Nanga around our usual 10.30am. An uneventful drive to Denham. We arrived, set up and then went for a walk. We fell in love with Denham right away.

We met the dynamic little lady, Pam, who introduced herself and wanted to have a look at the first fibreglass caravan she had seen. A very nice lady, we gave her a guided tour of the caravan. She commented that we needed to make our 'van more homely, especially if we are going to be away for a long time. Pam invited us to her caravan for a sun-downer (a.k.a. happy hour) and a look around her caravan.

First we had to do some shopping as our supplies were very low and we hadn't had lunch. It has been an education shopping in various places as you cannot always get what you want and sometimes the prices are ridiculous. We are very spoilt in the metro area having a Woolworths or a Coles round every corner.

After lunch we walked into Denham town centre for a look around. Before we had left the caravan park we bumped into Pam again and she had been to the shops and bought me a china mug as I had said I was fed up with drinking out of plastic. What a kind lady.

We found the Telecentre and decided to update our website and check our emails on Friday. As we were walking we noticed people riding camels along the shore and Peter suggested that I might like to have a ride. I decided not to commit myself either way. What I would like to know is why is it me that has to do these crazy things whilst Peter takes the photos. So it was decided that if I did it, he did it also.

On the way back we found the pub. Well, we did have to buy some things for the sun downer! We had a very enjoyable couple of hours getting to know Pam and Mike and also another couple – Sandie and Ron. We had a look in Pam and Mike's caravan and saw what she meant about ours, she had lots of photos and 'knick knacks' that made the van look more like a home-from-home. Before we left it was arranged that we would all meet back at P & M's the following evening for a barbecue.

Friday 30th July 2004

We went off to the Telecentre today only to leave there two hours later frustrated and no further forward than when we went in. The web page could not be updated and we could not send any emails. Our hosting people were 'down'. We are now seriously considering changing to Big Pond. At least with them there is an number you can call to get help. The Telecentre is now closed until Tuesday.

We went off to P & M's for this BBQ and met another couple - Carol and Colin. Pam had arranged with the park reception to leave a gas BBQ outside their caravan, all free. An example of the excellent service you get at this caravan park. We had another very enjoyable evening and learnt a lot more about caravanning.

Saturday 31st July 2004

We went to Eagle Bluff today. Before we got there we had a look at Denham Lookout. We weren't too impressed with the lookout but we met a really nice couple from Tasmania. They were on their way to Denham and Monkey Mia. We chatted for a while, as you do, and then went our separate ways.

Peter and I enjoyed a couple of hours at Eagle Bluff eating our picnic lunch whilst looking at million dollar views. Eagle Bluff was very interesting as one is supposed to view different marine animals in the water but we did not see anything. Eagle Bluff has many display cases with a lot of information about the history of the place which we found very interesting.

We then went back to the caravan in time for a sun downer to say good bye to our new friends, Sandie and Ron, who were leaving next morning for Carnarvon.

Sunday 1st August 2004

We went off to Monkey Mia today, hoping to at least see the dolphins. We arrived about 11.00am and were informed the dolphins were in the bay ready for feeding now. We hurriedly parked the car and made our way to the beach. A small crowd were looking at a couple of dolphins, with a ranger keeping a close eye on things. You are not allowed to just go up to the dolphins and you are not allowed to touch them. A few more dolphins came into the bay and the ranger explained a lot about the dolphins to us. Then it was feeding time and everyone had to get out of the water in a line and the rangers chose people to feed the dolphins. I thought no way would it be me, I never win raffles or anything, but I was chosen and was so shocked at being chosen I really did not savour the moment as I should have. Peter got a great photo of me bending over feeding this lovely dolphin, showing only my bottom.

Once the dolphins are fed they swim away, but venture back into the bay at different intervals during the day. We were just about to make our way to the coffee shop when two people approached us to ask had we enjoyed feeding the dolphins. It was the Tasmanian couple from yesterday. We chatted a while and then Peter and I found our way to the coffee shop. It is such a nice lifestyle where life is very relaxed and unhurried and we meet and chat with so many really nice people.

We spent some time just sitting on the beach watching the boats come and go, so we decided to come back to Monkey Mia tomorrow and go on a cruise in a catamaran.

Monday 2nd August 2004

We arrived at Monkey Mia about 9.00am, watched a video about dolphins and then made our way to the jetty for our two hour cruise. When I saw the catamaran I decided I couldn't go on it, it didn't look safe to me and I could not work out where I was going to sit and hang on for dear life. Boats, water and Pam do not go together very well. Anyway, I thought I would be brave about this and when I tried to casually ask, Where do we sit? I just sounded desperate! We went on board and I thought, This is not so bad, until we had the safety talk and then I really did hang on for dear life. I also kept my eye on the life jackets and life buoys. To say I enjoyed it would be a lie, we did not see any of the things we were supposed to, for example, Dugongs. It was very windy and extremely cold. I was wearing shorts and had goose bumps on my goose bumps until the captain gave out oilskins. Peter enjoyed it as he liked the sailing part. Me? Ah well, let's just say keeping my feet on firm ground appeals to me.

Tuesday 3rd August 2004

We had excitement in the camp today, the power went off at 7.00am for an hour. Showers, toilets and washing came to a standstill. Worse than that though, Peter and I had to wait for our coffee!

We went to the Telecentre to update our website and collect our emails. Two hours later we left. We are not very happy with the provider we have as we are experiencing difficulties logging on. Something we will have to look at when we return to Perth. We went back to the caravan for lunch after doing a bit of shopping. Later we went for a walk in Denham and checked out the camels. We are going back tomorrow for a ride. Well . . . I think I am anyway, I will know for sure when I am on the camel.

We enjoyed another sundowner with our new friends Pam and Mike, who announced that they were coming with us to watch us ride the camels. Now I am getting in deeper.

Wednesday 4th August 2004

We went into Denham in the morning, Peter had emails to send. We also wanted to get a birthday cake for Mike as we were saying goodbye to them tonight and it is Mike's birthday on Monday. Another lesson to learn - you cannot always get what you want even if the town has a bakery. We made do with a cheesecake, which turned out to be a good choice as Mike is partial to a little cheesecake.

The time arrived to walk into town for this camel ride. I had been in a state of panic all day as I had seen the size of these animals. The four of us walked to where the camels left and I decided I would have a go, even though I firmly believe that animals and I are totally incompatible. Once on the camel I felt okay and the 'cameleers', Sandra and Henk, made me feel very relaxed and - more importantly - secure. We trotted off along the beach front whilst Pam took photos of our 'trek' which was a slow twenty minute stroll along the beach, which - against all odds - I really enjoyed. (Apart from the camel behind trying to nuzzle me. They have very big teeth).

We returned to the caravan park to celebrate the ride, the birthday and the new friendship we had made.

Thursday 5th August 2004

We managed to get away at 8.30am - early for us. Our journey to Horrocks was uneventful and we discovered if we do crosswords on the way it passes the time. We set up camp quite quickly and went for a walk along the beach, which absolutely stank of rotting sea weed. We discovered that Horrocks consisted of a caravan park, a beach, a general store, a café . . . but no pub! Luckily the Horrocks General Store had a licence to sell alcohol. The people were very nice and friendly but I didn't feel relaxed there. For me it didn't have a good feel about it.

Friday 6th August 2004

To explore Northampton was our agenda for today. There was a bitter cold wind howling down the main street, it was cold! I had always wanted to explore the history of Northampton, but found it lacking. We did the tourist walk after picking up a brochure from the tourist bureau. We inadvertently turned down the wrong street but I still made the old buildings fit the descriptions I was reading from the leaflet. We thought this was extremely funny and decided that you could look at any one of a number of buildings in Northampton and believe you were admiring an old pioneer type building.

We made our way to the Two Tarts Café for lunch. This café had had a good write up in the tourist magazines, but it was only average and they even served instant coffee. Tut-tut!

After lunch we went in search of a church we had spied in the distance, which looked interesting. It was an old church but closed to the public so I couldn't look inside. After that we continued our heritage walk back along Hampton Road to the Miners Arms; have to keep the local economy rolling. The barmaid was from the UK and knew our home town very well, even though she was originally from London. Small world. After shopping we headed back to the caravan; another hectic day in the life of our retirement draws to a close.

Saturday 7th August 2004

We spent a relaxing day at the caravan and then went for a walk in the evening.

Sunday 8th August 2004

We set off for Greenough - not a long journey so we did not rush.

We arrived in good time, set up camp and had lunch. We then went for a walk along the beach to the mouth of the river. It was very pleasant and we met friendly people along the way. As the evening was drawing in we decided to call at the General Store only to find out that they weren't licensed! But they pointed us in the direction of the Resort where we enjoyed a pleasant hour or so and booked for dinner on Tuesday evening, our last night before heading home.

Monday 9th August 2004

We went on the Greenough River Cruise this morning. We made our way down to the 'jetty' but couldn't find one. Luckily the captain of the cruise found us. We were not sure if we could go as he needed at least four people. Anyway whilst we were chatting another couple arrived, so off we went.

After the catamaran experience I had decided that terra firma was the place for me, but here I was on another boat. This time the encounter was pleasurable, we had an excellent time, saw lots of birds and plants and Doug, our captain, explained everything very well. He even threw in a cup of coffee and a piece of slice.

After lunch we went off to explore the history of Greenough. We saw old derelict buildings, some buildings that looked interesting but were closed to the public. We found the Pioneer Museum open and spent some time there, it was interesting but a lot of the artifacts they had on display I remember from my Grandfather's house. (Even the outside toilet was a replica of my Grandad's).

After the museum we went to the Hamlet of Greenough which is a village of old buildings, some already restored, others in the process of. What we found most strange was the reception and café area - all very new and totally out of place. Anyway we had a look around, had an excellent cup of coffee then headed for home - via the Resort for a well-earned drink.

Tuesday 10th August 2004

Today we went in search of the Railway Museum at Walkaway. Walkaway is a very small place. From what we could see it consisted of the museum, a general store and a tavern (closed). We spent some time in the museum which we found very interesting but very cold. These old buildings must have been great in the summer, but they are freezing this time of the year.

The old lady at the museum was very nice and interesting and explained that the new building at the Hamlet was built as a tourist attraction but to enable them to do this they had to demolish a very nice old building. I cannot fathom the logic there. We had a look at some old buildings and a crop duster at work. Peter took pictures of the leaning trees on the way to the museum. We then headed home for lunch and a rest. We do not want to overdo things. Tonight we are out for dinner and tomorrow it's homeward bound.

We have really enjoyed our time away, have seen a lot, done a lot and met some really nice people. Some of the scenery in Western Australia will take some beating as we travel this wonderful and diverse country. Pam's Journal continues in December when we finally set off across Australia after some delays.

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