Whales and Dolphins

I ended my last entry with a sunset with this one I will begin with a energetic 1073 meter high walk in Stirling Range on Bluff Knoll. In the tour book the walk is described as being long and strenuous however is suitable for most people of reasonable fitness. It is also went on to to say 20,000 people attempt the climb every year but only half make it to the top. We all felt up to the challenge an embarked on our walk. What the book failed to mention was that a good portion of the climb would involve stairs made from the mountain side itself. This would have been fine however the stairs were designed for 7 feet tall basketball players. Most often for Katrina and myself the height of the stair was past our knees. Many times on the climb we all had to remind ourselves to use our other leg when stepping up. Upon starting the ascent we were all bundled in our warm clothing after a few rounds with the stairs the clothes started coming off. The view throughout the walk was impressive and beautiful. One could see the coastline near Albany and the eastern peaks of Stirling.  The waterfall that was mentioned in the book gave us a giggle though when we saw it. Having grown up with the Niagara Falls one has a certain expectation. In this case I think someone turned off the water tap. This is not the first time in Steve’s and my travels we come across a write up or big sign about a waterfall and discover that our shower has more water flowing. I think the people of Mount Barker would be blown away with Niagara Falls. After two hours we made it to the summit and quickly put our clothes back on as it was unbelievably cold up there. Food always tastes terrific when eaten outdoors this time after our stair fitness walk our lunch seemed like a gourmet meal. The only thing that was missing was a nice hot cup of tea to keep us warm. Since we had none we quickly packed up as our fingertips were starting to go numb. Going down was just as strenuous as going up which meant it was not long before we once again started taking our clothes off. I am sure if anybody was watching us they would have thought Canadians are a strange bunch their either taking off layers of clothing or putting then on. We have come to realize it’s not so much we can tolerate the cold better we just know how to dress for it. Good thing unlike Australia Canada has extreme temperature changes which gives us no to time adapt hence we always dress in layers. Though Aussies are willing to tough out their colder weather nothing scares them more when you mention minus ten to twenty degrees. Then they start throwing more wood on the fire and look at you with great pity. But I digress, all in all our walk including our lunch break took about 5 hours. What we saw that day was worth every step we climbed. Mind you we all felt a few twinges in our leg muscles the next day. We were happy to spend the following day in Albany planning for the next leg of our northern of our trip. Which for us meant getting up at 5:45 in the morning in order to bring to Steve back to Perth. As he was flying out to Cairns for the Coral Reef conference.
After dropping Steve off at the airport we continued on with our nearly 800 km odyssey to Dongara/Port Denison (Shire of Irwin). We managed to find a place in a Caravan Park. Dad and Derek had the squeaky bunk beds while Katrina and I slept oh so soft double bed. It did have a fairly nice sized kitchen but more importantly it was clean. Having endured such a long drive the only thing we unpacked was our food with team effort we produced a wonderful pasta dinner. All four us hit the sack pretty quick our 5:45 wake up and long drive made 9:00 pm seem like 1:00 am (we are such party animals).

Our lodgings was not too far from Irwin which made for a nice after breakfast walk the following day. Water birds and ducks were in abundance they were enjoying the sunshine just as much as we were. Towards the end our walk we came towards a rock cliff made of sandstone. This type of stone is fairly porous allowing for many small creatures to create a home or in this case a bee hive. The hive was totally exposed to us we watched the bees zooming in out not in the less bothered by us being there. To me bee hives are a remarkable craftmanship an inspiring sight the only thing missing was the honey and I wasn’t asking the bees for any.
Aside from the Irwin rive Dongara is also know for it many fig trees as well as coral reefs. When I looked at the map showing all the reefs, it was no wonder that so many shipping vessels wound up on the bottom of the ocean.

After two days we continued our journey northward to Kalbarri. On route we stopped off at Geraldton too see the memorial for the HMS Sydney. A light cruiser class ship originally owned by the British she was bought in 1933 by the Australian Commonwealth. Sent to action during World War II to the Mediterranean on June 21, 1940 . Between June 28th and July 19th she sank the Italian Destroyer Espero, disabled the Italian Cruiser, Barolomeo Colleoni and set off in pursuit of another ship having to give up as they had little ammunition left. Her last battle was fought on November 19, 1941 returning home from the Sunda Straits. HMAS Sydney encountered the German Raider HSK Kormoran an clash that would result in the loss of both ships. 645 crew members gave up their lives to which the memorial is dedicated to in memory of their valiant effort. With each wartime memorial I visit I often wonder if the men and women who gave up their lives to ensure a better future for all who were to come next. Are not in some way disappointed in what we have done with the lessons they have taught us.

By early afternoon we arrived in Kalbarri where we went to the Visitor Information Center to inquire about accommodations. Here in Australia the Info Centers are where you find out what’s available, the staff will enquire on your behalf if the price can come down, do booking and sometimes pay for your accommodations is done through them as well. The lady who helped us found a very nice place and enabled us to get the 5 night discount price even though we were staying for 4. After settling in, cooking and eating we wonder over to one of the local cafes. What do I see on the grass but a large flock of Galahs I went into action immediately. But back to the cafe, one thing we have discovered in the last two weeks if you do not get to a cafe before the magic hour 4 or 5 pm you are out of luck. This has proven to be frustrating but on our second day in Kalbarri we were not disappointed that missed the magic hour as we then decided to walk along the beach to their lookout. Within in about 15 minutes of staring out onto the ocean we were told there was a whale jumping up into the waves. Well I spun around faster than you can say Whale and waited. Then all of sudden fairly close to shore up she/he cam and then down with a big splash what a wonderful moment that was. It ended our day beautifully and is was the start of an amazing 2 days of hiking.

Our first hike was the Murchison Gorge in Kalbarri National Park. We walked a 8 kilometer loop where we saw the spectacular Tumblagooda Sandstone carved Gorge. At one point we were climbing along the ridge of the gorge like mountain goats. I am sure at the point my dad thought we were trying to do him in. Another part of the walk was down by the the Murchison river where we enjoyed a picnic lunch while being watched by a small lizzard. The kangaroos also kept their eyes on us when walking by. In all the walk took us about 5 hours.

The next day instead of doing less we did more. I am thinking we must have suffered sunstroke at the gorge. How else can you explain us doing a 16 kilometer coastal walk. We spent 8 hours walking in the sun, feeling the ocean breeze, spotting whales and dolphins in the distance. As tired as we were we enjoyed every step we took and yes we did a picnic lunch. Seems since we have been on our northerly road trip all our lunches have been outdoors and tasting great. You can imagine we were pretty hungry after our 16 k walk but we sussed out a local fish and chip eatery which was packed with customers. We definitely understood why after eating our fish dinner, the best part they provided a gluten free pan fried fish for Katrina.

Next stop Denham.

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Giants, elephants and a lonely seal

By now most of you have read my first blog entry and are probably wondering if I am still suffering from jet lag. As I had written about Hardey Park and the great discovery of birds and waterfowl without providing photos. Let me take you back to the night I posted the blog under the cover of darkness.  It has proven difficult to find cafes in the small towns of Australia that offer  internet access let own free access. Even the library makes you pay at a cost of $3.00 for a half. It so happened while grocery shopping with the family in the Mount Barker IGA Steve was on a re-con mission for internet. He discovered that he could access the internet coming from the municipal offices from the public parking area.Yes he was walking around with his laptop aiming it in different directions till he could lock on. Now picture me two nights later after a day of hiking sitting in the car with everyone, both Steve and my laptop glowing in the dark trying to post my blog and up load pictures. Convinced that at any moment a cop was going to come by with us trying very hard to explain to him that we were not Canadian spies trying to access secret town documents. Wanting to post things fast I missed uploading the park photos (they are now in the beginning of the slide show). If you ever read about two Canadians suspected of spying in Mount Baker you now know why.

The day we picked up Derek the sun was shining brightly not a cloud in the sky. This did not help Steve any as he was about to embark on the city roads driving on the other side with Katrina as navigator. A couple of times we almost rode the curbs, windshield wipers were running when signaling (remember everything is opposite)  and all the while dad and I were silently  steering the car with Steve.  We did get to Derek in one piece. We decide to do coffee at the King Park cafe to give Steve a chance to calm his nerves along with everyone else’s. Plus we had a 4-5 hour drive ahead of to Kendenup, Western Australia.

We arrived at our digs for the next 7 days Big Bird and Wolf Chalets at around 8:00 pm. As it is winter here we arrived in the pitch dark very tired and stiff legged as we had little room left in the car to even move our legs from all our bags etc. As with car rentals what they show you on the website and what you get can be two different things. The owner of the Chalet was kind of to await our somewhat late arrival. When we walked into our Chalet called Eagle’s Nest we did so with a smile. In the case what we saw on their website is exactly what we got. A wonderful clean and charming unit with a nice sized living room, huge well supplied kitchen, two large bedrooms and a shower that had plenty of hot water. The best part was the view Katrina and I woke up to bright early the next morning.  With our hot drinks in hand we watched the sunrise over Stirling Range it’s highest peak being 1,073 m high. After watching the wonderful sunrise we  enjoyed a morning breakfast of farm fresh eggs and bacon provided by the owners of the Chalet. One good thing about arriving here during the winter months is that we don’t have to worry about snakes. I am quite happy to worry about keeping warm.

Kendenup is definitely the land of sheep farming, wether  driving or walking in all directions you nothing but fields filled with sheep. This might a explain the lack of kangaroos as the farmers are not to keen to have them around as they destroy their fences when moving from one area to another making it possible for their livestock to escape. Sadly I have seen more road kill than live kangaroo.

Over the next few days we did day trips to Albany, Pemberton (Warren National Park) and Denmark/Walpole (Nornalup National Park. The whale migration season is in full steam here on the western side of Australia. The whales leave the cooler waters of the southern ocean and swim north for the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. Thus one our trips was to the coastal waters of Albany in hopes of spotting one of these wonderful beast. Alas none were to be seen that day however a lovely scenic coastal walk along Marine Dr. where I  spotted a bit of wildlife. One being the bandicoot a small omnivorous marsupial and a tiny bird known as the New Holland Honey Eater. We also visited the war memorial on Mount Clarence here I learned that from the ports of Albany is where the Australian troops embarked to go to battle in World War I.

Our walk along Warren River in Warren National Park gave us a small clue to the magnificence of the Tingle Tree which we would experience the very next day at Nornalup National Park Tingle Forest. There we did the tree top walk among the valley of the giants and after a picnic lunch did the Ancient Empire walk. The valley of the giants are the Tingle trees which grow up to 75 meters and the measurement around can be as much as 20 meter. The most notable point about the Tingle tree is the hollow that develops through fire, fungal disease and insects. The hollow can be large enough for a person to walk through. What is unbelievable about this is that the tree remains alive and well for hundreds of years. This we discovered during our Ancient Empire walk there was one tree there known as Grandma Tingle. It is said she is over a 400 hundred years old and that she keeps a watchful eye on all who enter the forest.

After spending most of day in the Tingle forest we drove out to the coast once again in Denmark to see the Elephant Rocks. These huge boulders have the appearance of a herd  elephants gazing out to the Southern Ocean. I was mesmerized by the powers of the waves crashing against the rocks then later enjoying the sunset and being checked out by a seal.

Two days left in this lovely place and we still have a mountain to climb.Seems fitting that I end here with the coastal sunset.

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Always make a hard copy

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A little voice in my head said make a hard copy on the day I received my Aussie visa. Which was with in 10 minutes of the credit card payment having gone through. I was sent a message that my application was accepted and during the whole process no red flags came up. But that little voice just kept nagging me to print a copy. As I don’t really have great faith or trust in online services I did exactly that and printed a copy.

All was going well  in the ticket line everything checked out okay for Steve, Katrina and my father. Then came my turn as the ticket agent swiped my passport I watched with intrepedation as the startled looking agent said to me according to Australian immigration you are already in Australia. After I picked up my heart off the floor I showed her the email message I received saying that I have a visa. After a few minutes what the immigration message meant she decided to see if my boarding passes would print up. If they did it meant there really wasn’t a problem. They all printed out and we went on our merry way thinking all is well in the world.

Our six hour flight to London was uneventful not that I managed much sleep. Whatever position I slept in my back and shoulders muscles would scream at me to assume another position. Fortunately for all us Steve in his travel wisdom booked rooms for us at Heathrow airport in a Yotel as we had a very long lay over. What is a Yotel you may ask. Unlike a hotel it provides small sized accommodations with everything in it but the kitchen sink. Aside from my father we all managed to catch a few ZZ’s. Feeling somewhat rested we chowed down on a hearty breakfast ready to endure the next leg our flight  11 hours to Singapore.

Within a few minutes of checking in for boarding the agent comes around the corner and asks me if I have a VISA for Australia as it has come up not to allow me to board. My heart punched out of my chest and dropped to the floor once again with me barely getting out the word YES!! With my hard copy in hand the agent tried to sort things out for me by a having a three way conversation with a ticket agent in Australia who was conversing with someone from immigration at the same time. The problem was that when I visited Australia 8 years ago my departure was never registered hence the reason for the message in Toronto stating I was still in Australia. Now that little voice has turned into a nagging headache knowing our plane was about to depart in 20 minutes. Everyone in my family is telling me to breathe and stay calm but that all went out the window when I was handed the phone to speak with the Australia ticket agent. Her question do I know the exact date when I left Australia otherwise nothing can be done? Now I am ready to crawl through the phone and scream are you kidding me then puke on her feet as I was feeling nauseated by this point. Then my fairy godmother arrives the Supervisor on the London side of things. Once informed about my predicament she starts to work two phones at the same time and within a few minutes tells me Rick of the Immigration department in Canberra has over ridden the don’t allow me to board notice. With about 5 minutes to spare and my stomach starting to do a dance we walked on the plane. A couple of gravols later I am sprawled across Katrina and Steve  sleeping  on and off  during our 11 hour flight. While thanking my little voice that said I should print a hard copy.

In Zombie like fashion I entered the Singapore airport and immediately felt peace. Singapore airport is one of the best airports in the world. Which I can understand why as it’s design and purpose is to provide calm for hectic air travellers. They did so with style by having a beautiful butterfly garden to walk through and enjoy.  Even though I was feeling much better I still wanted to be at the gate well enough in advance to make sure I did not have to do the pick my heart of the floor dance again. Rick from Canberra had done his job, he will never know how indebted I am to him. I am also considering framing my hard copy.

The last leg of our trip was uneventful which was okay by me. Funny the smallest plane provided the best meals and a yummy chocolate fudge/chocolate covered ice cream for dessert. After what I had been through it seemed like a gift from the gods. We arrived in Perth a little before ll:30 pm. Picking up our luggage we still had a half our taxi ride before arriving at our rental which by that time was 1:00 am on July 28th. We all did a swan dive into bed and covered ourselves with lots of blankets as winter was upon us.

Thankfully I managed 8 hours of sleep, I woke up to find that Steve had bought provisions for breakfast. Even though it was cool outside the sun was shinning and the was a good enough invitation for to go for a walk. Luckily for us there was a beautiful park nearby called Hardey Park.  Hardey Park is one many beautiful city parks you find through out Australia. The aptly named Swan river flowed through the park where one can easily see downtown Perth. But to my surprise and delight the park is a haven for water fowl and birds alike within minutes I discovered these wonderful birds.

Perth also has the one of the world’s largest city parks King Park with a botanical which must be absolutely stunning in their spring and summer, have to keep reminding myself it’s winter here. However I did manage to see some flowering plants and shrubs. This is the one thing I do envy the Australians for is the wonderful plant life the can enjoy year round.

Tomorrow we pick Derek up at the bus station in downtown Perth, Steve gets to test out his Australian driving skills as we drive south to Kendenup, Western Australia.

G’day to all until next time.

Renee.