Guess what’s for dinner

After spending a couple hours with Derek in Coral Bay then saying our good-byes we planned on making a relatively straight run for Carnarvon for a one night stay. However we did make coffee stop in Geraldton in the Dome Cafe not so much for the coffee more for the 45 min. of free wifi if you purchased a coffee. They gave us two password slips however Steve was trying to book our flights to Melbourne we definitely needed more slips. I went up to the counter saying I forgot to get a slip for myself while my dad bought a cake as he must have a sweet with his coffee and said he needed internet access. With the extra slips Steve was under less time pressure to book flights  and we could use my laptop to find a place to stay in Carnarvon and send a email to my mom letting her know internet acces would once again be limited (spoiled in Exmouth). Steve having booked our  flights we stepped outside and searched for a picnic table along the waterfront.  Geraldton has a fairly large waterfront with many open public spaces so finding a table did not take long. An aside here for you would be travellers who want to save money by making their own meals. Save all large and small containers from yogourt, hummus etc. They make great containers for pasta salads or other various cold salads you would make for a picnic lunch. Between Katrina, Derek and myself we were able to make some good stomach filling lunches, kept our food expenses down by having theses containers. Having finished our meal of pasta salad, cheese and veggies we were on the hwy. to Carnarvon once more. Our drive to Carnarvon would be the only part that was going to be retraced from our route up to Exmouth. The rest of the drive back to Perth would be closer to the coast line. Even though school holidays were over we almost unable to find a place to spend the night Can. Seems Seniors were heading for warmth and the beauty of the wildflowers that were just starting to bloom. That’s the great thing in Australia if you are feeling too cold in the winter all you do is drive north and you are back into beach weather. Oddly enough the place we managed to get is right beside the caravon park we stayed in on our way up to Exmouth.

By the time we unpacked we were definitely ready for supper or as they say here tea. We tried the local pizzeria/restaurant as it offered gluten-free pizza what a wonderful surprise we had.   We ordered two pizzas to share, Steve with my dad  and I with Katrina. My father who is not a big fan of pizza declared it was the best pizza he ever had eaten. The real wow was the gluten-free pizza Katrina and I shared. My hat goes off to the chef as I have made gluten-free pizza dough and it is no easy task to make it taste like regular pizza dough. But this chef has it down pack I would say it was the best pizza period I ever had. We felt we could not go wrong with the desserts that were on the menu and we were absolutely right.

On a Friday night one would stay out late enjoy another glass off wine this was not the case for us. As we wanted to be up bright and early to check out the Farmer’s market which we were unable to do the last time we were here. The Farmer’s market was a bit of a let done after dreaming about all the wonderful fruits and vegetables we could buy. It was half Flea market so there was not quite the array I was hoping for but Katrina was delighted to see that fresh herbs were being sold. With our arms filled fresh eggs,vegetables and herbs we left for the car knowing we had plenty of time enjoy coffee one more time at River Gum’s cafe. Another aside sometimes it is best to visit a place only once. The great tasting coffee we enjoyed last time definitely lost it’s good flavour this time around. But one good thing came out of our second visit I was able to find out where I could buy fresh papaya.

After buying the papaya we should have left town but as it was well past lunch time we need a fairly filling meal before leaving for our next destination. What happened next is I found myself in a game of musical lunch bowls. As we often do when eating out we taste the other person’s meal. Katrina offered a taste to Steve of her chicken noodle meal whereupon Steve says it’s nice but tastes fishy. For your information Katrina is allergic to shellfish so the alarm bells went off and I was asked to taste. While I was tasting Katrina starts digging through her meal and discovered little brown things. Upon which I grabbed the bowl from and said those are shrimp I will eat your meal you can have mine. All seemed to be well after a couple of fork fulls of Katrian’s meal Steve then says his throat feels itchy. Katrina then jumps up grabs her and Steve’s meal to question the cook. After much hand waving Katrina was able to find out that her chicken meal was done with a fish sauce and Steve’s done in a Satay sauce which is a peanut sauce. Musical bowls started again this time I am given  Steve’s meal, Kat. has mine and Steve was to eat Kat’s. By now both  Steve and Kat are just staring at the food hoping they won’t become severely ill. Unfortunately we had become a bit complacent with asking questions concerning their allergies as we had not run into any difficulties. Big mistake I kept saying while I am running down the grocery aisle looking for ginger beer to help settle their stomachs. After a 3 hour wait, Steve having eaten a meal from another restaurant and no major reactions from either one of them we felt it was safe to make our way southward. For me it will always be the day of musical bowls with me waiting to see what meal would finally be mine to eat and it wasn’t the one I ordered.

The 3 hour delay made our drive into the interior an interesting one as it was pitch dark, no lights on the the road and it was not smoothly paved think the old mid-west days. We were headed to the Riverside Sanctuary which is near a section of the  Murchison River that is protected. It once was a sheep farm of up to 15,000 sheep, still an operational farm but now offering farmstay  accommodations. Former shearer lodgings that have been transformed to 1 or 3 bedroom self-contained units and in our case the actually lodgings. These were refurbished and had two nice sized bunk beds. The 4 of us felt quite cozy sleeping in our sleeping bags. Luckily no else was staying in the other lodgings so we could grab some extra sleeping bags which we definitely needed as it was quite a cold night. We cooked out dinner and breakfast in the former shearing camp kitchen which is actually inside the shearing shed/barn. The owners set up the barn with many historical news items and many articles of the shearing life. One news photo that caught my eye was a photo taken during 1999 draught. It showed thousands of Emu running along the Emu barrier trying to find water which was on the other side of the fence for the farmers and their crop. The death toll must have been huge.

The next day we walked through 10,000 acre property that the family have been rehabilitating by planting over 100,000 over 30 years and protecting the natural landscape. Once we reached the river both Katrina and I were wanting to get out of there. We were feeling such sadness and I was feeling such tension in my chest that felt my heart was going to jump out. I truly believe many terribly things happened here to the first people of the land and to the native wildlife itself. Both Katrina and I were feeling that and I think perhaps the family who owned the farm. Perhaps this why they have spent the last 30 years giving back what was taken away.

After weeks of driving on the dry open lands of Western Australia (WA) where one had to worry that sheep or cows were going to cross the highway yes I said cross. We did during part of our drive out of Exmouth come across cows that had been killed hate think what the car looked like. Here in the WA fencing in is not a operative word which is quite odd after having spoken with a lady whose property is beside River Gum’s Cafe. In 2010 there was huge flood (Gascoyne River) which caused a fair amount of damage. When it was safe to go back to her home the lady discovered a huge cement mixing trunk just on the edge of property (her kids painted it as a sign for the Cafe) but off the road. Recently she received a letter that stated she would have to remove it as there was potential for a serious car accident. Who would of thought that a cow crossing the main highway had less probability of causing serious harm than a cement mixer that is not even on the road. I know there is logic in there somewhere just haven’t found it yet. But as I was saying it was nice to be heading toward the coastal roads.

Cervantes would be our next stop for a two night stay. The point of interest here was the Pinnacles Desert, a desert where rocks have erupted out the sands. It is believed that they formed underground 500,000 years ago. Scientist believe they either remained buried or went through a cycle of being exposed then buried again. Research also seems to show that about 6,000 years ago they appeared but were buried again until a few hundred years ago. It was a stunning site to see and to walk amongst these mysteries that stand in the sands. What had me perplexed was if these Pinnacles are such natural wonders why are cars and small buses aloud to drive through the area. It was abit surreal to watch from the lookout platform the cars/buses drive around stop, people jump out take a picture get in their transport and drive on to repeat the whole process.  It makes sense to allow people who have a physical disability to drive on the sands but everybody else who can walk should go out and enjoy it for all it’s wonder. Not sure how you can truly appreciate what you are seeing by doing jump out and snap. It serves more the purpose I been there and seen it here’s the picture.

Left Cervantes first thing in the morning as we had a plane to catch in Perth that would bring us to Melbourne. Just when I think there are no more National Parks to be seen we discover one less than  a hour north of Perth Yanchep National Park and Koala Sanctuary.  I was almost beside myself when I found out about the Koala sanctuary.  When we came to Oz the first time we did not get a chance to see any. Steve barely had parked and I was already out of the car camera in hand. The park itself has 9 walking trails we walked the wetlands trail (2 km) after having lunch in a Inn (a former estate) which was celebrating Xmas in July. After having a nice relaxing time in the park it was time for me to be stressed out again. When we checked in with the ticket agent I discovered that Steve had purchased my ticket using Renee Leahy and not my legal name Renate.  Thought here I go again if security looks at both my passport and ticket they would say you are not boarding the plane. A 110 additional gray hairs later with my business cards in hand where I use Renee Leahy I am ready to give the spiel of my life. My boarding card is taken I calmly (ha ha) await “passport please” but wait minute he doesn’t ask run onto the plane as fast as you can.  One word of advice aside from making sure that name on passport and ticket match. Tiger Airways if they can find a way to charge you extra they will. In our case the online booking tickets did not go through properly for the 3 us we were unable to check our baggage in. This resulted in us paying an extra $90.00 per ticket did not matter that their website screwed up. It is a battle we still have to fight once we get home.

The 3 hours of flying time we landed in Melbourne after 10:30 pm to be greeted by cousin (3rd) Barbara. It was great to see her again. By the time we arrived at her home in the suburb of Altona we were almost ready for bed did chit chat for an hour. We enjoyed a wonderful few days with them in fact one evening we had a wonderful dinner with some of their friends who belong to a VW car club. Think hoarders and then visualize a shed filled with Kombis (Bus), Beetles along with10 other classic/antique cars, another shed with an original designed Meyers fiberglass Dune Buggy and all the tools and parts to build or re-build cars or engines. Next in the living room a floor to ceiling show case about 8 feet long with every vw toy you can imagine. I believe that evening was every VW owners dream especially since I got to see one of Herbie’s stand-ins as well.

My cousin and her husband Andrew were kind enough to loan us their car for a weekend. We put the  car on the Great Ocean Drive Road heading for Apollo Bay. The road was built by soldiers who returned from World War I between 1919 and 1932 and is the world’s largest war memorial to the fallen soldiers of that war. The problem with this unbelievably curvy road is built for cars that did have tremendous. Drivers would not be able zoom around the bends the way they try to now. This time you had to pry my fingers of the arm rest after we reached our destination. It is a small coastal town on the eastern side of Otway Cape. From here one can go to the Otway National Park to see glow worms in the dark of night and in another area Koalas way up high either eating or sleeping so that they can digest their meal of eucalyptus leaves. The next time you put your about to decorate your Xmas tree do something for me especially if you have the miniature white lights. Before putting on the tree set a couple or strings on the floor plug them in turn off your lights step back abit and say to yourself the following.  This what Renee and her family saw the night they went stumbling in the dark looking for glow worms. If this doesn’t give you an idea of the magical moments we had that night. Then you will just have to fly to Oz drive the crazy Great Ocean road and go to Otway National Park and enjoy the experience first hand. I am pretty sure James Cameron did going by some scenes in Avatar.

Another attraction in this area are the 12 Apostles which are limestone rock stacks protruding out of the water. Sadly due to wave erosion there are only 8 left but still a wonder see even if you are about to be blown off the walkway (very, very stormy that day). A few kilometers further one can view the beauty of Lock Ard Gorge just as stunning.

The most interesting and bizarre thing I saw in Melbourne was in a police museum. In fact I never thought I would ever see such a thing. Three guesses……no, no and maybe the answer a 18th century Vampire Slaying Kit which the police obtained during a 1994 drug raid. A lovely wooden box containing pistols, wooden stake, crucifix, silver bullets and holy water.  Melbourne’s botanical garden had changed since we were there 8 years ago by adding a wetlands area which just adds to it’s beauty. The best part about being in Melbourne was having the chance to unwind for awhile after many so long drives on the WA highway. But most importantly being able to  spend time with my cousin and her husband.

The question you have to ask now is did Renee have any surprises awaiting her at the airport before the plane flying to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The answer awaits in my next installment.


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