Summer Holiday Down South Part 1

(Dec 2010-Feb 2011)

A long-standing commitment to Maria's sister Pauline to visit her in Perth to celebrate her 60th birthday seemed an excellent opportunity to catch up with a number of friends and family down in the southern reaches of the country.

Unfortunately, Pauline's birthday also happened to occur on the same date as our own daughter Amy  was to celebrate an equally significant birthday.  Aware of this conflicting arrangement, we had earlier visited Amy in the Philippines - see Asian Travels - Philippines.

We also wanted to give our new campervan a bit of a test run and so decided on an itinerary based on camping in both caravan parks and national parks when not visiting friends and family. 

With our airfare to Perth booked for 15 December we left Yeppoon at the beginning of the month and headed south towards Toowoomba and the fruit and wine growing region around Stanthorpe.  As luck would have it our trip coincided with a decidedly unfriendly weather front which deluged the whole Eastern seaboard with record rains on top of one of the wettest springtime weather patterns ever experienced.

While these wet conditions had provided much needed fodder for stock after the recent drought, they were now posing a real threat to grain and crop growers who were now confronting ruinous floods.  Nevertheless for the casual tourist such as ourselves the country had never looked in better shape - everywhere was lush and green.  The driving rain we experienced right through Queensland severely limited our options for camping let alone for some casual visits to wineries and or local fruit stalls most of which appeared closed or abandoned on account of the weather. However, we did manage to buy some "Gourmet Peanuts" (hickory and Mexican flavoured) from a roadside van in Kingaroy which turned out to be very nice.

Our first night was spent at Crows Nest NP. After erecting the camper in the rain we discovered that a little of the driving rain had penetrated the front corners of the camper which will have to be remedied on our return.  I went and undertook the scenic 5km trek to some waterfalls and gorges while Maria remained dry preparing the evening meal of Spag Bolognaise.  Gazing out at falls and gorges in the drizzly rain with fading light has not much to commend it.  However, I stoically undertook my tourist duties.

Now the photos of this early part of our trip through Queensland, Northern NSW and Canberra were all taken on our new Nikon digital camera which was stolen whilst we were staying in Canberra.  All subsequent travels were photographed with our older Fuji Finepix digital camera.  At the time of writing we do not hold out any great hope of retrieving the Nikon camera and so readers will just have to put up with my own rather jaded descriptive powers of the early highlights.

This misadventure with technological apparatus was compounded in Canberra by the discovery that my mobile phone, which I had just got back after 3 weeks being repaired in Sydney, was still malfunctioning and we had to rely solely on  Maria's phone which had a much more limited range.....despite assurances that it would be possible to have it repaired by onsite techs in Telstra's Melbourne HQ, it had to sent back to Sydney for further warranty work and we left for Perth without it.  They also refused to on forward it to Perth once it had been repaired, let alone provide a loner phone......and we're shareholders in this arrogant company.

As it was our intention to visit Canberra on our way down, we had to devise a route which would enable us to skirt Sydney but which would not take us too far out of  way.  We decided on driving down to the Hunter Valley where with the rain at last abating we camped beside a lake near the myriad of thoroughbred horse studs at Gundy.  We then took the Putty Road from Singleton to Penrith and Cambeltown.  This proved very successful and despite towing the van we experienced no major hassles along this very scenic albeit winding route.....I think it took us about 2.5 hours to do it and without any appreciable impact on our fuel economy which remained at about 11.5lt per 100kms (24mpg).

We could not help but notice the rusty and graffiti-covered diesel coal trains which proliferate the Hunter region and compare them to the new shiny electrified coal trains in Qld........they certainly did not reflect well on the state of NSW.

Canberra was barely recognisable from the town we had left in 1976.  Like all tourists, we frequently got lost in its circuitous roadways and the Navman GPS only served to add further confusion as it tried to find the shortest route to the various landmarks we wished to inspect.  We had selected caravan park in the southern suburb of Symonston down near Fyshwick.  It proved to be a bit of a disappointment being full of alot of  out-of-work permanents and passing tradesmen   ie very few tourist travellers. We visited the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery, the National Museum......we also had a sneak look at our old home in Waramanga - ugh it has been used as a renter for quite a number of years and looked quite rundown.  We visited Woden Shopping Centre (on Telstra business) and the ever trendy Manuka shops.  Canberra appears bike mad and it has plenty of bike tracks going every which way.  However, the urban sprawl of the place is a little numbing.  Canberra looks like bursting out of  the borders of the ACT.

The weather again turned nasty on our third day with storms and widespread flooding throughout the region.  Lake Burley Griffin was closed because the floods had disrupted (?) the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan's sewerage system which had inadvertently overflowed into the Molonglo River.

Our visit to Canberra coincided with fellow Yeppoon resident Harry Stapleton's youngest daughter Cara's 21st Birthday party to which we were graciously invited.  The event was held in the function room of a well known tavern.  Despite the weather, the party appeared a great success with piles of interesting finger food and an excellent bar!  The party gave us an opportunity to catch up with Lyn Stapleton and her new partner Gerhard.  Harry's eldest daughter Nicki  had also come across from Adelaide with her new baby.  All of Cara's friends seemed a great crowd.  The evening was only marred by some light-fingered gate crasher 'borrowing' Maria's bag and taking some small amount of cash, the camera and Harry's mobile. Fortunately, the culprit was caught on the tavern's CC security cameras and the police are following it up.  We taxied home to the caravan park only to learn that the Cab Charge company are permitted to impose a 10% levy when paying by credit card - an outrageous scam!

The next day we had arranged to meet an old friend from my university days and who was a groomsman at our wedding.  John Beever did not appear much changed apart from a few extra pounds around the girth and slight loss of hair.  He no longer works for the government but instead has a number of fingers in the lobbying game.  We exchanged family news and many a spurious reminisce over an excellent dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in Manuka.  The meal was accompanied by some excellent wine from Canberra's Murrumbateman region - a Sangiovese red, I think. It was great to catch up with him after so many years.

Next morning we managed to pack up the dried out camper and head off south along the Monaro Highway to Cooma.  It was a lovely clear morning as we drove along the green paddocks and headed up to the cloud shrouded Snowy Mountains.  In Cooma we came across the first of many subsequent references to the Man from Snowy River with the odd statue of a  stockman astride a rampant  mountain stock horse, quite apart from the number of cafes, bakeries and hotels bearing the iconic name.

Next stop was the town of Jindabyne and the excellent Snowy Mtns Information Centre where we loaded up with maps and pamphlets on all manner of activities that are possible in the area during the Spring and Summer months.  As we drove out of  Jindabyne we caught our first glimpse of snow still clinging to the higher slopes...quite a thrill for folk who do not normally encounter this stuff.


                                Into the Mountains                                                                                    Glimpse of Snow                                                                Dieback

At the entrance to the Kosciusko National Park we had to pay our $16 per day Park Fee and received assurances about the road conditions across to Victoria and information about the camping options. As we drove along to our initial campsite (Thredbo Diggings) some 15 kms before Thredbo Village we noticed the extensive 'dieback' in evidence amongst the eucalypt forests on the mountain sides.  I do not know what causes this but it does look a little sad.  Now our campsite turned out to be a real treat being some 2kms off the road right beside the clear waters of the Thredbo River. The camping area covered about 10 acres of river flats and were covered in lush grass and  plenty of shade.  Plenty of pit-style toilets.  It would be a fly-fisherman's paradise with lots of open grassy banks...we even saw trout rising.


Thredbo Diggings camp

After setting up the camper in a light drizzle (we were used to it by now) we went into Thredbo proper to enquire about going up to Kosciusko the following morning.  We found the Village pretty much deserted (all the bars were closed) but got all the info on the chairlift for the next day's assault on Australia's highest peak.  Maria bravely listened to all the information but did not appear convinced she could do it. The village appeared much smaller than I remembered it when we last visited with the children in the winter of 1975.....Amy would have been 5 while Ben only 3.....they probably don't remember it.

The next morning we bought our tickets for the Blue Gums chairlift which takes one up to 1500m and then one has to walk 7kms to the summit at 2300m.  We went early so as to maximise our chances of good visibility before the weather change expected at lunchtime.  The (Blue gums) chairlift ride was great and the only other early morning adventurers being young mountain bike riders all done up in their protective leathers and clutching their hired bikes. Now the initial climb of about 1km to the Eagles Nest Restaurant is a real goat track and quite steep. However, after that the route above the snow line is quite undulating and undertaken on a raised steel mesh 2m wide 'boardwalk'.  Maria was quite comfortable on this and we soldiered on to the summit lookout (about halfway).  While I was keen to complete the trek, Maria had had enough and opted to return by herself.  However, with the weather closing in I decided that we had both better return together. As it was it began to rain about an hour after we got back to our car parked in the village.



A witness to our Alpine 'achievements'


The old eroded track alongside and the new steel mesh one


Some magnificent Snow gums



We then set off  back on the winding Alpine Way climbing all the way until we got to Tom Groggin beside the head waters of the Murray River where we stopped for a look around and had lunch.  Now a funny thing happened at lunch.  Our chosen lunch stop was being shared by a group of Grey Kangaroos who initially did not seem too interested in us.  However, during the preparation of lunch they suddenly took  a decidedly unhealthy interest in our proceedings.....slowly encircling our camping table and even placing their paws on the table, while others growled. I initially thought they wanted to be fed and threw them some ham which they ignored and so I had to resort to a fallen tree branch to shoo the buggers away.  Even then they were most recalcitrant and only moved back a couple of paces. 


By the headwaters of the Murray River at Tom Groggin                                        Friends who dropped in for lunch

In the interests of keeping the peace with our national icons, we beat a hasty retreat packing up our lunch things and got out of the place. From now on the Alpine Way is mostly all downhill and quite a lot of braking was involved on the steep descents.  Those like us towing small caravans would find it far more difficult travelling from Victoria up into the mountains.

We decided to spend a second night camped in the Park and so pulled up mid-afternoon at a very pleasant camping area on the Swampy Plain River near Geehi and some 50kms from Khancoban and the Park boundary.  Once again the area had a number of well-maintained pit toilets, picnic tables and plenty of shade.  This time we had to share the camping area with five or so other happy campers.  Within the camping area there was also a restored stockman's house constructed of river stones and the remanents of a wooden slab hut.  For the second night we tested the camper's fridge on gas and it worked surprisingly well, as did the built in stove.


Next morning with Maria driving and I navigating, we drove out of the Park past the Murray No 1 Hydro Power Station


and along the Murray Valley Highway through Corryong, Tallangatta, Yackandandah, Beechworth and finally to Wangaratta.  A beautiful drive marred only by the ever increasing rain.  We lunched at historic Beechworth which in finer weather would have been great to explore in greater detail. 

Most of the pubs seemed to be offering some fine fare for lunch albeit at a price we would have rather spent for dinner.  Instead, we settled on our regular diet of ham and salad rolls and an apple in a nearby park. 

In light of the increasing rain, I tuned the car's radio into a local station to pick up any flood alerts only to hear that the King River and surrounding valley were expected to be flooded later in the day. We quickly found the local Liquorland  for some supplies and then fuelled up and fled down the King Valley Road through Moyhu, Edi but had to pull over at the Whitfield pub as we completely lost visibility.  During an easing of the rain we made a run for Chris Arnold and Ginny Watkins place (Willow Cottage) at Cheshunt. 

Now Willow Cottage is built right on a bend of the King River which was already running 'a banker'.  After the Mitta Mitta River, the King River is the fastest rising river in Victoria and it soon proved itself.  Within an hour of our arrival we were helping move the horses out of their stables to higher ground and dragging sodden hay bales around doorways to the cottage to thwart the rising waters. Since our last visit in 2005, Chris and Ginny (now married) had substantially renovated the Cottage by the addition of a two storey extension containing three new bedrooms, two bathrooms and a beautiful sunlit office and study from  which they could  plan future thoroughbred breeding campaigns plus the odd architectural assignment.

Now this extension was to be our escape plan should the waters rise too much.  As it was, the brown flood waters eventually began to ooze under the doorways and the mopping and squeegee business began for the next couple of hours.  I must say our hosts took the event in their stride and appeared more concerned for their horses than for either themselves or their beautiful new abode.  At about 2300 hours the waters at last began to recede and we all breathed a sigh of relief and could enjoy a panic-free drink.  The waters were the second highest they had experienced since their arrival in the mid 1980s. 




While attempting to photograph the event I must have got moisture into the camera as a lot of the photos of that night and next morning appear very foggy.  The camera worked OK afterwards.

The sight next morning was not pretty with most paddock fences down, the pump house standing but inlet hose high and dry and of course all gardens, gravelled paths and stable and shed floors covered by inches of brown mud. There was certainly some work to do.  In the district, roads and a couple of bridges had been swept away and downstream Wangaratta was on full flood alert for later that day.  The horses were picked up by a neighbour and taken to where they could be adgisted securely and we set about trying to clean-up what we could.



However, the real clean-up would have to wait a few weeks until everything dried out.  We did manage to play nine holes of golf on the sodden Whitfield course.


The golfing 'competition' was followed by a delightful lunch at the Whitfield pub now owned by the Pizzini family who are major winemakers in the district.  On this occasion, we each had a grilled baby snapper with a Thai chilli and coriander sauce.

After an eventful four days we took off again to our next port of call at Stonehaven 10kms west of Geelong where Bill Bechervaise and wife Jenny Scovell have been developing their rural property on the Barwon River.  From Cheshunt we took a shortcut to Glenrowan and then down the motorway to the Melbourne ring road.  En route to Melbourne we came across this unique piece of state election graffiti.

The ring road leads straight to the Geelong road which in turn connects to the new Geelong ring road to Bill and Jenny's place just off the Hamilton Road.  We arrived about mid afternoon.

Since our last visit to Stonehaven, a new two storey house had been built, together with a stand alone library and study which with the old cottage are connected by a covered 3.5m verandah around a central courtyard.  All the new work has been sheathed in corrugated iron in keeping with its rural surrounds - quite effective.  This is very much a 'work in progress' project.  They have also been very busy in their garden and constructed an extensive vegetable garden enclosure and Bill is in the throes of completing a Croquet Lawn.  During a recent trip to the UK and Spain, the unseasonal rains have generated an outbreak of native grasses which at 1.5m tall, are threatening to bury their fence lines and pose a serious fire risk.  The grass is too tall for sheep and therefore it must be mown or cattle brought in to reduce it to a manageable height.

Maria and Bill



Old Cottage alongside the new House


                                                            Renovated Shearing Shed                                                                  Renovated Hay Shed


Construction of Croquet Lawn

My immediate concern on reaching Stonehaven was to plan to have my mobile phone fixed prior to flying to Perth in three days time.  Telstra in Canberra assured me that on site techs in Melbourne would be able to fix it.  So it was that I ventured to Melbourne alone the next day.  Managed to navigate my way through Footscray from memory and parked in the Queen Vic Markets and walked down to Telstra at the corner of  Bourke and Swanston Streets.  There after 2.5 hours I had to leave the wretched device to be again sent to Sydney for repair.  Once fixed, it would await my return from Perth to be collected - it could not be on forwarded.  What a Bugger.

Whilst at Bill's we learnt of his plans to fly to Brisbane to help a mate sail his yacht back to Geelong.  His own yacht is receiving some minor maintenance down at the Geelong West Boat Club where we inspected it.  A number of trips were also made to a timber yard for materials to be used by his builder during his yachting adventure.  Maria meanwhile visited the local Jayco dealer to enquire about the leaks in our camper - she was advised that they are not a common problem.

The next leg of our journey involved a flight to Perth which left Avalon airport at 0645 in the morning of 15 December.  However, the discount carrier (Tiger Airways) required one to be there at least 60 minutes prior to departure but to be safe we decided on getting there at 0445.  Bill and I had undertaken a 'recky' the previous day to familiarise ourselves with airport's layout.  Bill kindly agreed to drop us off.  All was going well at check in until we had to weigh our baggage.  Our special flight price had only included Carry on luggage but I had smartly purchased excess baggage allowance at the time of booking.  Unfortunately, I had only purchased one lot of excess baggage allowance but not for both bags - the upshot being we were slugged an extra $100.....won't be happening on the return leg.

The flight across was uneventful and we were met by Maria's sister Janette (Kelly) who was visiting from New Zealand and Dazza (Pauline's partner) and were quickly whizzed back to their home in Wanneroo.  The 2.5 hour time difference meant that our our watches were still showing about midday when we consumed our first drinks on arrival when in fact it was only 0930 local Perth time.  Made it a very long day of celebrating!   Pauline's house in the northerly suburb of Wanneroo is right next door to Lake Joondalup which, I was surprised to learn, is  famous for its venomous snakes! 


The house in Wanneroo was consumed with planning for Pauline's 60th birthday party and this meant much running around for meat, salad ingredients, ice, bread, booze, balloons, extra tables and chairs etc.  However, it all went smoothly under Dazza's calm direction.  Pauline meanwhile, was understandably distracted by the need to get on top of her new medical circumstances which required a great deal of very focussed attention, notwithstanding the logistical manoeuvres being undertaken around her; including the blowing up of hundreds of bloody balloons.





A backyard game of Boule



Pick the 'new age' sister


On the morning of the grand occasion, we took time out to ring daughter Amy in Manila (via Skype) to wish her a happy birthday and regret that we could not be with her.

The party turned out to be a great success with a mixed band of  50 or so family and friends assembled for the occasion.  The evening was greatly assisted by a three piece band who entertained the dancing guests until the wee hours.  Dazza, Maria and I eventually finished clearing up and getting to bed at about 2am.  I took a lot of snaps during the evening and a selection is set out below.



    Pauline and sister Janette pre-party            Gordo, Ferra, Adam and Anna


Neighbours Fred, Jane (Cumquat Marmalade Queen)
 with Jane's sister Penny over from the UK                                                  



                                                                     Kristy and Mathew Hayman                                                                Maria, Adam Hayman and Dazza


               Dazza 's (Jack Dazza's Wanneroo Bourbon')'home brew'                                                                                                    Pauline with twin sons Mathew and Adam




Dazza's  Harley Mobile (made from silk)


Singer Rick Steele dropped in to sing with the band


Post-party clean-up and recovery were quickly dispensed with and we all turned our attention to planning for Xmas one week ahead.  Last minute shopping forays to the massive Joondalup Shopping Centre.  Visits to various friends houses for rounds of Xmas drinks.  Perhaps the greatest thrill for us was the visit to the huge retail seafood shop in the suburb of Innaloo.  We planned our assault for 0830hours but even by then the Perth populace was out in full.  There were iced trays being constantly replenished with  crays ($45/kg), prawns, Scampi, Marrons ($70/kg), all manner of crabs, mussels, cockles, Scallops, Atlantic Salmon, Trout, Red Emperor, Octopus, NW Schnapper, Tuna, Whiting, white Bait, Jew Fish, Sardines, name it. We ended up with some rather small, over-priced ($25+) albeit sweet  cooked Banana prawns plus some oysters and Exmouth Crab (very similar to a large Blue Swimmer.

We also tried a half arsed visit to the Fremantle markets.  We plan another.  Dazza and I lunched at the  Hillarys Marina complex

Public boat ramps at Hillarys (you only pay to park your boat trailer)

While one can get a very reasonable feed of quality fish and chips for $10 one is hard-pressed to get a beer in a pub over in the West for less than $4.50.  Perhaps this explains Dazza's lack of interest in visiting pubs generally.

Xmas morning arrived with an expected max temp of 38 C and was spent with Pauline's family and then we went to a friend's house for lunch and the rest of the day. We did manage to exchange xmas greetings with Ben, Sarah and the boys on Xmas morning.  Amy had made arrangements to be out of Manila on Xmas.....sailing I think.



Don and Glenda proved very generous hosts who together with their daughters Amy and  Jenna made us feel most welcome.  They even provided some egg free salads just for me.  The highlight for the afternoon was when I mentioned feeling a tad jaded with my beer and requested something different.  Glenda immediately suggested vodka and fruit juice.   Glenda then inadvertently delivered to me a very pale green concoction which tasted foul and turned out to be the vodka, ice and the brine solution from a can of Edgell Green Beans!!....happy bloody Xmas!




We have noticed that contrary to expectations, we are both losing weight since  commencing this holiday.  I suppose this may be due to the fact that we are dependant upon others for our rather irregular meal times and have little opportunity to snack and browse at will.  Occasional visitors to Perth will also be surprised to come up against the over whelming number of British, South African  and New Zealand accents amongst the general  suburban Perth community.


Another Pom (Gordo) behaving badly in Wanneroo

One morning we headed off to Perth's dedicated dog and horse beach down near Hillarys.  What a sight, literally hundreds of pooches of all shapes and sizes being swum, walked, run and generally being coached into the beach shallows to help them endure the 40 degree temps.  While Maria and I both braved a swim in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean, we were a little taken a back by the temperature of the water and, of course, the impact of Perth's constantly windy conditions.  Nevertheless, it was a most refreshing experience and not marred by dog poo thanks to the plentiful supply of  poo bags made available by the local municipal authorities.



Later on we drove up to Yanchep (about 50km  north of Perth) for lunch.  A call to Jenny Scovell that morning revealed that the foul weather and rain storms along the East Coast had forced Bill Bechervaise to abort his sailing plans for December.

On 28 December, Janette (Kelly) flew back to New Zealand, leaving just four of us plus the Pugs to see in the New Year.

The devasting floods in Central Qld  over Xmas soon began to dominate the news and as towns such as Theodore, Condamine, Dalby, Comet, St George, Emerald were evacuated it became apparent that Rockhampton itself was facing record flooding and by New Year the city was cut off and airport closed.  A quick call to Yeppoon also revealed that it also was cut off and that there had been panic buying of food in the town.  We of course can do nothing from Perth.  After an SOS email to a couple of mates in Yeppoon, we were re-assured that all was probably OK back home.

Following New Year, we contacted old Darwin mates Terry and Janet Sincock (who were holidaying with their daughter Kylie, son-in-law Matt and grandkids down in Mandurah) to come up to Fremantle and join us for lunch.  Dazza had kindly loaned us his van for the occasion.  While Maria strolled around the busy Freo shopping  precinct, I took a quick 'Cooks tour' of the harbour and surrounds to remind me of some of the more majestic sandstone buildings hidden away in the side streets and along the harbour esplanade.  Our lunch was very enjoyable and an opportunity to catch up with the recent happenings up at the DTBC.......especially good to hear about Michael Brotherton's elevation to President.




                                        Freo's 'Cappuccino Strip'                                                        Charming old urinals in Freo's Markets


Some lovely sculptures down by the harbour

Lunch (over a pint or two) at the Sail & Anchor Hotel in Freo with Terry and Janet (not sure wot had just been said to have warranted that humourless grimace on my face)

After our leisurely lunch, we drove over to Kelmscott to visit Trish Bensley and her new husband Dave.  We met Trish initially some 6 years previously when she stayed with us in Darwin during an around Australia motor bike ride with the Ulysses Club.  Trish recently celebrated a milestone birthday and plans to retire at the end of the year when she and Dave have planned another around Australia journey on bikes.  This time they plan to do it a little more leisurely and tow a purpose built trailer.  Over an excellent Thai inspired chicken curry dinner we discussed their plans and hopes for their trip and promises to stop by in Yeppoon.

Next morning we drove back into Perth and parked in Northbridge to enjoy an excellent Yum Cha brunch in James Street in a restaurant crowded with noisy local Chinese young and old.  This was followed by a leisurely tour of the Perth art gallery and WA museum. The gallery has some excellent works including some iconic sculptures by both Henry Moore and Rodin. The gallery also hosts an excellent Hans Heysen:  Droving into the Light as well as Fred McCubbin's: Down on His Luck. There was also an exhibition of  work by the finalists in the WA Indigenous Art Awards.  However, the museum proved a little more interesting for me especially the sections detailing early land settlement and the huge salinity problems the State must overcome because of past errors.  The museum was packed with children and to their credit the museum goes out of its way to provide any number of inter-active exhibits and projects for them.

Given that the temperature was still well above 36C we stopped off at a trendy bistro bar at Mullaloo Beach just north of Hillarys where one was able, from a mezzanine bar, to stare across the very blue waters of the Indian Ocean to Rottnest Island and take in the antics of the sunbaking youth on the lawns in front of the beach....umm very pleasant!

Then home to Wanneroo and the welcoming pool.


During one of Pauline's 'Nanna stints', Dazza took Maria and I up into the Perth hills for a look around which coincided with one of Perth's rare thunderstorms and we had to 'take shelter' in a number of quirky bush pubs; viz:


Beer on Ice in the Bath

Musical accompaniment in the Beer Garden

Prior to leaving home, we had made an undertaking to visit Mike Keenan - an old Darwin mate now living in Serpentine some 55kms south of Perth.  However, as with all good plans, it fell apart because he had to return to his job on a ship servicing the oil and gas rigs in the NW Shelf.  However, Mike was emphatic that we should still travel down to Serpentine to meet his partner Debbie.  This we did and sadly found his extensive aviaries empty of all birds due to a variety of factors. 


                                            Mike's Home                                                                        Denuded back paddock


Maria and Debbie

Debbie also showed us Mike's latest fad - a small V8 jet powered racing boat from which he has already been thrown and injured - he's gone from, fast bikes, to Land Sailing and now jet powered boats - he certainly is a thrill seeker!  Debbie kindly took us out to the local Serpentine Tavern for dinner that night.  Quite apart from the food the Tavern boasted 'skimpy' barmaids.....well, I never!

Next morning we headed back to the Freo markets to do battle with a stall holder who had sold Pauline and Maria a dodgy leather handbag.....after much haggling we convinced the poor woman to exchange it for another. I found that taking the odd  photograph of the stall holder, convinced her to honour her stall's written undertaking to exchange any goods where poor workmanship was evident.

We celebrated the successful outcome with brunch on South Terrace with some of Freo's beautiful A-B demographic.


8th January marked the beginning of the month long Marron season and Dazza agreed to take us out to have a go after purchasing the $40 licences. Now Marrons can be caught in wild  streams, dams and in commercial farmed dams.  In streams one is restricted to snares; viz:

However, in dams one can extend your weaponry to include dilly pots and scoop baskets.  Being a very timid creature, marrons must be stalked after dusk and one's preferred catching area baited with piles of poultry layer pellets.  We all had a good time although a pretty poor catch - totalling one.


A fine Marron stream

Our singular catch

During our last week in Perth, the Qld flood situation began to worsen not only in its intensity (lives being lost in the SE) but it also started to affect a much greater area.  While saddened by the increasing mess being created over East, the logistics and timing of our own return all of a sudden appeared a hell of a lot more difficult.  Thank god for the regular reports on the ABC's 24hr news channel without which we would left almost totally in the dark.

On a more cheerier note, Daryl and Pauline had arranged for their friend Ferra (Geoff) to take us over to Rottnest Island on his and his partner's yacht.  Now this yacht (Scaramouche) turned out to be more than your average weekend yachtie's ketch.  Instead we were presented with a gleaming 42ft Catalina with more electronic aids than you could poke a stick at. The electronic navigational aids were complemented by some very 'handy' electronic winches.  Fer-ra had also recently replaced his canvas Bimini for a solid one to which he had adhered a series of flexible photo electric solar cells to help maintain his battery banks.  The yacht would appear capable of sleeping 5 if needs be.  However, today was just a fun day and with a stiff  15-20knott wind we initially motored out of the Fremantle Yacht Club marina and after minimal fuss hauled up a couple of sails to cross the channel to Rottnest Island or the rather undignified named 'Rotto' to the Perth locals.



Maria tries out the "Princess" seat                                                                                Ferra demonstrates one of his manual winches
                                                                                                                                                                    (NB  He has three winch handles!)


JWB braves the chilly Indian Ocean waters off Rotto



Before taking our leave of Perth we organised a small dinner party for a couple of Pauline and Dazza's friends with an internet inspired and guided recipe for porchetta being the centre piece.

In preparing this latest chapter, I have now realised that, whilst travelling, I have to change over to wireless for my  internet connectivity .  There are simply too many hassles associated with gaining access to someone else's ADSL Modem together with nearby power outlet for the laptop....must bite the bullet when we get home.

Because of the logistics involved in publishing large new chapters, I have decided to break this one up into two.


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