Posts Tagged With: Historic Buildings

Wallabadah – Canowindra (New South Wales)

15/10/18  From Armidale, we continued south on the New England Highway through Tamworth to spend the night at a pleasant free-camp oddly called First Fleet Memorial Gardens outside the town of Wallabadah. Could someone explain why NSW town names sound so strange?

The next morning, we headed west from Wallabadah, through nearby Quirindi and then south along the Black Stump Way to Coolah. Our laundry pile had taken on the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, and we headed to the Coolah Caravan Park to deal with it in a washer. While there, I took the opportunity to do some minor repairs to the Kruiser to rectify a job I’d only recently paid an RV shop to do…annoying…they’re supposed to be the experts. Man, did that town have a fly problem! Step outside and hordes of annoying little bush flies would be in your eyes, mouth, up your nose. A couple of twitches cut from a tree kept them off while we took a walk into the main street. On the subject of flies, the term for Aussie slang and pronunciation is strine, and the story goes that the habit of shortening words and phrases developed from speaking through clenched teeth to avoid swallowing flies. I can believe it.

Following a slow start in the morning, we went on through Dunedoo (love that name) to Wellington for lunch, then Molong for a refuel and unintentionally took the long way round to Canowndra. We much prefer to travel the backroads – less traffic, slower pace and more time to see the countryside going by. Most times these backroads are chosen by design…but sometimes by mistake, like the wrong turn I took leaving Molong that added almost an hour to the journey. On narrow roads in hilly country, it’s impossible to safely turn around, so we resigned ourselves to heading on and seeing what we would see. There was no hurry; the countryside was certainly worth the detour.

Along the way, quite a few examples of early settler homesteads could be seen in the paddocks, some still loved and lived in, some abandoned to slowly decay, and some collapsed under the weight of their high-pitched roofs.

At Canowindra, we pulled in to a small free-camp area only a short way out of town – just us beside the narrow Belubula River. This flowing stream feeds into the Lachlan River and then the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers before finally emptying into Lake Alexandrina and the Southern Ocean south of Adelaide in South Australia. We stayed two nights at this nice spot, and walked into town to have a look around – just about all the businesses were closed though which we thought was strange for a weekday afternoon. Must have been siesta time. The main street had a bygone feel with the many old original brick buildings and commercial facades.

As we headed off through town the next morning, Di insisted we pull over at Coco Harvest, a beautiful old shopfront in the main street offering boutique chocolates. I made the mistake of leaving her alone with the two owners while I went off in search of some fuses. Awaiting payment on the shop counter when I returned was a suitcase of goodies. I thought I’d recognised the withered remains of Di’s self-control lying on the footpath outside.

Canowindra – Coco Harvest Chocolates (NSW)




“Chocolate is to women what duct tape is to men. It fixes everything.”

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - New South Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Scarborough (Queensland) – Armidale (New South Wales)

11/10/18  Following a spell at home, it takes time to get back into the swing of towing a van. When you give the Landy a spurt, it usually reacts like a determined sperm but with the addition of a 3 tonne cottage attached to the rear, what immediately becomes apparent is the corresponding lack of oomph. Both acceleration and braking require a little more deliberation, and climbing hills has all the get-up-and-go of Jabba the Hut. Still, the old girl does her best. Even the champion racehorse Winx would be handicapped pulling a horsefloat carrying Black Caviar.

Nonetheless, we’re very happy to be back on the road, and grinning like kids at McDonalds. Nothing comes close to this…nothing.

Things get dialled back on the road,. In a rig weighing around 6.0 tonnes, you cannot, nor should not, go swiftly. The driver behind you will always want to go five kilometres per hour faster no matter what speed you are doing, so I find it’s best to ignore what’s behind, pop on some tunes, settle back, keep it down to a respectable and safe speed and let the train through when it’s safe to do so.

The Vibe is Back…

Cunninghams Gap (Qld)

From Scarborough, we headed up and over Cunningham’s Gap on the Great Dividing Range to our overnight camp at the old Maryvale Hotel. Great food – give it a go. The freshly-baked Godmother pie and mash is a food group all its own. Next overnight camp was south at the border town of Wallangarra where I lived up to the age of starting primary school. Each time we go back, the town seems smaller, with unfortunately fewer services.

Up to now in our travels around the country, the shortest hop between camp spots had been 22kms from the very small community of Alford to the even smaller Wallaroo on the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula. That’s now been smashed by our hop from Wallangarra on the QLD border to Tenterfield in NSW, a distance of 20kms. In just that short distance, though, the scenery and vegetation changed markedly, becoming a hillier and much greener. Tenterfield is a very pleasant little town, with many examples of early architecture to be seen. Still no monument in my honour outside the maternity wing of the local hospital, though. I thought it would be up by now.

A couple of hours south on the New England Highway at Armidale, we called in on Warren, a fellow Kimberley owner we’d met up at West Leichhardt Station near Mt Isa back in 2015. We got on well then and seeing him again the gap was just like yesterday. We camped the night at his property just out of town, and had a great time catching up and rekindling our friendship. Sometimes lasting friendships come from a brief crossing of paths. Travel is a unifying bond that turns strangers into lifelong friends.

Armidale – Hail Storm (NSW)

Each day since setting off from home, we’ve played tag with thunderstorms and hail. The process starts with a warning text alert, followed by an anxious check of the weather radar, and a tense watchful eye on the advancing storm clouds. So far, and mostly due to luck, we’ve managed to dodge the worst of the storms.

“Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me” – Galileo

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Kooma View Farmhouse – Nuttbush Retreat – Jamestown – World’s End Reserve (South Australia)

18/12/16  After Ceduna, we met up again with Charles and Joy at Kooma View Farmhouse, 60kms or so west of the town of Kimba, the halfway point across Australia from east to west. That brought home to us that we were halfway back on our return leg to Queensland. Kooma View is a disused farmhouse that the property owners make available to travellers to camp at no charge, although donations are welcomed to help with the upkeep of the basic facilities (the dump point and flushing outdoor toilet). The house was open and visitors were welcome to look through, which was interesting but clothes hanging in cupboards and crockery set out on the kitchen table were a little eerie. Some furnishings and contents were very familiar, dating back to our childhood. It felt like someone should be living there – like those movies where everyone vanishes suddenly leaving everything undisturbed. We spent the night camped in the grounds near to the house. No ghosts or green alien abductors bothered us.

The following morning, we headed on east through Kimba and Iron Knob to spend two nights at Nuttbush Retreat on Pandurra Station, near Port Augusta. We’d previously stayed there when travelling across to WA in June. I replaced a broken brake pad sensor in the Landy, finally extinguishing a dashboard warning light that had been in my face for more than a week.

Our next leg took us around the top of Spencer Gulf through Port Augusta and over the high South Flinders Ranges to quaint, historic Jamestown, with its lovely stone residential and commercial buildings. Charles and Joy pulled in shortly after us, having taken a separate route, and we joined them for lunch and a leisurely walk around the town from our semi-bush campsite at Robinson Park Reserve on the northern edge of town.

In the morning, we took the Hallett Road to one of our favourite towns, Burra, which we’d spent a couple of days exploring last year. We were just passing through this time, and had lunch and refuelled before heading 30kms south to our bush camp at World’s End Reserve on Burra Creek. In spite of the creek being dry, it was still a very pleasant camp with just our two vans in amongst old river gums near the creek. This was our last night with our travel buddies, who were heading on to the vineyards of Clare while we continued east towards home. We generally don’t travel with others, preferring the flexibility of doing our own thing, but have done so now with a few couples who we’ve enjoyed camping with. We’d thoroughly enjoyed Charles’ and Joy’s company and had great fun together, sharing seven camp sites since first meeting them at Esperance in WA, and we’re looking forward to getting together again and doing more free camping when they’re travelling around Queensland next year.

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deralinya Homestead – Woorlba East Bush Camp (Western Australia)

6/12/16  Duke of Orleans Bay is located east of Esperance, halfway to Cape Arid National Park where the road ends. From there, to connect with the Eyre Highway to cross the Nullarbor, we’d have to backtrack 85kms west to Esperance and then head 200kms north to Norseman, the start of the Eyre Highway east. It’s a long way around, and mostly in the wrong direction. So, after discussing road conditions with a couple of blokes at The Duke, we decided to take a short cut.

The 200km-long Parmango Road heads north-east to connect with the Eyre Highway at the Balladonia Roadhouse, saving about 170kms. It’s not your usual run-of-the-mill backroad though. After the first 40kms of bitumen, the road changed to a wide, well-maintained gravel surface. But, the further north we went, the road narrowed and got rougher. The tyres were aired-down by 10psi, and we loped along pretty steadily at 60-70kph. We weren’t in any hurry and were enjoying the track as it was scenic and interesting.

As far as being a short cut, though, it took us two days to do the 200kms. We’d planned it that way. We camped overnight halfway along the track at the old Deralinya Homestead. Built in the 1890s as a sheep station and abandoned in 1926, the small stone homestead and couple of outbuildings fell into disrepair. These days, they are in good condition, restored by the absentee owner, stonemason Roger, who happened to be camped there doing some work when we arrived.

Roger and his mate have been doing the restoration work since 1990, guided by a painting of the homestead done in 1906. He showed us around the old buildings, pointing out the restored stone and timber work which was very much in keeping with the look and texture of the original structure. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of how different life must have been for the early settlers. Roger was chuffed with the eccentricities of the original construction of the buildings that weren’t even close to being square. Lime cement (not concrete) had been used throughout the walls and floor, made on the property using lime kilns that were still evident. A working brick oven was located in the front yard, built by the original settler who apparently loved bread so much that he constructed ovens throughout the property wherever he was likely to camp for a period of time.

In the scrub a short walk from the homestead, an extensive area of flat granite forms a natural catchment for rainwater. Taking a walk, we came across a few gnamma holes, deep natural holes in the rock that collect and store rainwater for a good period of time following rain. One hole was still covered by three rock slab “lids” to prevent evaporation of the contents, and another contained what I reckoned had to be several hundred litres of water. How useful would these holes have been to the first peoples and the early settlers in this dry country! In the books that I’ve read recently about early explorers in WA and SA – “Eyre: The Forgotten Explorer”, Ivan Rudolph; “Sturt’s Desert Drama”, Ivan Rudolph – gnamma holes and native wells regularly sustained the explorers when they were on their last legs.


The usually unoccupied homestead was fascinating in its own right, and with the owner there, we were very fortunate to be able to learn a bit of the history of the property and its earlier inhabitants, along with his efforts to maintain the historic integrity of the homestead to which he intends to retire in a few years. It’s wonderful that he kindly allows travellers to visit and camp at the old homestead on their way through.

In as much as the 109km drive in to Deralinya Homestead from the south was pretty good, the 83km drive out the next morning to the Eyre Highway was just the opposite. North from the homestead, the track became a slow, rough slog. If it wasn’t corrugated, it was stoney, and if it wasn’t stoney, it was corrugated. And often as not, it was both. A quick but spectacular thunderstorm that passed overhead as we arrived at Deralinya the day before had dropped some rain on our next stretch of track. For the first 30kms, we sloshed through section after section of water lying across the track. It was no problem for the Landy and Kruiser to negotiate, though. Then we came to sections where it wasn’t water but mud across the track. This was followed by dry sections of bull dust. The van and Landy were firstly wet down, then covered with a layer of mud and then a layer of fine bull dust that turned the rig and tyres white, along with us if we happened to touch it. At best, we managed 40kph and at worst, 20kph. With occasional stops to cool down the shocks and heat up a cuppa, it took us most of the morning to get up to the bitumen.

img_2444aOur little shortcut had been a big adventure that we really enjoyed. Even so, it was a relief to at last reach the Eyre Highway and Balladonia Roadhouse. Pulling in to refuel and air up, we spotted Charles and Joy, who we’d first met at Esperance and then again at Duke of Orleans Bay. They were heading east in their van and we camped together that night in a shady spot off one of the many tracks into the scrub behind Woorlba East Rest Area, at the start of the 90 Mile Stretch. We were the only ones there and, although a little windy and dusty, the campsite was a pleasant one. We finished the day wrapped around a nice drink or two.

“Not many cars on the road, hey!” Pete, speaking loudly over the corrugations ahead of a cloud of bull dust.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Perth – Fremantle – Rottnest Island (Western Australia)

2/11/16  Coming in to Perth, we headed to the caravan park at Karrinyup Waters Resort and set up on a grassy site among the trees down the back, away from the crowded rows of caravans on concrete slabs. It was just like bush camping…but with power and bathroom facilities, oh and a pool and spa and laundry – well, similar to bush camping.

A couple of weeks earlier, I’d noticed a weld on the Landy’s rear wheel carrier that looked cracked and rusted. It was fitted by Opposite Lock back home in 2013 and had carried a spare wheel for well over 60,000kms, sometimes over very rough roads and tracks up to Cape York and all around Australia. When I mentioned to Aaron at OL that I was calling from WA, he suggested I contact the manufacturer who happened to be located in Perth, of all places! What’re the chances of that! We dropped in to the Outback Accessories factory and they said yep, no worries, we’ll replace that with a new one. It turned out not to be an actual weld break after all but they were still more than happy to replace it anyway as they had slightly changed the way they were making them since I’d bought mine. Great guys and excellent customer service. It’s terrific to deal with a company that will so readily stand behind their product without any hassles. The next day, the Landy was sporting a brand spanking new rear wheel carrier with a complementary wheel cover thrown in to the bargain. Thumbs up to Ross and Justin.

We caught up with Gary, an old friend and neighbour from back in the 80s in Townsville. Despite the 35 year interval, it was just like old times which is always the sign of a good friendship. We spent a great day being given a guided tour of the Sunset Coast beach strip and the old convict-era attractions of Fremantle, with lunch at Bather’s Beach House next to the old jetty. The following day, Di and I went back to Fremantle to see more, and caught up afterwards with “New Best Friend” (inside joke) and fellow traveller, Fleur, for coffee and a chat at her home. It was a shame we missed seeing Peter who was away for a few weeks chasing his El Dorado with a gold detector.

The Landy (aka Big Ears) is now wearing a set of Clearview extending mirrors for added towing vision, courtesy of Wayne, our “New Second-Best Friend” (same inside joke) and ex-Disco 3 owner who we met at Karijini NP.

Being back in a bustling city after so long in the bush was curious – more 2WDs than 4WDs; more people who’ve obviously had a bath that day; young people outnumbering the grey-haired baby boomers; fast freeways full of fast drivers who take a gap regardless of one being there or not – so noticeable after tootling around in the Serenity for so long. I drive like I’m in a 6.5-tonne rig – steady braking, steady acceleration, braking distance in front – not so easy to do when everyone else is in such a hurry. Get me back to the Serenity!

We went to Fremantle yet again to see the WA Maritime Museum, home to the winning 1983 America’s Cup yacht, Australia II. She’s under full sail and suspended up in the air in a large room in the museum, with her famous breakthrough winged keel on full display. Di enjoyed a coffee in the museum’s sunny outdoor café while I was escorted through the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens that is also housed permanently at the museum. My guide was an ex-submariner who served a large part of his 25 years in the Royal Australian Navy as one of the three Sonar Operators on a similar Oberon class vessel. I was the only person in his tour group so was able to see everything up front and close and ask him lots of questions. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about the sub, because every crew member regardless of their job, including the Cook, was required to know the subs full operations and how to work everything. The tour was very interesting and very cramped, even with just the two of us below deck. I couldn’t imagine the conditions on board with a regular crew of 63! With the shoulder-width corridors and doors that require you to go through sideways, it’d be like constant “Excuse me…after you…no, no, you first…”

We also visited the Freemantle Arts Centre, housed in an historic colonial gothic building in the heart of Freemantle, and built by convicts in the 1860s as the Convict Establishment Fremantle Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot. Not so much PC in those days. The buildings planned demolition in the late 1950s was halted following a public outcry and since that time it has been used for a variety of community purposes. Following a major restoration, it is now a lovely complex housing the Freemantle Arts Centre, with exhibition rooms and artist work spaces.

I made the mistake of filling the tanks with what laughingly passes in Perth for water. It was like I had a glass of swimming pool, leaving a metallic chemical taste like putting your tongue on a 9v battery. Perth drinking water is derived 47% from desalination, 46% from groundwater and 7% from dams. Then they must combine it and bomb the hell out of it with chlorine. Chlorinated water generally settles down after a day or so in the tanks and becomes tasteless, but not this latest lot – it’s been a week and still smells like spa water. We resorted to buying bottled water for the daily cuppas.

Gary took us in to Perth to the Bell Tower and Kings Park and Botanic Garden, followed by a drive to nearby wineries in the Swan Valley, where we had a leisurely lunch at the Ugly Duck Winery before more wine tastings at a few nearby wineries.

We took a day trip to Rottnest Island via Rottnest Fast Ferries from Hillarys Wharf. To get around on the island, the choices were 1) walk, 2) hire a bicycle, 3) catch the hop-on-hop-off bus, and 4) take a guided bus tour. Rottnest isn’t a particularly large island, but walking or bicycling around it was out for us. The hop-on-hop-off bus was also dismissed as a lot of time could be spent just waiting for the next one to come along. We decided on the bus tour which was very informative with the driver providing a running commentary, but the downside was that the tour went around the island in a clockwise direction and we found ourselves sitting on the wrong side to really see the magnificent coastline views. If you’re considering the bus tour, ask the driver which way you’ll be travelling to make sure you are on the best side. We also had a couple of dawdlers in the group who were regularly very tardy getting back to the bus, causing the latter part of the tour to be rushed to connect with the return ferry. Our recommendation – spend more than just one day on Rottnest to take it all in at a leisurely pace and use the hop-on-hop-off bus to get around and make sure to see the Quokkas and New Zealand Fur Seals (Eighteenth and Nineteenth Ticks for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List).

Our departure from Perth was delayed by a day so we could meet up with Ros and Dean, fellow Kimberley Kruiser big-lappers who we’ve been corresponding with for some time via the blog and have been looking forward to meeting while we were in Perth. Over drinks and a fine Italian meal, we had a lovely evening sharing travel stories and anecdotes, followed by a nice stroll back to their place alongside the Swan River with a million dollar view of the city lights opposite. The fresh evening breeze was quite pleasant given the ambient level of friction (Ros’s First Law of Thermal Transmogrification – as yet unpublished).

The following quote is for my trusty second seat Navigator throughout our travels.
“When looking at your two paws, as soon as you have decided which of them is the Right one, then you can be sure the other one is the Left.” – Winnie the Pooh

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dongara – Billy Goat Bay – New Norcia (Western Australia)

19/10/16  Our next planned stopover was supposed to be the free camp at Seven Mile Beach but, on arrival, we both agreed that it was too hot and windy to stay, and had way too many flies. Furthermore, our water was running low and needed to be topped up very soon. So after a quick scan of WikiCamps, the Tourist Park at Dongara, 30kms south, looked pretty good and we headed there to hook up to the power and water facilities. Generally, mains power is no great treat for us as we do very well with the on-board solar panels but, ah, those lazy hot showers that aren’t coming from our water tank are just terrific. And aircon during the hot days is always an added blessing. A very cold swim in the Indian Ocean at nearby South Beach cooled us down and the Beach Belle was very happy to be in surf again after such a long time.

We ended up staying there five days, taking time to look around the town and its heritage buildings and used Dongara as a base to see the surrounding district, especially the fascinating 300 metre long Stockyard Gully Cave and the Monet palette of wildflowers in Lesueur National Park.

The definite highlight for both of us was the desert landscape of the Nambung National Park where the weathered rock spires of the Pinnacles sit among the yellow sand dunes like a host of terracotta warriors. We were fortunate to be there in the late afternoon when the light brought out the colours of the spires and cast long shadows on the sand. In the distance beyond the Pinnacles, pure white dunes of the White Desert provided a picturesque contrast with the yellow dunes of the Pinnacle Desert.

Perth was only a few hours to the south and, despite having a list of things to be attended to when we got there, we were in no real hurry to be back in a major city after being in the bush for so long. Consequently, we were taking our time getting there.

Our next stop, where we stayed two days, was a nice little free camp at Billy Goat Bay near the small town of Green Head and on the edge of Lesueur National Park. The beach was only a few steps from the van and the outlook was great across the pretty little bay with its turquoise waters and sweep of white sand. We’d have loved to have stayed longer at Billy Goat Bay but unfortunately had reached the 48 hour maximum allowable stay.

We headed inland, 200kms south-east, to the Benedictine community of New Norcia. The group of Roman Catholic monks have built, owned and operated the small town, Australia’s only monastic town, since 1847. The town is now registered with the National Estate and many of the majestic buildings are listed with the National Trust. Anyone wanting to live in the town would go through a process whereby each of the monks would vote using either a white marble for “Yes” or black marble for “No”. I’d much prefer white or black smoke out the chimney if it was us. We camped near the oval and did a self-guided tour of the many buildings and interesting displays around the town. Some of the local Benedictine Shiraz and Olive Oil made their way into our van, which we’ll share with friends back home who’d particularly appreciate them.

In closing, I’d just like to say that there is little that surpasses the excellence of an Anzac Biscuit or two for morning and afternoon smokos, particularly those that are not too hard or too soft but are just the correct chewy texture. They are a food group unto themselves and fully deserve their iconic status.

“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.”

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oakabella Homestead – Ellendale Pool (Western Australia)

11/10/16  Oakabella Homestead is reputed to be one of WA’s most haunted places and is renowned also for its daily-fresh scones. Two excellent reasons to spend the night there! We camped near the wonderful old whitewashed stone farm buildings which date back to when the property was established in the 1850’s. Now unoccupied, many of the old buildings have been faithfully restored over the past decade to provide an authentic reflection of pioneering life in the 1800s and 1900s. Oakabella Homestead has been acknowledged by the State Register of Heritage Places as one of the earliest surviving farms of Northampton and quite rare as an intact group of buildings illustrating how people worked and lived in the early days of European settlement. We were told that all the furniture and effects were original to the property and each item seemed a have a story to it.

img_7124The interesting caretaker, a part-Irish and part-Canadian Indian woman, took us on a tour of the buildings, introducing the ghosts as we went through each of the many rooms of the rambling homestead and recounting many stories from the properties past, including the black cat bones interred in door frames for good luck. The intriguing tour ended with some very yummy freshly-made Wattle and Date scones and coffee. That night, the van shook and creaked, and I preferred to put it down to the strong wind rather than any ghostly influences. We had no uninvited guests during the night – none that I noticed anyway. While we took a casual approach to the whole ghost thing, when Di was checking her photos the next day, she came across this one that was taken where our guide had pointed out a ghost…spooky!


We headed off the next morning and, while travelling south through Geraldton, Di realised one of the pendants from her necklace was missing. A search of the van failed to turn it up. I reckoned one of those ghosts had nicked it during the night like some sort of spectral bowerbird! We’ll take ghosts more seriously next time.

img_7347We camped on a section of the Greenough River called Ellendale Pool, opposite a high sandstone cliff on a bend of the river. While we were looking around, a bird swooped in to land on the cliff face and, through the binoculars, we watched the Peregrine Falcon feeding three white fluffy chicks on a narrow ledge high up the rock face. Before light the next morning, the noisy chicks could be heard demanding a feed. It was a good spot for birds and we saw many as we wandered along the riverbank.

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” – Winnie the Pooh

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , ,

Northbrook Farmstay and Kalbarri National Park (Western Australia)

9/10/16  After Hamelin Station, our next stopover was Northbrook Farmstay, 250kms south on the Coastal Highway and not far from the small town of Northampton.

Travelling there, we called in to the Principality of Hutt River, the 75 square kilometre independent sovereign state that seceded from Australia in 1970. The 93 year old sovereign head, H.R.H. Prince Leonard, took the two of us on a personal guided tour of his capital and its museum, which included letters of congratulations to him on the anniversary of his principality from the Queen and the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. One of his sons, Prince Graeme, Minister of State and Education, Chancellor of the Royal Court, Chancellor of the Royal College of Heraldry, and Chancellor of the Royal College of Advanced Research welcomed us in the principality Post Office and sold us some local souvenirs from the gift shop.

Before heading off on this year’s overlanding travels in late April, we had at long last arranged to be issued with passports, and have been carrying them with us in case we chose to take a trip to another country. That was a fortuitous move as it turns out because the very first stamps in our new virgin passports acknowledge our entry to and exit from the independent sovereign Principality of Hutt River, personally stamped by Prince Graeme, Duke of Gilboa and Earl of Canan. Not many people can attest to having their passport stamped by a member of State royalty! Have a read of the background to Hutt River’s separation. It makes for a very interesting story.

The drive from Shark Bay to Northampton took us into cultivated wheat belt country – quite a transformation after being in arid red soils for the past three months. So much green everywhere and a lot more bug splatters on the windscreen.

The campsite at Northbrook Farmstay was on a very pleasant open grassy area with views across a creek to hay paddocks in the process of being mown and baled. It was like lawn camping, great to walk barefoot on a carpet of grass without the certain fear of stepping on a goats-head burr or some other evil bindy derivative. Soft green was good after so much dusty red. The Kruiser was feeling the love too. A plentiful water supply at hand meant that the van had a much overdue bubble bath to soak away the coating of outback red. The sassy twinkle was back in its tail lights!

Showers and overcast skies were forecast for the next few days and we’d hooked up to power on the farm in case the solar struggled. We couldn’t remember when it last rained.

We took the Landy to Whyatt’s Land Rover, 50kms south in the coastal city of Geraldton, for its scheduled service. While it was getting the day spa treatment, we took in points of interest around the town in a loan vehicle, and also visited the nearby heritage listed town of Greenough to see the well-preserved stone buildings dating from the mid-1800s and had an ale in the historic pub.

We took a day drive up to Kalbarri National Park to see the gorges along the winding Murchison River and were blown away by the profusion of wildflowers. The park was an absolute carpet of flowers – Bottlebrush, Geraldton Wax, Murchison Rose, small ground orchids and tall blooms of Smelly Socks everywhere.

Lunch was at the nearby town of Kalbarri, where the calm waters of the Murchison River flow out to battle mighty waves of the Indian Ocean. We returned to camp via the coastal Balline Road, with a few stops along the shoreline at the impressive cliff formations including Natural Bridge and Island Rock.

“The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.” ― A.A. Milne

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Boogardie Station, Mt Magnet (Western Australia)

23/07/16  From Cue, we backtracked south to Mount Magnet and went a further 20kms west to Boogardie Station to catch up with Janet and Paul Jones, relations of friends of ours back home. The van was set up next to the shearers’ quarters and the old shearing sheds at the old house, and Paul took us out to have a look around the property. Well, bits of it anyway, as it’s about 374,000 acres in size.

Paul is an avid bird watcher with an expert knowledge of the wildlife on the property, and took us to a Malleefowl nest that the bird was readying for the new nesting season, then on to see Aboriginal rock art on overhanging surfaces of the nearby breakaways.

The tour was finished off with a circuit of the farm storage dump, comprising acres of car and truck bodies, farm machinery in various states of deconstruction, stacks of steel and sheet metal, rows of washing machines and other assorted whitegoods, tyres and wheels, and lots of other assorted stuff. I was in bloke’s heaven, and thought of taking a stroll around the collection at my leisure. The only foreseeable problem was that it was so spread out among the mallee trees, I could easily become disoriented and lose my way back to camp, never to be seen again, lost but happily browsing the artefacts.

That night, we joined Janet and Paul for a lovely meal and good conversation at their house.

Boogardie was settled by the Jones’ in 1880 and is one of the very few properties to have remained in the same family to the present day. It is still a working sheep station.

The next day, we headed off with Paul to Woaran Rock, their local version of Uluru and a distinctive navigational landmark in this flat country. Next stop on the property was Pretty Rock quarry, the world’s only site for orbicular granite of such high quality. We would love to have a kitchen bench made from this remarkable granite.

Dodging many goats and emus on the bush tracks, we stopped at Congoo railway dam on neighbouring Munbinia Station to see the engineering marvel comprising a low stone wall that entirely surrounds the base of a large granite outcrop to capture and direct rainwater via a stone channel into a nearby dam. It was built to provide a water supply for steam trains on the Mullewa to Meekatharra rail line that opened in 1898 and closed in 1978. The dam was completely covered by an open-sided roof structure to minimise evaporation of the precious water, but the wooden structure has since collapsed into the dam. It’s clearly evident how effective the engineering was as it’s still working to keep the long disused dam full of water. The stone wall was constructed to a high standard, and shows no signs at all of deterioration.

During the course of the day’s drive, we called in to meet the folks at three neighbouring properties of Murrum, Munbinia and Yoweragabbie, for a hot cuppa or a cold beer.

The following day, Di did some more exploring with Paul, while I took the Landy to Geraldton to have its transmission serviced. Four hours’ drive each way made for a long day, but I got some good photos of the rising and setting sun along the way.

On our last day, Paul took us and another small group of people to see a wedge-tailed eagle nest, high in a tree. I followed Paul in his well-used 80 Series trayback, with Di and Sister Gerri on board, and the dog Mallee reluctantly relegated to the trayback. Using a long extension ladder to inspect the nest, Paul found it to be active with two large white eggs. Nearby was a very large eagle nest that Paul knew to be at least 30 years old. We had lunch and boiled a billy before heading back to the homestead.

Another couple, Graham and Wilma, were regular campers on Boogardie, relaxing and doing some gold detecting. They shared a meal with us at Paul and Janet’s place and offered to show me their metal detectors the next morning before we headed off. I quickly found a nugget – the one that Graham dropped to show how the detector worked. Hmmm, I can see a new interest growing here…

Despite our protests, Janet and Paul had us over for dinner most nights, with Janet producing delicious meals virtually out of thin air. They were wonderful hosts who made us feel very welcome and went out of their way to make sure we had a good time and saw as much of their beautiful property as possible.

Mulga Parrots - Pair - Murrum Station (WA)

Mulga Parrots – Pair – Murrum Station (WA)

“Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.” – Joseph Parry

Categories: Bird Watching, Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mt Magnet – Cue (Western Australia)

17/07/16  From Wandina Station to our next camp at Mount Magnet took about 5 hours, pottering along at 80-90kph like we do. The road was great with very little traffic going our way. Most vehicles were heading south looking very dusty, probably on their way home to the SW corner at the end of the school holidays.

Lunch was at Pindar which used to be a reasonable sized town on the rail line in 1901 until the rail was closed in the 1970s. The whole town seems to have vanished. These days, it’s just a dot on the map. We parked opposite the wonderful old former Pindar Hotel, a heritage-listed two-storey stone corner pub that stands as a charming ghost of past glory in a street with only four other remaining buildings.

Pindar - Hotel (WA)

Pindar – Hotel (WA)

That night, we stayed in the Mount Magnet Caravan Park, and learned the next morning that four vehicles had been broken into in the early hours by having their windows smashed. One was in the next site to us. Our plan had been to stay in Mount Magnet for another couple of days to catch up with some local folk who would be back soon from a trip, but the incident changed our minds. We moved on up the road to the next town of Cue.

Cue is a small town with a population of around 300. It is heritage listed as a town of significant historical value, and little has changed of the short main street since it was first built in the 1890s. Unfortunately, like too small towns, most of the commercial buildings now appear to sit empty. The old gaol is in the grounds of the caravan park and was used for a while as the park’s ablution facilities. It would have to be the most interesting caravan facility we’ve come across. Now heritage listed, it’s being renovated and all signs of its more recent use have been removed.

In the meantime, I’d picked up some rubber fuel hose to replace the perished plastic air hose on the air compressor that disintegrated when I aired up the tyres. Only 12 months old and already stuffed. Thought it was a good price at the time but there you go.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of price has been forgotten”.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , ,

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