Western Australia – July & August 2008

After hitting an unfortunate kangaroo near Hay and having to return to Canberra (see the previous post), we left the Pajero to be repaired and a few days later flew to Perth, where we hired a car, determined to have our Western Australian holiday anyway! And we are so glad we did! It is such a beautiful state, with so much variety of scenery and vegetation. We were lucky to have good weather just about everywhere.

We started our journey by heading up the Great Northern Highway through Mt. Magnet and Newman, watching the country quite quickly change from lush green fields to dry red-soiled plains, and regularly overtaking massive trucks with wide loads on their way to the mines. Our destination, Karijini National Park, is an absolute gem (at no. 1 on the map below), with stunning gorges cut deep into the plateau, featuring cool flowing creeks edged with gums, paperbarks and bright green grass beneath high red cliffs, narrowing into canyons with hidden pools. Some of these are quite a challenge to negotiate, others more accessible, but all beautiful and unique. We stayed here four days before reluctantly leaving for the coast, which we then followed south all the way to Perth and beyond, with a few deviations.

We enjoyed exploring Ningaloo National Park near Exmouth (2 on the map) with its fringing reef very close to the shore, bright white beaches and clear aqua sea, and a highlight was a whale-watching trip where we saw several pods of humpback whales, one of which even waved goodbye to our boat as we left. At Coral Bay we looked at the coral through a glass-bottomed boat. Further south at Shark Bay (3) we saw stromatolites (an extremely ancient but not terribly attractive life form) at Hamelin Pool, a vast beach consisting solely of tiny white shells, and dolphins being fed at Monkey Mia. From here on south we encountered patches of multi-coloured wildflowers by the road for several hundred kilometres- stunning!

We did our first long hike at Kalbarri (4), following a loop in the Murchison River along a colourful gorge. We saw many interesting flowering shrubs here and further on – the region is a “biodiversity hotspot”! After Geraldton we did a bit of meandering in our attempts to see as many wildflowers as possible. A highlight was Lesueur National Park (5), a botanist’s paradise. We also visited the Pinnacles (6) at sunset when the shadows make this interesting landscape even more photogenic.

South to Perth and Fremantle, where we stayed for four days, visiting the sights and spending a day exploring Rottnest Island on bikes. Perth is a beautiful city and Fremantle has a lot of historic buildings and great fish and chips! Leaving Perth, we headed toward the Southwest region (7) on a rather cool windy day, exploring the coastline at Cape Naturaliste, the majestic karri forests and passing many vineyards. Heading west through more of the tall forests we encountered more cool rainy weather which cleared by the time we got to Albany.

The coastline near Albany features smoothly rounded granite outcrops, white sandy beaches and deep turquoise water, with jutting headlands covered in interesting flowering shrubs, including the biggest banksia we have ever seen! Leaving Albany we visited the Porongorup Range (also granite) before continuing on to the Stirling Ranges (8) a short distance further north. Here we climbed Bluff Knoll (tallest mountain in the Southwest) and Mt Hassell, and admired the amazing range of colourful flowering shrubs as we climbed.

Finally we drove back north towards Perth, stopping to admire the Dryandra Woodland Reserve north of Narrogin and to visit Albert Facey’s house at Wickepin (his autobiography “A Fortunate Life” tells what life was like as this country was just being opened up, early last century.)

After a concerted effort to wash the remaining red dust off the car and give away some of our acquired camping gear, we flew back home, determined to come back again to WA, see the bits we missed and revisit some of our favourite spots again in the not-too-distant future!

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Posted on Monday September 29th, 2008, tagged with travel | 1 comment

Lakes Walk – February 2008

The traditional annual family weekend in the mountains this year took us to Jindabyne again. On Saturday morning we headed off to Charlotte Pass, to attempt the 22km Main Range walk, via Blue Lake, Lake Albina and Mt. Kosciuszko. Superb weather, beautiful views and masses of wildflowers (different ones from December) made it a memorable family walk. Our feet were however very tired by the end. By popular demand, Sunday was spent in a much more leisurely fashion!

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Posted on Monday April 14th, 2008, tagged with travel | comments disabled

Snowy Mountains – December 2007

Just after Christmas, those of the family who weren’t gadding about elsewhere went to Jindabyne for a few days, to reacquaint ourselves with the Snowy Mountains in summer. Mum hadn’t been there for a while and we spent three fine days visiting old haunts. On Day One we all went to the top of the chairlift at Thredbo, and Teepar, Stephan and Jess did the walk to the top of Mt Kosciuszko while Kath and Mum admired the flowers and the scenery at our own pace. On Day Two, Mum and Stephan and Jess had a look around new and old Jindabyne (and watched a bit of cricket) while Kath, Pete and Teepar, and a lovely young lady we met on the way, did the walk to Blue Lake and back via Hedley Tarn. On the last day (a pretty hot one!) we all went up to Charlotte Pass, Spencer’s Creek and Sawpit Creek to enjoy the views, the wildflowers and the crystal clear streams before heading back home.

We stayed in a lovely multi-level townhouse on the hill in Jindabyne with great views of the lake. Our spare time was spent preparing food, eating, chatting, watching (what else?) “Jindabyne”, watching cricket, reading, sitting on the balcony, playing Scrabble (a close one!), eating some more and finally sleeping. A very pleasant way to spend a few days!

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Posted on Monday January 14th, 2008, tagged with travel | 2 comments

Canada – June / July 2007

In June and early July, 2007, Pete and Kath spent almost six weeks travelling around British Columbia and western Alberta in Canada and Montana in the USA.

Our friends Bob and Jane lent us a 1992 Mazda truck whom we affectionately called “GJ”. Loaded up with borrowed camping gear, we headed from Vancouver Island (Nanaimo, to be exact), to Victoria and the wonderful Butchart and Abkhazi Gardens and then to the mainland, driving close to the 49th parallel till we crossed to the USA and headed down to the magnificent Glacier National Park in Montana. Wow!

We followed the Rockies north to Waterton NP in Canada, detoured via Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (really!) and Calgary and then rejoined the Rockies in Banff National Park, where we walked and drove and marvelled and took many many photos ( a small selection below!) Then along the glorious Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park after which, reluctantly we had to move on. Through Mt Robson Provincial Park (highest mountain in the Rockies) and NW to Prince George and Prince Rupert. More snowy mountains, green meadows, wildflowers, full rivers and some rainy weather.

East back through Prince George, then southwards to Wells Gray Provincial Park (beautiful waterfalls). Further south to Glacier National Park (British Columbia – not to be confused with the one in Montana) where we had the best weather of our trip and made the most of it . Four half-day walks to as many views as we could get (still too much snow to go all the way, unfortunately!) Finally we headed back to Nanaimo via Lillooet, Whistler (loved it!), Vancouver and Victoria (the Butchart Gardens again).

We had changeable weather in general, but were lucky enough to see most of the mountaintops, the Rockies with lots of snow still on them, lovely wildflowers, green meadows, emerald or aqua rivers and lakes full of water, 12 bears(all from the car window, thankfully!), 2 moose (mooses?), elk, deer and lots of loveable squirrels, ground squirrels and chipmunks, even some hairy marmots and a pica! And we had fine weather for most of the really scenic mountain areas. Our last few days in Nanaimo were real summer at last – almost too hot! Our gratitude goes to Bob and Jane and their family for their great hospitality. What a lovely country! Great people, brilliant scenery! We’ll be back.

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Posted on Saturday July 28th, 2007, tagged with travel | 1 comment

Tasmania – Nov 2006

To celebrate Kathy’s retirement in November 2006, we decided on a trip to Tasmania. Ange and her friend Carrie joined us (they’d also shared our NZ adventure) and stayed on afterwards, completing the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair after we left.

We took the Pajero and crossed (smoothly, thankfully) to Devonport on the Spirit of Tasmania. First we headed west along the northern coastline, visiting some lovely gardens and enjoying some beautiful coastal scenery. No camping here – it was too cold! After a few days we headed east (via some interesting side roads) to Launceston to pick up Carrie.

Our first overnight hike was at Freycinet National Park on the east coast, an absolutely beautiful walk, along beaches, over mountains and through bush full of wildflowers, with views to the spectacular coastline on much of the return journey.

On through Sorrel (visiting friends at their fabulous B&B), and through Hobart south to Cockle Creek (where some really serious hikes begin and end!). Back north to Port Arthur, where we did our second overnight hike from Fortescue Bay along another stunning coastline of precipitous basalt cliffs (or was it dolerite?).

Through Hobart again, visiting friends Liz and Leigh, then to Mt Field and the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Parks. Beautiful weather and lovely scenery. Then west through Queenstown to Strahan, and north to Cradle Mountain. Here we provided moral (and logistical) support as the girls packed and headed off on the Overland Track. We accompanied them as far as Cradle Mountain on a beautiful sunny day, before parting ways.

Back to Canberra for us, and six days of adventure for the girls through all weathers and with interesting companions. I’ve included a few of their photos but if you want more, you’ll have to ask them! Tassie is a lovely place to travel, so compact and so varied in its landscapes, and with a real sense of history as well. We’ll be back!

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Posted on Friday December 8th, 2006, tagged with travel | 4 comments

New Zealand – Nov / Dec 2005

Pete, Kath, Ange and her best friend Carrie spent a lovely month in New Zealand, revisiting (for some of us) some much-loved places, and seeing many beautiful new ones.Highlights of the trip included the Tongariro Crossing in Tongariro National Park, a spectacular day walk up past volcanoes, still fuming volcanic craters and crater lakes and back down down down through grassland and forest.. It started snowing at the halfway point — glad we brought all our gear!

We visited cousins Uta, Michael and Barbara in Wellington before crossing to the South Island where two beautiful hikes awaited us; the Queen Charlotte Track north of Picton, 71 km over four days along the ridgeline between two sounds, and further south, a week later, the Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks, through the beautiful unspoiled alpine scenery between Lake Wakatipu and the Milford Sound Road.

Another highlight was a helicopter flight from Twizel over the Mt Cook region — NZ’s highest mountain, glaciers, hanging valleys, lakes, mountain ranges, all from above and up close — unforgettable! We finished that day with a walk up to the mouth of the Hooker Glacier in lovely sunshine. Return to Christchurch via the southern end of the South Island, and home just in time for Christmas!

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Posted on Thursday December 1st, 2005, tagged with travel | comments disabled

China – May 2004

Kath and Pete spent two and a half fascinating, eye-opening weeks in China, basing ourselves in Beijing with Kym and Sue, but making forays outwards in various directions.Highlights were Chengde where the emperors had a summer palace but also had built many temples in the style of their various subjugated peoples. Pingyao (by overnight train!) and the Wang family mansion, Xian and the Entombed Warriors (another overnight train) were also highlights. We also did a fantastic nine-kilometre walk along the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai with views over the rugged hills and amazing ridge-top battlements on a glorious day.

Naturally we saw many of the highlights of Beijing as well, including the forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, and we loved the markets, but we may have let the side down on the shopping front! Our last few days were spent in Suzhou with its world-heritage-listed gardens, and Shanghai — what an amazingly dynamic city! The Chinese always made us feel welcome, though we did get our photo taken a few times.

Our trip ended in the comparatively western city of Singapore, where we spent a few pleasant days with Stephan and Catherine and the kids.

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Posted on Saturday May 1st, 2004, tagged with travel | comments disabled

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