A long trip

Kalbarri, Zuytdorp Cliffs January 2019

Sorry for the long break between posts. I assure you I’m still here, still on my feet and moving, just busy, that’s all. We did a week’s drive to Kalbarri and points between last week; more about that anon.

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We had a very nice Xmas Day here, with V doing a massive amount of prep and cooking. We had Keith and Barry here for the evening to provide the jokes and entertainment and ended up well fed and watered, with a large amount of food left over, still being consumed even now, nearly a month later. V is really enjoying having a good kitchen and appliances to work with. A few new machines have appeared – a small slow cooker; a Breville blender; a barista style coffee machine (cheap K-Mart); and several nice new frying pans and pots. They are so cheap and good from Aldi.

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Then we went to a most unusual New Year’s Eve function up in the hills. I can’t say much more except that we didn’t need to decide what clothes to wear and photos were not permitted. It was a great night, with a big turnout, probably 60-70 people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Plenty of food and drink with loud music and dancing made for an enjoyable night. Lucky it wasn’t cold.

Unfortunately our unusually mild summer has not made for good swimming in the ocean, but it won’t be long now. I don’t dare swim at my local beach, Jindalee, as there are obvious rips everywhere. We have to drive to Quinns Rocks where there’s a groyne and much less surf. Won’t be long now.

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Back to the Kalbarri trip: V was itching to get out on the road and so was I. I haven’t done any serious driving for many years, except for trips to Busselton and Margaret River to see a mate once or twice a year. My last big drive was, I think, in 1987. I said it was many years. That was up north too, Exmouth and North West Cape, with Kalbarri as a stopover on the way. Has it changed? Just a bit. It was only a short visit to camp in the camping area then and I got these shots, but nothing else has survived:

Kalbarri 1987
1987

So we set off on Sunday 13th for Geraldton as our first stop. I wanted to see this new Indian Ocean Drive that seems to cause so much grief. I know some work has been done lately, but I thought it was a good road with plenty of chances to pass, yet for once no-one seemed to be pressing me while I stuck to 100Km/h. I was driving the “new” Honda MDX and it’s a gulper of fuel. I get 15.5L/100Km around here, and it was taking a long time to improve on the open road. I think the best I saw for the whole trip was 12.2L/100Km.

Anyway, it drives reasonably well, after the very expensive service I treated it to before leaving. Yowch, I think I’m going to go back to doing things myself. More on that later.

First stop was Cervantes for lunch, to get one of these famous “lobster” rolls. Well, by 2pm they’d run out! Just as well, because they’re $30. All that was available was a cray/squid/fish burger for $25.50. What a load of rubbish. It was a rubbery breadcrumb coated seafood burger, with nothing to distinguish any of the ingredients. With lettuce and tomato, and chips on the side, it filled the gap, but it was terrible. Huh!

$25 worth? No way.

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OK, off again to Gero (north Butler?), via the Pinnacles. I’ve been there before, but only to the north edge as the southern entry road wasn’t built then.

I was impressed. The whole area is far bigger than I had realised and is well worth visiting. Some photos below:

Thoughtful woman with veil
Manta ray
I was glad I had a 4WD

Then it was back on the road, this time stopping at the Pink Lakes.

And look what I found…

Not bad wildlife, eh?

Pink Lakes

The day was a bit dull and windy, so we didn’t stay long. We got to our pre-booked bed and breakfast, the Weelaway, in Geraldton about 4.30pm. No staff, get key from lockbox, but free upgrade to en-suite room and a fantastically comfy mattress gets it a pass mark.

Dinner in a pub in the almost deserted, windy main street. V ordered wedges. She’s now a Wedgetarian.

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Monday morning V had to get something at a chemist and we spent the next hour there, scouring for bargains. They had a big box of photographic filters and so on, including circular polarisers for $5. I also bought a new photo backpack to try, and a new hat, very stylish grey and white.

Then it was off to Kalbarri, only a two hour drive. Kalbarri was windy! It hardly let up the whole five days we were there, 50-60Km/h winds, enough to blow your hat off every time. On Thursday I attempted a swim at the Blue Holes and the wind was so strong I was fighting a current carrying me back inshore. The sand was blasting us, so we beat a retreat. We never had a decent swim. Except in the motel’s pools (two), if we could fend the kids off (kidding). And all the restaurants and food places close by 8pm, so you’d better plan for a night in your room.

However, we liked it so much that we stayed another two nights beyond the three we’d booked. On Friday we decided we had to see the gorges, so headed out to Nature’s Window first up. We picked a 40deg. day, of course. It wasn’t too bad going down the track, but I had to stay in the shade at the bottom while V ventured the last 100m. It was nothing much, she said. However:

Murchison River.

But getting the 500m back up the track, in the 40C heat, was hard slogging for me. No chest pains whatever, but I had to stop for a breather a couple of times. Then about 18 stairs to climb at the end…just keep going, only a few more…phew. I’m still here to write about it.

It was midday by now so we drove to another landmark, saw it from the car and headed back to the pool. These are winter sights.

We also had a river cruise booked for Thursday evening but the boat broke down so it didn’t go, and a cruise out through the heads to see the cliffs on Friday evening, but there were only six takers and they needed eight, so that fell through as well. Bad luck.

So that was Kalbarri. Yes, it’s certainly grown since I was last there in 1987, but unless you’re a camper/caravanner/fisherman/boatie, it’s not for me.

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Saturday it was pack-the-car and back to Geraldton for an overnight stop. It was hot and windy! Dinner was Thai takeaway, and it was awful. The motel had an air conditioner, but not in the bedroom, relying on air drifting through the door from the lounge. I sweated, but I must admit I was a bit cold by morning.

So, out by 10am and away back to home. You can subtract about 35km from the distances shown, as that’s how far I am north of the city.

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The car went well. I drove Honda-san (I’m naming my three cars now, Honda-san for the MDX, Maggie for the Magna and Vera for the Verada). It had the VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) warning light on most of the time, meaning VSA is OFF, but sometimes the warning went off and came back later. It also kept dropping out of cruise mode. I have a web theory about why – the brake light switch under the dash. Apparently it goes intermittent, so the cruise thinks you’ve touched the brake pedal and the VSA thinks the same. It’s a $15 item that I can change myself, so I’ll do that very soon. Apart from that, it surges when cruise is on, trying to change gears too often, and the steering feels loose and imprecise and likes to wander a little, nowhere near as good as Maggie. And pulling two tonnes vehicle mass is hard on fuel. Apart from that, it’s a nice comfortable ride. Good trip.

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Sun and sails

The new sailing ships.

Monday, the Austraya Day public holiday, I was press ganged for a ride on the STS Leeuwin II from Fremantle Harbour out to Gage Roads for a 3hr sail. Very nice it was, too, being a sparkling clear day, warm sun and soft breezes. I think we got up to 3 knots at one stage. 🙂

The Leeuwin is a three masted barquentine, named after the Leeuwin galleon that blundered along the West Australian coast starting in 1622. Australia was discovered by the Dutch, although they didn’t recognise its size or that it’s a vast continent, and didn’t “claim” it for Holland, otherwise we could have been speaking Dutch, or French for that matter.

There were about 60 of us, nearly all geriatrics, but a few were young enough to attempt the mast climb. It was a beautiful day, light breeze so most of our progress was made under diesel engine power. The crew of volunteers moved around, some doing crew tasks but others serving very nice party pies and pizza slices etc, as the 18th century crew ate, and chatting to us, answering our questions. The captain of the ship is a woman! That would have been very bad luck in the old days, I’m sure, but it was fine. She was obviously in command.

So we stooged around getting sunburnt at three knots, then headed back fully under power so as to do the sharp turns required in the harbour. All in all, a very good experience. There’s a week long cruise in June from Exmouth to Geraldton and someone (not me) is very tempted. It would be good, but it’s expensive!

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When we got back we visited the Maritime Museum to see the Ningaloo Experience, an immersive 360deg audio-visual show. Unfortunately we missed the 3.45pm show and had to wait until 4.45pm. We saw the show, came out with aching necks and went to the car to find a parking ticket. We’d forgotten to feed the meter. On a public holiday while there were plenty of empty bays. Grrrrr! I’ve paid the fine, but an email will follow, pointing out all their faults.

The Ningaloo show was good, but sitting so close to the huge screens we could see all the noise and grain in the video. In the front row, I found I had to tilt my head so far back it hurt. The program was quite good, but not the mind-blowing experience we’d been told to expect. Oh well, what do you expect for $35?