Monday, 9 April 2012

April Travels: two weeks of serious adventures

Kees and I plan differently. He likes to make sure all the "hardware" is ready, check engine, tires, gas and oil, get the sound system primed and hit the road. I'll pack details. I need maps, a change of clothes, sunscreen, a toothbrush, food for a couple of days. Kees? Not so much..... I like to check out what is written about an area, get a feel for a destination, maybe even make a reservation. Although it can make for a bit of friction, both styles have their strengths and blend into a wonderful holiday, with just enough strategy and luck to carry us to the next adventure.Yin and yang. Venus and Mars. Grump and giggle...Gina is so wise to pack her own bag, jump in and ride along until the dust settles, poor thing! Somehow, we manage.
Although a cold and flu bug hit me hard the week before Easter holidays,

I managed to remain vertical and help with some packing by Good Friday, departing by noon of April 7th. We trundled northeast to a large sheep farm where Jesse and Fleur Ford live, who are brother and sister-in-law of my exchange partner. The highway narrowed to a one lane road and threatened to become a gravel trail through outback before, to our relief, it widened again to decent hardtop. We had a bit of trouble finding the farm, only because our ears and Jesse's accent had not yet become accustomed to each other. Within hours of meeting, we figured things out much better.
There were some 4000 sheep and 25 rams to consider, thousands of acres of wheat and barley to be seeded, massive mysterious machinery to contemplate, yabbies to catch and eat, and a chicken coop to visit with scraps. The huge dark shearing shed, echoing busier times, needed a visit as well. Gina was invited to try driving the trusty rusty farm truck, but she shyly declined, shown up by a gaggle of very young farming cousins who zipped around on quad bikes, driving soon after learning to walk.
Sensory stimulation was certainly high, although not in any of the expected unpleasant ways. The country air was clear and fresh, rainwater sweet to drink, dirt roads clear and firm. It all felt so wholesome! Fresh eggs, Fleur's fancy basil pesto and herb dips with homemade breads, three friendly farm dogs who guarded their land and kept sheep in line, little Paisley toddling fearlessly ahead as we were introduced to the wonders of a working farm, impossibly brilliant stars overhead and a massive full moon..... Images that I hope won't fade from my mind too soon. Kees's photography skills will really help, as he whips up movies of our adventures so quickly! We thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone, including Fleur's parents , Anne and Allan, over a delicious dinner in a charming old farmhouse, then had a solid sleep in our comfy van.
As promised, Allan returned the next morning with a fishing rod and bucket of tackle for us to borrow. That made Gina pretty eager to get to the coast!

We headed east to Wave Rock next, a very unusual formation with a beautiful walk nearby. It was well over 30C, but we managed with plenty of water and stops in the shade.
Next we headed due south to Esperance, through 400km of unremarkable scrub and crisp-dry land, which looked hardly suitable for livestock and wheat, but it was farmland. Not a roo in sight. It was after dark when we arrived in Esperance, in the middle of a long weekend, without reservations. We had an invite to use J. A.'s yard, as she was out of town, but her key wasn't where she said it would be! Campgrounds were all booked up, so we finally found the overflow site and crashed for the night. At least the local fish and chip shop was excellent!
Well rested, we had a lovely surprise the next morning when we could see the town in daylight. Breathtaking views! Aqua waters and snow white sands are characteristic of this area, tempting one to dive in, despite it being an area known to have many sharks. Fishing from the long town jetty is popular. Kees and Gina were happy here for days! They caught very little, enjoying every minute.
It was here that we crossed paths with my colleague, Lisa Nelson, as well as fellow exchangees, Sue and Mike Miles, at the Dome coffee shop. We finally did spend a night sharing J.A.'s place, after 2 nights at a gloriously gorgeous beachfront home of Lorraine and Allan Jones, but that's another story.

From Esperance we travelled east to Cape Le Grand National Park, Mesmerized by the amazingly perfect Lucky Bay, duke of Orleans Bay(Little Waldon Beach where we parked on granite rocks) , the hike to Thistle Cove, and the days spent points west of Esperance on the Great Ocean Drive, with cove after cove of achingly perfect beaches, all with crystal aqua water. I could write for a long while trying to describe spectacular Bremer Bay area, or the thunderous surf at our overnight stay at Cozy Corner Beach, but Kees and Gina's photos will speak volumes.  (Kees's photos on Facebook)
We had to move on, but could easily spend a lot more time enjoying the coastal magic of the southeastern edge of this continent.
Albany was a city we skipped through. Dinner at the Curry Leaf, their top rated Indian restaurant, was good. Rain pushed us on to points west, knowing that the rich experiences to be had in this area deserve more time. We loved a day around Denmark, found Rest Point and it's abundant bird life charming, and skipped most of the Walpole area completely, with the exception of 2 spots.

There was a pricy stop at a small Toffee Factory.... Then a large tree to climb (Gloucester Tree).
So many juicy details have been skipped over in an effort to keep up this chronicle that I wonder if I should bother. Brief notes don't suffice, as colorful memories will fade, but time is short for writing, stolen late at night or very early, before others rise. I must compromise quality for quick lists!

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