Cue WA

Clouds cluster and the sunlight vanishes. The two-story building stands empty and alone in a stony field. The front façade made of grey stone veiled under a patina of red dust. White wooden front doors that once welcomed members to this lodge, now closed forever.

Masonic Lodge Cue WA

Eight darkened windows arranged in perfect symmetry aside an elaborate portico that extends to the roof and is donned with a tower-like cap. French doors once opened onto a small verandah above. Decorative white painted iron filigree now rusting with neglect. Red dusty corrugated iron covers the faded green roof and other external walls.

I ignore the call of the crows as I reach for my camera. Through the lens, a blur; was that a movement behind the upper window? I lower the camera and look to check; nothing. The crows cry out. I take two photographs and turn. Suddenly I feel the flap and puff of feathers against my face as the crow swoops. I look up and the second crow swoops aiming for my face below my hat. I dash along the empty street with hands above my head to ward off the black spirits as they pursue me. I need no further convincing. This is just one of several haunted houses in this once prosperous gold-mining town of Cue.

Gold was discovered here in 1892 and the town was named after Tom Cue who registered the claim. Like other towns in the goldfields region of Western Australia, Cue was a hive of activity during the early 1900’s. Nowadays the town still operates despite a main street of empty shops. Large mining concerns operate in this area and road trains barrel back and forth through town all day and night not slowing to the 60 kilometre limit. Some of these long-wheelers have five trailers attached.

Tourists like us also visit especially during the cooler months of the year. The main attractions are gold-fossicking, aboriginal rock art, heritage buildings, and the wildflower season. At the moment it also has a secondary attribute as a remote recluse during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Coogee Beach WA

The Omeo was a steamer built in England in 1858. During her life she carried passengers and cargo around Australian coasts and New Zealand. She suffered several collisions including one which demolished the Swanspit Lighthouse in Port Phillip Bay. She finally ran aground at Hamelin Bay in Western Australia in 1895 destroying part of the jetty there.

The Omeo shipwreck Coogee Beach WA

The wreck now rests just off the beach in shallow water at Coogee Beach. It offers easy access for novice scuba-divers and snorkelers. The wreck holds its shape well enough to show the form of the old ship from bow that juts out of the sea to mast and stern. Fish live here and we joined others exploring this underwater fish hotel. We saw many varieties and sizes including a school of black and yellow fish striped like bumblebees.

Meanwhile above the surface COVID-19 ensues. We increased the vigilance of personal hygiene in the shared public amenities of a caravan park. And not being real social animals by nature, our duo of isolation is so far working well in the caravan. So far, we had not seen anyone wearing a mask anywhere, not even in Perth. Of course, this pandemic is a worry, and we think of our family and their extended families in other parts of Australia where population density is crowded. We also worry about what may come, but then we are all together in that.

Coogee Beach WA

Coogee Beach is the perfect location for exploring the coast near Perth. We walked to the beach each day for a gorgeous swim where others jumped off the jetty or swam in the netted area. We could walk to the Omeo for some snorkeling or to the new marina and apartment buildings for a coffee or shopping. We enjoyed a lovely meal at Coogee Common which we mistook for the Coogee Hotel because this sign was on the top of the old building. Instead of fish in batter with chips, salad and beer we enjoyed a tasty chef prepared meal and an excellent (expensive) Pinot Noir. Oh well!

Cottesloe Beach WA

We spent a day at Rottnest Island which was wonderful, leaving from Fremantle Port. We drove up to Cottesloe for a swim and lunch. There was a beach sculpture exhibition attracting groups of school children and many others. On Saturday morning we drove to Fremantle and walked around the shops. A watercolour painting exhibition was on in an art gallery in a heritage building and so we admired these works and chose our favourites.

Fremantle WA

Smile Like A Quokka

The quokka nibbled on a piece of lettuce near the feet of a woman lunching in a café at Rottnest Island. I think she had put the lettuce on the ground for the quokka despite instructions to NOT feed the quokkas. A waiter came past and swiftly picked up the lettuce without pausing.

Quokkas are very cute marsupials and with an upward mouth it looks like they are smiling. They are not afraid of humans and won’t hop away too far when you approach, perfect for photos of small smiling furry wildlife.

The trip across from Fremantle on the Rottnest Express ferry was great fun. The staff are very friendly and efficient. There are nice seats and views from the windows. It was quite rough and so we bounced about with the swell and I didn’t get seasick at all which was great. I loved the thirty-minute rolling ride.

Bright red bikes were handed out with helmets to those that had hired them. This was the first time I have been on a bike since The Great Vic Bike Ride back in November. We rode off to explore the island with map in hand and backpacks with water, fruit, and snorkeling gear.

Rottnest Island

It is a lovely island to cycle around with little rolling hills, sealed roads, few cars, and exquisite scenery. Each new bay revealed another glorious beach inviting us in. Lots of other people were doing this too, so there were bikes parked at every lookout and beach.

After a loop of half of the island we headed to a little cove where we swam and snorkeled for a couple of hours. The water clear and the temperature perfect. Fish of many sizes, shapes and colour swam about in an underwater garden of rocks, seagrass and coral. I saw a couple of quite big fish, maybe 40 or 60 cm long. It’s hard to judge size underwater. It was bliss floating with the currents in the sheltered cove, looking about at the scene below.

We had a snack at a café which was popular with tourists and quokkas, then cycled back to the pier to catch the ferry back to Fremantle.

Perth

Another ant nips my foot, sweat drips from my brow, I need another drink of water. Another jet rumbles nearby and I lift my gaze to catch a glimpse through the trees as it lumbers skyward.

We are in Perth staying at a caravan park close to the city and the airport. There is a small inviting swimming pool that helps to cool us in the heat of the day. The park is near the Swan River and we enjoy several walks along the river trail.

On Sunday we visit the CBD to shop. I want to buy the book “So You Want To Be A Writer” but no one seems to stock it on the shelves. Mick needs new swim fins. And I need to restock a Chinese tea that I drink.

Perth WA

The State Library is open, and I tour the floors while Mick reads a newspaper. I interrupt the customer service staff with a question about membership for interstate visitors. Three of them at the desk were complaining about management. Are all library staff the same I wonder?

The Art Gallery is interesting, and we look at the Modern and Contemporary works. A young man with blue hair is posing in front of a large canvas of pastel pink while his friends take photos of him.

The Swan Bells are chiming as we wander along the ferry terminal. It’s too early for lunch so we pass by all the lovely waterside cafes. We drive to Kings Park where many people are having picnics on the green slopes overlooking the city and the river.

Perth WA

This is our second visit to Perth, and it is a lovely city. It has nice temperature, great public facilities such as paths, trails, bridges, ferries, public transport, parking, and freeways, beautifully situated on the winding river with many parks and waterways all open to public access. It appears to be a very livable city.

The following day we drive to the Swan Valley and then to Bel Rapids which is upstream of the Swan River. Unfortunately it is totally dry, but if there was water flowing, judging by the rocks it would be a fantastic set of rapids for white water rafting.

We find a lovely little tea room on the banks of the Swan River nearer to the city and enjoy salmon quiche in the shade looking out at the river.

Peppermint Grove Beach

Peppermint green water of Geographe Bay, neon green grass, and eucalyptus green leaves of the gumtrees at the caravan park; Peppermint Grove is aptly named and is an oasis located within the dry salt inlets and marshes of the strip of land between Busselton and Bunbury.

Peppermint Grove Beach WA

The Australian Ringneck parrot shares the trees at the campground with a family of magpies, an occasional kookaburra, and hyperactive wattle birds. The Australian Ringneck has a green body, black head, and a distinctive yellow collar. This variety of parrot is not seen on the Mornington Peninsula where we call home. Each time I try to take a photo of one, it is gone before I am ready.

It was very relaxing surrounded by all this green and the campground is spacious set out generously on the grass under the pleasing variety of eucalypts. Also no dogs allowed which added to the serenity. A new variety of eucalypt caught my eye, with its bright yellow flowers and red bud caps. I looked it up and it is an Illyarrie Red-Capped Gum (Eucalyptus Erythrocorys). The bees and birds were loving it as much as me.

The beach fronts onto the large Geographe Bay and stretches into the distance in both directions. The water is a gorgeous shade of green distinctive as the Indian Ocean. It is perfect for swimming as it drops quickly to a nice depth. Few people were on the beach.

A walk down Busselton Jetty cost us four dollars each for the privilege, and we passed on the train ride and aquarium. We wanted the exercise and like walking out on piers, and we had visited that aquarium once before on a previous visit. It is a lovely foreshore area with designated netted swimming areas, cafes, and a great playground. Local school children were having swimming lessons in one section of the netted swimming areas.

Busselton and Bunbury WA

We took a day trip to Bunbury which is an interesting location as it has the beach front to Geographe Bay, another inner bay with a large industrial port, then a deeper inlet. The parks along the beachfront, bay beach, and inlet are nicely set out with bike trails, swimming areas, boat ramps, parking, and lookouts. We had lunch at the Back Beach Café looking out to sea where quite a few large ships idled. Bunbury is not a pretty town but it is interesting.

Swings and Roundabouts

The crisp white wine seeped into our alcohol deprived cells at the Swings & Roundabouts winery in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. It is a good name for a wine when you think about it because it gives credence to the good years and bad years that underpin the art of viticulture.

‘Swings and roundabouts’ also describes the art of caravan life. There is a saying “Wherever you go, there you are.” So we still carry our habitual neuroses. We worry about our family. We miss our granddaughters. Our aches and pains remain. All the usual baggage comes along for the trip. Some days are good days and others not so good. And there are a multitude of other factors that come into the mix.

The touchstones of gratitude, positivity, and ‘being in the now’, soaking in the experience, are helpful as always.

The wine was underwhelming. The lunch was nice. The setting on the green lawn under gumtrees on a gorgeous autumn day in the Margaret River region was perfect. The wine unsettled us and we could not relax.

We arrived in the Margaret River region on the Monday of a long weekend and it was busy. It reminds me a lot of Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula and was just as busy with people swarming the wineries, cafes, and beaches. I don’t like crowds at the best of times.

We swam every day at Yallingup snorkeling in the rocky reef near the shore, spotting many varieties of fish in the sheltered pool. It is a beautiful beach, but sadly lacked any surf while we were there. Not that we surf, but we do enjoy watching others ride the waves.

Margaret River region WA

We chose not to visit any of the caves because we have been in many caves in our lives and baulked at the entry fee.

The town of Margaret River is nothing special in my view; just a country town. There were road works going on in the main street causing chaos and taking away any ambience that might exist. We looked at the shops and bought a coffee then moved on for a quick look at Prevelly Beach; still no surf.

Ready to head up towards Perth we move slowly north along the coast.

Southern Forests WA

Grandma Tingle

Grandma Tingle is 400 years old at least, and you can see from her knobby features that this is true. She stands surrounded by her extended family of Tingle trees in the Southern Forests region of Western Australia.

Rain fell lightly as we steadied ourselves on the swaying structure of the treetop walk at the Valley of the Giants near Walpole. It was stunning up in the canopy of these awesome trees. Then we wove our way at ground level along the track with a joyous chorus of wet frogs calling the way.

We stayed at the caravan park on the Denmark River next to the large lake of Wilson Inlet, which unfortunately had a pervading putrid smell that we could not escape. The pretty pictures belie the unfortunate experience of other senses.

Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk WA

It was indeed pretty, with pelicans, ducks, wildflowers, and stunning beaches. We took a day trip to Albany and had a look at the port and not much else.

Denmark WA

Keen for some fresh clean air we went to Windy Harbour. This is another location Mick had pinpointed on the map as perhaps a good fishing location. Situated in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park the drive was beautiful through the Southern Forests full of giant trees like nothing I have seen before. Their trunks are straight, solid and do not decrease much in diameter as the tree reaches skyward.

Windy Harbour WA

Nearer Windy Harbour at the coast the forest stopped to reveal low native coastal scrub full of orange wildflowers, kangaroos, and emu. Windy Harbour is off-grid, low cost, and full of old fishing shacks. The long weekend attracted families and so the place was full. We walked to Point D’Entrecasteaux along the coast track and past Cathedral Rock. Nearby Salmon Beach is a popular spot for surf fishing and others told us of seeing sharks just two metres from the shoreline. We didn’t swim there but did have a dip at the sheltered rocky beach at Windy Harbour.

Windy Harbour D’Entrecasteaux National Park WA

Kangaroos hopped about the camp not fearful of the campers. One family of roos had a distinguishing white mark on their brows. Something I have not seen before. One young roo had a trident type marking. I wish I had captured his portrait. Gorgeous little birds flitted about the camp. Some I identified from my bird book as Superb Blue Wrens; the other yellow birds I could not identify as it was hard to see their markings as they darted about. Windy Harbour got windy and it was time to move on. We drove through some gorgeous forest and rural farmland of the region. The road was narrow in places, windy and hilly, so Mick had to concentrate on driving while I took in the forest of green.

D’Entrecasteaux National Park WA

Esperance and Lucky Bay WA

Someone is playing a harmonica. The soulful tune floats in and out with the wind, accompanied by a tympany of insect trills, and a background rhythm of waves breaking on the shore then exhaling out. I drift off to sleep.

We are at Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grande National Park. Matthew Flinders named this bay in 1802 when he explored the coast. It is a harsh rugged dry Australian beauty.

Lucky Bay Cape Le Grande National Park WA

As a National Park we were off grid, but the drop toilets and solar showers are the best we have come across by far. Very clean and modern with solid jarrah timber doors. There is no phone reception, or power, and you must book ahead as the camp is fully booked. No pets allowed thankfully.

As soon as we arrived, I made a trip to the amenities and as I returned, I was looking one way while walking another. I heard a sound in the gravel that made me turn instinctively. I stopped in my tracks because there on the path just two steps ahead was a large thick black snake crossing the path. It looked at me sideways then continued on its way scurrying into the sparse scrub. I have been vigilant looking out for snakes and was not in the headspace within the centre of the campground.

We swam in the pristine light aqua waters bobbing happily as the water temperature is perfect: refreshing but not chilly. A bit of snorkelling in the shallows near the rocks at the end of the beach revealed fish darting around the sea grass and kelp. Kangaroos do indeed hop onto this beach perfect for the IG photos. It is also a mecca for the IG poser photos, and one wonders if people realise how ridiculous they look pouting and propping in their brief swimwear. Many drive in, take the photo, then drive out. Is that an authentic experience?

Hiking at Cape Le Grande National Park

We hiked to Frenchmen’s Peak, Thistle Cove, and Little Hellfire Bay. These were challenging and not for couch potatoes. Steep rocky outcrops tested my fitness, knees, and balance. My Merrell hike boots were a savior and I stuck to the sides of the mountains like Tom Cruise scaling Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I actually opted out of Frenchmen’s Peak halfway up, but Mick reached the top of the beret. The walk to Hellfire Bay was almost as difficult but didn’t feel quite as exposed. The views of the coast are amazing, the flora and fauna unique, and the skinny-dip at Little Hellfire Bay as pure as a baptism.

Frenchmen’s Peak Cape Le Grande National Park WA

Prior to this we stayed at Pink Lakes Caravan Park in Esperance. There are quite a few caravan parks in the area, but it is a busy spot and campsites are in hot demand. Travelers are constantly moving in and out; families, young Europeans, retirees, too many dogs.

The beaches along the surf coast of the town are stunning, and quite simply the best beaches I have seen in Australia. I once thought that Bridgewater Bay in Victoria was the best beach, but these trump that by far. The water is aqua, clear, nice temperature and good for surfers. We saw dolphins at West Beach near a group of surfers. There would be sharks and the warning signs confirm that. We swam at Twilight Beach and Blue Haven not venturing out into the depths but happy to dip and bob in the waves.

Esperance WA

Miles from anywhere Esperance is under-developed and there is so much vacant land on the hills overlooking the beaches ripe for buildings. Despite the great surf beaches the town does not have an atmosphere of surf culture which is unfortunate. The large industrial port dominates the town esplanade beach that has great facilities for walking, picnics, boating, and fishing.

Wave Rock WA

The sun was slipping behind the crest as we caught the wave at Wave Rock.

Wave Rock WA

Leaving Leonora early we travelled south, then west, then south, then east for just under eight hundred kilometres. Beautiful billowy white clouds fluffed up then grew, streaming across the landscape with rain and purple thunderheads. The torrential rain and lightning caught us near Wave Rock washing the red dust off the car and caravan.

As the day drew to an end we thought we would have to return to Wave Rock the next day, but luckily we made it with sunbeams slanting moodily for the camera. We paid the fifteen dollars to park, took some photos, then headed off to stay off-grid in a roadside rest area for the night.

Hopetoun on the coast was a nice surprise and we got a spot in the free 48-hour self-contained park next to the beach. There is no power, toilets, water, and all grey water must be taken away, so collected in our tank.

It was hot and we had several refreshing dips at the beach in the gorgeous clear aqua water that is warmer than the waters we are used to at Port Phillip Bay. We didn’t venture into the water far because of the possibility of sharks.

Hopetoun Beach

More thunderstorms gusted across missing us but leaving a bushfire in its wake. We could see the towers of smoke and stayed on alert in case we needed to move. Luckily that didn’t happen and by morning the smoke was clear and the day cooler.

We drove out to nearby Fitzgerald River National Park. The native flora there is stunning. I had never seen a Royal Hakea before and the colours give the appearance of a fire starting at deep red, the orange, yellow, pale yellow, and a variegated head. Many of these bold gaudy shrubs cover the rocky hillsides. When you pause to look closer there are so many varying shapes and colours on show. I clicked away with my camera like a member of the paparazzi.

Wildflowers Fitzgerald River National Park

East Mount Barren beckoned offering a short walk to the lookout at the craggy summit. Off we trotted only to discover a quite difficult rocky track with sections of basic rock climbing. As I scampered up the loose rocks on the steep trail I dared not look back and wondered how I was going to fare going back down.

Flora Fitzgerald National Park

We saw a goanna on the track who reluctantly wandered off into the scrub as we followed it,

It was well worth the climb as the view from the top is stunning: east to Hopetoun and beyond, and west to more summits of the National Park. A bushfire was still pluming smoke in the distance. I added a beautiful smooth hand-sized pink sparkly piece of granite to the top of the rock cairn. We enjoyed a snack, took some more photos, then took the steep descent back to the carpark.

East Mount Barren

This walk was perfect in my opinion: beautiful scenery, gorgeous native flora with flowers, some wildlife, a nice clear day that was not hot, a steep ascent with some manageable rock climbing, some interesting rock formations with overhangs and small caves, a summit with areas to rest while taking in the panoramic view.

After three days off-grid our batteries were flat but as soon as daylight appeared the solar power kicked in. It was time to head for Esperance to find a caravan park with showers, power, water, and a laundry.

Goldfields WA

Layers of dust coated the detritus of households from 120 years ago. A bouquet of dried flowers in a dented vase, cooking utensils on shelves, sagging wire beds, wooden tables, hessian covered walls, insect eaten timber floors with cracks for lizards and maybe snakes, all still sheltered under rusty tin roofs.

Gwalia – Ghost Town

It was disturbing to walk through the old gold mining ghost town of Gwalia near Leonora in Western Australia. They had all just up and left leaving behind their possessions. It is eerie.

The Sons of Gwalia gold reef was discovered in 1896 by prospectors Carlson, Glendinning, and White and the name Gwalia shows their Welsh heritage. This mine prospered in the early 1900’s and was one of Australia’s most successful mines at the time.

The town formed around it on the hill and had a school, swimming pool, and grand hotel. The township enjoyed picnics, fancy dress balls, croquet, tennis, and had parties that can be seen in photographs in the museum today. The museum holds a lot to see and learn.

The gold mine closed in 1963 and by 1964 Gwalia was a ghost town. In 2010 the Leonora Shire acquired the mine with upgrades completed last year. Today the huge super pit sits alongside the old town; it begins where the green lawn of the homestead finishes falling way down a cliff into a bottomless hole.

Sons of Gwalia Gold Mine

Leonora is right up into the Western Australian desert area and we came here so that Mick could try his luck at gold prospecting. If you ever come to this area you must visit the ghost town at Gwalia and the museum. They are incredible artefacts of a recent living history.

Leonora has a small population. It was a hot day when we arrived and parked in the main street. Everything has a patina of red dust. We walked to the information centre and library which is very nice and the lady there was immensely helpful and friendly.

The town appeared busy. The police station is central with several 4WD vehicles doing the rounds. Mine cars and road trains buzz about all day. An airport has daily services to the town. The caravan park has permanent residents, and miners staying for a stint. The local swimming pool is beautiful under shade cloth, pristine and inviting but totally empty of people despite the hot days. The young man at the Mines Department was very helpful and provided Mick with some maps and explained some of the notations. It felt like a friendly town.

Going inland away from the coast we have seen one big industrial mining project after another. These are ‘super pits’ with all the big boy toys. The roads are great because the road trains need them to be.

Our stay in Kalgoorlie was not pleasant. The town has a bad vibe that seeped into both of our moods. Mick was unsuccessful trying to find the places he could fossick, despite going to the Mines Department, and talking to others. A friend of a relative was helpful but out of town. The guy at the Mines department not helpful at all. A guy in the gold shop was just short of rude. The main street is full of gorgeous old buildings showing a once prosperous past, but there appears to be no pride in their upkeep or history.

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