I recently had a friend visit from Scotland , Peter originally came from the same small Hampshire village of LISS that i grew up in . In fact Peter and his wife Hazel both came from the same village. they moved to Scotland after graduating from Uni and have worked there ever since.
I had already moved to Australia when i was 15. Anyway Peter had been visiting his sister in Adelaide who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, Peter came and stayed with us for 2 weeks on his return trip to Scotland via Perth in Western Australia and Singapore for a couple of days then Dubai and back to Glasgow.
Peter had been here previously with Hazel and we had toured the Southwest down to Albany and Margaret river. So this visit being winter and all i asked if he would like to go North and we decided upon Shark bay, Kalbarri and the monastic town ship of New Norcia
Peter didn't think the temperature in Perth was cold at all saying Glasgow was cooler and it was supposed to be summer.
We set off in my wife's slideon camping vehicle a Toyota workmate V8 with a German Tisher slide on camper attached on the tray, i elected to also take my swag as neither Peter or I felt like sharing the double bed together.
Our first day's travel took us along the Indian Ocean Drive which took us to some very pleasant coastal communities rather than the busier Brand Highway that has big road trains using it.
We stopped at Dongarra a coastal town for a bit of a look and then into the major town of Geraldton where we had a nice roast chicken takeaway just on dusk. I had planned to stop at a free camp listed in an old book but when we arrived it didnt seem to match the pictures and directed to a spot several klm down a dirt road So instead we pushed on a bit further to a free camping spot GalenaBridge beside the Murchison River that i had visited before.
It took just minutes to roll out my swag and have a bit of a night cap in the camper as well as re-arrange the rough plan that i had worked out. it seemed pointless to backtrack to visit Kalbarri when we could do that on the way back. A reasonably good nights sleep was had although those road trains kept going all night long and certainly make a bit of noise.
We were both up in time to see the sun rise and after a breakfast were on our way again, a quick stop at a remote Service station called the Billabong Roadhouse also gave Peter the opportunity to have a drive of the beast, there had been very few roadside casualties Kangaroos and sheep and certainly no fresh ones so i felt he would be fairly safe, he was cautioned about swerving to miss any of our fury friends. We did come upon a fresh fox that was providing breakfast for a magnificent Wedgetail Eagle where i explained to Peter that Eagles have to take off into the wind and if they had dined well can be quite slow and can become road victims themselves. Males weigh in at 4kgs with females over 5kgs and wing spans of 6ft and 7ft 7in respectively. Peter did slow down and the eagle did show all the characteristics that i had predicted and with the camper being quite tall may well have connected had he not slowed.
We drove into the town of Deneham and had a walk along the foreshore and a nice fish lunch we then went the other side of the peninsula to Monkey Mia world famous for the wild dolphins that come in and mingle with the visitors we were to late for the organised feed time where there had been 4 dolphins come in that morning, but whilst
on the jetty 2 came by within a metre of the shoreline much to the delight of a young girl that ran alongside them on the beach for 100metres or more. As we were leaving to make for our overnight stay a family of emus came by, dad with 6 of his juvenile youngsters that he had reared, the females lay a clutch of eggs and leave the males to it sometimes repeating the dose for another male. They were very friendly even sticking their heads into the cab of the camper van.
We drove back then to The Hamelin Pool Homestead for our overnight stay with hot showers and a good camp kitchen. Hamelin pool is also famous for its Stromolites so we followed the sign that took us to the beach area and were able to walk along an elevated platform to see these strange things.
Shark Bays’ stromatolites are significant because they represent a major stage in the Earth’s evolutionary history, one of the reasons forShark Bay's World Heritage listing. When the stromatolites were discovered by scientists in 1956, they were the first ever recorded living examples of structures previously found only as fossils in ancient rocks. Although SharkBay’s stromatolites are just 2,000 – 3,000 years old, the cyanobacteria that build them are similar to life forms found on Earth up to 3.5 billion years ago! This means the stromatolites are modern-day examples of life in Precambrian times.
There was plenty of room at the homestead so we picked a good spot and the swag was rolled out onto the shells that form the parking area
Another good sleep ensued and again up in time for the sunrise a fellow camper asked if the slide on was mine as they had a similar set up i said that it was my wifes and that i was sleeping in the swag as my mate had the double bed to which she replied that i must be the snoring man! i could do little else but admit that i had been known to snore! We took advantage and visited the old shearing sheds where there was heaps of information on the heyday of the shearing shed and the hardships faced by those pioneers.
We were soon on the road again heading south a quick stop at the Billabong to top up a fuel tank noting that diesel was some 20cents a litre dearer there than just before Geraldton, we were headed for Kalbarri where i hadn't been before we elected not to drive to the gorge as Peter has been to the grand canyon so ours would seem tiny by comparison but it is on my list for a return visit with the wife during the wildflower season in a few months. i'd quite like to see the Grand Canyon too.
Kalbarri where the Murchison river enters the Indian Ocean was very pretty indeed. apparently it can be very busy in the summer with lots of visitors and even more flies,we were spared both. Again the local fish was superb for lunch, we stopped off at many lookouts to admire the views and could see dolphins and sharks in the clear waters below
We pressed on and decided to stop at the place we had first given a miss to this was Oakabella homestead it was find a spot in the paddock and Lorreta would be around to collect the $9.00 a head fee. We were soon set up and joined some campers that were French backpackers travelling around our big country, they spoke excellent English and i invited them to share some
good Australian wine that i had bought along on the trip from my cousins vineyard. they thought it was delightful as they were drinking the chateau cardboard 4litr wine cask. We were soon joined by two more backpackers this time from Germany it was very interesting to hear of their travel exploits, they had worked in an onion factory to be able to have an extended visa and were travelling around Australia having a ball.
The senior contingent went to bed about 9.00 and left them to it. They were talking till about 11.30 we were sure that we had met the young man that would one day hold down the job currently occupied by Angela Merkal
We were again up in time to see the sunrise, we were showered and away before anyone stirred in the tents. We called into Geraldton had a quick look around the Sunday market and found a nice place that did a real big breakfast which set us for the long drive down the midlands highway that would take us through lots of small country towns avoiding the main Brand highway with its triple road trains, This route is supposed to be second to none when the native wildflowers come out in spring time.
We arrived at our intended destination the Benedictine monastery town of New Norcia Peter was keen to experience some of the monastical delights and booked in to the monastery retreat for the night and the light evening meal . i parked the camper down on the sports oval but didn't need to roll out the swag as i was going to sleep in the double bed in the camper i did break out a chair and a bottle of my home brew Ruby porter and sat back until i realised that i was being attacked by ants its amazing that they can climb half way up your body before the order is given bite now chaps and you suddenly realise that you have dozens of angry ants biting i was able to dust them off but found the ground was alive with very busy fairly big angry ants i decided to move the camper just 20 metres or so where the ground was a little more moist which wasn't to their liking i finished my beer and went off to find father Peter and was able to use the shower in the guests retreat we then went off to vespers in the church making it just in time the service was quite interesting with the monks chanting and the congregation encouraged to participate unfortunately their are only14 monks left, there were once 170. a simple evening meal was taken in the retreat where 8 of us were fed one of the monks came in from their area to have a chat with us which was very informative. Rain had set in as i made my way back to the van and the track was awash the field was also covered with a sheet of water i got into the van and praised the lord that i wasn't in the swag tonight. Much rain fell and the morning found the camper in several inches of water but at least it was sunny.
I had breakfast and started the camper up to go and collect father Peter i didn't require 4 wheel drive but it was quite muddy. We joined the official tour of the town and all its historical buildings of particular interest to me was the bakery and flour mill.
I had known that for some time the name New Norcia bread had been sold to a Perth business Unfortunately and a great shame is the bakery is not part of the tour.
After looking at that link i wonder just how much is still baked at New Norcia especially as they also claim to be using flour from the mill, that has been out of action for many years. The old flour mill was quite interesting though.
At the conclusion of the tour we availed ourselves to the comfort of the old hotel for lunch and another product that is licensed out by the monastery Abbey Ale.
From here it was just a short 132 klm back to the city, and our country trek was over. Peter had enjoyed a brief stay at the monastery and I would have loved to have been able to get into the bakery, perhaps I will have to chase up the current operators.
regards to all Derek