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  • Writer's pictureKeef Hellinger

Blog 168 HOLIDAY 2017 Cont. Diary Part 1 The "Big Trip" with pals January -February

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

By keef and annie hellinger, Dec 3 2021 16.26 pm


The diary entries written here were recorded by Annie each and every day (well almost 😉 ) for the whole of our BIG TRIP in 2017 away with our dear friends Chris & Allyson, covering Singapore - family time on both the way out and the way back, Australia - all states except queensland and australian capital territory, the wonderful cook islands (rarotonga the main island only), new zealand, both north and south island and desaru malaysia , a weekend trip away with family from singapore involving a ferry trip , coach ride and an exclusive hotel resort, sheer joy.

The diary is structured by months over the 6 month period, just use the appropriate button above to go to that section of the diary, at the end of each you can use the return to the top to go to the next you wish to read or of course use the main menu structure, the choice is yours.

We also have some diary picture for you to look at There are many more slideshow of images and videos "the talkies" in the MENU at the start of the main Blog 168. Enjoy, thanks for looking. 😉

image of a old fire hydrant reused as a village library
fab reuse, intro to annie's diary

Annie's Diary 31st Jan-14th June 2017

Tuesday 31 January 2017 Left Keef’s mum at around 5am – still dark. Took hire car (Easi Rent) to Sheraton Skyline Hotel & dumped it off. Caught free hopper bus to Heathrow (one bus drove straight past the hotel without picking us up so had to get the next one). Met Chris & Allyson at Heathrow for our flight with Emirates to Singapore via Dubai. 9.10am departure. Very exciting & looking forward to our great adventure in the southern hemisphere. Had to change planes in Dubai. Wednesday 1 February Singapore We were met at Singapore airport by Doug at 8.30am which we were not expecting, so it was a nice surprise. Chris & Allyson took a hotel hopper bus to their hotel Grand Mercure Roxy, Marine Parade Road. We got a taxi with Doug back to their flat in Marine Terrace. Met up with Phoenix in their lovely spacious flat on the 18th floor which they had moved into last August. We went to collect Charlie from her local playgroup. So nice to see Doug & family again, although it had only been a few weeks since they were with us at Christmas/ New Year. We went out for lunch at Babalicious, East Coast Park & had Singapore chicken & rice. Then we went for a paddle in the sea nearby with Charlie and we all sat on the beach. Joined by Chris & Allyson who walked along East Coast Park from their hotel. They came back with us to the flat for a drink, although Charlie & Phoenix had returned earlier for an afternoon nap. Later in the evening we all met up with C & A at Din Tai Fung, a famous & popular Chinese dumpling/noodle restaurant chain in Parkway Parade shopping mall, opposite C & A’s hotel. Very tired – jet lag kicking in as did not get much sleep on the planes. Thursday 2 February Singapore Took Charlie to playgroup. After lunch in a food court near Marina Bay Sands Hotel that we all went to the Science/Arts Museum. Saw brilliant Future World art/light/techno installations which Charlie loved. Keef went to see the Escher art exhibition and Doug saw the Nasa exhibition. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Future World installations which was very hands-on and magical & we were in there for hours. C & A visited Gardens on the Bay which they really enjoyed. In the evening we all met up at the Eurasian Community restaurant which Doug & Phoenix had recommended. Had various curries which were very good. Charlie had not had her normal afternoon nap so very tired. We got a bus back to the flat & C & A returned to their hotel. Friday 3 February Singapore to Perth Doug had to go back to work today. He & family had just returned from a short trip to Vietnam with P’s parents on Monday 30 Jan. After Charlie’s playgroup (9.45-11.45am) we walked with Phoenix & Charlie to their local library, then had lunch in the indoor food court at Parkway Parade. Keef & I got the bus back to the flat whist Phoenix walked back so Charlie could fall asleep in the pushchair. Had afternoon nap for 1 hour as still jet-lagged. Big rainstorm. Then we took a bus & walked to meet up with C & A & Doug at the outdoor food hawker centre in east Coast Park. Doug had his cycle gear on & his 21 gear bike. Very nice BBQ chicken wings/thighs & duck satay sticks etc. Doug cycled back from the park to the flat 7 the rest of us got taxis. Re-packed bags & Doug ordered taxi for us to Changi airport. D & P looked after us so well & sad to say our goodbyes but at least we will visit them again for 2 weeks at the end of the trip in June. Charlie is so adorable- we love her so much (soppy grandparents!) Met with C & A at airport – our flight to Perth was at 11.40 pm. Saturday 4 February Perth Night flight to Perth, arrived at 4.47am – still dark & quite cool temperature. We got a large taxi to our hotel in central Perth. As it was too early to get into our rooms we changed into shorts & sandals in the staff toilet & left all our bags in the lock-up room behind reception. Walked from our hotel (Pensione Hotel, 70 Pier St) at 5.45am along to the city centre & down to the Swan River. The area by the bell tower had changed beyond recognition since 2008 when K & I had visited. The large grassy area next to the river had now been landscaped with paving, seating, plants, pergolas of bougainvillea, new bridges, Walked across the new footbridge to Elizabeth Quay & saw a replica of an old Dutch sailing ship. Perth looked so different now. City was very quiet apart from a few joggers & cyclists. Fab views of the Swan River across to the residential suburbs on the other side. Got tickets ($40 each/ £23.20) on Captain Cook Explorer cruise to Freemantle along the Swan River. Departed at 9.45am – weather very sunny, breezy & blue sky. Relaxing boat trip with commentary. Architect designed houses along shoreline – one house bought in 2009 for $57.5 million. Lots of sailing clubs & marinas along the river. Apparently there are more pleasure boats registered here than in any other Aussie city. Docked at Freemantle & had 1hr 15 mins to see the town. Walked around the streets – saw Victorian heritage buildings & Aussie pubs with wrought iron long balconies. Had lovely fish, chips & salad lunch in a local pub where we sat outside. We got the boat back at 12.45 to Perth. Allyson took photos of K & A as we cruised past the Freemantle passenger terminal where we emigrated & first landed in Australia in 1961 (Keef) & 1967 (Anne). We were migrant families & £10 Poms back then. Lovely relaxing river cruise back to Perth – lots of yachts, jet skiers – glorious sunshine – arrived 2pm & now very hot. We all returned to our hotel & had a 3 hour power nap as still jet lagged. Apparently for every hour flight time difference it takes a day to recover – i.e 8 hours difference = 8 days to recover! Dark at 7.30 pm. We all walked down to the Swan River again to see the city lights. The buildings had amazing LED coloured lights on each storey. By the quayside we saw a free Chinese new Year area with coloured LED large animal inflatables, LED red Chinese lanterns, lots of food stalls & a small exhibition about Chinese people who had come to Perth during the gold rush era + old photos of them. Had pizza & drinks in a bar near our hotel. We were lucky with the weather as we were told that Perth had the worst rain in 6 years over a couple of days. Allyson’s fitness watch said we had walked 7.4 miles today. Sunday 5 February Perth Sunny & hot day. Had breakfast in croissants & coffee café & sat outside. Went on free red CAT bus & stayed on for the whole loop around Perth, then got off at King’s Park to get high panoramic views of the Swan River & city. Temperature increased around 1.45-3.30 – very hot. We walked around the Botanic gardens – very well laid out in WA regions. Native plants included baob trees, banksias etc. C & A did a circular route which included a glass sided aerial bridge. Lovely views from the park & nice breezes. Saw a sign at entrance to a track down a slope which looked more like rough bush, which said ‘ Beware snakes seen in this area’. Rushed past & headed back to the visitor centre. Then we took the red bus back to the city centre & swapped onto the free blue bus route, which was not to interesting. Aching feet & tired so headed back to the hotel for a shower. Went out in the evening to a pub called The Lucky Shag Bar on the waterfront. Could see lights across the wide Swan River to the other bank (mainly residential area). K & A had chicken parmigiano, chips & salad – very nice. Walked back to the hotel – 10.30pm knackered. Monday 6 February Perth to Ledge Point, WA Had breakfast at the croissant/ coffee shop – lovely sunny day again. Then we checked out of the Pensione Hotel & took a taxi to Britz Motorhomes hire in Redcliffe, near the airport. Took a while to do the run-through of instructions for the motorhomes & admin. Our van is a Maui & C & A’s is a Britz. Both are 7 metres long panel vans with air con, fridge, hob, sink, shower & toilet, 2 person berth & automatic. Then we all set off towards a suburb of Perth which had a Coles supermarket & stocked up for the next few days on food & water supplies. Stopped off the highway to have a chicken sandwich made by Allyson. Headed north & joined the Indian Ocean Drive road towards Ledge Point where we stopped for the night. Ledge Point is a beautiful spot with lovely sandy beach & turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Stayed at a Big4 campsite $34 per site with a swimming pool. As we had joined the Big 4 in England (cost £25) we saved 10% on every campsite stay. All of us went for a swim & then I did a big load of washing for $4/ £2.48 & left it on the washing line overnight. Weather sunny but getting very windy. Keef cooked steak with salad, pasta salad & jacket potatoes. We were all quite tired having unpacked our bags & sorting out things in the motorhomes. Went to bed at 11pm. Tuesday 7 February Ledge Point to Geraldton Weather sunny but still windy. After shower, breakfast we set off from Ledge Point heading north along Highway 60. Keef & I had been on this coastal route as far as Geraldton in 2013. This time we could continue north on the Indian Ocean Drive as it was now a tarmac surface (previously a dirt coastal road) rather than returning to the main highway. We stopped at the Pinnacles, a national park which cost $12 entry for each couple. This was a large desert area inland from the coast with eroded rocks caused by wind erosion. Some of the rocks were 1 – 4 metres high. The wind was blowing the sand into our bare legs. We went in the visitor centre and then as we were walking back to the car park we saw a blue tongued skink (small lizard) crossing the path in front of us. It had 4 little legs and a fat body. We took some photos & video of it walking along very slowly until it went into some bushes. We drove along the coastal road to Cervantes, a small town & went to a car park with fabulous views of a white sandy beach & turquoise sea called Thirsty Point. Further along the road we stopped at Jurien Bay where there were nice houses & holiday homes. Arrived in Geraldton about 5.15 pm. This place is termed a city although it’s not as big as Nottingham. We booked into the Big 4 Sunset Beach campsite $35 a night & the lady who booked us in warned us that there was a Category 1 cyclone due in Shark bay/ Monkey Mia area that night. Also she said that the police had closed the road because of potential heavy rain & flooding. She strongly advised us to turn around & head back south. We were rather worried to hear about this as the road to Monkey Mia is a small road and the only route in. A cyclone is a tropical version of a hurricane with winds of 100kms an hour and heavy deluges of rain. The flat coastal roads can flood & be impassable for vehicles. We bought some tomatoes, red peppers & a rock melon for $5 from the campsite lady – bargain. Chris did a lovely BBQ with prawns on skewers & barramundi fish with salad & rice. We gad mango as well. Chatted to a very suntanned Dutch couple who were retired travellers in a small motorhome & they had returned from Monkey Mia. Noticed that the campsite had a solid fence all the way round it and the staff wore snake protectors up to their knees. The campsite had a pool but we didn’t swim. Went to bed at 11pm – very tired. Extremely windy – the van was being rocked & the sky looked black with clouds but no rain. Wednesday 8 February Geraldton to Northampton We finally got over our jet lag by sleeping 9 hours. Still very windy but sunny & blue skies. No sign of any cyclone yet. After breakfast we went shopping at an IGA supermarket & got some alcoholic beverages from the separate bottleshop next door. Supermarkets in Australia are not allowed to sell alcohol. We had problems with the key to our motorhome not locking the van properly from the begging of the trip & thought it was the battery in the key fob. Also we were supposed to get 2 key fobs for the motorhome but we only got 1 as the Britz staff said that the previous renters had lost it. Got diesel fuel, then headed back into Geraldton down the Great Northern Highway as the campsite was 6 kms north of Geraldton. Visited the old convict hospital & gaol & took photos, then drove through the centre of Geraldton which had a very long high street with shops. Visited tourist info centre to find out about the cyclone & state of the roads but the ladies there were not very helpful. Allyson bought a map of Australia to record the route taken. We walked along the seafront & saw the marina. Keef thought he saw a stingray in the water but it turned out to be a plastic bag – needs to go to Specsavers!. We visited the Western Australia museum (free) which featured local historical events such as the Australian Navy ship Sydney which was torpedoed in 1941 in WW2 by a German mine layer. Also the shocking story of the Batavia, a Dutch east India ship. In 1629 it was bound for Batavia (now called Jakarta, in Indonesia) to pick up spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves. It caught on a reef round an island off Geraldton and the 300 crew & passengers were shipwrecked. The captain and some crew rowed a small boat to Jakarta which took 33 days but the rest of the men & women endured a terrible time on the island with murder, rape & cannibalism- a gruesome story. The museum had the cannon, coins and a skull from the ship. K & I visited the police station to enquire about the cyclone & road closures. A nice lady on reception rang the police in the Shark Bay area and Carnarvon town. There were no signs of any cyclone so we decided to drive to Monkey Mia the next day. We set off up the North Western Highway through wheat farms and hills and stopped the night at a small campsite in Northampton $35. This town had Victorian architecture. The campsite was a private one & not as good as Big 4. There was no pool but the kitchen area & toilets/ showers were clean. Met up with girl backpackers from England in the kitchen. They were travelling around WA in a second hand car & had work permits. Also met a German lad who was a student at Sydney Technology University – all the young ones were very chatty & friendly. The gas camping stove on the kitchen worktop caught fire when the girls were cooking spaghetti Bolognese and we had to evacuate the area incase the gas canister exploded. The site manager said that the rubber tubing had a small hole which he replaced. Luckily no one was injured. Keef & I did chicken wings, breaded escalopes, salad & jacket potatoes + a bottle of white wine from Margaret River. Saw a large flock of pink/grey galahs which roosted on a tree near our vans & were very noisy at dusk. Still windy. Went to bed at 10.45pm. Thursday 9 February Northampton to Monkey Mia in Shark Bay When I was washing up breakfast dishes in the camp kitchen I nearly stepped back onto the resident pet parrot – a Major Mitchell cockatiel that was on the floor. The parrot was pink and white, very friendly & used to humans. Took some photos of heritage buildings in Northampton then we all set off for the World Heritage area of Monkey Mia reserve. Stopped off for a rest & drink at a red dust pull-off area next to the highway. Windy & loads of flies. Drove on to the Billabong Roadhouse for another break. Saw an emu at the side of the road- scrubby desert area with no trees just bushes. Stopped again at the Overlander Roadhouse then turned off the highway towards Denham and Shark Bay area. Started raining & heard on the radio that the road from Carnarvon to Port Headland further up the coast had been closed because of potential flash floods. Luckily the road to Monkey Mia was open & OK & the rain eased off. We stayed at the Monkey Mia Resort $78 for 2 nights per motorhome. On the edge of the beach you can see wild dolphins come right in close where they are fed fish. Apparently there are some baby dolphins around as well. Monkey Mia is world heritage status because of the 14,000 dugongs (aka manatees or sea cows) which frequent the bay to feed on sea grass. Pouring with rain when we checked in to reception which took a long time to get allocated some pitches with electric hook up. Forgot to mention that we all saw a second emu which was right next to the road – took lots of photos. We went to the bar for a drink & had a brief walk through the resort which is very small but has a shop, pool, restaurant & motel type accommodation. C & A cooked lamb steaks, sauté potatoes & salad which was very tasty & I cut up a mango. By 9.30 we were all feeling very tired – we had driven 320Kms approx. Rained most of the night. We decided to set our alarms for 7am to be ready for the dolphin encounter on the beach. Really looking forward to seeing them. Friday 10 February Monkey Mia 7.20 am walked down to the beach where the Park Wardens were & there were about 30 people. The dolphins usually come in around 7.45 for a fish feed but the weather was rainy, with stormy grey skies & still very strong winds. We all waited patiently on the beach until 8.30 am but no dolphins appeared. Very disappointing but that is nature. Saw a turtle near the jetty though. Had showers & then Keef did a bacon & egg roll for breakfast. Took our camp chairs down to the sandy beach with our Kindles to read. Still very windy & twice K & I had to duck into the restaurant/ lounge area because of sudden heavy rain showers. Eventually the grey clouds & rain disappeared & the sun came out, although the winds were still strong. The bad weather must have been due to the cyclone. Chris & Allyson joined us for the afternoon & we read our Kindles & relaxed. There were two emus wandering round the campsite which seemed used to humans. Lots of flies at this resort which were a pain but less so by the windy beach area. Thought the rooms, restaurant & bar were fairly basic & did not feel like a luxury resort. The resort is owned by RAC. Also the wet gritty sandy paths & roads made the motorhomes dirty & the washrooms all gritty on the floors. Afternoon was very pleasant although still very windy but warm. Had tea/ coffee in C & A’s van & then Keef & I did the evening meal. We had sausages, chicken thighs, lamb steaks leftover from yesterday carrots, sweet potatoes, creamed sweetcorn & rock melon. Also had some red wine called Yalumba from South Australia. Sunset was beautiful. Went for a walk on the beach in the dark & Chris pointed out Venus in the sky which was very bright. We returned to our vans & I wrote my diary & read my Kindle. Keef checked mail on our laptop. Tomorrow getting up early again to see dolphins. Saturday 11 February Monkey Mia to Carnarvon. Got up at 7am – went to beach 7.25 to see dolphins – none appeared. Hot & sunny today. Probably because the storm made the sea murky with weed and broken sea grass. The beach had lots of debris & piles of sea grass washed up. The dolphins did not come into the bay probably because with the poor visibility underwater they could not see any sharks. Gave up at 8.15 & went back for a shower & breakfast. Disappointing again. We left the site at 10am but parked in the car park outside & went back to the beach for another look. Other holidaymakers said still no sight of any dolphins. Left Monkey Mia & drove to Denham, the nearest town on the coast, after seeing the Little Lagoon which looked lovely with turquoise water. The lagoon links to Shark Bay with a narrow channel & is very salty seawater. We drove along Shark bay Heritage Drive & stopped at Shell Beach which had a vast area of compacted tiny cockle shells as small as a little finger nail. The white of the shells was so bright to look at in the bright sunshine. Back on the main highway we got diesel fuel & icecream at the Overlander Roadhouse and then turned left to head north to Carnarvon. Picked some bush melons up from the side of the road. Saw eagles, wild goats & cattle -including a dead cow. Low scrub vegetation on a sandy flat desert even though we were going near the coast. Stopped briefly at the next roadhouse before arriving in Carnarvon. We booked 2 pitches for 2 nights at the Big 4 Plantation campsite, situated near fruit (mangoes) & banana plantations. Carnarvon is a big fruit & veg growing area + fishing for prawns, crabs & lobsters. Did shopping at Woolworths in town, then drove along seafront & around town – a very sleepy place. We drove to One Mile Jetty which from 1897-1966 used to ship cattle & sheep out to ships. The pier was no longer used & looked dilapidated. Lots of rusty machinery, wooden wagons & a lighthouse keepers cottage. Returned to the campsite & Chris & Allyson did BBQ burgers in buns, salad, leftover sausages & rock melon – very nice. Keef & I looked at the map & saw we only had 13 days left to tour WA & there was still so much to see. Went to bed at 10.15 – really tired – Keef did 355 kms today. Forgot to mention that on our way back to the campsite a policeman stood in the road & asked us to pull over for a random breathalyser test. Chris was asked to pull over as well. We had only drunk water all day so passed the test. Sunday 12 February Carnarvon Didn’t wake up until 8am. Had shower & relaxed breakfast. I did the washing ($5) & hung it out as boiling hot today. I chatted to the campsite manager’s wife in the laundry & she said it was going to be 31-33c today. She told me that Kalgoorlie had been flooded because of the heavy rains – I was surprised as this town in the outback WA was normally very dry and dusty. This was bad news as we were aiming to do a circular route via Kalgoorlie, Norseman, Esperance, Albany, Margaret River & back to Perth. We drove to the Space & Technology Museum ($10 per adult) and C & A wanted to walk there. The volunteer lady at the till in the museum said that Ravensthorpe (between Esperance & Albany) had a collapsed road due to flash flooding. She showed us a photo on her phone – not good news either. There is only one road through Ravensthorpe and as we need to take this route later on in our trip we may have to divert. The Space & Technology Museum was brilliant – it showed the important role that the satellite tracking station had played in assisting NASA in many space voyages including Apollo 11 when the moon landing occurred. 180 people worked at the tracking station from 1964-1975, which was one of many trackers worldwide. Carnarvon helped process data & tracked the speed & position of spacecraft & fed this back to NASA. Now the Australian government are using the tracker at Perth to assist with wifi through a satellite in space so that outback people get free wifi. Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11 mission & actually landed on the moon) opened the museum. He is now 85 & is doing a world tour speaking about his time with NASA & the moon landing. I was 15 & living at Frenchs Forest, Sydney when I watched the moon landing live on a TV set up in the school hall. Keef was in Clapham, London , Chris was on holiday with his family at Butlins & Allyson was 10. The museum showed the first ever TV satellite broadcast between Carnarvon & London when families could see & talk to one another for the first time on either side of the world. We went into a replica of the Apollo 11 command module where Michael Collins, Buzz (Edwin) Aldrin & Neil Armstrong all sat in cramped conditions with their spacesuits attached to the rocket below them on the launch pad. The space was very small in the module & we heard the actual recording of the countdown to take-off & communications between the astronauts & Houston control centre. We watched a series of short films in a small theatre about space exploration & missions to the moon & the part that Carnarvon played. Had a free mug of tea at the end of our visit. The two staff were very friendly & chatty. We all thought this was an excellent museum. Outside was saw the huge satellite dish. Keef & I then drove to the IGA supermarket to buy some chicken & a mango. We drove along the fruit plantations seeing, bananas, mango & peach tree. Saw the Gascoigne River with muddy water – it had been dry for 3 years but was full after the recent heavy rains. This river is normally the largest in Western Australia. Luckily the banks hadn’t flooded & we took photos from the concrete road bridge. Returned to the campsite & Chris, Keef & I went for swim in the pool as it was such a hot day. We saved a small frog from the swimming pool by scooping him out. Had another shower. Keef & I did dinner – BBQ chicken, salad, jacket & sweet potatoes & fried onions. We sat outside to eat & got bitten by mosquitoes. Looked at lots of stars in the clear sky. Monday 13 February Carnarvon to Port Denison Got up at 7am as a long road trip today from Carnarvon to Dongara/Port Denison. Keef & I called in at a shop in the town to buy a container of blue liquid for the motorhome toilet $20. Left Carnarvon at 9.30am. 28c & a few clouds in the sky. We stpped at 2 roadhouses on the way down & kept to Highway 1 & the Brand Highway. C & A bought me a Magnum icecream – lovely. Stopped for lunch at the Billabong Roadhouse – now very hot. Stopped again at Northampton for a quick break. Allyson said she drove over a large lizard which ran out in front of their motorhome. We saw a small lizard cross the road in front of us. Quite a lot of cows & goats grazing near the road. We went to the town dump station at Dongara/ Port Denison as the Big 4 booklet did not say there was one at the campsite. We arrived at 4.30pm at the campsite in Port Denison. Keef & I remembered we had been to this town before in our travels in WA & had a picnic lunch by the shore. Had showers, then we all walked along the seafront to a restaurant/ bar called Southerlys. I had a chicken & bacon burger, Keef had King Red Emperor fish & chips with garlic prawns, Chris had calamari & chips & Allyson had a lamb burger & chips. The waitress who served us used to live in Guildford, Surrey as a child, then emigrated with her mother. The sunset was pretty with the boats in the marina in the foreground. Walked back to the campsite. A long day but pleased we had travelled so far south – we did 570kms/ 360 miles. Sent an e-mail to Brian & Gina. Very tired. Tuesday, 14 February Port Denison to Northam After breakfast we chatted to the campsite handyman/ gardener & he advised us that the road on either side of Esperance had closed due to flooding & the road had collapsed. We looked at the map & decided to change our route – i.e to avoid Kalgoorlie, Norseman, Esperance part of the loop & just do Wave Rock & hope to take road south to Albany & then turn west along the coast back to Perth. Two people had drowned in the floods (one man trapped in his car in a raging river). We set our target to camp at Northam & took the Brand Highway south, passing banksias bushes at the roadside, mulga scrub & sand. Saw a large kangaroo dead on the road with eagles on top & also a small wallaby. Travelled through the wheat belt- farms where wheat had already been harvested. Now & again there was uncultivated land – scrub & later on bush with eucalyptus trees. Went through Moora (small town)- the town council office had roses, green lawn & bedding plants – looked strange against the rest of the Aussie terrain. The road out of Moora had been flooded during the recent heavy rain but was now clear. Lots of farms, some with sheep, cows & some Brahma cows & alpacas. Saw men repairing railway line track. We stopped for a late lunch around 3pm at the side of the road. Arrived in Northam at 5pm having seen the flooded Avon River close to the highway. The road at the bottom of the hill in the town was flooded & closed so we took the detour. The Avon River in Northam was very wide with a fast flowing current – very muddy looking water & there was a weir on the river. I called in at the tourist info office to ask about campsites as there was no Big 4 here, but it was closed. Allyson used the internet on her phone to find out the nearest campsite in town - $33 per pitch. At the campsite the river was close to our pitches but down a gradual slope. At the height of the floods it covered the camp kitchen floor, so the kitchen was out of order. Saw some lovely green & yellow parakeets in a tree near our pitches. I tried to lure them to my hand with some pieces of rock melon but they were more interested in the tree seeds. Took some photos of the birds. For dinner we had tuna & salad wraps with corn on the cob. Keef got splashed with some boiling water on his hand but luckily not burnt. Lots of stars out tonight – Chris was very knowledgeable about them & could identify the brightest ones. He pointed out the Milky Way which was clearly visible – had not seen this before. He & Keef saw a shooting star but I missed it as I was swatting a mosquito away. Forgot to mention Allyson did a quick Skype with Alistair this morning & we all said hi. We were having breakfast & it was 1.15 am for him in Brighton where he was at university. Allyson’s mum said it was 44c in Sydney & there were some bushfires in north NSW. Also most of the pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit at the very top of North Island, NZ had been rescued. They had been rescued & taken out to see by volunteers & local people – over 400 pilot whales had been stranded on the long beach at Farewell Spit. Wednesday 15 February Northam to Karlgarin (wheat belt area) Went to Coles in Northam to do food shopping (we do split bill) then set off on the Great Eastern Highway to Merredin. The road follows the large water pipeline that is above ground and services Kalgoorlie & the Indian Pacific railway track. K & I had been to Merredin before – a small town with 1913-1920 buildings, railway station & theatre. Chris bought some pies from a bakery for lunch which we ate sitting outside the tourist info building. Allyson went inside to get some brochures on Wave Rock. Lots of wheat farms, sheep & cows on huge fields. The wheat was cut just prior to Christmas so only stubble left in the fields. After Merredin saw lots of flooded fields & some mulga scrub areas under water. We took some country roads towards Wave Rock. Not far from Hyden the road was completely awash with water & floodwater on either side. Whilst we paused to consider our options, a road train shot past us sending up spray on either side. We paused wondering what was the best/safest thing to do – we could have turned back (K & I had visited Wave Rock last time we were in WA). Chris decided to proceed across in their van & managed to get to the other side of the flood. Keef & I followed slowly – it was quite scary as if water had got into the engine & exhaust then the van would have stopped. We got across & then took some photos. The small township of Hyden was about ½ mile down the road. We followed the road signs to Wave Rock & arrived just after 5pm. The temperature had cooled (it had been 36c in Merredin at 2.30pm) & it was now quite pleasant with a breeze. We parked in the car park & noticed that additional toilets had now been built + a caravan park. Took the path to Wave Rock – a spectacular granite rock which had weathered & looked like a huge wave with mineral deposits causing ochre, grey & black streaks down the sloped rock face. We followed the path round (I had my snake boots on) & read the interpretive signs – the rock was 2.7 billion years old and was only discovered in Victorian times, although the Aboriginal people would have probably known about it. We went up some steps & walked along the top of the rock – very uneven & craggy surface with a few boulders on top. Difficult to walk on. Time was creeping on & we didn’t want to go down the very steep incline at the other end so decided to walk back to the steps. By now it was 6.45pm & it gets dark at 7.30 so we zoomed off to get to the campsite at Karlgarin 21 kms away. We got there at dusk. The reception, amenities & kitchen all looked 5* & brand new. It was situated on a family wheat farm but the family had decided to sell up because of the adult sons had cancer. The farm had been in the same family for 95 years. The mother & other son were friendly & chatty when we checked in. $30 for 1 night per pitch with electric hook-up. They said they would show us round their museum of old gramophones & Arnotts biscuit tins in the morning. We didn’t take them up on their offer as sounded a bit boring. The son wore a Stetson hat & looked like a cowboy. We had cold roast chicken & salad for dinner. Thursday 16 February Karlgarin - Kojonup The population of Karlgarin was only 50. Whilst we were having breakfast sitting on a picnic bench outside the kitchen we chatted to the cleaning lady. She said that Hyden had been flooded a bit & people had got out their kayaks for a paddle – obviously an unusual occurrence in the outback. Apart from the cleaning job she also was the local postwoman. She told us that the wineries in the Swan valley in Perth were underwater & the vines were ruined. She & her husband had run the village shop & post office in Hyden but a willy willy (Aussie term for small tornado) had destroyed it & put them out of business. She also talked about yabbies (Aussie term for a type of crayfish) which she said were delicious. As we left the campsite we saw some old rusted farm machinery and an old Ford car on the farm. Set off down country roads at 10.30am having liaised with the campsite lady about a route that avoided flooded roads. Along the road we saw many blue tongued skinks at the side of the road. Also saw a dead snake which we photographed (it was a light tan colour). The journey took us a long time & we passed small floods on either side of the road but the road was clear. We were still in the wheat belt – vast fields but saw no kangaroos. Saw a few budgies fly across the road in front of us. We stopped for lunch at Dumbleyung, a small village with an interesting pub with a wrought iron balcony along the front (Victorian). Dumbleyung (sounds like something from Harry Potter books) is famous for Donald Campbell completing the world water speed record on the local lake in 1964 in his speedboat Bluebird. He had also set a land speed world record in Bluebird on Lake Eyre in South Australia. There was a replica of the Bluebird & information boards on the main street. Quite a claim to fame for such a small farming community. We continued our journey through country roads & wheat farming areas to join the Albany Highway at Kojanup. Stayed at a very grotty campsite in town which was mainly permanent people staying in old clapped caravans & buses. The amenities were old fashioned & not very good at all – we were charged $30 for this dump. This was the same price as the lovely 5* site the night before. Chris & Allyson cooked ratatouille with bruschetta & I cut up a mango. We take it in turns to cook & the others wash up. Before it got dark we saw some green parakeets in the nearby trees. Forgot to mention that the road leading to Kulin had tin sculptures of horses placed in the fields by creative farmers & their families. Very quirky. The road was re-named the Tin Horse Highway & is listed as a tourist attraction now. Some of the sculptures were quite humorous & had a sense of fun. Took some photos. Went to bed at 10.30pm (I had woken up at 6am) so very tired. Friday 17 February Kojonup to Albany We drove down the Albany Highway & stopped at Mount barker tourist information centre. This was a fairly large town with views of the Stirling Ranges. The guy in the tourist info was very helpful & suggested a tourist road to Porongurup National park where there was a walk to Castle Rock called the CR Skyway. This rock is a granite cliff with lots of huge boulders. There is a track through the bush up a steep hill & then you have to scramble over small boulders & then climb a metal ladder to get to the top to see the views. C & A did the whole thing but we gave up halfway up the steep path because of a) possible snakes b) K’s was in pain with his knee ( I kept hearing rustling in the bush next to the track which made me nervous). We decided to return to our motorhome for a rest. We got out our chairs & read our Kindles. When C & A returned we had an icecream as it was so hot today. They said that the last bit of the hike involved a difficult clamber over & up the boulders & they showed us their photos of the views. We then continued on the tourist road which joined the main highway to Albany. We re-fueled on the outskirts, then went to Woollies for food supplies including fresh strawberries @ 60p a punnet – very cheap. Carried on driving down York Street (main shops) downhill to a replica sailing ship called the Amity on the grass in front of the bay. We walked the gangplank aboard & took some photos. A British ship with soldiers & convicts landed here in the Amity to start a new colony as it was a safe harbour for ships. Then we drove to Middleton Beach Big 4 campsite over the steep hill where there were stunning views of the ocean and rocky islands. K & C booked us in at reception but because it was Friday evening the campsite was packed. As we wanted to stay 2 nights we were allowed to share a large pitch with grass, concrete hard-standing plus a private bathroom with loo, shower & sink which we each had keys for. The walkway to the beach was right next to our pitch. There was also a lovely BBQ area for everyone to use with nice wooden table & chairs & stainless steel sink & worktops. C & A cooked barramundi fish on the BBQ with vegetables & white wine. Saturday 18 February Middleton Beach I did some laundry $5. Keef cooked bacon & egg butties on the BBQ for breakfast. Then we all went down to the beach for a couple of hours – very sunny but also windy. Keef & I went in the sea up to our waists but only within the shark netted area. When K & I had last been at Middleton Beach the authorities had closed the beach because of a shark attack on a man swimming early in the morning & they were trying to usher two Great White sharks out of the bay using boats. We never knew the end of the story apart from the fact that a woman surf life saver was kayaking and she saved the man. I found out from the lady on reception that the man who was a teacher had survived thanks to the woman who was very brave. Due to the strong winds there was a lot of sea grass washed up on the beach. We had an icecream & sandwich back at our vans, then later in the afternoon we went for a swim in the campsite pool. Keef cooked pasta bolognese. Played Trivial Pursuit game borrowed from the campsite. Sunday 19 February Albany to Northcliffe Left campsite at 10.20am & took scenic road back to Albany. We stopped at the viewing point at the top of the hill to take photos of Middleton Beach & the bay. We had a quick walk around the old part of Albany near the tourist info centre (late Victorian buildings). Went to the under cover Sunday market (bricabrac). Bought a pack of cards. Drove along highway westwards & stopped for a break at Denmark, a small town with houses & a few shops along the road. The tourist info confirmed to me that there was a tarmac road out to Elephant Rocks. Drove to Elephant Rocks (yes the granite rocks did look like elephants) & Green’s Pool nearby where many locals were swimming. Being a hot day and a Sunday there were lots of people there. Turquoise sea & blue sky. At Elephant Rocks some people were climbing onto the boulders from the sea. Someone told Allyson that a man had been washed off a boulder by a freak wave & was never seen again. Drove along to Parry’s Beach where we had lunch on a picnic bench. Saw an old hippie guy in a convereted lorry which he had made into a camper van. Some of the locals in 4WD cars drove along the small beach but no surf today. We stopped at the Valley of the Giants, a treetop walkway among the canopy of tingle trees 75m tall. Then we did the ground level boardwalk & were surprised to see a quokka on the path right in front of us. Took lots of photos of the quokka placidly chomping on some grasses – cute. Then we carried on towards Northcliffe. A large grey kangaroo hopped across the road in front of our motorhome – our first sighting of a roo on this trip Then saw about 6 roos in fields at the side of the road as it was nearing dusk when they come out to feed. We stayed the night at the Round-to-it eco campsite $30 which was a couple of kms out of the small township. K & I remembered this campsite from 10 years ago as having wild roos visiting at dusk & early morning for food. The owner guy was quite terse & there were 2 roos in the clearing in front of his house (took photos). He said he fed the roos at 6.30am before he went to work. He was a carpenter working on a local new build home. Keef & I did tuna wraps, salad & corn on the cob. Monday 20 February Northcliffe to Cowaramup Got up at 6am & saw 2 kangaroos, including a joey in the mother’s pouch. The campsite owner came to feed the roos & 2 green parakeets also ate some of the food, which was muesli. The 3 kangaroos had been hand reared by him & had names. After breakfast we set off & stopped at Pemberton to get some bread & pies from a bakery. This small town had a few shops, a working tram track for tourists & some pretty roses & flowers. Then our sat nav system took us the wrong way out of town. Keef realised we were going the wrong way. Found a secondary road back to town – the detour took us past some nice rural scenery & a winery. Drove on to Augustas, a large town where we stopped for fuel. Visited a bottle-shop to look at wine prices prior to visiting the Margaret River wine region. Wine cost $23-24 – not cheap. Went through the town to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in the national park. K & I had visited the lighthouse before but now you could not access the lighthouse & had to pay $20 to go through the visitors centre. We did not go in. Had pies & tea for lunch. Allyson saw a blue tongued skink in the bushes by the car park. Went to Margaret River – very busy as the schools were out & the tourist info I went in was packed. I picked up a map which had 82 wineries listed. The town was basically one street of shops with some residential streets behind. Decided to visit the cellar door of Cape Mentelle winery as Allyson said a friend of hers knew it. We saw the vines were overloaded with red grapes. When we went in the woman behind the counter was ‘supercilious’ & walked off when I said we wanted to sample some wines. We did not like her attitude. She offered Allyson & I complimentary wines – a white wine, a Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was expensive but OK, I was not keen on the white wine. Allyson decided to buy the Shiraz which was very good. Keef asked about a photo on the wall of a man & the woman serving us said “that’s David of course”. We hadn’t a clue who David was so asked & apparently he was the original vineyard owner but he had sold out to a French wine company. The vineyard was started in 1994 & was one of the oldest wineries in Margaret River. One wine on sale cost $600. I noticed that they had not won any awards in Australia or abroad for their wine. The sales lady said they were closing at 5pm along with the majority of other cellar doors. She told us that Lenton Brae winery closed at 6pm. We drove to Lenton Brae winery which was a few kms north of Margaret River. All of the wineries were situated quite close to the sea, which was surprising with strong salt-laden winds from the Indian Ocean. At this winery we rang the bell on reception desk & eventually an old lady appeared. She told us she had set up the vineyard with her husband, who had been an architect in Perth. He died a couple of years ago but her son operates the wine business now. Keef & I bought a Cabanet Merlot for $22 & the old lady was quite chatty but a little deaf. She then gave us a guided tour of the barrels & fermentation process. She asked us where we came from & when K & I said Nottingham she was amazed as her husband’s family had emigrated from Lenton, Nottingham. Their name was Tomlinson. We said we would photo the house in Nottingham & send it to her when we got back to England. It was now about 6.20pm & dusk was imminent so we drove to the Big 4 campsite at Cowaramup. This small town had a strange fixation with lifesize black & white cows which were everywhere. The campsite was next to a highway on a sheep & cattle farm. Had burgers for dinner. Tuesday 21 February Cowaramup to Bunbury Keef asked the campsite lady to phone & reserve 2 pitches for the Freemantle Big 4 campsite, which she said she would do (but later found out that she hadn’t). We called in at the Cheeky Monkey brewery nearby & bought some beers. Then we drove to Busselton & did the walk to the end of the famous extremely long pier. It was 2.9 miles return in very strong winds, but not cold. Did not see any sharks or dolphins – quite cloudy as well. There is a small train which takes tourists along the pier. We had lunch in the van & cup of tea. Drove on to a shopping mall on the outskirts of Bunbury & went to Coles for food supplies. We arrived at the Big $ campsite at Koombana Bay near Bunbury around 4.30pm. Had a mug of tea & then we all walked down to the beach to see if any dolphins were coming in to the bay. Stayed for 1¼ hours but disappointed as did not see one dolphin. Chris cooked sausages on the campsite BBQ. The camp kitchen looked brand new & was very clean. Quite a cold wind tonight. We received an email from Kacky to say that K’s mum had turned her car over on its side on Hook Road & firemen had to get her out through the boot. Luckily she was OK apart from a few cuts on her hand. Wednesday 22 February Bunbury We moved pitches on the site to get further way from the busy road. I did some laundry $4. We all went for a walk along a boardwalk above some mangrove swamps. It was at the back of the campsite & was part of a sea inlet/lagoon. There were information boards about the mangroves & the part they played in the coastal eco system. Saw a few little fish in the water but no crabs. Saw lovely tropical shrubs at the outer perimeter of the campsite. Walked along the path to get a better view of the lagoon & boats moored across the water. Chris & Allyson continued their walk & we returned to our van for a tea & apple for lunch. I took in the washing which was dry. Weather was warm & it got sunnier in the afternoon. Keef & I went & sat by the pool & read our Kindles. Keef swam 16 lengths in the pool. Chris & Allyson returned & said they had gone up a look-out tower & walked along the harbour front & saw a dolphin in the bay. Chris & Keef went for another swim. For dinner C & A did BBQ barramundi fish fillets with lemon, rice, green beans & carrots. Played cards – Rummy until 10pm. A warm evening compared to last night. Thursday 23 Frebruary Bunbury to Freemantle A hot day with bright blue sky.We set off along Highway 1 towards Freemantle & stopped at Mandurah by the Indian Ocean. It’s classed as a city & has lots of housing estates. Very dry grass along highway so obviously did not have the recent heavy rain that affected Perth. Noticed that there was a lot of urban growth along this coast south of Perth & there was a new railway line to Perth. Headed to the coast to visit Penguin Island which is a short ferry trip across. We paid $39 each for the ferry, a glass bottomed boat cruise & the Penguin Discovery centre on Penguin Island. The boat cruise had an informative commentary about dolphins. We saw seven dolphins by a reef as they were hunting fish. Then the boat took us to see huge Australian sealions basking on a beach of a nearby island. There was also a large pelican nesting site near the sealions. We sailed past 2 ospreys which were nesting on top of an island of craggy rock. The boat returned to the jetty on Penguin Island & we went along the jetty to the Penguin Discovery Centre. Penguins live & breed on this island (about 1200 of them) but during the day they are out at sea catching fish. We saw 10 penguins in a small man-made indoor pool & a park warden fed them small fish & gave a talk about them They were called Little Penguins (or Blue Penguins in New Zealand) & had all been injured at some point so were being cared for by the wardens. The penguins were about 12” tall & were very cute. After the 2.30pm penguin feeding which took 25 minutes we returned to the wooden jetty & caught the ferry back to the mainland. Then we set off for the Big 4 campsite at Munster, about 10kms south of Freemantle. We passed a heavy industrial area & port on route. This campsite we had not been to before. Decided to get up early tomorrow to go to Rottnest Island. Friday 24 February Rottnest Island Drove into Freemantle docks & booked the 10am Rottnest Island boat trip. Keef & I wanted to do the coach trip again (in the past when we visited we had forgotten the memory card for the digital camera so could not take any photos) & C & A hired bikes for the island. Very very hot today. Rottnest Island is 18 kms/ 11 miles from Freemantle & the boat trip took 40 mins. Chris & Allyson got their hire bikes on the jetty + cycle helmets & they were aiming to cycle round the island on the tarmac roads. K & I bought pies from the bakery for lunch. We wandered around the town & looked at the history info boards & the gaol where 300 Aboriginal men were imprisoned in Victorian times. They had not committed any crime – they were rounded up and sent to the island & used for hard labour on the fields & salt pans. The prison housed 4 or 5 men per small cell. In effect this was a shocking & cruel form of ethnic cleansing to reduce the aboriginal population. In 1917 the gaol closed & those men remaining were sent to Freemantle prison. All very sad but the Aussies had now updated the cells & hired them out as tourist accommodation – we thought this was very insensitive & separate accommodation could have been set up for tourists by the WA state government/ Rottnest Island Authority who owned Rottnest. The island has about ½ million tourists a year. Keef & I saw several quokkas, one of which had a baby in its pouch. They are very cute furry animals that look similar to wallabies. Early Dutch mariners sailing up the WA coast thought that these animals looked like giant rats, so called the island Rats Nest, which later became known as Rotts Nest. We had our pies for lunch on a picnic bench by a bay called The Basin. We walked back into the tiny town & went on the guided coach tour round the island for 90 mins. Very informative & we saw lots more quokkas including 2 cute baby ones out of the pouch, 2 ospreys, some dolphins near a reef, NZ fur seals in the distance in a rocky bay. Beautiful sandy bays & coves with azure seas. Really enjoyed the island tour & took loads of photos. We had an iced coffee & icecream back at the shops. Met up with C & A who had no lunch & had run out of water on their cycle tour & there were no drinking water taps. Apart from the small town centre the rest of the island was uninhabited. We got the ferry boat back at 4.55pm which was quite full with people. At the campsite we had chicken salad for dinner. We were all very tired & it had been an extremely hot day. Saturday 25 February Freemantle to Perth Our 39th wedding anniversary Left Freemantle campsite – temperature was 40c today – headed back to Perth along Highway 1. Took both motorhomes back to Britz. Keef complained about the faulty electronic key fob which had never worked all through the van hire period. As we only had one key fob we had to access our motorhome by key through the driver’s door & we had to go round & lock all the doors separately which was a pain. Keef negotiated a day’s hire money (£108) to be returned as compensation which the manager agreed to reimburse. We also claimed back $9 for the battery inserted at the VW garage in Geraldton when we produced the receipt, although it was not the battery that was the problem. We also all got away with not refilling our gas cylinders & Chris & Allyson also got away with with a large dent to the back roof of their motorhome when they reversed into a large tree branch. Luckily the woman checking the condition of their van did not notice as they had parked it right up against a high wall. After Britz we got a taxi into Perth & arrived before 2pm, but luckily were allowed into our rooms at the Royal Perth hotel, a heritage building. Had showers & then at 4pm we walked down to Elizabeth Quay – still very hot. We went to the Lucky Shag Bar for a drink but very noisy & lots of people out for Saturday night drinks so decided not to eat here again. Went to the restaurant upstairs , the Aqua Bar, which was quieter with seating outside on a flat roof. The food was lovely & was like tapas sharing platters. I had a Mai Tai cocktail, Allyson had wine & Chris & Keef had beers. A lovely meal for our 39th wedding anniversary. Walked back to our hotel in the evening. Keef & I packed a small bag to take into the cabin on the Indian Pacific train tomorrow. Sunday 26 February Perth to Kalgoorlie on the Indian Pacific Railway Got up at 6.30am & got a taxi at 7.45am to East Perth station. The train left at 10am, so we had plenty of time to look at the Indian Pacific train memorabilia & have complimentary coffee/tea/orange juice & small cakes whilst a musician played. Allyson & I chatted to the train driver (one of two drivers for the trip) who was up at the front of the train. There was a wagon with a full car transporter which had to be hooked up to the engine so the driver had to stop talking to us & assist with that. Took lots of photos & felt excited to be going from Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific which would take 3 days/ 2 nights and crossing the Nullarbor Plain & deserts. Chris & Allyson & us had adjacent cabins near the front of the massively long train (carriage O, cabins 7 & 8). The cabins were very compact with a pull-out bed & bunk bed above with ladder, plus a small shower room with sink, mirror & toilet. The staff were all very friendly & helpful. We went to the Queen Adelaide dining car for lunch – all food & drinks were included in the ticket. The train went very slowly through the Perth suburbs & past Northam & Merredin which we had visited in the motorhomes. Some time after Merredin and past Southern Cross (an outback town) the train stopped for about an hour. We heard on the internal PA announcement by train staff that a stowaway person had been spotted by a passing freight train & the driver had informed our driver who had then seen the man on the video surveillance cameras. The stowaway was seen moving in one of the cars on the vehicle transporter. The Indian Pacific staff radioed the police at Southern Cross & they took a while to get to the stationary train. The man was arrested and stupidly had no water or food with him in the car for the 3 day trip & with outside temperatures of 36c + he may not have survived. We went to dinner in the dining car – we were travelling gold class. Red class was lower & Platinum was the top class. When we returned to the cabin the staff had made up the bunk beds & left some gifts for us as we had mentioned that it was our 39th wedding anniversary yesterday. I got a blue pashmina scarf & Keef got a cap plus a nice note from the staff. There was a free coach trip at 9pm round Kalgoorlie & to see the gold mine (the Super Pit) which we had all signed up to do that evening. However because the stowaway had caused a delay to our journey we did not get off the train onto the coaches until 10.30pm.The temperature had been 30c at 9.15pm and it was very dark. The coaches went to the Super Pit but did not get any idea of the scale of the gold mine as it was pitch black with lorry headlights moving in the bottom of the giant pit. Luckily Keef & I had seen it before in the daytime on a previous trip to Australia. We drove round the town & there was nobody around. The coaches all dropped everybody off at the gold museum where we saw a short 15 minute play about Paddy Hannan. He was an Irish prospector who first found gold nuggets on the ground in 1893. A woman was also in the play – we did not think it was very good. Back in our coach we did not think the driver’s commentary was very good either – he kept pausing mid-sentence (his day job was prison officer). We were very tired and after the two hour excursion we re-boarded the train and went to bed. Monday 27 February Indian Pacific Railway I was still awake when the train finally left Kalgoorlie station at 1.20am & picked up speed. The delay in leaving was probably due to goods trains having priority on the line. The train lurched violently from side to side so much that I found it difficult to get to sleep on the top bunk. I climbed down the ladder, Keef woke up and kindly offered to swap bunks. Eventually got to sleep. We were woken up at 5.30am by train staff knocking on our door. We had all wanted to do the early breakfast outdoors at 6.15 at Rawlinna station. This was a scheduled stop on the Nullarbor Plain halfway between Perth & Adelaide. Not all the passengers wanted to be woken so early for breakfast. The temperature was 20c at 6.15 bright sunshine with a bright blue sky. This place was a lonely outpost on the railway track, with tiny station, post office plus a sheep station which covered 2.5 million acres with 70,000 sheep. When we climbed down the train steps it was some distance to the station where breakfast was being served. We all sat on benches by lots of long wooden tables & ate sausage, quiche, large mushroom, tomato plus tea & coffee. We saw a local ute & Aussie famers come to the station to pick up their post & parcels. When we re-boarded the train the staff said on the intercom that there was a ‘creature’ on the track at the front of the train – probably a snake. We weren’t allowed to walk anywhere at all apart from the cinder track by the train to the station platform. Today we’re spending the whole day on the train crossing the Nullarbor. We had lunch in the Queen Adelaide restaurant car with pre-dinner drinks & some nice wine with our meal. I had an hours sleep in our cabin as I was knackered. Then we spent the time gazing out the window and listening to music on the cabin radio. Keef thought he saw a snake at the side of the track. At 3pm the train made a scheduled brief stop at Cook on the Nullarbor. It was a god-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere. It was named after an Aussie Prime Minister not Captain Cook. It was 38c and after the air con on the train it was like walking into a hot oven. We had 30 mins stop here as the train had to re-fuel, take on more water (arterial bore) and change drivers. There were lots of flies so had to continually swat them away from our faces or they crawled into our mouth, ears & noses. We were told before disembarking that we were not to walk into the desert but to strictly keep to the paved paths towards a few abandoned buildings. There was once a small community living there but now the population is 4. Their job is to help with re-fueling the train. They live in a typical Aussie house – bungalow with corrugated iron roof & a small garden with picket fence. The soil was very red and dusty with a few trees around. We were told not to enter the abandoned buildings as it was too dangerous as snakes were very active at this time. Luckily saw no snakes or other animals/ reptiles thank goodness. I was very careful to watch where I was walking!! We all took photos & reboarded the train before the 30 mins were up as we felt we did not want to linger in this dangerous & desolate place. Glad to get back to our air con cabin. Crossing the Nullarbor we only saw a few cattle but no kangaroos or camels. A lot of the mammals are asleep during the day and only feed at dawn & dusk. Later in the afternoon the landscape suddenly changed from the flat desert where you could see for miles to rocky & sandy gorges with large bushes & trees and there was a dirt track alongside the railway line. This is probably so that maintenance men could drive along to check the condition of the track. We could see that once heavy rain had scored deep gullies in the red sandy soil but were dry as a bone now. We wondered if the lack of kangaroos was due to the fact that they were being killed for the pet food industry. Had dinner & had a game of cards in the bar area. Very tired. Tuesday 28 February Adelaide At 5.30am (pitch black outside) we were woken by a man on the intercom saying we were arriving in Adelaide at 7.25am & a snack breakfast of drinks & Danish pastries was being served in the restaurant. Had showers & then breakfast as dawn broke. After the train arrived in Adelaide we collected our luggage & thanked our train crew who had been excellent – they had been so friendly & had really looked after us. It was quite an experience on this famous rail journey. We waited until 8.30am for a taxi & took all the bags to the Adelaide Shores Big 4 campsite. Chris & Allyson took their rucksacks with them as they wanted to see the city to look around. Keef & I had already spent 4 days in Adelaide on a previous trip so decided to go straight to the campsite. We arrived at 8.50am & luckily our deluxe chalet was ready for us to stay. It had 2 bedrooms, bathroom, open plan kitchen, dining & lounge plus an outside table & benches. The large fridge had milk provided together with tea & coffee. The campsite reception had kindly provided a golf buggy to help transport all the heavy bags to the chalet. K & I went for a paddle in the sea as it was a boiling hot day. Adelaide Shores has a beautiful white sandy beach & large sand dunes. Hardly anyone on the beach. We spent the rest of the time in & around the large camp swimming pool. K & I had lunch in the campsite café, then icecreams & iced coffees. Felt very tired after getting up at 5.30am so we had our showers & had a nap. Chris & Allyson arrived at the chalet having done a lot of sightseeing in the city and had got a bus to Glenelg. They brought back a bag of fresh figs from a market in Adelaide which we decided to have at breakfast. C & A had showers & later we all went to the campsite café for dinner. Barramundi/ chicken burger/ fish & chips.

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