Lost in another world: Busselton Jetty with a snorkel

This weekend I have spent some time appreciating my home patch. Saturday morning started with my usual 1.8km swim in the shark net. Although I come down every weekend, I am constantly blown away with how beautiful this place is and this weekend really was extra special. Yet again I found myself snapping away with my camera behaving like a tourist in my home town but I wasn’t the only one….. A Busselton City council worker clearing rubbish was doing the same, seemly blown away by what is effectively her office day in and day out. She greeted us cheerfully as she went on with her work knowing she had the best workplace ever.

Although there is an autumnal chill in the early morning the days are still warm and most importantly the water is still hovering around 22 degrees! This combined with not a breath of wind or swell, made for a magnificent swim and the absolute best start to a weekend. After a swim, walk and coffee we spent the afternoon relaxing and planning for an early Sunday morning snorkel.

Sunrise in paradise

Sunday morning came and we gathered a few friends, a collection of snorkels and wetsuits then headed down our 1.8km jetty ready to immerse ourselves in another world. The sun was out, the sea was flat and conditions were perfect. We chatted as we strolled along, watching dolphins frolicking out to our east and seabirds soaring above. We said hello to fellow walkers and people fishing, all of which sported wide smiles as they enjoyed all that the morning had to offer. It felt like no time and we had reached the end of the jetty where there is a dive platform and underwater observatory for those who want to enjoy the spectacle without getting wet.

Dive platform at the end of Busselton Jetty

When we arrived on the platform there was a scramble of equipment as we squeezed into wetsuits, zipped each other up, adjusted mask straps and hit the water. Some of us waved for the camera (whoops that is me on the left, already off and into another world – my happy place!).

Snorkels on and ready to go – Mum has gone already!

The minute my head entered the water, the worries of the week left and I entered a world where I could be completely free. First up I visited a small friend from a few weeks ago. On the first pylon right near the platform there is a collection of corals that form holes……… and in the holes, live blenny fish. I have always been intrigued by these fish, I first came across them many years ago snorkelling with my Dad. They are so easy to overlook but so interesting to watch should you see one. At first all you can see is a tiny pair of eyes looking at you but as you dive down they often come out of their hole just a little way to greet you, seemingly just as curious about us as we are of them. I introduced my family and friends to Mr Blenny before we swam off in a group towards the spectacular pylons and the underwater observatory.

The colours down there are just breath taking and on a clear day like today we were able to appreciate them in all their glory. The sun shone through the water illuminating the corals allowing the blues, greens, oranges and pinks to stand out against the crystal clear waters. We all pointed things out to each other exclaiming over fish, sponges and corals. There was the unusual sounds of excited snorkel talk, warped and loud! I dove down, down, down to the depths. With each dive I felt better and better equalising my ears, eventually allowing me to dive all the way to the seafloor (about 8m).

The coral colours – photo taken from inside the underwater observatory on my last visit

I was leading the way and suddenly came across what looked (through the shadows) to be a large bed of seagrass or weeds. As I came closer I realised the whole thing was moving and I became momentarily confused before I realised I was on top of the largest school of fish I have ever seen. It seemed to go on forever like a rippling blanket beneath me. I beckoned the others and we all dove down and watched the fish move around us with perfect flow and cohesion. I think they were herring but I can’t be sure, I need to work on my species identification!

We carried on and discovered old ladders and pieces of jetty now covered in coral and home to fish of all kinds. There were little ones, big ones, stripy ones, yellow ones, orange ones, silver ones, black ones, ones with eye patches, blow fish, old wives, angel fish and leather jackets (like I said I really need to brush up on who is who!).

Reluctantly after we did a full circuit it was time to get out as some in the party were feeling cold (we must have been in the water around 45 minutes). The brave decided to swim the 1.8km home, one decided the equipment trolley was the best way back and the rest strolled along in much the same fashion we started the day chatting and discussing things we had seen.

A last minute jetty jump as we passed the jump platform (known to every child in Busselton) and the morning was completed with coffee and chips on the lawn.

The absolute perfect way to spend a weekend in Busselton and the perfect way to clear the mind ready to tackle a new week.

TTB

Busselton (early COVID-19) – Western Australia

I feel this overwhelming desire to write at the moment. Not that I think what I have to say is that important or particularly insightful. I am just an average person trying to go about my life like everyone else. But right now, that (the very essence of my life and yours) is in limbo.

All because of a virus.

A virus that 2 months ago sounded just like any other that frequently does the rounds. But, it turns out, this one is very very different. This has the potential to kill not only people we know and love, but the whole economy in which we live.

Travel has become a dirty word. If you have travelled recently people are scared of you. As you know, I love to travel. Fortunately, I haven’t recently travelled but it is a huge part of my life. My husband and I spend our money on travel, we work and save to travel, we spend hours thinking about travel. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the sheer ability to travel could or would be taken away. But, here it is happening right now.

How does one be ‘The Travel Bee’ without travelling??!!!

However, I feel very grateful to be here in Western Australia. If I had to be anywhere in the world I am just really glad it is here. I know that if I can not travel for months, this place has so much to offer to feed my soul. From the amazing beaches, walking tracks and forests to the people of compassion and strength.

When I am not pretending to be a writer, I am a healthcare professional. This means throughout this crisis I will likely be working, it may not be in my normal role, but I will be on the battle field somewhere. I am lucky in that I will have an income, many I know will not. For me, the dilemma is my sense of duty at work vs my duty as a mother and family member.

I think the coming months are going to be very interesting indeed. I can already feel a change in myself, my focus and values are shifting. I read something the other day that I had to agree with. This is a wake up call to the human race. We have become greedy and too busy for others. This crisis will change that, there will be a silver lining and taking a step back into a more simple life will not be a bad thing.

Like I said. I am very grateful to be where I am. I love where I live and I love who I am with. We humans are tough and we are resourceful. We will get through this. Please remember to be kind. If you can help those that are less fortunate than you, do it.

There are some friends and family around us that are going to find the next few months very tough, both from a health perspective and financially. But if we stick together and support each other we will get through this.

‘United we stand……………divided we fall’ Father John Dickenson

TTB

The three big ones – Ningaloo Reef

Words will do little to describe the experience we had yesterday, but here goes anyway!

The day started with an early wake up call and a few moans and groans. We threw the towels and suncream in the bag and headed down to the park office. A short time later a mini bus pulled up and we jumped on board.

It was a pleasant 30min drive out to the boat ramp, which felt like nothing compared to the days we have spent in the car lately! Along the way, the tour guides entertained us with local information and a few jokes to get us into the right frame of mind for the adventure that lay ahead.

At the ramp, we were efficiently split into groups as the tender ferried is out to the main boat. Once on board we began fitting equipment. There was a flurry of flippers, snorkels and wetsuits as the skipper negotiated us out of the channel to the other side of the reef. The anticipation was building.

Then, within minutes, the call went out….. Manta Rays!! Our onboard marine biologist hit the water, as the rest of us struggled into our gear. Our guides rushed through the safety briefing and boom, we were in.

It wasn’t until this moment, that I quite realised what we had asked of our kids. The swell was big and we were in the middle of the ocean. I suddenly decided I was an irresponsible and reckless mother. My youngest (9) had a panic. Her snorkel filled and she freaked out. Mother of the year right here!

There was however, no need to worry. The guides were amazing. Cool young girls had our little mermaid sorted in minutes and that allowed us to relax and see this… a totally unexpected bonus. What a beautiful and graceful animal.

That was it, if there was anyone doubting or worrying about what we were doing, it had vanished! We knew we were going to be the lucky ones, we were in for a treat. Sure enough, minutes after getting out and readjusting, we were in again and this time for the main event.

The excitement was palpable. You could feel the way every single person on that boat was thinking. The word that comes to mind is privileged. Privileged to be there and privileged to share the water with this rare and magnificent creature.

Although there were two boats with 20 swimmers each on board, every time you put your head under, you felt like it was just you and her (I actually don’t know whether it was male or female). It felt as natural and real as anything I have ever experienced.

And that was just the start.

For a further few hours we swam and swam, time after time, each of us craving more. Some had to take a break, including my little mermaid, but that was ok because it felt like you had to just go with what you felt. She was still just as magnificent from the boat (or so I am told, I spent as little time onboard as possible!).

It turns out I am a good mother after all. Both kids loved their day, even with a little bit of motion sickness. My little one is now aspiring to be one of the guides when she grows up. They had her wound around their little fingers. She recovered from her motion sickness with the help, care and attention of the ‘cool’ girls. In fact the crew had every detail covered, nothing was too big or too small.

To top off the day, and complete the big 3 the humpback whales put on a spectacular show breaching, fluking and tail slapping.

We even saw calves very recently born in the beautiful warm waters.

It will be a very long time before any of us forget that day. It was especially exciting to share it with our Canadian daughter. In last few days, she has experienced more of Australia than the last few months put together.

I have found it, the ultimate stress relief! This is it, right here and to think the lucky crew get paid to experience that, day in and day out (not as easy as it looked I am sure, they worked hard but were the happiest bunch ever, and I can see why!).

This day will be my new happy place. When things get tough I will drift off to these memories. Just incredible.

LLS

Totally awesome dude…. Ningaloo Reef

Yesterday we had our first taste of Ningaloo Reef. I had been itching to get out there because well…. it really is why you come to Exmouth. For someone like me, being in water with a snorkel on, is the closest I get to complete relaxation. It just feels like home (I am 90% sure I was a dolphin in a past life).

So, after a slow (and if I am honest, frustrating) morning of getting lunches ready, washing done and shopping duties squared away, we were all a little tense on the 45min journey.

Once we reached our first snorkelling spot there was a scramble of equipment as we adjusted masks, squeezed into flippers and found a suitable spot to enter the water. Then we put our heads under….

Suddenly, we were in a scene from Finding Nemo.

There were clam shells, corals of all shapes, sizes and colours, fish, fish and more fish. There were big ones, little ones, blue ones, rainbow ones, yellow ones, red ones, black ones, stripy ones, long ones and tiny rock dwelling fish. My favourite, was this dark grey fish that looked like someone had traced around it’s edge with a blue highlighter pen. He stood out as if he was glowing.

Even a stubbed and bloody toe couldn’t stop our youngest from exploring all the place had to offer. In the end with little meat on her, it was the cold that drove her out. After this, we hopped back in the car and headed to the next bay.

At Turquoise Bay you enter the water on one side and let the current drift you across the reef, exiting on the other side. The kids decided not to get in first up, preferring to warm up a little on land. This meant mum and dad were able to dive down and explore things from a little closer range.

When we exited on the other side our son was waiting, excited to hear about what we had seen. I actually considered not telling him, because boy did they miss a treat!

I was trying to point out a vivid blue coral to my husband when he excitedly told me look in the opposite direction…… and there, almost hidden amongst the coral was a Green turtle!! A mini version of ‘Crush’ from Finding Nemo and in his words, he was ‘totally awesome dude’.

For about 5 mins we followed him as he swam against the strong current. Gliding along, in what looked like an effortless fashion while we had to kick hard against the current’s pull. Then, as the effort took its toll, he nestled between two rocks to rest. I loved watching the way he wiggled in, wedging himself into a spot where we couldn’t be swept away. I took the opportunity to dive down beside him and he merely rolled his eye around to look at me, unconcerned by my presence. Then we let the current take us and the encounter was over.

I had no underwater camera to capture the moment but I think just being able to soak it up was more than enough. It will be forever etched in my mind.

Of course the others on the beach were super jealous. My son and I went in again and did another lap over the reef. There was no sign of ‘Crush’ but we were not short on things to look at.

An amazing day. We are all looking forward to getting out there again soon.

LLS

Coffee and food – Melbourne

Before coming to Melbourne, I honestly thought we had good coffee where I live, that we were spoilt for cafes. I still think for a rural town we are, but this place is something else! How can the humble coffee bean be transformed in so many different ways?!!

I am a strict flat white, one a day drinker. I mostly drink coffee from the same cafe at home or blends from a local coffee roasting company. I didn’t realise I was restricting my palate or that coffee could be so varied.

I have had 4 since I have been here (last one tomorrow), each so different, but all equally as good. One slightly richer, another more bitter, one with fluffier milk, one that it was obvious milk was not the focus! All outstanding.

Then there is the world of food. I am amazed at the number of restaurants, cafes and takeaway outfits that line the streets here. There is food of all cultures and nationalities side by side. The choice is abundant and varied with a price range to match. It makes me wonder if any city dwellers cook at home at all because there really is little need!

Queen Victoria Market blows that theory out of the water though. My goodness the array of fresh ingredients on offer is huge from the fruit and vegetables to fish, meat, cheese and chocolate. The foodie is in heaven in this city. For us, the freshly cooked corn on the cob and hand made chocolate truffles was enough for some wide, happy smiles and satisfied tummies.

Today, we caught the City Sightseeing bus out to St Kilda. Even as the bus meandered through the suburbs the cafe scene was alive and strong. My goodness were we happy with our hot chocolates upon reaching our destination. We happened to be visiting St Kilda just as storm fronts began battering Victoria! We certainly didn’t see it at its best but I am sure St Kilda is beautiful in summer. Today, it was rather reminiscent of some UK beaches I have visited!

We squeezed in a spot of shopping this morning but tomorrow we have three hours to explore the shopping on offer before heading to the airport. All in all a very successful girls mini break!

LLS

Hustle and bustle – Melbourne

Oh the excitement of exploring a new city……

Yesterday was a very long and exhausting day. I have to admit there were times I definitely thought to myself, I will never ever do that flight again. 12:30am scheduled time with a 90 minute delay, it was hideous, what was I thinking booking that when traveling with a child?! (I was thinking about my hip pocket of course!). But, in the light of day with 11 hours sleep under our belt, it doesn’t seem that bad.

When we arrived, we were met by an old friend of mine. On our walk to her car we realised it was 11 years since we last saw each other. There are some people you meet in life, that you know no matter how long between meetings, it will always be the same and she is one of them. She took us to a lovely suburban cafe where we enjoyed a strong Melbourne coffee, a big breakfast and a great catch up. For me, she managed to wash away the tired and grumpiness of the flight (maybe not for everyone!).

After a little rest at her lovely home, we were on the train and heading into the centre, ready to check into our accommodation. When we did, we were met by an amazing view over the city. The 46th floor!!!

I then had to force us out the door in a bid to keep in the right time zone. It started off feeling like I was torturing my daughter, dragging her through the streets in a rather cold breeze and the faintest of drizzle. There was all the usual kid questions and comments, how much further? Where are we going? I can’t walk anymore, I’m hungry.

We reached an area where there were more people about, the buzz was increasing, there were more lights and quirky signs. She started to perk up, ever so slightly. Then I found my target, Hardware Lane, we were in Italian Precinct.

The minute we turned the corner, I was transported back to my days traveling in Europe. The waiters jostled to draw us into their restaurant. They were all Italian and telling us about their pasta, pizza and kids menu. Again I felt my daughter relax just a tiny bit more.

We settled on a restaurant and chose to sit outside under the awning with an outdoor heater, on the edge of the cobbled lane. I was determined not to miss any action. The service was quick, efficient and friendly. With only a small delay, there was calamari in front of my daughter and suddenly all was well in the world again!

With my glass of red and risotto and my exchange daughter with her delicious meal the three of us relaxed into the vibe of the street around us. We watched the musician arrive with his little case and the waiters set up his seat. We listened as he played chilled out music. We watched other people arriving in the lane and choosing their restaurant. We sat and filled our tummies.

We even let the waitress convince my daughter she needed to try the chocolate brownie (not much arm twisting needed). We all commented on the way the Italian’s said the word brownie, so exotic and romantic the way they accentuate the o (my daughter informs me it is because their is no w in Italian).

I had one last thing up my sleeve to sell Melbourne to my daughter on night one. She had been cold and coming from the West we really have no need for big coats. We hit the shops!

In her new warm coat, she almost skipped up the hill and back to our apartment. She is hooked! With the big sleep under her belt there will be no stopping her today! I can’t wait to get out and enjoy the hustle and bustle of one of the most cosmopolitan and cultural cities I know. The girls are going to love it.

LLS

Wilderness – Canada

When I say we have gone off grid and spent the last few days in the Canadian Wilderness, I really truely mean that! Without having opened our home to an exchange student, we never would have had the opportunity to see wild Canada in the way we just experienced.

Our exchange ‘daughter’s’ family has welcomed us with open arms and introduced us to the culture and beauty of the First Nation Ojibway people. They took us to their camp on Manitoulin Island (it is worth looking up the location on google maps!) for two nights of mind broadening fun. I am quite sure that at the end of this trip, if you ask my kids what they remember most, this will be high, if not top of the list.

The fun started with actually getting there…….

Thank goodness we hired a Jeep! My head was still in my hands at several spots though!!

On arrival, we were all blown away by the beauty and isolation.

What followed were two days of swimming, quad biking, rock climbing, cooking, eating and great conversation around the camp fire. We saw frogs, butterflies, fireflies, turtles, chipmunks, snakes and lots (and lots) of mosquitoes! We ate fish fresh from the lake. We met Papa, grandma, aunties and cousins, each adding their snippet of information on both our beloved exchange student as well as their way of living.

Like many native communities around the world, the Ojibway people are fighting to keep their traditions, ceremonies and language alive; To prevent it from being swallowed up by the fast paced digital life we all lead. I wish we could all appreciate the wild and the land as these people do. I feel honoured that my children have been lucky to have some exposure to this and to see……life really can be fun and fulfilling without an iPad or Xbox.

The sense of family in these communities is overwhelming. They are all so close, even though the family is 4 or 5 times the size we are used to. They band together in times of need and always know someone has their back in any situation. The stories they told, of taking in children and friends in need was truely heart warming.

I only hope my kids walk away having learnt a few lessons on human kind as I have.

As I footnote………. I was constantly expecting it……. but, no we did not see a bear!! Thank goodness.

SAA

Day 3: Liberty and Tragedy – NYC

Today, our last in New York, was about grand sculptures of symbolism.

We started with the Statue of Liberty. She stands for so much that I as an Australian take for granted. She represents freedom, hope, truth, justice and enlightenment.

She is a beautiful collaborative effort between France and America. Her crown represents the sun’s rays of enlightenment, her torch and flame justice, the broken shackles at her feet escape and the tablet of law in her left hand is inscribed with the date of American Independence.

She really is beautiful.

Something else that was beautiful today was the sky around her!! Check it out.

From her, we went to possibly the most grand and heartbreaking symbol of tragedy in modern times…….Ground zero or the site of 9/11. The two ‘reflecting pools’ perfectly symbolise an immense sense of loss. Water cascades down the vertical walls of the tower’s footprints and into the void. Even my 8 year old daughter could recognise the power in the emotion it portrays.

I shed a tear or two behind my sunnies.

So, two very very different symbols almost in contradiction to one another and in such close proximity. The word irony springs to mind.

We completed the day with Ripley’s Believe it or not……… one for the kids (and adults alike).

It is time to move on to our next destination tomorrow. The kids have done super well in the big smoke, but they are country bumpkins really, so our 3 and 1/2 days here has been enough for them and we have been lucky to squeeze in all the things I was desperate to see.

Today no stress only hope then sadness and ………… right now fatigue.

SAA

Day 2: Contrasts – Central Park NYC

Trees and skyscrapers. Horses and squirrels. Elderly and children. Concrete and Grass.

Today, we rode bikes around Central Park. Again, I realised I know nothing. Firstly, there were hills, I imagined it flat. Secondly, it was hot (33 degrees and humid) not balmy warm. Thirdly, it was huge just like all things in America!!

We were part of a cycling tour………..The guides are amazing with their knowledge of history.

The fellow cyclists were amazing with their entertaining antics (I witnessed the most spectacular illustration of why you do not ride a bike and take photos, particularly in a park full of joggers, bikes, horses, cars and dogs. That is right people, you will come unstuck. The very fit looking German man went straight over his handle bars in such a dramatic fashion, his blonde girlfriend still posing for the photo. In my mind I thanked him for the wonderful demonstration for my son, who was having trouble listening in his efforts to show off and have fun……… in a park with so many distractions).

The secret wildlife was amazing if you were looking for the details, as I was. As promised, I took notice of ‘that bird’ in Central Park. It turned out to be 3 bathing in a puddle, attempting to escape the oppressive heat.

After the tour, we went to the top of the Rockefeller centre to appreciate the park from height. Amazing. Contrast.

So there you go. Pretty impressive. Looking at this photo, it is kind of hard to imagine the little details, but we saw them.

In case you were wondering………. we made the Yankees game. We ended up with no seats but enjoyed wandering around the stadium and soaking up the atmosphere and trust me, atmosphere there was!!!

As for the tickets in the electronic black hole………… who cares!

Tiny secret. I did have a stress attack today………..Over my backpack. It keeps eating things. Why can I never find what I need?? Now I am laughing at myself!!

SAA

Day 1: People people people – New York City

So, here I am in one of the busiest cities in the world. There are literally so many people, all kinds of people……. rich, poor, black, white, American, Australian, French, Brazilian, German, fast, slow, drunk, high, tired, wired, stressed and laid back.

People, people, people.

Even just driving from the airport to the hotel was the most eye opening experience, the things I saw, the people I saw. I literally wanted to cry. This is the one trip I have waited a long long time to do. It was meant to be on the way home from the UK when I lived there, but kids and jobs prevented that. However, good things come to those who wait. Patiently.

I saw….. NYC city lights for the first time, the Chrysler building, Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, cute American homes, apartment buildings, a random man dancing in the street(it was hysterical, the kids eyes were popping out of their heads!) a homeless man in the tube station entrance, horse drawn carts, the transfer driver muttering about traffic ( the likes of which I have never seen), baseball on the radio and all I could think was WOW, I know nothing!

There is a big wide world out there and people of all kinds, my imagination was not even capable of conjuring the things we saw in barely an hour.

So, have I felt stressed? The answer is yes, but only a little…….. my triggers have been a brief daughter tantrum ( on the whole both kids have been great), a problem with tickets to the NewYork Yankees (sometimes the electronic age is a bloody pain in the arse, go back to a ticket being a piece of paper please!!! We spent $500 and can not get evidence of a ticket that is in the electronic black hole). I think this is a normal reaction though. Most would be pissed off with this situation ( by the way I was not the most stressed person in the family over this!!) In the end, a refund was the only option. Now we are winging it and going anyway, who knows what tickets we might get.

Anyway, all I have felt in the last 24 hours is lucky. Lucky to be alive, lucky to be here and lucky to have what I have because so many people have a dam sight less than I do.

SAA

It’s a secret: Yallingup Lagoon – Western Australia

Yallingup lagoon is my happy place. Each week I make a thirty minute drive to met my friend here for a swim. Whether in a wetsuit, in bathers and once….. in our underwear (sshhh!), it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, we do it anyway.

Usually we try and do four laps of our triangular route. We head out to what is affectionately known as ‘the rock’, swim diagonally through ‘the channel’ to the corner and then back parallel to the beach. One must always attempt to get at least a foot on ‘the rock’ or it isn’t a proper swim!

On a calm day, we have been known to stretch to five laps. If it is rough, it is three. If it is really rough, we might only get wet after taking a brisk walk along the coast (now the underwear makes sense). Whatever we do, it makes us feel alive. It blows the cobwebs out, it grounds us. It is like our own private reset button.

There is something very special about this place. To be honest, I am not sure whether I should tell too many people for fear of our tranquility being disturbed!! But here goes….

Yallingup lagoon is an area protected from the wild Indian Ocean by reef. Just beyond its boundaries are the well known surf breaks of Yallingup and well…… yes sharks. But, inside the reef, is a sheltered safe haven.

Fish use it as a resting spot, a nursery and a hospital. This means you never know what you might see in there. You also never know what will be happening with the swell and current. Even us regulars are often fooled by the weather forecast. Essentially, it has its own microclimate. It is potluck, you don’t know until you get there what it will be like.

I thought I might write a small series of blogs to describe what we see and what happens at the lagoon. Some call us mad, but I think you will soon see, we are just in love with the lagoon and all the adventure it brings (plus the hot coffee and a chat at the end). The black line in a swimming pool is just so boring now!

TTB

Whistle stop Melbourne – Victoria

To finish off our ski trip, The Travel Bees had two nights in Melbourne…….and Melbourne means food!!

Here is a selection of what we sampled.

Tempura lobster – Koko Japanese
Chocolate mousse with sesame seed crisp and raspberry coulee – Koko Japanese (To die for)
Blueberry Danish – Queen Victoria markets (Best pastry ever)
Koko chocolates – Queen Victoria markets

We were also lucky to squeeze in a trip to The Lume. This is a digital art gallery that cleverly integrates the art work of Vincent Van Gogh with lights, music and the story of his life. Not your standard art gallery, this captures the attention of young and old (except teenage boys who are just too cool for this kind of thing!). Miss Travel Bee and I were spellbound as we read, listened and absorbed the sad life of such an amazing artist.

Of course, a trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without a spot of shopping and a visit to see street art. This is where Master 15 was in his element; graffiti and Culture Kings, what more could a boy want?

The boys in the hood – Hosier Lane

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 4 and 5

The last two days of our skiing we were blessed with beautiful sunshine. We started day 4 by discovering a faster way onto the mountain, the Northside Express. This chairlift leaves from the carpark and bypasses the crowded shuttle into the village. The downside is……. on the north side of the mountain there is only one green/easy run and to get to the other side you either need to traverse cross country or hit a few more advanced runs and chairlifts.

I was feeling okay having coped with blue runs the day before so I decided we should go for it. First up we conquered the Burnt Hut Spur (beginners) that I had fallen on earlier in the week. That went well. Next we decided to head down Upper Boggy Creek Trail to get to Grimus chairlift and up to the summit. That was our mistake.

Little did I realise (I think the others knew) that this trail hit a black (advanced) run with moguls for the last 100m into the chairlift! I had managed the trail okay but when I hit the moguls I freaked out. In the end, after much deliberation and sweating, I took my skis off and skidded down the slide of the run half on my bum. I was so embarrassed. That was, until a poor woman came flying out of control over the moguls from the black run and lay facedown unmoving in the snow. At that point I ditched my skis and headed over to see if I could help. Turns out I couldn’t. Bambi on ice is pretty useless in an emergency other than to yell for help!

Fortunately she was okay and had just severely winded herself. As there were other more useful helpers on hand (those that could actually stand up in their skis) we headed up the chairlift to the summit. By now, I was absolutely petrified about how I was going to get down.

View from the summit

Being a beautiful sunny day, the view from the summit was stunning but I was still completely focussed on how I was going to get down. Miss 12 led the way and we gently zigzagged down the intermediate Summit run. I survived and to celebrate we hit my favourite family run and then into Koflers cafe for a hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate break

The stress of the morning and the previous three full days of skiing took its toll a short time later and we decided we would all head back to Mansfield for an afternoon off.

Day 5 we met up with our friends again and had a great day. I decided it was going to finish on a confident note and stayed on Burnt Hut Spur for the entire day. It was great to just relax well within my comfort zone and practice, practice, practice. Mr Travel Bee, feeling tired, stayed with me and our friends took the kids off on an adventure which included new runs, jumps, filming and lots of laughs.

Mr and Mrs snowman on Burnt Hut

Meanwhile, Mr travel Bee and I enjoyed a sneaky drink at Spurs cafe/bar while waiting for the adventurers to return.

A well earned beer. The baileys went straight in a hot chocolate! Yum.

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 2 and 3

Day 2 started with me falling over on the first run and getting snow down my pants! I had been attempting a different run (Burnt Hut Spur) and visibility was poor (not that it takes much for me to fall down)! I gathered myself and resolved to carry on. I did however get a tad annoyed when a couple of turns later I hit the deck again. This time there was a boy who looked to be about 9 nearby who very politely asked if I was okay and offered assistance. I of course said I was fine and he expertly skied away….. on one ski (show off!).

The falls, combined with suboptimal conditions led to me completely losing my confidence. I forced the family to trek across the flat so that I could avoid more advanced runs. This caused a few arguments given we could barely see 2m in front of ourselves and had no idea where we were going. By the time we got back to familiar territory we all needed a snack. Good one Mum!

Following our break, I decided I needed to take it easy and went off alone. The rest of the family headed to explore Wombat run. Miss 12 was gaining in confidence by the second and Master 15 (having changed his board for a shorter one) was starting to hit his groove.

Wombat lift – spot Mr and Master Bee

Not long after, I decided it just wasn’t my day and headed into the village. Passing the beginners slope on Bourke Street I saw multiple splashes of blood on the snow and a number of people tumbling over one another. I knew then, I was done for the day and it was time for something to warm my belly. As if by magic, this sign appeared in front of me.

Unfortunately, as has been the theme this week, they were sold out of toasties but thank goodness they had mulled wine! I got mine takeaway and headed out into the village square (that is round!) to people watch.

Mulled wine disguised as coffee!

There were definitely some interesting sights in the village square. The families having snow ball fights, multiple dads jumping up and down on top of snow mounds before falling flat on their backsides (don’t ask me why?!), one guy coming off the lifts wearing jeans and a jumper looking suitably drenched and frozen, people nursing injuries, school group animatedly discussing their morning and of course lots and lots of people taking photos of snow.

Mt Buller Village Square

Day 3 and my friends encouraged me to get back out there and try some new runs. First up they took me to Little Buller Spur. I was super unconfident but my friend lead the way and we made it down unscathed. I was getting tired very quickly and having to stop regularly though. I think this was for a combination of reasons; poor fitness, recent Covid and just being so bloody tense!!!

Next up I got to try Wombat run. I had been looking forward to this one because Miss 12 and Master 15 had really enjoyed it the day before. We were warned at the top to take it easy because of ‘snow making obstacles’………… what??!!

Turns out that means big fat lumps of snow! This immediately lead to more tension for me and some spectacular falls for the others. Miss 12 face planted it just in front of me falling into a pillow of powder. It actually looked quite fun but I was completely incapable if helping her due to my complete focus on self preservation! I didn’t need to worry, she was up and grinning as she passed me within a minute.

My friends certainly got me to push my boundaries and although I felt terrified the whole morning I know it was the right thing to do. After lunch I felt much more confident and for the first time actually enjoyed family run because it seemed easier!

Two successful days and if I thought day one was scary going up the mountain …… the last two were much much worse!

The clouds descend!

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 1

Tonight the Travel Bees are exhausted. Driving down off the mountain we had two sleepy Bees in the backseat. I think we had all forgotten quite how tired you get skiing/boarding and how tough the late afternoon can get!

Our day started with a flurry of activity as everyone got their ski gear on and we gathered the required puffers, masks, hats and neck warmers. We piled into the car and started our half hour journey from Mansfield to Mt Buller.

After passing the toll gate, we started the road up the mountain complete with zig zags, hairpin bends and narrow corners. I had completely forgotten about this part of skiing! I am a nervous passenger at any time but this was next level and took me back to the days of Mt Hutt and The Remarkables travelling by bus (NZ). Those were truly terrifying trips.

The weirdest part about the journey up today was the gum tree lined road with signs to look out for wombats and koalas. It just felt a bit wrong to me! There was one other glaring fact…… there was no snow! Master 15 was getting rather distressed in the backseat comparing it to our trip to Japan where there was snow piled beside the road miles and miles from the ski field. It wasn’t until a few turns before the carpark that we saw our first glimpses of snow.

We needn’t of worried. Once we were up on the mountain and at the lifts, it was clear there was plenty of snow………and plenty of people! This season is in fact one of the best for snow in recent years. This combined with Covid has lead to the busiest season ever according to staff at our ski hire.

Bourke Street – Mt Buller

We are travelling with another family who are very experienced with Mt Buller. They kindly took it upon themselves this morning to show us around. The teenagers went off in one direction (not seen until several hours later) and the rest of us headed for the main Bourke Street run.

Okay…… I may have gone to the magic carpet…… but only for one run before realising I actually don’t need to do that anymore….. Hooray!

Miss and Mrs Travel Bee

And so, it was a full day complete with friends, thrills and spills. Not surprisingly, the scheduled dinner at the pub had to be postponed (due to lack of energy) in favour of pizza at home in the AirBnB.

There are a few aches and pains tonight as our bodies remember the muscles needed on the mountain. There is also a pretty sore bottom for one of our snowboarders!

TTB

Melbourne – Yea – Mansfield: Victoria

Today we have enjoyed a stunning road trip from Melbourne through to Mansfield where we will be staying for the next six nights. The scenery is quite a contrast to flat Western Australia with beautiful green rolling hills and windy roads.

Strath Creek – Goulburn Valley
Lunch stop – Provender Country Bakehouse – Yea
Yea to Mansfield
First glimpse of Mt Buller
Our AirBnB for six nights – so cute

So, the mountain is looming. The skis and boards are hired. The snow is good. The forecast is good. The Travel Bees are excited! (Mrs Travel Bee is perhaps a tad scared!)

TTB

Jetstar – Busselton Margaret River to Melbourne

Anyone would think we haven’t been on a plane for two and a half years! This morning, the Travel Bees were literally the first through security and into the ‘lounge’ at Busselton Margaret River airport.

It was hard to contain our excitement. Not only were we getting on a plane, but for the first time it was from our home town. No drive to Perth, no fluffing around with car parking, no fighting the crowds to check in. This flight is a game changer for anyone who loves Melbourne or loves to travel! 🙋‍♀️

We did however get a tad wet! Busselton Margaret River airport is pretty basic. There is a check in desk, security, a lounge and a cafe (more like a kiosk). That is it. You walk across the tarmac to the plane and when it is raining….. you get wet.

For me, all that just adds to the charm. Simplicity is sometimes very welcome and when you haven’t been interstate or done any international travel for two and a half years, it is the perfect reintroduction to flying.

We are super excited to finally be getting another travel adventure. We feel lucky to have landed in Melbourne with all of our luggage. A small delay of one hour is nothing to complain about. Given the situation in airports throughout Australia this week, we know we are one of the lucky ones.

Tonight, we have fully bellies (a couple of wines in for Mr and Mrs Travel Bee) and are contently settling down for the night at the airport Park Royal in Melbourne. Tomorrow we pick up the hire care and head for the mountains.

So excited travel is back!

TTB

One boy, a haircut and a wedding: Busselton WA

Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined hosting a wedding in our backyard! But yesterday, Miss Colombia and Mr Italy got hitched at The Hive!

Needless to say, our adventure of hosting travellers continues to surprise and grow our family. New and unique experiences are becoming the norm but I feel certain……. this week will be etched in our memories forever.

It all began a few weeks ago when Miss Columbia and Mr Italy announced they were going to get married. We were very excited for them and agreed the ceremony could take place in our garden followed by a lunch for fifteen. It was to be low key, with only a few close friends.

Area for official proceedings

At first we didn’t tell the children, although I think by this stage they are becoming accustomed to unusual happenings in our backyard. When we told them last week, there were a few wide eyes and ‘are you serious?’ comments but they were game and ready to get involved.

What followed, was a day that can only be described as magical. The low key event suddenly transformed into a day that involved contributions from everyone invited. Each little detail as surprising and endearing as the last. With little discussion between parties, we were astounded at how everyone found their role and the whole day came together.

The afternoon before, we arrived home with our secret bag of decorations to find the best man cutting the groom’s hair! We were surprised and entertained by such a sight beside our shed. But the surprises didn’t stop there.

The hairdresser of wedding eve became chef on wedding day with a stream of pizzas flowing from our oven followed by Crostata for dessert. Another friend suddenly transformed into a Columbian wedding singer with Spanish music flowing from our garden.

Pizza and Crostata for lunch
The wedding singer

Miss 12 took on the role of ring bearer and Master 15 cinematographer, recording the whole event for the Colombian and Italian families. Mr and Mrs Travel Bee you ask?? Yes, you guessed it….. we were the stand in parents rushing around decorating, stressing over small details and popping the champagne.

Champagne ready

It truely was a day to cherish. There were secret tears and not so secret tears, smiles to end all smiles and a general relaxed feel of people who embrace the ride of life.

And when the day came to an end, some retreated home, some to their camper, one to our couch and us to our beds. I for one could not sleep. I don’t know whether it was the excitement of the day or the expresso martini I had mid afternoon but I was buzzing!

Today, things have settled down and ‘normal’ backpacker activities have resumed including the return of one boy!!

1BOY (the number plate!)

One boy is part of a convoy of campers that have stayed at our house over the last few months. Vans that have been converted in the most ingenious ways to provide a home to the backpackers of Australia. A bed, sink, compartments, solar panel and a water tank. All the essentials comprising a home away from home.

But, I have a soft spot for one boy! I have loved watching the Italian boys come together to help their fellow traveller Master 19 fit out his van with all the key items his more seasoned compatriots have advised.

At the tender age of 19 one boy’s owner is a brave kid who is lucky to have found such generous and experienced country men right here in Busselton. There is no doubt he was the shyest wedding guest but when we found out his age we were so impressed with his quiet and courteous nature.

I can’t help but wonder if in only four short years Master 15 might find himself on the other side of the world experiencing one such day!! A frightening yet humbling thought.

There is one thing for sure, our backyard is never dull. It looks like we will only have the pleasure of the now Mrs Columbia and Mr Italy for the rest of this week. Only time will tell what happens next!

TTB

Colombia…… in Busselton

Last weekend, we went to Colombia.…. kind of….

It has been 8 months since I have written a blog. It has been 8 months since I have had anything to say about travel! It has been 2.2 years since we left Western Australia. We have however, recently discovered a new way to bring travel to us.

There are a surprising number of people traveling in Australia that have been here since before the pandemic. These people are bolstering our workforce, holding many a town together but with housing shortages all through regional Australia, they (along with many locals) have found it difficult to find places to live. We have the space, so we decided to welcome some travellers into our home.

What an amazing experience this has been and continues to be.

The Travel Bees and Miss Spain

First up we hosted Miss Spain. This super smiley girl breezed into our lives. We met her once over coffee and wanted to keep her! She stayed for four months working three jobs and checking out the area when she had a spare minute. We enjoyed meals together (Spanish and Australian), met her friends, introduced her to water skiing and showed her some of the sights of Busselton. Inevitably all good things must come to an end and she headed home to Spain, but not before introducing us to our next guests.

Miss Spain enjoying Geographe Bay

Miss Colombia and Mr Italy have been with us nearly a month. There has been more water skiing lessons and shared dinners as we welcome them into our family and home.

As you can imagine, these people are a long way from home and over the last few months we have noticed how they pine for their home traditions and culture. Australia offers them so much but there is always a calling towards one’s home. Responding to a Facebook call out, Miss Columbia has been fortunate enough to met some of ‘her people’ living right here in Busselton.

Last weekend we were invited to a Colombian gathering…. in our own backyard! There was cocktails, beer, food, and Latino music. It was the most unexpected and enriching experience. We all loved listening to their excited Spanish chatter as they got to know one another. Master 14 and Miss 12 floated in and out, observing and enjoying their food.

But, the most memorable moment came when the four Colombians stood up excitedly and began salsa dancing across our deck. We couldn’t believe our eyes, Miss 12 was spellbound! It felt like we were suddenly transported out of our backyard and into the streets of South America and wow, could these people dance!

The way their hips moved, the confidence with which they moved in front of strangers and the sense of pure freedom was exhilarating. It was like they had their own language (to think they had only met a few hours prior!). It was just beautiful to watch.

Moments later, Miss 12 was up having her first salsa lesson, as they explained to us their traditions of learning to dance at family gatherings from a very young age. In minutes, South America leapt up on Miss 12’s list of travel destinations.

As the world begins to return to normal and travel is slowly coming back onto our agenda, we have realised there can be so many ways to experience the world and it’s different cultures. For us, hosting is one of them. From exchange students to backpackers to more experienced and mature travellers, we seem to be able to find common ground and understanding….. it’s that hunger to experience something new.

We have just booked our first flight in a long while. Whilst I don’t think anything is certain, I do feel there is a renewed sense of confidence as we dare to dream of a return to travel.

Covid may have given us many obstacles but it has also taught us to look outside the box. If our next trip doesn’t eventuate ……. well who knows what we might experience in our own backyard.

TTB

Nambung and Lesueur National Parks – Jurien Bay – Western Australia

National park visits are a must when staying in and around Jurien Bay (between rain showers as is the case for us). The Nambung National Park situated 40km south of town is home to the Pinnacles. These strange and mysterious limestone rock formations look like something from another world. While modern science still hasn’t definitively uncovered what the pinnacles are, you can read all about the theories as well as the animals that inhabit the area in the modern interpretive centre.

The Pinnacles – Nambung National Park

After taking a short walk through the pinnacles nearest to the car park, we realised the best way to see the desert is to hop back in the car and drive the circular dirt track. This way you can stop at various parts of the desert to admire pinnacles of all shapes and sizes. I even found one that had a face!!

My Pinnacle friend

For national park number two, we visited the tourist information centre here in Jurien, where an enthusiastic and helpful guide showed us a route through the Lesueur National Park. Lesueur is located 27km north east of Jurien and is home to some 900 species of flora and a couple of ‘mountains’. With black clouds surrounding us we decided to risk it and set off with a plan to drive the scenic loop, walk the 2.5km Gardner trail and head to Green Head for lunch.

After making our way down a muddy red dirt track (Cockleshell Gully Way) and with our white vehicles now no longer white, we arrived at the Drummond rest area. Hoping for a dry half hour we set out on our walk. Although there was a fair amount of puddle hopping, we managed to complete the circuit without getting wet. It was well worth the effort with stunning views and an array of flora to capture our attention.

View across Lesueur National Park
Muddy puddles

Famous for wildflowers in late winter and spring, we assumed it would be another case of ‘wrong time of the year’. However we were pleasantly surprised…… although only early July, the bush is already beginning to erupt and if you kept your eyes peeled, there were beautiful little flowers all over the place in an assortment of colours. I imagine in a few more weeks the whole place will be a sea of colour.

The flowers of Lesueur National Park

From here, as planned, we drove back towards the coast and enjoyed lunch at Dynamite Bay Takeaway – Green Head. The food was great and likely one of the biggest burgers Mr Travel Bee and our travel companion Master J have ever encountered! Dynamite Bay itself was a stunning surprise and offered yet another blast of wind in the hair.

Dynamite Bay – Green Head

So much beauty…….. even in the middle of winter.

TTB