Augusta Easter traditions – Western Australia

Last weekend saw our family head to Augusta for our annual Easter camping trip. Looking back, I think this was our 7th year in the same camping ground, same site, same tent with many of the same campers surrounding us. As a family who loves to travel and explore new things, we had considered perhaps it was time to move on. There is however a certain kind of calm heading to a place you know well. The kids love the camping ground comradery and as they get older are finding Flinders Bay camping ground presents new possibilities. For us parents, the best thing is the knowledge we don’t need to rush out and do anything in particular because we have done it all before. This is a holiday to truly relax and unwind ………..that is once the tent is up!

For those that have read my Augusta blogs before, you will know setting up the tent is not Mr Travel Bee’s favourite pass time. Every year he mutters ‘this is the last time’. Every year I book for the next. This year was no exception and to add to his woes we had to put the tent up in the rain. As you can imagine, this was not fun but with a bit of coaxing and cracking the cider open part way through, we managed to get the tent up in good time. Once the puddles were dry and the BBQ was on, all was well in the world again.

Camp Bee 2021

The next three days saw us wander along the path to the Colourpatch Cafe at the Blackwood river mouth, in the opposite direction to the Augusta Harbour and swim in Flinders Bay. There was no rush and no stress. Our walks took as long as they took and we spent as much time as we felt like watching the kite surfers, paddle boarders, boats, stingrays and birds going about their business. We joined friends for meals, drank wine and read books, while the kids rode their bikes and hung out with friends. The Easter bunny did his usual Easter egg hunt around our site (albeit inside due to a rainy night) and we ate chocolate. It all felt very familiar and very comforting.

Spot the dog

But no matter how many times you have been somewhere, you can bet there will always be something new to see. For 2021 our new thing just happened to be a shark. On Monday morning there was a bit of a commotion in the park as the rumour circulated there was a shark at the beach down near the toilet block. Miss 11 alerted us just as Mr Travel Bee and I were getting ready to go for another 1.5km swim! At her insistence we headed down to the beach where a small crowd had gathered. We climbed up on some rocks and watched stingrays circling before glimpsing a dorsal fin and a long, dark shadow heading towards us. They weren’t tricking……………….. there really was a shark in the bay!

This was the first time I had actually seen a shark from the beach. It wasn’t huge and definitely not a great white, but it looked big enough to leave a mark if you know what I mean! It looked to be around 1.5 – 2m long with quite a long prominent tail. From my limited knowledge and those around, we think it was probably a Bronze Whaler. Whatever it was, it was enough to put me off my swim! It seems someone had been gutting fish earlier in the day attracting it and the stingrays.

River mouth walking

After the excitement and deciding against our swim, we headed for another walk and then to the Augusta Bakery for our last pie before heading home. We parked up at the boat ramp to eat, knowing there is always something to watch when there are boats. Sure enough within a few minutes we spotted some entertainment. I feel awful calling it that because in reality it didn’t look much fun for the two poor men involved. Out in the middle of the river was a stranded tinny with two men attempting to row it in. One with an oar and the other with what looked like the paddle part of an oar, minus the stick.

These were not small chaps and it looked to be rather hard work. It was disappointing to see several boats zoom past them. Not one checking to see if they were ok. It was fairly obvious to us they were not. Anyway, it took them some time but they made it to the jetty with their 1.5 oars and successfully docked (although things were a bit shaky there for a while, one nearly ended up in the drink).

Row row row your boat

Once we made sure they had mobile phones (and a smoke!) we knew they would be okay and it was time to head home to Busselton with the camp site safely booked for 2022.

TTB

Lucky Bay – Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia

Well one thing is for sure, you certainly feel lucky when you find yourself on this beach. It really is sublime. The colours are truly picture perfect; pure white sand and the ocean an array of blues and aqua. Several times I have had to take off my sunglasses just to check there isn’t some kind of trick or optical illusion. We have made two trips out to Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park which is around 64km east of Esperance. It is well worth the 45 minute drive and $15 entry fee into the park.

I think the thing that makes this place so attractive, is the ability to take your car right down onto the beach. This means everything is accessible, which is particularly attractive when you have children. There is no need to worry about lumping your Esky down steps or trudging through soft sand when someone leaves their hat in the car, everything is right there (providing you packed it in the first place!). You can even slide the gazebo out of the car and pop it up to provide shelter from the midday sun.

Lucky Bay (the photos do not do it justice)

There are several other things that make this beach different. The first is the sand. Not only is it the whitest, it is the finest I have ever come across and it does a few strange things………… it squeaks when you walk on it and it clumps when it gets wet. It actually resembles and behaves, quite like snow but without the chill factor! This provides hours of fun for the kids making videos of squeaky sand, building sand castles and burying oneself.

Sand or snow?

Lucky Bay is also famous for it’s visiting Kangaroos. They are very tame and more than happy to be around eager tourists. Local guide books and tourist information do tell you not to feed them but I am quite sure some people do. Although we weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to have any visit our day camp, we did see one and it’s joey sheltering under a Landcruiser as we wandered along the sand to the next unique thing about this beach….. the Lucky Bean – a coffee van!

Now this is pure perfection. Coffee, beach, chair, shade and happy kids …………… what a combination! I do just have to add, it is the most expensive coffee we have had for a long time (perhaps ever) but I guess you are paying for the remoteness and the experience. It was worth every cent. The water itself at Lucky Bay was lovely and we spent hours throwing the skim ball and frisbee around in the shallows. Recent shark sightings did mean deeper swims were only on the agenda for dare devils though!

Much nearer to Esperance itself, you can find the relatively new Lucky Bay Brewery. Whether you choose to do this on your way home from Cape Le Grand National park or on a different day as we did, we do recommend a visit to this place. To start with, the beers are very good. Apparently this is something to do with their use of locally farmed barley. They are the only brewery in Western Australia that are able to do this as most of the grain grown in WA is exported. Whatever the secret, it is a really nice brew.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day they had visiting caterers in the form of Kamal’s Paella. Our kids were introduced to this Spanish treat and immediately fell in love with it. This made for a happy family with full tummies. The usual menu does however also look good, as does the live music schedule. Overall, it is a very relaxing place to chill out after a day at the beach or after a 4WD adventure.

Seafood Paella

One thing is certain, Lucky Bay is definitely going to go down as one of The Travel Bee’s favourite spots for a chilled day out.

TTB

Goodbye 2020 from Geographe Bay – Western Australia

It has been a tough year for travel blogging (and just about everything else!). I started with some writing about Japan, a wonderful ski trip we were lucky enough to enjoy just before our world changed. Then I wrote of my experiences home schooling and a short trip to Pemberton before trying out my ‘virtual travel blog’.

‘Virtual’ writing just wasn’t the same. There was a lot of research and with research comes referencing. In the end it felt like I was writing an assignment for school or university and we all know, assignments are a chore. Blogging was never meant to be anything I felt I had to force myself to do. The whole reason I love to blog is because there is no right or wrong, it is just my thoughts and observations gathered together for myself and others to enjoy. It isn’t to regurgitate what others have already said.

Geographe Bay looking towards Dunsborough and Cape Leeuwin

This time last year I was excitedly putting the finishing touches to my new website and blog ‘The Travel Bee’. I shut down my old ‘Stressaholics’ blog and filed my previous entries (that could pass as travel writing) into categories, as I dreamed of the trips we had planned for 2020 and 2021. I couldn’t wait to write about the destinations we were travelling to and to share it with friends and family. Little did I realise that our January trip to Japan would be the last overseas holiday for a very long time and that travel writing was about to become very hard indeed. As it turns out ‘Stressaholics’ may have in fact been a more fitting blog for 2020, but I believed I was leaving my stress behind!

Within weeks of our return we were thrown into a world of lockdowns, masks, hand sanitiser, travel restrictions and social distancing. Terms we had never heard of suddenly became everyday talk. Some eleven months down the track and we seem no better off (on a world scale that is). Yes, we have a vaccine but we all know it will take time for this to be rolled out in our country let alone the world. In the meantime we battle on, listening to frightening statistics and news of outbreaks, hoping the next one isn’t in our own backyard.

Shark net swimming area Busselton foreshore

So as 2020 draws to a close, I am sharing with you a selection of photos I have taken here in my own backyard over the last few weeks. Every time I go down to the beach it blows me away how beautiful this place is and I often find myself clicking away as if I was a tourist. The beach, the ocean, the sky and the wildlife. Each day is new, fresh and exciting. This is a place to forget about Covid-19 and the dramas of 2020.

Cloud magic over Busselton jetty
West Australian emblem black swans cruising the bay

I don’t know what 2021 holds for me or my blogging nor for our world and the curse that is Covid-19. I do know that this year has taught us so many things, not the least of which, is that we have to enjoy every moment we are given. We don’t know what is around the corner. We can’t wait for things to change or get better, we have to find meaning and satisfaction in our daily life.

A cloudy day skiing on the bay

‘ We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can’ don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

We have all had so much taken away from us this year, but this experience has been different for everyone. Some have coped well and others have not. Some have felt they are in their canoe with no paddle, others completely paralysed with no direction whatsoever.

The only way forward is to be making constant readjustments in direction. There are many ways to get to the things we want in life and mostly it isn’t via a straight line. I for one, have always wanted to take the straight line approach and get annoyed when my straight line becomes bendy. I feel like someone is out to get me or that I have done something wrong. This year has been a good lesson in showing me that we are all subject to the bends. No one could get anywhere in a straight line in 2020!

Underwater observatory Busselton Jetty

2021 is our chance for some new hope. We know there will be bends in the road and some big mountains placed in our way, but 2020 has surely given us new skills in negotiating these obstacles. My wish for 2021 is that things ease up for my family and friends that are doing it tough, that we can all make wonderful memories, even in the bad times and that each day we grow stronger and more resilient.

Just like each new day in Geographe Bay, here’s to a new, fresh and exciting year. One filled with hope, kindness and a whole lot less pain.

TTB

Pemberton – Southern Forests WA (part 2)

We had friends coming to join us for the last two nights of our stay in Pemberton. For what was to be a relaxing few days in the forest, it had a rather dramatic start. On their way into town they were flagged down at the side of the road to assist in a freak accident. Termites had eaten away at a tree causing it to fall into the road just as a poor unsuspecting family were passing by. The tree clipped the bonnet of their car, which consequently rolled and was lying upside down at the side of the road.

The occupants of the car (grandparents and their two young grandsons) were all out, another passer-by having already helped and called emergency services. Understandably, all were in shock. Our friends tried as best they could to comfort them until the ambulance arrived. They were all astounded no one was seriously hurt. Needless to say, when they did arrive at the retreat, a strong cup of tea and debrief was in order before starting our adventures together.

Once everyone had begun to unwind, we headed out to Cascades for a walk. Having had a lot of rain over the last few days, the rapids were quite spectacular. There is something so soothing about the sound of running water and the sway of trees in a forest (and the laughs and shouts of happy kids as they explore). The adults chatted as we took our time wandering down the path.

What is not soothing however, is then watching your child scale a 65m tall tree! The Bicentennial tree is in fact the highest lookout tree in the world and my fearless 10 year old daughter conquered it with relative ease. Having climbed the Gloucester tree last year, this one was next on her list. She had talked about it for days, I had hoped and prayed she would back out when she got there. No chance.

I was a mess. I paced. I pretended to watch the pretty birds flitting around. I paced. I swore. I listened to peoples shocked comments about the little girl up the tree. I paced.

Fortunately Mr Travel Bee is ok with heights and was able to stay with her the whole way up. He too could scarcely believe she was doing it, but she was absolutely determined she would get to the top………….. and that they did. We are so proud of her mental strength but I must say, it does worry me going forward quite what else she may get up to. As the saying goes; ‘the sky is the limit’ and she is set on becoming an astronaut. Who are we to question?!!

After the big descent and as the adrenaline levels (and stress levels) plummeted we all realised we were starving and headed to the The Crossings Bakery for much needed sustenance. From here it was back to the retreat for another relaxing afternoon and evening.

Warmth, wine, friends and family. What could be better?

TTB