Star gazing at Yallingup Lagoon – WA

The last couple of weeks have been interesting in the lagoon. We have hung up the wetsuits for the season and committed wholeheartedly to bathers only. Just like anytime entering the ocean, it is a bit of a shock to the system but once swimming, the body quickly acclimatises. That is, until you hit a cold patch!

For some reason, the water temperature in the last few weeks has been really patchy. One minute it is just right, then freezing cold and then even more disconcerting…. really warm (I do take a quick look around to make sure no one has had a sneaky wee!!).

Panoramic shot captured on our lagoon adventure last week

Another interesting point, is that the lagoon has been quite devoid of fish. No salmon, no schools of bream or herring. In fact, although the water is crystal clear you really have to look to see any fish at all. I just wonder if they know something we don’t….

There has however been one new friend. A perfectly formed, perfectly symmetrical, bright orange, teeny tiny starfish! I am not sure how I have managed to spot him twice, being that he is so small (smaller than the palm of my hand) but I feel privileged to have caught a glimpse of this perfectly formed creature. So cute.

Anyway, as usual the lagoon has provided a challenging workout with the swell and current interacting in such a way that one minute you are surging forward on a wave, gloriously enjoying the helping hand, only to find two minutes later you are being dragged backwards and you are fighting against the will of Mother Nature. Nevertheless we love every minute.

Something we love almost as much as the swimming, is our post swim treat. Once dry, we make our way up the hill to Yallingup Store. Here you can find the best spinach and feta or sausage rolls ever. Made on site, these delectable, slightly naughty packages of goodness are just what you need after battling the elements.

Our favourite, the spinach and feta roll is jam packed with spinach making you think you are eating something healthy, but wrapped in a cheese encrusted pastry that that crunches and flakes with each bite means it surely is not. Paired with a coffee, chai or freshly squeezed juice, these are to die for.

Spinach and feta roll

According to reliable sources, my photo makes it look like something rather unappetising but in a way, I hope it puts you off! All the more for my friend and I! We are devastated on the days tourists have polished them all off before our arrival. How dare they!

TTB

The eyes of Yallingup Lagoon – WA

This morning as I drove around the hill at the top of Yallingup, I knew I was in for a treat. The water was a milky millpond, with small sets rolling in across the bay and not a breath of wind. I felt myself smile and muttered to myself “wahoo, look at that!” (yes…..sometimes I do talk to myself).

As I approached the bottom of the hill, I realised someone had, as my friend likes to say, ‘pulled the plug out’ in the lagoon. The tide was exceptionally low. The reef was clearly visible, and I could see several surfers and stand-up paddle boarders walking out to the breaks beyond. A low tide for lagoon swimmers means two things; altered swim technique and closer proximity to the bottom dwelling wildlife.

With the car telling us the outside temperature was 14 degrees, my friend and I quickly decided it was still wetsuit weather and I am certainly glad we made that decision. As we waded out into the lagoon, I was again questioning my own sanity. It was freezing. For the first time in ages, as I dived under the water, my lungs seemed to shrink and I had to do some stern talking to myself to prevent the onset of panic as my body fought to adjust to the conditions. ‘The rock’ seemed a long way out on that first lap.

By lap three, we were warming up and settling into a rhythm when my swimming partner abruptly stopped. When she pointed at the bottom it took me a while to see what she was pointing at. But there nestled into the sand and almost completely covered, was an enormous flathead. Only it’s outline and eyes were visible, and those eyes were intently watching us. I suspect he was as interested in the strange, wetsuit clad, bright coloured swim capped ladies peering at him from above, as we were of him. Unfortunately, I had no camera but hopefully the image I found below gives you some idea of what we were looking at (although our sand is much finer and lighter in colour).

After watching Mr flathead for a little while, we carried on to complete lap three. On lap four, we were surprised to see all that was left of Mr flathead was his imprint in the sand. Seemingly bored by us, he had dashed off in search of his next meal or to watch one of the unsuspecting swimmers floating around nearby. By the end of lap four we were sufficiently warm and much to my horror, my friend announced; not only were we going to go for lap five (a feat reserved for only the best lagoon days) but we were going to do it without our wetsuits!! In an act akin to ripping off a band-aid, I decided the only way was quick.

We stripped off and set off on our way. At this stage I quickly realised that although it felt very strange to be swimming in only bathers after a wetsuit, I actually much prefer to swim this way. Unrestricted and free! On our final leg, swimming parallel to the beach, my friend again stopped abruptly. It turns out our other friend had graced us with his presence, Mr Octopus. Unfortunately for me, by the time she had alerted me, he had quickly retracted into his hidey hole. However, I was able to dive down and see his eyes, stalk like, looking out at me.

These wonderful encounters got me wondering…….

Who else was watching us today? Of course, we saw plenty of fish and enjoyed their show as the schools saw us and dashed off in unison. They were watching, but who else? We know there is also Mr Wobbegong living in the lagoon. We didn’t see him, but I am willing to bet he saw us.

Today also made me think, perhaps my next hobby should be underwater photography! Unfortunately, today’s images are not mine and taken from the internet. Thank you to those photographers, whoever you are. Websites below the pictures for credit.

TTB

Lunchtime at the lagoon – Yallingup WA

No, thank goodness neither my friend nor I were anyone’s lunch! But, for our last lagoon adventure we did unusually go for our swim at lunchtime and true to Yallingup Lagoon’s form, we saw something we had never seen there before…

It was a stunning day as we wandered down the path with a big swell running in the background and a low tide in the lagoon. There were no surfers around, but plenty of people watching the wild and untidy sets roll in.

Stunning day at the lagoon

My friend and I squeezed into our wetsuits and picked our way across the moss covered rocks and into the water. It was cold. That trickle of cold water as it enters the zip of your wetsuit and runs down your back makes you wonder every time if you have gone completely mad!!

Picking our way across slippery rocks

We began our swim. The water was quite clear and through the channel we saw plenty of fish including a few big salmon and the usual bream and herring. I also noticed a few little gar fish near the surface and schools of small unidentifiable fish gathering around the rocks. Always something to look at!

A short time later we were joined by another fellow lagoon swimmer. Someone else who appeared to know all our secrets! He too, was swimming the triangular route and as the photo below shows we gave him a wave when he reached ‘the rock’ (a sign of a proper lagoon swimmer).

Man on the rock

But, it was between laps three and four that we watched in awe as a nearby cormorant decided it was his lunchtime. He took a deep dive down into the water and came up with a fish, that to our eyes, looked like he had bitten off more than he could chew. It was rather large!

Mr Cormorant then proceeded to bash the fish around causing quite a splash and commotion, now drawing attention from beach walkers and wave watchers alike. After a few minutes of fierce thrashing, the bird tried to swallow the fish in one gulp. Except, as we suspected, it really was too big. Last we saw, the fish tail was still sticking out of his beak as he made his way out of the lagoon. I am left wondering what happened. Did he choke? Did he manage to get it down? Did it come back up?!

With that, we were also getting peckish and headed around the lagoon for one final lap before heading to the Yallingup General Store for lunch. We were disappointed to discover that our favourite spinach and feta rolls were sold out but a hot coffee and slice of frittata hit the spot.

Another successful and interesting lagoon adventure.

TTB

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