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

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

Woody Island – Recherche Archipelago – Western Australia

On Sunday we had the opportunity to head out on a boat and investigate some of the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. We chose a Woody Island Eco tour which would include looking out for some local wildlife and a guided bush walk. It was a dull morning as we left Taylor’s jetty in Esperance but the wind was low. With a couple of seasick types in our midst, we knew a low wind and swell was more important than sunshine. In the end we got both (and no sickness).

Esperance Harbour

First up, we headed towards Thomas Island in search of some sea lions. As we approached the island there seemed to be nothing but rocks, then the guide called out that he could see a sea lion dead ahead. As we got closer we saw a blob on the rocks and no movement whatsoever. Master 13 piped up ‘Is it dead?. Momentarily the guide himself did look a little worried but then we pulled up alongside and he gave a sharp clap. The sea lion lifted it’s head as much to say ‘What do you want? Don’t you know it is 9:30am on Sunday morning?’. It was indeed alive.

Sunday morning slumber

From here our attention turned to the sky where we had two White Bellied Sea Eagles circling above us. What amazing creatures these are riding the thermals with ease. One of the guides threw a fish and we watched as the eagle swooped down for his breakfast. Unfortunately my photography skills were not quite up to scratch and I was unable to capture the eagle in all of it’s glory. After a quick circle around Seal rock where we saw another five sea lions we headed into Shearwater Bay on Woody Island.

Shearwater Bay – Woody Island

Once we arrived in the bay and disembarked onto the jetty, I was amazed to see the staff onboard our boat jump into action in various different roles cooking lunches, preparing for guided walks and taking gear up to the huts and tents for those staying overnight. In the meantime, we headed up to the visitors centre for a gaze over the beautiful bay while enjoying a coffee and muffin before getting the call to assemble for our guided walk.

Over the next hour and a half we walked the tracks of the island and listened to stories of it’s history. The walk itself was a reasonably good work out and included what the guide referred to as ‘heart attack hill’, a steep incline up to the peak where we had lovely views over the surrounding islands. Miss 10 the ‘mountain goat’ had no trouble with this at all and beat the rest of the family up the hill. She enjoyed feeding the skinks and hearing about the story behind a rocky bank on the edge of the island called ‘Twiggy’s landing’.

Twiggy was a dog who was lost at sea one day while his owner (Mr Mackenzie who also happened to be the owner of Woody Island) was out fishing on his boat. After many weeks of searching for Twiggy on surrounding islands, all hope was lost. A few months passed and one day a visitor to the island told of a dog residing on the far side. It turns out Twiggy had survived his ordeal and was living on lizards and rainwater. Mr Mackenzie left out a few juicy steaks for Twiggy which disappeared but without sight of the dog. One day as the boat was packed up ready to head to the mainland, Twiggy arrived on the jetty and jumped aboard, his island adventure complete.

Lizard feeding

To conclude our day trip we had some lunch back in the visitors centre while other members of our tour had a swim. The bay looked to be a great sheltered place to snorkel with some interesting cave formations right on the waters edge. Our family chose to have a day out of the water but felt that this would be a great place to come back and spend a few nights in one of the glamping tents or huts.

Incidentally, we were very impressed with our deckhand’s cooking skills who at 1:20pm made their way back down onto the jetty for our return to Esperance. We were a well behaved mob and everyone was onboard ready to depart at 1:30pm much to the staff’s relief, I am sure they were due a break!

The view as we motored back to Esperance

Another thoroughly enjoyable day.

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