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

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

Jurien Bay – Turquoise Coast – Western Australia

With the Covid pandemic still rampant and travel restrictions frequent, July has called for another holiday at home here in beautiful Western Australia. Whilst we would have liked to find a hot and sunny location to brighten the winter blues, in reality it has been a battle to find a destination at all. With everywhere in WA booking up earlier than usual and only a week to play with, our choices were limited.

In the end, a cabin at Jurien Bay tourist park, four and a half hours from home, seemed as good a place as any…… and it would have been……. until the forecast showed a massive storm front rolling in affecting the whole south west corner of WA. We were worried.

We arrived late on Saturday evening and knew Sunday may be our only sunny day in which to explore what Jurien has to offer. After a good sleep, we headed down to the beach (some 200m) from our cabin door and discovered the monthly markets. We strolled through an array of soap, bag, toy, art and craft stalls before filling up on a yummy stuffed potato then grabbed a coffee and headed out to explore Jurien Bay jetty.

Jurien Bay jetty

When you come from Busselton, jetties can often be quite anticlimactic (after all we have the longest in the Southern Hemisphere at home) but this one offered something different….. a curve. Why, I am still not sure but I am assuming it must be something to do with prevailing winds… and wind there has been. On subsequent walks along this jetty we have been soaked by freakish waves and had trouble staying upright while being hammered by gusts. This has made for a rather exciting time walking along the 162m jetty and is likely a highlight the kids will remember.

As the pictures show, in summer Jurien would be a wonderful place to chill out by the beach, fish, cycle, swim and enjoy the good old Aussie bakery pie. There is a snorkel trail with an artificial reef just north of the jetty which boosts underwater signage and many varieties of sea creatures. In fact, I didn’t realise this whole bay from Wedge Island to Green Head in the north, is considered a marine park offering fantastic snorkelling, diving, fishing and swimming as well as being home to large colonies of Australian sea lions. My heaven in summer!

Jurien Bay beach

In winter, however it is a whole other story. When the rain set in on Monday our choice of activities became very slim. At the best of times teenagers can be difficult to please. When there is rain, wind, intermittent wifi, no games consoles, no bookshop and more rain and wind, it can be quite a battle to keep everyone happy. The Travel Bee and friends have had to get a little creative.

Out came the games…. Uno, Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams, a deck of cards and Beat the Parents. Although reluctant at first, even the teenagers are discovering games can be quite fun. Things are getting quite competitive and rather loud in the evenings.

The kids are learning some old ways to have fun and the parents are just glad to be away from the pressures of home and work. This is a true holiday, full of rest and recuperation….. just what the doctor ordered.

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