Pemberton – Southern Forests WA (Part 1)

With holidays close to home being the ‘thing of 2020’, we headed off to Pemberton for a relaxing start to the July school holidays. Just an hour and forty minutes from home, it is an easy stress free drive (unless a tree falls on your car – to be explained in part 2). We set out late on Saturday morning, stopping in Nannup for our obligatory coffee at the Blackwood café before arriving at our Airbnb at 3pm.

Over the years, we have visited the area several times and have been lucky enough to stumble upon Blue Wren Retreat. This tranquil house is found just east of Pemberton nestled away amongst hobby farms, trees and rolling green hills. The house itself sleeps up to twelve guests and caters to visitors of all ages. Inside, there is literally a full DVD library, board games of all descriptions, a fully equipped kitchen, wood fire and comfy beds. The garden is a bird lovers paradise with wrens and parrots flitting around all day and secret reading spots scattered under the trees. For the kids (ok…. and adults), there is the shed. Filled with bikes of all sizes, table tennis, table soccer, air hockey and more, there is much fun to be had………even when it is raining!

On night one, we headed to Treehouse Tapas and Wine bar for dinner, having had it recommended to us. Who would have thought Pemberton was the place to go for Tapas?! Our kids wondered what it was all about, taking a while to warm to the idea of sharing their food. However, once it was on the table, they were sold. The barman said he rarely saw kids get into it like they did. There was an array of Spanish inspired food with a few Pemberton specials thrown in. Mr 13’s favourite was the marron cooked in truffle infused butter! Miss 10’s the stuffed mushrooms. I loved it all!

The following day we did not leave the retreat other than to stroll down the road to visit the horses, sheep, alpacas, dogs, ducks and geese that lived around the neighbourhood. The remainder of the day was spent reading, doing a jigsaw and playing some family games of table tennis and air hockey. By the end of the day, the stresses of the last few months had melted away. Honestly my mind felt fully at rest. It is important to mention at this stage, there is one very important thing missing from this house………… phone reception.

After a complete lazy day, we headed out to the Big Brook Dam for a walk early Monday morning. Between rain showers we were able to wander down the path and check out the little beach that would be a beautiful swimming spot in summer. We were also able to show Nan the Kookaburras as they laughed at us from their vantage point high in the trees (likely spotting the incoming rain shower before we did!).

From here we headed into town where the kids enjoyed a visit to the Pemberton miniature railway club, a browse in a gallery and a pie at the bakery. Then it was back home to another relaxing afternoon in front of the fire with red wine and a slow cooked casserole.

On Wednesday we had friends joining us for the last couple of nights (part 2). After all, it is only fair that we share such a wonderful and relaxing place!

TTB

The quirks of Augusta – Western Australia

The beauty of travel is the ability to change things up. Even in a place you think you know inside out, you can be surprised by what you might find if you choose to do things a bit differently.

We have visited Augusta at least twice a year for the last 8 years, yet something simple like renting an Air Bnb in the middle of town instead of our usual camping spot, makes the same place feel remarkably different.

This weekend our accomodation has been the ground floor of a stunning house perched high on the hills above the Blackwood River. Without a doubt, its most impressive feature is the deck and its view over the river. Ideally situated, it is 100m from the best coffee shop (The Deck Chair cafe), 100m from the river and 20m from the quirkiest shop in the south west (I still don’t know what it is actually called)! Master 13 wouldn’t want me to forget it is roughly 500m from Augusta Bakery.

View of the Blackwood river

Being winter, when we usually visit in summer or early Autumn, our activities were always going to be different to normal. This time, instead of spending most of our time in the water, we spent it wandering along the river and exploring shops. On our first afternoon we walked up to the bakery for the obligatory pie.

It was on the way back we met our first quirky character who happened to be a French bulldog wearing a pink coat. His owners had headed into the Thousand Suns cafe and left him to fend for himself in the Nissan Patrol (don’t worry it wasn’t a stinking hot day or anything). He had decided their time was up and was literally beeping the horn at them! It was so funny! At various intervals he would jump onto the drivers seat, stand on his hind feet and pump both front feet on the horn! Master 13 and I couldn’t believe our eyes or ears!

From here we strolled on down the road and into the shop opposite our holiday house. The outside gave only a glimpse of what treasures lay within. A few puzzles, towels and games were displayed but once you were in, you didn’t know where to look first!

There were books everywhere, all categorised and labelled, some new, some second hand. There were ornaments, nick nacks, mugs, lunch boxes, games, puzzles, records, audio books, crafts, jewellery, kids toys ……. it was very quirky! I was astounded by the shop itself, the shop owners who clearly have an astonishing eye for detail and a love for all things unusual and the behaviour of yet another dog! This time a Newfoundland whose owners led him slowly through the shop. He could barely fit in the isle but behaved like a saint. There was temptation all around and not once did he attempt to touch anything.

Throughout the whole weekend we met an array of interesting dogs. We walked along the path from the boat ramp at the bottom of our street around the river to the Colourpatch cafe. It was a lovely morning, we saw people fishing, black swans and frolicking dolphins. Unusually, there was not a single pelican. These quirky birds normally frequent this area and I always find their antics interesting, but no such luck on this visit. Instead we saw dog after dog, big small and everything in between.

River Ramble

We were disappointed to find the Colourpatch closed (Sunday morning on a long weekend?!) but knew exactly where to head for our coffee fix. At The Deck Chair cafe in the centre of town, Yahava coffee in hand we watched a French Bulldog puppy and a Dachshund socialising and a sleepy Chihuahua whose eyes kept closing while he sat bolt upright!

To finish our weekend away, this morning we headed to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. This is where the Southern and Indian oceans meet in an aggressive and spectacular fashion, although today was surprisingly calm. We have been many times over the years but wanted to check out the new interpretive centre in one of the old light keeper’s cottages.

We enjoyed the centre and thought that the $20 fee per family was reasonable (some of these types of things are grossly over priced). The interactive element was great for the kids, who particularly enjoyed the quirky photos that came to life.

So another successful, yet different trip to Augusta! This has been the first real opportunity in months to get away and break the cycle of what has been quite a trying time for everyone around us. It is quite fitting it has fallen on the Western Australia Day long weekend. I am fairly certain we are all appreciative of what it means to live here in WA this year more than any other!

The dogs of WA are enjoying getting out and about too!

TTB

Canal rocks, Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park – WA

With social distancing firmly in place and weeks of staying at home, we were in need of a new outing for fresh air. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, here in WA we have lucky to be able to go out for exercise or mental health purposes as long as you follow the rules. We can only be in a group of two, or in a family group (who all live in the same house) and only within our local area.

So far, we have been for upteen bike rides and visited the same coffee shop almost daily. We are enjoying our new routine, but today being Sunday and a family day, we wanted to break out and do something different.

We jumped in the car and headed to Canal Rocks in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. This has long been a favourite of mine and a place we often visit in winter or on a windy day. Today was one such day. When the swell is large, the waves crashing over the rocks here is nothing short of spectacular.

To get the best view, we like to climb up on the rocks and then sit watching. Little Miss 10 other wise known as ‘mountain goat’ took off up to the top in seconds. Dad scrambled to keep up with her, while Mr 12 and I took our time climbing up.

The colours up there were utterly breathtaking. The red rocks contrasting with the blue of the sky and green of the ocean. The white/grey whisper of clouds enhancing the dramatic outlook. Even Mr 12, the most reluctant of us was captivated.

The visit however, is not complete without a walk over the bridge that crosses the canal. Here you can see down into the water before searching for crabs in amongst the rock pools on the far side. But, be sure to watch for waves! It is not uncommon for waves to wash right over the bridge and anyone standing upon it!

We certainly felt we had a blast of fresh air and were newly invigorated as we headed towards Dunsborough and our lunch. There was only one way to complete an Aussie morning out and that was with a pie. Tas’s Bakery is a favourite of ours for one particular pie……….. the surfies pie. For those that have not had the pleasure of eating one of these, it is a meat pie bottom with a top to die for. This consists of a layer of bacon pieces, an egg and is finished with a layer of crispy cheese. IT. IS. SO. GOOD.

I am sorry but I didn’t get a photo before I greedily consumed it!

Another great day out travelling our local area.

TTB

Busselton (early COVID-19) – Western Australia

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

All because of a virus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTB

Crown Theatre and Casino with Tim Minchin – Perth WA

For our 2019 Christmas present, we booked ourselves a show package at the Crown Metropol. A night with no kids, dinner and a show. There really is no bigger treat for working, busy parents!

Finally, last night was our night……

We arrived at the Crown at 3:30pm to face a rather long queue to check in. It was hard not to feel a tad disappointed. Dinner was booked for 5:30pm and we had to check out early in the morning, so we knew this was our only opportunity to enjoy the pool. We could see the plans of poolside cocktails slipping away!

But……. we needn’t have worried, the efficient staff chipped away at the line and we were up in our room, bathers on ready at 4pm. We headed down to the pool to a glorious Perth afternoon, a few fluffy white clouds in an otherwise bright blue sky, sunshine and drinks (oh and a lovely crystal clear pool of course).

Although there were no sun-lounges free, we found a comfy spot in the bar area and ordered a mojito each. It was a delicious and refreshing way to start our evening, a little bit fancy but not too sweet or heavy. We sat and chatted to each other. It really was lovely to be able to reconnect without the interruptions of children and every day life. It felt like ages since we really talked and listened to one another.

We had a quick obligatory splash in the pool and headed up to the room with 30 mins to get ready for dinner. Of course, as you would expect, the room was spacious and comfortable with a definite touch of luxury and class, including a complimentary bottle of bubbles on ice.

Complementary bubbles

Metropol is the original hotel in the complex, first built in 1985 but with several renovations over the years, it still looks fresh. Not quite as luxurious as Crown Towers, but slightly cheaper and a step up from Crown Promenade.

We entered The Atrium restaurant in the heart of the Crown complex at 5:31pm (not bad at all, considering what we had already squeezed into 91 mins!). From here it was a glorious feast! The buffet included seafood, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Thai options, as well as a traditional English roast carvery. Mr Travel Bee went straight to the seafood bar as expected.

Seafood bar

I was more conservative, although perhaps it was just pretending and started with a bowl of soup. It wasn’t long though and I was filling my plate with all sorts!! I think for me the pork belly with the divine crunchy crackling was a winner. For Mr Travel Bee it was the Oysters.

Then, there was dessert. The pictures say it all…..

I couldn’t help it, I had to taste them……..

And so….. with very full tummies we headed into the Crown Theatre for a night of entertainment with Tim Minchin. A musician, comedian, actor, lyricist, and director, we had seen him in a few things on TV and been to see his musical Matilda but really didn’t know quite what to expect.

What we got, was an evening that opened our eyes to many many things. Let’s just say he is a tad eccentric and definitely would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But there is absolutely no denying the talent this man has. One minute he is skilfully playing the piano and singing songs about growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the next lecturing us about the internet and it’s stupidity, then religion and world atrocities, next he was singing about cheese.

We laughed, sang along, sometimes dropped our jaws in shock, laughed again and I have to admit, nearly cried as he finished the show with a beautiful song he wrote for Missy Higgins. Tim is an extraordinary talent who sees the world just as it is……. ever so slightly screwed up (he has another less polite word for it!).

Before we could call it a night and head to our luxury king sized bed, we could not resist a night cap in the Casino itself. This place has always been one of my favourite places to people watch. It is fascinating to see how some people can lay it all out, risk everything, others cautious and calculating. Then there are those just so drunk they have no idea what they are doing.

I followed my previous rules, placing a $50 bill on a Roulette table. It took a bit longer than last time, but I was lucky enough to turn it into $110 before calling it a night, my win covering our fuel costs for the weekend.

This morning after a cup of tea in bed, we were up and off to watch our son play soccer. Although a pre-season friendly, there was plenty of nerves and apprehension but the boys did well with some very encouraging play.

Looks like we will be spending many a weekend in Perth in coming months. Shame not many will be spent at the Crown though (that is unless I win a bit more than $60 on the Roulette table!).

TTB

The Colony Concept – Metricup WA

Travel can be gathering a few friends together, jumping in the car and heading out to investigate something new. Living in the South West of WA, I am spoilt for choice in terms of nearby day trip destinations. Here, there are bespoke businesses and attractions opening regularly, not to mention a stunning coastline that provides endless walks and vantage points from which to admire the beautiful Indian Ocean.

My new mission is to get out there and enjoy them….. So this week, The Travel Bee went to visit bees at The Colony Concept in Metricup! This is a new shop/cafe that has recently opened to showcase Southern Forest Honey.

When you enter, you are greeted with an array of honey and honey products. You can taste and compare a variety of honeys from different local flowers and trees. It is quite surprising to discover the distinct tastes of Manuka, Karri, Marri, Jarrah, Forest and Wildflower honeys.

In this well stocked shop, you can purchase honeys, meads, shampoos, soaps, beeswax food wraps, candles, bee keeping equipment and much more.

For me however, the most interesting part was the room next door, the ‘Bee room’. Here, you are able to see inside a hive and discover the real meaning of the saying ‘Busy Bee’. Staff explain how the hive works and the roles of the bees. It is fascinating to watch the nurses, builders and cleaners going about their business. If you are lucky you can find the Queen in amongst all the worker bees and see baby bees emerging.

There is plenty of information about the plight of the honey bee, their importance to our ecosystem and what we can do to help maintain their colonies. You could spend hours here learning about these interesting and crucial creatures.

When exiting the bee room be sure to stop and taste the infused creamed honeys and meads. My favourite was the ginger creamed honey, which I purchased to take home to the family. I wasn’t sure whether the kids would like it, but it turns out Miss 9, Master 12 and Mr travel bee all loved it, it’s subtle ginger taste not overpowering the honey but rather perfectly balancing it.

My friends and I settled out in the alfresco area over looking the dam for a spot of morning tea. I was impressed with all the finishing touches from bees painted on the walls to the bee inspired crockery.

We opted for the scones and a coffee each and were treated with an unusual selection of toppings. Here, instead of just jam and cream, there is fresh butter, apple and cinnamon infused honey, homemade plum jam and whipped cream. The scones were a generous size allowing for them to be cut into quarters to enjoy each different topping.

And enjoy we did! We all had a great morning tasting, learning about bees, enjoying morning tea and some great conversation.

For those with children there is also a nature playground featuring logs and tyres (no plastic), designed by kids. We didn’t try it out but all have kids and agreed it looked pretty good!

A highly recommended south west day trip both for visitors and locals alike. 20 minutes from Busselton there is something here for everyone.

TTB

2020 Busselton Jetty Swim – Busselton WA

If you ever want an excuse to come and visit the wonderful town of Busselton in Western Australia, then the famous Busselton Jetty Swim is it. In its 25th year, the 2020 swim saw a record 3300 swimmers hit the pristine waters of Geographe bay and brought some 10,000 people to the foreshore to watch the spectacle.

In my opinion, you are unlikely to witness an event with more excitement, professionalism, grit and determination anywhere.

As the name would suggest, it is basically a whole bunch of people swimming around a jetty. But……. it is not just any jetty, at 1.8km it is the longest wooden pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere! That is a big swim, straight into the Indian Ocean. You can swim the distance of 3.6km solo, in a duo or team of 4 or in a recent addition to the event, you can walk out and do the mile swim home.

In my 10th consecutive year, my husband and I (due to a lack of training this year) decided to do the duo together. Having mostly completed solo swims in the past, it was quite a different day for me. Today I was able to actually watch part of the swim from the jetty. What a treat!

It began with 50 elite athletes taking off first. These men and women hitting the water with a hunger and strength you couldn’t help but envy. The way they were able to glide seemingly effortlessly through the water was amazing to see. They vied for their place as they headed out into the depths.

The rest of the field started a minute behind in a new ‘rolling start’. 8 swimmers were sent off every 4 seconds. This made for a continued wave of swimmers for some 40minutes. Swimmers wore coloured caps determined by their estimated finish time, allowing swimmers of similar capabilities to be grouped together.

Meanwhile, things were hotting up at the front of the field. The two leaders were clear of the pack as they rounded the end. I was lucky enough to watch them come past as I arrived at my start post 1.4km out. These two guys literally playing cat and mouse as they curved around trying to stop each other drafting. They were neck and neck the whole way in.

In the end, it was a sprint finish with only 1 second separating them. The winner a 17 year old boy from Bunbury just up the road. I could not have been happier for him. I have watched him rise through the ranks and it was clear last year he was a force when he came in second. Third place going to one of his training mates. It was clear though, that what looked like an effortless swim, was in fact a swim in which they gave everything. The winners were spent at the end, embracing each other before bending over hands on knees to catch their breath.

Of course by this stage, I was in the water (I have only seen replays of the finish). Our swim was so enjoyable! After a rather hectic changeover where we lost a lot of time, my husband and I met in the water, he tagged me and I was off.

The first 400m to end was probably the hardest as I tried to find my rhythm. There were swimmers all around me, some swimming straight, some not. It is pretty crazy, but as I rounded the end I settled down and found my groove.

From there, the years of experience kicked in. I knew which buoys I had to sight, how my line should be and how far from the jetty I should be. I just cruised along, the odd song flitting in and out of my head, I thought about what I would say if I was interviewed at the end (strange I know but it actually happened one year!) but mostly I just let the rhythm take over.

I realise now, that is what I love most about swimming, the rhythm. It is like my body just completely takes over and it all just flows and happens naturally. Considering the number of people out there, there were few times today that the rhythm was broken. By the end I felt great, I could have kept swimming and swimming in my own little world! It truly felt, in the midst of thousands of people, that I had escaped! I almost felt disappointed it was over!

As the competitors met their supporters on the beach there was much smiles and excitement. Everyone super proud of their achievement. Each had their own story, from swimmers who had only just learnt to swim, to those breaking their personal best times to those overcoming illness or injury, their achievement was simply finishing.

As a life long swimmer and a coach of many kids, I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. Today, it wasn’t about the time, it was about being a part of something big. Bigger than you or me, something that teaches people just to get out there and give it a go because you never know what you might achieve.

I know it was on my doorstep, but the stories I saw today made me feel like I traveled a long way ………. perhaps I did in a funny sort of a way. Maybe it was a journey down the lane of perspective.

TTB

Awesome Augusta – WA

Monday was a public holiday here in Australia. The forecast was hot, hot, hot. This little ‘Travel Bee’ and her kids were in a lazy mood after spending some 12 hours of Australia Day at the beach boating, skiing, swimming and eating with friends and family. We wanted to veg out.

But, Mr ‘Travel Bee’ was having none of it. We had a day off and we were going on a day trip to his favourite day trip location…. Augusta. He piled us into the car with a chorus of moans, cranked up the air conditioning and we were off.

The 90km journey was pretty uneventful. The kids eventually accepted their fate and fell asleep. Nan and myself gazed out the window and commented on how dry the vegetation looked. Dad just drove.

When we reached Augusta Bakery (a must when visiting) and stepped out of the car, we could not believe how a 90km journey and less than an hour in the car could drop the temperature by 11 degrees. Instead of a sweltering 36 degrees it was a pleasant 25! Perhaps Dad wasn’t so silly after all.

As usual the bakery pies were yummy. The pastry was flaky and rich, 3 out of 5 opted for the beef and mushroom pie, Nan got the beef and I had satay chicken sticks, chips and salad (a weird choice for a bakery I know, but I enjoyed it).

From here, we headed down to the foreshore in front of the Colourpatch cafe. We set up the chairs, esky and kayaks and settled in for the afternoon.

Augusta foreshore

Miss 9 and Dad headed off on an adventure on the kayaks, while Master 12 and I headed into the water with the skim ball. The water was warm and inviting and we enjoyed meeting people out on the sandbank. We chatted as we threw the ball. We met a kid who spent the afternoon picking up seaweed, rowing it around ‘selling’ it to people. It was so nice to see a kid using his imagination to play, just like we used to when I was a kid.

The kayakers setting off on their adventure

Nan dipped her toes in the water and enjoyed her time watching us frolick in the water, from the shade of a pine tree.

Just like magic as we exited the water we heard the call of a Mr Whippy van in the vicinity. We set off on our mission, following its call as it drove around the nearby caravan park. Finally we found our target….

Then, just to finish off the day we were gazing out into the river finishing our cones when a dog caught my eye. He was out quite deep swimming along. Suddenly he seemed to panic a bit and changed directions a few times, seemly not knowing where to go. Then his reasoning became clear as 4 inquisitive dolphins cruised up beside him. His owner whistled and he headed into shore as there was a scramble of people heading towards the dolphins, our kids included.

So, the Augusta adventure concluded with a close encounter with dolphins. They swam around and under the kayaks, putting on a show for their occupants. If there was still any doubt about Dad’s idea for the day, it was all dissolved in that moment.

Honestly there is a dolphin in this picture I promise!

And so, the message is clear……… Even when you don’t feel up to it, even when tiredness takes hold, even if it all seems too hard…… don’t waste a single day, because who knows what it might bring. Well done Mr Travel Bee, it was a grand idea!!

TTB

The three big ones – Ningaloo Reef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was just the start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LLS

Locals card – Exmouth

When traveling it is a huge advantage if you are with someone who is either a local, or who has spent a lot of time in the area. There are always secret spots that only those ‘in the know’ can find. Over the last few days we have been lucky enough to benefit from such local knowledge.

Without this, we never would have seen the things we have seen, nor would we have been brave enough to attempt the things we have. 4 wheel driving, mud crabbing, fishing, the best beach combing ever, caving and bush walking. We have been experiencing some true Aussie outback.

Merely getting to the locations has been an experience in itself. We have been part of a 5 or 6 (depending on the day) fleet as we have made our way up the Cape Range, through mangroves and along beaches, exploring as we went. We have seen dingos, emus, wild horses, eagles and osprey as we negotiated the lumpy, sandy and rocky tracks. There have been sweaty palms and cringy moments (yes a tad stressful) but each time we have been rewarded with a stunning view or something completely new to absorb and experience.

We have even had barbecued fresh Red Spangled Emperor at the top of a gorge!

Sometimes it is worth a little stress to find the pot at the end of the rainbow!

So lucky.

LLS