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

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

Esperance – Great Southern – Western Australia

We have so far had three epic days here enjoying Esperance and in particular the Southern Ocean. We started with the Great Ocean Drive early on Monday morning. This is a 40km loop that was perfect to introduce us to the area and help us gain our bearings. We cruised along the coast checking out each beach and analysing what it had to offer. Within the first five minutes, Master 13 had found his body boarding beach and sat agitated, longing to hit the waves. We persuaded him it would be worth checking the whole area out including a pie from the bakery before getting wet, which seemed to plicate him.

At each lookout we had to take a photo. The beaches here are absolutely stunning and each is different. The cliffs, reefs and rocky outcrops vary so much and make for some striking scenery. The colour of the water is out of this world ranging from a deep dark blue to the lightest of aqua and every hue in between. Apart from the beaches, the drive also takes you past the Esperance Docks, Wind Farm (which we are yet to visit) and Pink Lake which is no longer pink but still quite picturesque (just don’t park beside the rubbish bin like we did!).

Pink Lake

Our AirBnb Seascapes Beach House is perfectly situated just off Twilight Beach road at West Beach. This beach is unique in its reef formation which provides a protected pool, a small break of waves between the two sections of reef and some great snorkelling (yet to be done, but it is on the list). Blue Haven just around the corner is a deep dark blue bay and these are both within walking distance from the house. There is a beautiful dual access coast path which the kids have enjoyed riding their bikes along while we stroll.

West Beach
Blue Haven

Around the corner from Blue Haven is Fourth Beach now commonly known as the ‘Bee bodyboard beach’ (yes this is the beach Master 13 spotted). There are several carparks along this stretch but our favourite is the first carpark. Here there is a lookout perched high on the cliff, perfect for Nan to watch the action and a rather crumbly track down onto the beach. The swell here is relatively small when compared to Yallingup and Margaret River. However, this is perfect for the kids to learn. So far, there has been hours of fun here and I dare say there will be many more. Getting the kids out of the water is the tricky bit, in the end it is only hunger that pulls them out.

Fourth Beach

Another plus for me, is that further around this same bay is Twilight Beach. This is probably the most popular family beach as it is safe and sheltered, with some interesting rock formations for swimmers to jump off. There is a surf club, surf lifesavers (although as I found out today, they are only there on Saturday and Sundays), two shark beacons and a shark siren……………………. I chose here to have my first open water swim. Once the beach had filled I felt safe enough to get in and had a great 2km swim, one direction was tough against the current and the other I could switch on auto pilot and cruise through the clearest water ever.

So far it seems there is something for everyone here (at least in the Bee family!). The town itself has everything we need with several supermarkets which I have found are best visited before 4pm after which you compete with the hoards of tourists who have just come back from their daytrips or days at the beach! The main street is mostly 1960s brick buildings that house all one would need when they realise their wetsuits no longer fit or a beach cricket set is required or a different item of clothing is needed. There is ample selection of restaurants, takeaway food and the all important coffee!

It seems Esperance is definitely worth the 700km journey.

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