Great Aussie road trip – Busselton to Esperance WA

Finally……. here we are on holiday! It isn’t quite what we had planned for January 2021, but it is a getaway nonetheless and for that we are grateful. Sri Lanka and the Maldives will have to wait but will give us something to look forward to when this pandemic is all over. For my family and friends stuck in lockdowns or battling health problems, I hope that my blogs over the next few days will transport you out of your living room and into the beauty that is Western Australia so that you too can enjoy what WA has to offer.

Yesterday, we set out from Busselton at 7am ready to drive some 700km south east to Esperance in the Great Southern region of WA. The Travel Bee mobile was loaded to the brim with beach gear including chairs, umbrellas, body boards, snorkels, bathers, rashies, wetsuits and flippers. Inside the cab we had snacks, audiobooks, games and music. We were set for another great Aussie road trip.

Now, one might think that an eight hour journey across anywhere in Australia would be boring. You imagine long plains of brown grass, red dirt, sand and not much else……………….. perhaps a few kangaroos. Yes, there were kangaroos and yes there was brown grass but we did see a few things to capture our attention along the way.

The first, was the flocks of brown sheep (very unlike the shampooed version of sheep in New Zealand!) huddled together under the smallest patches of shade. They looked so funny all squished up and I imagined how hot it would be under all that wool with the harsh Australian sun beating down. Then one of the sheep spotted the farmer’s ute coming. He jumped up to head towards breakfast and in true sheep style the rest all followed. It was quite entertaining, watching these animals run like maniacs after their leader.

Next we saw the weird silhouettes of the Porongurups burst their way out of the ground and onto our horizon. This is one of the very few ‘mountain ranges’ of Western Australia. They are actually large granite domes that only rise 670m (again I compare something to New Zealand and conclude these are not really mountains but more like………. bumps). They are however, over one billions years old making them the oldest range in the world!!

Miss 10 and I were also entertained by the Giant (or Humongous) Jenga stacks of hay bails and the strange trees that looked like exotic mushrooms, with long naked trunks and branches and only a few leaves on top. All the way, we were reminded how scary it can be in outback Australia with evidence of many bushfires.

We took note of the town names and tried to work out their meaning. Most are named by the Noongar people who are the native Aboriginals in the south west of WA. In their language the suffix ‘up’ means ‘place of’ and a good portion of the towns included this term. Boyanup, Mumballup, Noggerup, Kojonup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup. We were also counting the towns we passed but when Miss 10 took a nap we lost count! I think it was about 12.

We made one significant stop in Kojonup. ‘Kodja’ refers to the stone axe made by Aboriginal people from the stone in this area. We had been recommended the Black cockatoo cafe where we enjoyed a coffee and homemade sausage roll before checking out the native rose bush maze. This followed the story of three local women and would be very interesting if you had the time to read all the information.

After some 9 hours we made it to our destination of Esperance. Not one game was played, the audiobooks were not listened to and there was very little music heard or snacks eaten. As it turns out, there are plenty of things to keep your attention while travelling in Australia.

TTB

Goodbye 2020 from Geographe Bay – Western Australia

It has been a tough year for travel blogging (and just about everything else!). I started with some writing about Japan, a wonderful ski trip we were lucky enough to enjoy just before our world changed. Then I wrote of my experiences home schooling and a short trip to Pemberton before trying out my ‘virtual travel blog’.

‘Virtual’ writing just wasn’t the same. There was a lot of research and with research comes referencing. In the end it felt like I was writing an assignment for school or university and we all know, assignments are a chore. Blogging was never meant to be anything I felt I had to force myself to do. The whole reason I love to blog is because there is no right or wrong, it is just my thoughts and observations gathered together for myself and others to enjoy. It isn’t to regurgitate what others have already said.

Geographe Bay looking towards Dunsborough and Cape Leeuwin

This time last year I was excitedly putting the finishing touches to my new website and blog ‘The Travel Bee’. I shut down my old ‘Stressaholics’ blog and filed my previous entries (that could pass as travel writing) into categories, as I dreamed of the trips we had planned for 2020 and 2021. I couldn’t wait to write about the destinations we were travelling to and to share it with friends and family. Little did I realise that our January trip to Japan would be the last overseas holiday for a very long time and that travel writing was about to become very hard indeed. As it turns out ‘Stressaholics’ may have in fact been a more fitting blog for 2020, but I believed I was leaving my stress behind!

Within weeks of our return we were thrown into a world of lockdowns, masks, hand sanitiser, travel restrictions and social distancing. Terms we had never heard of suddenly became everyday talk. Some eleven months down the track and we seem no better off (on a world scale that is). Yes, we have a vaccine but we all know it will take time for this to be rolled out in our country let alone the world. In the meantime we battle on, listening to frightening statistics and news of outbreaks, hoping the next one isn’t in our own backyard.

Shark net swimming area Busselton foreshore

So as 2020 draws to a close, I am sharing with you a selection of photos I have taken here in my own backyard over the last few weeks. Every time I go down to the beach it blows me away how beautiful this place is and I often find myself clicking away as if I was a tourist. The beach, the ocean, the sky and the wildlife. Each day is new, fresh and exciting. This is a place to forget about Covid-19 and the dramas of 2020.

Cloud magic over Busselton jetty
West Australian emblem black swans cruising the bay

I don’t know what 2021 holds for me or my blogging nor for our world and the curse that is Covid-19. I do know that this year has taught us so many things, not the least of which, is that we have to enjoy every moment we are given. We don’t know what is around the corner. We can’t wait for things to change or get better, we have to find meaning and satisfaction in our daily life.

A cloudy day skiing on the bay

‘ We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can’ don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

We have all had so much taken away from us this year, but this experience has been different for everyone. Some have coped well and others have not. Some have felt they are in their canoe with no paddle, others completely paralysed with no direction whatsoever.

The only way forward is to be making constant readjustments in direction. There are many ways to get to the things we want in life and mostly it isn’t via a straight line. I for one, have always wanted to take the straight line approach and get annoyed when my straight line becomes bendy. I feel like someone is out to get me or that I have done something wrong. This year has been a good lesson in showing me that we are all subject to the bends. No one could get anywhere in a straight line in 2020!

Underwater observatory Busselton Jetty

2021 is our chance for some new hope. We know there will be bends in the road and some big mountains placed in our way, but 2020 has surely given us new skills in negotiating these obstacles. My wish for 2021 is that things ease up for my family and friends that are doing it tough, that we can all make wonderful memories, even in the bad times and that each day we grow stronger and more resilient.

Just like each new day in Geographe Bay, here’s to a new, fresh and exciting year. One filled with hope, kindness and a whole lot less pain.

TTB

A life on our planet

#sustainabletravel#alifeonourplanet

For months (since the start of the Covid pandemic) I have been searching for new inspiration. I have asked questions of myself…………..How can I be travel writer when I can’t travel? Do I have anything else interesting to say? I tried a parenting blog about the challenges facing us and our children with Covid, but it fizzled…… mainly because I live in an area that for the last six months has been really quite unaffected by it all. Our children here in WA, have a normal life again.

Our government has virtually shut us off, not only from the rest of the world, but from the rest of the country. This has been great on one hand, we have all felt very safe and have had the luxury of carrying on our day to day activities in our new normal way. We haven’t had to worry about outbreaks or our friends getting sick and dying and for that I am truly grateful. However, on the other hand it has felt somewhat isolating. Families have been torn apart and as we approach Christmas there seems no end in sight to our separation. It is fortunate that we have such a vast state with so many areas we have yet to explore, but for me it is just NOT normal being this restricted.

I have been thinking about what it is to travel and what it means to me. I guess in a nutshell, I love to see something new, to see the way different people live their lives and to see the vastness and complexities of our planet. This has got me thinking about our planet because I guess that is really what I am in love with! We don’t treat her well and one does have to wonder if this virus is just one of mother nature’s ways of beginning to reset some of our wrongs. There is absolutely no question earth is in trouble.

Last week I watched David Attenborough’s ‘A life on our planet’. I started it alone but in hearing what I was watching, the family slowly gathered. Without me saying it, one by one, they all realised this was something they needed to see. At first it was like watching a horror movie. The statistics of what has happened to the world in one man’s lifetime is utterly staggering. The tears flowed (well for me anyway). The children’s jaws dropped. My husband shook his head. My son in particular looked very worried. But there is hope. David came to the rescue, telling us what needs to be done and that we DO still have time to fix things. But things must change.

What really hit home for me, is that age old mentality of ‘well I can’t fix it on my own so I might as well carry on as I am’ just isn’t going to cut it any more. We all need to be in on this. There are changes we can make that I had never dreamed of and that really are not that hard. For example, I hadn’t really thought too much about what we choose to eat or where our money is invested and how it impacts the natural world. In essence, the main thing that is required is space. Space to ‘re-wild the planet’ as David calls it. The amount of space taken in food production for example, is truly astounding.

So, how does this affect me and my travel writing? Well, it made me realise that to travel in this day and age may in fact be a very selfish act. There is my carbon footprint to consider, the impact I have moving around delicate parts of the planet, the food choices I make when I am away, just to name a few. With this in mind and no end to our current situation in sight, it is time to join the rest of the virtual world and embark on some virtual travel writing. To love my world and to explore from afar.

What is stopping me from doing some research and writing about the places that I want to travel to? To do it armed with new knowledge and from a slightly different slant? To explore how humans have affected my destinations and how we humans are now trying to mitigate our wrong doings. To find out how, when I finally do get to visit these places, I can do so in a sustainable fashion without making things worse for our planet. I could even take a step back into some of the places I have already visited and look for the things I missed when I was there.

Sustainable energy: wind and solar powered lights Busselton foreshore

In reality many of the places I dream of visiting don’t even exist in the way I imagine them. Places like the Great Barrier Reef isn’t what it was 20 years ago, the open plains of Africa have shrunk, rainforests are half the size they were. Yet in my imagination they are how it was…… in their ‘hay day’. As David Attenborough says himself, he has been incredibly lucky to see what he has in his 93 years but also not. Seeing the decline before his very eyes must have been terrifying.

If you have not already, please do yourself, your family and our world a favour and watch this film. It will invoke shock, sadness but above all hope. Let us ‘re-wild’ earth so that our future generations can enjoy what we have.

The Virtual (and hopefully sustainable) Travel Bee

Pemberton – Southern Forests WA (part 2)

We had friends coming to join us for the last two nights of our stay in Pemberton. For what was to be a relaxing few days in the forest, it had a rather dramatic start. On their way into town they were flagged down at the side of the road to assist in a freak accident. Termites had eaten away at a tree causing it to fall into the road just as a poor unsuspecting family were passing by. The tree clipped the bonnet of their car, which consequently rolled and was lying upside down at the side of the road.

The occupants of the car (grandparents and their two young grandsons) were all out, another passer-by having already helped and called emergency services. Understandably, all were in shock. Our friends tried as best they could to comfort them until the ambulance arrived. They were all astounded no one was seriously hurt. Needless to say, when they did arrive at the retreat, a strong cup of tea and debrief was in order before starting our adventures together.

Once everyone had begun to unwind, we headed out to Cascades for a walk. Having had a lot of rain over the last few days, the rapids were quite spectacular. There is something so soothing about the sound of running water and the sway of trees in a forest (and the laughs and shouts of happy kids as they explore). The adults chatted as we took our time wandering down the path.

What is not soothing however, is then watching your child scale a 65m tall tree! The Bicentennial tree is in fact the highest lookout tree in the world and my fearless 10 year old daughter conquered it with relative ease. Having climbed the Gloucester tree last year, this one was next on her list. She had talked about it for days, I had hoped and prayed she would back out when she got there. No chance.

I was a mess. I paced. I pretended to watch the pretty birds flitting around. I paced. I swore. I listened to peoples shocked comments about the little girl up the tree. I paced.

Fortunately Mr Travel Bee is ok with heights and was able to stay with her the whole way up. He too could scarcely believe she was doing it, but she was absolutely determined she would get to the top………….. and that they did. We are so proud of her mental strength but I must say, it does worry me going forward quite what else she may get up to. As the saying goes; ‘the sky is the limit’ and she is set on becoming an astronaut. Who are we to question?!!

After the big descent and as the adrenaline levels (and stress levels) plummeted we all realised we were starving and headed to the The Crossings Bakery for much needed sustenance. From here it was back to the retreat for another relaxing afternoon and evening.

Warmth, wine, friends and family. What could be better?

TTB

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