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

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

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

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