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

Lost in another world: Busselton Jetty with a snorkel

This weekend I have spent some time appreciating my home patch. Saturday morning started with my usual 1.8km swim in the shark net. Although I come down every weekend, I am constantly blown away with how beautiful this place is and this weekend really was extra special. Yet again I found myself snapping away with my camera behaving like a tourist in my home town but I wasn’t the only one….. A Busselton City council worker clearing rubbish was doing the same, seemly blown away by what is effectively her office day in and day out. She greeted us cheerfully as she went on with her work knowing she had the best workplace ever.

Although there is an autumnal chill in the early morning the days are still warm and most importantly the water is still hovering around 22 degrees! This combined with not a breath of wind or swell, made for a magnificent swim and the absolute best start to a weekend. After a swim, walk and coffee we spent the afternoon relaxing and planning for an early Sunday morning snorkel.

Sunrise in paradise

Sunday morning came and we gathered a few friends, a collection of snorkels and wetsuits then headed down our 1.8km jetty ready to immerse ourselves in another world. The sun was out, the sea was flat and conditions were perfect. We chatted as we strolled along, watching dolphins frolicking out to our east and seabirds soaring above. We said hello to fellow walkers and people fishing, all of which sported wide smiles as they enjoyed all that the morning had to offer. It felt like no time and we had reached the end of the jetty where there is a dive platform and underwater observatory for those who want to enjoy the spectacle without getting wet.

Dive platform at the end of Busselton Jetty

When we arrived on the platform there was a scramble of equipment as we squeezed into wetsuits, zipped each other up, adjusted mask straps and hit the water. Some of us waved for the camera (whoops that is me on the left, already off and into another world – my happy place!).

Snorkels on and ready to go – Mum has gone already!

The minute my head entered the water, the worries of the week left and I entered a world where I could be completely free. First up I visited a small friend from a few weeks ago. On the first pylon right near the platform there is a collection of corals that form holes……… and in the holes, live blenny fish. I have always been intrigued by these fish, I first came across them many years ago snorkelling with my Dad. They are so easy to overlook but so interesting to watch should you see one. At first all you can see is a tiny pair of eyes looking at you but as you dive down they often come out of their hole just a little way to greet you, seemingly just as curious about us as we are of them. I introduced my family and friends to Mr Blenny before we swam off in a group towards the spectacular pylons and the underwater observatory.

The colours down there are just breath taking and on a clear day like today we were able to appreciate them in all their glory. The sun shone through the water illuminating the corals allowing the blues, greens, oranges and pinks to stand out against the crystal clear waters. We all pointed things out to each other exclaiming over fish, sponges and corals. There was the unusual sounds of excited snorkel talk, warped and loud! I dove down, down, down to the depths. With each dive I felt better and better equalising my ears, eventually allowing me to dive all the way to the seafloor (about 8m).

The coral colours – photo taken from inside the underwater observatory on my last visit

I was leading the way and suddenly came across what looked (through the shadows) to be a large bed of seagrass or weeds. As I came closer I realised the whole thing was moving and I became momentarily confused before I realised I was on top of the largest school of fish I have ever seen. It seemed to go on forever like a rippling blanket beneath me. I beckoned the others and we all dove down and watched the fish move around us with perfect flow and cohesion. I think they were herring but I can’t be sure, I need to work on my species identification!

We carried on and discovered old ladders and pieces of jetty now covered in coral and home to fish of all kinds. There were little ones, big ones, stripy ones, yellow ones, orange ones, silver ones, black ones, ones with eye patches, blow fish, old wives, angel fish and leather jackets (like I said I really need to brush up on who is who!).

Reluctantly after we did a full circuit it was time to get out as some in the party were feeling cold (we must have been in the water around 45 minutes). The brave decided to swim the 1.8km home, one decided the equipment trolley was the best way back and the rest strolled along in much the same fashion we started the day chatting and discussing things we had seen.

A last minute jetty jump as we passed the jump platform (known to every child in Busselton) and the morning was completed with coffee and chips on the lawn.

The absolute perfect way to spend a weekend in Busselton and the perfect way to clear the mind ready to tackle a new week.

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

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