Far West

A whole week without a post ! Western Australia is so remote that cell phone coverage is a scarce modern luxury. So here is a long post, to sum up our quick tour of gigantic South-West Australia.

 

We arrived in Perth a week ago. This town made a strange impression on us. It sometimes feelt like the people here are still early settlers (the city was founded in 1829). Many young people and backpackers. A lot of asian migrants. There is a “central business district” with tall  buildings and a few luxury stores which highly contrast with the rest of the place. Nightlife may be rockin’, but we wouldn’t know going to bed at 9:30 on a late night (the untold joys of parenting)!

We took possession of our motorhome last Wednesday, and headed towards Bunbury, a small seaside town.

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We spent our first night on a beach parking lot, met some wild kangaroos at dusk and woke up enjoying a desert beach with a soft pink sky.

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Beautiful.

The excursion of the day was an encounter with the bottlenose dolphins. The cruise was rather boring and observed the mammals for an hour. Needless to say this did not quite meet our expectations.

We then took the enormous motorhome to another small town by the sea, Busselton. This place is “famous” for its very long jetty (1,7 km, the longest in the southern hemisphere) above shallow water and its marine observatory.

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We celebrated Anzac day (a day to comemorate the efforts of Australian and New-Zealander soldiers) in a local campground. We had just been told that free-camping wasn’t allowed in the town or anywhere else in the area. This made us quite unhappy as we had planned to avoid the commercial campgrounds as much as possible. Even though we appreciate the need to preserve nature and support the tourism industry, it was upsetting to be forced to promiscuity in a region where there is nothing but space.

In the morning, we visited the underwater observatory and took the road to visit beaches near Margaret River. The shore was superb, no one on the sand but dozens of surfers on giant waves.

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A few beaches later and following the visit of an enormous cave, we felt we had enough and decided to go South, to see the famous Karri trees in the d’Entrecasteaux National Park. After 3 hours on the only highway, we made it to Walpole, near Nornalup. Forest everywhere, red earth, gigantic trees (an average 40 metres high), dusty and bumpy roads (not suitables for 6 berths Motorhomes) leading to wild austral beaches. Once again, we felt lost in the immensity of the Australian territory. We spent the night at the Nornalup campground, next to a gorgeous inlet inhabited by pelicans and kangaroos. A fire kept us all warm and happy and gave the children a chance to feel what a proper camping experience should be.

Unfortunately, at 3 in the morning we woke up at the sound of heavy rain drops on the roof of our mansion on wheels. The rain kept pouring until mid-morning, giving everything a gloomy feel. We went to a treetop walk, then to Mandalay beach, before deciding to take the camper van back to Perth and change our plans.

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We had enough of the giant trees, the sun wasn’t showing up and the prospect of spending an evening in the mud tipped the scales. We arrived in Perth late at night, found a hotel and all went to bed in a comfortable and dry environment.

The next morning, the challenge was to find a car wash that could accomodate a 3.4 meter high truck, in order for Ben to clean the incriminating traces of our off-road safari to Mandalay beach. The rental agreement specified that we were not allowed to use the motorhome on any other surface but asphalt (yet the majority of natural parks and pristine beaches in WA are accessible via unpaved roads). As a result, our immaculate white motorhome was covered with a thin layer of red dust – proof if there is any of our off-road excursions. 5 car washes later, the problem was solved.

We took the monster back to its owner and felt much lighter and free with the “tiny” SUV we rented for the rest of our stay.

Our plans for now are to enjoy a little time in Perth (we visited two museums today and the brain food was welcomed after all this time immersed in nature) and to go for day trips in the North and on the coast, before taking our flight to Ayers Rock on Thursday.

This is probable due to the fact that we saw so many natural wonders already but felt the South-Western area did not have much to offer in comparison with what we experienced in Northern Australia or in New Zealand. As for the motorhome, it was more a burden than anything else as we could not immerse ourselves in natural settings as we had hoped.

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The National Parks were not as well equiped as the ones we visited in the USA some years ago and were not suitable for this type of vehicule. Also, it felt we were spending far too much time “housekeeping” everytime we wanted to move around. To sum up, if we were to do it again, we would rent a 4WD, with a big trunk and a cooler and would spend the nights in the lodges or motels on the way. But no regrets, as it gave Alvar the opportunity to experiment this mode of transportation he dreamt of for months.

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Tomorrow, depending on the mood, we will either go to Pinnacles to see unusual limestone formations in a desert or to Fremantle to visit the only World Heritage building on the West Coast : a prison !

 

 

 

 

 

Sea, Sun and Surf

There is such a thing as the Australian dream. And how relaxing ! Sea, sun, and surf for those more capable than I am !

This week, we played in the sand, swam briefly in a rather cold and agitated sea, visited Sydney and discovered the ocean water pools. We very much liked Manly, Little Manly, Shelley beach and Bronte.  brontealvarwaveAustine5beachaustineAustineLala

We walked up the Coast to Coogee from Bronte, and briefly checked out Bondi Beach.coogee

The kids  got splashed by the immense waves at Curl Curl and Freshwater, as the waves pounded the reefs after a storm.

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And these were but a few of the beautiful places surrounding Sydney.

We took the children to the (great) Aquariums (both of them) as the weather was sometimes too stormy to play outside.

We climbed the stairs of the Opera house

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and took a stroll in the Royal Botanical gardens.

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I think I am going to send this picture to the people in charge of the Luxembourg gardens 😉

We rested in our comfy house, while the children played on the trampoline or chased the lizards in the garden. A welcomed break for everyone after so many weeks on the road.

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In short, we loved Sydney.

It is now time to pack (again !) and get ready for the Australian Western Coast and 8 (likely shorts) nights of adventure in a motorhome. Alvar is really excited about the “house on wheels”. Let’s hope he likes it.

Home Sweet Rented Home

After all the nights spent in hotels and lodges, after all the hours spent in cars and planes, we are all very happy to spend some time in “our” house in Sydney, a family home near Manly Beach.

A nice garden, toys and bunk beds for the kids, home cooked meals, a laundry machine… everything we needed.

A child’s work is play, this is all they have been doing here. The Australian way of life.

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How to make a boat, by Alvar

First, you take some wood. You then find some palm tree leaves and weave them to do a sail then take more to attach the wood together then for the sail you find a twig that has a shape of a Y. Then you stick the V piece on the sail and the I piece on a hole in the woods you stuck before then you find a big wave and bye bye boat

 

The end, love, Alvar 

inspired by Vendredi ou la vie sauvage, Michel Tournier

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Any questions 😉 … ?

Going to Sydney

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A cliche picture, but I could not resist the urge ! It reminded us how isolated and remote New Zealand is as we were going to catch our plane to Sydney.

We are now in Manly Beach, which is not bad either 😉 more pics in 2 of 3 days, when we get access to Wi-Fi again.

Alvar’s arts and crafts

A few samples of Alvar’s creations. New Zealand has been a great inspiration for us all with its beautiful driftwood and pebbles. Also, we’ve read Robinson Crusoe, which gave us many ideas on how to make things from scratch.

Soon, a post on “How to make a boat” by Alvar.

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From above

No words will describe what we saw today. “Alfie”, the pilote responsible for the aerial shots of “Lord of the rings”, took us from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with a stop at the top of a snowy peak. Here are some pictures of the view from up there.

We’ll soon add brief samples of this unforgettable trip in the New Zealand sky.

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Also, a short cruise into Milford Sound, with sea lions and dolphins, and a very powerful fall.

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Eels, trees and kayak

In the last 24 hours, we changed our initial plans and went from the glaciers (a few seconds by the Franz Josef Glacier) to the sea to spend the night in another great wilderness lodge run by the same family as the one in Arthur’s Pass. This other very special accomodation is nested in the New Zealand rainforest.

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We liked the Australian one very much, but it was full of harmful animals and insects. This one was much more friendly as there are only birds, trees and plants. Probably some insects, but we did not see any during our 2 hours walk on the Monro Beach track. This path took us to a picture perfect beach…that is, until we encountered the ferocious, near man-eating, sand flies. After 5 minutes on the sand, we ran back to take shelter in the forest, regretting what could have been and idyllic beach moment.

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We walked back to the lodge and jumped in a few kayaks to discover Lake Moeraki. What bliss ! A lake entirely surrounded by mountains and rainforest. Black swans, herons and ducks chatting away at dusk. Trouts jumping out of the water and best of all, not a soul in sight. Check it out.

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After dinner, and just before an incredible downpour of tropical rain, Jerry (the lodge owner and New Zealand Conservation Ambassador) took us to see the glow worms. We were walking on the outskirts of the forest at night and in pitch black, lit only by those amazing micro-organisms. Incredible ! So we signed up for an early walk this morning. Jerry took us through the forest to the river where we fed New Zealand longfin eels. These specimens are simply enormous. Alvar was very brave and helped Jerry giving the river monsters their breakfast (feed the eels with Alvar). Yuckkk!

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After another tour on the kayaks, we took the car and drove down the only road on the west coast. A tad long, but the scenery is breathtaking and every waterfall or scenic viewpoint is worth a stop. We went from the sea to the mountains again. We stopped often as the kids enjoyed throwing stones into creeks and lakes.

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And after the most winding road we ever drove on, we arrived late this afternoon in Queenstown.

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We see and experience so many things every day, that if it was not for this blog, we would forget half of it before the end of our trip. We have been really fortunate. All our plans are working out smoothly, activities are always available, babies are welcome, and the weather is just how we like it, between 15 and 25 degrees. We are now half way through our journey, and about to discover one of New Zealand’s wonders: Milford sound. Stay tuned.

Water Cycle

A quick post to share our images from Franz Josef Glacier. How strange it is to see a glacier from a rainforest… I did not know this was possible.

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Sorry about the kiwis I told you about yesterday, but there is no footage.

1/ the activity was very disappointing : only 3 kiwis “on display”, and you had to spot them in the dark as they are night time birds; They may have been kiwi-puppets… it was so dark, we couldn’t really tell !

2/ they did not make any noise, not even a small cry;

3/ we were not allowed to record anything on picture or film.

For tomorrow, we changed our plans. Queenstown will wait for now, as we are going to stay one nigh in a wilderness lodge nested in the rainforest.