Summer in England 2015 – Part 1: Arrival.

It’s that time of year again when I go back to spend some quality time with the kids in England.

English summer is a magical time and really shows off the country to its absolute best – if you’re going to go – then July and August, even though it’s probably the busiest time, is probably the best. Read More

Advertisements

Easter in England – part 6

The last place we went was pretty unusual

Dungeness. Dungeness is a very odd place.

It’s classified as Britain’s only desert by the Met Office. It’s one of the largest, if not the largest shingle spits in Europe.  It has 600 species of plant that grow there – about 30% of the total number of species in the UK.

It’s a site of multiple special scientific interests, a nature reserve and also home to 2 nuclear power stations. It’s also got a load of crazy holiday home shacks (including one owned by the late Derek Jarman) and also wrecked fishing huts and boats. Perfect place to take the kids then 😉 Read More

Back to England – part 5

It was scheduled to rain for the next couple of days, but it wasn’t supposed to hit until much later in the day, so my sister and I took the chance to head down to the beach.  It’s an hour’s drive to Camber Sands but the traffic wasn’t too bad and the sun was shining.  We decided to leave early and be packed up by lunch ahead of the rain and the rush (this place gets so busy once the sun is out)

We arrived just after 9 and the place was almost deserted.  Awesome.  Buckets and spades purchased, we walked off up the beach and set up our untidy little camp.  As soon as we put the bags down, the kids were off.

Read More

Holidays, the end

And so came the day we had to go home – boooo!  We’d had a lovely time, but we still had 950km to drive back, so we had to leave early.  We packed everything back in the car remarkably easily, set the chiller bag in the middle seat for the girls to have easy access to food and drinks without having to stop too often.

We had a few viewing places around Denham still to quickly look at on the way, so I dragged the family out to a few places that looked out over the bay first

Then we went 15 minutes south to Eagle Bay.  Its well worth going here if you ever make it this part of the world – there’s a walkway on the top of the cliff and you look down on to the shallow clear water below and you can see loads of marine life.  In the 15 minutes we were there we saw a couple of sharks and a very large ray.  Its a lovely view that holds your attention for a really long time as you scan the water for more creatures.

The ray – this was pretty big and very easily visible, swimming across the bay and out to sea.  I zoomed in as much as I could, but didn’t get a better shot than this.  I recommend binoculars!

We set off home and drove back along the isolated roads, seeing lots of other 4×4’s and then a whole load of road trains that must have left Geraldton earlier that day at pretty much the same time.  These guys are huge – I gather they’re even bigger going across the top of Australia and also south along the Nulabour.

We drove back into the night and got home late that night – an easy but long journey.  Coming back into Perth was horrible – way too many people and bright lights – its amazing what a week in the country does for your perspective on things!

Hope you enjoyed the holiday series as much as we enjoyed the trip – I’ll be back to Red Wine Wednesday later 🙂

Holidays, part 7 – boats, pearls, dolphins and dugongs

On the last day, we went back to Monkey Mia to go on a catamaran, the Aristocat 2, which sails out into Shark Bay in search of dolphins, turtles, dugongs and black pearls.  It was a beautiful day, in contrast to the day before – we really do have the best luck!

The boat sails early, so we got there in plenty of time and had a breakfast coffee at the Monkey Mia restaurant.  Jay and Piper are both travel sick, so they were both dosed up with Kwells, but the sea was millpond smooth so I figured they’d be ok.  Everyone was sat on outside the boat and there was plenty of breeze too.

First up we went to the pearl farm, one of the biggest pearl farms in Western Australia.  Shark Bay was originally popular for pearl farming in the mid 1800s to around 1900 – but the people were greedy and generally not very nice and the industry collapsed due to overfishing and the depression.

The Pearl farm is run by Jamie, who was on the TV series ‘The Farmer Wants A Wife’ – he was pretty cool and explained how they made the cultured pearls – its a long and complex and careful process – each shell produces 4 pearls over 8 years.  Oh, and pearls and nothing to do with sand grains – natural pearls are caused by damage to the shell making organ thingy, apparently.

We sailed off in search of wildlife – there were lots of dolphins around – small pods mostly, but then a bigger one with a juvenile came over to investigate and swam with the boat for a while, which was very cool.

It was a gorgeous day so we pottered around a bit more in search of dugongs.  Dugongs are funny things – they’re mammals that graze on the sea grass meadows in the shallow waters.  Shark Bay has about 20% of the world’s population – something like 15000 of them live here, happily pottering about in the shallow water.  They spend a fair bit of time sleeping, and like dolphins, send 1/2 their brain to sleep at a time, keeping one half awake to deal with breathing and keeping a watch out for sharks.  They sleep just on the surface so we sailed slowly about to try to spot one.  They’re very shy, so we kept on seeing tails pop out of the water and they swam back down out of harms way.

We eventually found one snoozing on the surface – very cool!

We sailed back to Monkey Mia and we sat up front in the sun, enjoying the warmth and the gorgeous blue sky and turquoise water.

In all, a beautiful day really and well worth it.  We had some lunch before heading back to Denham.

On the way back, I took a some pictures of the Monkey Mia bay – its very beautiful set against the red rocks that dominate the landscape here.

Next up – the journey home – some last minute sightseeing and then the loooong drive back.

Holidays, part 6 – off road to Cape Peron

The next day the weather wasn’t so good, so we decided to go to the Peron Homestead, an old sheep station in the Francis Peron national park and then take the car off road and go up to the top of the peninsula to Cape Peron.

The homestead was very cool – the people that used to do this stuff (and still do I guess) in these remote, hot and dusty places really did it tough.   We saw a bloody great big goanna lizard thing just sitting there in the sun – it was probably 3 feet long – eyeing us up for food 🙂

We pulled over to let the tyres down to 20psi for the sandy off road track to Cape Peron – 40km of sandy rutted 4×4 only track right up to the Cape.

The lady in the tourist place said it was ‘fine except for some sandy patches’, but I for city folk like us, it looked pretty gnarly with long stretches of deep sand.  We got stuck behind someone who got bogged towing a boat – right in the deepest sand, so it was really hard to get going again.  He eventually got underway, but we had to reverse so he could get moving, which meant we had to scrabble around to get going without bogging ourselves and managed to scratch the car on some bushes as we bounced about. Gah!

We carried on ploughing along, but got fooled by some deep sand that hid some pretty big dips so we bounced hard a few times, causing everything in the car, children included, to crash about. It was good fun though.  We got to the end and discovered that the bounces had smashed off the power coupling from the towbar and caused the right rear wheel to crack the underside of the wheel arch – oops

Luckily we met up with a couple and their young daughter who had some zip ties, so we managed to secure the bits that were hanging off.   They were in a new Landcruiser that was totally covered in red dirt – they had come all the way from Brisbane to Western Australia off-road, so had every spare part imaginable.  Awesome adventure – I suddenly have visions of wanting to do that kind of thing!!

Other than that, the Kia did very well off road – much better than its SUV classification would have you believe – its actually pretty competent.

Cape Peron is famous for the red cliffs that come almost all the way to ocean, a thin strip of white sand and turquoise blue ocean, but sadly it was high tide and overcast when we went, so we didn’t get the full effect, but on the plus side, we didn’t get our brains roasted in the heat either!  It was very barren, very striking and there were lots of goannas about in the red dirt.  I walked up to the top of the cliffs and looking down at the ocean below, I could see pretty big shark swimming lazily along in the blue water.  Awesome.

We had lunch, but there really wasn’t much else to see, and Jay’s back was starting to hurt, so we packed up the car and drove back again.  We did loads better off road on the way back, never even once looking like we might get stuck.  I was also much better at spotting the potential bouncers in the sand and we had a really good drive back. That’s my manly status assured then 😉

Back at the homestead carpark, I got the compressor out and re inflated the tyres whilst the girls went off to check out the thermal spring hot tub in the homestead grounds.  It was way too hot apparently.

The car done good 🙂

Next up – more dolphins, black pearls and dugongs

Holidays, part 5 – shell beach and dolphins

The next day, we had a poke around Denham, stocked up on food and beer ($50 for a carton of Corona – thats really cheap!) and decided that we’d do a little exploring.

There aren’t a great many things to do in Shark Bay that don’t involve some kind of water/fishing/swimming type activity, so we loaded up the car and drove to Shell Beach, which is 1/2 hour from Denham back down the road we came in on.

Shell Beach is, as the name implies, a beach made of shells.  Just shells.  No sand or pebbles or anything else, just trillions of teeny white shells.  There are so many and the beach is so thick with them that they are mined and bricks carved from the deeper harder almost rock like layers.  Amazing.

The girls packed their snorkelling gear as the water looked amazingly clear, but we discovered that the water looks that clear for a good reason.  It’s only kneed deep for 2 or 3 hundred metres or more out out to sea.

Still, thats enough for small children, but even though its a breathtakingly beautiful place, its not very interesting for adults.  Plus the sea floor being made up of, yes, you guessed it, shells, is not exactly comfortable on the feet.  That said, we had a good time, but there isn’t really that much else to do there, so we sat down, had a drink from the cooler and once the girls dried off, we went home again.

The next day, we stocked up with supplies and drove the 1/2 hour to Monkey Mia, where there is a self contained holiday resort (which we didn’t want to stay at, as there is only one restaurant and nothing else to do).  The interesting thing about Monkey Mia is that for 30 years or more, dolphins have been coming in to the beach to be fed.  This got a bit out of hand in the 80’s so the Environment Department guys created a managed feeding program.  3 times a day, in the mornings only, dolphins swim in and get fed a small ration of fish.  The DoE guys pick members of the public to come and feed them – its very cool.

The water was a bit cloudy with sand when we went, but it was still amazing to see the dolphins up close, to watch them swim on their side with one eye out of the water, sizing us all up.

It was a very cool experience and the girls had a lot of fun, even though they didn’t get picked for the feeding.  They swam in the sea for a few hours, playing with some American kids (who were perhaps the most loud bossy children I have ever seen) before we’d kinda had enough sun, so we packed up and went home.

As the ocean in Shark Bay is really calm in good weather, we made a plan to come back and go out on one of the catamarans that sail around the bay looking for dugongs, dolphins, sharks and turtles.