We leave Fi and Allans early and head for Bunbury. We are hoping that by arriving early the Dolphins will come into the bay. We wait about 1.5 hours and they don't show. Julie is disappointed.
We leave Bunbury and head towards Busselton. This place has a jetty that is the longest in the southern hemisphere. They have a train that runs or you can walk. No prizes for guessing which option we took.
We had a look around the town and then headed for the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste. We had a guided tour that was very interesting.
More stairs! Is nothing in this country flat or level?
We stop at Meelup Beach, a very pretty spot to have a cuppa and then go down the coastal scenic road towards Margaret River and start looking for a place to roost for the night. "No camping" signs outnumber the tourists but we`eventually find a place and stop for the night.
We check out the Tourist office at Margaret River and the wine display there. Armed with a million brochures we set out to have a look at the place that everyone seems to remember about W.A.
We have a road map that has road names and wineries listed. After trying to navigate by streets we give up and navigate by wineries. They are better signposted and easier to find than the streets.
The Margaret River Chocolate Factory brochure gives the impression that you will see how chocolate is made. Unfortunately it was not what we had in mind. Bear in mind that we have toured the Cadbury Factory and done the whole bit so we were disappointed to find that all you see is chocolate being poured into moulds through a pane of glass.
The Margaret River Dairy Farm was next on our hit list. They have various cheeses for tasting. Some are very very nice so we purchase some.
You may be noticing a trend here. Bugger the history, lets pig out!
The candy cow is next and Julie would like to sample all that is there but you are limited to 2 samples of very finely sliced fudge.
The Eagles Heritage Raptor Wildlife`Centre is a must see venue in my opinion. It is not so much a show as an education in predatory birds of Australia and is a bit of an eye opener in some respects. I had thought that Wedge Tails have been protected after being hunted to near extinction in the 1970's. Wrong!! Farmers can still obtain permits to shoot them. I was astounded.
Julie went on a tour of Lake Cave and Caveworks and enjoyed it.
I fiddled with the truck and toyed with how to improve the rear end. It is getting like mine, sagging a bit. The springs should have been replaced before we left but as has been said before, time got in the way. The front is feeling it too and doesn't look much better.
Boranup Karri Forest scenic drive is worth doing as well.
We are getting into "the up" part of W.A. You will see what I mean if you have a look at a map. Nearly every town ends in "up", it is enough to get you down.
We move on to Augusta.
The astute ones amongst you may have noticed that we did not go to any wineries. Two reasons: Firstly, I don't drink and secondly as the truck is over 4.5 Tonnes I have to have a zero alchohol reading. Was a bugger at Bundaberg but Julie enjoyed my share.
We wandered out to Cape Leeuwin and the water wheel. Cape Leeuwin is where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean and there is a sign saying so but someone must have erased the line as I couldn't find it. Maybe the wind had blown it away because it sure was howling. The lighthouse was closed for maintenance so we couldn't tour it, so no stairs today. HALLELUJAH!! I chatted to the caretaker for a while and probably learnt more than if we had gone on the tour.
We then went and had a look at the most photographed thing here. The water wheel that pumped water up to the lighthouse keepers houses. The spring which feeds it is high in calcium and it has turned it into stone. I tried RP7 but even that did not work.
We camped at Alexandra Bridge for the night.
we are on the road early to arrive at the first tour of Jewel Cave. We are the first there and have a cuppa. We wait and no one else arrives. Julie goes and books on the tour while I wait in the truck and is told that if no one else comes that there will be no tour because it is against safety regulations for only 2 to do it. The guide suggested to Julie that if I could be pursuaded to come along for free that the tour could go ahead.
Julie comes back to the truck and approaches with that pleading look that all husbands know. She explains the situation and after all sorts of wild promises, like plenty of cuppas and washing the truck with a toothbrush (electric, mind you) and getting a severe case of gravel rash from crawling I relent. She also assures me that there are not many steps. She lied. Getting up the Eiffel tour without a lift would be easier. We go on the tour. I really don't find caves that interesting any more as I have seen most of the caves in Australia. Jenolan, Narracoorte, Buchan, you name it, I have seen it. It is nice though having your own personal guide.
We trundle up to Nannup as we had been told that they ran tours through the sawmill. They don't, so we dined at Chez Rambler and headed towards Pemberton stopping at Beedelup Falls along the way, a very pretty spot.
We duly arrive at Pemberton but the train had already left so we wandered around the station looking at rolling stock and engines. we then had a look at the Gloucester Tree. This is a fire lookout sitting atop a huge Karri and this sucker is tall. There are steps or rungs driven into the trunk and people are permitted to climb it. Not this Black Duck!!
We have afternoon tea at the Lavender and Berry Farm and stuff ourselves on pancakes. I don't know how Julie finds these places and forces me to overindulge.
We amble down to the Diamond Tree. This is a bit shorter than the Gloucester Tree but is used for the same purpose. There are 3 in the area. This fact is important for tomorrow.
We camp the night here.
We awoke the next morning to voices outside the van so I opened one eye and peered through the curtains to see a young couple in deep conversation over near THE TREE. I get dressed and amble out to find male halfway up tree and going like the clappers, female at base of tree with stopwatch in hand. Enough to raise my curiosity (don't need much).
I say gooday and we exchange pleasantries and I ask what's happening.
She replies that 2-3 times a year they come from Perth for the weekend. So far it sounds reasonable and romantic. She proceeds. They come down so that he can CLIMB THE 3 TREES and see if he is getting faster or slower. I say that some people have strange hobbies. She nods sagely and agrees.
Our next visitor is an adventure tour guide with a tour party. They (tourists) go to climb and the guide and I chat.
He is a mess with cuts, half healed lacerations, band aids and bandages covering his arms, legs and face. I ask him how the other feller is and he goes to laugh but realises it would probably hurt. He proceeds to tell me of how he came to look like he had done a few rounds.
They were on a long down hill run on a track on mountain bikes when he hit a rut and like Mulga Bills Bicycle he lost control and came to a grinding halt using his body as a brake. He smiles ruefully and says it was glad it was him and not a tourist. He has a cuppa, the tourists arrive back, drain the reservoirs in the area and reckon that it has been a hoot. Gees I am glad that I am basically sedentary. Looking at them makes me sweat.
We pack up and meander to Manjumup ( I told you everything was "up") and go to the tourist office. This office adjoins a timber park that has a replica of an early timber town and some interesting machinery on display. It also has a shop that has locally made furniture. It is exceptionally well made but some of the prices are a little unrealistic.
We then go out to One Tree Bridge. The original bridge was a huge Karri that had been felled across the creek and was used until the 1960's but traffic weight and volume necessitated that it be replaced with a modern bridge. The old bridge has been placed on the bank near the new one. Nice picnic areas are nearby.
We move on and drive the short distance to Glenoran Pool, then onto the 4 Aces for lunch. We have lunch with a couple that have camped there for the night. The 4 Aces are 4 230 year old Karris that are real giants of the forest. They still don't compare with our Mountain Ashes! Being a bit parochial.
After a short (note short) walk we depart and move on to Fontys Pool via Dean Mill. Fontys Pool restored my faith that there is some sanity left in the world. There are signs that state the water is not treated, there is no lifeguards and you swim at your own risk. Family groups,teenagers and toddlers were having a great time being themselves on old tractor tyres. There is a slight entry fee ($1 each) but the place is really worth it particularly on a hot day.
We were intending to stay at Shannon National Park but after driving around decided that the fee was too dear for the facilities. This is listed as a free spot but it is not.
We move on and camp 25K from Walpole at a rest area.
The weather is a little cooler but still warm. That is about to change.
We drove through Walpole to The Treetop Walk and The Valley of The Giants. I had been looking forward to this ever since getting to Perth. I was not disappointed. The engineering behind the gantries is fantastic, the view superb and the staff in the entry station a riot. It is interesting being near the tops of the Tingle trees and looking down on the understory. A birds eye view you might say. Even the wwwwwwaaalk through the valley ain't too bad either.:-)
The weather is getting cooler as we near Albany. We have a late lunch at Whaleworld. It is drizzling. What is this stuff that wets you without a tap in sight? It has been so long we had forgotten what it looked like.
We go into Whaleworld and immediately joined a tour that was very good. The guide gave the history of this (the last in Aust.)whaling station. I had done a tour of an operational station many years ago and the smell was the thing that I remember most. No words can describe it. It was atrocious. There is no smell here but I still smell it. She also gives the whole process from catch to final products and all in between.
As we were late getting in we ask if we could get a pass out to come back tomorrow. No problem.
We stay at The Frenchmans Bay Caravan Park about 1K away. It is cool but not raining.
We return to Whaleworld and poke our noses into every nook and cranny of the whalechaser that is dry docked there. We spent about 6 hours there but most people spend about 2-4 hours.
We had lunch at a very nice picnic area down behind the caravan park.
After lunch we go to look at the blowholes. We meet a couple just coming up and they inform us that there is nothing to see as it isn't running a good swell or enough wind. THERE IS A GOD! There is apparently a heap of steps to get there. Next stop is the Gap and Natural Bridge.
I dropped Julie in town to go shopping while I go to get quotes on fitting air suspension to the rear of the truck. We decide to go ahead as it is getting real bad.
we book the truck in for next morning and head for Mt Melville caravan park for the night.
I arrive at the suspension place after dropping Julie off to do a cruise of Oyster Bay and Kalgan River. The air bags have arrived but they are huge and there is no way of fitting them without major work. I am ready to forget about doing anything when I notice a crack in the right hand spring. No wonder the overloads have been taking the weight. He orders springs and I have to return tomorrow.
I pick up Julie and we have lunch at Emu Point. Another nice park on the beach.
We return to Mt Melville caravan park for the night.
I drop Julie off to shop and I return to the suspension place. We fit the springs with a little difficulty. Murphy has moved in again. The pins would not come out easily and the lack of space plus the weight (75kilos each) all compounded to thwart (not talking about seats either) an easy job. Covered in grease and dirt we finally finish about 4.00PM and I pick up Julie and we head out. Heaven, no noise from back end and ride is 200% better but it has highlighted the need to do the fronts.
We stop at Moingup Springs National Park. We go to pay fees ($10.00) and are informed that the Ranger is on his day off and his relief hasn't shown up so no fee. Bonus for a change.
We go on the tourist drive through the Stirling Ranges. This is a good test for the rear springs as it is a good gravel road with a few corrugations every now and then. The drive itself is not spectacular and I think you would see as much from the main road.
We move on to Lake Grace for morning tea. This is a nice little town with a good park. We trundle on to Hyden and Wave Rock.
I think that nearly everyone has seen pictures of Wave Rock but they really don't do it justice. It is an awesome piece of stone. We walk (4 Letter word again) to Hippos Yawn and back again to the truck.
We start our trek back to Mandurah via Kulin to have a look at the tin horse sculptures in the farmers paddocks. They are very clever and humourous. On to Narrogin, Williams, Quindanning and Pinjarra.
If you have only a short time in this area I would reccommend this drive as it gives a good cross section of what the area has to offer with forests, agriculture, wheat fields and of course the inevitable wineries.
On the subject of wineries it is interesting to note that they seem to compete as to who can have the fanciest entrance. Gone is the old farm entrance and this fantastic edifice takes its place.
Before we leave this part of our trip I better explain that "UP" means meeting place with water in aboriginal hence everything with up on the end has a creek nearby.
We lob back on Fi and Allans door step again. No shot guns and they haven't moved so we feel welcome.
Julie did washing, I did nothing. We lead exciting lives.
Much the same as yesterday. We go out for tea with Fi and Allan.
Some of you are probably wondering why we are sitting around, of course some could care less. LOL. We have decided to have the front springs done before heading back on the last leg. The other reason is that even though we are on holidays it is nice to do nothing instead of sightseeing.
I organise with the suspension place in Mandurah to get the springs in, book the truck in for the morrow and do some cleaning out of the cab.
It is amazing how much garbage accumulates in this space. Brochures, maps and all sorts of other stuff seems to hide and then all falls out at once. With the purchase of souvenirs, extra maps, etc I am sure that the van is nearing its Gross Weight of 9.0 Tonnes.
I fill the water tanks and check all the things that need to be done.
I get covered in grease and dirt again helping Mick put the new springs in. No real dramas just hot and awkward. I am glad I did not fit them myself as was the original intention.
Meanwhile Julie has dined at that international cuisine place called McDonalds and then went to the flicks.
The new springs have lifted the front of the truck 100MM and I contemplate how to fit a lift for Julie to get in. She had a little trouble getting in before but has worked it out. Oh well, another challenge that I am sure she will overcome.
I go down to pick up Julie. She has no problem finding the truck as it now looks like a skyscraper in the car park. Her foot has trouble reaching the step but after much laughter from both of us and the multitude that had gathered she finally made it. She tells me that I had better park close to gutters so that she can get in easier next time.
The steering geometry has altered with the new springs so it is off to Picton near Bunbury to have a wheel alignment. This is one of the disadvantages of having a truck based Motorhome. It requires in some cases specialised services that are hard to find. In all the Perth area there are only 2 truck aligners that I could find. It was easier to go to Bunbury than all the way to the other side of Perth.
All that done and it is on to Harvey for a look around and a cuppa. Another nice place that is bigger than you would first think.
The truck is riding beautifully and now feels like a limo (it requires imagination) and handles like a Ferrari which worries Julie somewhat. The view has improved to.
Onwards to Toodyay. We arrive fairly late and camp at the information bay about 2K outside town.
Into Toodyay. We are too early for the Tourist office so go up to the lookout. We return to town, still shut so we walk the streets. We have no lucrative offers so have a look at The Coca Cola Museum (free) which if you are into Coke is fascinating. A craft jewellery shop is also open. I curse the tourist office for not being open. The vehicle weight increases even more.
We arrive back at the tourist office just as it is opening and go through the Flour mill which is why we were here. It is one of the few old style mills that has its machinery nearly intact. Very interesting. They also have an original Poker machine in the tourist office. Julie finally found out why they are called Pokies.
We point the beast east and realise we are on the track to home. Time has gone quickly. I am still hating it. NOT!!!
We stop at Merriden for lunch and continue on to Kalgoorlie.
We stop at a rest area 18K from Kal (WA speak) with another motorhome. We chat and compare notes. It is hot.
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