Thursday, May 26, 2011


I'm a shocker for going on holiday to a scenic spot, falling in love with the place, then staring longingly in the windows of real estate agency windows there.  I've swooned around Robe in SA, Port Fairy in Victoria, Brunswick Heads in NSW and dozens of tiny towns in NZ while kidding myself "I could live here". 

The latest object of my completely impractical infatuations is Busselton WA.  See if you can see why.

Last time we were there we did The Busselton Jetty Experience (thanks Nicola).

This has to be one of the loveliest touristy experiences in this region.  It involves catching a dinky train to the end of the newly refurbished 1841 metre long jetty, then heading downstairs into a viewing chamber to observe the marine life living in the waters around the end of the jetty.  This is not an aquarium, but simply a window into the natural environment.  It is a superbly clever, simple and effective way of turning a natural asset into an excellent tourist attraction.

The weather was perfect so we skipped the train ride back and walked instead.

Back at shore the other members of my party went snorkeling in what I now realise was probably our last swim of the season.  I decided I needed to see more of the town so trotted off to check out the galleries and op shops.  Having decided a few days beforehand to add something new to my pared-back op shop wishlist, I then immediately found some of it: some Annemarie (Figgjo) for Annemarie (Gumbootgirl). Busselton, you kill me.

I know I can't live in Busselton as a two hour drive to work and school each day is a tad excessive.  But happily I also know that at that distance away, Busselton is the perfect spot for a regular weekend escape.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture in Harvey

Great excitement this weekend as of course Saturday was not just any old Saturday; this Saturday was Rapture Day!  By 6pm I had the dishes done and the house nice and tidy just in case.  6pm came and went and nothing happened.  I sat down and watched Dr Who with the children instead, which was nice. 

On Sunday morning I wondered whether it was actually supposed to happen at 6pm Saturday in Mr Camping's hometown.  This would give us a few more hours of normalcy; what a shame to spend those hours doing laundry and going to Open Homes. This might be our last chance to get out and explore this fascinating part of the world.  An outing was obviously in order, but where to go?

Today I grabbed my folder labelled "Harvey - not the boy".  There are a lot of Harvies around these parts. Harvey is a town, a food bowl farming region, a river, an estuary, a dairy company, an orange juice company, a cheese factory and many more things besides.  In my folder I'd stashed maps, brochures and clippings about that town and region and today we set off on a Rapture Day Sunday drive to Harvey.
I believe there is a real art to concocting the perfect Sunday drive.  According to me, they must:
- not involve too much driving and preferably be a loop route,
- be to places that are actually worth getting off the couch to see,
- include a variety of sights and activities of interest to all participants,
- cater to the individual requirements of all participants (e.g. constantly hungry, require scenic car-sickness stops), and
- cater to the differing abilities of all participants (can't walk, can't walk far, dream of walking fast for two hours without stopping).  
According to my father Sunday drives also had to include a stop at at least one major feat of engineering.  According to my mother they also had to include an enormous Tupperware container of carsandwiches. (I'm not mocking.  I love carsandwiches.)

Harvey township is only 77 picturesque kms from Mandurah and the journey is through countryside filled with farms, vineyards and orchards.
Our first stop was The Big Orange at Harvey River Bridge Estate winery.  How could we resist?
Then off to Harvey Dam;  my father would be proud.  A damned fine dam it is too with a lovely picnic area, a superscenic walk to the top of the dam, the cutest little amphitheatre in the South West and the tidiest public toilets I've ever seen.
Next stop was the tourist precinct.  There we saw some beautifully maintained historic buildings, various tributes to May Gibbs who lived in Harvey for a couple of years, some pretty gardens and a shop selling a huge assortment of cow ornaments.  The member of our party who is allergic to tweeness did a top job of keeping it seemly. 
Finally we headed out into the wopwops for the main reason we went to this neck of the woods and the reason we'll go back; this time of the year is perfect for bush walking. 
The bushland we walked through was blackened from a fire but full of plants that have a "yeah, yeah, whatever" attitude to fire.  Fresh green foliage was bursting through the blackened trunks.
The more I see of the Australian bush the more I love it.  The plants and colours and textures are beautiful. 
By the end of our walk none of our party had rapturously disappeared though by now some felt in danger of fading away through hunger.  We drove back towards Mandurah via a different route and at 3.40pm stopped for lunch in the town of Waroona.  I figured that what with Rapture and the Apocalyse coming we could lay off our usual lentils and chickpeas and eat whatever we liked.  Delish burgers at Dizzy's Diner hit the spot.
We drove home through low wintry sunshine.  When we got home Harvey the boy walked Tammy the dog, whose owner is very holy but thankfully still here too.  I cooked dinner and drank a glass of Harvey wine.  The children watched Merlin then helped their father with the dishes. 

No rapture today, which was nice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good Old Dawesville

I spent four days of last week at home minding sick children. (And every time I tried to use Blogger last week it was busted.  How dare this free programme I use not be available when I want it! What a flipping liberty!)  So I didn't get nearly enough exercise last week and by this week I was quite antsy.  I needed something faster than the usual stopstart stroll with Tammy as she pauses to sniff every bit of footpath grossness.  I needed something more interesting than the familiar sights offered by my local streets.

So yesterday morning, after finally dropping two well children off at school, I headed straight to a spot that I'd been meaning to explore further.

Mandurah is full of suburbs that have an older, established part and a newer, all-built-at-once part.  Some people prefer the old bits of town and some like the new.  Three guesses which parts I like. (I can't tell the houses in the newest areas apart. I have promised the children that if I do succumb and buy us a house in one of the shiny new suburbs, then I will help us find our way home by employing the same technique we use to help us to identify our belongings on baggage carousels: I'll tie a huge red woollen pompom to it.)

The place I headed to yesterday morning was Old Dawesville.  When I arrived there it was only 8.15am.  It was raining and cool and deserted and fabulous.  Due to an unusually high tide it was also somewhat picturesquely flooded.

I set off uphill. Old Dawesville has an eclectic assortment of newer homes dotted amongst the remaining original beach shacks.

Both sorts of homes have glorious views across the estuary and all the way to the hills many miles in the distance. (Yup - saw dolphins.)

Unlike the scorched-earth look of the new suburbs, Old Dawesville has established native flora and is heaving with wildlife, including a peewee casually pretending to have one leg,
a butcherbird that made me get a Leonard Cohen song stuck in my head,
and the biggest spider I've seen outside a museum drawer.
 I pounded down tree-lined pathways,

past washed up boats,

past the many picnic settings left on the shore - some now draped with flotsam and jetsam,

and some that had been claimed by the flood -

and past more birds.

I got a bad case of the "I could live here"s.

My thighs protested and my face turned the colour of my raincoat (raspberry), as it does. A kindly old chap used the flooding as a conversation-starter.  It turned out that he really just wanted to know whether the startlingly bright colour of my face meant I was likely to soon need the services of ambulance, as kindly old chaps often do.

I noted that not all the locals are so friendly.

But even so, on a soggy, foggy morning I decided that Old Dawesville is good. Very good.   So good I could even see why some people might be sorely tempted to spend several hundred thousand smackeroos more than their entire house-shopping budget to buy an uninhabitable asbestosy hovel there.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mucking around in boats, again

A couple of months ago my children and I were lucky enough to be kidnapped by a friend and taken out for a day on his boat.  On a scorching hot and sparkling blue day we explored the beautiful Peel Inlet then cruised out into the Indian Ocean through the Dawesville Cut, negotiated swells up the coast to Falcon and waved at our host's wife as she sat outside their house overlooking the ocean.  Seeing Mandurah from the water gave me a totally new perspective on this place; it was an absolutely wonderful, "this is why we moved here" day.

So I wanted our recent visitors to also experience Mandurah from the water.  Their visit gave us the perfect excuse to try out the second of the three local boat hire options I'm interested in. (The first was kayaking.  We loved that so much we ended up buying kayaks.) This time we hired a pontoon boat and took ourselves on a self-drive tour of the estuary.  There are two companies in Mandurah who hire out this sort of boat to day-trippers.  We chose the company below.

As there we six of us I had intended to hire a six-seater boat but these were all booked up for the day.  Instead my sister and I negotiated an excellent deal on a far swankier and more spacious 10-seater boat - then my partner arrived, realised he and the proprietor had met and the deal got even better. There below, like a shiny floating patio, is the boat we hired for four hours.

We loaded our picnic, snorkeling gear, four cameras and a million other things on board.  We were given maps and various route suggestions, driving instructions and a safety briefing and then we were off!  We decided to go down the Peel Inlet towards the Dawesville Cut; we went via the canals as there really are some things about this place that you just have to see to believe.

We all had turns taking photos of each other,

and driving (and sneakily tucking into the picnic).

We cruised around spotting dolphins, fish and birds and admiring the stunning scenery.
At the south end of the Peel Estuary near where it joins the Harvey Estuary, we parked the boat, ate our picnic and two of our party snorkeled.

We had a tiring

but glorious day and hopefully showed our visitors one of those "this is why we holidayed here" days.  But much as I enjoyed this outing I wasn't tempted to rush out and buy my own boat this time - hiring a boat occasionally seems a far more sensible option. 

On the way back an example of boat hire option three cruised past us.

Yes, there are companies here who hire out houseboats - and other companies who sell them.  Given the lack of success I'm having on the house-hunting front, I suspect I'm going to be sorely tempted to do some major shopping the day after we try out that option.  I wonder if they come with trailers...