Kalbarri/wildflower Trip: Day 1

Yesterday we travelled from home to a campsite just south of Badgingarra. The worst part, of course, is getting out of the city and past Midland. Then we took the Great Northern Highway and went slowly through to the Brand Highway turnoff following a large mining vehicle being transported with full complement of pilot vehicles. As we passed Ginger’s it reminded us of meeting Robyne there on the way up to Mum’s or going up to Western Flora. We didn’t stop there this time.

The Brand Highway turnoff has changed and at first we were worried that we were going the wrong way, but eventually came across a welcome sign showing we were on the right road.

For lunch we wanted a really nice spot, and we were in luck. At Regans Ford there is a rest area near the river. It was a beautiful day, about 25 with a cool breeze and we stayed there about three hours, having lunch and a rest, and taking short walks.

We then had about a 40 minute drive to our camping area. We fiddled about a bit to try to find the best spot, basically level and in the sun. We had to raise the front wheel slightly, but were pleased with our place overlooking a view of the surrounding area. There were three other campers, two caravans and a big motorhome, which gave us a sense of being in a little community without losing much privacy.

We have slow internet here and that means I will have to add photos later.

I was very stressed getting ready for this trip even though I had the whole of Tuesday to get ready and load up the van. Once on the road the stress gradually dissipated, especially when we were at Regan’s Ford.

We have about 240 kms to go to reach Geraldton where we will meet up with Marie, Geoff and Glenn. We started our trip a day after them and they’ve already had a night there. Eversley is also around as she is doing a wildflower tour in this region with a base in Dongara. She has already been to Coalseam National Park and says the wildflowers are wonderful.

We have lots of wildflowers here at our campsite, the usual shy little flowers that you have to get close to to appreciate. I thought I found an orchid, but Stephen says it isn’t as it doesn’t have the right number of petals.

This morning we found lots more of the flowers and confirmed that they are the cowslip orchid.

Friendly galah at Drummond’s Reserve
Regan’s Ford, lunchtime stop
Regan’s Ford lunchtime stopover
Drummond’s reserve

Carmel Cider

Arrival Thursday 6th at 12.30 p.m., departure Saturday 8th at about 11.00 a.m.

We were searching for places near Perth to go for a night or two. We loved staying at the Olive Hill Farm near Bussleton and we were looking for that kind of experience, parking amongst fruit trees, with a possible campers’ toilet, no power hookups and a small shop. Carmel Cider appeared to offer what we wanted. We only had a small window of opportunity during our week and even then we had a 3 hour Zoom session on one morning and Stephen had to get to a choir rehearsal on the second day. We went anyway.

IMG_1214

_DSC6984

 

We had rather cold and windy weather, especially the second night when there wasn’t enough sun during the day to warm up the van. We closed everything up and went to bed early. We woke later to a very stuffy van and had to get up an open some windows and the skylight. We always switch off the gas before sleeping so we don’t have to worry about perhaps going to sleep forever even when there is no air coming into the van.

When we arrived and were escorted to a possible camping spot we realised that forgetting the levellers was a big mistake as we couldn’t find a level spot. Stephen was able to commandeer some foam slabs which helped a bit, but the slope took time to adjust to and meant I had to watch liquids carefully when cooking. However, our bodies did adjust and we didn’t really notice the slope after a few hours.

We had an ensuite site, sort of. There was a flushing toilet next to a dilapidated house close to us.

_DSC7001

_DSC7003

We have to take each outing as an adventure, not aiming for a perfectly wonderful experience. There were no walking trails within walking distance of the farm and our walks were quite short. We sampled the cider, and bought some cans for our stay. The owner of the farm was very quietly spoken and we had to listen carefully. He has only been operating about six years and is developing a variety of brews. If only we didn’t mind getting drunk we could have had a great time sampling.

We’ve had some parties around our neighbourhood lately and it was disappointing on our second night (Friday) to have a caravan arrive with people who lit a large fire outside and had thumping music playing. Mind you, that was the night it was very cold and the van was completely shut off. I went to sleep by about 9.00 p.m. despite the noise. It would help to go away during the week as places close to Perth will attract people getting away at weekends.

_DSC7011
Unfortunately this van parked quite close to us, so we got the full effect of the music on Friday night.

On Saturday we packed up and left by about 11.30 to head to Bayswater where Stephen had an afternoon rehearsal. We chose a park on the river and when Stephen was sent details of the address it turned out we were parked within 300 metres of where he would be rehearsing. We had lunch and a walk before he had to head off, and also went for a walk afterwards. The park is lovely, with a couple of food trucks, some gazebos, a wetlands, and an off lead area for walking dogs. We had some sunshine and it was altogether a lovely find.

_DSC7028

_DSC7018

_DSC7023

_DSC7030
Pelican slide with real pelican in the background
_DSC7045
Friends

_DSC7048

_DSC7050

_DSC7051

My new normal

This is a blog post for our Lifewriting Group. We meet tomorrow morning and were given this topic as a suggestion.

I’m including a few photos from our recent walks. The photo above is a Zamia plant.

IMG_0317 (1)
She was sitting nicely here, blending in with the grey stone. But, by the time I had my phone out she had moved. She let me stroke her and she has amazingling soft and thick fur.
IMG_0324
Near Victoria Park station we saw long lines of trains waiting for the football crowds. Because of social distancing rules they need double the capacity.

There have been quite a few things happening over the past couple of weeks. The situation in Victoria has gone from bad to worse, culminating in a return to Stage Four lockdown in the city of Melbourne. NSW has also seen an increase in community transmission. Although our borders are supposedly closed about 400 people a day come to Western Australia for work or on compassionate grounds. Underlying our good record with no community transmission so far is a good deal of anxiety about whether this will change.

Progress has been made with Matt’s transition to NDIS. After some really poor communication from our Support worker at Integra we had a good conversation on Thursday morning and I’ve signed a Service Agreement with them. I still haven’t heard back from Glenda regarding Matt’s day supports, including support for him to have home visits.

After yesterday I’ve realised a couple of things. We really must return to late afternoon/evening visits. We’ve done this for many years and day visits are disruptive for us and very tiring. The other thing is that weekly visits works better than fortnightly, especially if we want to go away for a week or two. If the visits are more often he adjusts more happily to Facetime catchups. I also find it more emotionally stressful as it seems to raise the stakes for a happy visit, whereas weekly there can be the odd visit where I am less energised when he comes without feeling a bit bad about it. Because Matt will have group activities for which he pays less I’m pretty sure it will work out financially for him.

We are still waiting for the horn on our van to be fixed. It had dawned on us that George Day let us drive away in the van knowing that it wasn’t strictly roadworthy as the fuse for the horn was disabled because of the problem. Fiat Welshpool have on auto electrician who is much in demand and he has only just been firmly assigned to the job today in the hope that he can finish it if he doesn’t have interruptions. Fingers crossed because we want to have a couple of nights away later this week.

We have just started our Mind, Body and Soul program with Connect in Victoria Park. The first Zoom session on Friday went well. I think they are following guidelines on social distancing by only having 35 people attend in person and the rest of us on Zoom. It’s not quite a good for us as actually going there, but at least we don’t have to worry about catching anything.

Stephen is trialling a new singing group which meets on Saturday afternoons. They have a COVID safe plan and his first session on Saturday was in the open air. He wasn’t feeling well on Thursday when Working Voices had their first choir session, but one of the participants was kind enough to set up her phone so that we could join by Facetime. He was in bed, so I joined him and we were teased about using John and Yoko as our model. Shows our age that we knew immediately what she meant.

Stephen and I are working on the videos from our trip. Apparently Matt liked the little clip of drone shots and they have also been watching the couple of other travel videos we have finished. Due to requests from Matt’s house, we took some video yesterday when we celebrated Stephen’s birthday. We are still processing our final Goldfields Trip movie. I do the editing, pass to Stephen, who goes through and makes notes, which I do my best to incorporate before doing a final edit and post to Youtube. It’s not as easy as it looks, of course, and I know understand why Youtubers say they spend hours and hours editing. Still, it’s a creative process and I don’t mind, especially when there are not too many other things to do. I work best in the mornings, but can do a bit of it later in day as well.

My new normal looks much like the old normal I would say, except for the underlying anxiety about the continuing pandemic around the world and the effects of global warming.

Here is our latest video.

‘Slow car, fast house’

I’ve recently come across this saying which I think would be perfect for a sticker on our campervan. Not that we necessarily travel slowly, but sometimes we are well under the speed limit, for example, when driving down a steep hill in driving rain, and it might make other drivers smile instead of getting too exasperated. We don’t have our call sign on the van which means that truck drivers don’t know they can contact us. The difficulty in pulling off to let a truck by is that you have to slow down to get off the road, and it would be unwise to do that without giving them notice of the slow down. Owing to trucks having a much longer braking period that mere cars.

We’ve had a few days out for picnics in our campervan, plus a very nice evening walk at Tomato Lake.

IMG_1974.JPG

I’ve taken photos, but it wasn’t until we had a picnic day at Pt Walter that we struck it lucky with a pretty amazing sunset. I’m on a Facebook group with other Perth photographers and other were posting their photos of the sunset and I put one of my photos up as well.

It was Tuesday 21st July and the weather was supposed to be fine, with a maximum over 20C, which seemed ideal for a picnic. We hadn’t been to Pt Walter in a long while. When we arrived in the late morning there was a cold north easterly breeze and persistent grey skies, which didn’t auger well for an enjoyable day. The wind dropped later in the afternoon, but the skies continued to be grey and it felt rather humid. Still, we stuck around, just in case, and were rewarded with a deep orange sunset with a cloud dividing the sky and wonderful relflections on the river.

_DSC6892.JPG

The image at the top of this post was taking looking out over the spit with a lovely curving path. Others were taken from a jetty and have some beautiful firey reflections.

 

_DSC6948.JPG

_DSC6943.JPG

_DSC6927.JPG

We’ve had a busy time lately with buying new clothes for Mum. She is suffering from fluid retention, unusual for her, and needed new trousers and slippers to accommodate the swelling. We had a guess on sizes and return things that didn’t fit, plus taking up hems.

We’ve been a couple of times to standing concerts at Government House. The concerts are free, but we have to book. The singers are all young, upcoming stars, and have varying levels of voices. It’s interesting, but not always enjoyable. Each little concert runs for 15 minutes, with a 15 minute break before the next one. We thought we might be busy this Friday morning, but when we found out we were free we booked in. We could only get into one concert, but will go in time for the earlier one because there is often extra room. We stand 1.5 metres apart and Stephen and I wear masks.

IMG_0312.jpeg

I’ve also had a lot of my mind with Matt’s transfer to NDIS funding. I am supposed to just be his contact person, but have found that this has involved a lot of calls and decision making on my part. We also had to work out what he wants to do for his Opportunities program. There are four categories of activities, the names of which obviously make sense to the people doing the planning, but which are a bit confusing for the rest of us.

I spent time working out a plan and on Sunday when he came to lunch Matt and I went through it and made amendments. One of the things he enjoys is when staff involve him in household chores. I thought he might like to use some of his funding for ‘household chores’ but he nipped that one in the bud! Thinking about it this morning I realise that, like the rest of us, he has been in a lockdown for quite a few months and just wants to be able to go out. So far, I haven’t had any feedback on his choices, but hope to hear about it soon.

At this stage I’m very pleased with his funding allocation and it seems to have all bases covered. However, we have yet to see how it works in practice.

Another issue is that the horn on our Fiat doesn’t work and a part was ordered from Italy by the previous owners. Six months later it has arrived, but we had to go to Rockingham to have it fixed. We booked in for a service in Welshpool prior to going to Rockingham and on our next picnic outing, the horn started to sound at odd intervals, totally out of our control. We assumed that the way to stop it sounding off was to take out the fuse. We couldn’t get the toolbox out and phoned the RAC. It got dark whilst we were waiting and we were able to have a snack to keep us going, the campervan advantage in action. The RAC man was pleased that we had identified the location of the particular fuse which he easily removed.

We had a pleasant day in Rockingham, but the Fiat dealer was unable to fix the problem. Turned out that it wasn’t a problem with the part, it’s a wiring issue. We have now booked the van in at Welshpool this Monday for repair. Fingers crossed that they will be able to fix it. This is a warranty issue and doesn’t cost us anything but our time.

IMG_1872.JPG
Rockingham: we parked at the beach to watch the sunset and were contemplating staying the night. A notice regarding a $1,000 fine for camping persuaded us to drive home. It was a long way up the freeway in the rain, but that was just too expensive.
IMG_1940.JPG
Rockingham sunset
IMG_1916.JPG
Rockingham: it was wet outside and I think the lens is wet in this photo.
IMG_1931.JPG
Rockingham: it was wet on and off all day and this was the second time we had seen rainbows. This man was feeding the seagulls wheatbix in order to take photos on his ipad.

Day 18: Toodyay to Home Base

The featured photo shows us using the ‘power from above’ as it says in our song. Stephen still worries about using power from our batteries and I have to keep reminding him that when we use electrical appliances we are using renewable power from our solar. We can’t use an induction cooktop with our inverter, but this inexpensive little hotplate works well. It takes a while to cool down after switching off, which is a benefit on a cold morning. The benefit of using electric applicances is also that we lose less of our limited kitchen bench space than we do using the two burner gas hob.

We had a slightly challenging drive home along Toodyay Road to Roe Highway. It winds around a lot and we were having squally showers and going a bit slow for other traffic. We pulled off a couple of times to let vehicles pass as there was only one passing lane in 80 kms.

We were able to have lunch before doing most of the unpacking.

This morning (Wednesday 1st July) I’ve been catching up on tasks, such as getting an access code for Matt’s NDIS plan and making an appointment to see my mother tomorrow. The NDIS call was quite involved as I can only link my mygov account to it, not Matthew’s. Still, I can now see how money he was allocated, quite a lot really. His good life, despite the severe disabilities, costs a great deal of public money. I’m very grateful, especially as he is generally happy and positive in incredibly trying circumstances. It would not be possible without the money.

We’ve booked our van in for it’s first warranty service. It will cost nearly $1,000. George Day Caravans agreed to pay for it when we bought the van six months ago. Stephen is working on getting at least some refund from them. The salesman made a mistake about the hot water system, telling us it was a Combi 4E which includes space heating, whereas it is merely a hot water system. We would still have bought the van, but didn’t find out his mistake until we picked up the van about a month later.

I’ve done all of our clothes washing, plus our towells. Still need to wash the bed linen. We don’t have our next trip planned yet, but we are eager to keep making short trips away and it will soon be the wildflower season.

I’ve sent off a few queries to the person now looking after Matt’s group home, including asking if she can organise transport for Matt to come to lunch on Saturday. He is not yet allowed to travel by taxi and it means about two hours spent transporting him to and from his house for the staff. Waiting on an answer.

Day 17: Wongan Hills to Toodyay

It was a pretty wild night at times, but we were snug in the van. In the morning there were puddles all around and we were glad to be on bitumen. We had our usual leisurely start to the day and were ready to move at around 10.00 am. First to dump,our cassette, then to find the local pharmacy to have a script filled.

The van is still dirty as the rain only washes off the superficial stuff. But fortunately it looks OK from a short distance away.

Just out of Wongan Hills is Lake Ninan, which we have been to before, but were interested to see on a wet and windy day. We had a bit of sunshine.

It’s possible to camp for 72 hours here.

The drive to Toodyay of about 90kms was pretty hairy at times with squally winds and light rain, but we enjoyed the farmland scenery.

Of course, the reason we came to Toodyay was for the bakery. Under the new rules we couldn’t go upstairs, but sat in a corner on the ground level for our pies, hot drinks, and rhubarb and apple crumble.

They don’t use plates, just paper bags and takeaway cups even if you eat inside. This is normal, not a Corona virus thing.

There is so much to choose from. We bought some olive flavoured sourdough bread to take with us.

After a rest we discussed driving home, but I didn’t want to be driving tired through traffic and we decided to stay at the little park up where we stayed last time. No one has dropped in to offer us a pizza, sadly. That really happened last time!

So here we are, our last night on the road. We should be home tomorrow by about lunchtime.

A couple of hours ago two cars pulled in a sort of boxed us in. I was a bit alarmed until a bus came along and we realised it was parents picking up school children. It was just as well we had parked on the side of the parking area as it was a huge bus.

Day 16: Mt Gibson Rest Area to Wongan Hills

It was a windy drive with threatening clouds at times, but not much rain. We filled up with water and dumped the cassette at the Wongan Hills Tourist Info Centre, then hit the IGA. We haven’t been to the IGA here before and we’re delighted to find it very well stocked. We bought some stirfry for tea and pies and a salad for our lunch.

We’ve parked in the town RV parking area, facing the van into the wind. Although we hear the wind we aren’t getting a lot of buffeting, so must have it right. The Ridge Monkey came good as an oven to heat up our pies.

Photos to follow in an update.

Day 15: Mt Gibson Rest Area

We have a bit of Telstra 4g after all. It’s just a car park on the edge of the highway, but is very large. We’ve taken a spot near the bush. A family with a tent camper have parked near us in the bush, but they have an SUV which was able to handle the rough track. It’s also a possibility that it will rain tonight, so best to be on bitumen.

A notable thing that happened this afternoon when we were just about to drive out of a parking bay when we saw a large truck carrying monster tyres passing another long, heavily loaded truck. This was happening just as they passed us and if it had gone wrong they could have not only killed us, but the people in a car behind us. It seemed incredibly foolish. There was a third truck just behind as well.

As we drove this afternoon heavily laden trucks often passed us, including wide loads where we had to get off the road. They were all heading north as we headed south. We also saw lots of caravans heading north. People taking advantage of the lifting of regional border restrictions. We are still cut off from the rest of Australia, but with such a huge land area spanning north to south with different weather systems there are a lot of possibilities.

No damage to the inverter from leaving it on whilst driving.

Day 15: gravel pit to Mt Gibson Rest Area

We are not currently at Mt Gibson, but having lunch at Payne’s Find which has 4g. As I don’t think we will be able to post from Mt Gibson I’m just posting this little update, with a link to a YouTube video that will fill you in on what happened this morning.

We are also about to find out what would happen if we had the engine running whilst the inverter was on. When we arrived here I realised I hadn’t switched it off after blow drying my hair. I haven’t tried using it to power anything yet, so can’t tell you if it’s a problem.

This morning we used battery/solar power to boil the kettle twice, make two pots of coffee and heat up milk on the portable electric hot plate, and used the hairdryer. We were getting lots of solar power and by the time we set out on our journey the batteries were up to 100%. Pretty fantastic. We’ve used up one of our gas bottles and have now switched to the other one. It will definitely last until we get home, but using renewable power as well seems a good idea.

The video is very short. The photo is one of Stephen practicing to be a Gormley statue on Lake Ballard. He wouldn’t do it naked as it was cold.