Southern Escape: Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday morning

I’ve put the details in the title so I know what I’m doing!

On Thursday in the evening the wind died down a bit for the first time on this trip. We enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk and from above Middleton Beach looks as lovely as ever. When we returned it was nearly 7.00 p.m. and I didn’t feel like cooking. We went into town to check out food options. There were a number of rather expensive looking bar/restaurants open, very busy, and not what we wanted. As we walked around the block we came to a modest Chinese restaurant with takeaway options.

After placing an order we walked around the block, then back to Stirling Terrace where we were parked. Stephen went off to pick up our order of ginger beef and special fried rice and I set up the table for the meal. With one of our nice downlights on we were able to have a lovely meal with the hot and delicious food. Afterwards it was home to the golf links for the night.

Friday and Saturday were forcast to be hot in Albany, at least 32 degrees, but we think it was hotter. Sitting it out at Emu Point yesterday afternoon seemed a good option and later in the day I moved the van to a shady spot. Most of the time sitting under a tree we felt like we were in airconditioning because of the cool wind, but there was an hour or so when the wind changed direction and we were feeling quite hot. An iced coffee helped.

Our berth for the next two nights includes power, water and sullage. It’s called ‘driveway camping’ offered by a local business just out of town off the Chester Pass Road. The owners live onsite and we have a spot next to their house. I managed to get our meal of Thai Chicken Curry cooked in the cool of the evening. We had gone shopping, mainly for some fly spray, but actually bought lots of other stuff and forgot the flyspray and our host was kind enough to lend us some.

We were able to keep our fan on all night plugged into 230v power and it was great to have running water, normal power, and sullage. To empty our toilet and get rid of rubbish our hosts recommended a local dump point on Albany Highway, very close to the cinema. Going to a movie is another way of dealing with a hot day, though I must say that it hasn’t been hot so far, as of about 12.30.

Another exciting thing to happen is that Stephen realised one of our front tyres is ball in the centre. The other one is also on the way out. We took the van to a tyre place to have the spare tyre put on, but are now going with the option of having them install two new front tyres on Tuesday next week. They have to come from Perth and are due to arrive then.

Saturday: We are presently sitting in a Coles parking lot next door to the cinema complex. The flyspray has been bought and I’m getting the blog up to date. We are hoping the cafe at the cinema opens soon so we can be in airconditioning.

Southern Escape: Albany Wednesday and Thursday

We’ve been looking at weather forecasts for the southern region and have decided to stay here until Sunday when it should be cooler in other regions. Albany maximums will be in the low 30s, and given the wind will probably feel cooler.

We went to Emu Point yesterday, firstly to meet with Kim, a former colleague of Stephen and now our friend for a catch-up. It is six years since his girlfriend died and he has a new love who lives in Australia. In 2019 he visited her for months at a time, but for 2020 they have had a virtual relationship with romantic meetings online. Like us, he has been taking little trips around WA this year, and is considering whether to get some sort of RV for travel here when his love is able to come. As he is almost 20 years older than her they have different needs for comfort.

After an enjoyable lunch with him at the Emu Point Cafe we stayed for the rest of the day. On our walk along the bay we found a fish and chip cafe where we shared a meal.

Then back to the golf links for the evening. We secured a different spot which had lots of sun for charging batteries, then increasing shade to keep the van from getting too hot. Perfect. We don’t know if we will be this lucky tonight.

This morning we took care of the usual chores, emptying some containers and filling others. Then a visit to the museum was Stephen’s choice and I enjoyed a photographic exhibition, which was excellent and well worth the visit.

Afterwards we went to Middleton Beach, which was not at all what we expected. They are doing some repairs, upgrades and the lawn is mostly dead. This resulted in us getting a huge amount of sand coming into the van through the fly wire door before we realised. After lunch we relocated to a spot over the road. We still have a view, but are sheltered from the sand and noise of machinery.

Pelican at Emu Point
All of the devices I can run from our solar/batteries/inverter system. One at a time, of course. Plus a single burner electric hot plate. The coffee machine will only work if the batteries are full and we are getting 6-7 amps of charge.
Seal at the boat harbour, Emu Point
Little cruise ship
Parked up for the day on the point of Emu Point.
On our evening walk
Fish and Chips, Emu Point
The Amity.
Emu Point

We’ve been amazed at what happened in the USA, including the ‘spin’ by conservative media that it was the leftist Antifa, pretending to be Trump supporters, who stormed the Capitol. Really, they’ve made themselves a laughing stock and no country will ever allow them to lecture about democracy again.

Southern Escape: Albany

Yesterday morning was a working morning. At the caravan park we were up early and spent until 10.00 a.m. getting ready to leave. Or that is how it felt. We headed towards Mt Barker for shopping and a coffee afterwards. We had emptied the cassette at the caravan park, but their water was a bit dicey (according to the manager) and we took advantage of Mt Barker’s facilities to fill up with water. I am a bit cross that they closed the free overnight parking, but not enough to deter me from shopping there. It was easier than going to a supermarket in Albany.

The drive down wasn’t too busy and we bypassed the city centre to take the road to Frenchman’s Bay. We had found a cheap place to stay on Wikicamps. The public golf course, about 9 kms from town, offers overnight stays by self contained vehicles for $15.00 per night. There are old, but passable, public toilets available 24/7, and that’s it. We’ve paid for two nights.

After booking in we drove out to Frenchman’s bay to have our lunch. Because of having morning tea we weren’t hungry until about 3.00 p.m. We found a beautiful place overlooking a very sheltered swimming area. There were people camping a bit further along the road above the bay and when I checked on Wikicamps found that this was not a formal camping area, but people do camp there. There are ‘no camping’ signs at the beach parking area, but nothing where we were. There are public toilets and outdoor showers available as well.

We spent a peaceful afternoon enjoying being in the lovely location. I took photos when we went for an evening walk, but am feeling a bit disappointed as they don’t convey how lovely it was. Only the fact that we had already paid to camp at the golf links made us go back there for the night. It was quiet overnight and we had a good night’s sleep. This place works out well for people with caravans who have a safe place to leave them during the daywhilst they tour around in their cars. The car park is very large and a few caravans on the edge don’t make much difference for people wanting to play golf.

It was another lovely day. I enjoyed the drive into Albany from Mt Barker because it is much greener here, indicating that they have had sufficient rain, unlike the rest of the southern area of the state where it’s now very dry.

Southern Escape: Porongorup Range to Albany

We have finally arrived in Albany today and have a cheap place to park for the night out on the road to Frenchman’s Bay. It’s been a full day with a very late evening meal and I am too tired to write tonight. But there will be time in the morning to blog and I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing the photos I took today from our lunchtime park up overlooking Frenchman’s Bay.

Our spot in the caravan park this morning.
View from the caravan park – Porongurup Range.

Southern Escape: Borden to the Porongurup Range Tourist Park

After a really good night’s sleep we got up a bit late at 8sh. No worries as we could leave when we wanted to with no formal checkout time. It’s the big disadvantage of caravan parks, especially when staying for just one night. This caravan park is as nice as I rememberd and we have a lovely view across the valley, or we did until our neighbour put his bikes on the roof of his car.

Some washing has been done and we have damp clothing hanging from every possible hook. I put some things in the dryer and did not realise till I got back to the van just how many items were still a bit dampish. I couldn’t be bothered going back to put them through another cycle.

We meandered here along the Chester Pass Road, taking a diversion to see a windmill and Dakota, then up to the Nudist Crossing sign, then up to Bluff Knoll. It has been a mostly cloudy day with the Stirling Ranges topped with clouds, but it was briefly sunny and still worth going for the views. We had a very nice lunch at the Bluff Knoll lookout carpark of rolls and salads.

We stopped at Mt Trio and a parking bay on the road to take photos and Stephen got a great shot of a Christmas Tree. We arrived here very tired, but it was worth having all the sightseeing along the way. How much nicer to come to Albany this way than along Albany Highway.

We have one more meal of leftovers from the freezer for tonight’s meal. There is the noise of other campers, which we are not used to. However, Stephen has had a shower and washed his hair and I am looking forward to having a proper shower before bed. There are definitely advantages to being here. Washing machines are on an honour system of $4.00 per wash and the dryer was only $2. There is an enclosed camper’s kitchen and a sheltered gazebo area with a BBQ. The showers and toilets are older style, but very clean.

We are always a bit confused about which range of mountains comes first, the Stirlings or the Porongurups. It depends on whether you are coming from Perth or Albany. The Stirlings are much higher and grander, but the Porongurups have lovely forest with tall trees. There are a good many wineries in this area as well.

We’ve had a very good day.

Southern Escape: Katanning to Borden

We went for a walk around Katanning before tea last night. Some of the old buildings were interesting. The hotel/Dome Cafe is converted from an old flour mill.

from the outside it’s hard to work out what is going on here.

We had another peaceful night, our second in the town, with one caravan besides us. The really nice thing about free camping is that you don’t have to worry about checkout times. Nevertheless, we were ready to leave by about 10.30 a.m. after a restful morning. We dumped the toilet cassette and filled our fresh water tank before moving on to buy diesel. We had our receipt from shopping yesterday to get a discount. Overall, we spent quite a lot of money in the town, which helps us to feel that we are somewhat entitled to the free camping. We are also very grateful for safe places to stay for free provided by Katanning, both in town and out at the lake.

As well as our normal morning routine we had to work out where we were going next. I want to visit the Stirling Ranges National Park and the Porongorups on our way to Albany, so we explored options for overnights in and around the area. Borden offers free overnight camping and is very close to the Stirling Ranges. Unfortunately, there are no views to the Ranges in town as it is set in a valley. It is about 90kms from Katanning and we arrived here in time to settle in and have our lunch here.

We may stay at the Porongurups Caravan Park tomorrow night as it is a convenient distance from here, given that we may be making a few stops on the way. From there, we will probably go to Albany to explore some of the cheap/free camping options in the area.

Despite an afternoon nap I’m feeling a bit tired at the moment. It’s still very windy and to go out for walks we have to prepare ourselves for the wind exposure. Nice once we are out, but we have to overcome some initial reluctance.

Don’t forget that if you click on the images in the gallery at the top of this blog it will open them up to a larger size and you can click through them using the arrows on the side.

Southern Escape: A windy night at Lake Ewlyamartup

Yesterday, after our big breakfast, we weren’t sure if we would ever be hungry again. We drove out to Lake Ewlyamartup in the early afternoon. Somehow, we missed the lake and drove about another five kilometres before turning around. When we found it we were bemused that we missed it. Admitedly, it was cloudy and we are used to seeing dry salt lakes in this area, but really it was so clearly visible from the road that we couldn’t see how we missed it.

We were in for a really windy time. The wind came across the lake, constantly strong and sometimes speeding up even more. The foam at the edge of the lake was scooting onto the shore. For much of the rest of the day we huddled in the van, Stephen reading a biography of Sybil Thorndike and me doing this and that. We had our breakfast food for lunch (cereal and fruit).

At around 6.00 p.m. we ventured out into the wind for a walk on the lakeshore. We went as far as a bird hide and found that when we were on the other side of the lake the wind was much reduced. There was one set of campers there, but they needed to have a 4WD for negotiate the track.

Back where we were camping there were three vans parked in formation to provide a wind break and another couple of campers who also used vehicles to form a wind break. We, wanting to have our largest window for viewing the lake, had our sliding door on the windward side and it was so difficult to open that we used the front passenger door for getting in and out.

I cooked our evening meal in my new double sided pan from Korea. Fish pieces and a sliced potato with salad provided a delicious and simple meal. The pan is similar to the ridge monkey but larger and much more a high end cooking device. Very easy to clean and it seals well for cooking.

Noisy wind.

We were in two minds about staying the night at the lake because it was so windy, but decided that it would make this blog more interesting. We had a very weak phone signal and being deprived of the internet was another factor against. But, we liked the idea of being away from the town. We were on the edge of a small grove of sheoaks and felt a little sheltered. We actually had a very good night and enjoyed glimpses of the moon through the clouds before sleeping. We rocked gently by the wind and had a few drops of rain, just enough to make the dust stick to the van.

We had a leisurely morning before driving back into Katanning. Shopping was our first stop and we experienced our first problem with the WA Covid app at Woolworths. I think it was because they had it on yellow paper. Still, we got everything we needed and a few things we didn’t.

By mid afternoon it was a bit warm in the van and we have retreated to the Dome cafe for afternoon tea and the comfort of air conditioning. Not that it is hot outside, but it is intermittently sunny and it heats things up inside.

Do we have a plan for the next few days? Not really. We are going to overnight here, then fill up with water and fuel in the morning before heading southwards.

Katanning Central roundabout
New Year’s Eve camping in Katanning. Our van is mostly hidden behind the other vans.

Southern Escape: Vic Park to Katanning

So, why Katanning? We set off at 11.00 am after a couple of hours of loading up the van with all of our stuff. Yesterday was very hot and I couldn’t bear the thought of all our gear sitting overnight in the van. Even this morning was hot and only the fact that we had the air conditioning going made it bearable.

There were two reasons to push on to Katanning even though staying in the tiny village of Highbury was tempting. But, the forecast for Katanning is for 15 degrees minimum and a cooler day for tomorrow. We are staying in the free town overnight camping spot and it should be fairly comfortable, especially as it is breezy here.

The other reason is the short walk to the Dome Cafe where we had a particularly wonderful breakfast a couple of years ago. We’ve come here for a drink before dinner to check to see if it is open for breakfast tomorrow, and it is. So we pay nothing for accommodation, but spend money at the Dome. Seems fair.

Stephen likes having the West Australian available at cafes. Here we have 3 copies.

New Year’s Day: breakfast at the Dome was as lovely as we remembered. A shared ‘big breakfast’ has left us wondering how anyone could eat a whole one themselves, we feel as though we may never eat again!

The one breakfast divided and filling up two plates.

It was, as we hoped, cool overnight. The breeze kept the air moving. There were quite a few vans overnight, including one which came in after dark. We didn’t have much noise and felt safer for having other people there as my concern about spending New Year’s Eve in a town was that we night be harassed by yahoos. Perhaps this town isn’t like that anyway.

Lake Ewlyamartup is about 19 kms away and our plan is to stay overnight there tonight. No hurry, we will enjoy being here for a couple of hours. There is drinking water and a dump point where we are staying here and we can take advantage of that before we leave.

Our first 24 hours has gone well and we are relaxing into the nice feeling of freedom.

Food Street Victoria Park

So, this has been on my mind for a little while as we have been going to the Mackie Street Centre, especially in the evenings, walking back from choir practice. There are so many food and drink options starting from near the Causeway up as far as the Shepperton Road/Albany Highway intersection. There are shops that sell Asian style drinks, Asian style bakeries, cafes, restaurants and the most amazing array of food from different countries around the world.

If you are missing overseas travel because of the different food opportunities then come to our Food Street! It is amazing.

On Sunday night we were supposed to be joining other choirs for a Christmas Concert at one of our local private schools at the invitation of our choir director, David, who is a music teacher. The Mackie Street Singers are doing wonderfully under his direction and the choir is expanding, and we even have quite a few men. Stephen and I were all prepared and drove over to the school. It had begun to rain slightly before we left and we checked our emails, but no word on cancellation.

Only when we arrived were we sadly turned away. They had cancelled so recently that some of the animals were being brought in as we left. For the Nativity section, you understand. One donkey, several sheep and a few camels. Just to liven things up. The rain was still only fairly light, but we had heavier rain later and the following morning.

There were going to be food trucks at the Christmas Concert and we were in the mood for eating out.

That’s when we had the experience of actually looking for somewhere to eat. We chose purely on the food because the nice restaurant we checked out first had only rather starchy Italian food, which we didn’t fancy. There was live music, so it was disappointing.

But then, we found a Thai restaurant and although we are not vegetarian or vegan, the aspect and prices suited us. The decorations gave it a sort of Christmassy feel, certainly the colours were Christmassy, and there was music provided by a DJ in a special section at the front. There is a private room that can take 20 people and can be booked out for a group. The food was nice, perhaps a little too healthy, but the sticky rice and mango was delicious. If we had had a group we could have added some fried entrees, but for two of us it would have made too much food.

The point was, that there were so many options in just that small section of Albany Highway that we had an abundance of choices for both main meals and deserts.

We can enjoy an incredible variety of cuisines from around the world, all within walking distance of where we live. The world comes to us.

On a more sober note…

In the 5-6 km stretch of Albany Highway there are not only at least 100 cafes and restaurants, but three older style pubs that were built as hotels approximately 100 years ago , one undistinguished more recent pub and a bright new modern pub in the apartment building behind our house. There are two small, but useful shopping centres, one with a Coles and one with a Woolworths. At the Shepparton Road junction we have an Officeworks and a smallish Bunnings (hardware). There are many small speciality shops along the street as well, including one bookshop, kitchenware shops and newsagents. There are other, smaller supermarkets, an Aldi and an IGA. And there are still quite a few car yards, just in case that’s what you were really looking for.

All of this is unusual for a Perth suburb. Subiaco, Leederville and Mt Lawley have main streets with small sections like this stretch of Albany Highway and are better known, being in what are now quite ‘posh’ areas of Perth. Victoria Park is technically an inner city suburb, but on the ‘wrong’ side of the river to be fashionable.

We have two GP surgeries, a pathology collection point and radiology within a short walk from our house. Where we live has excellent bus services and there is a train service as well.

A future project could be to document what is actually available in different sections of Albany Highway and to take lots of photos.