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.

Little Folk in the Forest 2020

We were delighted to be able to attend a small music festival in Dwellingup. Although they said they had a COVID-safe plan there was no social distancing and it’s the last time I can be with a group of people indoors feeling that there is little to no risk for us.

We started out on Thursday as we had a plan for Thursday evening. Stephen wanted to attend a Wildlower society meeting in Armadale and checked to see if we could stay in the car park overnight after the meeting. Being assured that it wasn’t specifically prohibited, we packed for the weekend and set out late on Thursday afternoon. Although the meeting room (on the edge of Settlers’ Common in Bedforddale) is just off Albany Highway we found it was a large gravel carpark with enough bush around to make it a pleasant environment.

The meeting included a presentation by a speaker who muffled his words, about orchid propagation. It was actually interesting so we were prepared to persevere with listening hard. The local Wildflower Society was made up of mostly older people and they had a sort of ‘show and tell’ of their latest finds in the bush.

There was also a supper and Stephen became so immersed in talking with someone that he forgot to get his warm jacket when he was leaving. I had left a few minutes earlier to walk the short distance ‘home’. Our host, the chairman of the group, told us that homeless people often stayed nearby. Throughout the meeting a radio was blaring across the carpark from what appeared to be a camping set up near some picnic tables.

I put in my ear plugs and turned on the fan to block out the noise to sleep. Pretty much straight away the radio was turned off and they weren’t needed. We actually had a very good night’s sleep and as we had plenty to time to get to Dwellingup we enjoyed a leisurely morning enjoying being in the setting and waiting for our host to come and open up so that Stephen could get his warm coat.

Apparently last year at the Folk in the Forest festival it was 45 degrees during the day. The rain started on Friday night and continued off and on for the rest of the weekend. Although we got quite muddy in the carpark Friday morning at Bedfordale, we were able to camp on leaves at Banksiadale which meant we only brought in lots of leaf matter, no so much mud. It wasn’t really cold, but cool enough that it was a good thing that Stephen had his warm jacket to wear.

There were about 14 current and former Working Voices Choir members at the festival and we got together to Bernard and Eleanor to sing a couple of Bernard’s songs during the blackboard session on Saturday afternoon. I found it a very emotional experience and feel very glad we were able to sing together again. Apart from that, there were other people we knew amongst the 120 people attending so it was a very comfortable experience in that sense.

There was a food truck and a bar, but we also ate our own food to keep costs down. We enjoyed spending a good deal of the time with Eversley who was staying in a backpacker’s room at the caravan park about 1.4 kilometres away. The gems of the concerts and presentations were not always what we expected. There was only one concert venue and we didn’t get a chance to look around much as we attended everything, including the bonfire Friday evening which blazed wonderfully despite the rain.

On Sunday we left late morning as Stephen had a dress rehearsal in the evening for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society Concert. We stopped for lunch at the North Dandalup Dam and were home in good time for him to get ready. We still hadn’t quite worked out how to fit the collar on his sailor suit, hence looking a bit odd in the photo.

I had a short Facetime session with Matt Sunday evening where we arranged to have a longer session with Dad tonight (Monday night).

Wongan Hills Wildflower Trip: Days 8 & 9

Overnight near Toodyay

Back at homebase we are settling in. We watched some of the US election coverage this morning (Wednesday). It is a tight race.

After several hours at the Toodyay Bakery we went back to the van for a rest. Stephen checked with the Tourist Information Centre about a walkway along the river and it seemed interesting enough to persue. I drove to a spot further up the street from the Bakery which is one of the many access points to the river and we enjoyed a walk from close to the footbridge to one of the two road bridges across the river. It was cool with sunny spells and lots of cloud and made a perfect early evening walk.

We had our usual peaceful evening in the little overnight camping area on Toodyay Road. In the morning we saw parents dropping of school children to another car, plus the school bus.

On our way down the hill we had a short stop at the falls to give us a break before tackling the city traffic. It was midday when we arrived home and we had a cup of tea before commencing unpacking.

We went along to the Mackie Street Singers in the evening. We want to sing with the choir on Saturday night and we’ve only had a couple of previous rehearsals. We shall just have to do our best on Saturday as we don’t know the music well. Fortunately it is quite a large group of singers and has quite a few men so that Stephen doesn’t stand out any more than I do.

The Saturday night concert happens prior to an open air showing of the movie Young at Heart. We hope to have an audience of people picnicing on the grass before the movie. The original time for the sound check was 3.30 in the afternoon, but fortunately that has changed to 4.30 p.m. Stephen and I live close enough to go home afterwards until we meet for a warmup, but other choir members have been told that there will be drinks at the Bowling Club if they need a place to sit and wait.

Wongan Hills Wildflower Trip: Days 7 & 8

The Wongan Hills Experience, a night in Goomalling and on to Toodyay

The main objective of the stargazing evening in Wongan Hills was in fact to see the full moon rise over the Wongan Hills. Despite wind, flies and cloud cover the event went ahead. We bought some steak from the local butcher to cook on the BBQ and had coleslaw salad sandwiches with it. There was quite good fellowship amongst the locals and visitors. Stephen did the cooking and was able to chat with other people over the BBQ.

When we had all cleared up we were invited to sit looking out to where the moon was rising (we couldn’t actually see it) and a local introduced the team of astronomers who had brought three telescopes and used onboard computers to align and track the moon. It turned out to be a very interesting evening as they were able to answer all of our questions (like ‘when will people next go to the moon’ and ‘when will people go to Mars’, etc. The evening had become quite chilly and we had to rug up.

The moon shows up!

Of course, the moon eventually showed up with the clouds providing quite a lot of drama and short windows of opportunity to view it through one or other of the telescopes. Stephen was shown how to get photos on his mobile phone through the telescope, resulting in these three phoots.




When I sat down for a bit to ease my sore feet a little girl in a dress who was not rugged up, worryingly, with bare arms, asked me ‘where is Dolly’. Her speech was a little unclear, but she and a couple of other small kids included me quite naturally in what they were doing (the little boy being rather annoying, but very cute). I put it down to them being country kids who expect all older women to be available as spare aunties and grandmothers.

Eventually we all decided to head home, leaving our astronomers to pack up the telescopes.

By then we had met Deborah a couple of times around the town and enjoyed chatting with her. She and her husband are retired farmers living in Hyden. They were on the tour we took this morning out to see the Reyoldsons Reserve to see the verticordias. We learned about the history of the area, rotational planting of crops and the history of the reserve. We have been out to this reserve a couple of times in the past, but found it very interesting to do the tour.

Then back to the community centre to look at the vintage cars on display and have our second Devonshire Tea of the weekend.

It was hot again on Saturday, but became progressively cooler during the afternoon. This morning was cloudy, which was good for our expedition to Reynoldsons Reserve as we didn’t have to contend with bright sun for photos. The bus trailed us as we walked around the reserve taking photos and enjoying the flowers. As we returned to town it began to rain and has been raining off and on for the rest of the afternoon. It’s slightly chilly as well.

We spent the night in the nearby town of Goomalling, famous for having the cheapest caravan park in Western Australia and $20 per night with electricity and water. As it’s cold and damp its comforting to have these things. We have stayed here before in our caravanning days and know it to be comfortable here with decent facilities. Not fancy, but clean. There is a large campers kitchen with all appliances.

Monday November 2nd, 2020 at the Toodyay Bakery. Stephen reading the paper, me finishing off processing photos and adding them to this blog.

We are now about 80kms from home and doing something we have done before in spending one night near Toodyay before heading home, even though we could actually drive home today. Our re-entry into normal life will be demanding and having one more peaceful night will help.

It’s only 12 days to our next time away in the van at Folk in the Forrest in Dwellingup. There was an email this morning giving us some information on what to expect. This festival has been running for many years, but this is our first time.