The Apostles…..

Aussie signage leaves little to the imagination. The walkways to these remarkable cliffs are safe enough but I guess there has been the odd idiot who has tried to get a closer look. Just in case I was thinking of it these reminders are posted everywhere.

I am happy to get my vatage point from a safe spot.

Homeward Bound……

Wednesday 7th March……

I am writing this last edition of my travel blog in Singapore Crown Plaza overlooking the rooftop pool where Marilyn is having a last swim and lie in the sun.

Our last two days in Oz have been spent in Scarborough, a beach suburb near Cambridge and Wembley….yes I know it is all very strange geography but I have got used to place names now.

The weather in Perth has been unseasonably hot. Autumn has started at the beginning of March but temperatures have been hitting the 40 degree plus mark over the past few days. Thankfully the Freemantle Doctor has been giving some respite in the afternoon and evening.

We spent our last days on the beach at Scarborough and visiting Freemantle for evening fish and chips in the Fishermens’  Harbour. Before that we passed the day at Perth’s wonderful Art Gallery and Museum, took a stroll through the shopping centre to the water and hopped on a free bus that took us round the inner city.

In such a short visit it is hard to have a really formed idea of the place but it has a relaxed atmosphere and a feel of a confident city that is booming with a strong sense of a mix between East and West. There is a definite Asian/Chinese influence in the modern town, mixing with the more colonial tone of some of the older style architecture and retail outlets. There is a marked European influence – especially in Freemantle which was largely developed by Italian immigrants – and the Mediterranean climate must make it a very comfortable and interesting place to live.

There is a strong sense of pride among Western Australians for their city and their State. They are so far removed from everywhere I suppose. Perth is nearer to Singapore than Sydney. It is cheaper to take holidays in Bali than Brisbane. Maybe these Western Australians feel a sense of independence and a confidence built on a modern mining boom and their close ties with the growing economies in China and the East. Adverts boast of new flights to China from Perth making this the next ‘go to’ destination. It will also provide the next doorway for another fresh group of can do immigrants to further strengthen Western Australia’s economy.

We got to see some dolphins and the elusive black cockatoo in these last few days. We experience two final sunsets over the Indian Ocean to match those at the start of our journey all those weeks ago when we watched the sun setting over the Pacific. Somehow that seems such a long time ago.

I am glad we chose to spend our last few days in Margaret River, Freemantle and Perth to be left with such a positive image of this confident nation. I am still pleased that Sri Lanka gave them a good seeing to in the second of the one-day finals however.

So we are a few hours from our last flight back home and there will be time to reflect on the past ten weeks when we have stepped off the merry-go-round of this amazing journey and are back home in our little cottage in Cornwall.

One of the recurring thoughts that I have as we have travelled is that I feel lucky and very happy that I live in such a beautiful place as Cornwall because, as far as I have travelled and though I have been privileged to experience many beautiful places on the way, Cornwall is always up there with them.

So, sad as I am that this saga is over, I can return to my home with a sense of excitement and a looking forward to the Cornish springtime. Perhaps, in some of my future blogs, I can tell of some of the many things that I love about home.

Stevie Wonder….

Friday 2nd March……\


We arrive at the Sandalford Vineyard just as the doors are opening in the hope of getting some Stevie Wonder tickets on the door although we really can’t believe that it is not sold out. The queue is already 400 metres long at gate three where we are told to go and gate two car park is already full so we snake towards the sales tent in low spirits.


We also seem underprepared. The folk in the queue around us have huge eskies, some on wheels, they carry folding seats and picnic blankets and warm clothes. I am in shorts and T shirt and we carry a plastic bag with two ham rolls and some fruit and a couple of bottles of water. We have been told we can’t take alcohol into the venue anyway.

We get to the ticket sales and YES there are tickets for the hill overlooking the stage. $140 dollars each but I bite off the hand of the saleswoman to buy them and we are in. We are frisked at the door and I am told I cannot take my camera in and so we will have no pictorial evidence of the show to blog. But that seems a small price to pay.


We make ourselves as comfortable as we can, sitting on a couple of plastic bags and settle down for a long wait. It is 6.30 and the great man is not due on until 8.30. All around us folk are eating their bijou picnics and supping their purchased Sandalford wines. We  figure we have just had the best day of food and wine tasting and are quite happy chomping on our ham roll when one of the ushers comes over to us and asks if we are just the two of us and do we have no seats or rug to sit on. We concur and she signals us to follow her. We pass through the entrance into the seating area and she leads us to row B right in the middle of the stage. This is just behind the VIP enclosure and only 30 yards from Stevie’s Grand Piano! She gives us an arm band and the complimentary ticket. So you are free to come and go, she says. I ask her if she is an angel and whether we have died and gone to heaven or whether we are on Candid Camera but she just smiles and says, ‘Enjoy the show’ and disappears into the night.

Marilyn and I pinch each other several times over the next hour or so. Stevie is late coming on but when he plays he is magnificent. He has a slight cold but it somehow makes the quieter section of soulful love songs more poignant and I find myself with tears in my eyes I am so moved by his genius.


By the end of the night we are up with the rest of the crowd bopping and singing as he seems to warm to the Aussie audience and gets us all involved. His band, as always, are simply brilliant and he orchestrates them through his bass player. After several encores he eventually departs the stage leaving his band to accompany his disembodied voice that drifts over the fields of vines under a waxing moon and leaves us speechless.


It has been a perfect day and a wonderful end to this stay at Margaret River.

To Margaret River…….

Saturday 25th February……Perth to Denmark


Our arrival in Perth and the pick up of the hire car goes really smoothly but we cannot find affordable accommodation in Perth so we decide to bite the bullet and head to the South and work our way backwards through the West Coast finding places to stay as we go.


We leave Perth in perfect sunshine but as we reach the tall forests of the Southern regions it starts to rain and the temperature drops considerably. I guess this is why the forests exist and we must be philosophical about our chances of meeting rain in this area that has an average of 180 days rain a year. The scenery gets greener and more forested as we approach the South coast and the rain gets heavier.


We had forgotten about the huge distances one has to drive to get anywhere in Oz. After all, we have had someone doing the work for us over the past two days. It is a good five hour drive to Albany on the South Coast but we find that there is no room at the inn to be had in this town and need to drive another hour or so to Denmark where we find a quiet hostel to rest up. It is comfortable and friendly and we decide to slow down and stay two days to get to know the local area a little.


It is also good to get to know some of the characters who are staying here. The manager is an interesting guy. He has walked the whole of the Bibbulmun Track that stretches 1000kms from Albany to Perth. He gets a lot of walkers staying at his hostel who are nearing the start or end of the walk depending on whether they are going North or South. We meet a young English guy, Chris, who is a year into a trip cycling around the world. He is preparing to cycle across the Nullarbor having already mastered Russia, the Gobi and Mongolia and China. Now that IS travelling. Looking at him you feel you could blow him away and he is quiet spoken and diffident. It just goes to show that it is impossible to tell someone’s inner mental and physical strength from their outward appearance.


Sunday 26th… We have decided to stay another night and to explore a little of the Bibbulman track that comes through Denmark so we embark on a four hour circular walk that takes us through some of the forest that stretches along the Inlet. The waymark is a yellow snake and for a while we are worried that it means that there are lots of poisonous critters to worry about until we read that it is based on an aboriginal symbol of the Dreaming and has been chosen as the icon that points the way for travellers for the full 1000kms of the track. All the sitting around on the train and in the car yesterday means that even this little walk tests our leg muscles and stamina, especially as it it quite chilly and it keeps drizzling. It feels good the stretch the legs again.

Monday 27th….. We move on to Walpole stopping on the way at Conspicuous Cliffs, a lovely secluded beach. We are back in wildlife spotting mode and see a strange looking Helmeted Guinea Fowl, what we think is a Sea Eagle, a Nankeen Kestrel and some families of Emus along the way.


We have to stop and do the famous treetop walk among the massive Tingle Trees that have remained despite the logging.

They are mainly found in this area because they need lots of rainfall to survive.They are monster trees that climb well over 50 metres and dominate this area of rainforest. An ingenious suspended walkway allows us to walk among the top canopy of the forest. I’m not great with heights and the swaying bridges make me feel a little woozy but the amazing vista is worth the discomfort. This is followed by a short walk at ground level through a patch of forest where we can enjoy the environment from a more comfortable viewpoint.

Tuesday 28th…We are moving on towards Margaret River where we hope, among other things, to find a little bit of sun. The weather is strange this year in Oz. Western Australia is experiencing heavy storms from Darwin down to Broome and they are expecting severe flooding in the Goldfields of the desert. Alice Springs in the centre is expecting a heavy downfall and the East Coast is still recovering from severe flooding for the second year running. This driest of continents is re-filling its aquifers and central lakes. I guess this means that these beautiful forests that we spend hour upon hour driving through will continue to exist.

We stop for a while at an interesting town called Northcliffe that has developed in a cleared area of forest that was destined to become dairy farms. We visit the Pioneer Museum and discover the stories of these early settlers who were enticed here after the First World War from Britain under the Group Settlement Scheme. I am lucky to have the opportunity to talk to descendants of these early pioneers who are happy to bring to life the many interesting exhibits in the museum. I hear first hand just how difficult it was to fell and clear one tree with a ten metre diameter and then try to imagine how one might get rid of thousands of these monoliths to create the space for a small farm. These families lived at first in tents then a tin shack until, if they stuck it for two years, they were lent the money to build a tiny wooden house. Many did not make it and left disheartened but the folk we talk to have seen generations stay and make a good life. The town did not get power until the late 60’s such were the harsh conditions and these people must have a special tough gene to have made it through those times.


We enjoy a fabulous drive through the Karri Forest, stopping briefly at a small lake where schoolchildren are enjoying the outdoors as they practice for a triathlon.


We are beginning to tell the difference between these lovely trees as we drive for hours through the changing forests all the time enjoying the heady scent of the gum. As the sun comes out and the sky becomes a strip of bright blue above us the light dapples in a peculiarly Australian way that we are becoming accustomed to.


And then we are driving through the vineyards of the Southwest and into the busy little town of Margaret River and our first night in the Youth Hostel. But that nightmare is a separate blog completely.

Across the Nullarbor……

The Nullarbor is a desert I’ve always wanted to cross. The ultimate method would probably be on a  Harley but as I don’t have a license for such a beast and I know that Marilyn would not enjoy a re-enactment of Easy Rider, the train seems a very good alternative. So after spending our last day in Adelaide at the Art Gallery enjoying the paintings of the early pioneer painters we find ourselves checking in our bags ready to join the rest of the passengers on this epic train journey.

Imagine my surprise when a young chap ( who I thought I had recognised) comes up to me and asks if I’m ‘ Mr Joyce from Tallis’. And so we meet young Jack Collins, who is an ex-student, and his lovely wife who are also booked on the train. It is a small world. Ten years ago I stepped off a bus in Cusco, Peru, to meet another ex-student with whom I also spent a good few hours chewing the cud and sharing a pint or two. Jack and Cheryl have spent a short time working in Sydney and are now travelling back to the U.K via several exotic countries on the way. We arrange to meet in the bar on the train and catch up on the last few years.

We have a sleeper in ‘Red’ category that turns out to be a tiny little doll’s house of a compartment that neatly folds down into two bunks. Thankfully Marilyn has lost a little weight on this trip otherwise we would not bot be able to manipulate ourselves in and out of the door once the bunks are set up. I draw the top bunk and a vertical climb up a metal ladder. I am already hoping the usual night calls of nature are few and far between because I am a little short of mountain climbing practice.

We pull out of Adelaide late as the sun sets and after a couple of drinks in the bar with Jack and Cheryl we are soon tucked up in our little cell. And it is surprisingly comfortable as the rocking of the train soon sends me off to sleep. Despite the drinks, I am pleased to only have to make the one descent during the night and even more pleased that I found it all quite easy to do.

At first there are trees among the scrub and the scenery is reminiscent of the iconic paintings of the landscape we have spent yesterday studying. Gradually the trees thin out and then they are gone.There is not a lot to say about a day of watching a treeless desert pass by hour after hour as we do after we wake and breakfast. How I love this part of a train journey. Give me mountains or this eternal flat that is a desert. It is the same and totally different second by passing second. We see a couple of herds of wild camels, some emu, a few kangaroos and thousands of birds. The number of raptors surprises me. What do they find to feed on? Mostly it is a huge horizon a wide blue sky and an eternity of scrub. I am surprised how green it is in contrast with the red earth. It is all very mesmeric.

We make a couple of stops during the day. One is at Cook ( population 4) where we take on water and change drivers. This town died when the railways privatised and when their water bores collapsed. They have to import water from Kalgoorlie and it costs more per litre than petrol. We were able to stretch our legs and take a short stroll for half an hour but we made pretty sure that we got back on in time. Cook is not a place to have to spend more time than necessary.

I love the facts and figures that keep being quoted. The temperature outside our air-conditioned coach is 44 degrees and the ambient track temperature is 58 degrees. These are temperatures I don’t really understand but I am glad not to be on my imaginary Harley with a sweaty Marilyn clinging on like a koala.

We get to spend a few hours in Kalgoorlie before night falls. This is a town made rich by mining mostly and Friday night sees hordes of young men racing up and down the wide main road in their sporty utility vehicles. There are security guys outside every bar and I wonder what the temperature gets to after a few more hours of heavy drinking. Money, heat, tetestorone, booze and boredom are a lethal mix.

But we don’t wait to find out. I have an appointment with the steep ladder to my bunk and I’m not sure how easy that will be after a couple of drinks.

The next thing we know we are watching trees and hills pass our window as a fresh day dawns and we follow the river valley into East Perth.

This city is nearer to Singapore than Sydney. We can’t wait to explore on this our last leg.

Kangaroo Island Birthday Tour…..

Monday 20th February…..To Kangaroo Island.

An early start sees us on the coach to Cape Jervis south of Adelaide to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. On board the captain tells us that conditions are pretty turbulent and that we should acquaint ourselves with the little white bags. This is a message to send Marilyn into an immediate lie-down position and I gallantly abandon her for the wind swept open deck where I spend the wind tossed hour crossing. Marilyn’s tactic of immediate horizontal hibernation has seen her through unscathed and soon we are in possession of our little hire car and off exploring.

We head for Kingscote the main town where we visit the Hope Museum which turns out to have interesting stories to tell about the original settlers to this place in the early 19th century. It is housed in the original little stone cottage, one of three named Faith, Hope and Charity.

This one and one other still stand as a tribute to the workmanship of the early builder. As well as written and photographic histories the place is full of original artifacts like original lacework that looks as fresh as the day it was made nearly 150 years ago. Perhaps the dry climate has helped the fabrics, the books and furniture to survive relatively unscathed.

Outside the house is a display of farm machinery and a brief history of some of the boats that have plied their trade or come to a watery end in the surrounding treacherous seas. It was all very interesting and we were the only people there to enjoy it.

We follow the dirt road around the north of the island petrified at every bend that we will run over a roo or a wallaby but in the middle of the day there is scant wildlife around. We drop by a couple of lovely bays. One, named Emu Bay, is a throw back to days when there was an indigenous Emu on the island, now sadly extinct. Another is Stokes Bay where we see New Holland Honeyeaters.

Our stay is at the lovely Wilderness Retreat Eco Lodge. Our room opens out onto a shaded courtyard where brightly coloured parrots fly around and then the wallabies come out to greet us as dusk falls. The first one is a bold pregnant female and Marilyn reckons she can see the joey in her pouch. She is followed by several more and by the end of the evening there is a mob of ten or so. They have cute little faces but in a huge crowd they are a little bit rat-like as they scurry and squabble over the food we are allowed to feed them.

Tuesday 21st ….. Happy Birthday

It is Marilyn’s birthday and we have a day roughly planned around some little walks on the south of the island with the hope of catching sight of some more wildlife.

We enter the Flinders Chase National Park and head south to Cape du Couedic. First stop, below the lighthouse, takes us down a well constructed walkway to Admiralty Arch. This is a large natural archway blasted through the rock by the power of the sea. All around it New Zealand fur seals and Australian seals bask on the rocks or frolic in the rock pools.

There are plenty of nursing young in this flourishing colony. We take a short walk up and around the lighthouse and note how the vegetation changes as rock changes to sand dune in the lea of the prevailing winds. How any vegetation survives here is a mystery but there is a diverse range of hardy plants and obvious evidence, in the form of droppings, of wallabies, roos and other wildlife. Marilyn is beady eyed searching for snakes. I would love to see a Kangaroo Island Tiger Snake that is much blacker than its mainland cousin.

What we do spot on the way to The Remarkable Rocks is an echidna. This beast is very different from the one we spotted in the Otways. It has a shorter snout and has distinctive blonde highlights to its quills. It is beautifully camouflaged against the straw coloured grasses and pale sand that surround it as it scratches at the earth with its powerful front claws. It spots us and shyly retreats to the cover of the bush.

The Remarkables certainly live up to their name. They are coloured red by a lichen that survives the salt and wind and these same forces have eroded huge areas of softer rock into strange shapes. One seems to take the shape of an eagle. We are warned against wandering too close to the edges by stories of people falling in and drowning when they lost their footing on the slippery lichens.

From here we follow the southern route back to our lodge at American River. On the way we see some large Heath Goannas, some a full metre long. Happily I am driving slowly enough to stop when I spot them sunning in the middle of the road. Sadly many come to a squashy end as many of the locals drive very fast down these unmade roads. In fact it is very sad just how much road kill there is and it is quite off putting and does not make for relaxed driving conditions.

We hope to see some very rare Glossy Black Cockatoos around our lodge this evening. On the advice of a local twitcher we take off along a track to the feeding grounds of about thirty pairs that frequent this spot. They are very particular feeders and only eat the seeds from the fruit of the Drooping Sheoak. They hold the fruit in their left foot and eat the seeds in a spiral, corkscrew motion. There are only a couple of hundred of these birds left so to be in a spot where so many might come back to roost fills us with hope. We think we hear a couple of the distinctive shrieks but sadly miss seeing any this evening. We do get to enjoy a lovely walk through the Sheoaks and back along the beach where a hundred or so Black Swans are feeding along with Pelicans, Herons, Sooty Oyster Catchers and a variety of other waders. So all is not lost.

I do feel a little sense of disappointment not to have delivered  a rarer-than-a-panda cockatoo for Marilyn’s birthday and so we are forced to celebrate in the restaurant with a tasty meal.

My sea trout is so fresh it almost gets up and swims off the plate.

Wednesday 22nd February…….The Battle of Cape Saint Vincent

After a brief time fruitlessly searching around for a stray Cockatoo we head off to see what we may find on some of the back roads on the eastern peninsula. We start by looking for some Red Cliffs but I realise that Marilyn’s map reading skills are not improving when I notice that we have nearly gone in a full circle and we are on the major road again. So we give the cliffs a miss and decide on a walk on Pennington Bay, described by some as the most beautiful beach in Australia. I’m not sure it comes into that category although it is another fine stretch of sand fringed by gnarled rock cliffs at both ends and backed by tall sand dunes.

As we are walking along Marilyn notices some translucent blue jellyfish stranded by the tide on the sand and then we see that there are thousands of the things. I pick one up to look at more closely before I remember that I am in Australia and the beast will probably still be capable of killing me even if dead itself and I drop it pretty quickly. I can see thousands more bobbing in on the tide and feel pleased that I did not decide to swim today.

Following my instinct to get away from the places we have been told to go I head off the main road towards the inland lagoon across the bay from American River and here we find a deserted beach in the lea of the wind. Hidden away in the trees that fringe this strip of white sand are some very posh houses indeed but no one seems to be home in any of them.

We decide to have our picnic in the shade of a picnic site at one end of the beach – Brown Beach picnic site – and we are just settling down to enjoy the fruits of the food we scavenged from breakfast when a fleet of six or seven small boats comes into the bay to anchor. Soon some women are being rowed ashore by men in pirate hats and they start to unpack a veritable feast. At the same time I notice what I think to be an orca splashing about among the boats but I am told later it is a large sea-lion that has killed and is enjoying eating a sting ray.

Soon there are nearly thirty of these strange sea-farers sharing our picnic space and ,after apologising for the invasion, they explain that they are a group of friends who go out in their boats every second Wednesday and follow a different theme on each excursion. Today they have re-enacted the Battle of Saint Vincent between the Spanish and the English. Fought with water pistols the idea is to hit the skipper on an enemy boat. Other tactics include throwing papier-mache ‘bombs’ with insults tied to them and firing ‘sea grape’ shot with tennis rackets to incur ‘hits’. Skippers would defend themselves with umbrellas but, if they were hit, their ship was effectively sunk.

Needless to say the British won the day and now they were celebrating with a slap up feast. We soon discover that two of the group have strong Cornish links and we are invited to taste some Spanish tortilla and some local killed lamb in a Spanish/Moroccan sauce and we enjoy the speeches and the tales of bravery and cowardice that are shared around the picnic table. A suggestion for April’s outing is made as the group is reminded that it is the hundred year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. One bright spark declares that he had been practicing all morning for that one.

One of the group tells us that he and his wife will be in Cornwall in June. Where will they be going we ask. To  cycle from Land’s End to John O’ Groats is the answer! Intrepid these Aussies.We offer our address and the offer of a bed should they want it. We then take a group photo which we will send to them and we are off to the port to catch the ferry home.

Marilyn has bought some sea-sick tablets that do the trick. The wind immediately decreases and the sea becomes calm. And we return as the sun sets gloriously on our Kangaroo Island adventure.

Twelve Apostles and onwards…..

Friday 17th……The Apostles


Our first plan this morning, once we have dodged the marauding mob of kangaroos and washed and brushed up, is to see a little of the Great Southern Walk out of Princetown. We make it up to the first lookout but the approaching rain means that we can hardly see the sea and it seems that we will also have a lot of bush bashing to do before we reach anywhere to find shelter. We reluctantly turn back and decide to head off on the Great Ocean Road as far as the Apostles, hoping that the weather improves.

As with much of our luck on this trip the weather gods are on our side and the sun breaks out for our walk to the Apostles and continues to improve all day.


Aussie signage often leaves little to the imagination and just in case the tourist may not appreciate the danger in these precipitous cliffs we are left with no doubt by the many warnings dotted around. They somehow add to the aesthetics of the place.

These iconic rocks have been photographed and talked about by folk much more skilled than I am. They certainly are breathtaking in their scale and the contrast in colour as the sun hits them is staggering. The wind is whipping up quite a mean sea that crashes all around them and it is easy to see how they have been carved and formed. Apparently the sea and wind is eating into 2 cms of coast a year. Quite recently some tourists watched as one of the huge stacks crumbled into the sea before them. That must have been quite a sight and a reminder that we can’t actually mess with some of these forces that nature throws at us.

We move on up this lovely road to stop at another of the sea’s natural carved sculptures at Loch Ard Gorge. Here a weakness in the rock has been exposed and eaten away by the sea to form a long, precipitous inlet ending in a fine semi-circular sand beach.

Later we descend another such gorge that is at a different stage of erosion to find a pretty grotto where the carved rock, sand, different coloured waters and vegetation combine to create a natural sculpture to marvel at.

The road takes us through Curdie’s Inlet where hundreds of pelicans are soaring around before making a spectacular landing in unison on the water.


And then, too soon, we are at Port Fairy at the end of this iconic stretch of road.


Saturday 18th…..To Meninge, Lake Albert.


We start today not knowing where we will end up but figuring that we don’t want to leave more than a few hours drive into Adelaide tomorrow so it is going to be a fairly long day in the saddle.

We have time to buy some of the loveliest peaches at the Port Fairy farmers’ market before heading off up the coast road and our first stop at Cape Bridgewater where a brief walk through scrub takes us to another stunning view along this coast. The cliff is covered in strange rock formations described as a ‘petrified forest’. Geologists will understand the formation of such rock and the chemistry between acids and rock and subsequent erosion. I can only marvel at the way these natural forces have created a changing sculpture that a ceramicist  might only dream of being able to create.


The long drive after Nelson is remarkable in that it prepares us for the shock of seeing road kill in the form of large kangaroos. I am horrified to see a dead roo that is thrown in the back of a guy’s trailer as I stop to fill up with petrol. He explains that it has been killed on the bridge and was blocking traffic. I was close enough to touch the animal and its fur blew in the wind as though it was still alive. Very sad.


Doesn't take much to work it out...

Another notable feature of this long road is the upfront Aussie signage designed to keep speed down on the long, straight stretches. In stopping to photograph them it could be argued that I was falling into the trap I was being advised to avoid!

We eventually find a place to pitch up on Lake Albert at a little town called Meningie. We have a lovely spot overlooking the lagoon and the many sea birds that make it their home.

Later I go into town to explore the town pub and end up in conversation with Derek who it transpires is one of the local indigenous people. He has worked as a ranger on the lakes and wants to tell me that he is worried that work to control the water flow in the lakes and lagoons is doomed to failure. The recent rains this year and last have filled the lakes and the rivers. He tells me that, this year, Lake Eyre is full and so most of the local bird life will have flown inland to the waters there. Two years ago the Lake Albert at Meningie was virtually empty and became a mud flat. ‘Meningie’ is the local aboriginal word for mud I am informed. There is a natural cycle to the waters and Derek feels that attempts to interfere will upset “Mother Earth” and she will one day turn and punish us for our bad behaviour towards her.


It is fascinating to hear his stories of personal family involvement in the lost generation of children. Some of the children from his people were taken to live with white families in Tasmania he believes. He has memories from his childhood of the pain inflicted on families as some of his young relatives were torn away from the community. He does not seem bitter or even angry and does not want to get involved in the politics of compensation. He simply wants everyone to acknowledge that these and other worse atrocities have happened and must not happen again. He tells me that until quite recently any aboriginal had to leave the town by dusk and there was quite open racism. He now feels confident that this is a thing of the past. He is a well respected member of the community, involved in the education of young people about their heritage. He has played Aussie Rules Football to quite a high standard by all accounts and is a life member of the town football club. He works to maintain and conserve the local ecology and his knowledge about he local flora and fauna is fascinating.


I could quite easily stay and listen to his stories all night but, concerned that Marilyn might have got hassle from the local pelicans, I take my leave and return under a bright, star lit sky to camp.


Sunday 19th…..Adelaide


We have not been in a big city for a while and take the opportunity to visit the museum. My chat with Derek has spurred a fresh interest in the history of the people in this area and the museum has a fantastic interactive display around the life and culture of various peoples from all around Australia. There is too much to take in but I am left feeling just how clever they were in all aspects of their life. The delicacy of the intricate basket work, the hypnotic quality of the dreaming art works, the balance of rules and systems to manage their societies and their incredible depth of knowledge and respect for the natural world are all to be marveled at. And I am left with a certain sense of sadness and shame that (mostly white) man has managed to destroy much of this 50,000 years of history in a mere three centuries. I hope that modern Australia can find space for the legacy that still remains to grow and flourish again and not to simply remain as some lovely exhibits of a lost world displayed tastefully in a few air-conditioned rooms.


The Botanic Gardens seem a good place to ruminate on these thoughts and we spend a couple of hours exploring this little oasis. We can stand and watch a flock of boisterous lorikeets argue noisily over the best spot of water fountain in which to bathe. I have a long conversation with a magpie that seems to want to show off its extensive vocabulary of chortles, chirrups, and cheeps, along with its ability to mimic police sirens, dogs barking and wolf whistles. They are certainly more talkative in the city than the birds we have spoken to in the country. We spend some time at the duck pond as some small children feed the ducks, the huge carp and the menacing turtles that stretch out of the water to pinch bread from the hand.


For anyone wanting a good fish supper in Adelaide I would recommend Stanley’s on Gouger St. where the Barramundi was delicious.


On The Road Again…….


The beach from Johanna campsite...

It is drizzling as we leave the comfort of Dav and Barb’s home but we decline their offer that we could stay another night. There is something about having made the decision to leave, we should keep to the plan. So we head off for Joanna Beach campsite mentally adjusting to a night under canvas in possible rain.


But Joanna is full when we arrive. I guess you must arrive early at these free sites if you want a decent pitch. There are so many camper van varieties that can pitch up that a site can quickly fill up. We head off along the Great Ocean Road into new territory and eventually end up at Princetown where a friendly local directs us to the near empty campsite. From his house on the hill above the site we can see at least fifty kangaroos milling around as dusk falls. Many of them are in the sports oval that sits in the middle of the site itself.

We find a cosy pitch, made even more cosy by the presence of new super thick sleeping mats and soon have a brew and picnic on the go. We are soon surrounded by a mob of kangaroos that seem quite oblivious to us as they chomp away. Marilyn expresses her delight muted by a slight worry about having to exit the tent at night to do what one has to do and being confronted by a daddy roo. I try to put her mind at rest by telling her that they will all go to sleep soon but I know she is not convinced when just as I am settling into my sleeping bag with some Weather Report on my ipod as a lullaby she shakes me by the shoulder and asks what is making the scratching and chewing noises outside the tent by her head. I confess I do not know but that it is small and is not a lion or a bear and that we are quite safe. Nevertheless at three in the morning I decide I have to get up and sit in the car with a torch to find out what it is……..nothing shows……I return to my sleeping bag and the chewing and scratching continues. They are a complete wind-up these Australian critters. And Marilyn is, by now, snoring.

Last few days with old friends…..

Tuesday 14th ….Local beaches

We spend a morning on Marengo beach, just along from Apollo Bay. This is effectively the start of the Great Ocean Walk and a lovely beach to start on. Like so many beaches we have seen this is a volcanic outcrop of hard rock that has been weathered into fascinating shapes, pools and colours. There is a reef just off shore that is home to a colony of seals as the waft of strong marine odours tells us. We spend a happy hour or so searching the rock pools and being mesmerized by swell and rhythm of the sea against rock.

The homes that are built on the shore have amazing views and I notice that most are empty at this time of week or year.

The afternoon is spent on Apollo Bay Beach where I get a brief body surf session in with Dav and Barb and we all enjoy a rare lie in the sun until the incoming tide eventually sends us packing.

Tonight I cook a king prawn curry with a vegetable side dish and a few of the Otway beers help to wash it all down.

Wednesday 15th….Aire River and a kayak..

The second valley along from Apollo Bay is cut by the Aire river. It has been tamed by farmers to accommodate their cattle and potato crop and its treeless hills undulate like valleys in Argyll do. At the head of the river the Great Ocean Walk crosses the river before ascending again into the forest and Ti tree shrub that hugs the shoreline. We walk to the beach along a sandy track in the sand dune. Dav spots a dead baby tiger snake along the way and can’t resist playing silly buggers with it.

Soon we are standing watching some hardy body surfers playing in the waves that crash on an otherwise deserted beach. Even Barb would think twice about entering this sea today.

The river, however is another matter. We have bought Dav and Barb’s two kayaks with us and it is a simple matter to launch them for them to have an initial explore of this lower reach of the river and upstream to a couple of small lakes. I wait for them to return and enjoy watching the birdlife – especially four Ibis that feed on a little island.

And when Dav and Barb return I take up the suggestion to squeeze into Barb’s kayak and join Dav in a brief paddle up to the first of the lakes and back through a reed passage into the main river stream. It is a lovely way to explore. The silence is profound and the river seems alive with fish. I am tempted to add a kayak to the little fleet that my neighbour Kev and I have accumulated back home in Cornwall.

With their bikes, kayaks and rucksacks Dav and Barb have a busy and fit retirement mapped out ahead of them. And they live in beautiful part of the world to enjoy their adventures.

Thursday 16th …..Leaving….

We drive to Geelong to collect the hire car. Barb takes us the quick way and we return along the Great Ocean Road so that we can enjoy the whole experience over the next few days.

Geelong seems a pretty place from what we see of the newly improved foreshore but we only have time for some coffee and a food shop.

We stop at the newly opened pub at Airey’s Inlet for lunch. The old pub burnt down and the locals have banded together to help rebuild and reopen the place. There are plans to make it a music venue with open mike nights and visiting bands. It is a tribute to the sense of community among the  folk that live in these small Ocean Road towns that such a project is a success. There are stories in most of these towns of disaster, often by fire, and then a rebuilding and regrowth.

We follow the road back to Apollo Bay enjoying the way it twists and turns and follows the contours cut into the hills  by the soldiers returning from the First World War who were given the task to build the road and open up the coastline to commerce and tourism. This section frequently comes close to the sea and Marilyn and I comment that it is another of the great coastal car rides that we are privileged to enjoy.

But too soon we are packing the car and getting ready to leave Apollo Bay. We have purloined a cool box and some de-luxe bed rolls from Dav to make our camping more comfortable and then we are saying our sad farewells to them and the dogs. We all wonder when we will do this again but are certain that our paths will cross at some time before we have to invest in Zimmer frames. It is a fantastic feeling that I always get with really good friends that  any meeting, even after a long gap, just seems to take up from where the last one ended.

Doing all this stuff with Dav and Barb in Australia and in New Zealand with our friends there, I forget my age and feel 18 or 28 again. And while the farewell is sad there is also a sense of joy and contentment in the knowledge that I know these people and can share their lives.

Milanesia Beach…..

Monday 13th – Milanesia Beach


Today we drive a stretch of the Great Ocean Road through Marengo and the Barham and Aire River Valleys rising and descending through the tall trees that make up the regrown forest of the Otway National Park. Many of the mountain ash gums are only thirty years old but already they tower above the road rising pencil straight a hundred feet. The monsters that were targeted by the early loggers were enormous with girths of 60-70 feet and rising well over 100 metres but trees of this dimension are long gone in the logging fest that took place in the early pioneering days. Now protected, these forests are managed and are replenishing themselves. We pass through the cool temperate rainforest at Maits Rest where there is a protected 300 year old Myrtle Beech tree and where glow worms can be found at night.


We pass the turning to Cape Otway and the lighthouse that we visited at the weekend and on through Lavers Hill, a small township that sits on a crossroads at the highest ridge on the Otway Ranges at 1510 feet. Soon after this we pass through Melba Gully. This little stretch has been in private hands and therefore protected from the ravages of de-forestation. This patch of rainforest is home to many dinosaur finds and is also noted for its glow worms.


Passing on, we eventually turn off the main road on an unobtrusive shingle path that will lead us to the Old Coach Road that is part of the Great Ocean Walk. We park up, pass through a gate and make the half hour descent through gum forest where we are given tantalizing views of a deep blue sea and a long strip of gold sand lying at the foot of the bright green hills.

As we approach the beach itself we see that a young couple have set up a tent on a grassy outcrop. They are protected by a low hedge of Ti Tree but have an amazing spot over the beach.



There is a steep sided valley that disgorges its stream into the sea and at the head of this valley, as it it widens and flattens out, a small stone fisherman’s house nestles beneath the hillside of scrub. It is hard to imagine how hard life must have been before the opening of roads but this space with an adjacent fresh water stream, constant supply of fish and sea food and game in the form of kangaroo, wallaby and birds, might have been quite bearable for someone who liked their own company. It is a private home now and an idyllic holiday spot.


The beach is empty except for a young woman who reads on the sand and might be upset that her solitude has been invaded by four day trippers out for a picnic. We settle under the  rocks to enjoy the remains of a Dav pizza before heading off to explore the sands. The cliffs are volcanic, a mixture of hard and softer rock. Where the wind and water have eroded the stone there are strange rounded protuberances that are the remnants of the harder rock and which stick out all over the face of the rock. They have earned the nickname ‘cannonballs’ which is pretty self explanatory.

Because of its remoteness this beach is pretty unspoilt. Walkers on the Great Ocean Walk will pass over it on their way from Johanna campsite to Ryan’s Den but it would take a fairly determined daytripper to make the jaunt down here and back up to their transport. As we leave the beach Barb and I think we spot a seal playing in the surf. On the way back up the hill, wildlife spotter Dav notices dark shapes in the water and after much deliberation we reckon we are watching a shoal of large rays making their way up the coast as their movement is too slow for seals, dolphins, shark or whales as they seem to fly just under the surface of the water.


I am grateful for the fact that Dav and Barb have this intrepid and determined mindset that has brought us to this magic place today.

Marilyn and I have the added joy of walking both dogs on Apollo beach this evening and getting Indie to run like a mad thing between us as we walk in opposite directions. Memories of Marley, our old collie, come to mind. She used to love this game.