The HMAS Sydney II memorial, Geraldton

“In memory of the men lost on HMAS Sydney II 19th November 1941.  Lest we forget.”

She was returning from convoy escort duties to Java when a German raider ship disguised as a Dutch merchant vessel opened fire, off the West Coast of Australia.   The ship was destroyed with the loss of all 645 crew members.

There are 645 birds in the central Dome of Souls representing the number of crew members lost.

The Waiting Woman represents the families who waited for their loved ones to return.

The name, rank and home base of every man lost is etched into the Wall of Remembrance

Interestingly, the HMAS Sydney II was built in Jonathan’s home city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Chapman Valley Tourist Drive

Instead of heading down the coastal road to Geraldton, we took the inland tourist drive through the agricultural region of Chapman Valley.  What a different landscape to the last few months: green rolling hills, grazing sheep, the yellow of the Canola crops against the backdrop of the Moresby Ranges.  We could almost have been in England.

It’s still a little early for the wildflowers but they’re starting to appear.

 

Visiting the Principality of Hutt River

Well, where do we start in describing our visit to the home of 92 year old Leonard Casley otherwise known as Prince Leonard of the Principality of Hutt River (PHR).  PHR lies 595km north of Perth, close to the town of Northampton and covers an area of 18,500 acres.  The story behind its creation sounds like the plot of an Ealing Comedy.  Mr Casley was appealing against the latest wheat quotas but was getting nowhere so after reading up on various laws, decided to declare his property an Independent Sovereign State.  He submitted a formal notice of secession to the Australian Government on 21st April 1970 and seems to have caused much debate amongst government over the years as to whether he had a legitimate claim or whether he was just crackers.

The Casley family have fully embraced the idea of a Principality, with overseas consuls, their own currency, stamps, flag and anthem.  We had our passports stamped with PHR visas at the government office – not sure what Customs will make of this next time we fly abroad.  We also sent some postcards with PHR stamps.  Australia Post doesn’t recognise the stamps and won’t allow them to be placed in the normal spot on the front of the envelope so they were stuck on the back and the envelope franked – it was all good fun anyway.

Prince Leonard is still as sharp as a tack mentally but is slowing down so decided to abdicate in February 2017 and hand over rule to his son who is now Prince Graeme.  He still enjoys showing people around and pointing out some of his most treasured possessions and documents.  He is particularly proud of a letter he received from Queen Elizabeth II last year in acknowledgement of the Principality’s 46th anniversary.

Prince Leonard also founded the PHR Royal College of Advanced Research to study religion and pure physics and has devised equations for the universe.  There are several small statues of animals and birds with their ‘Nature’s Spirit Codes’ in the Educational Shrine dedicated to his late wife Princess Shirley.

If you would like to read more about the Principality or Prince Leonard’s mathematical discoveries their website address is: www.principality-hutt-river.com

 

Port Gregory

Hutt Lagoon

The pink colour is caused by algae.

Humpback whales are migrating along the coast and you can usually be sure of spotting at least one every time.


The only trouble is I seem to have a bad case of whale watcher’s neck.

Kalbarri

A quiet seaside town on the edge of a National Park.  Again, the caravan parks are completely full by the evening.

We’re now exactly level with Brisbane and have also been on the road for five months.

Pelican feeding on the foreshore which was very comedic.

Pelican fact: The brighter the yellow ring is around the eyes, the older the pelican.  Juveniles have white rings.

Ocean Park Aquarium, Denham

Another dog friendly tourist attraction and very knowledgeable tour guides.

The only fact I can remember is that there is only one female in a group of clown fish and if that female dies, one of the males turns into a female.  Therefore the start of ‘Finding Nemo’ was factually inaccurate as Nemo’s dad should have turned into a female when Nemo’s mum dies.

A Dolphin Experience

Monkey Mia (pronounced ‘Myer’, as in the store) Conservation Area, is famous for its wild dolphins.  They come into shore most mornings directly in front of the resort.  We were a little unsure whether it would be worth the trip for us as we had Winston with us.  However we were in for a surprise as  the resort and beach are dog friendly and dogs can even come along and watch the dolphin experience with you (just not in the water with the dolphins!).

The dolphin feeding starts at 7.45am.  There are five females which they feed: Surprise, Shock, Kiya, Piccolo and Puck. People are invited onto the beach and stand in the shallows while the rangers give a talk and the dolphins who have turned up swim around close by.  Then volunteers come down with buckets of fish and people are picked to come and feed the dolphins. You’re not allowed to touch the dolphins.

There were crowds of people for the first feeding session but only about half as many for the second and third so stick around and there’s more chance of being picked after the first one.   They did tend to pick children or people who stood out for wearing something silly though.  I was standing directly in front of a volunteer and her bucket and stared her down.  She still picked the two little girls either side of me until their mothers said they had already fed the dolphins and someone else should get a go.  In the end she called me forward and my Monkey Mia experience was complete when I fed ‘Surprise’!

Facts what we learned:

*No-one knows for sure how Monkey Mia got its name.  It could be because a colloquialism for sheep was ‘monkey’ or after a schooner called ‘Monkey’.

*A dolphin is considered old when it reaches its 40s.

*The dolphins are recognised by the scars on their fins.

*The swollen part of a dolphin’s head is called its ‘melon’ which led us to wonder whether you can twist a dolphin’s melon (reference for Happy Mondays fans).

There were several emus wandering round the resort.  They’re not stupid and as soon as anyone drove away from their campsite in a car, they were straight over and into the campsite looking for food.  Winston very sensibly decided these birds weren’t for chasing.

Top tip : There is only one place to stay at Monkey Mia – the RAC Monkey Mia Resort and from our experience, it would be a good idea to book well ahead if you want to camp. There weren’t that many van sites and it was completely booked out for the week apart from one spot for a night.  The place must be on the must do list for backpackers and overseas tourists.  If you want to be absolute oceanside, it costs $75 a night, the rest of the powered sites are $61.  We got 10% discount as CMCA members and struck lucky with a normal site that had ocean views (Nr 47).

You also have to pay a fee for being in the Monkey Mia conservation area of $12 per adult per day.  There is an $18 holiday pass which covers your stay at the resort.

Carnarvon WA

We mainly stopped off in Carnarvon to restock at Woolies but there were a few touristy things to do.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum

The museum was opened in 2012 by Buzz Aldrin and is on the site of the OTC Satellite Earth Station.  The station was opened in 1966 and was part of the global satellite communications system.  It also relayed NASA communications.  The Carnarvon Tracking Station was built to support NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. It was the largest manned space flight tracking station outside the US.

Here’s Buzz Bradshaw and his alien friend having a highly enjoyable time in the museum.

The Fruit Loop

Carnarvon lies on the Gascoyne River and is famous for its tropical fruit and vegetable farms.  The plantations get their water supplies from bores below the dry river bed.  The river only flows after heavy rains inland.  The ‘fruit loop’ is a self drive route around the plantations where you can stop at roadside stalls or farm shops to sample and buy fresh produce.

The best beach in Carnarvon is at Pelican Point … and it’s dog friendly.