Cockle Creek

Our stay at Cockle Creek is a good example of the highs and lows of travelling.  Cockle Creek is the most southerly campsite in Australia and we found a perfect spot to park up.  It was the warmest day so far in Tassie at 29 degrees and we were hotter than Cairns, Brisbane and Alice Springs.  There were oysters and mussels on the rocks and Jonathan used his geology hammer to harvest some for dinner.  Winston enjoyed swimming in the creek and running on the beach.

After a fabulous day, we set off back to Hobart the next morning only to get a flat tyre 10km out of Cockle Creek.  A lovely local couple stopped to assist with a tyre change and we were on our way again an hour later.

We spent the afternoon on a quest to get some new tyres and TyreRight in Hobart managed to sort us out.  While we were waiting, we went to the Electoral Commission office and cast our votes for the upcoming Queensland elections.

In other voting news today, the results of the same sex marriage survey were announced and 61.6% of Australians voted for the law to be changed to allow same sex couples to marry.  Many landmark buildings around Australia were lit up in rainbow colours to mark the occasion.

Spirit of Tasmania ferry crossing

Some info for travellers (especially dog owners).

We were on a Saturday day sailing, departing Station Pier Melbourne 9am and arriving Devonport Tasmania 6.30pm.  2 x day tickets, a motorhome and a kennel cost $538 return.  Our ticket said there was an $898 rebate from the Federal Government. The night before, we stayed at the Sundowner Caravan Park, Rockbank (the two closest parks don’t allow dogs) but it was a fairly quick run in to the ferry terminal from Rockbank.  We stopped at Port Melbourne Foreshore to give Winston a run before boarding.

It looked as though a few travellers had spent the night parked up there before sailing but it’s not a camping spot and I think they probably risked being moved on.  Dogs have to be wormed within the two weeks prior to sailing and you need to provide proof to quarantine either with a vet’s letter or the receipt of purchase of the tablets.  Quarantine also checked our fridge to make sure we weren’t taking any fresh fruit or vegetables across with us.

At check-in we found out there was the option to let your pet remain in your vehicle for the crossing if you signed a waiver form. One look at the ‘kennels’ on board and we decided Winston would be happier in the van. We fretted about him the whole journey but he was fine.  Some dog owners found their pets quite stressed after being in the cages for over 9 hours.

For being such a good boy, Winston got a new squeaky hippo.

The Black Dog motorcycle ride was heading across to Tasmania on the same ferry, raising awareness of depression and suicide.  Their mascot is Winston the Black Dog, named after Sir Winston Churchill who talked of being hounded by ‘the Black Dog of Depression.’  Our very own Winston, who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, had lots of attention from the bikies.

Touristy bits and bobs between Adelaide and Melbourne

Coonalypin Silo Art

The council hoped the project would revitalise the town and now they say that 1 in 3 motorists stop to photograph the artwork.  Five local children were chosen by Brisbane street artist Guido van Helten to feature on the grain silos.

 

The little town of Penola

A walk down pretty Petticoat Lane where there are several National Trust cottages.

Waterfalls near Hamilton

More volcanoes near Camperdown

Mt Leura was a big hit as you could drive all the way to the top!

We wanted to go to the Volcanoes Discovery Centre at Penshurst but it’s only open at the weekend and in school holidays.

Lake Colac

A real surprise.  The Botanic Gardens are on the Victorian Heritage Register for their botanical significance.

Back to Port Augusta – the Western loop completed

Five months ago to the day, we left Port Augusta on our journey North, through the Red Centre and up to Darwin.  Now we were back to the start of the loop and we stopped for lunch at the Arid Lands Botanic Garden.  We had last seen the gardens in Autumn so it was interesting to see the plants on flower in Spring.

The van was booked in for a service in Adelaide on the Thursday.  We decided to take a new road and drove down the very scenic but very bumpy Horrocks Highway.  There were lots of camping options at the little towns along the way.  We stopped at Wirrabara and were the only ones there on their sports oval.  These places are always good for letting Winston have some freedom without the rules of the caravan parks.  We also enjoyed a stopover in the very pretty town of Kapunda, just to the North of the Barossa.

As we sat outside on a warm sunny evening, we were sure we could hear blackbirds singing and sure enough there were quite a few in the trees.  We hadn’t realised there were blackbirds in Australia.

We drove up to Menglers Hill Lookout which has amazing views across the Barossa Valley.  There is also a sculpture park at the lookout.

Winston was in a particularly happy mood.  I’m not sure whether it was the fact he’d been chasing rabbits at Kapunda or the freshly cut grass in the park.

Antony Gormley’s ‘Inside Australia’, Lake Ballard

There always seems to be something tempting us a bit further off our planned route.  We didn’t regret a trip out to Lake Ballard, a salt lake 51km West of the town of Menzies though.  The Perth International Art Festival commissioned sculptor Antony Gormley to create the ‘Inside Australia’ art installation for their 50th anniversary in 2003.

He set up a 3D body scanner in Menzies Town Hall and managed to persuade 51 locals to strip naked in order to have their bodies ‘mapped’ by the scanner.  It was one used by the film industry to create animation and special effects.  He then used the images to create 51 metal figures which he set out across the huge salt lake.  The names of all the residents are listed on the website at www.lakeballard.com

There is a free camping area beside the lake in a beautiful bushland setting with lots of wildflowers and there’s also plenty of shade.  It was the most peaceful, relaxing campsite we’ve stayed at so far and we were the only ones there for most of the time. The only amenities are picnic benches, fire pits, rubbish bins, a long drop and a dump point.   There’s no phone reception at the Lake.

Due to recent rains, the surface of the lake was slippery red mud and quite difficult to walk on.  Some visitors had brought some $3 shoes with them specifically to wear out on the lake and leave behind for others.  Luckily a pair fitted me which saved my shoes.

 

Jonathan was keeping his fingers crossed for clear night skies so he could take an astro photo.  While the skies weren’t as good as they could be, he still took some impressive photos.

 

The council are in the process of sealing the road to the lake but the 30km of unsealed road was well graded and not an issue for the campervan.  The only downside to the experience were the huge march flies which didn’t seem to be put off by insect repellent.

Winston decided to roll on the sodium crust and soon discovered when he licked himself that salt lake salt makes normal salt taste like water.  We had to let the mud dry on him and then give him a good brushing.

Perth

Even though the weather forecast was for heavy rain and strong winds, we couldn’t put off travelling further south any longer.  The last time we visited Perth was Easter 2005 for the wedding of our friends Anna and Ed who we met in the UK when Anna and I taught English at the same school in Wiltshire.  Anna is from Perth and the wedding took place at the Sandalford Winery in The Swan Valley to the East of Perth.

It had been pouring with rain on their wedding day too but I’m sure Perth must see the sun sometimes.  We had a great catch up with them over the weekend and also enjoyed sitting on soft furnishings again.

Their cats Jazzie and Mischief weren’t as pleased to see us, as Winston has had a hatred of felines since he was a puppy.  He became finely attuned to the bells on their collars and went berserk at the slightest tinkle.

What cat? Where?

Winston was a hit with their young son Danny though but the poor lad developed puffy eyes after intensive Winston snuggling.

Kings Park in Perth ticked all of the Bradshaw’s boxes for a stop.  Loads of parking space for the campervan and parking is free.  The majority of the park and botanic gardens are dog friendly – only the Federation Walkway is closed to dogs.   The café is also dog friendly and you can sit and have a coffee taking in the extensive views of the city and the Swan River.  The gardens are immaculate and there was an army of gardeners working around the park.  We were lucky with the weather too, as the rain held off for the morning.

We also had a walk around the historic port of Fremantle and a fish and chip lunch at the harbour.

We found a fantastic caravan park called Queen’s Grove Caravan Village in South East Perth.  All the amenities are brand new and the park is spotless.  The heavy rain and wind arrived on Monday morning when we were booked into the Fiat garage to get the handbrake issue finally fixed.  Luckily they were happy to let Winston sit in their warm waiting room too.  He turned out to be an excellent meet and greet Spoodle.  New windscreen tomorrow.  It will feel strange not to look at a squiggly windscreen crack anymore when driving along.  We thought we had better get it replaced before crossing the Nullarbor because it’s probably only one large stone away from shattering.

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.