Saturday, April 30, 2011


We've been occasionally watching an Australian television show called "RBT" which chronicles police setting up checkpoints for random breath testing of alcohol.  I had my first experience with this driving out of Pemberton on Friday!

We came over a hill and there was a roadblock in front of us.  I pulled over, and a friendly copper asked for my license.  Another policeman had me blow into a breathalyzer and we were on our way.

The funniest part?  This occurred before 11am on Friday morning!  Is this prime time to catch intoxicated Aussie drivers?

Pemberton, Pemberton, Pemberton

We were in Pemberton for two nights.  We spent a rainy day driving around the area going on a couple of short walks and checking out the climbing trees and a waterfall.  There are three climbing trees in the area.  These trees were used as far back as the 30's and 40's as fire lookouts across the forest.  These trees are now open to visitors to climb to the lookouts at the top.  We stopped at the Gloucester Tree first, but it was quite rainy.  When we got to the Bicentennial Tree we decided to give it a try.

We only made it part of the way up before coming back down.  The tree is over 75 meters tall and there are 130 pegs to climb up to the top.

We also stopped to see the Beedelup Falls.  There was a very nice walking track and swing bridge across the falls.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tree tops and Mountain Top

We drove from Albany to Walpole to go to the Valley of the Giants tree top walk.  We were really excited about this because Bill Bryson in his book, "In a Sunburned Country", raved about this.  It was $10/person and we walked along metal platforms that reached as high as 30 meters in the air amongst the karri forest.  

We were glad we did it, but it wasn't as impressive as we were hoping.  Our expectations were probably too high going in, but the trees were very tall and the engineering that went into building the platforms was amazing. 

Next we hiked up to the summit of Mt. Frankland.

This was a short but steep hike and was quite windy at the top, but we really enjoyed it.  We also hiked around the base before driving the rest of the way to the bed and breakfast we are at in Pemberton.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


We went to 2 Peoples Bay near Albany.  At the visitor center we learned about 2 animals that were thought to be extinct but found again in the area.  The first is the Noisy Scrub-bird.  It was found again in 1961.  The rediscovery of this bird in the area led to Two Peoples Bay becoming a nature reserve instead of a holiday resort.  The other is Gilbert's Potaroo.  Gilbert's Potaroo is one of the world's most endangered mammals and was thought to be extinct for 120 years until it was found again in 1994.  These two animals are still very rare in the area so we didn't see either while there, but 2 people (Ben and I):), took a nice walk down to what may be the most beautiful beach we've ever been to.  It's called Little Beach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


ANZAC Day fell on Easter Monday this year making for an extra-long holiday weekend.  This holiday commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the beaches of Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915.  ANZAC Day now honors all of Australia's military.  To us, it seemed like a combination of Memorial Day, July 4th, and Veteran's Day.

ANZAC Day is often commemorated by dawn ceremonies.  However, that was a little early for us, so we settled for celebraing with the parade in Perth.  Unfortunately, I left my camera behind.  These pictures are courtesy of WAtoday.

The parade was impressive, and lasted over an hour.  Many different branches of Australia's military were represented.  Specific areas of operation and their Western Australian contingent were also represented.  There were even veterans representing the United States and Canada!  There were many different marching bands, some with bagpipes which were particularly impressive.  Overall, a pretty good parade, and we got some souvenir Australian flags to wave!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bicycle Built for Two

We took a ferry from Fremantle to Rottnest Island.  It is a popular holiday destination.  It was named "Rattenest", meaning rat's nest in the Dutch language, by a Dutch ship captain because he thought the quokkas, a marsupial found on the island, looked like large rats.

We rented a tandem bike to ride around the island.  We rode about 10K before stopping for lunch.

The island has lots of beautiful beaches and it was a fun day trip, but we weren't overly impressed.  The ferry over and food on the island was quite expensive. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fremantle Prison

We spent the afternoon at Fremantle Prison.  This is one of Australia's World Heritage listed Convict Sites.  Fremantle Prison was built in the 1850s using convict labor and initially served as a convict barracks.  In 1886, it became a prison for Western Australia.

The prison was built from limestone which was quarried on-site.  It housed prisoners until 1991.  We took a guided tour, "Doing Time."  This was a fascinating tour looking at life inside the prison.  Stepping inside, the prison seems straight out of "Shawshank Redemption" with tiny single cells.

The prison has a beautiful chapel.  Behind the altar are painted the Ten Commandments.  These were painted in the mid 19th century using Aboriginal techniques for making the paint.  The murals remain in remarkable condition.  Of note, the 6th Commandment has the unique phrasing "Thou shalt do no murder" rather than the traditional "Thou shalt not kill."  The latter phrasing was thought to be hypocritical for the prison because capital punishment was still in use.

The prison cells never had running water!  Prior to closing in 1991, prisoners were given painting supplies and allowed to paint their cells.

Fremantle Prison is a fascinating site, one of the better tours we've been on in Australia.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Movie Reviews

We recently watched two more Australian movies.  The first was "The Man From Snowy River."  This is a 1982 movie based on the poem of the same name by Banjo Paterson.  Kirk Douglas played two roles in this film.  It was about a young man whose father died and he went to work on a ranch to make a name for himself.  He was a talented horse trainer and rider and fell in love with the daughter of the ranch owner.  There were several dramatic horse chase scenes.  This was a pretty good movie but quite cheesy at times.  We would give it a 7 out of 10.

We enjoyed the second movie, "Gallipoli", more.  This was a 1981 film with Mel Gibson as one of the leads.  Mel's character, Frank, becomes friends with Archy and they enlist in the Australian military during WWI.  They are sent to Egypt for training and eventually go to Turkey to fight at Gallipoli.  This is a story of friendship and the harsh realities of war.  It was quite a powerful movie with a surprising ending.  We would give it 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ranking the Caravan Parks!

After more than two weeks in the back of our Britz HiTop campervan, we learned a few things about what makes a good caravan park.  For us, location is first and a good clean bathroom is a close second!  We also like a natural setting that is close to town.  Price was rarely important as each was within a couple of dollars.

Here's how we rank our most recent caravan park stops:

Western KI Caravan Park and Wildlife Reserve (Kangaroo Island)
  • Great natural setting with koalas, good bathroom and laundry, friendly and hardworking staff, two bushwalks on site
Kingston Caravan Park
  • Right next to the ocean and beach, clean bathroom
Tanunda Caravan and Tourist Park
  • Close to town, grassy site, large bathrooms, good camp kitchen
Goldfields Holiday Park (Ballarat)
  • Close to town and Sovereign Hill, friendly staff, clean bathrooms
Lorne Foreshore Reserves
  • Right on the river, close to town, average bathrooms, annoying birdlife
Pisces Holiday Park (Apollo Bay)
  • Generic park, large clean bathrooms, great camp kitchen, close to beach
Kywong Caravan Park (Nelson)
  • Natural setting, average bathrooms, rather boring town
Gardens Caravan Park (Port Fairy)
  • Generic park, below-average bathrooms
Beachfront Caravan Park (Victor Harbor)
  • Not really beachfront, large bathrooms, bad site with no landscaping
Kangaroo Island Shores (Penneshaw, KI)
  • Worst bathrooms, worst camp kitchen, too many mozzies, close to beach and ferry

Monday, April 18, 2011

Melbourne - Adelaide Trip Map

Here's a map of our recent campervan trip from Melbourne to Adelaide.  We covered Ballarat's goldfields, the Great Ocean Road including the Twelve Apostles, Kangaroo Island, and the Barossa Valley wine region.  We totalled around 2300km over 18 days.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fun with Statues

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Miss Maud and Perth

We've had a good couple of days in Perth so far.  We haven't done much yet, but have walked around town some and found a great running path along the Swan River.  We are staying right in the CBD (central business district) and there are tons of shops and restaurants right nearby.  The hotel we are currently staying at is called Miss Maud's Swedish Hotel.  It is a quirky little place that includes a huge Smorgasbord breakfast buffet each morning.  It is quite nice and the price was right.  We are here until Monday and then are staying in nearby Fremantle for a few days and then back to Perth for Easter weekend.  The kids are off of school here for two weeks for the Easter holiday so it was a little challenging booking accommodation but I think we have it worked out.  It feels like summer here.  During our caravan trip we were surprised by how chilly it was, but it was probably in the 80's today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

City of Parks

We dropped off the campervan and spent three nights at a great little hotel in Adelaide.  It was reasonably priced with a kitchen on our floor, laundry facilities, and breakfast included.  The first thing I did was book appointments for a haircut, manicure, and pedicure.  I needed it after all that time in the campervan.  After my morning of appointments I met up with Ben and we went to the Central Markets for lunch and to get stuff to make dinner with.  We also went to the art gallery.  We got to see some impressive Aboriginal Art but were hoping to see more Australian Art than we did, but there were some renovations going on.  At least the museum was free.  We stopped by a park on the way back to the hotel.

Adelaide is a city of parks.  If you look at a map it is basically surrounded by them.  I did a nice run in another one.

We went the Botanic Gardens the next day and to an Aboriginal Art Gallery.  We want to buy some Aboriginal Art as a souvenir and are starting to try to figure out what we want.

This is a monument thanking American soldiers for helping defend Australia in WWII.

We could have spent more time in Adelaide but it was time to fly to Perth.  It was a three and a half hour flight and now there is only a twelve hour time difference between here and the United States.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big Scotsman

We stopped to see another big thing on our way to Adelaide. 
It's the Big Scotsman, also known as Scotty, and was actually the first big thing when it was built in 1963.  It is 5 meters tall and one meter wide.  I have to admit that this wasn't the most impressive of the big things we have seen but it was good to add it to the list.  


We weren't originally planning to visit the Barossa Valley, but decided to add the stop in after Kangaroo Island.  That is the beauty of this kind of traveling-being able to change or modify our itinerary when we feel like it.

We stayed two nights in Tanunda.  In 1839 Johannes Menge, a German mineralologist, explored the area and predicted that it would produce excellent wine.  The largest group of subsequent settlers in the Barossa were German Lutherans.  These people came from Prussia seeking freedom of religion.  This was a strong community due to their Christian faith, industry, and thrift.  Some of the German settlers had experience in wine making and planted vines to make wine.  Today, there are more than 50 wineries in this region.

We visited a couple that were laid out with beautiful walking paths between them.

A huge flock of galahs feeding in the grass.

We had a light lunch at the Maggie Beer Farm Shop.  Maggie Beer is a popular Australian cook who lives in the Barossa region.  She had a cooking show on television here.

We also visited Jacob's Creek which is a popular wine brand in Australia that is also sold in the States.  They had a great visitor's center with a walking trail and interesting displays of the origins of the company and how wine is made.
The leaves of the grapes are changing colors for autumn.

This was a neat display of 14 different kinds of grapes used to make wine in Australia.