Our first month on the road
The day we took delivery of our motorhome was a taxing one; getting what seemed was the KB Campers Express motorhome orientation as prospective customers lined up for Greg’s attention, driving into the middle of the City of Perth during peak hour to pick up Leigh and Emily, head back up the Freeway to the Northern Suburbs to a Kmart to kit out our van. We hurriedly collected what we thought we would need, also some groceries, had our first meal as Motorhome owners in where else but Joondalup McDonalds sometime after 9pm. We arrived at the underwhelming Kingsway Tourist Park well into the night, the back of the van was full of clutter, all we needed to do was find the kettle, 2 cups, and make up the bed with our new linen, all that achieved with Emily asleep, time to relax…….. blahhhh! the sound of Emily projectile vomiting over the brand new linen , welcome to travelling with kids full time Australia folks.
Those first few days, maybe weeks and even months were very stressful, we never really had time to reflect on what we had achieved , we were living our dream! It just didn’t quite feel that way, living in a small space, a new vehicle to worry about, money being spent at an alarming rate and where to go ? What to do? We didn’t have a concrete plan, all we knew is we wanted to be in Melbourne for Christmas (as I write this from Esperance, WA 5 months later obviously that didn’t happen either), so we thought we would head to the South West of Western Australia and slowly make our way East.
Our first couple of weeks were spent around Perth just to get use to the Motorhome and if we had any teething problems we were close to the Dealer to take advantage of the 3 month Warranty. We moved to the well appointed Karinyup Waters Resort in Perth’s Northern Suburbs, with its 3 beautiful tropical landscaped pools (2 heated), numerous play parks and a jumping pillow and wetlands abundant with water fowl Emily was in her element. We also spent some time in Coogee on the southern out skirts of the City right next to the beach, as well as the odd trip to the historical town of York to park our rig in my Sister’s driveway.
We did have a few teething problems during this time including: the occasional warning light coming on, broken tail light, house battery not holding charge, leaking fridge, wheels not aligned and few other bits and pieces all of which KB Campers happily fixed, or attempted to do so – the fridge and a water leak is still something we are trying to overcome. We finally felt confident we were kitted out and ship shape to start the travelling.
We headed south from Coogee and to stay at Martins Tank Campsite in the Yalgorup National Park, our first foray into unpowered camping. We finally felt like we were travelling and living the simple uncluttered life we were craving, the van handled well on the long dusty corrugated road into the National Park. which has a number of shallow salty elongated lakes surrounded by tuart and peppermint woodlands, and close to the golden sands of Preston Breach. This was a lovely relaxing 3 days and a great place to introduce Emily to more Australian Flora and Fauna; kangaroos wandered through the campsite frequently and the night gave way to a family of ringtail possums in a tree next to our van. You don’t stay in this area without visiting the Lake Clifton Thrombolites; rounded rock like structures formed by microorganisms who secrete the calcium carbonate from the calcium rich groundwater as the photosynthesise. Cocoon springs to mind as you see these rounded objects sitting just under the lakes surface. We took advantage of our Wikicamps App and the Lake Clifton Tavern Landlord’s generous hospitality to let us stay for free within the Tavern’s grounds.
We continued South to the city of Bunbury, yet another nice caravan park in Koombana Bay , yet another jumping pillow – Emily’s playground apparatus of choice, although she is still fine tuning her method to get airborne. What is a feature of many of the towns we visit in WA is the amazing playgrounds and Parks, the one in the bay at Bunbury had recently been redeveloped and was extensive with structures and terrains for all ages, and beautifully landscaped.
We continued to experience fridge problems so made the decision to return to Perth, we couldn’t get it seen to for about a week so we thought we would take the long way. We headed towards WA’s apple growing capital of Donnybrook, Leigh found a free camp at Ironstone Gully Falls on the way. It seemed a nice spot, we were the only ones there, the falls were more of a trickle at that time of the year but it was picturesque and lively with bird life. A large car pulled up but no one got out, maybe they were on the phone. We thought we would check out the one facility in this campsite: the long drop toilet, with that a large man stepped out of his car and started a conversation, he seemed very friendly and we had a long conversation during which at some point Leigh and Emily retreated to the van to leave me to be sacrificed if this turned into a Wolfcreek moment. The conversation continued as he got closer and closer, subject matter included fish n chips, meat pies, his brother in Busselton and his house in Collie, however after closer inspection of his car I would conclude this was his main place of residence. I managed to break away as we had exhausted the conversation on car maintenance and made it back to the Motorhome unscathed. We had lunch, kept the doors locked and revisited the Wikicamps reviews of this site, of coarse we had no phone signal just to add to the atmosphere, we realised the date was October 31 – Halloween. With still no fellow campers arriving we coolly drove off and headed to Donnybrook.
When we were soon again connected to the world we discovered our friend made frequent appearances in the lives of campers at this spot in varying degrees of sobriety, we escaped unscathed and he was probably just a lonely man looking for a chat but it goes to show how your senses are heightened when in unfamiliar territory.
This was a blessing in disguise as we happened upon a magic spot near Donnybrook called Thomson Brook Winery owned by the very welcoming hosts Pam and Terry. Donnybrook is famous for growing apples and stonefruit but there are now swathes of vibrant green vines emerging on the landscape. Thompson Brook is small vineyard nestled in a valley along a dusty road and surrounded by ponds and rivers and the remnants of the old apple orchard. In front of the cellar door is a large grassed area where the owners kindly let self contained caravans and motorhomes stay for free. We had a great position overlooking a field of ageing and neglected apple trees occupied by a community of rainbow bee-eaters who fluttered between branches on the hunt for, I guess …. bees.
When staying in awinery the closest attraction is the cellar door, and this may havebeen Thomson Brook’s strategy when opening those heaving iron gatesto Grey Nomads and the like; to generate more sales. It only seemedright to sample the vintage and if palatable to repay our hosts mymaking a few purchases. Terry’s delivery was down to Earth andjoyful with his faithful golden retriever at his side, this tastingwas a lot less pretentious than you would find at the more renownedlabels, and to top it off the wines are good. We enjoy a port,memories drift back Kings Canyon 4 years ago; after dinner servicesipping on the warming elixir, relaxing around the remnants of a fireunder a million stars of a clear central Australian sky. ThomsonBrook’s Port is a moreish one and their wines are good too. Wespent several days here and explored Donnybrook and the surroundingenvirons including the peculiar Gnomesville, home to thousands ofgnomes and other garden ornaments that people have placed in amongstthe forest over the years, unfortunately the area was flooded earlierin the year with many gnomes being swept away. Emily enjoyed playingin yet another fantastic park, which in size and facilities seemedout of proportion to the small town of Donnybrook.
Leaving the apple capital of Western Australia we passed through some pretty valleys, small farms, vineyards and orchards, some selling their wares at the farm gate, we headed north-east towards the Coal Mining town of Collie, where the valleys gave way to dense forests and then into the vast wheat belt and our stop for the night; Wagin – famous for its duck production and the Big Ram. We utilised another cheap camp at the show grounds. The Wagin show is a big deal in the rural community, and like Donnybrook’s playground, the vast complex of the show ground seemed all out of proportion to the size of the town, and when the show is not on (most of the year) you can park up for the night for a few dollars. The Big Ram was hopefully the first of many of the “Big” statues that dot rural towns around Australia that we will visit on our travels, he is an impressive site with all the bits intact to conclude yes he is a ram. Behind the ram is a landscaped park with ponds and other water features complete with the odd water lily and occupied by a few carp and ducks. The water was a muddy soup, maybe stirred up from the heavy overnight rain, but at one end of the pond and amongst the weed a massive yellow fish rested just under the murky surface, taking the saying a big fish in small pond to the extreme, it was impressive and we didn’t even see the entire length of the serpent! Maybe on a future visit to Wagin we will see the ram is not the only animal immortalised in concrete.
Next stop the historical town of York for the weekend, a nice night of Jazz in the park, some much enjoyed coffees and food at the Flour Mill Cafe before hitting Perth and another (what would later prove fruitless) attempt to fix our leaky fridge. We visited Whitfords Shopping Centre while the work was being done for hair cuts and to fill in some time. My hair cut was a lot quicker than Leigh’s treatment, so I took this time to test the Facebook waters to see if there were any demand for chefs in Margaret River. After kitting the van out which seemed to be an ongoing task, and travelling about in no particular direction the bank balance was looking a bit vulnerable so it was time, a lot sooner than expected to stop and work. Within hours of posting on the Margaret River job site I had a lot of interest and 2 offers so we were Southwest bound.