The Nullarbor Plains Australia – From Adelaide to Perth

Adelaide to Perth via the  Nullarbor Plains, through the Australian Outback

Thursday 5th September
We hailed a taxi at Adelaide airport and headed to Apollo Camper-van head-office where the fun began. We had booked our camper-van with just the basic insurance to make it a cheaper overall package. We also booked flights and other bookings with my Visa platinum card so we would be covered for most eventualities! This was the fourth time we had hired a camper-van in Australia so we knew what to expect – the usual push for extra cover!
All went well for the first 5 minutes until the chap who was sorting the paperwork told us he would have to take $5000 from our visa + 2% and as we both wanted to split the cost we immediately got concerned.  He would take 5K and pop it into Apollo account plus the 2% for three weeks and then return the $5000 but not the extra 2%.  The other problem for us was that we would be away for over three weeks. As we would probably not be able to access Internet banking easily across the Nullarbor Plain, we could incur extra costs from our own banks in NZ for late payment and for what would appear to be a cash withdrawal. This was something very new to us but we were informed by the staff that it was new legalisation that had come into Australia in last few months.
However, if we took the insurance for $27+ per day we would still get $2500 deducted from account in same manner.  This all seemed insane.  Where in the world do you get a client to pop $5000 into your company account, charge them 2% on top of that and the client ends up out of pocket because of bank fees and the company ends up with the interest + 2%? Whatever happened to the old fashioned method of taking the imprint of a credit card?
We ended up taking out fully comprehensive insurance – for $44AU per day so that they would not take the money from our visa account. I suppose this is the same in each state? I am not sure that this is exactly what the legislation meant however, as I have recently discovered that Jucy Rentals still just take your credit card details but do not take the money out.
When we thought they could not squeeze any more out of us we were asked for a further $250 on cc (not deducted) in case we incurred any fines for speeding or drunken driving!  I can assure you we will not be using Apollo again and suggest others check all their facts before you book with any of the big companies! . However, the camper van was pretty ok – old and a tad shabby but otherwise everything seemed to be in good working order.

Ferry from Wallaroo to Lucky bay via Spencer Gulf - saving 100's of kms
Ferry from Wallaroo to Lucybay via Spencer Gulf – saving 100’s of kms

We drove 150kms from Adelaide to Kadina (once a bustling SA Copper-mining center) and choose to stay the first night in Kadina Gateway Motor Inn, 706 Cooper coast HWY and not in our camper van. This gave us time to set the van up, shop and unpack more easily when we reached Ceduna. Also the town of Kadina got us out of Adelaide and close to the ferry for an early morning start. We had a lovely dinner in a local café – there were only two in the small town!

Friday 6th September
In the morning we had breakfast and drove down the road to Wallaroo to take the camper-van on to the car ferry. The ferry crossed the Spencer Gulf from Wallaroo to Lucky bay. By taking this ferry we saved ourselves about 400+ km driving – we had driven through Port Augusta on one of our previous outback trips so had seen that area. We were keen to reach the Nullarbor as quickly as we could. The ferry was very efficient and comfortable; it had glass panels along the edge of the floor so you could look straight down into the sea.
Once we were off the ferry we set off for a 400+kms drive from Cowell to Ceduna travelling through grain country. We joined the Eyre Highway at Kyancutta and alongside the road the whole way was a very large white pipe which we assumed must carry grain from one grain station to another as there were huge grain storage plants every 20-30 kms. The train tracks also ran parallel to the road.  As we passed through Wirrulla we noticed a massive carving in granite representing the local grain and sheep industry. The next settlement of Cleve was a very pretty town where we stopped for coffee and the people in the cafe were very friendly and chatty. We came away with a dozen free range eggs.
We spent two nights in Ceduna Tourist caravan park (10% off $30 powered site with vouchers from Apollo). Lovely facilities very clean and comfortable. One of our aims for this trip was to play the Nullarbor Links Golf Course. You can start this course either in South Australia(SA) at Ceduna or in Western Australia (WA) at Kalgoorlie. It is a unique 18-hole par 72 golf course which spans 1,365 kilometres. A single hole can be played in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, each featuring a green, a tee and a fairway and each has a distinctive theme that fits with the rugged outback.
We had brought a basic golf kit with us as we were doing this for fun not as a serious challenge. We bought our Nullarbor Links card at the Information Centre for $70AU for each card. The man who sold us the card gave us some good advice and information about the golf course.

Saturday 7th September
It was polling day at the local hall and unfortunately/fortunately Tony Abbott was elected PM. As we were not voting we went for a lovely early walk along the pier and then down to the end of beach.  Next we went grocery shopping, had a bite to eat and watched the sun go down over the southern ocean looking towards Denial Bay.
Ceduna is the start of the Nullarbor Plain: http://www.nullarbornet.com.au It is the last main shopping area until you hit Norseman 1400 kms across the Nullarbor Plain so we needed to stock up on essentials here, which we did.
Next we went to play the first two holes of the Nullarbor Links in Ceduna golf course and immediately lost a ball and battled the flies!!!! Hole 1 is Par 5 – called ‘Oyster Beds’, Hole 2 is Par 4 called ‘Denial Bay’. We did equally badly at both but had a good laugh. Each tee on each hole is named after a local identity.

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Dingo’s Den Golf Hole
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Nullarbor Golf links
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Playing one of the holes!

Sunday 8th September
Today we started our drive on the Nullarbor Plain leaving the comforts of Ceduna. Just outside the town I stopped to take a photo of the yellow road sign that says ‘watch out for: Kangaroos, Camels and Wombats’ and ended up BLACK with flies!! The sign should also have warned about flies!
On to Hole 3, par 4 called ‘windmills’ in Penong, and we filled up with petrol there. It seems many locals still get their water using their own windmills! We stopped at the Penong Woolshed Museum. Lovely collections of old farm gear and local craft and a lady with lot of local knowledge kept us entertained for some time. On to Nundroo, to play the next hole – Hole 4, par 5 called ‘the Wombat hole’ because Nundroo has the largest population of Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat! Last census says 2.5 million inhabit the locality. We stopped at the local roadhouse for petrol (we decided we would always top up when available) and discovered that they sold fly hats – those ugly hats with netting all around to cover your face from flies. A man with a very strong Scottish accent sold them to us – we could not really understand him but we were in heaven with the hats!!!

We drove by the Yalata community hall and on through the Nullarbor plain which was now becoming spaced out with low-lying blue and green bushes. Up until this point we really did not feel isolated nor did the Nullarbor Plain look like we imagined it to look like.
Our next stop, which was a small detour, was The Head of Bight 78 kilometres west of Yalata where we saw many Southern right whales – mothers and their calves. According to the Nullarbor roadhouse, there were 52 mothers and babies this year including thee white ones. Mothers only calve every three years. We watched them playing, breaching, blow-holing and rolling belly up.The young ones would follow their mothers and loll beside them. They moved up and down under the magnificent white Bunda Cliffs that stretch for 200km down to the WA border.
On our return to main road we saw several blue tongued lizards moving very slowly across the road which of course we stopped for and were delighted with the opportunity to photograph these slow moving creatures.
The Nullarbor roadhouse and campground was our stop for the night. Once we sorted our site we played our next golf hole, Hole 5, par 5, called The Dingo’s Den, at Nullarbor and lost yet another ball. We did get lots of comments from tourists wandering pass who were staring at us as though we were crazy trying to hit a small white ball in desert surrounds! But they did cheer us on and watched while we putted the ball into the hole! After our ‘successful’ golfing hole we headed for the pub to have some drinks amongst the locals, but it was a quiet night there so we headed back to our camper van and settle in for the night amongst flocks of noisy galahs. The sky seemed so large at night and so full of stars. It was beautiful just to sit there and watch the heavens. We had a great night’s sleep and woke to a stunning sunrise over the plains.

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Bunda Cliffs
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Southern right Whales and their calves of ‘The Head of Bight
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Southern right Whales and their calves of ‘The Head of Bight
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Southern right Whales and their calves of ‘The Head of Bight
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Southern right Whales and their calves of ‘The Head of Bight

Monday 9th September
On our way out from the roadhouse we saw a wild dingo staring at us from the bushes, we agreed that the golf hole 5 was aptly named, however we were very pleased not to have met him while on the fairway! Off along the Nullarbor plain to Border Village for the next hole. Hole 6, par 3, is called Border Kangaroo. Don Harrington, a local figure rebuilt Border village after it was burned to the ground in 2000. He is also the current Chairman of the Eyre Highway Operators Association which has developed and owns the Nullarbor Links – the world’s longest golf course. As we were about to leave Border Village we heard a massive roar and suddenly a huge procession of motor bikes arrived – we had just stopped to photo a dingo so we lingered longer to watch the bikies gather and take off down the Road to Perth.
This next part of the drive was the most scenic so far as we had amazing views over the Bunda Cliffs all along the way. Next stop was just over the border between SA and WA at a place called Eucla. As we were heading for the border and were not allowed to bring fruit or vegetables over the border, Marcia, as always very frugal, cooked potatoes for potato salad and cooked apples for stewed fruit to avoid having to throw them away at border. Good thinking and management helped by the joy of having your house on your back or rather on wheels that you drive.
Crossing the border we were stopped by a very funny Australian/Chinese man who asked us if we had any drivers licences as we were too young to be driving and he would have to report us to the police! We both loved his sense of humour, in fact anybody who calls us “young” or ‘girls’ has our vote.   We pulled into a parking area just beside the border as we had spotted hundreds of policemen in riot gear whom (we discovered) were waiting for a bunch of bikies (a renowned bikie gang called the Rebels) to arrive at the border to escort them to their next destination. All the police were either camping or staying at Eucla motel, we discovered later!
Our next stop was Eucla campsite and when we arrived there it was pretty empty but soon after we arrived, the bikes started to arrive. We found ourselves camped in the Eucla campsite amongst between 500-1000 bikie gang members. They spread themselves between Eucla, Border Village, and Mundrabilla , to camp, eat and sleep. We were very surprised by the lack of noise and action as we were expecting the worst. In fact many of them were very polite and courteous except the one guy I asked to photo who told me where to get off! We soon discovered that they were on their AGM which involved riding from Adelaide to Perth as that was where it was being held this year! They came from all over Australia to this event and many believed that by the time they got to Perth there could be up to 2000 altogether.

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Police on Bike coming to meet the ‘Bikies’ at the WA-SA border
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Police on Bike coming to meet the ‘Bikies’ at the WA-SA border
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Police in cars waiting at Border Village
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Mundrabilla – getting ready for take off to Perth
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Rebels on bikes

 

 

 

 

We played Hole 7, par 4, called the Nullarbor Nymph. The story goes that in the Eucla bar a PR bloke from Perth, was broke and in search of work so couldn’t pay his bill so he told Steve Patupis, the motel owner, he could make Eucla Motel famous. He told a story to a national newspaper that a naked woman with long blonde hair, was wild and living with the kangaroos at Eucla on the Nullarbor Plain. It seemed crazy that a newspaper would run such a story but they did and the story went viral. Suddenly Eucla was besieged by journalists and camera crews from Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and even the US. The good old BBC even sent a full TV documentary crew. The locals made the most of the story as all these people were bringing in $$$$. Hence the name of hole 7!
Eucla was established in 1877 as a manual repeater station for the Overland Telegraph and what is now the old telegraph station was built. Today the telegraph station is in ruins and a large part of it is buried in sand and locals believe that the area is haunted by a ghost. It was a lovely gentle walk there and the whole area is great for photography. On our way back to the camp we passed a large cross known as the travelers cross. As we headed out from the camp shop the following morning we had fun trying to drive through hundreds of huge bikes.

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Another Golf green
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The old Telegraph Station near Eucla
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The old Telegraph Station near Eucla
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The old Telegraph Station near Eucla
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No Trees…Nullarbour
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Sunset over the Nullarbor
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We see the lot!!

Tuesday 10th September
Next stop was Mundrabilla, where the young person in the cafe we stopped at said she had never worked so hard in her life – she was referring to the hundreds of bikies looking for coffee, food and smokes! It was a lively spot as all the bikies were there, hundreds if them and hundreds of police.  We heard they were about to depart so we went down the Eyre highway a little way out from town so we could video and photograph them taking off on mass and what a sight (and sound) it was. They were like little black and silver insects with their leather gear and their headlights on.  Half of the police set off ahead of the bikies and the other half followed.  They stopped frequently at each roadhouse and cleaned out all the food and drink along they way.  But we did manage to get a really tasty onion, cheese, bacon and egg sandwich in Mundrabilla after they had left and then went and played Hole 8, par 4, called the Watering Hole. Mundrabilla Roadhouse is on the Roe Plains which were once a source of sandalwood that was harvested and exported to the Far East.
At Medura Pass Motel in Medura we played Hole 9, par 3 called Brumby’s Run. It seems that many years ago this area bred horses called ‘Walers’ used for polo and cavalry horses for the British Imperial Indian Army.
And on to Hole 10, par 4, called Eagles Nest. The tee is called Bindy and to quote from the links website “Bindy (Glen) Seivwright has been carting BP Fuel along the Eyre Highway since 1983. He provides an invaluable service to all Fuel retailers and Pastoral Stations.
Bindy has over the years become a very popular truckie with all the roadhouses. He is a well respected and obliging person. The roadhouse operators regard Bindy as a real mate and look forward to his weekly visits.
This Tee is dedicated to a great bloke and a real true blue, Aussie Trucker. Bindy was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to the Nullarbor.
A lovely story
We were making good time so decided to drive on the extra 65kms to Caiguna where we would camp for the night. Since starting along the Nullarbor we had strong wind the whole way and it rattled poor ‘Betty’ our 4WD camper van as she was fairly high and narrow. This meant we had to hold the wheel tightly and keep to a certain speed so we would not get blown across the road. It was a little scary when large gusts of wind would just whip at us and we could feel the van move with it. When we arrived at Caiguna the wind had dropped finally and we had a lovely evening without wind which made a nice change. We played Hole 11, par 4, called 90 Mile Straight at the Caiguna Motel. The hole is aptly named as it is here at this roadhouse that the most famous stretch of road in Australia begins, called the 90 miles (146.6 kms) stretch and is dead straight – no bends! This 90 mile straight is also the only ‘true’ nullarbor (without trees) section of the whole Nullarbor Plains!

Wednesday 11th September
We played Hole 12, par 3, called Skylab at the at Balladonia Motel. So called according to the links website “Skylab was a space research laboratory constructed by the United States National Aerospace Agency (NASA) when in July 1979 it eventually succumbed to the Earth’s gravitational pull, re-entered the atmosphere and landed in fiery chunks around Balladonia.”
The museum in Balladonia is full of remnants from the Skylab so worth a visit. Not far away is Afghan rock where it is rumoured that an Afghan Cameleer was killed for bathing in the local water hole because the two guys who killed him wanted to drink from it and resented him bathing in their drinking water as it was the only water-bearing rock pools for many kilometres.
Our next stop was 90 kms west of Belladonia just off the Eyre Highway called Fraser Range Sheep Station. (www.fraserrangestation.com.au) Fraser Range Station is a working pastoral property that specialises in producing Damara sheep. On the way there we spotted several Emus and of course we stopped for a photo op! We still had not seen a live kangaroo just several dead road-kills along the highway.
It was lovely to arrive into the peaceful Fraser Ranges Station away from the traffic and set well in from the road. So far all the campsites had been next to or close to the main Eyre Highway. We booked in for dinner and for the night and asked about walks in the area. Our job was to tackle Hole 13, par 3, called Sheep’s Back. As usual we were well over par but it was lovely to be out in the farming countryside. There was a big open camp fire that guests were encouraged to gather around at about five pm.  Most seats were taken by the time we got there but it was a very pleasant way to meet and greet other travelers and to have a chat to other campers about where they had been and where they were heading to.
We had a really great sleep following a lovely hot shower and a pleasant meal which was a little too salty for our taste.

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Entrance to Caravan Park!
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Daddy Emu and his 11 chicks
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Walk where we saw several ‘Big Reds’ (Kangaroos)

Thursday 12th September

We had asked for guidance from staff for a ‘wildflower’ walk that we could do the next day. I awoke early so I went for a wander around the station and I was so pleased I did as I saw an adult emu with 11 babies wandering around the farm and I followed them with my camera. Magic!The local farmer/camp manager told me that the father Emu incubates them then looks after them until they are big enough to cope themselves. A joy to behold but we did not find out what the mother did during this time. Probably exhausted after laying 11 large emu eggs! I raced back to the camp site to call Marcia to come and see them as well.

We set out on a suggested 6 km walk which took us along the old Eyre Highway and around a loop of the sheep station. We made lots of noise to ensure snakes were aware of us walking along through the grass and bush. We finally found our way around the large hill mass and saw several big red kangaroos in the bush. We also saw some angry wedge tailed eagles who chased and clawed a kangaroo who was obviously too close to their nest, they did not like our presence either so we hightailed it away quickly. It was wildflower season and we saw many different wild flowers as we walked. This camp was a real comfortable friendly ‘round the camp fire’ type of camp where the campsite manager was so helpful and pleasant.

Below many of the beautiful wildflowers we saw:

Friday 13th September

We were sad that our two nights at Fraser Ranges Station was over but we were heading off down towards Lucky Bay for another exciting adventure. We stopped briefly at Norseman to play the last two holes of golf. The final holes are in Kambalda (1) and Kalgoorlie (2)but we are turning left at Norseman to Lucky Bay not right to Kalgoorlie so these were the last two holes of the links golf course for us. Hole 14, par 4, called Golden Horse at the Norseman Golf club as was Hole 15, par 4, called Ngadju named after the Ngadju people who are the traditional owners of the land this hole is on. We had thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing the Links and would highly recommend it to anyone crossing the Nullarbor. We went around a ‘famous’ camel roundabout in Norseman, did some shopping and went to the information centre to get our certificates for crossing the Nullarbor.
We had loaded up our sat.nav. Tom Tom with up to date Australian maps before we left NZ so he took us to beautiful Lucky bay. From afar we caught glimpses of the beautiful white sands and turquoise waters. Not many people at the campsite so we parked where there was an amazing view over the sea and sand from our van. We then sat at the table overlooking the bay and were joined by a couple from Esperance, Geoff  and Anne who come out most weekends to Lucky bay and Margaret and John the other couple were heading home to Newcastle NSW following an anti clockwise trip around Australia. They were one of the hundreds of Australian ‘grey nomads’ and had been on the road for over a year and were very keen to get home. She told us she was running low on blood pressure pills but could not get into see a doctor in Esperance for three weeks!  They reckoned that Lucky bay was the best place they had been to on their trip. There were lots of friendly local kangaroos some with a joey in their pouch and very happy to be photographed!

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Approaching Lucky Bay
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One of the many friendly locals
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Lucky Bay
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Lucky Bay
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A local honeyeater
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Woody Island Jetty

Saturday 14th September
Unfortunately we had to leave beautiful Lucky Bay very early as we had to be at the Esperance Jetty at 08:30 for a boat trip out to Woody Island.  We had called Peter (the person running the trips) from Gibson to ensure the trip was on as it was still off season!  We arrived at Esperance and searched for an optician to try to get Marcia’s broken glasses fixed as they were impossible to use but alas the opening time was 09:00 and closed at noon as it was a Saturday so no go.
Off we set off to Woody Island on our boat called the Southern Niche. It was a lovely new boat just about a year old. Peter was at the helm while he taught Roger to captain the boat and Teaghan to do the commentary. Peter was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole Bay of Islands and Esperance where he had come to from England in 1976. He told us the history of the area, how the word knots came into boating, the life of the white breasted sea eagle, the habitat of the grey cape bar Goose. Teaghan threw frozen fish out and the sea eagles swooped down to grab them. There were several variety of seals and birds, all fully explained and named by Peter.
We arrived at Woody Island and were given morning tea and a muffin. We were then invited to go for a walk around the island with Peter, first to the viewing area where we were regaled with stories of local characters and their adventures on this and other islands around. There were many ‘risqué’ stories and some horrific stories. He talked of the pink lake just outside Esperance that was so pink that one might think it’s a trick but the colour is said to come from the algae. There is an even pinker lake on Middle Island that can only be seen from the air. Each island has different habitat – death adders on one, black snakes on another. He also told us the story of a man capturing aboriginal women and using then to crawl around the rocks to attract the seals!
People come out to stay on Woody Island – there are various types of accommodation – safari huts, on-site tents and tent sites where you bring your own tent, the accommodation and facilities are quite basic – campers kitchen and three lots of ablution blocks with hot water. All quite adequate. One needs to ensure boats are coming and going when you need them as the service is weather dependent. Our tour was with “Esperance Island cruises & Woody Island Eco Stays”.
We were back into Esperance by 13:00 so we went to Taylor Road Cafe for lunch it was really beautiful and in a great position! We were booked into The Jetty Resort where we finished the evening with pizza and champagne.

 

Sunday 15th September
We drove around Esperance looking for some shops but all were closed except IGA on the outskirts of the town. We topped up our groceries and headed off around the 40 km scenic drive passing several beaches, then on to Ravensthorpe. There was only one campsite in the small town and when we drove in we initially thought it looked grotty but turned out to have very clean facilities. The reason for our stop here was the Annual Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival which they hold every year for two weeks in September, so we ate lunch and went off looking for the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show. I called into the first garage I came across and asked the way – told it was along in community hall about ten minutes in one direction but when I got there it was deserted! So I headed back into town where I met Marcia and we found a lovely lady in museum who directed us, in the opposite direction!, to the right place. We had no idea what to expect but we found a hall with seven hundred species of flowers in it.  It is run by the local wildflower group and the women must have permits to pick the wild flowers in certain areas and they started picking two days before the show began. Incredible to imagine all the species can exist in the wild and wonderful to be able to view them up close as one may never find them on walks. It then started to rain and rain and rain. We waited in the senior citizen hall until the rain eased but still got very wet on our way back to the caravan park. Early to bed and listened to the rain all night.

Monday 16th September
Today we head off 159 kms deep into Fitzgerald River National Park to Quaalup Homestead Wilderness Retreat which is just outside the park.
(http://www.whalesandwildflowers.com.au/quaaluphomestead.htm). There were several ways into the Retreat but we decided to go via the route recommended by the owners. There were lots of wild flowers along the route. The road was pretty good at first but soon we came to a gravel road which eventually took us to the station. On the way we stopped to refuel at Jerramungup as we knew there was no petrol between there and Quaalup. We arrived at Quaalup at about 11:00, earlier than we expected. This Heritage Listed Building is owned by Karin & Carsten from Hamburg, Germany. Karin welcomed us warmly and took us to out little unit with an ensuite. We had decided to abandon Betty for a few nights of comfort. The unit was so quaint and was all we needed, clean functional and well maintained. Carsten advised us to take trip to Point Ann that day as rain was predicted for the following day and Fitzgerald NP would be closed if it rained. We drove 30km there and walked to the whale look out . We saw three Southern Wright whales and their calves in the bay. We then went for a walk along the rabbit proof fence to the cliff top to view Trigelow beach which was stunning with its beautiful crystal clear waters and white sands. There were wildflowers everywhere which made the walk even more exciting. On our way back through the park we had to let ourselves out through gate. The ranger had stopped us on way there to let us know that the park was being closed. He said we could carry on but would need to let ourselves out.

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Local roos enjoying the sunshine
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Heritage Listed Building -the old homestead at Quaalup Wilderness Retreat
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Road to Quaalup Wilderness Station
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The cross marks the burial place of Mary Mc Glade
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One of the many walks at Quaalup
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One of the many walks at Quaalup

Back at the retreat we had some afternoon tea and then headed off on their own nature walk – so many beautiful wildflowers and all labelled so we could get to know some of them. Then there was a viewing platform about two story hight, where we climbed up to have a view of the countryside. There were also dozens of pretty tame kangaroos who did not budge when we walked close to them. We saw no sign of Edna, the local emu who had been missing for a few days!

Quaalup homestead was established in 1858 by the John Wellstead and then taken over in 1890 by the Hassel family and then taken over by Karin and Karsten in 2004. We had also booked for dinner and had a delightful dinner cooked by Karsten as Karin was recovering from flu. It was served in the old dining room by candlelight. We had corn soup followed by Turkish stew with lamb, mince and feta and then a desert.

Fresh air and silence ensured a great nights sleep and though it rained during the night we awoke to a blue sky and more wind. After breakfast we sat out on the balcony reading and listening to the birds and watched the kangaroos hopping about. The kangaroos sat around the homestead like they belonged there, not in the least disturbed by anyone walking close to them – just a stare and yawn! The day was unsettled, with rain coming and going but when it had stopped raining we set off to walk the ridge walk – 11/2 hours. What amazing views from the ridge and again we admired lots of wildflowers. We decided we just loved this place and could easily stay for another few days. When we got back from the walk we discovered we had neighbours and also discovered that the walls are a little thin!
Dinner was again served in that lovely little room in the old homestead and tonight’s meal was as tasty as last night’s. Our starter was orange and carrot soup, followed by Thai chicken and jasmine rice and desert. We shared our table with a couple Michael and Maureen from Perth but originally from England. This place is a mixture of wilderness, isolation and tranquility. No mod cons here in the wilderness, just living with nature. The property is entirely solar powered with drinking water collected from rain, and washing water supplied from a bore on the property so it is totally self sufficient.

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One of the Mallee fowl

Wednesday 18th September
Sadly we said good bye to Quaalup and the Quaalup Bell (Pimelea physodes), a spectacular wildflower found only in southwest of Western Australia. We had seen several at the Quaalup Homestead.
We are bound for the Sterling Ranges today and our first stop is Jerramungup, and again the wind is blowing very strongly but at least it is not raining. We topped up with petrol and groceries before we made our way to the Yongergnow Australia Malleefowl Centre near Onegerup. The aim of the centre is to reintroduce Malleefowl back to their natural habitat. They have several large custom built aviaries that are big and have several trees where the fowl can hide. They have one male and one female in one aviary and a lone female in another. These fowl were nearly extinct because the mallee bush was fast disappearing through fires. They look like big attractive turkeys and are stocky ground-dwelling birds that are about the size of a domestic chicken. Malleefowl are said to be shy, wary, solitary birds that usually fly only to escape danger. They also fly into the mallee tree to roost. They are hard to see even in these aviaries as they tend to freeze if disturbed and then slither into the undergrowth.
When we arrived at the Sterling Ranges Retreat, just inside the Sterling Ranges National Park. (http://www.stirlingrange.com.au)  We were met by ‘Bully’ who greeted us warmly, found us a nice site out of the wind and gave us a long extension cord so we could use that particular site. We booked on an orchid tour the following morning and got settled into the park. Once settled I went for walk for about one hour. It was a lovely evening and I saw loads of wildflowers and fields of bright yellow canola seed. We used the camp kitchen to cooked steak and onions and met Mike from Perth who was very chatty and happy to share some thoughts about the local area.

Thursday 19th September
We were up early the next morning for our wildflower tour with Bully, the manager. We were to be outside the office at nine o’clock. There were a few other people waiting for the tour – one person from Albany WA information bureau, one Swiss couple who have lived on a boat for nine years. The boat is now moored in Cairns while the couple are travelling around Australia and one guy from NSW. We drove through various parts of Sterling Ranges NP and saw loads of orchids – it was refreshing to see a stocky man’s man so passionate and protective about tiny orchids and Bully knew exactly where to find them. We had morning tea at Mount Trio with biscuits and muffins supplied by Bully
The rest of the people (the owners) at the Sterling Ranges Retreat were efficient and helpful but not really friendly. They lacked enthusiasm, perhaps it was a bad day or they had been doing the job for too long. Excellent facilities and well organised but weather was very windy.

Friday 20th September
Today we needed to get to Albany to try to find an optician and get Marcia’s glasses fixed. We had intended to take the Sterling Ranges Drive right through the park and then through Porongrup but sadly the weather was so bad we decided for the more direct route.  So a straight drive down the tar seal to Albany as it continued to rain and rain. Marcia managed to get her glasses fixed and again as we were in town we did a top up shop before heading off towards Walpole. On the way we saw a sign that said “Wild Food Factory” so we investigated and ended up having a delicious kangaroo burger and a slightly chewy kangaroo kebab. Stopped for coffee at a place called Phillipines cafe and then headed for Rest Point caravan park on west side of Walpole, having  gone through a quaint town called Denmark. This pretty town in the Great Southern region of WA sits on the banks of the beautiful Denmark River. It has a rugged coastline and is surrounded by towering forests.
Rest Point Holiday Village is a picturesque village with a beautiful waterfront on the banks of the Walpole and Nornalup Inlet, in the heart of the Walpole wilderness. The village is 4kms west of Walpole and is surrounded by the Walpole-Nornalup National Park. It was wet and soggy everywhere after the recent rains. But when darkness came and the sky cleared the reflection of the moon on the inlet was beautiful. We cooked our meal in the tiny camp kitchen where we met three sisters and one brother and their partners who were having a family get together and dinner. They from all parts of Australia and try to get together in a different area every year. They were very chatty and friendly.

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Walpole and Nornalup Inlet
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Heading off for days fishing on the Walpole and Nornalup Inlet
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Local bird life – Pelican
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Climbing the Gloucester tree!
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An old Tingle tree
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Quirky sculpture WA
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Parrot
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Gum trees beside Walpole and Nornalup Inlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 21st September

Up early to catch the sunrise on the inlet and to watch the local fisherman set off for their day’s fishing. The inlet was like a millpond and the reflections of the boats in the early morning light was stunning. A local pelican preened and strutted his stuff on the edge of he water and swam up and down the inlet.
We then packed up and headed off to the Valley of the Giants to walk Valley of the Giants Tree Top walk and to visit the Ancient Empire, both of which are a few kms west of Denmark. This 600 metre long tree top walkway rises to almost 40 metres above the forest floor, which gives an amazing bird’s eye view of the forest. We then took the trail that links the Tree Top Walk to the Ancient Empire boardwalk where we could touch some of the 400-year-old giants of the forest.The Ancient Empire trail takes you through a grove of veteran tingle trees. Along the path we came across a gnarled old veteran tree known as Grandma Tingle. We loved it and were so glad we had taken the time to come here.
And on to another giant tree called the ‘Gloucester’ tree near Pemberton. The Gloucester tree had a narrow metal ladder winding around it to the top. We climbed about 1/4 way up and even there the view was amazing. This tree used to be used as a lookout for firemen to check for bush fires. While we were there one young man climbed to top and said he was very scared as it was extremely windy at the top.  The whole drive along the coast road to Yallingup  was very windy and we did not see any sign of the coast until we got into Yallingup! We had expected the coast road to be just that – along the coast!
We easily found the Yallingup Beach Holiday Park and we were assigned a van site, and took some wine, beer and nibbles to a table where we sat and watched the sunset over the Indian Ocean, with a bored dog and a hungry seagull. A young Australian woman joined us and it turned out she had been a cop up in Arnhem Land. She kept us amused for ages with stories of her time there. The wind continued  through the night rocking and swaying our camper van which in turn kept us awake half the night

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Yallingup Beach Holiday Park
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View from Yallingup Beach Holiday Park

Sunday 22nd September
I went for a wander around Yallingup village and beach to see what there was – not much, most shops and cafe closed as we were a little out of season.  We did our housekeeping and chores and then headed off to walk the Cape Nautaliste lighthouse circuit. Sadly, although the day was beautifully sunny and windy one minute, black clouds overtook us quickly and the next minute rain came lashing down. We got absolutely soaked! A change of clothes and off we went to look for the winery we had been told about called The Growers. It is a local vineyard that makes handcrafted wines and has been managed by husband and wife team, Doreen and Phil May since November 2011. They make a delightful white and red wine called ‘Shag on a Rock’ and the grapes are from the famous Margaret River area. We then went looking for places to eat but they were all either closed for weddings or routinely closed between 3-5pm. We ended up back at the Caves House Hotel which is a lovely big pub, cafe and hotel all rolled into one and where we were able to order soup. The wind continued blowing a gale so we hunkered down with a good book and slept better than the previous night as we were getting more used to the wind.

 

Monday 23rd September
We had booked a ‘Bushtucker Winery & Brewery Tour’ (http://bushtuckertours.com) for today and were being picked up at 10:40 by Peter. The tour visits 7 vineyards between Whitecliffe and Dunsborough, a chocolate factory, a brewery and a cocktail bar plus a bush tuckers lunch.
Our first stop was Cape Naturaliste Vineyard and here is a little information from their website. “The property now known as Cape Naturaliste Vineyard started life as the coach inn for travelers journeying between Perth and Margaret River on horse and buggy – a journey taking about 3 days – a history going back 150 years. Some later years the property then became a dairy known as Thorn Hill. During this time Whale ships came into the sheltered waters of Smiths Beach to purchase vegetables grown in the valleys rich alluvial soil.
In 1970 the surrounding land was discovered to be rich in mineral sands. A mining company purchased the land with the intention to mine the valley. Fortunately the government stepped in and declared it “A” zone national park.
 Cape Naturaliste Vineyard was planted in 1997 by the owner, Craig Brent-White, who purchased the land from a mineral sands company in 1980”.

Jan was our host for the tour of this vineyard and her vine keeper husband is an oenologist. She really knew her wine and gave us some really good pointers about WA wines especially the Margaret River area. She also gave us a lesson on the right way for tasting wines. This vineyard has won several international wine awards and we enjoyed several of the wines we tasted.
The next vineyard was called Nottinghill Hill Estate Vineyard– a family owned business, the family were farmers originally but are now winemakers. Knotting Hill Estate has been owned and operated by the Gould family since 1997 and their philosophy is simple: they love to sell quality wines to happy customers. Michael Gould and his father Brian established Knotting Hill from scratch, planting and training the vines, building the cellar door and dam, while simultaneously managing their wheat belt farm. A love of wine swayed the family to move from farming to viticulture. Michael, his wife Sondra and three children all live on the property. It was Sondra that was our host for the tour. What I loved about this and the last vineyard is the absence of snobbery about wine – they just love to tell you about their part in the wine making,
Churchview vineyard was our next stop. All the vineyards were in beautifully landscaped ‘parks’ with user friendly tasting rooms and car parks. And of course the wines were really good. We heard that our ‘Chocolate’ visited had to be cancelled because the wind had caused them to loose their electricity and so the tour leader had to make some quick phone calls to fine another suitable venue.
We had our ‘bush tucker’ at Nottinghill Estate and tasted kangaroo, emu, crocodile, huhu-bugs and lots of bush nuts. An interesting experience, some of which I would not have again!
We were entertained by ‘pretend’ grumpy Steve at The Grove Experience. We had several cocktails while been ‘abused’ by Steve about where we were from, what people wore, one’s accent in fact anything he could pick on but all in great humour and we had so much fun. A great experience!

IMG_5544 IMG_5540 IMG_5536 IMG_5529Then on to Duckstein Brewery, a little piece of Germany in the Margaret River where German-style craft beers are brewed on location. The bar was massive but was somehow divided into a few alcoves with very comfortable chairs. Many of the group chose to try a tray of five small glasses of beers to taste.

Tuesday 24th September

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Today we set off to see some old friends in Bunbury and booked into Bunbury Caravan Park. Bunbury is a port city and is the third largest city in WA and is 175kms south of Perth. Our friends came and picked us up and took us on a tour of city and out to the Leschenault Estuary which was a beautiful drive and we ended up back at their home for a lovely meal and a taxi ride home to ‘Betty’ in the caravan park.

Wednesday 25th September
And finally on to the city of Perth to stay with some more good friends for a few days and to explore Perth & Fremantle. We went to Kings Park to see the wildflowers – the colours and array of flowers was spectacular. Kings Park is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and encompasses the botanical gardens, a variety of walks and is on top of a hill in a stunning location that overlooks the city and the Swan River. the views from the park are beautiful and you can see the coloured sails of boats on the river,and the famous ‘Swan’ brewery, the lights of the city and the distant Perth Hills. It is a mix of 400+ hectares of cultivated gardens and bushland. There is also a 750 year old boab tree, that has been transplanted, at huge expense, from the Kimberley region of WA. The shop and information area was also very exciting to look around as it contained lots of artefacts created by local artists.

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Sitting on the seat at Fremantle Bay
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Kings Park, Perth WA
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Perth from Kings Park with Boab tree

We spent several hours out in Fremantle, Julie my friend drove us there and took us through the markets and down to the waterfront where we had fresh fish & chips and wandered around the hundreds of boats there. We happened to be there the same day as the Fremantle Roosters were in the final of the Rugby League and everyone there was dressed in the Roosters colours and settling into the pubs to watch the game. We wandered along to see the North Mole Lighthouse which began operation in 1906 at the entrance to Fremantle Harbour.

We met all the children and grandchildren of Pete & Julie and had some lovely family time with them. We also pampered ourselves and took Marcia out to a beautiful restaurant for her birthday near where they lived called Clarke’s of North Beach. The food and service was superb. Before we went for dinner Pete made us a ‘mean’ lemoncello’ which started the night well.

And then back home to New Zealand!

New Zealand Landscapes – Lucycaseyphotography

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Beautiful Mount Cook, South Island New Zealand
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Rangitoto Island through the Pohutukawa tree, Auckland
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Open Road & Hills of the South Island New Zealand
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New Zealand Pohutukawa tree
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The iconic Kurow Hotel
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The Colours of the Otago Hills, NZ
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New Zealand Christmas Tree – Pohutukawa tree
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Toi Toi, Bethell’s Beach Auckland
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Sky Tower, Auckland
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Sands & Clouds
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Sands of Bethell’s Beach
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Viaduct on the Otago Rail Trail, NZ
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Lake Benmore, South Island NZ
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Rangitoto Island from Grannys Bay, Auckland
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Rangitoto through the Pohutukawa tree from Grannys Bay Auckland
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Lake Benmore, South Island NZ

 

British Columbia & Vancouver Island, Canada

Beautiful British Columbia – Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Banff & Inside Passage.
We made the most of the Air New Zealand direct flight from Auckland to Vancouver. It was a really good flight – just 12 hours and we arrived in Canada 6 hours before we left new Zealand! On the plane Marcia gave me a fright with a fainting episode, which I thought was a heart attack. I had been feeling a little off myself and Marcia changed seats with me, but then she suddenly went pale and fainted herself!

Sue and Dennis, our friends of over 40+ years met us at the airport. We were not feeling jet lagged so all went for a walk on the beach that had hundreds of logs that get washed down from the mountains or from loaded barges. Slept from 21:30 to 09:30 after a lovely evening meal.

Friday 27th August

Dennis went out early to the fish markets and bought 5 sockeye salmon for $100 CAN and said the fishermen were telling him it was the biggest salmon run in 100 years. Every year in the fall, salmon return to the rivers in British Columbia (BC) from the Pacific, swimming for 17 straight days and nights up the mighty Fraser River, heading for their spawning grounds.

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The Raven and The First Men

Marcia and I headed off to spend several hours in the Museum of Anthropology with displays of art and culture from works by First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations. The museum is in the grounds of the campus of the University of British Columbia. It is a teaching and research museum as well as a wonderful place for tourists to learn about making totem poles and other artifacts. There was every type of totem pole you can imagine – very exciting to look at and we all managed to see the smallest totem pole in the world!

One of the most exciting things is the iconic The Raven and the First Men sculpture in the Bill Reid Rotunda, Bill Reid and several other First nation sculptors worked on the piece and the story goes “The Raven and the First Men sculpture was commissioned by Walter and Marianne Koerner for the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the sculpture is currently on display. It was carved from a giant block of laminated yellow cedar. The carving took two years to complete and was dedicated on April 1, 1980. Bill Reid (1920-1998), acclaimed Haida master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer and spokesman, was one of Canada’s greatest artists. Bill Reid was born to a Haida mother and a European father. Reid both celebrated and defended the Haida, using his fame to champion their land claims. When he died in 1998, the Haida took him home, bringing his remains back to his mother’s ancestral village, Tanu, aboard “Lootaas.”. Reid created over 1500 works over his long career, from the ‘monumentally small’ to the ‘exquisitely huge’. In addition, and perhaps of greater impact were his parallel careers as broadcaster, writer, poet, storyteller and communicator.   Bill Reid was the pivotal force in introducing to the world the great art traditions of the indigenous people of the Northwest Coast.

The story of the carving from Bill Reid website: “In Haida culture, the Raven is the most powerful of mythical creatures. His appetites include lust, curiosity, and an irrepressible desire to interfere and change things, and to play tricks on the world and its creatures. The sculpture of The Raven and the First Men depicts the story of human creation. According to Haida legend, the Raven found himself alone one day on Rose Spit beach in Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). He saw an extraordinary clamshell and protruding from it were a number of small human beings. The Raven coaxed them to leave the shell to join him in his wonderful world. Some of the humans were hesitant at first, but they were overcome by curiosity and eventually emerged from the partly open giant clamshell to become the first Haida.   The sculpture was carved from a giant block of laminated yellow cedar. The carving took two years to complete and was dedicated on April 1, 1980.

After leaving the museum, Sue and Dennis took us to Granville Island which boasts many floating homes on pontoons, a huge public markets where you can buy anything from local beer to fresh fish and the home of Vancouver performing arts. What used to be called the ‘industrial island’ is now a humming tourist spot and a local mecca for food, shopping and drinks! Of course where there is water there are marinas, which are home to thousands of boats of all descriptions some over 100 years old.

Later in the afternoon we met an old friend we have not seen for over 20 years. We spend several hours with her and saw her lovely flat and then bussed it back to Dennis and Sue’s place. What an efficient bus service Vancouver has and has a great PA system telling you where you are. There is also ample room for disabled people and parents with strollers. The buses even ‘kneel’ for wheelchairs for easy access!

 Saturday 28th August

Dennis drove us to Lynn Canyon and we walked over the suspension bridge before being dropped off at a ferry terminal to catch a ferry across the harbour into the centre of town. We arranged to meet Dennis and Sue at Canada House Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre where the flame for the Winter Olympics was situated. It was a delightful setting with views over the harbour. We watched several float planes take off and land in the harbour. From here we walked to the Gasworks where we saw the gas clock, which chimed merrily for us while we were there. We then walked on to Chinatown – every city must have a Chinatown except Auckland – through the old Expo site and then home to a scrumptious dinner of freshly barbecued sockeye salmon!

 Sunday 29th August

We took an early bus to Stanley Park, a truly amazing iconic park right in the center of Vancouver. It has 1000 acres of land and is mostly surrounded by water. It has some lovely beaches, miles of well-maintained paved and dirt trails, gardens, totem poles, animals, Canada’s largest aquarium and First Nation artworks and sculptures. We spend hours walking right around it stopping along the way to admire views and flora & fauna.   Home to another BBQ, this time for friends from 30 years ago in Sydney – salmon and steaks and cheese from Granville Island yesterday.

 Monday 30th August

Tomorrow we set off for our car trip around British Columbia so today we needed to shop and pack and plan even though we had done a lot of planning prior to the trip. Caught up with another old friend who picked us up and took us to Provence in Yaletown, East Vancouver for a superb lunch. She also took us to a steam train parked in central square that her children and mine played on about 30 years ago! Then onto the bus to take us home to finish packing. Dennis was to rise early in the morning to take us to pick up our rental.

 Tuesday 31st August  Vancouver to Sicamous: 492kms

We arrived at the rental place at 07:30 and we were upgraded to a Toyota Matrix and off we headed for Sicamous. The weather was a bit dreary as we left Vancouver but improved the further away we got. We were only using Sicamous as a convenient stop off but it was very pretty and has two significant boasts! It is the gateway to Apple Country and is also the houseboat Capital of Canada because of its vast shorelines. We had driven 492kms from Vancouver to Sicamous and when we got to our booked B&B there was nobody home!!

We rang the lady and she was not expecting us as we were not in her books even though we had booked 6 months ago. She arrived two hours after us and was extremely apologetic and also delightful. We had a lovely comfortable bed and a fabulous deck with superb views over Lake Shuswap. Victoria was the lady’s name and has run Artists workshops for 10 years from her home as well as running the B&B.

Wednesday 1st September  Sicamous to Field 274kms

Victoria produced a fantastic breakfast of pancake with fruit out on the deck overlooking the lake. There were several dragon boats out on the water and they waved up to Victoria as apparently she often rows with them.

After breakfast we drove first to Malakwa Bridge at Victoria’s suggestion, to watch the salmon run. There were huge numbers fighting to get past rocks and through the fast flowing Eagle river to reach their place to spawn.

Rogers Pass, a high mountain pass through the Selkirk Mountains was our first entry into national Parks so we stopped and bought a two-year pass for all National Parks. As we planned to visit several, this worked out to be the cheapest way and we could leave them with Sue & Dennis in Vancouver for the next lot of visitors. Cost $7:80CAN daily, $39.20CAN yearly, or early bird yearly for $29:40CAN.

Moose at Emerald Lake
Moose at Emerald Lake

We arrived in Field (a town of little activity and huge trains) at 1600hrs, booked into our flat and drove out to the Emerald Lake and walked around it in 11/2 hours. We were suddenly halted in our tracks by a strange noise coming from the bush – and there we saw a mother and baby moose. What a thrill to stand and watch them (and of course photograph them) for a while. On the way back to Field we visited the Natural Bridge, an impressive natural rock formation that spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River west of Field. The rocks are sculptured by the pounding of the roaring waters that tear through them and this flow is even heavier as the snow and ice melt.

We stood on the natural bridge and heard the thunder of the water against the rock – it serves to remind us of the immense force of water that cannot be controlled by mankind. On our way back into Field we were held up by a massively long train – it must have been about 2 kms long. Our hosts had warned us that when these trains are in town nobody goes in or out!! You just wait for 1/2 hour until they leave. It was rather fun seeing it happen to us but I would not want it each day and especially in the morning when we need to get away early.

 Thursday 2nd September

Up early to head off to Lake Louise. An alpine lake, with beautiful turquoise blue waters, is situated at the base of impressive glacier-clad peaks in the picturesque area of Banff National Park. Right beside the lake is the iconic Fairmont Château Lake Louise hotel which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally built as a base for outdoor enthusiasts and alpinists over 100 years ago and is now a year-round luxury mountain resort. The Lake is as beautiful as it pictures, with the snow-capped peaks mirrored in the glassy blue lake. We walked to the famous Lake Agnes Tea Rooms uphill all the way, this trail is said to be one of the most travelled trails in Canada! It really is a ‘tea house’ with over 50 varieties of tea to refuel you before you head back down or continue on further.. Supping tea and looking out over the hills and lakes is a ‘truly’ memorable moment. While we sat there sipping tea we were visited by a chipmunk, which entertained us for quite some time! Getting there early was a good move as we passed hoards of people coming up as we went down.

Next stop was Lake Moraine – valley of the ten peaks, this lake would challenge Lake Louise for the most beautiful spot. One of the peaks called Mount Temple is the third highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. After we took in the beautiful glacier fed lake I clambered to the top of the Rockpile interpretive trail, which was really worth the effort giving spectacular views of the lake and mountains. Then we walked around part of the lake and spotted some more cheeky chipmunks along the path. We were a little late getting here after Lake Louise so we had some difficulty finding a car park but it was well worth the wait.

On our way back to Field we stopped to admire the Takakkaw Falls, in Yoho National Park. They were beautiful and both agreed they were really worth the little detour.

The famous Spiral Tunnels in Yoho NP was our next and last stop of the day.  The name explains it all: the two tunnels form a gigantic loop inside the mountain.  If you are lucky enough to time your visit when a train approaches, as we did, you can watch the train wind its way through the two tunnels.  The spiral tunnels were necessary to decrease the slope of the track, as it made its way up to Kicking Horse Pass. We watched the train, which was about 1km long wind its way through the tunnels slowly.

Back home where we had leftovers for dinner and packed for an early start – unless ‘trained in’ as the locals say when you car is blocked by a train for a half an hour!

Friday 3rd September

We had to be on our way very early to catch a shuttle bus to take us into Lake OHara, so we left Field at 07:50. We had to book our place on the bus months before as only a certain number of visitors (225 per day) are allowed in each day based on a quota system, some people camp overnight, some tramp with clubs and some stay in the Lake O’Hara Lodge and others like us come for the day.   Lake OHara is not only beautiful, but fragile and sensitive to the presence of strangers and we are given a ‘what not to do’ talk on the bus on the way there asking us to please protect this special place.

We parked the car and hopped on the bus and wondered what the excitement was about – a big grizzly and its cub had just gone up the road ahead of the bus – we just saw it’s rear end disappear into the bushes.

The lake was breathtaking with its wooded hillsides, alpine meadows, snow-covered mountain peaks and glaciers. All positioned around this beautiful lake that has hanging valleys, pristine turquoise alpine lakes and some fabulous hiking. It is the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies. We chose to walk the Alpine Circuit (12km) which we were assured had a little bit of everything and indeed it had, it was quite spectacular. We passed Lake Oesa, walked the Yukness ledge. We ate lunch by the lake and caught the afternoon bus back to our car. What a truly memorable day!

Banff here we come! We arrived there about 4pm and sat in the sun while we waited for Tree Tops B&B to open. It was a lovely spot and Rosemary & Peter (a Danish pianist) came to greet us and offered us NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the balcony. They were wonderful ‘hands on’ hosts. Strangely enough the other couple staying there were also from NZ and so Peter played ‘Pokareare Ana,’ a New Zealand iconic Maori song.

Sitting on the balcony sipping NZ sauvignon balance was a lovely way to while away the hours until our friends who live close to Banff came to meet us in their Camper van. We arranged with our friends to meet at ‘Saltlik’ for dinner, Saltlik is a salt given to cattle to ensure correct diet. We had a good dinner and then home to very comfortable B&B

Saturday 4th September

We decided to have a quiet day wandering around the town of Banff following a feast for breakfast serenaded by Peter on his piano! While eating breakfast we heard about the earthquake in Christchurch which was distressing as we have friends there. Once we communicated that all was well we headed out into the town. Banff was mush les crowded than we expected and we enjoyed just wandering around. The Banff Philharmonic orchestra was playing music in the town square so we stopped and listened to them for some time enjoying the music. The violinists were playing with great energy when a huge gust of wind blew the women’s skirts up around their heads but they still continued to play on…. after all …the show must go on!

We went to the Tunnel Mountain RV Park to meet our friends for a BBQ at their site. There were many palatial RVs with all mod cons and a few slide-out rooms. Our friends had even seen a piano in one and some had motors of 5,000cc + so must eat up fuel.

 Sunday 5th September

Our friends invited us to have brunch at the very posh Fairmont Banff Hot Springs a huge castle like building just outside the town. Called Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”, it has been a hotel for more than 125 years.

William Cornelius Van Horne, appointed general manager of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) has been credited with recognizing the tourism potential of the Canadian west. Van Horne hired Bruce Price of New York, one of the leading architects of the time. His work was so influential that the château style was the only acceptable architectural method for government structures at the time. With Price heading the project, construction of the Banff Springs Hotel began in the spring of 1887 and the hotel publicly opened on June 1, 1888.

The lunch spread was superb, it was a memorable occasion and one we would probably not have had but for our friends taking us there.

Out next stop in Alberta is Jasper taking the Icefields Parkway. Condé Nast Traveller rates this drive one of the top drives in the world and it certainly lives up to that. It crosses two National Parks, Jasper & Banff and runs along Highway 93 North, past un-spoilt mountain lakes, glaciers the Columbia Icefields and beautiful picturesque sweeping valleys. Stretching 232km (144mi.) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, this road trip is too wonderful to drive straight through, there are lots of worthwhile stops along the way. We stopped at the Athabasca Glacier which is one of the six principal ‘toes’ of the Columbia Icefields. One can take a trip onto the glacier by taking a tour on a massive vehicle specially designed for glacial travel, we did not have time to take the tour but just to be able to see it was surreal. It is situated across from the Icefield Centre, which is also worth a visit. The ice on the glacier is in continuous motion, creeping forward at the rate of several centimeters per day and flows down the valley like a frozen, slow-moving river, however, it has been retreating slowly but steadily over the last 125 years.

We then stopped at Peyto Lake which is a glacier fed lake called after Bill Peyto, an old trail guide and trapper who worked in the area for years. It was a steepish climb up to the lake and we were loving the view when we heard a large bus engine come to a halt behind some trees and out popped 30 Japanese tourists…… we felt cheated as we had walked all the way up! The view was spectacular and as we took photos it started to snow lightly which coloured the already beautiful autumnal colours. On to Jasper for the night in pleasant B&B accommodation and out to dinner in a local North American chain called Earls.

 Monday 6th September

Our first stop today was at Medicine Lake in the Maligne Valley about 20kms from Jasper in the Jasper NP and is formed by the Maligne River.

All these lakes are a little different and are all beautiful in different ways. After a short stop here we headed off towards Maligne Lake via Maligne Canyon, a most spectacular natural phenomenon where millions of tons of water pour through the rocks and wear them down over the years. Some points of the canyon are only two meters across but go down to a depth of more than 50 meters. Maligne Canyon is carved into the ‘Palliser Formation’ (a geographical formation). Some geologists speculate that parts of the canyon were originally deep caves that have since been uncovered by glacial scraping and water erosion. It was really spectacular to watch and listen to the thunderous roar of the water falling down 50 meters!

A very exciting thing happened to us driving from Maligne Canyon to Maligne Lake….we accomplished one of my ‘must see’ goals. We saw a big brown bear, she was casually eating large berries from the bushes on the side of the road and she had an adolescence cub with her. I got out of the car with my camera, as did about ten other tourists who had pulled up in their cars to have a look. (If you are travelling around Canada and you see cars parked on the side of the road where there is NO tourist attraction – stop, as you can be sure there is some wildlife around!)

I got some good photographs and was following her as she wandered from bush to bush. Suddenly she changed direction and decided she would like to cross the road to some berry bushes on the other-side and came towards me, I was then directly in her path and knew I could not get to my car which was parked further down the road. I ran to the closest parked cars and luckily the door was unlocked and some people were inside the car, so I hopped in. “Really sorry to intrude” I said, ‘but I cannot get to my car”. They looked at me and nodded and we all laughed together in relief to be safe inside the car, as they too had just raced back to the car. We watched the bear and her cub stroll across the road and ensured she was safely engaged in flower and berry-eating on the other side before I then ran back to my car to meet Marcia who had been a little worried about the whole situation!   It was wonderful to see the bears in the wild but a little scary as well.

Everything else for the rest of the day was a little bit of an anti climax. Lake Maligne, in Jasper National Park, is famous for the colour of its water and the surrounding mountain peaks. You can see three glaciers from the lake and also Spirit Island. We drove back to Jasper and then drove out to the Patricia & Pyramid Lakes. The lakes are quick and easy to get to and are about 8 km from the Jasper towns (along Pyramid Lake Road) and well worth the visit. Early to bed and early to rise tomorrow for a long days drive.

 Tuesday 7th September   Jasper to Smithers 780kms

We were all ready for off at 0700 for our long 780kms drive to Smithers. It took us 9 hours with some rest stops and despite people assuring us we would definitely see elk and caribou we saw nothing! We were very disappointed as we passed many signs warning us to be careful……alas nothing! Our accommodation in Smithers was at Storknest Inn and was delightful, comfortable, and clean and the owners were very friendly. We bought a takeaway pizza from next door and enjoyed it in our room.

Wednesday 8th September   Smithers to Prince Rupert 300kms

Went for an early morning stroll around Smithers, which was a rather nice little rural town. It is big enough for me to get a little lost but managed to retrace my steps to our B&B in time for breakfast after which we set off to drive 300kms to Prince Rupert. 16kms west of Smithers we stopped for a stroll at twin falls where two waterfalls side by side cascading over rock bluffs and crashing to the rocks below. It was a very pleasant short 5 min walk to the viewing platform.

Our next and longer stop was in Moricetown, about 30kms west of Smithers, which is a native Indian village or a Wet’suwet’en village on the west side of the Bulkley River on Coryatsaqua (Moricetown) Indian Reserve. The current village was built during the early 1900s. According to locals their ancestors lived here over 4,000 years ago. It is home to “approximately 693 on-reserve members, 1228 off-reserve members with a total population of 1921 people.

We parked close to the bridge across the river Bulkley and watched the salmon (Koho Salmon) jump out of the water. They were faced with a huge uphill battle to get to their place of spawning as there was a massive rock to swim up which is impossible but they were helped over this rock by the local first nation people who catch the salmon in a net from this rock, tag it and then they released it into the Bulkley river in a pool above the rock. The First Nation people work very hard from this rock to catch the salmon and relocate them back to the river above the rock so they can continue their journey. Many people come here to fish in the local river but are warned against fishing from a special rock sacred to the First Nation People – it had been nicknamed ‘idiots rock’ because it would be an idiot who fished from there as huge waves pound the rock. There are large signs warning strangers not to fish there, in fact one needs a permit to fish anywhere in this area and even with a permit you can be moved on at any time by the local First Nation people. We watched the First Nation people go through the whole process of netting, transferring, tagging and releasing the salmon.

New Hazelton was our next stop, and is named after the hazel bushes on the area’s terraces, and is home to the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations people, and has been for centuries. In the mid-1860s, the pioneer community of Old Hazelton (now Hazelton Village) was established along the river. We used a pamphlet we picked up from the New Hazleton Visitors centre called “The Hazeltons: A Journey Through Time to take a self guided walk through the communities and read the “Hands of History” signposts which describes a historical person or event. We saw some amazing totem poles and went upstairs to see the “River of Mistexhibition that was on in the centre.

We finally arrived at Prince Rupert and found our B&B for the night. The B&B house called Pillsbury Guest House, was the “the oldest house in Prince Rupert” according to our host Coleen. The historic home was built in 1908, and has a lovely view of the harbour and also offers a 3-course breakfast every morning. Coleen was indeed a character befitting the house she lived in and loved to sing ‘Edith Piaf’ songs.

Thursday 9th September

After a monstrous breakfast of fruit, tortilla, crepes, cereal and jams, and a rendition of some Edith Piaf songs and some funny jokes which the other guest at the table did not get, we headed off for a wander around Prince Rupert (PR) town. Prince Rupert is a vibrant port town on British Columbia’s wild and beautiful Northwest Coast. We wandered around town and then down to the port where a massive ship called the Norwegian Star” docked – it was nerve-racking to watch them berth this gigantic boat beside a tiny walkway but they did it with ease! Prince Rupert is a popular stopping point for many Alaskan cruises and this boat was on it way up to Alaska with thousands on board. We had coffee and spent some dollars in the shops.

Stool in café
Stool in café

In the coffee shop we sat on stools that were shaped like cows udders – after all we were in Cow’s Bay in a cafe called Cowpuccinos Cafe and later had coffee at the Cows Bay cafe. 

Fueled with coffee we drove to the ancient North Pacific Cannery out past Port Edward.

Salmon canning has been an important economic force on the West Coast since the mid to late 19th century. Enterprising individuals built salmon canneries along the coast, numbering over 200 in the industrys heyday. These canneries were built to exploit the untapped resources of the huge salmon runs on the West Coast Rivers, and were a powerful force that shaped the history of the coast. On the more isolated northern salmon rivers, canneries were built as self-sustaining entities with employee housing, and all of the supplementary activities that enabled the cannery to make a profit for its owners. Salmon canning was an important stimulus to economic development of the Coast, as it provided jobs as well as a market for goods, and the justification to build infrastructure such as roads and railways.

Salmon canning on the North Coast developed along different lines than those in the south. One of the most important differences was the physical isolation. On the Skeena and Nass Rivers, canneries had to be built near the fishing grounds. This was for two primary reasons. The first is that prior to the advent of refrigerated boats, the catch had to be transported and processed with the utmost speed to prevent spoilage. The second reason was to take advantage of the nearby First Nations villages and their millennia of fishing expertise.

Canadian pacific Cannery
Canadian pacific Cannery

North Pacific Cannery is THE LONGEST RUNNING Cannery in BC and has a unique history North Pacific Canning Company was formed on November 28, 1888 by Angus Rutherford Johnston, John Alexander Carthew, and Alexander Gilmore McCandless. In 1889, the trustees received a crown grant for 183 acres of land at a cost of $32 and the plant was constructed. It had almost 90 years continuous salmon production and fish processing until ending in the late 1970s.

By 1891, John Alexander Carthew sold the plant to Henry Ogle Bell-Irving and the The Anglo-British Columbia Packing Company, which was founded the previous year. Bell-Irving recognizing the advantages in of consolidation of canning operations and went to England to raise the required capital, and on December 22, 1890 formed the ABC Packing Company to acquire and operate the canneries. He began securing options on several British Columbia fish canneries in the fall of 1890, NPC being one of them. In 1891, the company accounted for more than one quarter of British Columbias total salmon pack, and was the foremost packer of sockeye salmon in the world.

ABC Packers owned and operated North Pacific Cannery until 1968, when the company was folded and its assets sold off. The history of NPC is also unique because of its almost continuous ownership by a single firm for over 76 years; this is remarkable in an industry marked by acquisitions, mergers, bankruptcies and restructuring. North Pacific was purchased by Canfisco of Vancouver BC in 1968.”   (http://www.northpacificcannery.ca/cannery-history/daily-life-at-the-cannery/)

It really was an amazing place, steeped in years of history and a photographer’s paradise. One can take tours or self-guide, as it is very interactive with information posters everywhere.

We drove back to PR and went to “The Breakers Pub for dinner. The views of the sea and mountains were wonderful and the meal was good value. Home to our B&B as once again we had an early morning rise to catch the ferry to take us down the Inside Passage to Vancouver Island..

 Friday 10th September

Our alarms went off at 04:45 so we would be in time to load our car and ourselves on the ferry to take us from PR, along the Inside Passage to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. We waited in a queue for half an hour and as British Columbia is idle freewe could not have the heater on in the car so we were pretty cold! However, we passed the time watching people arrive for the ferry – the ship can take 100 cars and 600 people and one must book well ahead of time. Once on board we explored the ship and saw that it was a lovely clean & comfortable boat and pretty new as it was built in 2009. We paid an extra $30CAN for a seat in the front lounge and boy was it so worth it. It was peaceful, comfortable and had amazing views and could be only access via ‘keycard’. We had breakfast as we cruised the Inside Passage at 22knots. Unfortunately the weather was pretty terrible, the views were shrouded in mist and it rained most of the day on and off. Despite the weather we did have some views of the towns and villages we sailed past. Several humped back whales, killer whales and a pod of porpoises passed us at different stages and the captain would announce – “whales on starboard” and we would all race to that side of the boat. Because we were at the front we often just saw the tail end of them. The ship shop was well stocked and encouraged us to buy some goods for family back home. One couple we met were from the Prairies but had retired to Vancouver Island and were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by taking this cruise. Despite the weather we thoroughly enjoyed the day and have lots of misty photographs to show for it.

We arrived at Port Hardy at 22:30 and drove straight to the backpackers there. It was a bit of a dive and our sheets were dirty (maybe just ‘grey’ but looked like they had not been changed). We stripped them off and slept in our sleeping bag liners – always worth bringing these as they weigh nothing but can be very useful in situations like this one. The chap who ran the backpackers was just filling in between photographic trips. He showed us a book of photographs of British Columbia that he had published recently. He obviously did not know much about running a backpackers.

 Saturday 11th September

We found a cafe in Port Hardy and had a cooked breakfast before setting off for Campbell River to catch a ferry to Quadra Island. We drove down an old logging road looking for bears but did not see any and then drove to a place called Telegraph Cove that we had read was worth a visit. What a quaint place this turned out to be.

Every building was on stilts as the whole cove was tidal. All original homes were maintained and each had a plaque telling its particular history. Many of the local houses were used initially as logging houses and sat on logs and were moved from site to site as the logging areas moved. It is rumoured/said that many loggers drowned as none of them could swim and when they got up in the night to ‘pee’ it was often so foggy they would loose their way and fall overboard! Telegraph Cove was once a very isolated place. One local story tells of an influenza pandemic that affected one whole family. They were so remote that they had to drive through the night to get help. Sadly, the father died on the way and the mother soon afterwards.

We stopped in Campbell River Information centre to cancel the backpackers we had booked in Ucluelet (because of our experience in Port Hardy) and book another B&B there instead. Then we went shopping for food and groceries, as we had to bring our provisions to Quadra Island where we were staying for two nights. We got lost on our way to the ferry but finally got there for the 10-minute ferry ride across to the island. The drive from the ferry to Quadra was very pleasant but along a dirt road which was very narrow. We had the pleasure of seeing some little fawns dance across the road in front of us.

We arrived at this ‘magic place’ called Discovery Islands Lodge in a rain cloud. Quadra Island is part of the Discovery Islands, a group of small islands located along the Inside Passage seaway between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. Quadra is home to an eclectic mix of people from all parts of the world. The island has stunning natural beauty, beaches and wildlife. Discovery Island Lodge offers accommodation and kayak trips all around the island – day or overnight trips depending on what you want.    Lannie & Ralf who own the place and live on Read Island 5 minutes away by boat welcomed us. There were a group of six people from BC and two women from Vancouver Island staying there as well as us two. One of the women was a nurse who worked with the First nation people on Vancouver Island. We had brought our own food for dinner which was very tasty and our room was comfortable and clean.

 Sunday 12th September

We woke to a dull overcast day with light rain and very cold. What an amazing breakfast we had – fruit, freshly baked muffins, porridge made with Quinoa (the first time we had heard of this grain) and sunflower seeds.   Ralf was our guide for our kayak trip and we and another couple from Georgia headed off from the Surge Narrows, in the mist at 10:30 in double kayaks and skirted the side of Read Island.

Out on the kayak
Out on the kayak

We paddled to Maurelle Island, which is located northeast of Quadra and stopped at Surge Narrows Provincial Park where we had lunch. We all felt a little cold and had cold wet feet but had a lovely lunch of salmon salad, homemade bread and cheese. We managed to see seals, ducks, sun stars starfish (orange) and sea star starfish (purple). The rain finally stopped on the way home but despite the rain and feeling a little cold we had a wonderful day.

 Monday 13th September

Once again we had to rise early to get to Heriot Bay to catch the ferry back to the mainland. I rang an old friend, who lived in Cortes Island, which is one of the Discovery Islands, for a chat from Heriot Bay, but he was in Vancouver so I could not catch up with him. We took the next ferry back to Vancouver Island and then decided we would take the scenic route from Campbell River via Port Alberni, which is a lumber and fishing town. We stopped there and watched a display from a fire launch spraying water as it sped along the river. We did intend walking along the boardwalk but the tide was too high. It really was not a very scenic route at all but we did stop at Cathedral Cove in MacMillan Park where the trees are massive – most of them are Douglas Fir and Red Cedar. Most of the trees in the park are over 800 years old. One of the oldest Douglas fir trees in Cathedral Grove is over 9 meters in diameter!

Our final stop for the night was Easy on the Edge B&B in Ucluelet. Our host told us that deer, bears and cougar come around the bottom of the road at night but we did not go out to check! Instead we went to dinner in the Pier Pub – white or red wine madam? No other choices!

 Tuesday 14th September

We woke up to a very thick foggy day but after a lovely breakfast we drove to where the track started for ‘Wild Pacific Trail, which skirts the end of the Ucluelet Peninsula. The fog was so thick that when we walked towards the lighthouse the foghorn blasted out every few minutes.

We walked down to the pier to find the group we had booked the Whale & Bear tour with, for a treat for Marcia’s birthday. We checked we were booked for the following day and Al the owner suggested things to do today in the area. We then went into a shop next door and he followed us in a few minutes later and suggested we consider doing the trip today, as the forecast for tomorrow was not good. So we agreed but the only problem as it had been a delayed sailing today was that he could not provide lunch so he suggested a place to go and buy lunch for ourselves.

It was a lovely trip with a very knowledgeable skipper who was happy to keep us entertained with wild life stories even though we did not see much wildlife. We saw hundreds of seals of different species and some sea lions and one whale in the distance. We did manage to find some sunshine when the fog cleared in time for our champagne lunch while anchored in a beautiful bay. After the cruise we ate at a local café and then back to our B&B.

Wednesday 15th September

It was a wet and rainy day as we waved good-bye to our B&B hosts in Ucluelet. After the boat cruise yesterday and our disappointment at not seeing bears our skipper Al and his partner Toddy told us how to find a place where we could possibly see bears so that is where we set off following breakfast. But first we went to the small aquarium on the waterfront, which turned out to be a real gem, and well worth the time taken to visit. Then off we set to hopefully see some bears!

We went to a place called Thornton Fisheries several kms outside Ucluelet and not easy place to find. But boy was it worth it and did we see some bears!! We saw several bears, several black bears came and went at different time catching their breakfast, it was amazing, and had us captivated for hours. The bears take advantage of the returning Chinook salmon that are caught in tidal pools at the mouth of the creek.  Thornton creek hatchery is located in Ucluelet’s inner harbour. Watching the black bears move around they seem slow and docile but we were very careful to ensure we stayed on our side of the stream as they can move very quickly.  What was amazing was the swift action once they spotted their prey as they move with speed and power to catch their next meal. We were warned not to be complacent as they are still wild animals, and though they appear peaceful when viewed from a safe distance, one needs to maintain this distance and not try for close up photographs – use a long lens instead. They can be particularly unpredictable when they have a bearcubs by their side.

 

Our next stop was the Wickaninnish Inn just off the Pacific Rim Highway, which is an oceanfront luxury hotel with direct access to Chesterman Beach and is 5 km from Tofino village. We had coffee and cheese in the dining area – what a beautiful spot!

We then went back to Ucluelet and got dressed in our smart gear – Marcia did not know why or where we were going as this was the last part of her birthday treat. Back we drove to the Wichaninnish Inn to The Pointe Restaurant for dinner. We had a lovely seat by the window with a 240 degrees view of the Pacific Ocean right up and down Chesterman Beach. The service and food in The Pointe Restaurant, one of Tofino’s top restaurants was fantastic and we both had Dungeness crab in its shell – yum! The Dungeness crab is a highly prized shellfish found along North America’s west coast. It was a fitting end to our ‘bear adventure’.

 Thursday 16th September

Today we say goodbye to Ucluelet and head off to Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island. We spy goats on the roof of a cafe at Coombs and see the Old Country Market with ‘goats on the roof’

It seems that the original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market. Many Norwegian homes and farm structures are built directly into the hillside with the sod roof becoming an extension of the hillside. With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law, Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world.

Next it was the weekend of the Coombs Fall Fair and the grass was getting rather long. Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they ‘borrow’ some goats to mowthe grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than thirty years. Each spring, a trip of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world.(http://www.oldcountrymarket.com/history.php)

The market building was huge with amazing collections of foods , sauces, oils and spices, everything you could need from a market and the goats were very happy grazing on the roof.

Chemainus, the town of 37 murals was our next port of call, it was a quaint small town. The murals were the result of a revitalisation project that was started from a state grant because there were fears that the one employer in the town, the mill, would close and Chemainus would become a ghost town. Instead it has now become a world renowned ‘mural town’ that brings thousands of visitors a year.

 

We finally arrived in Victoria at 16:30 and booked into Helm Inn, which was adjacent to Beacon Hill Park at the southern edge of Downtown. We had a lovely room with a view and the Inn was very close to central Victoria. We walked to the shops and bought some dinner and ate it in our room.

 Friday 17th September

I awoke early and went for a walk that took me past the British Columbia Museum, an impressive building and then past the Empress Hotel (a Fairmont hotel) built in the Chateau style with turrets as per the prescription of the Canadian Railway and sitting beautifully on Victoria’s inner harbour. I walked along the waterfront and past the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, which are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

After breakfast we set off for the famous Butchart Gardens built in an old disused limestone cement quarry by Jennie Butchart wife of Robert who ran a successful cement business until the quarry ran out of limestone. Both keen gardeners they built up, what is today a sensational masterpiece of world-renowned gardens, between 1906 and 1929.   The Butcharts began by creating a Japanese Garden on the seaside, an Italian Garden on their former tennis court and a beautiful Rose Garden. Jennie Butchart was the main driving force behind the creations of the gardens but Robert took great pride in his wife’s remarkable work. He enjoyed and collected ornamental birds from all over the world and so the bird life in the gardens began – ducks in the Star Pond, peacocks on the front lawn and many elaborate birds throughout the gardens. Fourth generation Butchart now owns and runs the garden today and each generation have added their own stamp to the gardens.

We took a lovely boat ride on the Tod Inlet (in an electric boat) from the wharf near the bottom of the garden.  The staff all seem to love their work and take pride in letting you know the history of the gardens. Amazing foresight of Jennie Butchart to turn a disused cement quarry into a sunken garden by hauling loads of top soil and hand down this amazing gift to next generation. The current owner Robin-Lee Clarke is the great granddaughter of Jennie Butchart and according to staff comes to work every day at 08:30 and really looks after her staff, many who have been there for many years. Each year they employ students and at the end of their season they receive a report – if they get a good report they receive a letter from Butchart Gardens inviting them back again next year. There are 600 staff employed during the peak season and this goes down to 200 in winter. A real enjoyable several hours!

Next we headed off to find Sooke and ‘The Galloping Goose walk/cycle track which we had read about. It was not easy to find but eventually we found it. First we stopped at 17 Mile Pub, a lovely quaint old place where we had some tasty soup before heading down the Galloping Goose trail for about 5kms.

Legislative Building at night, Victoria
Legislative Building at night, Victoria

After eating leftovers for dinner that evening, we wandered out to enjoy the lights on the Legislative Assembly building which was lit up like a Christmas tree.

 Saturday 18th September

We woke to sadly, our last day on Vancouver Island and drove to Sidney for a walk and breakfast before taking the ferry back to Vancouver. Had crab cakes for breakfast at the Pier cafe – tasty!

We arrive back to Sue and Dennis’s house mid afternoon, we cleared out car and took it back to the rental company where we were collected by Dennis and Sue and whisked off to there holiday home in Whistler, what a hard life! We stopped at Shannon Falls with its beautiful views then on to their beautiful log cabin under the Black Tusk mountain peak in Black Tusk village. Dennis did his usual wonderful BBQ cooking – steaks this time.

Sunday 19th September

Spent the day in Whistler about 20 kms away following a scrumptious breakfast cooked again by Dennis. Whistler was a typical alpine town where tourists are well catered for – summer and winter. We spent several hours wandering around the village having coffee and lunch and did some shopping. We visited the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, entrance was $18CAN and well worth it. It is the first ever centre dedicated to the history and culture of local First Nations, and its position in Whistler “is where mountains, rivers and people meet. Built to preserve their culture and share it with others, the building is designed to evoke the longhouses of the Squamish people and the Istken (traditional earthen pit house) of the Lil’wat people with a modern architectural interpretation”. (http://www.whistler.com/arts/squamish-lilwat-cultural-centre).

It is an interpretative centre with local tribes singing and playing drums and one could spend some time in their workshop watching them make woven bracelets from wet strains of cedar wood bark. We also watched a film about the First Nation People and their history in the area.

 Monday 20th September

Today we walked to and around Lucille Lake just of Highway 99 – Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler. On the way we passed the area where the old village of Pinecrest was destroyed and all village people were moved to the village of Black Tusk, see below from the website:- www.blacktusk.org “In the years 1980-81, the town of Garibaldi, located 3 kms south of the Daisy Lake dam consisted of 2 lodges (Alpine Lodge owned by Doug and Diane McDonald and Garibaldi Lodge owned by Ian Barnett of Pinecrest), 80 lot owners, a school building, General store and fire hall.   During those two years two events occurred which would figuratively and physically destroy the little village.

The first was a geological report on the stability of the rock barrier holding back Greater and Lesser Garibaldi Lakes. This report for the Government of the day impacted negatively on the town and created a liability for the government. Accordingly, an Order in Council was passed expropriating the owners rights and property.

The second was the Dec 26th 1980 flooding of the Cheakamus river canyon, which physically destroyed about half the properties along its banks.

The result of long and intense negotiations with the Government, led by Nelson Bastien and 10 seriously committed supporters, was the establishment of a new site, five kms north, that would become Black Tusk Village as we know it today.

We walked around Pinecrest lake and back through the forest to Lucille Lake.

Tuesday 21st September

Hike to Lake Cheakamus amongst the giant cedars
Hike to Lake Cheakamus amongst the giant cedars
IMG_9736
Brandywine Falls
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Black Tusk shrouded in mist
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Lake Cheakamus
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On the walk to Lake Cheakamus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we had planned a hike into Lake Cheakamus in Garibaldi Park and packed our lunch for the 7kms hike. We started the trail about 8 kilometers from the Sea to Sky Highway at Cheakamus Crossing.  We drove along a dirt road for 8 kilometer, which was pretty bumpy but gets you to the river and lake elevation instead of hiking it. We walked through a forest of giant cedars that give off an amazing aroma that you can smell before you see them.  For the first few kms of the track, you walk parallel to the Cheakamus River, which is a large noisy river that you get peeps off along the way and you certainly hear it crashing along especially as it gets close to Cheakamus Lake. The trail continues along the lake and we pass several small beaches alongside the lake. We stopped at one for our lunch and dipped our toes in very cold water! We sat on some rocks and ate our lunch as the sun beamed down on us. It is a very flat easy trail and very beautiful. On the way back Dennis and Sue showed us how to use a bear proof food hang (sometimes called a food cache) – very clever and very necessary for anyone camping around the lake.  The lake is a stunning turquoise colour with contrasting white distant snow capped mountains. On our way back we walked over Garibaldi bridge. On the way home we stopped off to view the Brandywine Falls in the Brandywine Provincial Park. The falls are 70meters high and there are several local stories about how they got their name Brandywine. It is believed to have come from a wager between two surveyors Jack Nelson and Bob Mollison, who were working for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway, over the height of the Falls. The person who could guess how high they were would win a bottle of brandy(wine). A chain was used to measured the height and it was Mollison who won the wager and the bottle of brandy, and Nelson then named the falls Brandywine.

Bear 'humanised'
Bear becomes ‘humanised’
Bear wanders into ‘gas’ station

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove home Dennis noticed a slight commotion at the local petrol station and we saw a huge bear casually cross the road and stroll into the petrol station heading for the rubbish bin. On the other side of the rubbish bin was a woman casually filling her car with petrol, completely unaware that the bear was with meters of her. The attendants raised the alarm and called the local park rangers who came and tagged the bear after tranquillising it with a dart. Many bears become ‘humanised ’ and they get tagged when they are caught. They then get take out to the wild and if the end up with two tags and if they come back a third time then on the third occasion they could be shot as they may be unable to adapt to living in the wild.  We then went to visit the Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympic Park, an amazing complex, well worth a visit.

 Wednesday 22nd September

We woke to a beautiful clear day for our trip on the Peak 2 Peak gondola. This ride was in a cable car from Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain and the claim it is the longest unsupported span in the world. We hiked up to the beginning of the ride and then

On the way accross!
On the way across!

attempted to hike the whole way up to the peak of whistler but only managed 3/4 of the way up. We had a stunning vista from there. Once in the car (we had the silver car with the glass floor – there are only two of these so worth the wait for one) we were on top of the world surrounded by white snow capped mountains and we glided smoothly to the other side spotting some deer and one bear far below us. The colours in the bush and scrub below were truly autumnal. We wandered around Blackcomb when we got to the other side

Views from P2P
Views from P2P

and then headed back over the P2P in a red car. This Gondola breaks three world records: it is the highest lift of its kind towering over the valley floor by 436m, at a length of 3+km it is the longest unsupported span and it completes the longest lift system in the World. What an amazing and adrenaline pumping trip! Memorable!

Thursday 23rd September

Up early to clean the cabin, leaving Blacktusk village at 10am. it rained all the way back to Vancouver. Had a lovely lunch at Sue and Dennis’s place and said a sad goodbye to our amazing hosts. We will return! Auckland awaits