A Family Reunion Down Under
16 Sep 2007
Finally getting round to posting a quick update. As we have not been on the road with the bikes in Australia it doesn't feel quite the same doing an update for the website. It feels a bit like writing a postcard telling you about our family holiday rather than giving an update on our latest adventures. However, we have been getting a bit of stick from some people that are waiting for our news (they obviously need to get out more!!) so here goes...........
Our 4 weeks in Australia flew past but we managed to fit a lot in and certainly feel like we know Western Australia much better than we did before. We also know our 2 nephews Ben and Harry much better than we did before which is great.
Dawn (Nick's sister) and Andrew her husband were wonderful hosts, feeding and looking after us amazingly well. We hadn't seen them for 4 years so lots of time spent catching up. We did a good mixture of family things and some excursions on our own which worked really well. No cycle touring on this part of the trip but we used the bikes a lot and did several great cycles around the Swan River and along the coast.
We had a year in Australia in 1993 but spent most of our time in the East before driving a campervan right round. We didn't spend long in the Perth area so this was a great chance to see what we had missed. Western Australia's biggest asset has to be its coastline, with miles and miles of wonderful beaches. Dawn and Andrew live 5 minutes from Mullalloo beach, about 20kms north of Perth city which was great for the odd swim or run. As we were there in the winter there wasn't much beach activity from the locals but it didn't stop Nick and Vick the tourists from going in and sampling the beautiful clear but pretty chilly water on several occasions.
Although it was winter it has to be said that the weather was good to us. Most of the time we had clear blue skies and wonderful winter sunshine. It was cool in the shade and at night but during the day the temperatures were about 20 - 22 degrees (not bad for winter time!). One day it even made 27 so compared to home it was paradise. Having said that we did get a few days of rain but don't think we can complain.
Our first week was taken up with the boys' birthdays and birthday parties. It was a bonus that our trip coincided with Ben turning 10 and Harry turning 7 as it meant we could join in the celebrations, help out at parties and eat special birthday teas and cakes.
As part of the busy birthday weekend we also went to watch the West Coast Eagles play Richmond in the Aussie football league. The whole family are huge Eagles fans so we borrowed appropriate scarves, hats and shirts and headed off with the 42000 other people for a great evening's entertainment. We have to be honest and say that we have never been convinced by Aussie rules. We had seen a game before but mainly due to our ignorance of what was going on we thought it was all a bit odd with all the players just running around randomly after the ball and lots of other people running on to the pitch after every goal to talk to the players. However, we have now been enlightened as to how it all works and what everyone is doing and we have to admit that by the end of it we were definitely coming round to thinking it's not such a daft game after all (I can't believe I've just said that!!).The players are very athletic and it all happens at a great rate with loads to watch all the time. Thankfully the Eagles won so the mood was high and we were able to join in the celebrations.
Our first excursion was a family trip to Dunsborough, a town about 3 hours south of Perth on the coast near Cape Leeuwin. It's a regular holiday and weekend spot for Dawn, Andrew and the boys and they have a house they rent right by the sea. We had a wonderful 3 days doing a mix of seaside activities including kayaking in the surf, body boarding and swimming. We also all had a lovely walk along the coast on part of the Cape to Cape track, visited some wineries, ran along the coast, went out for bike rides, drank coffees and ate ice cream!!
We came back from Dunsborough in time to do the City to Surf fun run. The City to Surf has been going for years and Dawn and Andrew have done it every year for the past 7 with the boys at different stages of buggies, walking and now running. There is a 12km run, a 4 km run and this year there was also a half marathon. So Andrew did the half marathon, I did the 12km, Nick ran the 4km with Ben and Dawn ran the 4km with Harry. It was a wild day with high winds and heavy showers but thank fully not too cold. It didn't stop the 30000 plus that took part and as we all completed our different runs we were all pretty pleased with our achievements. The race finishes near one of the beaches so we did intend to make it a true surf finish but the weather wasn't conducive to a swim that day so we had to be content with a city to 'near the surf' race.
Another excursion was 3 days walking on the Bibbulmun track, a 1000km track that goes from near Perth to Albany on the south coast. Nick and I just did a small part of it south west of Perth, camping for 2 nights in the shelters that are situated along the track with fire pits and drinking water. Due to the time of year there were very few people about and we had the shelters to ourselves. That meant we could actually pitch our inner tent inside the shelter on the bunks which made it much warmer. Most of the walk was through native Jarah forest (a kind of Eucalyptus) with a few high spots on granite dome hills giving views out over the miles and miles of forest that stretched as far as the eye could see. On our second day it started raining from lunchtime and didn't stop until after we went to bed, just like being at home, so we were very glad of the shelter. Thank fully the other 2 days were dry and we had a lovely walk with kangaroos, bob tail lizards, eagles, red and yellow tailed cockatoos and many other wonderful birds. We had forgotten how many beautiful birds and animals Australia has. It also has lots of nasty ones too but thankfully most of them are hibernating at this time of year.
On our last week we headed for Rottnest island which is about 20kms off the coast. It's about 11kms long and 4kms wide with a 24km circuit round the island. There are very few houses or cars with bikes being the most popular mode of transport. There is a settlement at one end with accommodation and shops but apart from that the island is completely unspoiled. There is a restored world war two gun on one hill and a lighthouse on the other. There are also many many wonderful beaches (63 to be exact!). Again not many people were braving the sea but we couldn't resist and even managed to do some snorkelling around an old barge wreck in the company of some lovely fish, some of them pretty big. Apparently the diving and snorkelling in the summer are fantastic with loads of colour but we were just a bit early for that. The island also home to many quokkas: small marsupials unique to the island. They're very cute and sociable creatures a bit like mini kangaroos but without such a big tail. We had about 4 with us at the campsite at night helping us cook the tea and trying to get in the tent. It would be nice to think that they enjoyed our company and thought we were particularly nice people but I think it was more likely to be the fact that we were the only ones on the camp site and the first people of the season, so I think they were just delighted that there might be some food around.
We came back from Rottnest in time to see the boys compete in their school sports day. It was another beautiful day and both boys did brilliantly, winning their individual running races and several relay races. Maybe it was a special effort for their Aunt and Uncle. We were certainly suitably impressed.
So after a very different time compared to the rest of our trip but a very special and enjoyable time, we had to say our farewells and get back on another plane, this time bound for Christchurch New Zealand. We arrived here a week ago and have been staying with friends Alan and Linda who live about 30kms north of Christchurch. They live on a 25 acre block with wonderful views of the mountains and a beautiful house. They also have 15 cows and 12 sheep many of whom are due to calf or lamb in the not too distant future. So in between bike rides, walks, climbing and visiting old haunts, we have been feeding animals, moving fences and generally mucking in. I'm not sure if we would be any good if one of the animals decided to give birth but we could fetch the hot water and towels and offer moral support!
The plan is to head south tomorrow by car, not bike, to do some walking and ski-ing for a couple of weeks then come back here before getting on the bikes and cycling to Auckland. Can't wait, New Zealand looks as beautiful as we remember it and we're looking forward to going and exploring it again. More of that later...........
Take care and keep in touch
Vick and Nick