May 2011

May 1/2—Kojonup - A gateway to Australia’s South West, this town lies in a rich pastoral district of farmland surrounded by undulating hills, the latter we can definitely confirm!  With being only 3 hours south of Perth it’s a great base to tour the Stirling Ranges & Frankland River Wine Region.  For us it was a great base to bust out the laptop & update our website, expenses, deal with other admin stuff, switch on the washing machine, cook several meals as well as checking out Kojonup & taking some photos, these few days can be busy for us.  It’s amazing that by mentioning we’re going to winter over in Albany what offers transpire, we’ve already been given the name of someone in Albany who has a rental property as well as another offer of a house sit.  Unfortunately both of these were too far out of the city, we want to be able to walk to where all the action is.  We’re still looking for a house sit & failing that we’ll rent something.

May 3 — Kojonup to Boyup Brook, 87.21 klms, Avg speed 16.1 kph, Cycling time 5.23 hrs; Total kms 20,764

With not having ridden long distances for a while, we set off for Boyup Brook at 8am with some trepidation, Greg carrying a heavy, sodden tent thanks to the dew & cloudy morning.  We were well prepared for the ride though staying at Kojonup an extra day so the winds were favourable & packing some yummy goodies for morning tea & lunch.  Even though the hills were constant & the ride long we enjoyed it riding in sunshine & seeing deer, lots of green grass & lambs along the way.  By 2.30pm we rode into the Shire owned Caravan Park, Greg pitching the tent to dry out.  The Park is surrounded by trees, we’re camping on grass, have the use of a very good camp kitchen, there’s hot showers & it’s reasonably priced too so we’re happily staying for 2 nights.  Boyup Brook (shire pop 1,600) nestles on the banks of the Blackwood River & on what is now the shortest & most attractive route from Bunbury to Albany (not good news for us cyclists).  It’s also famous for its Country Music Festival in Feb, the four day festival being the largest of its kind in WA.  On our second night in town we thought we’d go out for dinner.  We’d been to the local sports club the previous night for a few beers and were informed that the chef would be cooking that tonight.  When we arrived we were told that the chef was in a darts’ comp up the road at a town called Greenbushes, so dinner was off. Undaunted, we headed to the local pub.  Dinner was just ever so slightly awful.  Mine, eggs and bacon was O.K but had obviously come off a pretty dirty cook top, and Greg’s, well we couldn’t tell exactly what his was.  He’d ordered chicken parmiagiana, but what came out was a deep fried something covered in what looked like cat sick.  He ate it, of course, but I expect him to cease breathing imminently.

May 5 — Boyup Brook to Bridgetown, 33.57 klms, Avg speed 14.2 kph, Cycling time 2.21 hrs; Total kms 20,797

Steep hills all the way to Bridgetown, but it was great sailing down the other side, much prefer undulations to a flat ride.  We arrived just before a downpour & sat outside the Emporium Cafe downing several cuppas whilst being deafened by huge logging trucks & B-Doubles rattling by, unfortunately, Highway 1 runs through the centre of this town.  Bridgetown (pop 4091) has a rustic charm, it was once the apple growing centre of the state but is now famous for its rolling hillsides, scenic drives, jarrah forests, starry nights & the longest flowing river in the state, the mighty Blackwood.  It’s also known for its crisp & seasonal mornings with mist shrouding hilltops in the winter BBBBRRRRR it’s only Autumn & we’ve already experienced a chilly 6C morning.  Bridgetown is also the only town in the South West to be recognised by the National Trust for its heritage significance.  With plenty of walking trails & several Gardens open this weekend our 2 day stay is being extended to 4.  Several mornings in Bridgetown we awoke to find the temperature to be below 4°C.  Greg, not usually known for his sartorial splendour, has donned his beanie and looks like a mix between a greyhound trainer and a bank robber.  It does eventually warm up a little and we amuse ourselves in the usual way.  Coffee, cakes, newspapers, walks, visits to open gardens and a few meals out.  All very nice and great compensation for the cooler weather we are experiencing. 

May 9 — Bridgetown to Balingup, 30.76 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 2.00 hrs; Total kms 20,827

Before we left Bridgetown this morning, Fiona cycled up to our tent to have a chat.  She and her family (2 kids aged 7 & 9) are leaving for Europe in a couple of weeks & will be bike touring around for 7 months.  She tracked up down after visiting an Open Garden yesterday where the owner told her about our trip & that we were staying at the Caravan Park.  She was interested in our journey & our equipment & we had a good chat, what an exciting venture they’re going on.  Our ride to Balingup was a hot one with plenty of hills, reaching the highest point on the Darling Scarp at Greenbushes.  We called in there looking for a cafe & discovered a real gem called Tasty Edibles, it had only been opened for 3 weeks and served lots of savoury & sweet morsels (me Choc & Strawberry Muffin, Greg a calzone stuffed with pork & veges) washed down with several cuppas.  The last 8 klms to Balingup was fast, it was all down hill, Greg’s face lightening up when he said he reached 61 kph, he’s got a death wish that boy!  We checked into the shire owned Transit Park for a couple of days, a lovely spot along the Blackwood River.

May 10—Balingup, old growth forests, winding rivers, rolling hills, vineyards & orchards surround the historic village of Balingup, it’s a beautiful spot to experience the ever-changing seasons: winter valley mists, spring blossoms, glowing summer sunsets & russet red tinting of the autumn leaves, we certainly saw the latter wandering around the Golden Valley Tree Park, WA’s largest Arboretum Park.  I could have stayed longer than 2 days but we must keep moving, there’s still so much to see before we get to Albany and already the morning temps are plummeting, this morning it was a nippy 4C.

May 11 — Balingup to Donnybrook, 33.36 klms, Avg speed 15.1 kph, Cycling time 2.12 hrs; Total kms 20,860

We followed a railway line part of the way to Donnybrook so not too hilly a ride.  Donnybrook is located on the banks of the Preston River & is only 36 klms inland from Bunbury.  Considering it’s so close it’s remarkably under developed.  Donnybrook is known as the Apple Capital of the South West, in about 1890 the Chapman family imported an apple tree which produced beautiful green apples.  This fruit was marketed as Chapman’s Late until 1917 when the name was changed to Granny Smith, green gold had now arrived in Donnybrook & although Lady Williams & Pink Lady apples are more popular, Granny Smiths are still grown locally.  As well as apples the rolling hills support olive groves, vegetables, nuts, organic beef & farm fresh marron.  After 2 days here our next stop was going to be Bunbury but the caravan park accommodation is totally booked out this weekend with fans attending a concert, hadn’t even heard of the name of the band!  So we’re staying put in Donnybrook until Sunday, the Caravan Park is great & it’ll give us a chance to catch up on admin stuff & wash Crazy Ruby & Horsey. 

May 12 to 14 — Donnybrook - we know the dining scene well having eaten out on all 4 nights we were there.  This wasn’t our preferred option but the Caravan Park had no enclosed camp kitchen to keep us warm at night so the choice was a) eat at 5.30pm then disappear into the tent for the rest of the night or b) use someone else’s lounge room & hop into bed at a slightly later time of 8.30pm, we chose the far more exciting option, b).  We disrupted the local Fish & Chip Shop on several nights, good tukka too, had an excellent “Cheap Thursday Meal Deal” at The Swag Hotel (me, yummy vegetarian lasagne, Greg his usual, steak) & our final dining experience was the local Chinese, it was one of those situations where on entering you knew you’d made a huge error of judgement & wanted to walk out but couldn’t.  The place was atmosphere less—no other diners, no music, no tables laid & the owner sitting alone waiting for someone, anyone, to come in.  Oh well, can anybody really dish up crappy Chinese food, uummmm, unfortunately in Donnybrook they can, we grudgingly parted with $65 .......ouch!

May 15 — Donnybrook to Bunbury, 48.72 klms, Avg speed 16.9 kph, Cycling time 2.53 hrs; Total kms 20,908

A scenic but hairy ride, not relaxing with cars whizzing past at great speed, what the hell was happening in Bunbury on a Sunday morning?  If we thought the Great Southern Highway was hairy it was even worse when we hit the Busselton Highway, 5 klms from our destination.  Not to worry, Greg thought he knew a short cut through the back streets, oooppps that’s a dead end “Greg, shall I ask someone the way?” - not a good suggestion—with the air turning blue & smoke coming from Horsey’s tyres we back tracked to the Busselton Highway, squeezed ourselves into the 2 lane heavy traffic & with heart pounding heavily (well mine anyway) pumped our legs our pistons to thankfully arrive in one piece at the Koombana Bay Discovery Park. We’re only paying $11 at this Park instead of $30, being the “low season” there’s some great deals around, the deal is we have to stay for 3 nights, however, with an enclosed camp kitchen & great peninsular location on the we shouldn’t suffer too much!  In fact, we were looking forward to some “home” cooking as for our time in Donnybrook we’d been eating out with varying degrees of success because there was no camp kitchen and we didn’t relish the thought of sitting out in the dark and cold.

May 16 to 17 — Bunbury (pop 87,000—city & outer regions)

After cycling through the quiet wheat belt for the past 4 months our arrival into Bunbury was with some trepidation, but it turned out to be a pleasant town with good cycle routes too.  It’s a major port and business centre of the southwest & being surrounded by water the fishing,  beaches & temperate climate make it a popular spot for holidaymakers heading down the coast south of Perth.  The main reason we came here was to use the services of a particular courier company, Pack & Send.  Several weeks ago my Kindle curled up its toes, Amazon sent a replacement one but my old one had to be returned via an authorised courier equipped to deal with lithium batteries & they were Pack & Send, only located in Perth or Bunbury.  After carrying 2 Kindles around for the past 4 weeks, it was good to finally get rid of it, yeah.  We caught up on  few bits of admin and cycled around the Leschenault Inlet including a very nice boardwalk through the mangroves.  After a couple of false starts we found, what to our taste was acceptable coffee and in between cooking and washing caught up on some reading. Certainly no hardship.  Greg has even taken to the latest rage of Planking.  I’m not sure he’s got it right as he just does it inside the tent, usually in the afternoons, but not always, and more often than not there’s snoring involved.  He’s a man of the times is our Greg....

May 18 — Bunbury to Busselton, 57.82 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 3.14 hrs; Total kms 20,966

The Busselton Highway was noisy & busy, luckily there was a wide shoulder to ride on.  After 28 klms we detoured 2 klms inland to have a cuppa at Capel Vale then rode most of the way into Busselton on a side road via the Tuart Forest, a quiet, beautiful, scenic ride. The weather for the next 4 days looked unpredictable and indeed the forecast is pretty dreadful with heavy rains and high winds so we’re staying in a cabin (luxury) for the next 4 nights at The Kookaburra Caravan Park, within walking distance to town & close to the jetty.

May 19 to 21—Busselton. Lying sheltered on the sweeping shores of Geographe Bay with crystal blue waters, 30 klms of dazzling, white sand & a fantastic cycle path meandering for 14 klms along the foreshore.  It’s picture postcard stuff & no wonder a hugely popular place being surrounded by 200 vineyards & the Cape Naturaliste region.  The timber piled Busselton Jetty has recently been restored, it’s 146 year old & the longest in the Southern Hemisphere measuring 1841 metres.  We really liked Busselton, it has all the amenities you could want and although a very popular holiday destination it actually has the atmosphere that comes when people that live there are out and about, not just the tourists.  With a good selection of cafes and restaurants, a couple of pubs and within spitting distance of the north facing Geographe Bay and one of Australia’s premium wine growing regions, there’s plenty to like.

Having left Sydney over 3 years ago, we miss catching up with our friends & family, however, we’ve been lucky to meet some great people on our travels.  While at Mt. Barker over Easter we met Trevor & Barbara from South Australia, as we rode into Busselton we bumped into them again & enjoyed catching up over dinner at the local pub.  Trevor and Barbara are, when they’re not travelling, involved in a variety of interesting hobbies. Trevor mountain bikes rides, does orienteering , is building a 25% scale model steam engine, while Barbara, who still works part time, keeps herself amused with some crafts and clearly doesn’t mind the odd swim or two as she took a dip whilst in Busselton.  Greg and I both shivered at the thought, but Barb said it was lovely, mmmm.  Both Greg and I are pretty sure we’ll bump into Trevor and Barb somewhere along the road.  Last November as we cycled into Kalbarri & stopped for a cuppa, Mark, Hayley & their 2 sons, Finn & Toby were on their holiday having a break from Busselton.  We got chatting about bike stuff as Mark does a bit of mountain bike riding.  Somehow the conversation turned to food and wine & it turned out Mark is the Assistant Wine Maker at Clairault Winery near Margaret River and would happily show us around when we arrived in Busselton.  We’d been in spasmodic email contact with each other and Mark had suggested a cycle path for us between Collie and Darkin, so when we arrived in Busselton we gave them a call. They’re clearly busy people and involved in the local community.  Mark, apart from his wine making work, is involved in the development of mountain bike trails, and on the day Greg called was helping out at Finn’s school for the day.  Hayley, not to be outdone and apart from bringing up Finn  and Toby, is Finn’s soccer team manager and coach, on the board of the local mental health service provider advisory board, teaches drama and English and a few other things beside.  They kindly found time to pick us up from our luxurious digs in the caravan park and dragged us around the Clairault Winery, plonked us at a table at the restaurant for a very nice lunch and dragged us home again.  It was not only really interesting to be shown around the vineyard and winery, but a very pleasant way to catch up and spend the afternoon.  Thanks to both Mark and Hayley, we both really enjoyed ourselves.

May 22 — Busselton to Dunsborough, 26.36 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 1.28 hrs; Total kms 20,992

Only a short ride to Dunsborough, the first 14 klms along the foreshore cycle path then, unfortunately, the last part on Caves Road, very busy & with no shoulder.  We went straight to the caravan park and set up the tent and unpacked the panniers, before heading into the Dunsborough  township.  I had done my usual internet research and Mark and Hayley had provided some good tips, so we quickly found a good coffee before a quick recce’ of the town, shopping and back to camp.   We do have an enclosed camp kitchen here, well sort off, it forms part of the laundry but the raised roof also covers the shower facilities so there’s plenty of open spaces & draughts, by 7pm we were adorned in beanies, gloves & several layers of thermals & fleeces.  The camp kitchen itself is pretty poor, there’s only a microwave & fridge (no kettle or toaster), there is a stove but the cheeky sods wanted to charge $1 to use it.  Not us, our chilli con carne heated beautifully in the microwave & managed to heat us too.  

May 23 — Dunsborough

No rest for us today, it was onya bike, there’s sightseeing to do.  First stop was Yallingup, about 12 hilly klms away, positioned on a hill overlooking the stunning Yallingup Beach and offering some of the finest surf breaks in the world.  Today the surf was pumping, it was a great sight, loads of surfers trying to catch a wave & dolphins having a go too.  The coastline here is dramatic, jagged rocks & high cliffs faces are met by a haze of sea spray from the swell  below.  A beaut spot, we could have stayed for ages but there was more sightseeing to do.  Next stop was back 11klms to Dunsborough for a good cuppa at Yellingup Cafe then onya bike for the 9 klms ride to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.  The walk trails provided spectacular views of Geographe Bay & the coastline is apparently the perfect vantage point for whale watching between September & December.  Onya bike again & back 12klms to Dunsborough to pick up a microwavable lasagne aka slop for dinner, oh the joys of camping.

May 24 — Dunsborough to Gracetown, 35.17 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 2.17 hrs; Total kms 21,028

Sheep, dairy cows, olive trees, grape vines, lush green fields, fantastic coffee & cake at Hay Shed Winery & Cafe—a beautiful, sunny, scenic ride today filled with lots of pleasures—Greg declared (again) he could live in the Margaret River area!   Our camp for 2 nights was at Gracetown, a popular holiday destination with surf beaches, fishing, safe swimming, coastal walks & surrounded by wineries, no wonder the small resident population swells during holiday season.  We set up our very wet tent and hung out sleeping bags, inner sheets and clothes to dry after a slightly rainy and dewy night last night.  Drying stuff is becoming a real challenge, as the days are now quite short, the sun not strong and strangely the humidity reasonably high starting in the early 90% in the mornings and falling to a more comfortable 50% in the afternoons.  This caravan park not only allows you to light a fire in the evening, they provide the wood to do so, so as Greg gets the flames going I cook a green curry chicken to warm us up.  Yummmy.

May 25 — Gracetown

We ride down the road to Olio Bello an olive oil farm, they also have a cafe.  After tasting a few oils infused with everything we sat ourselves in the sun outside and had a cuppa.  We followed this exhausting chore with a roll down the hill to the township of Gracetown.  It’s a pretty place with expensive real estate overlooking the small bay to North Point surf beach. Nearly deserted at this time of the year we bought some disgusting frozen bread from the store and made lunch for ourselves sitting over the view.  Of course Greg reckoned he could see hundreds of whales, but there were in fact none in sight.  Gracetown was the scene of a tragic accident a few years ago when a rock ledge collapsed on some school children killing 9 of people. There’s a lovely memorial at the cliff edge and that’s where Greg spent a couple of hours  reading at our picnic table in the weak afternoon sun.  I rode slowly up the big hill back to camp as I had a few things I wanted to do without Mr Busybody throwing in his priceless or even valueless advice.

May 26 — Gracetown to Margaret River, 16.32 klms, Avg speed 13.9 kph, Cycling time 1.10 hrs; Total kms 21,044

We were on Crazy Ruby & Horsey for just over an hour today, only a short ride to Margaret River, the last couple of klms on a scenic cycle & walk path along the old rail trail.  About 5000 people live in the township of Margaret River positioned on the banks of the Margaret River.  Some of the most picturesque scenery in WA is found here incorporating towering forests, a diverse coastline, lush green pastures that become a blaze of colour with wildflowers in Spring, awesome surf breaks, spectacular caves & close proximity to world class wineries.  With so much to see we’re staying for 4 days, no camping for us though, we’ve secured a caravan with annexe, to us it’s luxurious & relatively cheap for $55pn containing 2 double beds, 2 teles, fridge, microwave, gas stove, toaster & jug.

May 27-29 — Margaret River

We’ve been to Margaret River a couple of times before, but it was a few years ago and clearly the town has grown and developed since we were here last.  Excellent coffee was to be had at Blue Ginger conveniently located diagonally across the road from where we’re staying.  I’m all excited because we’ve actually timed our arrival at the same time the farmers markets are on. Pretty well everywhere we’ve been we’ve either missed the markets or they’ve stopped for either the summer or winter.  So it is with great anticipation we stagger down the road to check the Margaret River markets.  For a small town they put on a grand display.  Organic beef, pork & lamb, fruit, veg, goat’s cheese, sheep’s cheese, cow’s cheese, say cheese.  Cakes, wood fired bread, olive oil and on and on it went.  Greg says I’ve got that market ,madness look in my eyes.  Anyway, I can’t resist and buy myself a snail pastry from The Margaret River Bakery.  Yummy.  We’ve been happy to stay in at night and cook for ourselves, but I can sense Greg may be getting cabin fever so I suggest we go out on the Saturday night.  We’d heard that a restaurant in town called Arc of Iris is good so we get on our glad rags, which are in fact the same as all our other rags , and head off.  After a pre dinner drink at the local we sat down and gorged on duck liver pate, crispy pork belly for me and more duck for His Grace.  All this washed down with excellent Riesling and Pinot.  It might have been guilt, but Sunday morning we hopped on our steeds and rode to Cowaramup 13klms away along the rail trail. Beautiful scenery along the way, and the 2klms goes a little way to work off the excesses of the lovely dinner last night.  The forecast is not good for the next few days so we expect a wet ride tomorrow to Augusta.  I’d better get some washing done this afternoon...

May 30 — Margaret River to Augusta, 44.92 klms, Avg speed 17.7 kph, Cycling time 2.32 hrs; Total kms 21,089

By the time we left Margaret River at 9am the rain had stopped & blue sky peeped through the grey skies.  Not feeling confident we wore our rain jackets which had been buried for the past 6 months.  Because of the unpredictable weather, not so much the rain but the strong winds, we tossed up whether to ride via Caves Road (longer, blind corners, no shoulder but more scenic) or via Bussell Highway (shorter, busier, more open & hopefully a shoulder).  We chose the latter which virtually had a non-existent shoulder anyway so making the first 31 klms to Karridale pretty hairy.  From there the majority of traffic headed east so we completed the final 14 klms in relative peace arriving only slightly damp & not too wind swept.  We’re staying in Augusta for 8 days at the YHA, it’s good value & well managed but the main reason is to avoid being on the road this weekend, it’s a long weekend so too much traffic & accommodation costs spiral if we get caught up in the holiday fever.  Augusta’s (pop <2000) a lovely town & there’s lots to see, the rugged coastline of Cape Leeuwin, the expanse of Flinders Bay, the sheltered tranquillity of the Blackwood River and Hardy Inlet & the historic Leeuwin Lighthouse where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet at the south western tip of Australia.  It’s also whale migration time so we’re hoping to see the Southern Right and Humpback Whales as they undertake their migration to the warmer equatorial waters in the north. With the Whale Song Festival this weekend, a decent cafe & gourmet deli in town, a choice of Thai or Chinese food & the Augusta Hotel’s outside deck that looks so inviting, accommodation with all mod 8 day’s long enough?