This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2008 Travels January to May


Over our many years of travel, we have experienced plenty of times when things did not work out as planned, but in the overall array of these, 2008 was an absolute doozy. The whole damned year didn’t happen as we thought it would…..

Towards the end of last year’s trip, we were mentally mapping out a three month jaunt to some of the loveliest coastal parts of WA, with a few side explorations thrown in. The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, specifically a stay at the laid back and scenic Middle Lagoon. Barn Hill and Eighty Mile Beach revisited. Some exploration of the area north of Kalgoorlie – or maybe even the deferred trip across the desert, from Newman to Alice Springs. Nice set of ideas, but……

Middle Lagoon – Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome

In late 2007, son with marital woes moved back home. With him came his 5 year old daughter and 18 month old son – not full time, else I wouldn’t still be sane enough to write this, but every second weekend, and a couple of nights in between.

As well, we still had M occupying one of the back bedrooms. Suddenly, our spacious home was not so spacious. Items like portacot, high chair, nappy container appeared…….and toys……lots of toys!

Son’s need for support, both when the children were here and in terms of general company at home, made an extended trip unwise, so we reluctantly cancelled our wonderful housesitters. They were easily able to find a replacement booking, and promised us five months or so next year. We had to be optimistic and think there would be a next year – in travel terms!

Almost as soon as we returned in 2007, and amid the demands of the new bowls season, John made a start on the projects that he’d been germinating whilst we travelled.

Pre-projects: old BBQ fireplace, steps behind it, and yucky pool beyond

The pizza oven was built and in conjunction with that, there was remodelling of part of the front garden, taking out the old sleeper wall that had formed one edge of the driveway, and also housed a massive European wasp nest. This was replaced with a wall of the same edging used in the renovation around the pool, with the creation also of a grassed ramp up onto the higher lawn level – allowing for easier movement of heavy tools to the back yard and John’s shed, and also for extra parking on that lawn. Suddenly, we had four resident vehicles…..

Ramp access for extra parking

The pool was, as we had expected, a major project. The thick, green water was deemed beyond remediation, by a pool company. A septic tank cleaner, with a large truck and a very long hose, emptied it. In the midst of Melbourne’s drought induced water restrictions, much negotiation ensued with the local water authority, to eventually be allowed to refill the pool. There were conservation trade offs required: we had to install a water tank, buy a solar blanket for pool, install water saving shower heads and toilet cisterns…..The latter items led to a full  renovation of the main bathroom, and then our ensuite. What was that about “life” and “easy”?

Destroying the old bathroom….

As part of all these changes, we decided that the filter and pump installation for the pool needed to be moved, from right outside the bedroom of the now rented granny flat, to the other end of the pool. The pool predated both our purchase of the house in 1991, and the building of the flat for my father, after we moved in. Dad had a degree of industrial deafness and did not mind the noise from the pool operation nearby. But after his death we had the flat tenanted. No issue, whilst the pool was non-operational, but now…..Thus ensued digging up of some of the slate that surrounded the pool, to relay the plumbing. So, to make it uniform, the whole lot was re-done, and the garden walls on two sides stone edged – with the products we’d seen in Bendigo at the end of the 2007 trip.

Surrounds not yet finished, but pool ready for swimming again – after a decade as a duck pond!

John enjoyed building the pizza oven. He found the slate laying really hard work that taxed him to his 67 year old limits. But that didn’t stop him from doing much of the bathroom renovations  himself!

The pool apparatus was so old and long unused that it all needed replacing – nice new salt chlorinator, and an automated control system that would make it simpler for house sitters to maintain the pool.

All this because M bought John a book on pizza ovens, in Tennant Creek, last year!

New pizza oven, steps to back yard, and slate surrounds….

After all this work, it would have been a bloody sight cheaper to go travelling in 2008. In fact, we could have left the van behind and stayed in upmarket accommodation and still come out ahead, financially.

M jetted off to the USA for a while, then found some other friends to join for an Australian trip, for a few months.

Winter set in with a vengeance – we were not used to these. In fact, we’d only experienced one Melbourne winter in the last decade!

John’s daughter and family returned to Canberra from her recent three year posting to Brussels, complete with his second grandson, born in 2005, while she was on post. The family had acquired – as so many Canberrans  do –  a weekender holiday house on the NSW south coast, at Durras.

By May, we were feeling a real need for a break away and  a respite from “caring”. John wanted to see the Durras place, as well as the family. The south coast of NSW seemed – fractionally – more attractive than Canberra, with winter rapidly setting in. So, plans – albeit somewhat vague – were made, to meet up at the holiday house…..

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2000 Travels September 4


It was a beautiful hot, sunny day.

After breakfast, John went to look for bait and try fishing in the lagoon.

I walked along the beach, right around to the creek.

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Creek mouth area – with old limestone reef formations

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Looking from the creek mouth, back towards the settlement, marked by radio mast

The tidal range here is quite pronounced. At low tide, a reef is well exposed at the lagoon entrance. At high tide, it is covered. It is interesting to watch the changes.

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Reef exposed at low tide

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Reef covered at high tide

John got some oysters and crabs for bait. He lost his little plastic bait catcher in the tide – it was not anchored to anything.

After lunch, we went back down to the beach and fished on the rising tide. John let me use the new rod he bought at Wynyard in Tasmania. The red one that was once mine, that John has used a lot,  had something wrong with the reel mechanism, it seemed.

I think I got one nibble from something!

I enjoyed the effort, but got a bit tired in the legs after a couple of hours of standing. The sun was strong, too.

We returned to the van about 4pm.

There were lots of birds around the place, in general, and around our site, which was lovely. A pair of tawny frogmouths live in a nearby rough-barked gum tree. There are doves – both peaceful and bar-shouldered, and a funny little mob of brown quail. The great bower birds are really amusing with their antics. We saw singing honeyeaters, rainbow bee eaters, zebra and long-tailed finches, mudlarks. So there was a real variety.

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Bower birds

I made soup – green minestrone. John liked it. Tea was some of the soup, and cold roast pork, mashed potato and cob corn again.

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2000 Travels September 3


It was Fathers Day today, but there was no contact from any of the offspring, despite the time lag between west and east. John was quite hurt.

John washed the van before hitching it up. Given the sort of road we would be going on, I failed to see the point! But it guess it removed any salt from being so near the sea.

Even doing that, we still managed to get away at 8am!

We had to go to Coles first, because a computer magazine that John bought yesterday did not have with it the disc that it was supposed to have. Apparently, I was supposed to have collected this when going through the checkout.

The drive out to Middle Lagoon was the same route we’d already been on. It was hot and rather tedious. Just red pindan dirt and scrub. There was not much traffic, which was good, considering the nature of the road.

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Dampier Peninsula road – note the sand banks at the sides

The van towed well on the sometimes rough road.

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Burnt sections by the Middle Lagoon road – probably a deliberate burn off

Paid our camp fees – $198 for the six nights.

We had quite a bit of bother trying to get the van onto the Gum Tree site that we’d booked. The track curves and slope of the land were against us. It was harder than it should have been because a couple of the local men were trying to direct John, but he wanted me to do it. Eventually they realized that he was angry, and went away!

John said we should have gone to a more remote, unpowered site by the beach, instead of me opting for this powered one. However, I was sure he would utilize the power too!

After setting up, John had a sleep, and I went for a long walk along the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.

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Still life – beach variety

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The beach and huts for campers

There were fewer people here than when we visited last week.

Tea was cold roast pork, potato, corn on cob.

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2000 Travels August 28


There was a thick sea fog this morning, hanging over the town. It was quite eerie.

Today we drove north, up the Dampier Peninsula. We had not been up here before, and wanted to get an idea of whether it would be worth bringing the van up for a stay.

The road was unsealed and rough in parts. Some of it was graded well down below the surface of the surrounding land, and there were banks of sands at the sides of where the grader had gone, so passing oncoming vehicles was a challenge. Someone had to drive part way up onto the sand.

The scenery was rather monotonous – all red dirt and sand roads, dry scrub, burnt in parts.

We stopped first at Beagle Bay, where we paid $5 each to enter the community. I wanted to see the Catholic Church. This was completed in 1918, using mud bricks made on site and mortar made from shells gathered by the community. At that time, the Church was run by Palatine monks, though various orders have been involved at Beagle Bay, over the years, from the 1890’s.

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Inside the Beagle Bay Church

The church decorations are unique, made of shells and mother of pearl. Even the floor is “tiled” with shell inlay.

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Floor detail in the Church. Note the stylized creatures

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Intricate detail at the altar

In some ways, we were lucky to be able to view the church at all, because there had just been a collapse of part of the front, under the bell tower. That area was vaguely roped off and we went in through a different door.

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Partial collapse at front of church

The church really was unique – something special. So much painstaking work had gone into its construction. We hoped that any further collapse and damage could be headed off. It would be a real shame to lose something as unusual as this.

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Luminous effect created by use of shells

We continued north, after some way turning to the west, off the main road to Cape Leveque, to go out to Middle Lagoon, where we’d heard there was a campground.

It was about 30kms from the main road to Middle Lagoon. We paid $8 for day entry to the place.

Middle Lagoon was a most attractive spot. It is so called because a reef extends across the bay entrance.

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Beach and bay at Middle Lagoon

 We ate our packed lunch sitting on some rocks, overlooking the lagoon. Then we walked on the beach and found some interesting shells.

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Along the beach

There was a campground there, set up by the aboriginal family whose land it is.

We encountered D and R there – again! Last seen at the King Edward River. They were off to go mud crabbing, so we did not chat for long.

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Creek mouth at Middle Lagoon – home to mud crabs

We decided to bring the van out and stay here, because it looked so lovely. We saw the lady at the “office” and booked one of their powered sites for 6 nights – at $33 a night! Costly, but we hoped it would be worth it. Already felt that it was a pity we could not stay longer, but cannot afford the time, with John’s Games schedule.

We were later leaving there than we should have been. It took us three hours to drive the 190 kms, or so, back to Broome. It was well dark by the time we got back at 6.45pm.

The outing gave Truck a decent run, after the repairs, and all seemed well.

Tea was pasta with my tuna, caper, olive etc sauce.

Watched the football Brownlow Medal count on TV.