Archive | June 2011

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 7 – Busselton (finally!) – Mandurah

Today we have to drive north anyway, so we make one last attempt in Busselton to try our luck. What d’ya know – the jetty train is operating! Yay!

The UWO is still closed but on chatting with a staff member at the counter, I’m told, in reality it doesn’t really open in winter, the peak season when the UWO is open daily is really in summer time.  This is because, in order for the water to have sufficiently clear visibility to view the underwater reef, there needs to be several consecutive days of good weather.  Which you can get in sunny summer, but not in typically rainy winter!

Ahh.  So now, you know too! Nowhere on the internet has anyone has said anything about this and the website says it is open all year round.  Not true!  While it does caveat with the phrase “weather permitting”, this now gives us a little more clarity what the phrase really means. 🙂

We buy tickets for the 12pm train and since we have 45 minutes to spare, we quickly run to settle an early lunch.

There is only one restaurant within walking distance of the jetty, the other is an ice-cream café that sells regular white bread sandwiches at what I’d consider expensive prices for a small serving. 

So we walk into “The Goose”.  Cute name…I forgot to ask them why it’s called that.

The waitress informs us that lunch won’t start till 12, and currently they are offering only the breakfast menu. A quick glance at the prices shows the breakfast menu is cheaper anyway. Heh, even better – I love having an excuse to eat breakfast for lunch. 😉

Time flies and 11:50 creeps up on us!  Here comes the train returning from the other end of the jetty. Cue to settle bill!

While DH makes payment, I shovel the last mouthful of bacon and eggs into my mouth(I know, terribly unladylike…but I’ve a train to catch), grab a napkin, wrap my toast in it, and shepherd the kids out.

DS is so thrilled with the train ride, he can’t stop grinning. DD is busy experimenting with Daddy’s camera and taking pictures of us all – she’s getting to be a real pro photographer.

I cuddle the two of them and sigh happily as I lean back in my seat, munch my toast and hum the song, “It’s a happy day, and I praise God for the weather…”

After our train ride, we hang around the beach a little while, chasing seagulls and other birds, and picking up little pebbles, seashells, pine needles and other assorted treasures from the ground. All’s well and calm till DS puts his fingers into some bird droppings…eeeeeerrrggh!!

*****

After Busselton, we drive north to Mandurah. And we find out that the place where we’re booked in – Comfort Inn Crest Mandurah – is under acquisition by another motel chain. What this means:

  • The reception was closed. We drove round and round the city and marina area trying to find the acquirer’s reception to collect our keys. Grr.
  • The laundry facilities were locked.
  • The place was fairly deserted. Only a few other cars were parked outside the other self-contained units.
  • Although our unit had fairly large rooms with comfy beds, the heater unfortunately was not working properly, and neither were the hot showers. 😦 DS had a rude shock when the water suddenly turned freezing cold in the midst of his bath, and our nights were cooooold!

What an experience… I’ve never stayed in a place that is in the midst of being taken over. 

I hope they will repair the necessary – the place is really quite nice, barring the poor facilities maintenance, but I suppose that’s just part and parcel of the process of acquisition.

Looking on the brighter side though, driving round and round the marina gave us the opportunity to ooh and aah over the massive luxury homes in the canals, each with one, some with two, or three(!) boats moored in their own private berths. 

Talk about living in the lap of luxury – one driveway and garage to park your multiple cars, and one private jetty to park your multiple boats!

This trip has been full of adventure – date changes, weather unpredictability, fallen trees, motel takeovers – it’s our most eventful family trip to date! 😉

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 6 – Dunsborough – Geographe Bay – Margaret River

DH’s parents are leaving for Perth this morning to visit with friends, so we will be going separate ways from here till the end of our trip. The weather report from Busselton is still not positive…sigh…so we scan the map to try and make alternative plans for the day (again!)

We decide to drive to Dunsborough to try out those famed meat pies.

They’re pretty good. We liked the steak and pepper best – even the kids although they found it spicy!

A good number of locals pop in to purchase a pie or pastry for lunch, or buy a loaf of bread home.

The rainy day is a bit of a dampener though, we can’t do much except walk around the town a little, let the kids ride a coin-operated carousel in the shopping centre and then run back into the car. Mum purchases a $2.50 pack of 34 farm animal pieces for the children.

*****

We drive around a little and find ourselves along a coastal road that runs beside an inlet. The road sign says Geographe Bay or something to that effect.

It makes for a nice scenic stop to give the kids their lunch and let them run around a little on the grass.  A family of ducks swims by while we are there. 

DD asks if there are sharks in the sea waters beyond the inlet. (In our visit to the Planet Shark exhibition at the Science Centre, we’d read that Australian waters have a lot of sharks…). 

I refer to a brochure we’d picked up at the Tourist Information Centre. It says that turtles, rays and sharks can be found in the waters of Geographe Bay.  So DD is right. 🙂

Mum goes off to explore the walking trail to see if there is a way to walk out onto the little breakwater-like piece of land in the middle of the inlet.  She returns fifteen minutes later and says there isn’t, but that there is still a good stretch of road down that warrants some exploration.

With the rain starting up again, we all pile back into the car and go driving down the road.  There are some interesting homes to view, and almost all of them have a boat in the garden.  The road also has several turn offs that lead to boat ramps down to the water.  It’s been a pleasant drive, but it’s almost 2pm now, so we decide to head back to Margaret River.

*****

We drive back down Caves Road and along the way, we go past Swings and Roundabouts, and see a sign out that says “Wood fired pizzas 12-3pm”.

Should we? It certainly sounds a more interesting proposition than “going back home to do, um….(what?)”.

So we reverse the car and turn into the parking lot.

The winery has a very relaxed vibe, decked out with some worn but comfy sofas, and boardgames, books and crayons on tables beside the sofas.

We chat a little with the lady at the counter and taste some wines. Order a pizza and soup to share. The kids open up their present and are busy playing with their new farm animals set.

And we spend the rest of the afternoon just kicking back and relaxing, as it continues to rain intermittently outside. It turns out to be a splendid afternoon – indoors on a rainy day with good company, a supply of recreational games and food and drinks.

It seems as if we have sat there for all afternoon, but it’s only three when we get up to leave. I know that because the Italian guy who made the pizzas was just putting on his coat and waving goodbye to the proprietor.

Whoa – to be able to live like that…arrive at work at 12, make some pizzas and soup, leave at 3…shiok, man. Why can’t we live this kind of lifestyle in Singapore….hahaha!

*****

We return to Sunflowers and bring the kids out on their daily trek to feed the animals again. When we return to our unit, mum comes to the door to greet us, and suddenly exclaims in delight – there is a rainbow in the sky!

At about the same time, because the tv was switched on, we hear news that the airport may potentially be reopened tomorrow, as the ash cloud looks to be clearing.

We spend some time admiring the rainbow, and counting and listing the colours. I ask DD if she remembers the rainbow she drew with her new markers a couple of weeks back. How cool is that to be able to revisit our little science lesson so soon!  😀

And this, is the picture that I said was framed by God, and that we’ll be sure to give a special place in our travel scrapbook.

As DH and I stand and watch the rainbow slowly fade, we talk about how the rainbow is a gentle reminder of God’s providence and protection over us.

Truly, He has faithfully watched over us each and every step of this trip. Blessed be His holy name.

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 5 – Busselton – Yallingup – Canal Rocks

We leave the farm early and drive up to Busselton, hoping to visit the Jetty and Underwater Observatory. Unfortunately, a rainy night and morning have resulted in very grey and choppy waters, and both the Jetty Train and UWO are closed for operations, due to the weather conditions.

It’s a shame as I had been looking forward to exploring the 1.841km long jetty and I thought the Underwater Observatory would be an interesting experience for DS who loves underwater sea creatures.

The waves are so strong, they crash upon the side of the Busselton Interpretive Centre’s building, and splatter the windows with sea spray. If we’re here just 50m out from land and feeling all that, I can’t imagine what it must be like 1.8km out in the open sea!

Anyway, we take the opportunity to point out to the children the difference in the nature and colour of the waters when the sea is choppy, vs. when the sea is calm. We don’t really see choppy waters in Singapore because it is sheltered by large bodies of land surrounding it, so the sea is generally calm.

The grey of the waters also reminds us of the illustration of a storm in “Sharing a Shell” by Julia Donaldson, a book they just read recently. It’s great to be able to bring that illustration to life here.

With nothing much else to do at Busselton, we decide to go to the 11am sheep shearing show at Yallingup Shearing Shed.

This is our second visit, but I like the demo here very much because Farmer Steve Butterly gives a very informative end-to-end walkthrough of the process of shearing sheep and processing wool for commercial sale, from the point where the sheep is sheared, to the distribution of the various parts of the shorn wool, to the packaging into bales, and explanation of where the bales go, and what are the various roles in a shearing shed and how much each earns.

Older children also get to participate in each step of the process, which makes it more real and memorable.

This brown dog is a Kelpie – its job is to run through the sheep to herd them back into the pens. The reason sheep farmers use border collies and kelpies to help them, Farmer Butterly says, is because, while any dog can chase or run through the sheep, these two breeds specifically do not bite the sheep, as other dogs may be prone to do.  Interesting…

At the end of the session, he recommends two places to visit – Canal Rocks and Dunsborough Bakery for meat pies. Since Canal Rocks is just nearby, we take up the suggestion, and are not disappointed!

*****

It. Is. Amazing.  We are standing on a boardwalk that is built across a channel of water, into which the sea water from the rocks pours in. The sea water level appears to be higher than the water level in the channel.

The camera does not do it justice. You just have to be there. 

Listen to the roar. Stand in awe of the crashing waves. Cover your ears from the whipping winds. Wonder about the water level. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time.

*****

In the late afternoon, we take a tractor ride out on the property of Sunflowers Farm. Overnight guests are treated to tractor rides on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Aside from seeing the sheep and kangaroos that dot the green hills, we also get to feed the cows some bread from the side of the tractor.

Moo!

It’s too wet and windy to build a campfire to toast marshmallows, but the children have some fun splashing and stomping in a little creek that runs through the farmland. I am glad for those rainboots!

Subconsciously though, I wince each time DS and DD splash their way across the creek, which makes DH and Debbie, the farmer’s wife laugh at me. “They are rain boots, they’re built to get wet!”

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 4 – Margaret River

Last night, we all put on our parkas and braved the cold to admire the multitude of twinkling stars in the deep dark night sky. The night sky in Australia seems to have more stars than that in Singapore.

I’m pretty sure there is a scientific explanation for that, but searching google has turned up a million articles, none of which articulate an answer to my satisfaction. Sheesh.       

Anyway, this morning while DH’s parents head out to the township; mum, the kids and us head to The Berry Farm, on a friend’s recommendation. They have some interesting jams – boysenberry and port jam, anyone? 🙂

The kids are none too interested in jams and dips, so DH brings them to the playground (yet another playground!) while mum and I taste the samples.
We also try their strawberry liqueur, but the alcohol content in liqueur is much too strong for me.

Leaving with some shared purchases, our next stop is Voyager Estate. But before that, a mini adventure – a tree had fallen across Rosa Glen Road in the space of the hour we were at Berry Farm.

There was another car in front of us but after surveying the situation together, both DH and the other driver concluded the tree was too big to move, plus we didn’t have the right tools, so after ringing at the door of the nearby property with no answer, she rang for assistance on her mobile phone, and after that we took an alternative, but longer route back out to the main road.

It strikes me that we take for granted the accessibility we have in Singapore. In our compact city, many alternatives prevail, and response to a call for roadside assistance is almost instantaneous. And we’ve grown to expect that kind of instantaneous service response.

Failing which anyway, one can always find many other people around to help or commiserate about the situation. As opposed to out here, where it’s rural and deserted, and where no one was home at the nearest property, and the other properties are way way way down the road.

When we finally arrive at Voyager, DH’s parents have already been there half an hour, and had explored the Rose Gardens.

Some pics from our Voyager Estate lunch – yummy! 

We’d kept all our accommodation bookings to as budget as we could, and our flight tickets as well, because we knew this lunch bill was going to set us back a fair bit.  But in the end, DH’s dad insisted on paying it all…  Thanks, Dad! 

Voyager Estate - Girt by Sea 2009 Cabernet Merlot

 

Estate baked mini loaf and dukkah with Fini olive oil

 

Char-grilled Tenderidge eye fillet with potato dauphinoise, broccollini and Cafe de Paris butter

 

Seared duck breast with green bean and grape salad and muscatel sauce

 

Margaret River venison with roasted pumpkin pappardelle, beetroot puree, sauteed spinach and chocolate infused jus

 

Mount Barker chicken breast with onion soubise, sage butter and zucchini ribbon salad with sumac dressing

*****

After lunch, we drive south to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, as the grandparents want to see again, the meeting of the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean.

Here’s an interesting pic DH took of a compass showing the distances of different places from the lighthouse.

While we’re there, we spot some black flecks or shadows, glinting in the sunlight against the distant waves. 

Whales? According to the books, Augusta is the right place at this time of year to be whale-watching, so hm, who knows? 😉

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 3 – Fremantle – Margaret River

When we checked out of Mariner’s at 9:40am this morning, the plan was to drive non-stop to Margaret River and lunch there, but around 11.10am, DH’s dad signals for our convoy to stop for coffee and to stretch our legs.

We stop at a roadside café just before Bunbury, which is connected to a petrol kiosk and has a playground out back. The kids must think Australia is playground paradise – it seems as if we find a new playground every day.

After sipping our lattes, we vote to just settle lunch here.
It’s 12:40pm when we get back into our cars for the next leg of our journey. All fed and happy, the kids doze off.

Around Carbunup River, DH and I decide that an after –lunch impromptu chocolate stop might be nice.

Oooooooooooh chocolaaaaate… 😛

So with happy thoughts spurring us on, we zoom happily down Bussell Highway and the turn off to Harmans Mill Road.

I should state, at this juncture, that all the maps are with us. The grandparents had entrusted us solely with the navigation and itinerary planning, so they had no idea whatsoever where we were heading, up until we turned into the parking lot of The Margaret River Chocolate Company.

Oooooooooooh chocolaaaaate… 😛

Milk choc, white choc, dark choc - I wanna eat 'em all....

Having satisfied our flavonoid dietary cravings requirements for the month week day, we drive over to Margaret River Providore, which is under the same ownership as MR Choc Co. Aside from a whole range of jams, spreads, dips, olive oils and the like,

Providore also has a pretty vegetable garden, which we spent a good forty minutes wandering in.  It was a good opportunity to show the kids that their veggies come from a patch, and not off a supermarket shelf.

Just look at that beautiful eggplant…

And this is an asparagus fern.

The asparagus spears that we eat are actually the immature fronds of the asparagus fern.  This is because once the buds start to open, the shoots quickly turn woody.  

The fern dies off completely in winter. It starts growing again in spring, and you can pick the spears right through to summer. 

The fruit is a small red berry, about 6 to 10mm in diameter and is poisonous to humans.

I learnt something new today. 🙂

After that yummy detour, we check in at Sunflowers Farm at 4pm. We’ll be here for four nights.

The kids head straight out to grab two buckets with bread, lettuce, and grains to feed the farm animals.

The grandmothers set to dishing up a four course home cooked dinner, with persimmons, watermelon and custard apples for dessert afterward.

And that, is all of our plans for the rest of the evening. It’s all grand.

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 2 – Fremantle – Sorrento Quay

We head out to Fremantle Markets this morning.

It’s a wealth of little artsy-craftsy nooks and stalls, but prices are pretty steep, so although I had some fun admiring some really beautiful pieces that I would’ve liked to cart home to add a little character to our place, we kept our purchases to food items which were more reasonably priced.

Leaving with some purchases of tea, herbs and on-sale persimmons, our next stop is Sorrento Quay.

*****

More seagulls for the kids to chase while the adults scout out a lunch venue.

After walking up and down a couple of rounds, we decide on this interesting pizza place called Little Caesar’s, which serves pizzas on tier trays, kinda like high tea trays but they have pizzas on them instead. In Singapore, you tell a good food outlet from the size of its queue. Since this place looked to be bustling with a local crowd, we figure it ought to be fairly decent.

Yum!

After lunch, we walk over to the beach and playground on the other side of the quay.

DH and I buy a couple of scoops of gelato to share all around, and just sit and chill (literally!) while the grandparents watch the kids on the playground.

I’d never have imagined sitting on a beach in winter, digging our feet into the deliciously fine and cool sand and savouring a complex contrast of creamy honeycomb butterscotch and tangy blood orange gelato. 🙂

Bizarre, but very yummy.

Scribbles from our Travels: Day 1 – Singapore – Fremantle

By the time we load up our luggage and leave Perth International Airport, it’s about 4+pm. We check into our charming little accommodation at Mariner’s Cottage, Hampton Road at Fremantle, and set about making ourselves comfortable for the night, i.e. figuring out how to start the gas fire in the living room.

The pics below are of the garden of Mariner’s Cottage. The vines trailing down from the garden shed are real ones.

Another view of the garden.

A tree from the neighbour’s garden is heavy with what appears to be prunes, and some of them have fallen in the garden. Mum picks up one to taste, but it’s sour. Maybe not the right season… 😉

*****

It’s winter in Australia now, and the sky turns dark by around 5:30pm. It feels like 8:30pm although we leave the cottage around 6pm to drive to the Esplanade for a fish & chips dinner.

The last time we were here two years ago, we ate at Cicerellos so this time round, we decide to try out Kailis.

Did you know that the standard fish used in regular fish & chips is shark meat? I didn’t until just recently, so while we order one standard for the adults, we also make sure to order a cobbler and another grilled fish to share with the kids. 🙂

Dinner is done by 7.30. We must have been hungrier than we thought. 😉 

We take a slow after-dinner stroll on the boardwalk while the kids test their grandparents’ heart rate by chasing seagulls up to the edges of the planks, eek!

*****

On the way home, we stop by Coles to get groceries, and chance upon these boys’ camouflage and girls’ pink polka dot rain boots. They’re on sale for $6 a pair! 

What a find. 🙂

The ones I saw in Singapore retailed for S$26.90, much too expensive for something that would be just for occasional use! The last time we stayed on the farm, the kids got their shoes and socks, AND the hems of their jeans so muddy it was a right task to scrub, but these will thankfully redeem me from the tyranny of  muddy laundry. 😀