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Friday 27 April 2012

Go West, Young Man! (Part 1 of 4)

Well, the famous quotation only applies in part as I'm no spring chicken but having a mental age of 5 (according to someone near and dear) it sort of fits.  The "Going West" bit is certainly true.

I've previously mentioned that to celebrate our wedding anniversaries, Jennie and I take turns to organise a secret destination.  Most times through misinformation and downright lies, the other party only finds out where we're going on the day of departure.  However, to avoid serious injury injury, it's ok to hint (and it is only a tiny hint) with respect to what clothes to pack.  I don't fancy sucking hospital food through a straw after saying light clothing will be fine whilst booking an Antarctic cruise on a converted icebreaker!

Anyway, it was my turn this year.  The fact that it's also our 40th wedding anniversary brought additional stress, particularly as both Jennie and her female mates have been dropping hints along the lines that "It better be bloody good".... with an unspoken "or else"!

We've been to the eastern side of Australia many times as we like the country and people enormously, but have never been out west where the scenery is spectacular and the population is exceedingly low.  By way of example, WA has an area of just over 2.5 million sq km whereas Texas is just over a quarter of that size.  The telling statistic is that whilst Texas has a population of around 26 million, WA has just 2 million, with half that number being resident in the state capital of Perth.  Consequently, you don't see a lot of people on the roads out that way!  It also ranges from sub-tropical in the south to fully tropical in the north.  Although our anniversary isn't until July, April (autumn) seemed a good time temperature and rain-wise to do the trip.

I really fancied heading out that way and I owe a huge debt to fellow bike blogger Jules in the east of Australia and a neighbour of his for getting me started on the planning process with some great tips.  As it turned out, Jennie only got told the destination 12 hours before we flew out from NZ, although there were some close calls along the way where I was almost discovered!  This isn't a detailed account of all we did in the 3 weeks in WA, but I thought I'd share a very small number of the photos we took en route with a bit of commentary where appropriate. Click to enlarge the photos.

Also, some good news on the blogging front.  The main reason I haven't been blogging regularly is commencing development of an on-line database for IAM advanced motorcycle training, then running it.  It looks like help is at hand for the first part courtesy of one of the newer IAM members who has an I.T background.   Should be able to slip in an occasional post with all this help!

Our route covering around 5000km by road!

Part 1 - South of Perth
Merino sheep are prevalent south of Perth and we visited a working farm to watch sheep being rounded up and shorn at Yallingup.

Australian Kelpie running on the sheep's backs to control them

Shearing the sheep in a couple of minutes

The following photo is a close-up of the merino shorn wool.  The fibres are incredibly fine and make high quality garments.  Bikers in NZ in particular use merino clothing layers in both summer and winter as it wicks moisture away from the body.  Even more importantly, the same shirt can be worn for days on end and not smell due to the antibacterial properties of the fibre.  An unashamed plug for NZ-made Icebreaker gear which is the best of the best!!

Ultra-fine antibacterial fibres

Lonely, dead Eucalyptus tree

Natural gigantic stone bridge - see tiny person top left for scale!

Nice-looking buildings on Busselton's 2 km long pier

Margaret River chocolate factory - Jennie in heaven!

Results of a recent big bush fire - very little left standing

Interesting garden art fish at a gallery

The next photo shows part of the 61 metre high Karri tree known as the Gloucester Tree.  It has steel stakes driven into the trunk to aid climbing it with little or no safety aids (shudder).  Look carefully and you'll see some fool scaling the trunk!

  Sooner him than me!!

Wild parrot eating Jennie's apple

Adult kangaroo - they're everywhere

Dawn from the balcony of our accommodation at Lake Beedelup

Kookaburra sitting in an old gum tree, la la....

Awww...  going on an eco-cruise, Nornalup inlet

The next photo shows part of a walkway through the forest canopy, about 40 metres up.  It doesn't appear to be held up by much and sways slightly.  Fantastic bit of engineering.

Valley of the Giants treetop walkway

The photo below is of a Tingle Tree.  With a wonderful name like that, it should be from a fantasy book!

The wonderful-sounding Tingle Tree

The impressive Stirling Range

The photo below was seen in a men's public toilet in the town of Lake Grace.  Aussies (and Kiwis come to that) don't believe in psychologists when you have mates to help!  Lake Grace is situated in a very arid area and we were impressed that the town verges round the railway station were so green.  On closer inspection, it was astroturf - just brilliant!

That's what mates are for......

Stunning Eucalyptus tree flowers

Yours truly on the Lake Grace salt pan - just about blinded!

One of the most spectacular sights you'll see anywhere is Wave Rock, a wall of  granite thought to be 2,700 million years old.  The colours come from mineral deposits washing down from above and the shape comes from erosion over the aeons.  An incredible monolith.

The CEO playing it cool

Another view of the rock

From Wave Rock it was back to the state capital of Perth.  We'd covered around 2000 km exploring the south and east of Perth and could have spent at least twice the time that we did in this area.  A fantastic start to our anniversary trip!


  1. Cool, nice to have to back, for a little while anyway!

    I do like your tourist trip reports.

  2. Absolutely beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing them and taking us along on the trip. And I will attest to merino wool jerseys. I had several when bicycle touring and they were great. Cool when hot, warm when wet and cold.

    Looking forward to part 2...

  3. Impressive landscape, especially the Wave Rock has me in awe. I never had Australia on my bucket list, but maybe I should reconsider.
    Congrats on the 40th anniversary! I am pretty sure that it topped expectations.

  4. Cheers Rog!
    I feel jet-lagged right now but hope to be functional for the Sunday ride! Not so much of a trip report this time as a photo record.

    Thank you! Yes, I've got about 8 icebreaker shirts of various designs and weights that I can layer up with.

    Hi Sonja!
    Australia is simply gorgeous but it's so big that you have to plan well to avoid spending all your time travelling and not seeing anything. I'd certainly recommend the Margaret River area south of Perth to spend time in. Hope to catch you this week!

  5. Geoff your photos do look great. You are absouletly right about planning trips here. As Aus is as big as the US and you can just spend a couple of days driving somewhere. I haven't been to perth but have been to the top end of WA, that was an eye opener and no mistake.

    Bloody kangaroos are everywhere. People from other countrys love them, they are considered a pest here. Funny you would visit a sheep farm, coming from the sheep capital of NZ and all.

    Like your new blog facelift, it looks good.

  6. Hi Chillertek!
    I nearly ran into a 'roo in our rental driving into the country club we stayed at in the Swan Valley - they are a bloody pest! It was interesting to see how the guy sheared sheep with the body support - not used over here and I didn't have the nerve to goad him about NZ holing the world shearing titles or he'd have come back with something worse ;-).

    Thanks for the comment about the blog 'facelift' but..... It was a total accident as I was mucking about the day before we flew to Oz, wrecked the old format and couldn't get back to it! A new format was rather forced on me!

  7. Geoff:

    welcome back, if only for a short while. That is fascinating landscape in WA. I love road trips to sparsely populated places. I would go wild snapping photos of everything. I love Merino wool, now I know where it comes from

    Happy Anniversary to you and Jenny

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

  8. Hellloooooo Geoff. Great choice on an anniversary trip. I bet Jennie was a happy camper. Congrats on 40 years too.

    The pictures are all beautiful, but my favorite are the one of the wave rock. Jennie looks like a movie star posing with it.

    Glad to see you back at blogging and hope you can check in from time to time after your trip report is done.

    I will be patient and wait for part 2.

  9. Happy Anniversary! Wonderful trip! Thanks for the pics. I've still got aspirations of visiting Australia. Now I just want to spend months there. :)

    Looking forward to more. I was going to comment on the new layout too... Like it...but now I see how it came about. Hehe

  10. Hi Bob!
    Yeah, I took about 400 photos and it was hard to leave so many out as there were some amazing sights. Thanks pal - it's amazing that I've survived the 40 years without something sharp sticking out of me :-).

    Howdy Trobairitz!
    Jennie was indeed a happy camper which was a heck of a relief. Genuinely didn't know what she was going to think. Wave Rock was a fair old way from anywhere but it was worth the effort. We covered 800 km that day! Thank you and part 2 is already underway. It's not a big job whilst I'm cataloguing all the photos.

    Hey Lori!
    Thank you and if you're planning to visit Aussie, you'd better take a few weeks or go there multiple times!(Take a few weeks in NZ, haha!)Thank you again on the layout. Amazing what can arise through complete incompetence, isn't it???

  11. Hi Geoff - good to read from you again - you certainly did the right thing by covering a lot of distance to experience how diverse the landscape is in WA - wonderful photos - Loui

  12. G'day Loui!
    Thanks very much - hope I won't bore you to death by the time I've finished! I'm being quite brutal about the number of photos which get posted. Hope the Striple is going well.

    1. Hi Geoff, the Striple is going very well which makes the limited riding time quite frustrating...will be puting the michelin power 3s on by years end.
      Wasn't bored one bit by your subsequent postings...look forward to more.

    2. May you have a fantastic 2012 on it, despite the limited riding time!

  13. Hi Geoff,

    I'm very new to riding and blogging both. I stumbled across your blog thru another aussie blogger and I've been working my way thru the whole thing, yes I started at the beginning and I love your blog ..../applause :)

    I just had to comment on this post tho cause the photos are just fantastic, well done on seeing so much in such a short time, Aus is so big and sometimes it takes so much time on boring stretches to get somewhere that I have to admit I dont bother. But you have inspired me! My husband and I are going up north in a few weeks and now I think we may have to add in a few of those boring long trips to see things that make it all worthwhile. Thankyou:)

    Cheers Brenda

  14. Hi Brenda!
    I've only been blogging for a couple of years although I've been riding long enough to be called an Old Fart! Thank you for the very kind words.

    Regrettably, we only had 3 weeks in WA and as you say, it's a big place to cover off so we called a halt at Broome this time round. We've spent at least a couple of months out east, particularly as our eldest son spent a few years working in Melbourne. We still have the Northern Territories, SA and Tassie to do yet. So little time, so little money :-)!

    Thank you for dropping by and safe riding.

  15. Hi Geoff -

    Fabulous pics! (gee, Aussies must be a self-effacing lot - I had no idea that the Lone Star state was only a quarter the size of WA!) The next time some Texan tells me about everything being so big in Texas, I shall cast my eyes to the west of my own country and just smile knowingly.

    Looking forward to the rest of the trip report!

  16. Greetings Sue :-)

    Thanks! I was looking for a statistic which might mean something. WA could probably swallow an awful lot of NZ's!!! Good luck with the next Texan you encounter ;-)

  17. Geoff, Ever since I was a child, and listened to my father's stories about his time in Australia during WWII, I've thought it would be a great place to visit! Thanks for posting such great pictures. The one from Lake Beedelup and the ones of Wave Rock are my favorites. Great blog! I'll be watching for more.

  18. Geoff, I've been checking your blog regularly to see if you are back yet. Those pictures are absolutely stunning, You certainly covered some territory.

    I feel the same about the dolphins. When we were at Monkey Mia 21 + years ago I saw a dolphin gently nuzzle against Dorothy's pregnant belly and I immediately 'teared up' as I was so moved by the sight.

    Just a word on the Icebreakers though, when we were in NZ in February we got a real sense that many folk were extremely disappointed that Icebreakers are actually made in China now rather than in NZ. Other companies were certainly marketing their products as "NZ grown and NZ manufactured".

    It's always interesting reading about one's own country as seen through a tourist's eyes. I'm awaiting a comment about the bloody appalling drivers though - they make NZ drivers look good!

    Cheers Jules.

  19. Hi Erik!
    Thank you for the comments. Both the country and Aussies themselves are great but as I've already mentioned, the scale is so vast that you have to be super-careful in planning what you want to see. I'll be commenting a little more on this at the end of part 4.

    Gidday Jules!
    We certainly did and still have unfinished business in Aussie with lots more to see! Great that you and Dorothy got in with the dolphins too - that's a lovely tale.

    You're right about the Icebreakers, that ticked me off too. However, NZ still supplies the raw fibre which is traceable on each garment back to individual farms so I guess their quality control is pretty tight.

    Yep, seeing one's own country through other eyes is always interesting. It was hard to get a handle on driving standards with so few people about outside Perth city, but I will make one observation about the city folk which grated! In NZ, the saying is "only a fool breaks the 2 second rule" in terms of following distance. I reckon the average Perth resident left a gap of 0.5 - 1 second!!


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