Museum Visit

There was a computer based interactive map centre where you could access a timeline with select active years. You could call up the year you were interested in, see the map of the time (which were highly variable from pre 1616 through to current day). In another window, you had access to a series of clips on a variety of topics – aboriginal history, natural history, history of industries in the area, interviews with knowledge experts, wildlife topics and more. We monopolized these two centres for quite some time – lucky the place wasn’t too busy!!

Two other media centres were set at opposite ends of the museum where videos were constantly running – each one 1 ½ hours in length about consisting of short interviews on a very wide variety of topics. There was an interview with the aboriginal woman who had donated her shell collection to the museum – it was a very impressive collection which she had collected as a young girl and her grandmother had saved it for her to pass on to her children. She spoke of life as a young girl living near Shell Beach – her daily chores, trips into the outback with the grandparents, how she acquired the knowledge of her ancestors.

There were many such clips; all very interesting. They included:
· a couple who run Dirk Hartog Island. His family has run a sheep farm for several generations and he and his family continue to raise sheep, but also run a tourist centre for 14 people. They have occasional long term visitors – including 2 Canadian girls who (with permission) camped at one end of the island for 4 months studying a species of bird
· experts on dolphins – the history of how the Monkey Mia dolphins came to being such regular visitors.
· archaeologists studying the camps of the Zuytdorp survivors and how they first found the settled area, and the excavation of the site. This link also contains lots of interesting info on the shipwreck.
· studies of shipwrecks and the history of their finds – especially the Zuytdorp which was carrying a very rich silver cargo (much of which has been pillaged).
· marine biologists who spoke of the diversity of the area. This area is the southern most point for warm water fish, and the northern most waters for cold water fishes. As a result the biodiversity is extensive.
· how water is collected – aboriginals used to expand on the kangaroo scratches. The kangaroos would scratch an area where fresh water existed – the salt water would seep in also, but the fresh water floats on top. So they just siphoned off the top water. This same method was expanded on by the ranchers for their sheep and cattle. A windmill was connected (lots of wind here!) with a float and the fresh water was siphoned off for the animals. As wild goats became more plentiful, they would destroy the kangaroo scratches with their hooves (kangaroo have soft paws). In addition, the water stations for the sheep were then used by the wild roos and they stopped making scratches. Eden project has eliminated the ranches in the park, and kangaroo scratches are reappearing.
· Eden project (several clips) – the introduction of the fence across the peninsula has allowed the elimination of many of the foreign species. Foxes are mostly gone, rabbits also. Feral cats have been harder to eliminate since they only eat fresh meat (baits won’t work). Goats are also being eliminated. This has allowed several native endangered species to be reintroduced – with varying success (Cats still eliminated a couple of species)
· The waters of the area – hypersaline in the deepest areas, supersaline in the mid section which results in the cyanobacteria ability to survive to create the stromatolites and Shell beach existing.

There were also many other displays of shells, artifacts and more. We had a grand old time.

First Farewells & Round ‘Em Up

As we continue our ‘last time’ events, it naturally includes seeing people for the last time. The Exchange Teachers of WA farewell BBQ was this past Saturday, and we could not miss this one. The host exchange group have been amazing in their support and effort put into arranging events on our behalf.

Ted and his wife Wendy hosted the farewell event. The food was fantastic and most of the group made it out. There were ‘2 up’ demonstrations for those who missed the Kalgoorlie trip, and each teacher was presented with their own 2 up betting stick. 2 up is a pure form of gambling where you bet on the outcome of a toss of 2 coins. I spoke more of it back on our Kalgoorlie posting (click to refer back if you wish).

So we had a bitter sweet evening comparing notes and saying farewell to the many new friends we have accumulated over the year. As Ted said when we first met: “We meet at the start, and at the end of the year. In between we will cross paths at several of the organized events. If we see you at every event, we know something is wrong and if we don’t see you at any events, we know something is wrong.” Our intermittent crossing of paths with this group has been very much a part of our successful exchange experience. They truly have been an exceptional set of hosts and their dedication to our welfare and enjoyment has been most appreciated.

On Sunday, we headed out for some more ‘local’ experience. A teacher at the school had told Mike of the ‘Camp Draft’ which was running this weekend. So Mike & I ventured out to check what a Camp Draft was all about.

Along with several thousands flies (look closely at some of the photos – the inside of the loud speakers as a prime example), we watched the competition in Coolup. There are several categories, but we only witnessed the Novice competitors.

As we were standing trying to figure out the process, a local cowboy kindly explained the rules for us.

Each cowboy/cowgirl in turn takes their go. They are first in a corral with 8 cows. They must identify which cow they are going to isolate to compete with. They then must separate that cow from the herd and force it out of that corral into the bigger arena.

Once in the big arena, they must lead the cow around a set of posts in a figure 8, and then back up around through two other posts all within a 40 second time limit. They are judged on their work in the first corral, their horsemanship in manipulating the cow in the main corral and on their success on guiding through the posts.

Many are eliminated by failing to isolate their cow from the herd, or from failing to guide through the posts. The skill of the cowpokes was very impressive and it was all very entertaining. True Aussie cowboys/girls in action. Apart from the odd over zealous face slap to swat the flies, and a cow running into the fencing (it’s actually soft fencing – tough cloth stripping), there were no incidents.

And as mentioned in my last post, the posting on what we’ll miss from here is still to come.

Our little piece of the Cape to Cape

We were back down to Margaret River this past weekend. Sally was our fine organizer who had the exchange group stay at a place near Prevelly, close to where we would be hiking. We arrived Friday evening allowing us to rise and set off early on Saturday. Our weekend consisted of hiking the ‘3rd’ section as per this map (click here).

The first day we did about 28km of the trail from Gracetown back down to Prevelly. The terrain was varied, with long stretches along the coast, but also traversing interior for some parts. Don (Sally’s husband) was the ‘designated driver’ simplifying the logistics of one-way hiking. This also allowed us to be free of carrying our food for lunch as he met us at our lunch stop!

We were clearly further south here, as the flowers were still very much in bloom this late in the season. The entire walk we were surrounded with a variety of colours. One of my favourites was the vibrant pink ‘pig snout’ (sorry no photo!) Calla lilies, although a pest here since they are non-native, cover the forest floor in damper areas and are beautiful.

We stopped for lunch at the Ellensbrook homestead – the earliest European settlement on the west coast dating to 1850. Nearby was a pretty waterfall in a lush valley (photo of valley at left, waterfall / cascade below).

One of the reasons the walk is so interesting, is due to the underlying rock. There is a ridge which runs all the way down the coast from cape to cape. There is an underlying ancient granite bed, over which the limestone ‘young’ rock has been laid. So the exposed rock types alternate along the sandy beach and dunes which line the coast. It makes for interesting and varied terrain.

Most of us (except for Sally and our guide who walked back to the accommodations!) ended the day by crossing the Margaret River. In peak flow time, it can be a challenge, but on this day it came up to our knees and was not a problem – despite the many warnings we had received! Saturday evening we took our weary bones out for a nice dinner to a pasta restaurant in Margaret River – we deserved a meal full of carbohydrates!

The Ashwells – who are exchanged near Margaret River – joined us for the hike on Saturday only. That was nice since they have 2 sons aged 15 & 17, so Kyle was not the only teen for once! Also, we did not have our volunteer guide with us on Sunday, and one of the girls decided her back and legs had had enough! And so we were a smaller group for hiking on Sunday.

This time we headed south from Prevelly for about 10km. Again the walk was varied, this time I think even more enjoyable. We started on a tough uphill followed by a nice long flattish walk with wonderful views all around. That’s us at left – Kyle way out in front, us three girls and Mike in the back taking photos – as was often the case.

After a steep descent of 344 steps into a beautiful valley, the walk continued along the valley then out into the sand dunes and finished along the beach. The final beach stretch of about 3 km was idyllic. It consisted of just our group hiking along white sand with blue water as far as you could see – the sun shining, a gentle breeze. The only other living souls we saw were dolphins playing in the water. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place.

After a quick shower to freshen up, we visited a local winery for a nice lunch before heading our separate ways. Yet another successful exchange event with much thanks to Sally & Don for all their efforts.

Wildflowers au Natural

Sunday was overcast (as was the whole past week!). Despite rumours of spring, the weather continues to be wet and cool. But for photoing flowers overcast is fine and the rain did not interfere with our weekend plans, so we can’t complain really.

Once again we lucked out and found a wonderful tea house for breakfast in Toodyay. They also happened to have a photo exhibit of orchids, and the photographer popped in when we were there. We were not sure where to head to best see the flowers – although I had been hoping to see fields of everlastings, we discovered that you need to drive pretty far north to see that. We had a few recommendations of good areas, but kismet intervened. The photographer turned out to be part owner of a vineyard where they have discovered several varieties of orchids. They are in the process of developing both the vineyard and the botanical park. They were just up the road, and open today for tours of the wild orchids. So our day was set!

On the drive out we did manage to find everlastings mixed in with the forest on the hillside (at right above) and other wildflowers (sample left above) – still very pretty.

Since the Mt. Vernon Estate & Botanical Park is just in formation, we were one of only a handful of visitors. And it was just as well that we had a guide, since we would have missed most of the orchids. The two more obvious ones are the cowslip orchid (yellow at left) and the blue china orchid (at right).

The owners are hoping to have the area zoned as protected due to the variety of orchids on the property. At least 2 of the species are rare orchids. A botanist from Kings Park is due to visit the property to identify some of the species. Even as we were hiking around we managed to spot an orchid or two which they had not yet mapped. They are very hard to spot to the untrained eye – they are mostly very small and blend in very well with the surrounding vegetation.

While many of the orchids look similar, on closer inspection you see that they are in fact different. The spider orchids come in several flavours. There are bearded and smooth varieties as well as colour variations. At the very left is a bearded and beside it is a smooth. The grouping of 5 above are dark tipped spider orchids. At right below is an antelope orchid.

The kangaroos are a mixed blessing. The orchids mostly occur close to the kangaroo paths. It is believed the roos carry the seeds and necessary fungus for the orchid to grow on their fur which then gets rubbed off into the nearby vegetation. But the roos also trod on and eat the orchids. Given the amount of damage they do, the owners hope to erect a fence around the property to keep the roos out and to protect the orchids.

The other two photos here are spider orchids also I believe, but not sure of the specific species. The red one was especially interesting. And despite not investing in a ‘macro’ lens, I think Mike did a respectable job of capturing the flowers.

And so having had our fill of fine food, monastic relics, raging bonfires, good company, orchids and wild scenery, we headed back home. And as Kyle put it on the drive home “That was a good weekend guys – thanks”.

North to New Norcia

Ok, enough bribery….. I need something to do after all.

After a couple of slower weekends, we ramped up again this past weekend and were quite busy. Friday evening Mike got together with school mates to watch the footie playoffs again. Now both Freo Dockers (Mike’s team) and the West Coast Eagles (last year grand champions) are gone. Looks like it won’t stay in the west this year.

I helped raise funds for the school chaplaincy again by heading to a Bingo night with Phillipa, Richard and some others from the school. Wow, you actually have to concentrate – I have a new found respect for all those Bingo fanatics! Our table – including me – did quite well in the winnings. It was a fun evening and another Aussie experience since the bingo here is quite a different variation from ours.

Saturday we rose semi-early and headed north to check out wildflowers and New Norcia. The countryside in this area is beautiful with rolling hills and meandering rivers. We started in New Norcia just after noon. New Norcia (click to check it out) is the only monastic town in Australia. The entire town and the surrounds is owned by the monks. They are of the Benedictine order.

When we first arrived, we popped into the museum barn where the tools and farming implements were exhibited. This magpie followed me in and proceeded to tour the building along side us. He found many bugs and crumbs on his journey, so was rewarded for his bravery at being in such a confined space with us.

After a nice lunch at the hotel (fruit flies in the vinegar aside), we took the guided tour of the town which is the only way to gain access to the buildings. The first missionaries arrived from Spain in 1846. They started with 30 acres of land and at their peak had 200,000 acres and control of close to a million acres. Today they own 20,000 acres and despite the Catholic church’s pressure to turn it over to the church, it is in fact owned by the 20 or so full fledged monks of the monastery.

The first missionaries here fully integrated with the aboriginals. The diaries of Bishop Salvado are extensive and he recorded them in many languages. Today they are being translated and are likely the most comprehensive notes on aboriginal life.

For the first 50 years of the monastery, Salvado concentrated on creating an agricultural village. After his death the next 50 years saw it become a more European type monastery. Craftsmen were brought over to produce the paintings, carvings and buildings in the European tradition. As you can see from the photos, they spared no cost in hiring skilled artists and craftsmen. During its history, the monastery also included a boarding schools for boys and girls – aboriginal and white. Today it still has an education centre where schools can come for a few days, but the boarding schools are closed.

Recently many of the paintings were stolen. They were quickly recovered, but not after substantial damage. One painting was totally destroyed. The others have been restored and are again on display in the buildings and art gallery. Today the monastery is still renowned for its bread – and we were lucky to manage to buy a loaf even late in the afternoon.

Then we were off to Toodyay. Toodyay turned out to be a great little town with lots of character – and we found a wonderful dinner spot. We had booked a room in town, but our destination was to check out a bi-annual tradition. One of Mike’s school friends invited us to their “Mother of all bonfires….. BONFIRE by Blackwell”. Her parents live out in the country near Toodyay, and her parents host this unique event.

This is the wet time of year, so having gathered all the debris from his property for the past couple of years, it is time to burn it off. We arrived in time to see the unlit mountain of wood which was several metres high. To give you a sense of scale, the large top log in the photo on the left is about 20 feet high.

So a crowd of 40 or so sat around and drank beer, ate and watched the fire burn. Again another Aussie experience thanks to friends at Pinjarra HS. Then back to our beds in Toodyay to head out flower hunting on Sunday.

Gold Rush Fever

Feeling much more refreshed after a full nights sleep, Saturday and Sunday had us venture into the mining world of GOLD. After a yummy ‘camp breakfast’ with jaffles (cast iron sandwich maker bread, egg, cheese and bacon cooked in the fire pit), we headed out to the mines.

On Saturday we visited an underground mine. The mine we visited is no longer active, but is still maintained as a tourist site. We only went down 1 level in the elevator shaft – it actually goes down 12 levels. The lower levels are now flooded since they are no longer pumped out.

The site also included many historic aspects of mining. There were samples of miner camps, older style mining rigs and such. You could pan for gold if felt lucky (we passed). There was also an extensive indoor display of rocks and minerals. Patrick would have enjoyed the crystals – they were very colourful and large. My favourite exhibit was a massive polished wall hanging of tiger eye.

Our guide on the tour underground was a retired miner. He had worked as a contract miner for many years, and now does the tours. As a result he was knowledged as only a first hand worker could be.

The tool Michael is demoing here is used to ‘hammer drill’ the holes for putting blasting rods into. They would place about 14 charges, wire them up, back away and set them off. The same man would then clear the rock into the trolley which would be taken up the shaft for processing. Today the miners work only one station, and contract work is no longer allowed – all in the name of safety.


Included in our tour was a gold pour demonstration. In actuality, we saw a bronze pour, not a gold pour. They don’t have the necessary security setup for a real gold pour here. As such, you were able to concentrate on the demonstration, rather than try to think of creative ways of making off with the gold 🙂

Next on tap we paid a visit to the ‘Two Up’ ring just outside town. As mentioned in my last posting, anywhere there are many men and few women, the predicted vices seem to crop up – and gambling is of course one of them. Two Up is a simple game based on a coin toss – you can read about it here if you wish to know the rules and history. We had been given a demonstration and some play money to get us going, and we had a lively game at the now dilapidated ring. Michael and I were NOT on the winning end I must add.

After a quick visit to an abandoned town to catch the sunset, we returned to the camp school (where we were staying) for a bbq dinner. The group had kindly modified the agenda to allow Michael and I to catch the Rockingham Flames basketball game in town. Michael teaches with the coach of the semi-pro team, and he wanted to show his support. We had been to game 1 of the play-off set last weekend in Rockingham, and now they were playing in Kalgoorlie.

Unfortunately despite winning the first game in Rocko, they lost game 2. So they had to go to a game 3 which was held on Sunday at noon, by which time we would be on our way back home.

After the game, we managed to catch up with the rest of the gang at a local bar – after all, you can’t visit Kalgoorlie and not check out the bar scene!

Sunday had us rise early to pack the bus, and then we headed for a tour of the Super Pit. As we waited for out tour to start, we browsed the local Sunday market – complete with sellers of ‘gold nuggets’ by the local prospector still struck with gold fever.

We had viewed the Super Pit from a lookout point earlier, but this time we entered the actually property. It is one big hole!!! It is 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 680 meters deep. To give you a sense of scale – the shovel Robin and I are atop of here is from a digger.

Several shovel fulls are required to fill one of the trucks seen here. These trucks run non-stop 24 hours a day hauling out ore.

The current estimate is that the pit will continue to produce gold till about 2017. At that point, they will abandon the mine – leaving a big hole. Currently about 10% of the worlds gold comes from this pit. It certainly is impressive – but at the same time I must admit that I left the tour feeling sickened by how we treat this planet.

And then we were back in the van for our 6 – 7 hour return trip home. Lindsay was our prime driver for the weekend which saved the rest of the chore – which was very much appreciated! By the time we were back in Mandurah it was after 8pm, and Kyle had returned from his buddies home and fixed himself dinner. Then to an early bed and back to the grind on Monday – at least for Michael that was, Kyle’s school actually had a PD day – but no such luck for Mikey!

Around and About Kalgoorlie

Sorry for the delay folks – I’ve been making plans for our wrap up trip and yesterday when I was ready to post, blogger was having problems – but I’m here now. I must say though – I have a new found respect for travel agents. Perhaps if you know your markets you can be much more efficient, but I find it takes me an awfully long time to find hotels and cars and flights and tours and….

This past weekend however I did not have to do the organizing – the teacher exchange group again looked after this one for us. We headed to Kalgoorlie on Thursday after school. We convened in Perth where a ‘team van’ picked us up and the 12 of us headed off. It was a long drive and we did not arrive till about 2:30 am on Friday.
So with minimal sleep, we started our Friday with a visit to a local aboriginal school. Unfortunately a parent of one of the students had recently passed away and the funeral was on Friday – so many students were absent. We still had a chance to sit in the classes with the students however and it was especially fun for me to be back in the company of a class of pre-primary kids and to read with them. Memories of helping out in Patrick & Kyle’s classes when they were young! We also caught a maths lesson where we even got to count Smarties.

The school itself had a wall painting by well known aboriginal artist Mary McLean. She has a very unique style and she has received high honours – her work hangs in Buckingham Palace and she has been granted honourary doctorate degrees. Mary paints out of Kalgoorlie and had her work not been so out of our price league we could have met her to get a custom piece!

The school had prepared for our visit, and we were treated to a kangaroo stew which had been slow cooked for almost a day along with fresh baked damper by the pre-primary kids. Turned out we did not really need the packed lunch we brought!

As part of the aboriginal education program, local elders are brought into the school to do cultural education. We were lucky to have the boys present their dance as a rehearsal for an upcoming show. They also had a practice run at getting painted up.

Later in the afternoon, we were off to visit the Royal Flying Doctors Service. This is a privately run service which now receives some funding from the government for operational activities, but still no capital allowances. The service is fundamental to life in the outback. It is the only access to medicine for many people – these doctors actually do fly around practice and assist local clinics in addition to emergencies. The service was conceptualized by Reverend John Flynn in the early 1900s before either the planes or the radio service required existed. But as planes became more advanced and a simplistic radio box which could be used by the average person was designed, Flynn’s concept became reality and by 1928 the service was running. And they’ve been fund raising ever since.

Kalgoorlie itself is a gold rush town. So as you would expect, there are lots of bars as there is not a lot to do in Kalgoorlie. We visited one bar which had a mine shaft in it. It is covered with a thick glass plate, but you are able to look down into it as seen here. And after a quick drink, we were off to our next stop.

And Kalgoorlie has other activities associated with lots of men in one place with few women. To get a well rounded education (which of course teachers are after) of the local life, a trip to Kalgoorlie would not be complete without a tour of the local brothel. There are only a handful of them left, and they are ‘tolerated’ rather than legal. There was a law passed allowing the existing brothels to continue, but no new ones are allowed. Today I suspect they make more money on their tours than on their service. At a couple of spots on the tour the guide required an assistant to demonstrate the ‘equipment’. Lucky us, the Montgomery’s were both chosen as the guinea pigs! Oh well, I got to be the volunteer to feed the dolphins in Monkey Mia, so I guess it balances out in the end!

During the day we also had some time to browse around town and check out the scene. Mike found another bar with this ‘Ned Kelly’ in it, and we found another ‘Monty’s’ Cafe. This time it was named after the import/export dealers who owned the warehouse where the cafe now resides. From the newspaper articles on the walls, the Montgomery brothers did not sound like very nice blokes.

Also around town (just out of town I believe), Mike also browsed around the local cemetery. It’s not difficult to tell which plots belong to those who found gold and those who did not.

After a full day, we packed in a bit early to get set for another busy day on Saturday!
(view here of Kalgoorlie from the top of the museum)

And Now We Are 3

Our time markers continue to tick. Patrick has now landed back in Canada. His trip home was one he will remember for a long time I’m sure.

We started at out in Mandurah by leaving an hour earlier than planned. We had to rise at 3:30am to get to the airport in time for Patricks flight. In setting the alarm however, I somehow managed to put the time ahead an hour without realising it. So we ended up rising at 2:30 am and we were well on our way to the airport before discovering my error. And Patricks lack of sleep was to continue as you’ll hear.

After a rather lengthy meander at the airport, it was finally time to say bye-bye to Patrick. As expected I choked up and had tears running down my face as I hugged him and wished him “Happy Birthday”, “Merry Christmas”, and “Happy New Years”. He then seemed to disappear very quickly beyond the security gate. I’m not sure if he was embarrassed by his mother, or needed to leave before he got weepy too…

His first flight to Singapore went smoothly as did the connecting flight to Los Angeles. That’s when things went awry. After more than 24 hours in transit at this point, they landed about 1/2 hour late. But then they were held on the runway for over 5 hours due to a problem with the customs computers. Since it was Saturday evening in LA, I’m sure that contributed to the lengthy delay. By the time Patrick got into the airport, he had missed his connecting flight and the place was deserted since it was the small hours of the morning. Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore airports, LA has no public internet access computers, so Pat had to make phone calls to let us know what was going on. Patrick left a message with Mikes parents (Marucia and George), but of course they were already at the airport, and then phoned us to give us an update and let us know “I’m not dead…”. He had to wait for the Air Canada booth to open at 4 am to make alternate arrangements.
He managed to catch the 7am flight to Toronto and finally was picked up by George & Marucia around 3 pm on Sunday. They of course had been expecting to pick up Patrick earlier and had been back and forth to the airport twice by this time. So after 40 odd hours in transit, Patrick had a nice steak dinner and then crashed. I hope to talk to him later tonight when he wakes up!

And once again, here are some remnant photos to round out the July trip selection. These include the menu at Monty’s Cafe in Darwin, Mike donning his dust protection gear, another drive past a bush burn off, and Steve holding a long neck turtle which we encountered on one of our journeys near a swamp.

It’s all about Patrick – his Grand Finale

Upon returning from our trip to Darwin, Patrick headed back to Gingin to wrap up his volunteer stint at the Australian International Graviational Observatory. That week he managed to finish up the video and even helped with a display at the Gravity Discovery Centre. With 2 weeks left in Australia, we have worked on filling in the gaps on local tourist visits and getting his university life ogranized.

Patrick missed the cutoff date for applying for residence this year so despite making the deans honour list, he does not have residence. After searching on the Mac website, and with Joannes help to visit, he has rented a student housing room in a house right near the university. Looks like he’ll have access to good facilities and be even closer to the Engineering buildings than he was last year in residence.

Rounding out Patricks tourist venues, our first stop was to visit the Perth Zoo and Kings Park where Pat had not been. Patrick and I spent the first part of the day watching monkeys, orangutans and reptiles. Next we had a nice lunch then did the tour of Kings Park, even doing some walks which were off the beaten path and new to me. The horticultural area of the park is quite different now in the midst of winter. The weather has been incredibly wet these days, with rain a daily event, often accompanied by very high winds. But the day held off for the most part and we did not get too wet. We also took a trip to the local stromatolites (which are actually thrombolites here). Not overly exciting to look at, but knowing that the ‘rocks’ are actually living organsims is intriguing.

For Pat’s last weekend here Mike, Patrick & I headed to Rottnest Island. For the first time in many weeks we had 3 consecutive warm sunny days – so even though it was winter, the visit to the island was very pleasant. We enrolled Patrick into an introductory scuba dive for the day. He did not need a diving certificate – just an intro to the equipment and then he dove accompanied by a dive instructor. We headed over to the island on the early ferry. It was almost empty as you can see – and very early as you can see also!

The dive wasn’t till afternoon, so we had the morning to explore the island. We stopped by the bakery for a treat and to check out the quokkas. This little fellow (between Pat & I peeking over the bench) was hoping for some food which we failed to give him.

We visited the Kingston Barracks where we had stayed our last visit to see the defence posts set up in the second world war to protect the harbour at Perth/Fremantle. We also showed him the aboriginal prison (now a hotel) and the local cemetaries.

We dropped Patrick back at the dive shop and once he figured out that the wetsuit goes on with the zipper at the back, he was off on the boat to check out the scuba scene.

He used the underwater camera, but it was difficult to manage when loaded down with diving gear. I can certainly concur – just with snorkel gear it was hard enough to hold steady. He had a fantastic dive despite the lack of quality photos and saw many different fishes and corals. They swam through lots of ‘gorges’ and tunnels and he managed with no problems.

Meanwhile back on the island Mike & I sat back on the beach and relaxed. The beaches were now deserted (it is winter after all), We also checked out the ‘Pilot’ ship as seen here. Since the approach to the Fremantle docks was so dangerous, between 1848 and 1903 ships would be met by a pilot boat. The Pilot (an experienced sailor) would be rowed out to the ship, board the ship and then guide it into the harbour. The pilot boat would follow into the harbour then return the Pilot to the island. The round trip would take up to 28 hours, with no rest in between. The staff on the boats had a very rough life since all their ‘spare’ time when not rowing was filled. They had to provide all the fish for themselves as well as everyone at the prison.

Patrick returned and we headed over to the island pub for a drink before heading back on the ferry to Fremantle. We checked out ‘the shed’s at Fremantle and then headed back home.

We’ve since returned Patricks guitar – he really enjoyed it and the staff at Crescendo Music where we rented from were wonderful people.

Also this week we attended a guest lecture by Sir Roger Penrose at the University of Western Australia in Perth. We had run into Dr. Blair on the ferry back from Rottnest and he told us of this talk being given by one of the leading mathematician/physicist/philosophers of our time. His talk was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang’. He was an engaging speaker and despite the many times we were each scratching our heads, we all came away with a new view on the life cycles of the universe.

And now we are in the final throws of packing Patrick up for his flight home on Saturday. I think he’s had enough of living with the parents again, and he is excited to be going back to see friends and the rest of the family. And while we are ready for him to return also, we’ll miss him as soon as he steps on the plane. sigh.

Break 2-Day 13 A JimJim Swim

We all rose early at 6 am to head out for a full day hike up to the falls. The team did quite well with breakfast and clean up organization and by 7am we were on the very bumpy drive into the falls for the physical exertion day.

This tour is actually geared for 18-35 year olds but only 1 of our family falls in that range! But Mike and I are young at heart and our bodies are holding out well enough to do the climbs, and Kyle is certainly fit enough to handle the load. Our hike was quite lengthy taking us not only to JimJim Falls, but up and over it also. Most people hike to the bottom pool for a swim and we left Alexi behind to do that on her own since she has bad knees. The rest of us were headed to the top pool for our swim along the road less travelled.

It was a wonderful day with a tough climb for about 3 hours. But it was enjoyable all the way. We climbed all the way up to the top with many spectacular views on the way. Our group photo at right was take just prior to the big loss of the day. We lost Steves hat – the wind was whipped up. He tried several rescue missions for the rest of the day as we passed the area where it went down, and although he finally spotted it in a tree, he could not reach the ledge where it sat. It had been with him a long time and we all grieved for him!

We hiked to the very top, then went back down one ‘step’ of pools for lunch and a swim. Steve introduced us to several edible trees and flowers along with info on some insects.

The hike was in some ways similar to the Kings Canyon trip in ‘89 although a tougher climb I think. We were in small organized groups in areas of immense beauty and seclusion. Both were hikes you could not have done without a guide and were on trails not modified for humans. Kings Canyon has certainly changed to make the hike more accessible, and It will be interesting to see if JimJim can stay as remote as it is now.

At one area near the summit – as seen at the left here, Steve took us along a rocky ledge right next to the water fall. We all laid down on our stomachs then crawled to the very edge and looked over. At right is one of the shots from this angle so that you can appreciate the view.

Again this area must be incredible in the wet. Much of what we hiked would be up over our heads in water and the power would be awe inspiring.

The swimming at the top was amazing – we swam in the pool photoed at left here. We saw no one on the entire long walk, and we had our own private paradise. One of the most memorable things on this trip will be the swimming at waterfalls. Each one has been a place of great beauty and tranquility. It is hard to imagine a more perfect place to be.

After lunch we retraced our steps back down JimJim Falls and headed for one last stop of the day.

While JimJim Falls has been opened for swimming by the aboriginals, Twin falls remains off limits for swimming. The two falls are the homes of two sisters. The one at JimJim is active and sort of an extrovert, and so the aboriginals were comfortable allowing swimming there. The spirit at Twin Falls is much calmer and reflective. So swimming is not allowed there. To access Twin Falls you first must hike in a short ways then take boat, then do another short hike out. This area is again quite commonly accessed by saltwater crocodiles and there are traps around. They had caught one here just a few days earlier. When we reached the base of the waterfall, the crocodile trap there was tripped. It is not likely that it was tripped by a croc since it would have been caught. But none the less we stayed well back from the waters edge – this is about as close as we got!

Back at camp once we were all fed, it was hard for any of us to stay awake. The whole group had sauntered to bed by about 9:30 – and us oldies were not the first to crash!