Margaret River: The river

I was visiting the south west of the state again recently and, as usual, had a wonderful time. I always enjoy a wander through the main street of Margaret River when I’m down there and this time was no different.

DSCN1335What was different this time though was that I took particular note of the river itself.

When you mention Margaret River in the south west of Western Australia most people immediately think of the picturesque country town with it’s world class surfing beaches or of the wineries in the region or the gourmet food that the area is renowned for, but nobody really thinks of the river that the town sits on.

So I did a little bit of research. The Margaret River is believed to be named after Margaret Whicher or Whyche who, depending on your source of reference, seems to have been either a friend or a cousin of John Bussell, an early settler and explorer of the area.

The river rises in the Whicher ranges and merges with the Indian Ocean 65km away near Cape Mentelle.

In the summer the picturesque riverbank as you enter the town is teeming with visitors, when I was there a few days ago, with the constant threat of rain and the thunderstorm that had passed over a couple of hours earlier the picnic grounds were rather empty and one lone youngster was playing in playground.

But even in that weather it was a very picturesque spot. It’s also the beginning of the 13.5km rails to trails walking/cycling track that takes you north as far as Cowaramup. It’s on my list for the next time I’m down there.

It’s also worth taking a drive to the mouth of the Margaret river near Prevelly, a beautiful coastline with magnificent surfing beaches where you can watch the waves in contemplation, enjoy a picnic on the beach in the nicer weather or maybe take the dog for a walk up the river.









Step #1 – Reassessment

DSCN1359From Everest Base Camp to the south west of Western Australia. Three months, family dramas, a dose of redundancy and a reality check later and I think I’ve begun to understand the luxury of being able to do what I wanted to do and the pleasure of being able to enjoy every day.

Today I’ve driven to the mouth of the Margaret River and watched the waves pounding the rocks as the river surged outwards into the Indian Ocean, I’ve bought a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc from a boutique winery, I’ve eaten a lunch of mushroom risotto on the balcony of another winery surrounded by the lush greenery that is the south west of this state and now I’m heading off to buy venison sausages.

Is this life not a luxury?

Tomorrow I’ll be on my way back home having had a relaxing and thought provoking few days.

Life, as is its wont, is not prepared to let us rest on our laurels for too long and insists on throwing the odd curve ball our way. When this happens we tend to react instinctively, often retreating into ourselves and possibly making rash decisions. What I’ve learned that we need to do though is to stop, to gather our thoughts and to assess how best to move forward, not to rush in where those proverbial angels fear to tread.

A few days, a few weeks, however long it takes.

Only a matter of weeks ago I was existing on a diet of carbs – pizza, pasta and potatoes, I was pushing myself physically and mentally to achieve my goal and I was walking in the shadow of some of the highest mountains on the planet.

After an amazing and momentous experience life then decided to slap me in the face and I was brought crashing down to earth, reality hit me in all its forms.

These few days away has seen a regrouping, a reassessment of my life. Sometimes what we think we want, what we believe we need, is in reality just a pipe dream. Yes, our fantasy life is appealing but is it what we really want or need?

We all have dreams of what we would like our life to be but if we had all that we wanted, would we be happy? Generally, I think not. Life is not about getting all that we want, life is about making sure that there is always something that we are aiming for.

Our future goals are what make our life worthwhile.

What more can you ask for but a perfect weekend.

We had one of those rare Easter breaks here in Western Australia where the weather  cooperated to make it an absolutely gorgeous long weekend. Neither too hot nor too cold nor too windy nor too wet. In fact – just perfect.

The mornings were cool allowing a couple of good hikes over the weekend while the days gradually warmed up to a very pleasant 28 – 30ish degrees.

Monday morning I was hiking by 6.30am and the light at that time is just perfect for photography. I’ve shown you this place before (Bells Rapids) but these photos just show the scary state of our water supply at the end of summer with the level so much lower than it was around 6 months ago when I first started hiking in this area. Let’s hope for a wet winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood Friday was spent with family at the mouth of the Moore River about an hour’s drive north of Perth. It was warm enough for the girls to swim (briefly that is) and do a spot of fishing.

They actually caught quite a few fish, unfortunately they were all rather small and were released (after being given names) to disappear back into the depths. I’m sure they didn’t learn though (the fish, not the girls) and were actually caught more than once.

Even though it’s so close to home it must be 40 years since I was here last – it’s changed but not that much.


Not quite a meal I'm afraid.

Not quite a meal I’m afraid.

Seek Wisdom


With Old Testament origins  ‘Seek Wisdom’ is the motto of the University of Western Australia, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

In March 1913 it accepted its first students in a collection of timber and corrugated iron buildings in Irwin St. In contrast, the site today, on the banks of the Swan River in Crawley, welcomes new students into beautifully landscaped, tranquil grounds while its historic Winthrop Hall can’t help but inspire those who study under its gaze.

Yesterday I took a walk through the quiet grounds, before the influx of students for the beginning of the new semester in a couple of week’s time. The University of Western Australia holds a special place in my heart. This campus, its historic buildings, those who come to learn and those willing to impart their hard earned knowledge to those keen to make a difference were instrumental in defining for me who I am, who I thought I was, where I’ve been and where I’m going.

As I sat in Winthrop Hall in my fortieth year surrounded by other prospective students and the echoes of those that had forged a tradition and as I listened to the passion of those extolling the virtues of this university I began to understand the possibilities. I believed that I could and I vowed that one day I would be standing on that stage accepting that piece of paper that would show that I had.

With determination, perseverance, a lot of encouragement and the occasional kick up the proverbial from well meaning friends, I did what I set out to do – and more. I gained that wisdom and it wasn’t just facts and figures, it was a deeper understanding of that inexplicable thing that is life. I discussed, I pondered, I questioned and I learnt.

In the tranquil surrounds yesterday, when my intention was simply to take a few photos for this post, I found myself remembering and reflecting.

If you’re ever in Perth the beautiful grounds of this university are well worth a visit, here’s why …..






The Sunken Gardens – a popular spot for weddings.



The gnarled trunk of a tree equally as old as the university, if not older.



One of the permanent residents of the Arts faculty – these peacocks and peahens roam freely throughout the grounds.



And directly across the road!



You can’t keep anything secret these days!

Once upon a time it used to be our little secret, that quiet spot where we went camping when I was a teenager, where my daughters had their first experience of family holidays, where we would go boating and fishing.  There was beautiful scenery, caves to explore, surfing if you were that way inclined, family coves to relax in and home-made knick knacks to pick up at the local market.

Then the world got wind of the place!

Our beautiful south-west town of Margaret River has just been voted Australia’s top town, for the second year in a row, by readers of Australian Traveller.

Margaret River has grown in the last thirty years but it hasn’t lost its charm. It still has its main street with its pub and its bakery, it still has the surfies in their boardshorts, its scenery is as beautiful as ever but it has some added attractions too that have developed over the years.

Margaret River is now a world class centre for food and wine. Only a couple of weeks ago some of the world’s most famous chefs got together down there for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. This inaugural event provided demonstrations, discussions and masterclasses and showcased the best of WA’s food and wine.

It’s not often that you find a place that appeals to all ages but Margaret River has something for everyone.

You may remember that I was down that way recently when I stayed just 15 minutes away in Cowaramup, here’s a few photos taken around the area, so those of you who haven’t visited will know what you’re missing.

The Lake Cave near Margaret River

The Lake Cave near Margaret River

The jetty on the Blackwood River at Augusta.

The jetty on the Blackwood River at Augusta.

The south west corner of Australia where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern ocean

The south west corner of Australia where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern ocean

I would highly recommend the strawberry & kirsch jam from the Margaret River Berry Farm

I would highly recommend the strawberry & kirsch jam from the Margaret River Berry Farm

and the garlic olive oil from Providore is a must

and the garlic olive oil from Providore is a must

Family friendly Hamelin Bay

Family friendly Hamelin Bay

My ‘To Don’t’ List!

I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always had a ‘To Don’t’ list, that is, a list of places that I don’t/didn’t want to visit. The list was never written down but it was one of those things that if someone said, how about going to xxx I’d say something along the lines of ‘oooh no, I’ve never really wanted to go there.’ In most cases my reasons, if I could even come up with any, have proved unfounded.

So, hopefully without offending anyone and with apologies in advance to the residents of these places, most of which I’ve changed my mind about completely, this WAS my ‘To Don’t’ list.

  • Bali – friends and relatives have been going to Bali since the 1970s when tourism was very young there. It’s not a place I ever wanted to go. I didn’t like the idea of less than hygienic conditions, ‘foreign’ food or the crowds of youngsters on cheap holidays. Ok, I was wrong, I admit it. I finally made my first visit there between Christmas and New Year two years ago. My cousin’s travelling companion had backed out almost at the last minute and she gave me 15 minutes to decide if I wanted to take her place. I did.  Three weeks later I was having a brilliant time and within six months I was back there again – says it all I guess.

  • India – this one is almost impossible to explain. Not why I didn’t want to go but why I am going (well, Nepal is near enough to India and much the same reasons for not wanting to go apply). I’ve always watched travel shows and The Amazing Race and thought ‘no way’. This is simply not my type of holiday. The apparent dirt and squalor and lack of sanitation, the smell, the chaos and the crowds are/were not for me. But then out jumped the trekking opportunity. Now, I know that once I get on the trek we’ll be heading up into cleaner air and less crowded places but I’m also very aware that the villages we’ll pass through are likely to challenge me and that Kathmandu will provide me with a case of ‘here, cope with this.’ I’m going with an open mind and a very different attitude to any that I’ve previously had and I’m hoping that my pristine mind will allow me to understand and appreciate the cultural differences that I’ll encounter. Don’t forget if you want to encourage me on this mad adventure head to the ‘Donate’ button up the top there and sponsor me. You’ll be helping out a very worthwhile cause.
  • America – I’ve never had any desire to go there, don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those places I’ve never had the urge to visit and the big American cities still hold no attraction for me. But, I’ve been following some blogs of Americans lately and the photos I’ve seen on their pages of their local areas, the countryside, the mountains, the scenery, it looks awesome and these people are gradually changing my ideas about the country.
  • Cairns – It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go there, it was more a case of I’d rather have gone somewhere else. I was outnumbered though and am so pleased I was. We had a brilliant holiday, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, which is as blue as the pictures you see, taking underwater photos and doing a 4 wheel adventure tour to the Daintree Rainforest. I’d love to go back there one day just for a relaxing break in a secluded rainforest resort. Hmmmm….
  • The far North West of my home state – Too hot, too dry, too isolated. So why did I enter the radio competition offering a trip to Kunnunurra? Long story short and all that, I actually won it. What a holiday that was! Fishing for Barramundi on the Ord River while crocodiles lazily watched our progress from the nearby banks, staying in tented cabins at the El Questro Gorge Resort, flying over the Bungle Bungles in an open sided helicopter, hiking into Cathedral Gorge. The whole thing was spectacular and if you ever get the opportunity don’t pass it up.

The Ord River

So much for my ‘To Don’t’ list, I no longer have one, not even a mental one. Do you, or did you? What places are or were on it?

Train hard, Fight easy.

No, I’m not training for the SAS, although at times I do begin to wonder.

I mentioned recently how well my training was going and hence (don’t you love that word) my decision to extend my trek and go as far as Everest Base Camp next year. My friends, the steps, are gradually succumbing to my constant attempts to defeat them but, each time I get comfortable with the number of times I’m climbing them, my slightly pushy training partner (AKA Yes sir Sergeant Major) decides it’s time to add on a couple more ups and downs. Would you believe we’re up to 14 – yes, 14 times up and 14 times down.

Steps, steps and more steps1

I’ve now also started doing regular weekend hikes, these were initially done with a small (very small) backpack but last weekend I figured it was time to delay no longer and do it with the PROPER daypack. You remember the one, made to fit us ladies, and how excited I was to be buying it.

Hiking with pack

The day pack & I – our first outing together

So, I put a few things into it, including a litre bottle of water (which is quite heavy in itself), and set off on my walk along the Bells Rapids Trail. Unfortunately the steepest part of this trail is at the beginning, before my legs have actually had time to realize what they are meant to be doing and, with the aforementioned training partner striding out on legs rather longer than mine, it’s a struggle to keep up. But, the whole Base Camp Trek thing is not a race, so as long as I get to where I’m going I’m happy.

I must say I coped very well with the larger pack, in fact, if anything, it was more comfortable than the small one. It didn’t feel cumbersome and the straps didn’t rub at all, from now on I’ll gradually be adding weight to it.

Bells Rapids Trail waterfall

Half way up the waterfall – not much water falling I’m afraid.

Not content with the track though we have also taken to climbing. The first week it was up a number of rocky outcrops to find a waterfall. We found it but there wasn’t a lot of water falling from it. We’ve also taken to scrambling up some large boulders for our mid hike break. I must say it’s worth it for the views.

Bells Rapids Trail

The view is worth the climb

Ultimately though all of this hard work will be worth it, I’d rather find it difficult now then when I get to the Himalayas. So, in the immortal words of the SAS I intend to TRAIN HARD, FIGHT EASY.

Taking a hike… and getting lost!

This weekend it was time to go one step further with the training. It’s all very well that I can climb lots of steps but I now needed to make sure I could last for more than an hour at a time out on a track so it was time to find a bush track to practice a bit of endurance.

When I looked into the options for bushwalking there were plenty, there’s stretches of the Bibbulmum Track I could do, there are several walks in the John Forest National Park and a number of tracks around Mundaring Weir. I chose what I considered was a relatively easy walk but if I’ve learned anything this weekend it’s not to believe what you read or at least not read into it what you want to see.

After much deliberation I decided to do a 9km trek starting from Bells Rapids in the Swan Valley. I printed off directions and instructions and even bought a compass. Not that I’m generally directionally challenged but the directions included compass headings so I figured a compass would come in handy. Let’s put it this way, I would have been lost (pun intended) without it.

I spent Friday evening packing a small backpack (working my way up to the PROPER daypack), making sure I had water, snacks, bandaids, flyspray, camera etc. etc.

Saturday morning I was awake with the birds at the crack of dawn – nothing like a new adventure to get you motivated – and I was at the starting point of the trail by 8.15am.

The walk started at the long bridge over the rapids. There was a clear blue sky but the wind had a certain chill to it. I took a breath and set off over the bridge.

A minute or two later and the idyllic morning turned difficult. To be precise, the terrain turned difficult. I rounded a bend and the track rose vertically in front of me. Well, maybe vertically is a bit of an exaggeration but I think you get the picture. It was a fair incline.

As my legs, used as they are to the steps we normally train on, adjusted to the uneven ground, I must admit that my mind was thinking ‘this is good, I’m likely to encounter this sort of think on THE TREK, I need to be able to cope with it.’ So cope with it I did.

The views on the way up the track and from the top were certainly worth the trouble. Despite the gusting winds on the top of Mt Mambup, I took a seat on a rock, had a swig of water, ate a protein bar and appreciated where I was, literally and figuratively.

Unfortunately though, it was after this relaxing moment that I came unstuck. The aforementioned purchase of the compass had been a godsend up to now and I had navigated my way up the track and across the grassland without too much trouble. Now though I had trouble.

The directions I had printed off from the website gave detailed directional instructions but no distances, just the likes of ‘head initially NNE to cross the grassy summit area and then continue NE-ward down the initial gentle hillside.’ Ok, how far before I go from NNE to NE? ‘Find the gap in the rocks to head eastward more steeply downhill then veer north,’ aaaargh!!!!

It did give GPS points but it also said at the beginning that  a GPS wasn’t essential. Needless to say I don’t have a GPS.

I tried various routes off the top of the hill but when it says things like ‘follow the track back up the hillside,’ and you haven’t actually found the track in the first place, life becomes a little worrying.

After a while I gave up and decided to go back down the way I had come. Not so easy, that didn’t seem to work either. Do you think I could actually find the track I came up on?

Anyway, I set off in the general direction of down, hit a few hurdles, in the way of impassable routes and fences that needed climbing over, but eventually chanced upon a track that looked familiar and was heading in the right direction. I had survived my own little drama.

It was on the way down that I was really able to appreciate the views and the wildflowers. It’s the perfect time of the year to see the wildflowers at their best here in Western Australia. I’m no expert and I haven’t got a clue what they’re called but these looked lovely.

I finally made it back down to the river, none the worse for the experience and quite proud of the fact that I had done it by myself and not panicked. Let’s face it, panic gets us nowhere.

Mandurah – Betwixt & Between

Mandurah is trying to find itself. It’s having a bit of trouble deciding exactly what it wants to be.

Mandurah, an hour south of Perth, has always been a sleepy little backwater but a very attractive backwater all the same. It holds precious memories for my family. It’s the place we always used to come as a family to picnic on the estuary foreshore, fish from the jetty or the local beaches and eat fish and chips wrapped in paper while struggling to keep the seagulls from our dinner. We would go prawning and crabbing and return to mum and dad’s place when they lived down here, to cook them up and have a beer and a crab supper. In the heat of summer we would walk to the grassy banks of the foreshore and eat ice creams in the shade of the ancient trees. At dusk on a summer’s evening with ice cream in hand we would relax there and listen to the band playing over the water at the Peninsular Hotel.

That’s the way it was, there was one road in and one road out and we loved it.

Fishing from the jetty with Nanna & Grandad was always a favourite with my daughters

I’ve just spent four days in Mandurah in an attempt to just have a break. I got what I came for, a break, but it was interesting to view the place from a visitor’s perspective after all this time. While I was there I came across an advert in the newspaper, yes, I had time to read a newspaper, asking for input into the debate on whether Mandurah should become ‘a bustling metropolis or keep the feel of a fishing village.’

Personally, I think it’s a bit late to ask the question. Mandurah has changed, there’s no denying that, it’s no longer the sleepy place it was 20 or 30 years ago. But what has it changed into? It’s almost as though it’s tried to change but hasn’t quite got there. It’s in no man’s land, neither here nor there.

Shiny new high rises

The old Peninsular hotel has gone, replaced with a multi storey hotel and an apartment block. The creation of a canal development and Ocean Marina, both lined with apartment buildings has produced an abundance of accommodation and there’s the Performing Arts Centre, the Boardwalk and Cultural Precinct and a new shopping precinct at Dolphin Quay. There are several coffee shops and restaurants offering everything from Thai and Indian food to the ubiquitous fish n chips. BUT …..  there is no vibe. Actually there’s nothing happening here.

The new Dolphin Quay Marina

When I arrived on Sunday afternoon it was a busy place, it was a hot afternoon, families were out and there was fun being had but I’ve just spent two hours walking around the place and stopping for coffee and I’ve seen a handful of people. The shops, the boardwalk, the beaches – deserted. Now I know it’s the middle of the week but I also know that Hillary’s Boat Harbour in the northern suburbs of Perth, a similar venue, is packed with tourists and locals on any weekday morning. A holiday destination can’t survive on weekend trade alone.

Hmmm … wonder how I can get one of those?

Perth itself struggles with the concept of change and I think Mandurah’s outlook is even worse. You get the impression that it sort of feels that it should try and keep up with the rest of the world but it’s not quite sure. It’s made a lame attempt to provide something in the way of world class attractions but it’s not really prepared to stand up and say ‘yep – here we are world.’ It’s more a case of ‘yeh – here we are if you want to come find us, not really sure if we want you to though.’


Mandurah has such potential, what they have done in the way of the Marina is an excellent start but, if they want to compete in a highly competitive travel market, they need to build on that and grow.

The fact is that family holiday’s are changing. Rightly or wrongly, children and teenagers in general no longer want local holidays, they want to fly off to Bali or somewhere more distant and it’s cheaper too. Places like Mandurah now need to attract the interstate and overseas market.

Apart from eating and drinking, the only thing on offer for the holiday maker here is a river cruise. It’s very telling that in all of the advertising paraphernalia that I’ve been able to find, Mandurah is advertised along with the rest of the Peel region. Which is fine if you’re touring by car, a visit to Mandurah for a day and then onwards to see the rest of the area, but what does that do for Mandurah businesses? Not a lot I’m told. As the owner of one clothing shop told me, ‘ there is such potential here but they have to bring the place in line with the rest of the world,’ she went on to say that, although there was a really well situated hotel on the sea front, it had no restaurant. Can you imagine a hotel in Bali or Singapore or even Sydney, not having a restaurant.

As I see it, Mandurah needs to make up its mind what it wants to be and where it’s going. If it wants to promote itself as a world class holiday destination it needs some serious consideration giving to what’s missing, it needs to put in place an infrastructure that will allow development along the lines of other world renowned destinations. If not, it needs to stop right now, stop spending money on restaurants that remain empty, boardwalks that no one walks on and beaches that no one lazes away the afternoon on.

No half measures. You either join the rest of the world or you opt out.

Personally, I like the Mandurah that the rest of the world doesn’t know about, but then, I don’t own a business there.