A few weeks ago we took the opportunity of a milder late summer’s day (technically early Autumn as it was in March) to head out to the Perth Hills to a popular recreational spot called Lake Leschenaultia in the Shire of Mundaring.
It’s actually a man-made lake, originally an old railway dam, and now a pleasant spot for hiking, picnicking and camping. Midweek there was hardly anyone around but at weekends and in the summer months it can get very crowded.
It is another place near our Western Australian home that we had never visited before. Having had it recommended to us by friends, who had spent a few days camping in the area earlier this year, we decided to go and explore more for ourselves. It was about an hour’s drive from our coastal home and reminded us how close to nature we actually are even in the city.
Only a few weeks before the area had been threatened by the terrible bushfires that swept through bushland and settlements in the north east of Perth. Fortunately the Lake Leschenaultia area and nearby Chidlow were spared the devastation of land a little further away.
The name Leschenaultia, which I thought sounded French, actually comes from the colour of the lake which resembles the Blue Leschenaultia flower (or Lechenaultia biloba to give it its scientific name).
We decided to do the lakeside trail that is about 3 kilometres – a very pleasant undulating path through the bushland with plenty of sightings of the local wildlife (fortunately we didn’t see any snakes though!).
At the end of the trail, which took us about an hour with photo stops, we came to the beach by the picnic zone and found some more information about the lake and the resident flora and fauna.
By this stage we had worked up an appetite and the nearby Chidlow Tavern, serving good old fashioned pub food, was just what we needed. We sat in the garden and had the place to ourselves!
I realise that we have been so lucky here in Western Australia with our daily lives rolling along more or less normally.
Wishing everyone all the best this Easter holiday and hope that life will get back to at least a “new normal” soon!
The other weekend we went along to a Family Fun Day organised by the local Perth community radio station, RTRfm. Our daughter, Mlle, is now working for them as a development and marketing manager so we were supporting her and taking the opportunity for a day out with the family.
The event was held in Hyde Park (not the London one!). Situated only a couple of kilometres north east of the inner city area, it is a tranquil spot, which seems far removed from the bustle of the city centre so close by.
With canopies of trees, ducks swimming along the lake and the green space surrounded by Edwardian-style terraced homes and cottages it was the perfect venue. Our granddaughters had a ball with the organised activities and the grown-ups could relax on the grass and sample some of the food and beverages whilst listening to live music.
Having not not been to Hyde Park before, despite calling Perth home for over 30 years (apart from a 7 years hiatus in Melbourne), I duly did some research about its origins. The environment was a swampy area that comprised a series of wetlands stretching north of the river. The local Noongar people called this area ” Boodjamooling” but after the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, the recently-arrived settlers gave it the unfortunate name of Third Swamp. When it was made a public park in 1897, it received the new name of Hyde Park. The other wetlands stretched from what is now Claisebrook Cove near East Perth up to Herdsman Lake and Lake Monger further north. Only a small portion of the original wetlands remains. However walking along beside the lake in Hyde Park watching the ducks wandering happily in the reeds and grasslands by the water, you get a feel for the original wetland area.
I think people often think of Perth as being in the middle of the desert and indeed we are separated from the eastern states by the endless dry flat plain of the Nullarbor Desert. The Nullarbor (Latin for ‘no trees’) is a limestone plain, which is over 1000 kms long and spans Western Australia and South Australia. The Western Australian section starts in Norseman, which is a two hour drive south of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields. It takes nearly 8 hours to drive from Norseman up to Perth (it’s over 700 kms away) so we are in fact quite a distance from the actual desert! If you ever feel like making the long drive (which for many is a rite of passage) you can find more information here. Our elder daughter crossed the Nullarbor with friends over 10 years ago when they drove from Perth to Melbourne and back. I didn’t sleep much for the 10 days or so they were away!
The photos of Hyde Park below give a glimpse into another aspect of Perth life – we do have a considerable amount of of green space and vegetation, which provides some welcome respite from the summer sun along of course with our pristine beaches!
This week I’m mixing it up by switching from my Alaska series back to Western Australia and sharing another post from our younger daughter, Mlle.
She spent a few days over the New Year staying with friends down south in the pretty town of Denmark – not the European country I might add! It took me quite a while after we first moved here, 30 years ago, to realise people weren’t jetting off overseas when they said they had been to Denmark for a weekend break!
Denmark is situated a few hours’ drive south from Perth on the coast in the Great Southern Region of WA – the terrain is a striking contrast of thickly forested hills and vegetation leading down to pristine beaches and coastal inlets. Monsieur and I visited Denmark nearly 20 years ago when we spent a couple of days with our family staying at the nearby town of Albany. I can remember how green the landscape was and how refreshing it was, even in summer, with the strong breezes coming in off the Southern Ocean cooling the temperatures down.
You can read more about the history of the settlement here – the inlet and river was first sighted by Europeans in the 17th century. When many years later the first Europeans set foot on the lands in the region of present day Denmark, the area was inhabited by the Noongar the traditional indigenous people and custodians of the land. They called the river and the inlet Kwoorabup, which means “place of the black wallaby” (kwoor).
I was interested to hear Mlle’s perspective as she has already made a couple of trips to Denmark since her return to Perth last year. Denmark has become a popular alternative to the more touristy Margaret River area with a climate that also supports vine growing – wineries, restaurants serving local produce and a thriving arts and crafts scene are some of its attractions.
Here’s Mlle’s perspective:
Walks and Hiking – a myriad of opportunities.
She did a portion of the Bibbulmun Track – the leg of the trail she and her friends did is called Poison Point Walking Trail Castle Rock. It’s about a 1.5 hour round hike though allow longer if you want to take it at a really leisurely pace. There are amazing views at the top! The final part of the trail is optional where you climb through a ladder. If you look at Mlle’s photos you may be able to spot the dugite sunning himself on the rock. Mlle is scared of heights (like her dad!) and opted out of the top ladder climb, which is where her “friend” was hiding out. No one was hurt or injured fortunately!
The earlier part of the trail went through some dense forest where Mlle noticed some amazing houses. She thinks you might be able to rent some of them – it would appeal to you if you wanted to get away from it all, indeed Mlle thinks they might be completely off grid.
Oceans Beach – great spot for beginner surfers apparently (I’m not a surfer but Mlle has done some surfing holidays in Europe as well as enjoying getting in the water back here in WA). She says there were clean easy breaks to ride!
Greens Pool and Elephants Rocks – beautiful coastline, rocks to climb and you can walk between the two.
The photo gallery below is a compilation of the walking trail, the grounds near their house and the beaches.
Finally a few thoughts on the town itself:
Mrs JonesCafe– Mlle says it’s “THE BEST BREAKFAST/BRUNCH” and they literally went there every day! The photos on the website (link here) give you a feel for the charming ambiance – it would be right up my street too!
Next door is a gallery with beautiful art, prints, woodwork and other small gift ideas/cards etc.
Other shops and attractions:
DenmarkArts Market – Mlle and her friends went on the Saturday of their trip. They were lucky as the markets are only held 4 times a year (see here for details). Held in the lovely setting of Berridge Park down by the river in town, the market has live bands playing and food trucks plus plenty of arts and crafts stalls to browse round.
Tiny Treasures games shop – to stock up on some activities for evenings by the fire.
Talking of fires, as I said earlier on, it’s considerably cooler down in Denmark than Perth would be at the same time of year. In late December and early January we had maximums in the high 30s here in the metro area, whereas it was only low to mid 30s down in Denmark. They were even wearing jumpers in the evenings!
Always pack warmer clothing for trips down to the south and south west of WA at any time of year. I got caught out once years ago in the autumn when it was still quite hot in Perth and wet and cold down south. I had to wear the same pair of old exercise tights for several days in a row just to keep warm!
Unfortunately I don’t have any digital photos of our trip to Denmark from the early noughties. It does sound though as if Denmark has managed to retain its charm and appeal, despite ever more visitors and city dwellers seeking a sea change who are drawn there by its many attractions.
Having spent the day exploring the little port of Seward (see here), it was time to return to the railway station by the harbour and board the evening train heading up north to our next stop of Anchorage.
Many of our fellow cruise ship passengers now joined up with tour groups to explore the main part of Alaska but we were travelling onwards independently with our friends. The Alaska Railroad train was pretty much full when we departed on time around 6pm – we had pre-booked our tickets with Alaskan trains before we left Australia. Although the line stays open all year round, the high season is from May to September, which naturally coincides with the cruise season. I would highly recommend advance booking (when we can travel again!).
The 470 mile railway line from Seward goes as far as Fairbanks just south of the Arctic Circle, connecting many small and otherwise isolated communities along the way.
We took the twilight train up to Anchorage, a journey of just over 4 hours. It’s a fabulous way to admire the landscape either from the comfort of your seat or a special viewing deck at the back of each carriage.
The blue and yellow train wends its way through breathtaking wilderness scenery all offset with the stunning hues of the setting sun on the horizon.
We chugged up mountain passes with spectacular views of the snow-capped Kenai Mountains, over bridges with gushing streams and marshy swampland. On one occasion we passed a moose grazing in one of the meadows but it dashed back into the bushland before I could capture a good photo. Much of the area once you leave Seward is part of the Chugach National Forest, which is the farthest north and west of all American state forests and is 30% covered in ice (you can read up more background information here).
A substantial dinner was served in the dining car – the luxury of the warmth and comforts of the train interior are a marked contrast to the wild terrain and landscape outdoors (wrap up warmly if you head out onto the viewing deck!).
About an hour or so before Anchorage we came alongside the inlet known as the Turnagain Arm, a mix of water and endless mudflats. Beluga whales and bald eagles amongst other wildlife are known to inhabit this area although we didn’t have any sightings. By this stage the sun was dipping in and out behind the clouds in the distance and we followed this surreal scene all the way to Anchorage Station arriving just as night was falling.
It was truly a memorable ride and a unique way to experience the amazing wilderness scenery of Alaska.
A few photos taken out and about on our local walks recently. We are able to go out today for the first time in a couple of weeks without wearing masks, a very welcome change. We are very thankful that the recent short sharp lockdown appears to have been effective and we are now back to so-called “Covid normal” (restricted venue capacities and mandatory signing in at all public places such as gyms and shopping centres).
In the meantime “Happy Valentines Day” from Perth!
We had arrived in Seward Alaska on a grey and misty morning at the end of our week-long cruise from Vancouver (see here)
Our train up to Anchorage was not due to board till early evening so, having secured our luggage at the station, we headed into town to see what was on offer.
Seward is a port city in southern Alaska, set in an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Fjords National Park is situated to the west of the town, though unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to explore it. It sounds as spectacular as the Glacier Bay National Park we had visited on our cruise a couple of days earlier (see here). The national park is a place where glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into coastal fjords surrounded by mountains and pristine wilderness.
There were similarities to the south-east peninsula of Alaska where we had spent the past week. Misty grey skies and pretty wooden buildings, including a couple of churches, were reminiscent of Scotland or Scandinavia. The shops were just opening up. Predictably there were quite a few souvenir places designed to attract the tourists coming off the boats and train but also authentic looking bars and eateries too. It was a quaint mixture but you did have a feeling you were in a very remote part of the world.
We had seen the Alaska SeaLife Centre advertised and since it was on the far edge of town decided to head there first to avoid disappointment in case we ran out of time later on. We spent the next couple of hours or so there and it was a memorable experience. We learnt so much about the local wildlife and the delicate ecosystem in Alaska during our visit. Whales and porpoises live in the waters of the fjords and the SeaLife Centre rehabilitates many injured and ill animals, especially seals and puffins.
We loved the interactive displays and the chance to see cute animals, such as the sea otters, on the road to recovery. Some of the photos are a little blurry, which makes the antics of the seals a little hard to see, but hopefully the photos create an impression of what our experience was like. The puffins were a particular favourite of mine too.
Unfortunately with the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic and the ceasing of cruises up to Alaska, the SeaLife Centre ran into severe financial difficulties and was facing permanent closure. A major fundraising campaign has meant it has been able to stay open during the northern winter (see here for an article I found in the Anchorage Daily News). However there are still concerns over its viability going forward in the summer unless tourism can resume.
By the time we had finished our tour round the SeaLife Centre it was nearly lunchtime and we rejoined our friends in the Seward Brewing Company for a hearty Alaskan meal. Salmon featured heavily on the menu! It happens to be one of my favourite foods and was simply delicious. Since it was pouring with rain we were somewhat restricted in the activities we could do – really staying indoors was the best option. Having made our way back into the town centre, courtesy of a lift from some locals, we ended up at one of the bars along the main street. We enjoyed a late afternoon aperitif (if that’s the right word?) before heading back to the harbour to retrieve our luggage and check in for our train journey up to Anchorage, which I’ll cover in the next post.
I had intended to publish this post last Sunday but hadn’t quite finished it before we headed out to our elder granddaughter’s birthday party at lunchtime. Whilst there we got the news that Perth and the South West of Western Australia were going into a snap hard lockdown at 6pm that evening for 5 days. A security guard in one of our quarantine hotels had tested positive to Covid (the new more infectious UK strain) and had been out and about in the community for several days. Hence we had to run round and get a few supplies after the party and I delayed finishing my post.
We have been so lucky here and have been able to lead a relatively normal life for the past few months so it came as quite a shock. Fortunately all close and casual contacts have been quickly identified and isolated. To date no further cases have emerged despite extensive testing. We have come out of lockdown this evening though some restrictions are in place in Perth for another week or so, such as mandatory mask wearing when we are out in public (both indoors and outdoors). We also have reduced capacities at venues such as cafes and restaurants and must check in using a QR code wherever we go. We do appreciate how lucky we’ve been and can really empathise with people facing extended lockdowns, which must be so hard. Take care everyone and stay safe X
A complete change of scene this week as I’ve been sorting through photos taken on the last part of our Alaskan trip (in August 2018 back in the days when we could travel further afield).
Our week-long cruise from Vancouver finished at the port of Seward, situated on Resurrection Bay on the southern coast of Alaska. The bay is a deep-water inlet off the Gulf of Alaska and the journey across the gulf from the south east “panhandle”of Alaska had taken us a full day and a couple of nights. Fortunately it was a relatively calm trip despite my fears of being tossed around on the open seas!
It had been a beautifully bright and sunny evening when we left the serene waters of Glacier Bay (see here for that post) but stepping out on deck at dawn in Seward was quite a contrast. Long white clouds reminded us of a trip to New Zealand’s South Island back in 2008 and the port was shrouded in mist and damp, fine drizzle.
We weren’t due to board our Alaskan Railroad train up to Anchorage till early evening so we had a day to while away in town – I’ll cover that in the next post but here are some introductory photos of Seward to set the scene.
A few photos from a recent walk in the Whitfords park by the sea (see my previous post here). I made it to the top of the exercise ladder this time, having somehow managed to avoid the entrance on our last visit. No dogs allowed so Monsieur and Winston le Schnoodle waited for me at the bottom. Fortunately there was a coffee van nearby, which helped to pass the time. Not that I took that long though it is surprising how 145 steps seems quite a long way up – I ran part of the way and walked the rest!
Once at the top, you are treated to a wonderful panoramic view across the Indian Ocean and coastal path. The lookout point has boards with some interesting information about the local fauna and flora including the beautiful Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos. Sadly these birds, native to the south west coastal region of Perth, have become increasingly rare owing to encroachment on their habitat, amongst other things, as Perth expands. Conservation groups are working to assist their survival and long term future. We do sometimes see them on our nearest local walk to the “Top of the World”.
Wishing everyone a very “Happy New Year”- a couple of days late!
We are in the midst of a scorching heatwave here in Perth, probably the hottest Christmas we’ve had here for some years. We are so lucky though, in that we continue to live relatively normally here in Western Australia unlike so many parts of the world.
Wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” and hoping for brighter times ahead in 2021!
Glacier Bay is one of the most incredible places we have ever visited. The National Park is situated in Southeast Alaska and was our last stop in the Panhandle region of Alaska before sailing across the open seas on the northern Pacific Ocean to Seward, a journey that took a day and a half.
A serene wilderness of glacial fjords, snow-capped mountains, a marine park, a world heritage site and a designated biosphere reserve, Glacier Bay is simply unique. It can only be reached by sea and there is a delicate balance to be maintained between allowing cruise ships in whilst respecting the terrain and natural environment here.
The Unesco World Heritage Site website describes biosphere reserves as ‘learning places for sustainable development’. You can read more by following the link to the Unesco site here.
We had sailed from our last stop, Skagway, the previous night. After breakfast, local rangers came on board our ship to act as tour guides for this unique area (we remained on board ship the whole time)
We were so fortunate to have a clear, crisp and sunny day, indeed our captain said the weather and visibility were amongst the best he could remember in the bay in the whole of his maritime career. Many times it is too foggy, wet and gloomy to see much at all.
Words don’t do justice to our day here and neither do photos but they help to create an impression of our experience.
As we sailed up the channel being entertained by the sea otters floating on their backs alongside the boat, we started to see small chunks of ice bobbing along on top of the water. They had broken off the tidewater glaciers that we had come to see. Unlike inland valley glaciers, as their name suggests, tidewaters flow into the sea.
After lunch served on deck by the crew (fish and chips, which was just what we needed to keep the chill at bay), we sailed close to the glaciers. The atmosphere was so still and quiet, the silence punctuated only by the occasional crash of a large piece of ice sheering off the huge ice wall.
It was breathtaking! We were able to stay close to the large glaciers for about half an hour before turning round to allow space for another ship to enter the bay though we spent some considerable time in a nearby inlet admiring the stunning scenery.
It was so peaceful, a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and a chance to completely relax and simply breathe in the pristine air.
Overall the time we spent in Glacier Bay was a truly memorable and rare experience. We felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to visit and learn so much about the biodiversity and environment of this fragile and beautiful part of the world.
Our day in Glacier Bay was our last stop in the Southeast Alaskan “Panhandle”. Later that night we set sail across the open ocean to our disembarkation port of Seward on the main part of Alaska. All my previous posts on our Alaskan cruise are collated here.