Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

In my last post I covered the Torpedo Trail around Yallingup, which started from historic Caves House, our base for a few days break in July (see here for that post).

Caves House is a beautiful heritage-listed hotel first built in 1903 to service the burgeoning tourist interest in the newly discovered Ngilgi Caves. It has been a popular place ever since for tourists and locals alike. Although there are modern apartments nearby, which we have also stayed at, we loved experiencing the character of the hotel and the ambiance of a bygone era. The lounge area and bar with its roaring wood fire (we were there in July, mid-winter here) was the perfect spot to sit and enjoy aperitifs in the evenings.

I loved the classic furniture and elegance of the decor. Caves House has always been a popular spot for honeymooners and hosts many weddings especially in the warmer months under the arbor in the rolling grounds. Here are a few photos (again I’m struggling with the new WordPress editor but hopefully the upload works!)

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We recently spent a few days staying in the pretty coastal town of Yallingup on the south west cape of Western Australia (see here and here for info from a previous trip). Our base was the iconic Caves House Hotel an impressive heritage-style building, originally built in 1903 by the government of Western Australia to provide accommodation for the visitors to the newly discovered Ngili Caves nearby. 

Set in beautiful undulating grounds that gently slope down towards the sea, it is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of this coastal location. With no particular plan in mind we set off after breakfast on the first day of our trip heading towards the beach. It was a blustery July day (mid-winter in the southern hemisphere) and the south westerly wind was whipping in from the Indian Ocean. Caves House forms a section of the Torpedo Trail, one of many walking and hiking trails in this beautiful part of the world. 

We intended just to have a quick stroll along the beach and head up back to Caves House to collect our car but after stopping for coffee in the beach car park, which marks the official start of the Torpedo Trail, we decided to follow the trail up the hill and see where it took us. The trail is, according to track grading in the information brochure, a Grade 3 level “Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bush walking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections a rough surface and many steps. Walks up to 20km.”

We found it relatively easy, but it wouldn’t be suitable for people with wheelchairs or reduced mobility. It is a 3km loop, which should take about an hour, although we took a little longer because we stopped to take all these photos. You pass through gentle woodland, coastal vegetation, rocky outcrops and down and (mostly) up a few inclines. There are various signposts along the way and the trail follows part of the Cape to Cape track, which runs 123 kms from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in the north down to Cape Leeuwin in the south west. We had hoped to do a longer trail, which would have taken us around the bay to Smiths Beach, but the recent heavy winter storms had washed part of the footpath away so that section of the trail was closed off.

With the new WordPress editor seemingly mandatory now, I’ve found writing up this post and inserting photo galleries something of a headache (to say the least) so below is an extensive pictorial record of our walk as this was the easiest way to format it! Hopefully I will gradually master the new system!

Heading to the top of the hill, we found ourselves briefly walking alongside Caves Road before heading once more into the woodland, which took us back to the leafy grounds of Caves House.

All in all, a lovely walk and we felt refreshed and ready for morning tea.

For more interesting and varied walks round the world head over to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks, a wonderful way to feel connected to the world at large in these strange times!

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We were recently lucky enough to enjoy a few days break down in the beautiful south west region of Western Australia.

A perennial favourite of ours for a long time, we were astonished to realise it had been nearly 5 years since we were last in the Margaret River area – holidays abroad having taken precedence over local getaways. Indeed one of the pleasant benefits of travel restrictions has been enjoying our own backyard more. I do realise that we are so fortunate to be able to travel freely within our home state of Western Australia.

We’ve always loved Cullen’s winery and so made a point of visiting for lunch one day. I’ve collated all my previous south west posts here and you can read about Cullen’s winery here and here.

In the meantime a few photos of our relaxed lunch overlooking the vineyards – I always enjoy the winter and the starker beauty of the leafless vines.

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

I’ve still got a number of posts to write up about our Alaskan trip in 2018, which I’ll gradually do over the next few weeks or so.

It’s nice to have the memories as overseas travel for us Down Under will not be on the horizon for some considerable time to come.

However with regional travel restrictions now eased within Western Australia we recently took the opportunity to have a few days break down in the south west region of WA. It’s a charming part of the world, which I have blogged about before and have now collated all previous posts together here. 

Our first stop was in Bunbury to catch up with my cousin and her husband. We headed up the pretty Ferguson Valley nearby to Green Door Wines where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch sampling their wines accompanied by delicious tasting platters.

 

 

 

On the way home we had a little detour. Tucked away by a little stream but well signposted you can find the quaint and rather kitsch settlement of Gnomesville.

Some years ago locals began setting gnomes in the clearing by a local roundabout and the settlement grew into a considerable tourist attraction. I’d seen the gnomes a few years back and our granddaughters went with our daughter and some friends in the last school holidays. Monsieur, however,  felt he had missed out so we humoured him by driving by and stopping for a quick tour.

 

 

 

 

Despite many gnomes being washed away in the Great Gnomesville Flood of 2018, the settlement has been rebuilt and today the gnomes are once again thriving!

 

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

We’re back in Perth after a few days away in the south west region of WA, our first break since we got back from overseas last May. It was such a lovely feeling to travel again, even over a relatively short distance. So I’ll intersperse our WA travels over the next few weeks in between the historical write up of our North American trip in August 2018.

This week I want to round up the series on Skagway in the Alaskan South East (see here and here for parts 1 and 2 of our explorations of the Klondike Gold Rush town).

We intended to book tickets for the famous White Pass train following the Gold Rush route of the early prospectors. However, after talking to the local guide Chris, whom we met in Juneau (see below), we opted to try the Skagway White Pass and Dog Mushing Tour.

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We weren’t too sure if this was the right decision as it meant trusting that a tour bus would be waiting to pick us up at the quay when we docked in Skagway the next morning. However a nice luxury bus was duly waiting for us and we successfully checked in for the tour. The bus route follows the White Pass north out of Skagway but it’s a longer ride than the train taking you further into the wild countryside beyond the pass across the Canadian border into British Columbia.

Apart from the highlight of visiting husky dogs at their summer training centre, Chris told us we would be more likely to see native wildlife from the bus than the train, which frequently sounds its horn and scares the animals away. Only about 15 or so minutes out of town we were rewarded with a close bear encounter from the safety of our bus window.

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Amazingly an unsuspecting father had just got his young toddler out of their car and was walking towards the bear until the yelling of our bus driver finally alerted him to the potential danger!

The black bear seemed quite unperturbed and sauntered leisurely on up the hillside.

 

The landscape became progressively wilder and bleaker as we headed north east towards the US/Canadian border. The actual border point is situated on a major earthquake fault line so for safety reasons both the US and Canadian border patrol points are set up a few kilometres away on either side of the border. The border itself is in no man’s land.

 

We skirted the southern edges of the Chilkoot Trail Historic Site and Lake Bennett where the Gold Rush prospectors, assuming they had survived the arduous trail up the White Pass, would organise boats and supplies to float upstream to Dawson City, the central point for the Yukon goldfields.

Instead our bus took the highway leading east to Tagish Lake. This lake, 100 kms long and 2 kms wide, straddles the border of British Columbia and the Yukon. It felt very remote and somewhat desolate even in the height of summer and the wind was howling when we got out of the bus to take photos.

 

 

We reached the main object of our journey, the Tagish Lake Kennel,  in time for lunch.

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This remote husky dog training camp, run by an incredible lady called Michelle, was found serendipitously one day whilst out driving by our tour guide. Subsequently the company came to an arrangement with her to run tour parties out here. We bought sandwiches and other snacks from their cafe, purchased souvenirs and were able to mingle with the puppies and find out about their amazing lifestyle.

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Before I went to this part of the world I had no idea what dog mushing was nor had I heard of the (very famous) Iditarod Dog Sled Race (see here and here for more information). Basically mushing is a sport involving dogs pulling carts or sleds mainly on snow sometimes on dry land in summer months. There is far more to it than this simple explanation of course – more on dog mushing here.

The Iditarod is held annually in early March and goes from Anchorage to Nome on the western coast of the main part of Alaska. Michelle has competed in it several times and it involves incredible endurance and stamina plus superb animal handling skills on the part of the musher.

The dogs are treated like royalty with the best food and treatments available. The mushers sit on a tiny sled and must take care of the animals before themselves. The huskies have a complete affinity for the freezing wild terrain and insatiable energy. We’d never seen anything like it!

 

 

We were allowed into the training yard with strict rules attached. Initially the dogs seemed relatively quiet but when they got wind that there was a sled ride coming up they couldn’t contain their excitement. Don’t be fooled by the pictures – they were only docile for a short time even the puppies!

 

We were divided into groups and about 8 of us at a time got into a jeep harnessed to a large group of dogs who took us on a dry sledding ride. It was incredibly bumpy and the dogs bounded round the track at high speed.

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At one point the leader decided to take a break and they all raced over to the small lake and guzzled away enjoying the fresh water.

Back at the camp site we had an interesting talk from one of the dog handlers and learnt more about what it takes to undergo an endurance race such as the Iditarod (there is a Canadian National race too).

I was glad not to be the audience participant for trying on the equipment as it was quite warm by this point and the layers of clothing required for an Alaskan winter are extensive.

 

Afterwards we were free to wander through the kennels and pat some of the dogs. It was amazing to see them resting reasonably quietly after the excitement of the dog sledding excursion!

 

There were also retired dogs in the kennels including at least one who had become a beloved family pet. They can apparently live till 15 years or so.

 

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After making a few purchases in the shop it was time to head to the bus for the return trip into Skagway. We did head up the road for a few miles first though to pose for photos at the Yukon border sign.

 

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Once we can, hopefully,  all travel again I’d highly recommend this particular tour out of Skagway – it was a priceless experience and fascinating to hear about the way of life in this remote corner of the earth.

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

My last post was all about our exploration of the fascinating frontier town of Skagway on our South Eastern Alaskan travels. I hadn’t realised I had a whole bunch of additional photos hiding in my computer archives so decided to include them this week as a postcript to Skagway – Klondike Gold Rush Tales From The Past! Part 1.

More detailed information is included in the link to my last post I’ve attached above.

We wandered round quaint buildings from frontier days that looked so pretty in the afternoon sun but must house plenty of lurid and colourful tales from Gold Rush times!

We passed on the brothel tour of the Red Onion Saloon but it sounds like it is pretty popular! Nowadays the one time bordello built in 1897 is a saloon, restaurant and brothel museum.

 

 

We stopped by the Visitor Centre (part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park), which from memory had free entry. It provided an excellent insight into the town’s history and development in Gold Rush days and the characters and personalities who helped to shape the town’s heritage.

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We also found out about the traditional Tlingit names for places in the Skagway area.

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The return run of the White Pass Summit Excursion Train was just drawing into the little station as we made our way back to the boat.

 

We had headed up the White Pass ourselves earlier in the day but on a local tour by bus. We went up into the wild landscape of Klondike Gold Rush country, which took us back across the border into British Columbia, Canada and briefly into the Yukon itself. I’ve deferred that to next week’s post as I wanted to share the additional photos of Skagway that I unearthed this week!

Here, however, is a sneak preview of one of the locals we encountered en route!

 

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Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Another overnight sailing from our previous port of call, Juneau, took us to the frontier town of Skagway Alaska.

Even today the town has something of a wild west feeling to it. The population is subject to seasonal fluctuations with the summer months bringing a large influx of tourists to the region including the many, like us, who in most years arrive by cruise ship (our trip was in August 2018).

 

 

Skagway (or Skaguay as we saw it spelt on some of the signs) comes from a Tlingit word (the First Nations people of the area) for rough seas in the inlet. It is a northerly port at the upper end of the Inside Passage very close to the modern Canadian border – in fact the border between Alaska in the US and Canada was disputed for many years in the early pioneering days (see here).

 

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The history of the settlement is inextricably linked to the Klondike Gold Rush. Initially an early pioneer called William “Billy” Moore settled in the area in 1887 believing that the mountains to the north in the Klondike Region were a likely place for gold prospecting. He successfully navigated the White Pass over the coastal mountain range led by a Tlingit explorer Skookum Jim. It was the latter who first found a gold nugget at Discovery Claim on 16th August 1896 with his brother in law George Carmack though there are differing versions of this story! It appears that Carmack tried to take all the credit unfairly away from Skookum Jim at the time and in fact it may even have been Skookum’s sister Kate (George’s wife) who made the first discovery.

We actually followed the trail in reverse as later in our holiday we visited the Klondike Gold Rush Museum in Seattle (see here for more information).

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Anyway, whatever the actual version was, the word of a gold discovery led to a massive boom in the area. Thousands of would-be prospectors headed north to the small isolated town hoping to make their fortune in the goldfields. The Klondike Gold Rush National Park covers the history of this iconic quest starting from Seattle, the initial point of departure for many of the prospectors, up to Skagway.

 

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Skagway became the base for gathering supplies before commencing the precarious and treacherous journey up the Chilkoot Trail and over the White Pass towards the Klondike goldfields in the Canadian/Alaskan border region. It soon became a hotch-potch of hastily erected buildings and shops and was known for its mud and lawless reputation – characters such as conman Soapy Smith became synonymous with the place (see here for his story). White Pass also went by the chilling epithet of “Dead Horse Pass”  – no explanation needed really but it evokes the terrible suffering that people and animals endured in the desperate rush to make fortunes (most people didn’t of course).

 

 

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railway runs vintage trains up over the pass towards the goldfields, and we saw the train arriving at Skagway Station.

 

 

Although this is an excellent excursion by all accounts, we opted to do a coach trip, the White Pass and Dog Mushing Tour, which had been recommended by Chris the tour guide we met on the quay at Juneau. It was more than worth it — more about that coming in my next post!

 

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Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Courtesy of Monsieur this week – some photos he took on a beautifully clear, crisp winter’s morning walk with Winston Le Schnoodle from our local vantage point, “Top of the World”. If you look closely you can spot the kookaburra in the tree. It seemed appropriate to share them today on the midwinter solstice, our shortest day and longest night here Down Under.

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

With Covid 19 restrictions gradually being lifted here in Western Australia we are now free to travel widely within our home state (the interstate borders to the east remain closed for the time being though).

We had a leisurely lunch today in the beautiful setting of Millbrook Winery in Jarrahdale for a belated birthday lunch for our son in law. It’s a place of sentimental memories as it was also the setting for their wedding reception six years ago (see here).

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Millbrook only reopened its fine dining restaurant this past week after the enforced break with the Covid 19 restrictions. It made booking a table much easier than usual – in normal times you need to book at least a couple of months ahead.

The quality of the food is superb and the vegetables and fruit are picked fresh from their own gardens. Often the menus are decided on the day by the chef according to the availability of seasonal ingredients in the garden. Millbrook’s wines are world class – if you don’t want a full sit down meal you can sample some wines with a light platter in the tasting room downstairs. However I don’t think wine tasting was being allowed today due to ongoing Covid 19 restrictions though the casual dining area was open for light lunches (that may change in due course).

 

 

Despite the inclement weather and heavy rain we still enjoyed the wonderful views across the undulating grounds of the winery.

 

 

There was also excitement in the form of a helicopter, which landed on the lawn apparently whisking a couple to and from their lunch (the pilot waited a couple of hours for them to eat their meal before taking them off again). The staff told us this is quite a regular happening and it certainly was very interesting for our two young granddaughters though we opted to drive there and back today!

 

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We had to abandon any plans for a walk around the grounds but it is always lovely to get out into the crisp, clear country air even on a rainy day and you couldn’t ask for a better setting for lunch than Millbrook.

 

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Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Before heading back to our boat for the evening sailing, we had just enough time to take the aerial tramway (cable car) up to the summit of Mount Roberts for some wonderful views over Juneau and the surrounding scenery.

I actually went up with my friend having left other members of our party checking out the Red Dog Saloon (Monsieur unfortunately hates cable car rides)! The Mount Roberts Tramway takes a few minutes to whisk you away from the hustle and bustle of the cruise ship quay in Downtown Juneau to the mountain station.

The top of the ride provides you with a wonderful vantage point over the Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island and on a clear day further afield towards the Chilkat Mountains to the north. It was a somewhat grey and misty early evening and the light was starting to fade but worth the ride nevertheless.

 

The facilities at the top include a fascinating nature and cultural centre. I wish I’d had more time to explore as there was a wealth of information about the environment, flora and fauna and history of the First Nations people of the region. Artwork and cultural heritage were on display including this particularly impressive totem pole.

 

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In addition there were further reminders about some of the local inhabitants who prefer to be left alone to their own devices!

 

Naturally there is also a well-stocked gift shop. Alaska is a good place to stock up on Christmas decorations – there is certainly a Nordic feel here and some very pretty arts and crafts items. More than a few made their way back home “Down Under”!

 

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Hiking trails criss-cross the mountain with varying degrees of difficulty and there is a pathway up and down from the town avoiding the need to take the tramway if you prefer.

I did explore a bit of the trail at the top section out of interest and it is certainly steep so take heed of the warnings! With little time to spare we sensibly took the tramway back down the mountain the way we came!

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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