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.
Walking round one of our regular local haunts this week, Carine Glades Nature Reserve, we came across the beautiful horses from the local Riding for the Disabled scheme. Calm and placid, they were quietly enjoying some morning tea (in their case chomping away on the grass). They were completely unmoved by us or the presence of our dog, Winston Le Schnoodle (who was, I might add, on his best behaviour).
Apart from the attraction of the horses there are some pretty trails round the lake and through the woods at Carine Glades. There’s also a playground area, sports facilities and even a dog playground though we have yet to venture there with Winston as he’s liable to get anxious and over excitable round other dogs unless he knows them!
I’m staying a bit closer to home today after Mlle’s adventure in Broome last week (see here for post).
We always enjoy a trip out to the Perth Hills on the eastern edge of the Perth metro area but never seem to get out there as often as we’d like. In fact it’s only a 45 minute drive from our house, which is nearer the coast.
A couple of weeks ago we headed out to the Kalamunda Farmers Markets in search of our preferred olive oil supplier who, alas, no longer comes to our local market. Once you turn off the highway the road leads up a steep scarp lined with native trees and shrubs. There is a spectacular view back across the coastal plain towards Perth City Centre from the lookout point just off the main road.
The pretty suburb of Kalamunda nestling on top of the scarp has the feel and character of a country town. As often happens when I start researching information for these posts I come across new details so, despite many years living here in Perth, I didn’t realise how Kalamunda got its name. According to the Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society,
“Kalamunda is situated approximately 25km inland from Perth, Western Australia in the Darling Ranges. The district evolved from the timber and orchard industries and became a popular holiday venue for the people of Perth and Fremantle. The name Kalamunda derives from the Aboriginal ‘Cala’, meaning bush, and ‘Munnda’, meaning hearth”.
I realised looking back that we’d actually made a similar trip to the markets almost a year ago to the day (how the world has changed since then!). I thought I’d already posted about Kalamunda before but obviously hadn’t so the photos are a mixture of old and new!
The market takes place each Sunday from 8 am to 12 noon just off the main street and is well stocked with stalls selling locally grown produce – seasonal fruit and vegetables, organic meats and smallgoods, cheeses, potted plants, herbs and flowers, artisanal breads and sourdoughs, jams and spices, handmade soaps and other gifts and the list goes on.
We picked up a fine selection of biodynamic olive oils from Angus of Guinea Grove Farm in Gingin – the flavours are superb! I especially love the citrus ones and the basil crush and use them all the time in cooking.
After an hour or so spent wandering round the stalls including picking up some pretty antique china from a 2nd hand shop (I can never resist!), we headed up the street in search of refreshments. Hidden away at the top end of town we found a little square off Railway Road home to the Zig Zag Cultural Centre. The complex includes an art gallery and visitor centre plus a charming little cafe called Mason & Bird where we indulged in morning coffee and cake.
I found the Kalamunda and Districts Historical Society website a treasure trove of information. The local museum is just down the road from the Zig Zag Cultural Centre and is set out in the form of a historical village. The village, which has been reconstructed using original buildings, is situated on the site of the former Upper Darling Range Railway station. Once an important transport hub on the Zig Zag line, the station was built in the 1890s to service timber transportation from Canning Mills to Midland Railway Station. The Historical Centre has reduced its opening times owing to Covid restrictions so check the website if planning a visit – we must make sure we go there one day ourselves before too long!
Another place managed by the historical society and which sounds well worth visiting is Stirk Cottage, a lovely old timber weatherboard home, which was built by early hills pioneers Frederick and Elizabeth Stirk back in 1881 and was home to their brood of 9 children!
How times have changed since 1881! Well stocked up with supplies and provisions, we wended our way past the display of pretty red and white roses back to our car.
This week for a change I’m including a post on somewhere I’ve never been to (despite living in Western Australia on and off for 30 years!).
Our daughter, Mlle, headed up to Broome in the north west Kimberley Region, for a week’s holiday in August. She was lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend who now lives and works up there and has shared some photos and insights with me for the blog.
Broome is a very long way from Perth! It takes 2 and a half hours to fly there. If you wish to drive, you have to cover 2,240 kms and although technically it would take you just under 24 hours non stop (according to google) in reality you need to allow 2-3 days and longer for sightseeing.
Broome is also in the tropics with a completely different climate to Perth. It really just has a wet and a dry season. The Broome Visitor Centre provides some useful information. The dry season runs from May to October and has beautiful warm days (average low to mid 30s) with mild evenings. Not surprisingly this is a very popular time for tourists from Perth and the south west to head north to escape the winter storms and cooler southern weather. The wet season from November to April is far hotter (often well into the 40s) with high humidity and monsoonal weather from January to March. As a result it isn’t so crowded with tourists but the weather can be quite off-putting.
Broome has a wonderful location sitting on a north/south peninsula with Cable Beach (Indian Ocean) on the western side and Roebuck Bay and Town Beach on the eastern side.
BROOME SUNSETS AND BEACHES
Every single night they are spectacular! You can pick a different beach each night and you won’t be disappointed! The camel picture was taken on Cable Beach (probably the most famous beach up here) and camel rides are very popular especially at sunset.
Other beaches Mlle and her friends visited were Gantheaume Beach and James Price Point (out of town).
This attraction was probably the highlight of the trip. There’s a camping spot called Coconut Wells about 30 minutes drive from Broome’s town centre and Mlle and friends arrived the night before, camped nearby then in mid morning made their way to Coconut Wells.
When they arrived the day before the dam looked completely empty. They walked up the coast to an inlet and as the tide rises you float all the way from the inlet back into the dam (where they had parked) with the high tide coming in very fast. Mlle described it as a very relaxing experience (I would not have felt the same way!). She did say to bring plenty of sunscreen (it was 40 degrees the day they went) and they also had a floatable eskie for beers (very Aussie!). The tide variations in Broome are HUGE and lots of tourists get caught out. The tide allows you to do the “Float” about once a month.
Broome has the oldest still operating outdoor cinema in the world – see here for more info.
Broome Historical Museum – covers a lot of the history of the pearl divers (Broome is renowned for its pearls). There’s a huge Asian influence to this day (Japanese, Chinese, Philippines etc) which Mlle didn’t know about until going there (and neither did I). See here for info about the Broome Historical Society and Museum.
MAIN TOURIST PLACES IN TOWN FOR DRINKS/BEST FOOD
Matso’s – has amazing ginger beer (apparently very popular here in Perth too)
Mangrove Hotel – overlooks Roebuck Bay, stunning place for a sundowner drink and meal.
The Aarli – Mlle had an amazing meal here and her friend reckons this is the best eatery in town.
The Roebuck – Mlle suggests somewhat tongue in cheek that this is possibly not for my target audience but for anyone interested there is a wet t-shirt competition here every Thursday night and the winner takes home $750!
Hire a 4-wheel drive if possible, so you can drive to the beaches to watch the sunset and go off-road for camping etc.
Also Mlle would highly recommend the dry season (as I said earlier she went there in August) as it gets really humid and hot for the wet season.
Personally I can cope far better on a hot dry Perth day that gets to say 35 degrees in the summer but wilt if we get an unusually humid day in the mid 20s or so. If you go up north in the wet season be prepared!
So that’s Mlle’s guide to Broome! Many thanks to her for sharing her tips and insights!
A pictorial post this week – another selection of photos from our trip down to the beautiful south west cape area of Western Australia (see here for previous posts in this series). The winter woollies have long since been replaced though as these photos were taken in mid July!
Gnarabup Point and Beach is a few kilometres to the west of Margaret River, the main township in the area. It is an idyllic spot where the native bush slopes down to meet the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean. We first discovered it in the early 1990s and have many happy memories of holidays here when our children were small. Unfortunately there was a terrible bushfire in the area a few years ago (see here for a news report) and for some time the beach area looked like a lunar landscape. Fortunately nature has proved resilient and many plants and shrubs are growing again though it will take longer for the trees to regenerate to previous levels.
We had lunch overlooking the beach at the White Elephant cafe accompanied by several seagulls keen to get hold of our food! The photos belie the intensity of the wind – cutlery, food and umbrellas all went flying at one point or another. Owing to Covid restrictions, food was takeaway only at that point though I think you can probably dine in now as restrictions have eased further here in WA since then.
After lunch we had a pleasant walk up the hillside to the lookout point, which is a perfect spot for taking photos. It was a glorious crisp and sunny day – the perfect winter’s day in our part of the world. An information board provides details of the Wardandi people, the traditional custodians of these south west lands and also gives you a glimpse into the migratory cycle of the whales.
It is a serene and peaceful part of the world and a place that always draws us back.
A new recreational facility has recently opened along the coast just to the north of us. With the slightly unfortunate name of Whitfords Nodes (no idea why it is called this!) it has incorporated the existing parkland of Hillarys Beach Park and surrounding native bush to form a new development known as a “health and wellbeing hub”. There are a couple of children’s play areas, picnic zones and also two separate lookout points designed to give you a workout. You certainly get this as multiple steps lead up to one viewing area and a steep winding path up to the other.
With Perth enjoying fresh spring weather at present, not too hot and not too cold, it was the perfect location for a walk last weekend. The only problem was that dogs have to stay on the coastal path. I duly left Monsieur and Winston Le Schnoodle down by the sea and headed up to the first lookout point to take some photos of the ocean, Hillarys Boat Harbour and enjoy the colourful display of wild flowers.
I have a few more Western Australian posts to do then I’ll complete the last remaining overseas trip still to write up – Alaska and Seattle. After that I’ll have to find a way to spin things out till we can travel again …….who knows when? In the meantime we do enjoy our walks and the opportunity to get outside into nature now that the weather is warming up “Down Under”.