Day 126: 3 September – A walk in the woods – from a feline perspective 

Author: Miss T 

Distance walked: 600 metres

I thought it was about time a feline perspective was provided into this narrative. I’ve a few words to say on how well my staff (yes…let’s be honest here) are performing on this caravan caper. If you’ve been paying attention to me (and you’re only human, so you must have – the cute Burmese you’ve seen adorn these posts recently ) I’ve joined them on their “Big Lap”. It’s not the kind of lap I was thinking about when it was first discussed,  but admittedly it does have some upsides. 

Today, for instance, I was encouraged to take a walk in the woods. Now I don’t mind a bit of a wander, nothing too rushed mind you, every bush and tree provides a unique ofalcatory experience that should be savoured like a fine piece of raw minced steak (if you thought cats like fish, do your homework). 

So this lead thing is a bit of a chore, a nice colour though, pink, so highlights my blue coat – don’t you dare call me “grey”. I just try to ignore that I’m actually attached to something and head off in random directions so the staff don’t start to get ideas about them being in charge. 

So off we set with the more agile staff member in tow, even SHE is struggling to keep up with my dodging and weaving around some prickly bushes. Its important to keep them on their toes. It’s rather a pleasant day, a few not-very-bright potential targets of my sleuth-like hunting skills are giving away their location by chirping and hopping about. I give them a stern look, but to be honest I’m being rather too well fed to make much of an effort. Anyway the other member of staff comes out to meet us, HE has his usual stomping gait and scares everything away. Honestly, I’ve seen labradors turn up with more grace. 

I did let HIM cuddle me last night though, as it was a trifle chilly, plus I did feel slightly guilty about how as soon as SHE came back from some jaunt, I immediately transferred my valuable affections from one sleeping mat to the other. Even though SHE arrived after a night away smelling like the place where I get prodded and poked with a needle every so often. But at least SHE doesn’t make that growling noise when  asleep. With HIM I sometimes wonder in the night if I’ve been thrown into a kennel full of boxers with bad colds.

So all things being considered, I am quite enjoying the change of air here and the chance to get out and about. The big windows they have installed for me in this particular caravan allow an appropriate amount of sunshine in, and I’ve got a pretty good rotation worked out now around the various sunny patches and soft furnishings. My water is freshened up whenever I give them a particular look, apparently they have big tanks of it all ready for me. I have also taken rather a liking to the outdoor chair that HE has been trying to sit in. Silly man thinks he’s going to get that back. Ah well…humans…let them dream…

The staff did go out today, thank goodness, leaving me in peace for a change, coming back rather too quickly (for my sleep schedule) 4 hours later. I communicated my displeasure with the withering look I am rather pleased to have honed. I feel sure they would have got the message…DO NOT DISTURB UNLESS YOU HAVE TREATS. 

Well I do need to get back to my feather pillow, but let me know if you would appreciate further feline perspective on this Big Lap thing. I’ll try and cram it into the brief time I spend during the day with my eyes open, not feeding, eating or being adored.  Meanwhile the staff are about to have their dinner, bless them…some kind of pizza thing the big bloke got all excited about. 

Day 126: 2 October – South West WA brings out its best

Author: Mrs A

Location: Nanga Brook, Lane Poole

Distance hiked: 10 km

A perfect blue sky greeted us as we awoke this morning, and promise of a fine day ahead. Many of our fellow campers had either left last night or were packing up to depart this morning, so it was very peaceful around camp. We debated whether to try a kayak on the Murray, but decided it would be more effort than enjoyment, given I am not yet up to doing anything too strenuous. We also considered a mountain bike ride, but rejected this for the same reason.

And so we donned hiking boots and set off into the forest along a relatively flat trail, part of the Munda Biddi track Mr A cycled a few weeks back. The perfume from the newly flowering Wiry Wattle (Acacia) and the Whitewood Hopbushes was absolutely overpowering, especially when mingled with the pungent smell of pine needles from the Jarrah forest. The sun shone through the trees, and birds flitted around in the branches, accompanying us with their song. Wildflowers in pinks, purples, oranges and yellows lined the path, almost as though they were planted by hand, often climbing over the spiky grass trees like a flower arrangement. Flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos flew through the canopy, and a pair of colourful kookaburras landed on a branch just in front of us, one with a snake in its beak, smacking it dead against the limb before chomping it down. Nature in action.

Just a 90 minute drive from the centre of Perth, this is a truly stunning area, and should be on everyone’s must do list – whether for hiking, bird watching, kayaking or just relaxing in stunning surroundings.

We didn’t intend to walk 10 km, but before long we were nearing the Murray River, so I insisted we reach it as our halfway point. We made our way down there, but it wasn’t lined with friendly bolders inviting us to relax a while, as I had hoped, instead it was a slippery, steep, black muddy bank. Mr A duly demonstrated how slippery it was, as he slid down into the water. Oops. By that point we had walked around 5 km and my throat was feeling pretty hoarse and sore – I could barely laugh, but managed it inwardly – I’m sure someone somewhere would pay a lot to be caked in genuine Murray River mud, but Mr A was not impressed!

On returning to camp I collapsed with a cold drink in a camp chair, my legs feeling like jelly. It’s amazing what a bloodstream full of poison (CT scan dye, general anaesthetic and who knows what else!) can do to your health – a couple of weeks ago I would have easily added another 10 km to our hike. At the moment the breathing is not yet brilliant either, swelling still there in my airway and my vocal chords – I did sound a little like Darth Vader on the short hills we climbed. Hopefully as the week progresses I will feel the benefit.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling out in the sunshine, reading and drinking tea with Tassie asleep  – sharing her time between Mr A’s my lap, followed by hot showers and dinner of chilli-con-carne and a glass or two of red.

Day 125: 1 October – A two BBQ day is a good day

Author: Mr A

Distance cycled (by Mr A only!): 22 km

Distance walked: 4km

I snuck out early for a quick ride in the woods. It’s a magnificent morning, and I forgot my camera, so use your imagination. The trail undulates through the tall stands of jarrah and marri trees, the sun is piercing through the canopy and sending shafts of light down onto the  trail. No one else is around – you can only hear the sounds of the birds and in the distance the river washing over the rocks. I decide I better head back to check if Mrs A is awake and ready for me to charge up the Weber.

I take the view that a cooking a BBQ breakfast of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, beans and toast, washed down with two pots of tea, is the best road I can help Mrs A get back to full strength. I cant cook much but I can do a mean brekky. Tassie comes out to observe proceedings. It’s what we always used to dream about when we were on the first part of the trip without her. Just chilling out with her enjoying the sun outside the caravan. 

I got up to get something from the Zone and immediately my chair was commandeered by the small furry one. Hadn’t got the heart to shift her, so decided it was time for another ride. This time I did take the camera….

It’s such a beautiful trail I could keep going and going…but worry about Mrs A, so head back and find she is ready for a walk. Yippee! First milestone to recovery. Off we potter into the woods. It was wonderful to see her up and around again, snapping away at the birds and smiling through the effort of getting enough air down her swollen throat. We saw a few birds which only live in this part of Australia, like this red capped parrot:

And this Scarlet Robin:

Back at the Zone I decided I would try my hand at dinner, after being swept along on the wave of success of brekky. My limited imagination and culinary repotoire meant the BBQ was fired up again, some veg were roasted and some pre-cooked salmon taken out of the fridge…I know….but Mrs A was happy to not have to cook all day for a change. 

 Another good day on the road to recovery…

Day 124: 30 September – A little bit of R&R

Author: Mrs A

Location: Lane Poole Reserve, Nanga Brook

Distance walked: 500 metres!

Distance biked by Mr A: 14 km

Sleep was my friend today and around 12 hours of almost uninterrupted sleep were enjoyed.  Mr A woke up earlier than me and jumped on his bike for a ride through the forest, returning to make a pot of herbal tea and a BBQ breakfast. Nurse Tassie appreciated having a warm body to sleep with and kept me company.

It was a fine day – when the sun shone, quite warm, but chilling right down to around 14 degrees when the clouds came across. We spent the morning drinking tea and relaxing, Tassie even coming outside and relaxing in Mr A’s chair, relegating him to a stool! Its a beautiful area to reuperate in – trees in every direction, and multiple birds frequenting the camp sites, as well as a mob of bush wallabies.

We decided to go for a drive in the afternoon. My airway and vocal chords are still bruised and swollen, so I wasn’t up for anything too strenuous, and to Mr A’s delight, I am barely talking yet either. We explored round some of the other camp areas and Mr A took me down to the River Murray, where he had been kayaking a few weeks ago.

Now, since we have owned this caravan, slightly more than 10 months now, there has not been a Mr A fire story. It’s incredible we have lasted this long without an incident, but tonight, the accidental firebug drought was broken. We were cooking a fish curry on the stove top, and Mr A remembered he had some Roti bread in the fridge which needed heating up in the oven. So he took over that task – after all, the instructions were quite simple – preheat oven to 180 degrees, wrap bread in foil with a few drops of water, and cook for 4-5 minutes. What ever could go wrong? 

Mr A emptied the oven of all unnecessary items and lit the gas. Suddenly we noticed orange flames licking out of the open oven and the smell of burning plastic! Argh! He had left a bag of popcorn in the oven (we often store unopened bags of popcorn and crisps in the oven as they will not get squashed), and it had fallen down the back on to the flame. Burning bag and popcorn galore greeted us! Thankfully, not too great a disaster, and soon extinguished and cleared up by Mr A with no lives or property lost. Thank goodness.

Hopefully that is the worst we will have to contend with. The rest of the evening progressed with no further incident.

Day 123: 29 September: Escaping from Perth for a recovery weekend

Author: Mr A

From: Perth

To: Lane Poole Reserve

Distance: 98km

Catherine had a rough night, awake for hours with a mix of jet lag and pain from the operation. I made her a nice pot of herbal tea and got us packed up to head south for the weekend. I wanted to show her the Lane Poole Reserve where I had been while she was away, as I was confident she would like being in the forest with all the birds. Normally she takes 2/3 days to recover from these dilation surgeries, so some nice gentle walks and perhaps an easy paddle might be OK, lets see. 

It’s an easy drive south and inland, with the road climbing upo into the jarrah forests that surround the little village of Dwellingup. We stocked up on some firewood, and headed into the Lane Poole Reserve to our camp at a place called Nanga Brook. Yes there is…a lovely little stream there. 

It was a bit noisy with it being school holidays, two children particularly who only had one setting on their voice box…a scream. So we just turned up the music…easy. I’m so glad I ripped all of our music CDs before we left!

Mrs A had a little snooze nad was woken with another pot of tea. She has to keep that throat lubricated. I encouraged her out for a gentle walk around the camp. 

There’s a stunning walk through the forest that we ambled up, spotting birds hopping around in the trees.

 Back at camp Mr and Mrs Fairy Wren were hopping around. The iridescent blue of his plummmage just took my breath away. It was the first moment we had had together where we weren’t thinking about Catherine’s looming health issues. It did us both good to be transported back into the natural world.

We got back to the Zone and guess what, another pot of tea was made, no shortage of lubrication of the throat for madam today. Even young Tassie caught the mood and was enticed out into the afternoon sun for a little sniff about. Big, brave girl. 

To be amongst the trees again is just so rejuvenating and relaxing. You can smell the oxygen they are giving off, and the good vibes. 

Day 103 & 104: 9 & 10 September – Bikepacking on the Munda Biddi trail

Author: Mr A

9 and 10 September 

From: Dwellingup

To: Pinjarra Hut, Lane Poole Reserve

Distance: Ridden – 68km

I packed up a very soggy tent, the mist thick in the valley, and headed beck in the car to the little village of Dwellingup. I love this place, its a bustle of activity with an adventure race on, people in hiking boots stomping around, motorcyclists at the pub reliving the twists and turns of the roads around the area. 

It was my birthday, and the treat I’d planned was to do an overnight ride on a small section of the worlds longest off-road bike trail – the Munda Biddi. The trail stretches from the hills just east of Perth all the way down to Albany on Australia’s far south coast, a cool 1100km of marked trail.

Touring on the dirt, carrying all your camping gear, preferably avoiding bulky panniers to better enjoy the riding, that’s we call bikepacking. Backpacking with a bike. And I love it – especially solo – I can ride at my pace (not fast!), stop and make a brew when I fancy (which is quite a lot).  It’s certainly easier carrying gear on a bike than on your back, well until the trail gets steep….You can also cover more distance than on foot and explore further, without mixing it with cars that much. 

So the first task was to load the bike, no mean feat as you can see from this photo. Can you spot the item that didn’t make it in? 

The bottle of Jack? Well done…it was my birthday after all. No harm trying. 

So everything is finally loaded and its already early afternoon. The bike is looking her impressively, dark, looming self, and I’m ready for the off. 

Now my training preparation for these rides is called the “muscle memory method” Let me hereby declare at 61 years of age, that no longer works! On the first steep hill I find myself “hiking the bike”, pushing 35kg of dead weight up slippery pea gravel. 

The pain was soon forgotten though when I warmed up and hit some gentler track. The jarrah forest is really spectacular and after a long break from the woods through the arid north of WA, the scenery was touching something primeval in the lizard part of my brain. Which, as some of you know, mostly gets activated after a few too many. 

The trail took me back along the river that I had been paddling, and then further deep into the upper reaches of this reserve. Really wonderful trails that just wandered along through the magifncent strands of giant jarrah.

 I only saw one other group of riders on the track the whole afternoon. Alone with my thoughts I pondered why it is WA invests in a trail like this, and NSW with similar country down the Great Divide does not. Our state can barely get their act together to join up the few off road cycle paths we do have. 

It was late afternoon and it was already starting to get chilly when I arrived at the “hut” that was to be home for the night.

Now I had brought my tent as apparently it was a “busy weekend” and yet not a soul was there. No doors and ends to the building either. The temerpature was dropping to single figures at night so I shivered with anticipation, and not in a good way. I soon had a brew going and my “one pot dinner” bubbling. The latter was a disaster. If you ever see “Sharwood’s Indian Side Dishes”, put it down and move away from that aisle. Oh yuk…Having planned for my culinary poor judgement out came the wraps, Vegemite and cheese. Much better. Then it struck me, here I am on my birthday, choosing to be own my own in the cold, dark, damp woods with not even a tot of bourbon to keen me company? What was I thinking? Well, what I was thinking was “Carpus Diem” (seize the day). I had the privilege  to watch a great leader marshall a group of us sometimes riders around this philosophy and inspired us to do just that. Dave Curran, now CIO at Westpac, got us out there pushing ourselves, both on and off the bikes. I want to take advantage of every chance while I have my legs and lungs to get out there. Even if it happens to be my birthday and I “should” be “celebrating”. This was my celebration of being 61. 

The morning dawned not early enough for me, after my air bed decided to have an “unplanned flattening” in the early hours. That was a low point, literally!

I was packed and off into the mist at sparrow’s. 

Retracing my steps back to Dwellingup, I made it to the pub for a some much needed calorie replacement. A great couple of days. A micro adventure  – turning dreams into memories – I won’t forget my 61st birthday. 

Day 101 & 102: 7-8 September – The solo micro adventures of Mr A – packrafting and bikepacking galore!

Author: Mr A

Sept 7th

From: Perth

To: Lane Poole Reserve

Distance: Driven – 120km  Riden 15km

When the cat’s away…Mr A gets to play with his toys…on this occasion his packraft and fat bike. Mrs A is in the US and Miss Tassie (our Burmese cat) doesn’t fly until next Wednesday. I had a few days to go off exploring. I had read about an area a 90 minute drive south-east of Perth that had some white water paddling and also great off road biking tracks.

I headed off in the car with camping gear as the Zone is getting some repairs done in Perth. The landscape changed dramatically, forested hills and lush valleys. I’d booked a camp site in the Lane Poole Reserve, 50,000 hectares of outdoor playground with a river winding through jarrah trees and miles of walking and biking trails.

Up went the “Norman No Mates” little hike tent. and I jumped on the bike to scope out what the paddling would be like. Wow…some stretches of flat water interspersed with rapids of varying sizes. This looked interesting! I’d not taken the packraft out on anything like this before.

Sept 8th

From: Charlie’s Flat, Lane Poole Reseve

To: Yarragil, Murray River

Distance: Driven 8km. Paddled 12km. Cycled 20km

It was time to test my metal in some white water. I drove upstream and parked the car, the plan being to paddle down to my camp, jump on the bike and ride back to collect it. I was soon in the water and heading downstream at a fair rate of knots in the strong current. My first little rapid and all was good. I had decided to leave the spray skirt off, trading ease of egress should I be tipped, with the downside of getting some water in the boat. Following the paddling map I soon heard the roar of the “only for the experienced white water canoeist” rapid, and decided as I was on my own, with no helmet, I better portage this one. With a 3.5 kg boat that’s easy. The next rapid was pretty bouncy, but the little boat just bounced over the white water like a wild thing…great fun…some adrenaline released!

I only saw a couple of other boats on the water, and watched a family coming down the rapid behind me…no one looked in control and sure enough dad and his son tipped in. I rushed over as I hadn’t seen the son come up, he was trapped under the boat briefly and then popped out not a happy little chappy. I helped get him out of the water and calmed him down. He probably won’t take a deep bath for a while. And so that’s how people drown, no skills, no risk assessment, just jumped in and went down with no clue how to keep the boat going the right direction.

I was at camp by lunch so drove down steam and left the bike and then paddled down, deflated the raft and strapped it on the rack and cycled back. These boats are so flexible, people just don’t know about them.