Day 128:  5 October – Perth in the rear view mirror

Author: Mr A

From: Perth

To: Clifton Lake

Distance: 128km driven

The day started early, it was wheels on the road by 7am as we needed to drop the Zone off to have a new en-suite door fitted, courtesy of the manufacturer. We’d had trouble with it not securing properly, but they keep innovating their build and now have a more robust model. They had kindly sent one across the continent for us. We also have had some custom made privacy screens made up  – the off the shelf models are too short for our high clearance off-road warrior. 

So caravan dropped off, we had a day to fill. A breakfast spot by the beach, a mushroom medley for madam (supposedly dairy free – the after effects proved not) and kippers for me (oh yes) and we were set up. A final top-up trip to T2 was called for, one simply can’t travel without some fine herbal and fruit teas. We did stop at a park to give Tassie a stretch, but it was rather too open and dogified for her taste. 

Then we get the call from Zone, rather sheepishly they tell us the door has been damaged in transit. Not their fault, it was packed well. Damm…we decide to get it fitted anyway, and they immediately offer to get a new one shipped to a destination of our choice fiurther down the coast. Rather wonderful of them. So more delays, the privacy screens wont be ready until 4pm. Anyway its 4.30pm before we leave the big city behind and point our nose south once again.

We have mixed feelings about leaving. We are both keen to get on the road again, but keep seeing things we didn’t get around to visitinthere. No visit to Rottnest, no cycling along the Swan River. And we are leaving our newbie friends Andy and Caroline. Such are the dilemmas of doing the big lap in 6 months! Will there be a next time? 

Catherine had found us a free camp for the night right outside a pub. Sounded good to me. We pulled up at the Clifton Lake Tavern, and I checked with a friendly manager all was good. Five minutes later (I love that about caravanning) and we were sauntering over for a very nice pub meal and a pint. 

The security was tight. Fortunately we had left Tas all snuggled up in the Zone. 

Day 127: 4 October – Marge Simpson can still have fun

Author: Mrs A

From: Lane Poole Reserve, Nr Dwellingup

To: Forrestfield, Perth

Distance: 95 km

We made our final return to Perth today, arriving around lunchtime to undertake multiple loads of washing, and clean up the mobile apartment before some final repairs tomorrow and heading south on our continuing adventure.

It was an uneventful journey north back to Perth, and a busy afternoon cleaning and shopping, before showers and changing for our highlight of the day, our farewell dinner with Caroline and Andy.

We’d booked a nearby restaurant with fabulous reviews, Quills. It turned out to be a great choice, delicious food and wine, and vouchers from our caravan park gave us two free dinners too.

We had a great evening, and I am so sad to be saying farewell to these new friends, who I know could become second family given the chance. I hope we get to meet again. I had my first ever (decaf) espresso martini for dessert…not quite Singapore Grand Hayatt Martini Bar quality, but ok for my first try….

Andy and his whisky creme brûlée….

Mr A’s amazing desert….

A fine evening with lots of laughs had, stories told, and adventures relived, all with my Marge Simpson husky voice…the things we do!

By the way – our wine selection for the evening was delicious – a Margaret River Vasse Felix – Cathy Gadd, you’d be proud…We will be there next week in person to try the latest selections – all for medicinal reasons, of course!

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 122: 28 September – Escape from the ICU

Author: Mrs A

Location: Perth – St John of God Subiaco Hospital to Forrestfield

Distance walked: 500 metres (ha ha!)

Well, to be honest I had hoped that all this airway dilation malarkey was behind me, but apparently my body has other ideas, and once again scarring has appeared in my trachea (I suffer from rare disease Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis*). So frustrating, but what can you do? I am so fortunate to have forged good relationships with the expert doctors in this field, and was able to call on one here in Perth to help me. I have to admit yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, with a post breakfast text message from Dr Shyan Vijayasekaran (Dr Vijay for ease!) letting me know the disappointing result from Tuesday’s CT scan (for those who missed it – my trachea a healthy 1.5cm wide most the way, narrowing to 6mm – think drinking straw – with scar tissue in one area. Explains my breathing issues), and followed by a call letting me know he could pull some strings to get me into surgery that evening. Just incredible. My head was spinning all morning, questions about how the scar tissue could be back, anxiety about more surgery on my airway, what this means for my long term future, and what it means for our trip.

I was wheeled down to theatre around 6pm and was next aware of being in recovery about 8.30pm. I was told I was allowed water, but no food due to the drugs they had given me during the surgery. I didn’t mind though, my throat was so swollen I could barely sip water, let alone imagine anything else.

I was moved into the intensive care unit for the night. The nurses were absolutely lovely. I could speak no louder than a whisper and they were extremely patient and caring with me. On the flip side, the ICU means no sleep. I managed a couple of broken hours, but the inflatable leg warmers which massaged my calves to negate blood clots inflated and deflated every ten seconds and the half hourly blood pressure test also kept waking me up. But I was kept safe and well all night.

The very patient Mr A arrived around 10am this morning to break me out, and brought me back to nurse Tassie. Soup was duly heated up for lunch, and multiple cups of tea provided. He also rushed around Perth picking up the CDs of my CT scan to send to the UK, back to the hospital to pick up the before and after photos of my airway that I had forgotten (doh! – don’t worry, won’t share them here – if you want to see, please message me!), and organising a take out dinner from a local highly rated Chinese restaurant.

Miss Tassie of course was a fabulous hot water cat, snuggling up with me and keeping me warm as I caught up on sleep.

Breathing is not great yet due to the swelling, however I anticipate it will improve over the weekend. Both Mr A and I have our fingers crossed this is just a one off blip in the scheme of things, and we can go back to our adventuring with a nice big airway and no more breathing worries.

*Definition of Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis – Idiopathic – ‘We don’t know the cause’, Subglottic – ‘Below the vocal chords’, Stenosis – ‘Narrowing’. It’s a rare disease impacting mostly adult women over the age of 25 – in Australia it is estimated around 40 women per year are diagnosed. For more information see here: Beginners Guide to iSGS

Day 121: 27 September – Mrs A in Subiaco Hospital for surgery

Author: Mr A

Location: Perth

Distance walked: 6.5 km

Life sure throws some medical curved balls at Mrs A and I.  Results from Catherine’s CT scan yesterday weren’t good – her airway has narrowed again and she needs an immediate dilation. So bit of a change of plan today from the one we had of a nice potter around the city shops, to checking into the ENT Centre at Subiaco Hospital. 

And Catherine being Catherine manages a lovely smile. She is one brave lady, although a few cracks appeared today. A strange city and suddenly you’re told your airway is back to what it was before her major surgery a few years ago in the UK. Very disappointing  – but at least this surgery should make it easier for her to breathe again so she can enjoy the rest of our trip. 

Meanwhile Tassie and I wait anxiously in the Zone. 

At least she is back sitting on my lap after completely relegating me to food and litter tray monitor duties after Catherine came back on Monday night. Mummy’s girl definitely…

Have to just add that the WA health system, of which we have become more familiar with than we expected, has been impressive. Everything has happened with little wait time, efficiently processed and beats NSW hands down on that front. Whether they can continue to afford it as their economy struggles, lets see. But if you’re going to need medical attention then Perth has our vote. 

Just rang the hospital and she is in intensive care but ok…the world turns. 

Day 120: 26 September – Andersons reunited

Author: Mrs A

Location: Perth, Western Australia

Distance walked: 4.5 km

It was an uneventful trip back to Perth from the UK. I farewelled my sister and her family, checked in my bags and went through security. A nice new Emirates airbus 380 flew me to Dubai, then another from there to Perth. Mr A was there to meet me at the gate, and took me back to the mobile apartment to Miss Tassie. So good to see both of them again.

I had a poor night’s sleep, waking at midnight and finally dropping off again at around 5am. Before long the sun had risen and I had to be up again. After a brief visit to a local GP, Mr A and I went to meet our favourite stalkers from Geraldton for brunch in South Perth. Greg and Claire were visiting their daughters nearby and had time to meet before heading home.

It was good to see them and we had a very tasty brunch in a cafe with a fabulous view over the Swan River, looking out towards Elizabeth Quay. Perth feels like a very livable city, very picturesque, full of cycle paths and walking tracks, surrounded by water in all directions. 

Before long, it was time for the next event of the day, the far less exciting visit (especially for Mr A, who spent the time in the waiting room!) to Perth Radiological Clinic for a CT scan of my chest and trachea. Hopefully will get the results of that in the next day or so, revealing whether I need to book in for an operation next week or not. At the very least, it should shed some light on my fluctuating breathing abilities.

Clothes washing and dinner cooking took up the remainder of the day, keeping me busy in order to kick start the correct sleep patterns…hopefully!

Day 117-119: 23-25 September – A wet and wild long weekend culminates in Mrs A’s return!

Author: Mr A

Location: Pumphrey’s Bridge to Forrestfield (Perth)

We pulled up stumps on a wet and windy Thursday morning and left the little town of Boddington for a short drive inland to our weekend camp at a place called Pumphrey’s Bridge. No prizes for guessing what’s there….

Yup…but its a bridge we won’t be driving over….mind you, our VMS navigation system wanted us to. I just updated the maps before I left Sydney on this after market 4WD navigation system – I’m not sure how they stay in business because the maps are absolutely useless compared to using free Miss Google. She of course had me detour round, as every car has had to for many years. 

I had been invited to attend a club meet of the Toyota Land Cruiser Club of WA, by the organisers – our new friends in Perth, Andy and Caroline Trenfield. I was looking forward to meeting them again, and to be honest having some human company. I was talking rather a lot to our Burmese cat, Tassie.

I was first to arrive, of course, and “Norman No Mates” here parked up and sat in the Zone watching the rain hurl itself at the windows. Soon the other club members starting arriving, all sensibly in caravans or campers given the shocking forecast for the weekend. However, the venue had been chosen not just for its falling down bridge, but it had a lovely old hall that was rented to us for our stay. I was soon mingling, and what a lovely crowd of people., I was immediately invited down for a brew with one couple, he was mid 70’s and she mid 80’s. They are both very active four wheel drivers and gad about in their caravan having a blast. Several other club members were in their late 70’s or early 80’s, and I just was so blown away by how “young” these people are. Is there a direct correlation between owning a caravan and longevity? I bloody hope so! 

We trooped into the hall and Caroline let me light the fire. Little does she know my history….but thats another story. We soon had a roaring blaze, the wine was opened and food was cooked and shared. What a great atmosphere. It’s so depressing to think that you need to behave a certain way when you get older. I watched a “ladies shooters” event kick off. They were sure having a lot more fun than many much younger people I’ve hung out with! Of course I had to show the girls how its done…

A projector was produced and we watched Bran Nue Dae, the 2009 Australian movie with a very young looking Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins, and Ernie Dingo doing his thing. The comments from the audience had me in tears of laughter on several occasions. It was hilarious and a cracking evening. The club members supposedly recognised every shot of old pub and stretch of dusty road, and if they didn’t, they just made it up I reckon. 

The weekend carried on in similar vein: eat, drink, laugh, repeat. It was a mainly indoor event given the very ordinary weather, but it was very cosy in the Zone at night with my personal hot water cat. She seemed OK holed up in the caravan, with regular brushes and cuddles, and the occasional brief night time exploration when it wasnt raining. 

All too quickly and it was Monday morning and time to head back to Perth, and the Discovery Parks caravan park adjacent to the airport, ready to meet Mrs A off the plane.

And here she is, looking far too glamorous for someone who has just travelled for 24hrs. 

\Wow…so great to have her back. And someone else is pretty happy as well…

Now that is a happy look…honestly….and determined to plant herself in the middle of unpacking…just to make sure there’s no ignoring going on. 

Day 100!: 6 September – Preparing for the send off!

Author: Mr A

From: Karrinyup Waters

To: Country Comfort Hotel, Perth Airport

Distance driven: 23km

Well how timely, 100 days together marks the end of Phase 1 of this tour. Tomorrow Mrs A flies out in the morning for her round the world trip, and I “head for the hills”. After a 3 week interlude while she travels to the US and then the UK, Phase 2 will commence when she returns to join us. Yes…us…by then our fur child will have joined the adventure, the lovely Miss Tasmania, blue Burmese and a camping cat. So today we had to dash off to Pet Barn and buy all sorts of goodies to accomodate her every wish (eat, sleep, poo, purr, repeat). 

This afternoon we took the caravan in for a few bits and pieces to be fixed up at a repairer Zone RV are using for several other customers, thankfully giving us a much better reception than our last attempt in Exmouth. So we waved goodbye and headed off to our motel for the night near the airport (well…almost a night – Catherine has a 3am alarm call…shudder).

A send off dinner was had at a local Chinese. A veritable mountain of prawn crackers was delivered to the table followed by humungous dishes of great seafood. Feeling rather replete. Tomorrow we both go our seperate ways  – a little sad – but also both excited by our respective plans. Watch this space…

Day 99: 5 September – Exploring Perth on two wheels

Author: Mrs A

Location: Perth

Distance cycled: 28km

Spring truly sprung in Perth this morning and we were back in the shorts and t-shirts again as we jumped on our bicycles to head into the city. Our first stop was to a chemist so I could pick up some drugs to try and keep me breathing over the next three weeks, and we had lunch in a lovely cafe next door.

Onwards then towards the city following 14km of off road cycleways and towards the botanical gardens. Perth is pretty hilly, something we particularly realised today with some steep climbs to reach the gardens.  But we made it up, me wheezing quite heavily with my compromised airway, but proud to have made it

The gardens are beautiful, native plantings representing different areas of Western Australia’s wild flora. Most of the pathways were not meant for bikes so we missed out on a wonderful looking treetop boardwalk winding through the gums, but sneaked through to some of the lookouts over the intersection of the Canning and Swan Rivers.

We finally got to see Western Australia’s famous everlasting flowers, stunning carpets of pink and yellow we had hoped to glimpse on our journey south. They are worth the hype!

We finished our ride back at the Toyota garage, where we handed over a swift $800 (gulp) for all the electrical repairs and parts we needed fitting, and loaded the bikes on the back of the Landcruiser. We returned to camp via the Perth Sailing Club for some sunset photos (sorry Eveliene, didn’t make it to the Blue Boat House – we drove past and it looked busy!).

A chilled out evening ahead, and hopefully an early night – I didn’t sleep well last night with all my medical relevations swimming through my head.

Day 98: 4 September – Retail therapy and another WA hospital visit

Author: Mr A

From: Karrinyup Waters

To: Perth City Centre

Distance driven: 14km

Distance walked: 13km

We drove the Cruiser into Perth City Toyota, acting on an introduction from the Trenfields to the Service Manager there. 12,000km and remediation needed – a few minor repairs. What a terrific reception we got there – knowledgable, personable and friendly service. A world of difference from Mosman Toyota in Sydney! 

We left the Cruiser in good hands and headed into the city on the FREE buses. Then we went for a FREE (if we wanted to be mean, which we didn’t) lunch at the payment optional vegan Indian restaurant right overlooking the Swan River.

Things went downhill from there in the payment dept, new glasses and prescription sunnies for me after my recent eye test (although a 2 for 1 deal at Specsavers pretty good though), some outdoor shop power purchasing (we’re not on holiday if we don’t visit every gear shop), and so it went on.  Actually we loved Perth City Centre. So quiet, almost carless, clean, a pleasant change from Sydney’s clogged CBD. 

Our last task of the day was to visit an ENT specialist Catherine has got to know through her Facebook group and get her trachea looked at (for those not regular readers she has a rare disease which blocks her airway). Basically not very good news. She will need to have another op when she gets back from her world tour. Ah well…such is life for the Andersons – if its not her throat its my eyes – all the more reason to cram in the travel while we can. 

We decided to not worry about it and ram a decent Thai meal down us. Marvellous….an Uber back to camp and that was day 98.