Australia (South West Tour) Busselton - Augusta

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Day 1

Having left the Dolphin Discovery centre in Bunbury we popped to the local internet cafe for a while and then went to the supermarket to stock up on some supplies before driving to a campsite near Busselton, a small town known mainly for its gigantic jetty (which we would be visiting the following day).

We discovered on arrival that the campsite was on the 'Holy Mile', a road filled with 17 different campsites and youth camps all run by different religions. Luckily ours didn't seem to have any hugely strong religious persuasion and we weren't preached to on arrival so all was fine. The campsite was on the coast and a quick walk from the campsite grounds led us to the beach (PICS). The evening was drawing in and the wind had picked up so we weren't tempted to take a dip but we did hang around to watch the sun set gently over the Indian Ocean (PICS).

After preparing and eating dinner, and doing the chores of washing up, laundry and bed making we settled down for the night at around 11pm.

Day 2

Emerging from our slumbers, albeit reluctantly (Gizmos bed was surprisingly comfortable) at 8:00am we showered, ate breakfast and packed up before leaving the campsite by 9:30. The hour and a half morning ritual had been narrowed down to this relatively speedy timeframe, a downside of campervan living being that a proportion of every day is sure to be spent doing just that.

We drove into Busselton and strolled along to the jetty only to find out that the train which used to run from one end of the 1.8km long jetty (coincidently the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere) no longer runs due to expensive repair work needed and insufficient funding. We were going to have to walk it if we wanted to visit the Underwater Observatory at the end of the jetty. We did, so we paid our admission fees and booked onto the 11:30 tour of the observatory.

With almost an hour to kill before embarking on the 35 minute jetty trek we stopped for a coffee and cake at a restaurant / cafe overlooking the sea and the jetty. It also gave us time to take a snap of the enormous jetty, standing back far enough so that we could get the whole thing in one shot! (PIC)

The walk along the jetty was a pleasant one, with the sea breeze blowing gently and the sun switching between the sporadic clouds, so much so that it didn't really seem as far as it was. However, it was obvious that it was in need of some heavy restoration, especially if a train was to run along it any time in the future. The jetty had actually been destroyed (mainly by the weather) and repaired in several areas over the years, and had grown significantly since its first construction many decades ago.

We reached the observatory just in time for the tour. The observatory is a large concrete cylinder which reaches from the jetty down to the sea bed some 8 metres below. There are a succession of windows in the walls of the cylinder which look out into the ocean and onto the coral encrusted jetty supports and the associated marine life that reside amongst it. The tour wasn't particularly enthralling but the views out of the windows were very impressive (PICS), especially considering that the observatory only descended 8m and the fish had a constant stream of nosy onlookers to disturb them. It felt strangely like a big role-reversal, with all those fish looking in at a small tank of people milling around in their big wide ocean.

After the same lengthy walk back to the mainland, it felt longer the second time around, we made our way back to Gizmo and drove to, and through, Dunsborough (there wasn't really any reason to stop as far as we, or the two guide books we have, could determine). The road continued out to Cape Naturaliste and the lighthouse at the very tip of the cape. Only interested in the views the lighthouse might offer we were not willing to pay the $9 each fee to go into the lighthouse grounds so we duly turned the van around and headed to Yallingup.

En route to Yallingup we took a side road to view the Sugarloaf Rock (PIC) and the surrounding coastline - the same coastline as we would have seen had we paid the lighthouse fee; $18 saved there!

Yallingup was exactly as the guidebook had described; small, uncrowded and with a beautiful coastline. It even got the beach car park down to a tee; with a lone old surfer dude waiting for the 'next big one' to arrive before donning his wetsuit and charging into the water. Needless to say no big one arrived while we were there and no wetsuit donning or charging occurred either.

With the only cafeteria in Yallingup closed we headed out and onto the Margaret River region, taking further side roads on the way to look at Canal rocks (PICS) and another tiny beach village, Prevelly.

On reaching Prevelly we noticed that we were decidedly low on diesel so drove around the village looking for the petrol station. With the needle getting lower and lower we resorted to asking in a surf shop where we would find the local station - only to be informed that they didn't have one and we had to go to Margaret River, another 10km away! Panic stations ensued as we desperately tried to get to Margaret River with the fumes that remained in the tank, luckily we did - just!

With the diesel replenished we spent a while on the internet before finding a cosy lay-by to settle down for the night. Playing cards and reading our books before a nice early bedtime of 10pm.

Day 3

We were rudely awoken at 7:15am by the National Parks Ranger telling us that we should not have camped where we did; we could have received a $100 fine but he was obviously feeling generous. So we reluctantly got up and had some breakfast before getting back on the road southwards - or at least that was the plan!

Whilst chowing down into our morning cereal Andrew bit into something a bit harder and larger than a bit of cornflake - removing it from his mouth he discovered that it was a large piece of tooth! Just as he was about to be grossed out that Kellogg's could leave a bit of tooth in the packet of cereal he felt around his mouth and realised it was his own! Luckily it was from a dead tooth which had previously had a root canal so there was no pain - just a bit of shock!

First stop Margaret River Dentists. They did not have any emergency appointments that day so we tried two others in the town - neither of whom had any either - one didn't even have a dentist there on Mondays (pointless?!). The only alternative was a dentist in Dunsborough - 50km back where we had come from. We had little choice so we returned to Dunsborough and Andrew was seen immediately.

With a freshly filled tooth and a wallet $110 lighter we started our journey southwards - again.

Driving down through Margaret River we passed about 20 different local wineries but after our wineries tour in the Hunter Valley, Verdi not actually liking wine and Andrew driving, we decided not to pop into any for a tasting session.

We finally arrived at the Caveworks office next to the Lake cave and bought a ticket to tour both the Lake cave and the Jewel cave - the two better ones in the region. After a cup of tea we began the Lake cave tour. It is actually the smallest of the caves but generally thought of as the prettiest, with a water layer in the base of the cave and some beautiful formations including a very rare table column which 'floats' above the level at which the water used to be (PICS).

The tour lasted about an hour and was really enjoyable, apart from the walk back up to the surface which was a slow steady trek of around 300 steps.

Jewel cave was further south, nearer to Augusta and with the evening heading in we had barely enough time to drive down to Augusta and find a campsite before the darkness descended. After a quick look around the town (very little to see), we had a meal of fish and chips from a local shop and then settled in for the night - or so we thought!

Just before bed Andrew suffered a bout of diahorrea and with that out of the way he then awoke at around midnight to suffer a bout of vomiting! Most likely food poisoning from the fish platter he had scoffed earlier!

So, with a broken tooth, sickness and diahorrea, it was more or less a day to forget - especially for Andrew!

Day 4

After showering, breakfast (no broken teeth this time!), and packing up we made our way to the Jewel cave.

Jewel cave is the largest of the accessible caves in the region and the tour again lasts around 1 hour but involves a lot more moving around, ducking and generally watching out for overhead dangers. It is worth it though as it is a really impressive cave with amazing, ancient formations throughout its enormous interior (PICS) including the worlds longest 'straw' (long hollow stalactite) and roots from a giant Karri tree which have worked their way through over 100 metres of stone to reach the water.

Taking advantage of our 'portable restaurant' in Gizmo we had a quick lunch in the jewel cave car park before heading out of Augusta and further into the tall tree country.
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