29th Dec to 11th January.
Hi Everyone, I hope you have all recovered from the Festive Season & New Years. Not sure if “team wiljen” have, we’ve been busy, busy, busy.
Before I tell you about the Killer Whales allow me to firstly hash over the previous 2 weeks of action. Then I’ll talk about our VW Kombi trip down south to Albany & my Boat Tour 50kms offshore from Bremer Bay to the edge of The Continental Shelf, where the 1km to 3.5km deep, under water Bremer Canyon is located. This area is home to over 200 Killer Whales, also commonly known as Orcas.
Jenny & my New Years started off in excellent fashion. On Saturday, 29th of December we helped Crew on Andrew & Nancy’s Yacht, Quattro out to Rottnest Island, 20kms off Fremantle. The previous night we had caught up with family at Bathers Beach Restaurant in Fremantle, then spent the night onboard Quattro.
Sailing to Rottnest was fun, but before departing we needed to assist Andrew in refitting the Mainsail that had broken a loop at the top and was now repaired.
Thompson Bay at Rottnest, just before 2019 New Year Eve celebrations. Packed with boats of all types. Team wiljen opt to catch the fast Ferry back to Freo.
It was great sailing & Quattro was going to spend the whole of New Years Eve at Rottnest Island. Since we had other plans we caught the Fast Ferry back to the Mainland. Our daughter, Olivia & her partner, Jake picked us up from the Ferry Terminal & dropped us back at Fishing Boat Harbour, where the Yamaha & Honda Bikes were parked. Didn’t take long to get back down to Mandurah from there.
Sunday had me out on a 160km Motorbike Tour around the Peel Region on what I now call the Sea to Scarp ride with my mates Darren & Alan (Al was visiting over from Sale, Victoria & Al recently obtained his LAMS Motorcycle Endorsement & rode Jenny’s Honda CB500X).
Unfortunately we all totally forgot to take any photos, though I can assure you it was an excellent day.
Monday, the last day of 2018, it will be remembered as an amazing year by Jenny & I. Not always a smooth road but the vast majority of 2018 was full of new experiences, places & people. North America was an absolute standout !
Our NYE was a quiet one at the Travel Home Base (THB) with Darren, Delys, Alan, Jenny & I. We saw in 2019, watched the Fireworks going off down town 2kms away. Darren & Delys went home, Al stayed the night in our small Studio Unit.
Some glasses of “Bubbles” Jenny & Delys decide a NYE Mandala on a window will be a good idea… actually it turned out great !
After a few days to regroup (with only one Motorbike Ride on the Cruisers out to the Crooked Carrot Cafe, half way down to Bunbury) then saw “team wiljen” on our first overnight Bicycle Trip for the year. On Friday the 4th we rode 70kms north to Booragoon to catch up with our original cycling mates, Allan & Julie who we first met back in December 2014 on the Munda Biddi Cycle Trail. That was during our very first multi week tour. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Julie & Jenny we have managed to remain in contact & catch up occasionally since that first serendipitous meeting on the MBT south of Dwellingup in 2014.
We all had a top night sharing tales of our 2018 adventures, Allan & Julie had recently completed 3 months Cycling in Europe so there was plenty of past exploits & future plans to discuss. Always so nice to see those two. Their Blog is https://theogreandthetroll.wordpress.com/
On Saturday the four of us did a 35km ride from their place over the Canning River, into Perth, around the Swan River, out to the new Sports Stadium in Burswood then back along the north side of the Swan River to Elizabeth Keys. From there we said our “see you laters”. Jen & I caught the train back home, Allan & Julie rode the 12kms back to their place.
Cycling with Julie & Allan around Perth, New Foot/Cycle Bridge & Sports Stadium.
Sunday saw Jenny back up in Perth via Train & Brompton Folding Bike. She was suppose to be back by 12noon but was running late. So I headed off to the Mandurah Marina on my green Brompton to catch up with Alan (from Sale, Vic.) & meet his partner Karin who had arrived only a couple of days earlier from Newcastle, NSW. Since Al & Karin were a little behind schedule as well I got to enjoy a quiet pint of beer watching all the Marina action, kids swimming, boats going by, etc. Alan & Karin arrived & before we even had time to taste our drinks, Jenny rolled in on her Brompton.
We literally spent the whole afternoon lunching & chatting. Then went for a cruise along the Foreshore up to Bar Therapy near the new Mandurah Bridge. I should say we folded up the Brompton’s and caught an Uber home but no we just took the bike path & back roads… it’s only 2.5kms & no cars, nice !
The Big Event for yours truly in January was going on the Bremer Bay Canyon, Killer Whale Boat Cruise. As usual just getting there is half the adventure !
Jenny & I decided it would be good idea to take old Dixybus (our 1976 VW Kombi Camper) down the Deep South of Western Australia to Albany (Western Australia’s first Town, est. December 1826, it now has a population of 33000). Only a mere 400kms away. How hard could it be ?
Firstly I had to get the Old Girl running again, nothing too serious, the starter battery & Deep Cycle house battery were both kaput after 4 years of neglect (read as to much sitting around). The solution is easy install a couple of new batteries. One reason the DC house battery was stuffed was due to the fact that I’d never included any Low Voltage Battery Protection, during the original dual battery installation. I’ve now installed a 40 amp Enerdrive Low Voltage Cut Off. That will shut off power once it gets down to 11v.
We’ve also been in contact with a couple of fellow “Crazy Guy on a Bike” contributors, Fred & Wendy who live near Mount Barker, 50kms north of Albany. Our plan was to stop in & catch up with Fred & Wendy, stay the night, then head for Albany the next day. (You can view some of Fred & Wendy’s cycling travel stories here https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?o=1mr&user=onrbikes&v=Q ).
Tuesday morning 9.15am we fire up the 2 litre Air Cooled Motor on Dixybus… dak, dak, dak, dak… all seems fine & off we go. Team wiljen head up the hill towards Dwellingup. After nearly 100kms the first sign of trouble begins. Dixybus starts coughing & spluttering. Just out of Quindanning we pulled over for awhile & let things settle down.
Off we nervously go again, everything seems fine & we stop in Williams for lunch. Once we leave Williams we’re cruising along at 90km/h, just north of Kojenup the same unwelcome mechanical gremlin appear. We limp into Kojenup and stop at a Service Station. I fuel up with some 91RON Unleaded Petrol hoping the gremlin will go back to sleep. We obviously have some sort of fuel issue & I’m thinking one of the Twin Carburetors has a blockage.
Battling to maintain 80km/h we finally arrive at Fred & Wendy’s bush block around 3.30pm. Fred comes out to welcome us first, he’s a tall fit looking bloke in his mid-fifties, maybe 6’4″ with a friendly smile. Wendy’s out next & greets us both with big hugs. This is our first face to face meeting, over the past few years we have swapped the occasional email. Fred has also organised to buy some bulk Rohloff Gear Oil at a discounted rate & I’ve agreed to go halves in the cost with him. We all have Thorn Bicycles running Rohloff Speed Hubs which is a pretty rare occurrence in Western Australia.
Where we spent the night on Fred & Wendy’s property near Mount Barker.
Fred & Wendy are extremely accomplished International Touring Cyclists & have a wealth of information, I’m particularly interested in their South East Asia Tours as we all consider SEA an easy bicycle tour & I think team wiljen may be up for a 3 month trip there in our future. Jenny & I are also fascinated in Wendy & Fred’s off the grid Mud Brick Home that they built themselves & have lived in for 20 years. It is ingenious, solar powered, collect their own water, composting toilet & has small foot print at approximately 100m2 with a loft style main bedroom. It’s great & makes us wonder about our choice to live in Central Mandurah ?
They offer us the spare room but we’re keen to spend the night in cantankerous old Dixybus. It was a top night, wood fired pizza, great chats until 11pm then off to bed. Dixybus is quite comfortable so we slept pretty good. The next morning we headed off for Albany at 10am. It turned into a crappy drive & the 50kms took about an hour to cover. Looks like we need a new plan, that involves a motel room, mechanic & hire car.
Jenny & I book into the Country Comfort Amity Motel, I locate an appropriate Mechanical Workshop that will look at the VW Bus on short notice & settle on CarSmart. Then find a cheap hire car at $45 per day from Albany Truck & Car Hire. All this takes a fair bit of effort & walking by me, so our plan to see the ANZAC War Memorial has to be shelved.
Our friends Darren & Delys are also in Albany, Darren & I had planned on doing the Killer Whale Tour together. They were having a great time driving around in their newish Holden Captiva, checking out the sights of Albany….sigh !
That night the 4 of us headed out to dinner at a Steakhouse called Rustlers on Festing Street. It was a pretty good place & l would recommend it if you’re not to concerned about the price. Darren & I discussed our plan to get over to Bremer Bay (180kms east) in the morning, take the Holden Captiva, leave at 5.30am & arrive around 7.30am. The Girls plan on hanging around Albany, doing there own thing & using the Hired Nissan Maxima to get around.
Thursday morning, Darren shows up just before 5.30am, the sun hasn’t quite risen yet but it won’t be long. Looks like we’re in for a cracker of a day ! Darren’s happy to do the driving, he’s a good careful driver & spots the kangaroo’s before I do. The first part of the plan comes together nicely, we arrive at the small Bremer Bay Fishing Port right on time. There are two tourist Whale Viewing Boats along side the wharf, both large aluminium catamarans about 20 meters long. We mistakenly went to the slightly larger one first only to find out that we are booked on the other Boat. Quickly it became obvious that neither Boat Operator likes each other very much.
There was quite a big 2.5 to 3 metre swell as we motored the 50kms out to the edge of the Continental Shelf. All up the boat had a combined 20 passengers & crew on board. After an hour & half we reached the underwater Canyon area. A few of the passengers were feeling Sea Sick including me.
It didn’t take long to spot our first small Pod of five Killer Whales, they were impressive. All up we saw at least 30 different individual Orcas, it was really quite special, some swam under & around the boat. Apart from feeling a little crook, I enjoyed the day. Darren didn’t even get slightly queasy so had a great time. Eventually after a huge day we arrived back at Bremer Bay at 5pm.
The discovery of 200 plus Killer Whales living out here was only made 6 years ago so this is quite a new attraction. The tour cost $380 each, which initially I considered on the pricey side, but Naturaliste Whale Tours certainly delivered. By the end of the Tour I was happy to have experienced such a unique ocean wildlife event. Yes it was worth it. https://www.whales-australia.com.au/bremercanyonkillerwhales
Back to Albany we head, at 7pm caught up with Jenny & Delys at 6 Degrees Bar on Stirling Street. Jenny told me she had heard from CarSmart, Dixybus is good to go ! Team wiljen have a Birthday Celebration to be at on Saturday so we decided to wrap up our mini South West Tour & drive home on Friday 11th.
The drive home was uneventful, Dixybus, “dak, dak’ed” along at a reasonable 90km/h. Towards the end of the drive I could faintly feel an odd very slight engine miss & I’m certain the steering is getting worse. Maybe I’m just feeling paranoid, after 8 years of ownership maybe it’s time for someone else to experience the highs & lows of vintage VW Kombi Camper ownership or maybe resign ourselves to only doing shorter local trips in the “Old Girl” ? Could it nearly be time for a complete overhaul of the 43 year old orange bus ???
I think that 2019 is going to be a year of change for Jenny & I ! Yes there is a 3 month Aussie trip planned, but the winds of change seem to be blowing through our lives. I’m hitting the Big Five-0 this year & feeling unsettled by what the future has in store for us. I know this all comes across as a bit cryptic & I’m struggling to put a finger on the precise feeling. Exactly what direction Jenny & I will take I’m currently unsure. First time ever facing the future with no set focus or plan… all part of life’s amazing adventure I guess.
““They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol”
Thanks for reading, back soon.
Our route to Albany & back in the Kombi (800kms return). Darren & I went in his car across ro Bremer Bay (360kms return).