Return to 2006 Australia Trip


October 19, 2006 Ė 7:30 PM

Northam, Western Australia


OK, Iím going to give anyone still with me another dose of my rambling narrative of this trip.  I didnít get out of Nallan Station until after 9 this morning, but the internet place in Cue didnít open until 9 anyway.


So, I stopped at the internet place and managed to get Ramblings11 and Photos07 uploaded to the website.  For a dial up connection, it was good Ė only took about a half an hour, which only cost me A$3.  Well worth it.  While I was uploading files and doing the editing I have to do to them, there was a beginning internet class going on all around me.  Well, I guess it was actually a beginning computer class, for three middle-aged outback women who knew nothing about computers at all.  It just seems unimaginable to me to be starting from scratch at this point.  We all have to start sometime, and I certainly support the idea of people starting, but when I started with computers there was so much less to learn.  I canít even imagine starting now, with the amount of stuff there is out there now.  These ladies hadnít ever used a mouse before.  The mind boggles.  More power to them, though, and I hope they learn to join the computer revolution.


So, I finally got headed south for real about 10:20.  I drove for about six hours, which is a short day at home, but over here, it seemed like a 10 hour day.  I donít really know why that is, but the day seemed like a lot of driving to me, although I only went about 350 miles.  It was a constant struggle to stay awake and alert, and I worked hard at it.  Maybe that helped make it seem long.  I stopped more often than I would have at home, and I listened to some music and did other things to keep alert.  This car I have is a nice size except for the space for my big fat feet and legs.  There just isnít room to move them around much, and the seat doesnít go back as far as I would like, so I canít ever stretch my legs out much.  I used cruise control almost all the time, but still found it hard to get my legs and feet into comfortable positions.  One more reason to stop every hour or so and get out and stretch my legs.


I didnít see any interesting birds on the way, other than two young emus, bringing my emu total to only 3 for the trip so far.  There were feral goats every hour or so, but they always scrambled off into the bush when my car approached.  They are pests, and people hunt them, so I guess they have learned to be wary of cars.  I saw a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles, too, including one by the side of the road, feeding on some kind of roadkill.


I finally got here to Northam, and I stopped at the tourist information place to get a map, so I could find my motel.  Northam is quite a bit bigger than I had expected.  It is the first place of any size I came to today, though.  In 350 miles of driving, I probably only passed 5 or 6 places to buy gasoline.  5 or 6 ďtownsĒ that is Ė some of them had two places to buy gas, but I am only counting those as one place.  The countryside was pretty scrubby, like up at Nallan Station, for most of the day, but gradually gave way to wheat farming country, with actual trees higher than ten feet tall lining the edges of the wheat fields.  No towns to speak of, though, until I got close to Northam, which is only about an hour out of Perth, I think.  One of the reasons I stopped here at Northam is to see the Mute (white) Swans here.  Aussie swans are black, and these were introduced from England many years ago.  They are a self-sustaining population, so can be ďcountedĒ if you want to, although I think most serious birders ignore them for their lists.  I am going to count them for my Aussie list.  I have seen Mute Swans in England, before I started birding, and I have also seen them in Bend, Oregon, where they have been similarly introduced and are now self-sustaining.  I guess there is actually some debate about whether they are self-sustaining here in Northam, but that isnít a problem for me.  They are going on my Aussie list, though they were already on my life list.  I saw several of the swans as I drove through town.


This motel is interesting.  Like many small country motels here, it is kind of in a time warp, stuck in the 1960ís, or even 1950ís.  The dťcor is certainly from that period, and the style even more so.  Like many small Aussie motels, they run a ďrestaurantĒ.  This one operates four days a week, Monday to Thursday, from 6 PM until 7 PM.  There are half a dozen things on the menu, mostly from the freezer, I suppose.  There are seven tables, and tonight there were two of us for dinner.  They donít sell alcohol, but are licensed for ďBYOĒ, which stands for Bring Your Own.  So, I took a couple of beers with me to dinner.  I had one of the specials tonight, chicken parmigana with chips and veggies.  The veggies were very disappointing, but the chicken and chips were good.  You can order breakfast from a menu, and take it up to the desk by 8:30 the night before, and they bring it to your room.  If there was a McDonalds here, I would go out and do that for breakfast, but I donít know if there is, so I have just put in my order for steak and fried eggs and a couple of pieces of toast, to be delivered at the latest interval, which is 7:30 to 7:45.  That will cost me Au$11, or about 8 bucks American.  A lot easier than finding breakfast somewhere tomorrow, and I can eat in my room, while I check my email for all the letters everyone is going to be sending me.   I should take some pictures of the place, I suppose, but I donít know if I will bother or not.


One of the features that caused me to choose this motel (other than the fact that I couldnít find any others in Northam) is that it has a phone in the room.  Well, like the motel in Windsor, the cord to the phone is short, and there is no place to put the computer if you connect to their cord.  The wall end of the phone cord goes into a funky connector that isnít anything like what we have.  In Windsor, I sat on the edge of the bed and put the computer on a chair.  This time I remembered that I had bought a little adaptor thingie on my 2004 trip for just this situation.  I had it with me, so I dug it out, and sure enough, it plugs into the wall socket and I can plug my long phone line into it.  Problem solved.  Older motels are the only place I have encountered this problem.


I decided today while driving that I am going to change my plans slightly.  From here, I go to Narrogin and stay in a cottage on a farm for two nights, with the plan of birding the Dryandra Forest, near there.  After that, I was scheduled for a rather long driving day, planned so I could see an interesting sounding place called Wave Rock, where a large rock formation is shaped like a huge wave.  I was tired enough of driving today that I decided to skip Wave Rock and take a down day instead, maybe staying an extra day at the cottage on the farm, if it was available.  When I got here today, I called and cancelled the room I had booked for Sunday night in Ravensthorpe, so I actually am without a place to stay that night Ė an unheard of thing in my Aussie travels.


There is another factor, too, that I donít remember if I have mentioned.  A guy, Richard, that I met on my last trip, in 2004, who lives in Melbourne, is actually here in Western Australia now, and we have been talking via email about maybe meeting up somewhere to do some birding together.  We are also scheduled for a day of birding at the end of my trip, in Melbourne.  He called me tonight, before dinner, and it turns out that he is tied up on Friday and Saturday, but would be available to meet for birding on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.  He is in Perth, and could drive down to Narrogin where I am going to be staying, but there is better birding at a place much closer to Perth.  It would mean I would be backtracking by a couple of hours, adding maybe a total of 4 hours of driving time, but I think that it would be worth it, to bird for an afternoon and morning at a good birding place near Perth (Wungong Gorge) with a very experienced Aussie birder.  It would also be fun to pull off a last minute change like this.  He thought he might be able to book us into a place near there for Sunday night.  Iíve thought about it, and I will email him tonight, saying that if he can book us a place to stay on Sunday night, that Iíll meet him there on Sunday.  Nothing like a little flexibility, since I normally am completely inflexible in my schedule.  It is ironic that this possibility developed because I changed my plans to cut down driving time, and now this will involve backtracking and adding back some of that time, but it will still be less driving time than I had originally planned, and the birding should be much better.  Weíll see what develops.


So, there is a report of my pretty uneventful day, and no new pictures, either.  Tomorrow might not be much more exciting, either, but we will see.


Barry Downunder back in the cooler South (I hope)