Return to 2006 Australia Trip


November 1, 2006 Ė 5:30PM

Dunsborough, Western Australia


OK, here I am again.  This writing thing is like an addiction, I have to feed it every day, it seems.  Before I launch into the exciting tale of my day, I have something to get off my chest.


For days I have been looking forward to having internet access in my room again.  You have heard me go on about it, until you no doubt wondered what the big deal was.  Tonight was supposed to be the night.  Iím at a Best Western motel in a good sized town, with a phone in my room.  What could go wrong?  Some of the online listings for this place even said they had Internet access, although I suspected that that meant you could dial up if you had a provider.  OK, fine, I have an internet provider, and I was willing to dial up to connect.


I actually checked in about 1:30 this afternoon, mostly to put my cheese, beer, and orange-mango juice in the refrigerator.  I went for the deluxe superior mini-suite room that has a little kitchenette, is recently remodeled, and everything.  The room is fine, and the kitchenette area is fine too.  There was even an ice tray of medium size ice cubes already made, in the freezer.  I emptied the tray into a bowl, which I put in the freezer, and refilled the tray, so I would have plenty of ice.


I went off and looked for birds and scenery, which Iíll cover later, after I get this prolonged rant off my chest.  I returned about 4:30 and connected up the computer, ready to go online, have a drink or two, and just kick back here in my room.  I needed to upload Photos13, which might take an hour or an hour and a half at dial up speeds, but so what?  I had time.


I fired up the computer and clicked to connect to my internet provider.  It slowly connected Ė oh, oh, bad sign.  I tried to open Internet Explorer, and it timed out Ė another bad sign.  I tried AOL, and it timed out, too.  Well, maybe I got a bad connection.  I hung up and re-connected (each  call costing me 77 Australian cents, about 60 cents American).  Second time, same results.  Well, I had used the phone line connection they conveniently provide by the little desk Ė maybe that line is bad.  I hung up again, and tried the phone jack that the phone connected into, using my long phone line that I carry.  Again, same results.


@#&**%!**&$!   I said some words.  It appeared that the phone line (at least in my room) was so noisy or poor that a dial up connection just wasnít possible.  I was not happy!  In fact, I was steaming.


I had noticed a sign across the road about high speed internet access, so I bundled up my computer and stuff into the bag I use for it, and went across the street.  I was able to connect from there, for a reasonable price, and I got my Photos13 up, and picked up my email.  I beat their closing time by 15 minutes, when I left, so it was a close thing, but allís well that ends well.


So, now I am back in my room (thatís the room WITHOUT decent internet access!), and now I am settling down, getting back into a good mood, realizing that not being able to connect to the internet from my room is a very, very minor problem.  Iím having my well-iced drinkies, too, so that is also settling me down.


OK, I have gotten that off my chest, and I will move on to a description of my day, which was great until this whole internet thing set me off.  First, I want to go back across the street to the grocery store in the mall (if it is still open) and pick up something for dinner, and maybe breakfast, since I have this nice little kitchenette here.  Be back a little laterÖ


Iím back from the store now, and the selections confirmed that this is a good sized town.  It is great to be back in a place big enough that the supermarkets have a deli section.  I got some cold chicken wings and legs, some Greek salad, and some cold scalloped potatoes.  It remains to be seen if I heat the potatoes and the chicken in the microwave or eat them cold.  Now, that probably sounds pretty poor to most of you, and it certainly isnít gourmet, but it sounds great to me.  I got a couple of microwavable bacon cheeseburgers for my breakfast.  Shopping trip successful!


But, back to where I left off, Tom (my host at the Mayflower B&B Ė you ARE paying attention and keeping notes, arenít you?) did come home at 9 last night, and I did get Ramblings19 up to the website, using their phone line.  I worked on my pictures until after ten, and finally got them all ready to upload to Photos13, which has 45 pictures, I think.  I was exhausted by then, and I fell into bed and slept quite well, until 6:30, which is later than average for me lately.


Tom brought my breakfast (sausage, eggs, toast, fruit, juice, and baked beans) up to the guest kitchen area about 7:45.  The hot things were in an electric skillet, which he could have plugged in to keep them warm, but I was ready to eat.  It is very interesting to see how each B&B handles various things.  There are all kinds of creative ways to handle things, and breakfast is one of the interesting ones, done many different ways.  In this case, I selected what I wanted the night before, and the time is always 8 am at the Mayflower B&B.  Sometimes you have a choice of time, sometimes a choice of what you have for breakfast, and the choices vary, of course.  I find it all very interesting.


Anyway, it was an excellent breakfast, and it was an excellent place to stay.  Being able to use their phone line three times was an added bonus.  Pictures of the Mayflower B&B have been posted now, in Photos13, in case you arenít keeping score.  It is really amazing to me, as well as very gratifying, to know that so many people are actually following along with my little adventures.  As I have said repeatedly, feeling like I am sharing the experience, and hearing from people who are following along, are what make it possible for me to be gone from home for so long.


I was on the road about 9 this morning, and my first goal was to find an internet place, so I could upload Photos13, which was fairly large, and would work better with a high speed connection.  Well, it turned out that the only internet place in Augusta didnít open until 10 that day, and I wasnít about to hang around waiting.  (After all, that night I was going to have internet access in my room!  Yeah, sure.)


So, I started making my way up the coast.  I had less than 100 miles to go today, so I could take my time.  My first stop was Hamelin Bay, where I could supposedly look for Hooded Plovers again, on the beach.  I got there, but it turned out to be a privately owned campground and caravan (trailer) park, not an actual town, as it appeared on the map.  I suppose I could have walked on the beach, but I didnít like the feel of the place, so I moved on.


Next, I stopped at a nursery (flower, not baby) that had been recommended by my hosts at the Mayflower B&B, Tom and Trish.  The woman there feeds the birds, and it was supposed to be a good place to see fairy-wrens.  I thought I could maybe get some pictures, so I stopped.  The woman who runs the place was very friendly, and she fed the birds, which brought them to her, and I took some pictures, although it was hard, as the little birds didnít sit still for long.  Iím hoping I have some pictures of fairy-wrens (two species) and maybe scrub-wrens, and probably a White-breasted Robin, a bird I had a hard time seeing at first, but later saw a number of.  Iíll look at todayís pictures later.


After a nice visit at the lovely nursery, I proceeded up the road to the small beach town of Prevelly Park and Gnarabup Beach (place of the Gnarabís, whatever they are).  It was supposed to be a place to look for Southern Emu-wrens, I think.  It was a lovely beach, but no birds.  I took some beach photos, and moved on.


It was getting toward lunch time by then, so I went into the town of Margaret River.  Margaret River is the Carmel wannabe of this area, if you know Carmel, in California.  Lots of boutiques, tea rooms, jewelry shops, etc.  It was all on a much more subdued scale than California, of course (what isnít?), but it was the Aussie equivalent.  Not really my kind of place, but I was seeking a bakery and an ATM, and I found both.  It was harder to find a place to park my car, actually, but I did that, too, and got my cash and my lunch.  Today it was a Thai chicken pie, a steak and cheese pie, and (surprise, surprise!) a caramel slice.


On my way to find a lunch spot, I passed som every strange looking birds along the road.  I stopped and looked back Ė they looked like Guineafowl, of all things.  I got out and started back, taking pictures as I went.  There were eight or ten of them altogether.  I got a number of pictures and then went back to the car and looked in my field guide.  Sure, enough, they appeared to be Helmeted Guineafowl.  The field guide said they lived on several offshore islands, in the north, and mentioned that there might be some domestic or feral populations other places.  It also said that they were not yet on the official Australian list of birds.  These birds were in an area of farms, but werenít really close enough to any particular farm to seem like they could be domestic.  I wonít count the species, but I suspect that they are actually living wild in the area.


So, I went on toward lunch, taking my treasures north, to the beach at Gracetown, another beautiful little beach town.  I found a picnic table on the beach and scarfed down my pies and slice.  I got a couple of pictures of the spot, and I think you will be able to see one of the actual pies (partially eaten) and the caramel slice, which will lend another dimension to my tales.  Southern Emu-wrens were supposed to maybe be there, too, but I had no luck.  Maybe this Southern Emu-wren species is just a fiction.


From there, I moved on north to my major destination of the day, Sugarloaf Rock, on Cape Naturaliste.  I had to go right past my motel on the way, and that is when I checked in and put my beer and cheese and juice in the fridge and emptied and refilled the ice tray.  Then I headed out for Sugarloaf Rock, where I was going to try to see my Target Species Of The Day, the Red-tailed Tropicbird.  The species is rare in Western Australia, but this is supposed to be where you can see them, although I didnít really know if it was easy or hard to see them.  They go north in the winter, but should be back here by now, theoretically.


It was one of those single lane paved roads out to the lookout point to Sugarloaf Rock, which is only a hundred yards offshore, maybe.  They are fine to drive if you donít meet anyone, but the curves and crests of the hills are kind of tense, wondering if a car is suddenly going to be right there in front of you.  I think the reason the tropicbirds are seen here is that they nest on offshore islands, and some number of them return to Sugarloaf Rock each year.


The scenery was spectacular, worth going to see in itself (see pictures, when they get up, in Photos 14).  When I pulled up to the first view point, I got out and I could see one or two white birds flying around Ė maybe the tropicbirds?  I took a couple of pictures of the scenery, and then put my binoculars on one of the flying birds (quite far away), and it did indeed seem to be a tropicbird.  Too big for a gull, pure white, at that distance, and it soared around in different way than a gull or a tern.  I watched it through my binoculars for a minute or two, but didnít bother getting out the scope, because I assumed I would have plenty of time for that.  It appeared that the tropicbirds were going to be easy to see.


I moved on to the next viewpoint, at the end of the road, where you could climb a little hill and view Sugarloaf Rock directly.  Workmen were working on the path, but they said I could go through, so I walked up with my scope and camera, ready to see lots of tropicbirds.  Wrong!  I never got another sniff of one.  It was an incredibly beautiful place, and I took lots of pictures and really enjoyed my time there, but never saw again what I had seen when I first arrived.  I was very sorry that I hadnít pulled out my scope when I first got there, but thatís the way things go sometimes.  I ended up counting the species for my lists, a lifer, but I wish I could have gotten a closer look, or a look through my scope.  The Red-tailed Tropicbird has two thin long red tail streamers that are as long as its body, but the bird I saw was too far away to see that with only binoculars.  Iím pretty sure that that is what I saw, based on elimination and the fact they are known to be around there, but I wish I had had a better look.


Just as I was about to leave Sugarloaf Rock, I saw something out in the water.  Something big.  It turned out to be two whales, moving south, and breaching from time to time, as well as sticking their fins or tails or something up out of the water.  I watched through the binoculars for a while, and then took some pictures.  All I got pictures of were fins or tails, but when they breached, it was impressive, coming halfway out of the water.


After that I went on to the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste, but it was another case of paying for a tour if you wanted to really see it, and I wasnít interested in seeing it up close anyway (since there werenít any birds around there, like the Rock Parrots at Cape Leeuwin), so I moved on.  I stopped at one more beautiful place for some more great ocean views, and then came on back to Dunsborough, to my fancy Best Western motel, where I was expecting to have internet access in my room.  But, I have already told that story and Iím not actually mad about it any more, although I do still remember how disappointed I was when I realized that connecting to the internet from my room just wasnít going to happen here.


So, that is the story of my day.  I might post this tomorrow morning, or I might add to it tomorrow night, and post it from Perth (where I WILL have internet access from my room, or at least, I had it when I stayed at the same place a couple or three weeks ago, or however long it has been.  I have really lost all sense of time with all this traveling from place to place.).


Thatís the travelogue part of this Ramblings.  I donít know that I have any great insights or additions to make.  My stay in Western Australia is winding down.  After tonight, I stay two nights in Perth, and then fly to Tasmania on Saturday.  Western Australia has been the heart of this trip, and I have enjoyed it very much.  I didnít cover the whole state, by any means Ė it is huge, maybe as big as all of our western states put together.  I think it is maybe one-third of Australiaís area Ė could that be right?  Maybe I am remembering wrong, so donít count on that.  (If I had internet access from my room, I could look it up.  No, donít get me going on that theme again.)  Click here to see a map of Australia.  This yearís trip is marked out in green, so you can get an idea of how big Western Australia is, and what parts of it I covered.


Anyway, I saw some of the coastline north of Perth, a little of the outback interior, and quite a bit of the forests and farmland of the southwest, as well as some more beautiful coastal scenery.  I saw a lot of birds.  The only ones I have missed that I would have actually hoped to see were the Southern Emu-wren and the Western Corella.  I could have seen a lot more at Nallan Station if I had been willing to venture out onto the station tracks on my own, to some of the wells, where the birds come to drink, but I was chicken to venture out on the 4WD tracks on my own, in my little all wheel drive rental car, which wasnít even supposed to be in that part of the state.  I am quite satisfied with the birds I have seen here in WA, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the people.  I stayed in a wide range of types of places, and that added a lot to the experience.  Not many American tourists have seen what I have seen in the last three weeks.  The woman at the Fitzgerald River B&B has been running that place for about six years, and she said I was only their third American guest.  I wonder how many Americans stay on a cattle and sheep station, let alone happen to be there when shearing is going on (only once a year).


So, Western Australia winds down, but the week in Tasmania is calling.  I hate the thought of packing everything into four bags again, for the two plane flights (connecting in Melbourne), but Iíll get through it.  This retrospective stuff is premature, as I still have three more nights here, but it is what I was thinking and feeling, so I wrote it.


Incidentally, today was sort of my 62nd birthday.  I say sort of, because most of the day, it was still October 31st over in the USA, where I was born.  It doesnít seem like I ought to really count it as my birthday until it is November 1 in Seattle, where I was born.  But it is now the early hours of November 1 over there (I think - this International Date Line stuff is very confusing to me), so I guess it is indeed my birthday now, as I write this.


Signing off, posting when I can to the website,


Barry Downunder, now another year older


PS on Thursday morning Ė


My chicken, scalloped potatoes, and Greek salad dinner last night was good.  I ate it all cold, and the potatoes were really more like potato salad anyway, so that is probably how they were intended to be eaten.  I watched a little TV, looked though yesterdayís pictures, and fell into bed a little after ten.


During the night, I was awake for about an hour, and I decided to try again this morning for a better view of the Red-tailed Tropicbird.  It is only 15 minutes back to Sugarloaf Rock from here, so I did it.  I was up about 6:30, I had one of my frozen burgers, and was out of here by 7:15, in search of the tropicbird.  I lost about ten minutes trying to figure out how to get the microwave out of ďdemoĒ mode, in which everything worked except that no heat was ever applied.  When I finally got that sorted, I had my burger, and it was ok.


When I had gotten up at 6:30, it was sunny outside, but by the time I left, it was drizzling.  I went anyway, as it looked clearer in the direction I was going.  I went through one rain shower on the way, but out at Sugarloaf rock it was partly cloudy but dry, and less windy than yesterday afternoon.  This would make a better story if I had seen the tropicbirds this morning, but that was not to be.  It was still beautiful out there, and I enjoyed the views, but no tropicbirds or any other birds of interest.  I did see some whales spouting offshore, but they were far out and werenít breaching.  Iíll count the Red-tailed Tropicbird on my lists, but I wish I had had a closer look.


So, my plan now is to shower, eat my other burger and an orange, then check out and go across the street to the internet place, and post this to the website.  Iíll send some mail and check for new mail, too, of course.  Then Iíll head back toward Perth, stopping a couple of times at places where there are supposed to be some waterbirds and/or shorebirds.  I hope to get back to my B&B near the Perth airport by mid to late afternoon.  Iíll try to process yesterdayís pictures this afternoon or evening and get them up as Photos14 by tonight.  Iím not sure what I will do tomorrow in Perth.  I have a couple of ideas, but will decide tonight.