Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Ridin' on down the Tin Horse Highway

As we continued east through the WA weatbelt, we began to notice some unusual creatures scattered amongst the landscape. They were horses, only they weren't horses, they were made of metal! Upon entering the small friendly town of Kulin, we discovered this phenomenon commenced in the region as a way of directing people to the local annual horse race. The locals then began to compete with each other, making more and more of these tin horses, to show off artistic talent, throw down a bit of tongue in cheek humour or even as a clever way to advertise a local business. The 23 kilometres east of Kulin is thus dubbed the Tin Horse Highway, and despite perfectly maintained sealed roads, our first drive down this road took us about an hour, as we kept pulling over and scoping out the cool artwork on display.
There are well over 100 tin horses on this highway, here are some of our favourites.

As you can see there were heaps of interesting horses down this highway! If you look at the second last photo, you'll notice the end of this road points to the location of the Kulin Bush Races. A bit further up ahead you'll also find Jilakin Lake and Jilakin Rock.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Coal in the west at Collie

Not far east of Bunbury is the town of Collie. Just like the place we call home, Collie is on the map due to rich history of coal mining. The coal over here is a bit different from the stuff back home, it doesn't emit any methane, which allows for different processes to take place in the stuffs extraction.
The information centre has some cool old trains sitting outside you can check out, but they also offer a guided underground mining tour. We had an old retired miner show us around a mock mine, sharing tales of the process, hardships and shenanigans he and his old work mates used to get up to. He also gave insight on how horses were used in the mines. There usefulness and stubbornness gave the mining of the era a certain charm. His stories were quite interesting and it really sheds some light on the hardships the Aussie miners of old had it, definitely not quite paid or treated as well as the modern miner!

After enjoying a bit of the historical side of town, we decided to go relax with a stroll down Minninup Pool. This is the waterhole the locals frequent on a hot day, it's got all the facilities you need for a barby and plenty of ducks to quack at.

Another thing we found quite amusing with Collie was the similarities in area names it had with Newcastle. Both being British penal colony mining towns must have something to do with their sharing a few common area names like Stockton and Cardiff. Stockton Lake is a really pretty looking waterhole. We didn't go swimming in there though as the lake is actually an old open cut mine that's been flooded and she's a bit alkaline.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Trekin' around Wellington National Park

Ferguson Valley really is a magical place, whether you want to explore the rolling green hills, wonder through mystical Gnomesville, scope out the dam, camp or hike. We had previously been to the dam, and had been meaning to check out some of the walks around the Wellington National Park.

Most of the hikes are around the 10 kilometre mark. The Sika and Jabitji trail can be started from the cafe at the dam. From the campsite Honeymoon Pool you can embark upon the Jabitji (from the other side) or Kurliny Tjenagitj trails. We spent the night at the newly renovated Potters Gorge campground, the Sika trail runs through there so we decided that would be our trail for the day!

We didn't begin our walk until late in the morning, about 11:00 am. Our plan started to only do the Sika trail anti clockwise. A quick tip to anyone deciding to do this, when find yourself following a pipeline up a hill, not long from the camp site, the dedicated path turns left rather soon. We accidentally continued to the top of the hill, then returned down Wellington Dam Road adding a few extra kilometres to the hike. Far from the worst of problems, but the sealed and unsealed roads we started on weren't quite as exciting as the rest of the walk!

One thing I personally love about Wellington National Park is all of the grass trees about. They really are nice and seem a lot more common on the western side of the country. When they fall apart and they also look like a bunch of cockroach shells. This looks really bizarre when scattered over a 4wd track!

Once we reached the most north east part of the Sika trail, we decided to push our walk a little further and jump over to the Kurliny Tjenagitj trail and eventually jump on the Jabitj trail back to the dam. This made the walk significantly longer, but definitely worth it. We were told the Kurliny Tjenagitj is really worth checking out and with the Noongar word “Kurliny Tjenagitj” translating to “Come and See” it's no wonder!

As we continued down the Kurliny Tjenagitj we found our way to a lookout point giving us spectacular views of the hills. On one side of the lookout, the grass trees climbing up the hill with the mountains behind looked absolutely amazing! With us combining the three tracks, this also happened to be the halfway point for us. The fact a lonely picnic table was sitting by the cliffs edge made the decision to make this the perfect location to have lunch a no brainer!

The descent to the base of the hill was more narrow and and rough to walk than the rest of what we had done. It was in no way difficult, but with the heavy storms that hit the region over the winter, we did need to climb over a few of the large trees that had came down.

Western Australia is well known for its wild flowers. Spring is the time for the countryside to light up a heap of magnificent colours. We did this walk at the beginning of September, we found some of the flowers had opened up, but most were lush and green, ready for their bud's to burst very shortly. The flowers we did see were pretty and fragrant none the less.

Once we were at the base of the hill, we met with the Collie River. Following this west takes you to Honeymoon Pool, east to the dam. We continued east enjoying the early spring warmth of the sun and the sound of the water running through the rapids beside us. Ducks and other birds were also enjoying the afternoon sun getting up to all sorts of mischief.

We hadn't done many bush walks for a while as winter in the south west is rather cold and wet, but by the time we made it back to the cafe we were buggered!

Steve and Dianne, the couple running the cafe were happy to see us arrive. They were kind enough to fill our water bottles as we sat down to enjoy an ice cream. At this point it was almost 4:00pm so we decided to spend another night in Potters Gorge, rather than look for another place to spend the night.

Rather than take the Sika trail back to the campsite, we took a quick detour to walk along the sandy beach by the dam. This was a nice way to end the walk, varying up the scenery yet again with the soil colours varying from a light yellow to a rich dark red. There were also some old trees that had snapped in the past, the soil around their roots had eroded and they appeared like wooden octopus along the shore.

While we haven't actually stayed at Honeymoon Pool, we have been through, noticing it is quite a nice campground. We found Potters Gorge a great place to spend a couple of nights. It has been closed for a couple of years due to weather damage and renovations. When we first drove in, it was quiet and all the campsites looked great. Clean and tidy with a picnic tablein most spots and fire pit for every spot! The bathrooms are clean and well maintained drop toilets. While most of the campground is complete, the boat ramp and group sections are still under maintenance. Camping fees here are only $10 a person and will be picked up by Steve and Dianne when they do the rounds.

As we've written before, Wellington Dam is well worth checking out, but if you have the time to camp and trek around it, you cannot go wrong! You can also hire bikes from the cafe if you would rather ride around the national park. A part of the Munda Biddi mountain bike trail (Perth to Albany) goes through the national park along the Kurliny Tjenagitj and Jabitj trails so be sure to lookout for bikes when walking. Steve and Dianne also are very passionate about the area and happy to impart on all sorts of info and advice. They were even kind enough to drop us off some cake after we finished our walk!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Ferguson Valley Breweries

If you have been reading our blog over the past 6 months you will have read out posts about Gnomesville and Wellington National Park. The Ferguson Valley where these two places are nestled in, is about 40 minutes from Bunbury where we have been based for the past 6 months and so before we hit the road again we did one more trip out there. With beautiful, green, lush, rolling hills, surrounded by farmland and forests, with spectacular scenery, it truly is a gem of a spot to visit.

On the agenda this time was to visit Bonking Frog Wines, Wild Bull Brewery, and Moody Cow Brewery. There are 14 wineries and another 2 breweries/ taverns in the area but most are only open weekends so we had not had the chance to visit them as I was working weekends, but at least we finally were able to get to some before we left the area.

We kicked off the day by saying goodbye to the people in Bunbury we had house sat for and headed for Bonking Frog Wines at Dardanup. The reason, more than any, was because the name was unique. They specialise in Merlot. An interesting story here was they had first hand experience with bad publicity can be good. Once a journalist was offended that the name reminded him of frogs having sex. He wrote a big article about his offence which worked the opposite for what he was hoping as it got people interested in the name, got the name out there, and more people started visiting this small, boutique winery.

Next on the agenda we visited the Wild Bull Brewery. It was a very busy Sunday afternoon, but the staff were kind and found us a seat, as we were only planning on drinking some of the beers, and not eating, however a quick review of the food that we could smell and saw coming out, it looked like good pub grub. I did not realise they had a tasting paddle, but they did, so we ordered one. On the paddle was a Pale Ale, at 4.8%, Pilsner 4.8%, Indian Pale Ale 4.7%, Lager 4.8%, Black Angus 4.6%, and an alcoholic Ginger Beer.

On the Wild Bull Brewery Website there is a description of each of their traditionally crafted beers, what I am about to write is simply my opinion upon which there is no right or wrong. One of the beers that I wanted to try was not available on tap on the day, but that was replaced with the Indian Pale Ale. The Pale Ale was nice. The malt taste smooths out the hoppiness. The Pilsner reminded me of Corona with hints of citrus, easy drinking and refreshing. The Indian Pale Ale reminded me of a Matilda Bay beer called Minimum Chips, classically hoppy as you would expect from an IPA, bitter and fruity, it was not bad. Nothing really stood out to me with the Lager. Lager is what is the most common beer that is drunk across Australia so if you are not feeling adventurous in tasting something new, stick with the Lager. The Black Angus smells good like freshly brewed coffee. I get confused with stout and porter, because to me they are similar but it was referred to as a porter. It has a sweetness from the malt combined with the coffee / burnt coffee flavour. The Ginger Beer I don't really have much of an opinion on. Back in 2012 Cameron and I brewed our own Ginger Beer and I haven't tasted any that even come close to how good it was. Last year we visited the Bundaberg Barrel where we tasted their flavours of soft drink, but were impressed with the ginger beer which is the only company in Australia that is still traditionally brewed. We regularly buy it. The other companies use a cordial base for their products. When we tried the Ginger Beer here, immediately we could taste the cordial flavour, which may have been brewed to add alcohol to it, but it had nothing on the Bundaberg Ginger Beer, or our alcoholic Ginger Beer. Other people may like it, but my taste buds have been spoilt.

As with the Wild Bull Brewery, the Moody Cow Brewery was busy but the staff managed to find us a seat, (it is easier when there is only the two of us). There was a big outdoor area that was shaded with trees and with ample grass for children to run around on. They also had a tasting paddle, but I knew this already as the website says and this we had planned to eat lunch here. I had fish'n'chips and Cam had a burger since they were sold out of parmies. It tasted nice, and was a decent size. On the tasting paddle here was a Pale Ale 4.6%, Rusty Nuts 6.6%, Simply Red Irish Ale 4.7%, Ferus Dark Ale 4.2%, White Cloud 4.4%, Zest 3%. Like before, this will be my personal opinion, and on the website there is a description of the beers. I will say this though, we liked the selection of beers from the Wild Bull Brewery better as they were smoother, and the strong taste of hops and the burnt after taste were far less noticeable, but we are allowed our opinion as is everyone.

Whilst drinking the Pale Ale the flavours seemed quite disjointed, very strong smell and taste of hops, bitter after taste. The next was the Rusty Nuts was smoky which is an unusual taste for a beer. Compared to the Pale Ale, it was a far smoother beer. I like Irish beers, so the next one Simply Red Irish Ale was quite enjoyable. It had a nice creamy top, was a little bitter, had a strong after taste, but overall it was nice. The Fergus Dark Ale was next, and to me it was similar to Tooheys Old which is also a dark ale. I enjoy dark beers whether ale, stout or porter, so I liked the Fergus Dark Ale. Whilst drinking the White Cloud I was instantly reminded of the Lemon Lime and Bitters drink, very refreshing. Zest was a finisher, when I read the description I thought this is the drink that would taste like what White Cloud did, but this was far sweeter, I could smell citrus, but it also smelt like a lolly shop where all the different sugars and flavours combine and it's hard to pick out a distinct smell or flavour. It smelt nice though and a good finisher.

All three places had a great atmosphere, beautiful scenary, friendly staff, and are three places I would recommend to visit if you are in the Ferguson Valley. To end our day we revisited Gnomesville, went to have a look at the King Jarrah Tree then spent our first night camping at Potters Gorge.

It is great to be on the road again, and after all of the rain we had whilst in Bunbury it was made even better having the sunshine out and feeling the nice warmth that spring brings with it. Happy Travels. Jeni

(Sorry for the lack of photos. Our computer is playing up. We will add the photos in a couple of weeks. Keep a look out on our Facebook page, and we will let you know when we have added the photos.)