Wednesday 29 June 2016

Bunbury Wildlife Park

Polly want a cracker?

Today's adventure for you to read about is at the Bunbury Wildlife Park, and just in time for the school holidays. Last year we found ourselves visiting many places to do with animals such as the Australian Zoo, and the Australian Reptile Park but towards the end of the year we were starting to get a bit tired of them. We've now taken enough of a break from them to be ready to go again.

Bunbury Wildlife Park is a great place for families to visit. It is highly interactive, and big enough to spend anywhere from an hour to a couple of hours there, making it a great place to take the kids. There is a wide variety of Australian native birds, mammals, and marsupials, as well as some international parrots too. It is spacious and flat with plenty of shade. It is also a nice place for a picnic, either bring a rug, to lay it out on the grass or find yourself seated at the picnic tables. There's even a BBQ provided for your convenience. If you are feeling like a coffee before or after your adventure with the children there is a cafe near the entrance. As mentioned in our Bunbury blog there is a big wheelchair inclusive playground next door, and the big swamp walk across the road, for afterwards if you and the children still have energy to burn.

As I mentioned Bunbury Wildlife Park is highly interactive for the young and younger. Upon entering the the park you are given the opportunity to buy some animal feed for the kangaroos and some of the birds. It turns out you don't really need this for great interaction with the animals but children certainly get a buzz out of it. Within a minute of entering our first aviary for the day a beautiful, green Eclectus Parrot flew down and landed on Cameron's shoulder. We read on the information sign that once they choose a spot for their nests they can become quite protective of it. He was wearing a hoodie so thought it may have decided to go in there, but it didn't actually go in the hoodie part, it just sat on the outside. Not really sure what was actually happening, but it seemed like it was doing some sort of mating ritual with him. The best I can do to describe it is that it was humping and dancing on Cameron's shoulder. Quite strange to watch, and fairly strange for Cameron to experience. It didn't even seem to notice when I patted it. This happened in the smaller aviary. There is a beautiful collection of many varieties of parrots in this aviary with information on all of them.

What happened in the large aviary was coming across some territorial ducks. Having had family friends in the past who had pet ducks, I don't underestimate them when they become territorial. They chase you, make angry sounding quacks, and if they get close enough peck you, so we got away from them quickly. Apart from the ducks there were some other beautiful birds in here.

There were quite a few enclosures around the park that had warning signs about the animals biting fingers. Most Australian adults have at one time, (or more), in their lives, probably as a child, stuck their fingers in the cage of a cockatoo or galah and gotten their fingers bitten, and needless to say most will never do it again as the pain is one that would rather be forgotten. These birds are an example of look but don't touch. They are not meat eaters, but their beaks are powerful and sharp. There are many other interactive parts in the park to pat and feed the animals but take heed of the warnings. DON'T STICK YOUR FINGERS IN ANY COCKATOO CAGE EVER! It hurts.

The day we visited the park the sun was partially shining, (by this I mean it wasn't raining which is why we took the opportunity to get out of the house), and the kangaroos were happy to laze around sunning themselves. For food all they had to do was wait until a child came in and force fed it, (I mean this in the nicest possible way), while parents stood back and took photos. All parties happy. Seriously though, even if you are an adult, patting the kangaroos is nice as their fur is soft, and you wouldn't get that opportunity in the wild, as you run the risk of them kicking you, if they didn't bounce away first. The kangaroos at the Bunbury Wildlife Park are tame and used to people, just like the parrots.

We had a lovely day as we meandered through the park. Our favourite bird was Ruby, another Eclectus Parrot that was bright red instead of green. We picked up quickly that one of her carers must be a smoker, because she did the perfect imitation of a smokers cough. It was hilarious, and made our day. 

 - Happy travels, Jeni.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Winter is Coming




Just a short blog post today. The title of this post 'Winter is Coming' is widely recognised thanks to the popular TV show 'Game of Thrones'. One day while exploring Bunbury we saw a poster with this catchphrase so continued reading. It was advertising a medieval/ Game of Thrones themed night to be held at the Dolphin Discovery Centre. According to the flyer, our presence was requested for a night to 'Enjoy Mistrels, mock battles, fortune teller, music and entertainment, spit roasted meats, & period themed food, mead, dark ale, spiced wine'. All of this caught our eye and we decided to go. We went opp shopping for our costumes and off we went.

The reason this caught our eye was because while we were in USA in 2014 we were lucky enough to get to go to a Renaissance Fair (regretably we didn't write blogs while we were overseas). These are huge events and everybody gets into the spirit of things right down to accents, catch phrases such as HUZZAH (an excited expression of hooray), and elaborate costumes. The thing we most enjoyed though was the taste of mead, a wine made from honey. It is beautiful and sweet. Cameron and I love honey and wherever we go, we try to source out the local honey. In search of the yummy mead, we often ask if anyone supplies it, or know of anyone who makes it, but so far we have not found any as good as what we had in the states. So in actual fact, is was the mead that caught our eye the most on the poster. What we had was nice, though more like a cider than a wine. It was from a NSW company, but since we have learnt that there is a vineyard in the Margaret River Region that produces it. Some point soon we will get down there to try it, and tell you all about it.

The night was appropriately cold, but thankfully it was not raining as it had been all week. We spent most of the night around the fire. There was a crazy 'homeless' person walking around with no shoes or socks on all night. He was actually a volunteer for the Dolphin Discovery Centre and performed some acts to help raise money for the centre by lying on a bed of nails, then later having one of the knights smash a besa block over his stomach! OUCH!

The entertainment for the night was a company from Perth called House Darksun. They performed as knights throughout the evening. We got to watch some mock battles between them, cheering on the favourites. They were actually called slaves and 'sold off' to the highest bidder, and ultimately the winner, (not the slave but slave owner), won a bottle of wine. This is from House Darksun's Website to explain more about what they do: Members have the opportunity to train with medieval weaponry, attend local, national and international HEMA tournaments and provide entertainment at medieval fairs and school demonstrations.

All in all it was a fun evening. We did learn of a bigger event to be held in York (East of Perth) later in the year, so we may attend this too.

Happy Travels
 - Jeni

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Sugarloaf Rock

West of Busselton lies the gorgeous Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. There's a lighthouse by the ocean and it marks the beginning of the Cape to Cape walk, which finishes down south near Augusta. We weren't quite up for the 135k each way trek, but the first section of the walk takes you out to Sugarloaf Rock. This little section prides itself as 'access for more' in the way it is a sealed path, offers easy walking, nice lookouts and even accessible by wheel chair. This makes the walk itself a nice pleasurable one to enjoy the beautiful shrubland by the WA coastline. Early on we noticed a sign warning of snakes and lizards. Being quite cold, windy and June, I dismissed the sign... Only to find on a small brown snake taking in the sun a few hundred metres away! It wasn't the only critter to be taking advantage of the cloudless sky! Plenty of smaller lizards and a variety of birds were also out enjoying the day!

As we walked further along we noticed some dolphins mucking about out in the ocean which is always nice to see. Further along I saw this brilliant black and yellow streak go past me. Turns out a flock of these amazing looking small birds really like the trail as well. They were busy flying around, feeding on flowers and checking in with their chicks. They also happened to keep their distance after they spot you. The wildlife was pretty nice during winter, but I'd imagine this would be an incredible walk during spring when all the plants are in flower!

At the end of the path we find ourselves getting closer to the stunning Sugarloaf Rock and beginning to understand why this is one of the most photographed locations on the south west. The waters here are wild and it is quite relaxing watching the waves pound up against this stunning chunk of weathered granite. There is also a carpark at the Sugarloaf Rock section of the national park, which I think could be quite useful as place would make for an amazing place for a summer sunset.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

How to brew your very first beer!

With our recent house sit I've found myself brewing beer again. Now beer isn't quite travel related, but making your own beer is a very Aussie thing to do. Most blokes have had an attempt at it, or at least know someone who has. Those that keep making beer, realise how simple it really is to make, and don't mind that bit of cash they save from no longer needing to visit the bottle'o on a Friday arvo.

For me it all started in 2012, one of my best mates bought me a homebrew kit for my birthday. It seemed a bit daunting at first, but once I got into it I was shocked how easy it truly was. The kit I had was the Coopers DIY beer kit, and you should be able to find these in Big W. This kit is great as it comes with everything you need to get started. If you can't find a kit with everything you need straight up, you should be able to gather the items from a brew shop or online. If you've never made your own beer before but keen to give it a go, I'll share with you all the basics to create your first beer!


Basically you need a brewing vessel or some sort of container to ferment your beer, this is where all the action takes place. The action I speak of is yeast chomping up all the sugars it can find, whilst pissing out alcohol and farting out carbon dioxide. It's incredibly important to keep your beer safe from anything floating around in the air, but as this gas is created, it will need to escape the container. This can be achieved through a variety of ways, from using an S tube, a special collar or a blow off tube. 

You'll need a wort made up, this is the mash of goodies that is going to transform into everything you love about beer. Feel free to source all the things in a wort from scratch if you desire, but for $10-$15 you'll be able to duck into the local shops and grab a brewing can. There are so many different varieties from heaps of different brands. Coopers, Tooheys and even home brands can be found in most grocery stores, whilst the local brew shops will have even more to choose from. Fancier cans may cost you a little a bit extra. My go to brew would have to be dark ale, but let your taste buds direct you to the brew you want to make.

Next you'll need a hydrometer, this allows you to check the gravity (relative density) of your brew during the fermentation process and eventually figure out your beer's alcohol content. All you need to do is subtract the original gravity (before fermentation) from the final gravity (when it's not fermenting any more) than divide that number by 7.46 and you'll know the percentage of your beer. We'll add another 0.5 on top for the extra little fermentation that will occur in the bottle. If you don't like maths and this paragraph seems confusing, forget about it for now. This is only required if you want to know your alcohol percentage. As long as the gravity at the end remains the same over a 24 hour period you should be right. To keep it simple, your alcohol percentage will be: (OG - FG) / 7.46 + .05 = %

Next you are going to need some bottles, a way to seal those bottles and some sugar. The DIY kit comes with plastic bottles, which are all well and good, but I prefer glass bottles and cider bottles are my number 1 choice. Bottle caps are easy enough to find at Woolies or Coles, as is sugar. I use the carbonation drops over sugar as I find they make the process a bit quicker and less sticky. A good bottle capper will be needed if you are using crown seals.

Most importantly is cleaning gear. The most effort and time you'll spend brewing beer will be through cleaning everything. A variety of substances can be used to clean your bottles and brewing vessel, just don't go using bleach or dishwashing detergent! Metabite Sulphate works pretty well and is easy enough to find, usually with brewing needs at Big W or even Coles and Woolworths.


Firstly you need to make sure your brewing vessel is nice and clean and set up in the location you want it to brew. I've never worried about temperature too much, but I do try to keep it out of direct sunlight. If the weather is hotter your beer may brew quicker, whilst colder temperatures may go a bit slower. There are many opinions on temperature, but I try and brew with the season, sticking with many stouts and ales for the winter, and enjoying lagers and cervesas during the summer.

Now you need to add your wort into your brewing vessel with a few litres of hot water, mix it all up with a large clean plastic mixing spoon, then add some sugar. I've had Germans couch surfing with us in the past, give me a complete look of horror when preparing a beer and adding sugar to the wort. See they actually have a law in Germnay where it is illegal to add sugar to beer. In Australia we can add whatever we damn well please, and white sugar happens to be the cheapest and quickest way to make beer! If white sugar disgusts you too, feel free to use malt instead. Malt will cost a bit more and take a bit longer to ferment but many prefer it. I don't mind using it myself sometimes, you can also purchase malt mixes which brew pretty nicely too. I like to use around 1.5 - 2kg of sugars/malt/mixes to about 23 litres as this creates a nice flavour at around 5% alcohol.

Once your sugar is all stirred in nicely it is time to top up the water. 23 litres is a good go to point, but if you are using less sugar or want a stronger flavour feel free to use less. The same goes for adding more water for a lighter flavour and strength. 23 litres usually rewards me with around 60 stubbies give or take. Yep, 60 stubbies. So once you are set up around $20-30 gives you almost 3 cartons of beer. Now you are starting to understand!

After the water is added it is time to whip out the hydrometer and measure the original gravity. Record that number if you want to know the alcohol percentage later. Now sprinkle brewing yeast (this usually comes with brew cans, but you can also purchase different varieties from brewing shops) over the top and let your mix ferment!  

Over the first few days you will notice the brew is bubbling quite a bit and foam may be gathering on top, this lets you know that the yeast is busy doing its job! No need to interfere, let the yeast keep working for you. After around 5 or so days it will seem like the activity has died off quite a bit. If you think the fermentation process is complete, measure the gravity, then check it again a day later. If the gravity has not changed, your baby is ready to bottle!

After they have been cleaned you want your bottles primed with a little sugar (about a teaspoon for a stubby, 2 for a largie) before bottling as this will allow for a little extra fermentation and give the beer some fizz. It's important not to use too much sugar, and to be sure your beer is 100% ready to bottle, otherwise you'll be destined to hear the terrifying noise of beer bottles exploding when you least expect it. Once the bottles are filled, cap them and shelve them. They are going to need a bit of time to mature! Maturation time is debatable as well. You'll probably be tonguing to get into your first brew as soon as possible, but I would recommend giving it at least a week before enjoying the fruits of your labour. It is also wise to label your beer, you don't want to accidentally crack a bottle of that experimental 12% super brew at lunch time! I use the circle stickers you can find in stationary stores, scribble the brew, bottle date and % then slap it onto the lid.

Congratulations, you now know all there is to make your very first beer! Give it a crack and let me know how you go!

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Wellington National Park and Discovery Forest


Wellington National Park is a beautiful area situated in the Ferguson Valley about 45 minutes East of Bunbury, 30 minutes West of Collie, or 2 hours South of Perth. There are many places to explore and to enjoy the outdoors which is what we like doing best. The Collie River runs through the national park and the Wellington Dam is the major water catchment for the area. There is many a walking track, swimming hole, and things to discover so it is somewhere Cameron and I have found ourselves visiting a couple of times already, and will continue to visit again over the next few months. In this post I will include road names to make it easier for you to find where we went.

The first time we visited Wellington National Park was after we visited Gnomesville, also located in the Ferguson Valley. This first time we just followed our noses and signs leading us to first to Wellington Discovery Forest, then the National Park. I am not sure where the boundaries lie, or what the difference is, but the whole region is nice. We followed Wellington Forest Rd which is an unsealed road, but it is suitable for a 2WD. This road took us to the discovery centre. Here there is a sheltered area with some information about the Jarrah Walk which is a self guided walk. Along this walk there are interpretive signs which talk about the Jarrah, Marri, and Yarri trees, the differences, and where they grow. Along the walk there is an option to do the Total Forest Trail which is about 10 Kms one way so we decided we would head back to the Discovery Centre and continue exploring the area.

After the Discovery Forest we continued driving until the end of the road, upon which we turned right onto Pile Rd, then left onto Falcon Road. We were now in the National Park. Falcon Rd is sealed, but quite narrow and windy in parts so careful driving is advised. We were heading to Wellington Dam but got side tracked, so more on the dam in a moment. We turned down Lennard Dr as we could see the river, but didn't realise it was a one way road. It was a good mistake though. This particular day exploring happened to be in the middle of school holidays which meant there were more people out and about enjoying the beautiful day. Taking Lennard Rd was a good mistake because it got us away from the crowds for a bit of time.

As we drove along Lennard Dr there were several places along here with parking, for the lookouts, picnic areas, swimming holes and nice areas for fishing or canoeing too. The names of the spots are: Rapids, Big Rock, Little Rock, and Longpool. The water in the river is beautiful and clear as this section is the closest to Wellington Dam and the water outlet, although the temperature would be cold being in a mountainous area, and from the dam. We spent a bit of time at the Rapids, climbing on the rocks, listening to the water, and appreciating the beauty of the place.

We weren't quite finished exploring for the day yet and wanted to see Honeymoon Pool so at the end of the road we turned right onto River Rd. Again we had forgotten it was school holidays and when we got to Honeymoon Pool it looked quite busy so decided to call it a day and come back another time.

Our second time to Wellington National Park we spent time at Wellington Dam and Honeymoon Pool. We entered the National Park from the South and followed Falcon Road again, but this time didn't get side tracked. When we looked at the dam wall both from the top or bottom we felt small because it is so big. It was initially built in the 1930's during the depression, and was finished by 1933. The need for more water in the region has seen the dam height be increased twice, first by just one metre, then again later by another 15 meters! Today the Dam today is 366 metres wide, and 34 metres high.

These days there is a lookout tower overlooking the dam wall and the Collie River. The area that is now car parking, and the quaint, little, cosy and friendly Wellington Dam Kiosk was the original living quarters for the builders and their families. The living quarters were mere tents. The area that was once a quarry where certain building materials were dug for and used on the dam is now referred to as the amphitheatre and is used for abseiling and rock climbing, and at the bottom of this area there is a picnic area complete with nice shady trees and BBQs. The owners at the Kiosk were lovely, and had a range of maps and brochures of the area. They have only just taken it over so I wish them all the best. They also told of us some nice bush walks so we will keep you posted.

After visiting the dam we were going to look at Potter's Gorge, but due to the recent strong winds and rain, the road was closed. There are two main areas allowed for camping in Wellington National Park and Potter's Gorge is one of them. Caravans are allowed at Potter's Gorge. The other designated camping area is Honeymoon Pool, and this time there was no one there so of course we went and explored. Honeymoon Pool IS NOT SUITABLE for caravans. Tents or small camper vans only. There are signs everywhere stating it. The road through is narrow, some spots are larger but they are to accommodate a larger tent and room for a car, but a caravan would not fit let alone reverse, or adjust. The road to Honeymoon Pool is also a dirt road but 4wd is not needed. There is BBQs and small fire pits both at both camp grounds.

The water at Honeymoon Pool and the Gelcoat rapids 500m downstream is just as beautiful as the water from Lennard Dr. I would be tempted to swim only that it was the second last day of Autumn and our breath was foggy from the cold air temperature so the water would have been even more so. A great place for a swim in summer though.

Other activities that are popular in the Wellington National Park are bush walking, fishing, canoeing, white-water rafting, and mountain bike riding through the mountain bike trails at Mount Lennard. Most people could easily find something they enjoy at Welington National Park.

Happy travels