PS – one last entry from Tumbarumba!


Extreme Weather Events in Tumba


Don’t ever believe a blogger when he says the last post is playing! The day after Mal’s funeral it started raining and by Friday it was continual and torrential. Friday afternoon the main road out of Tumbarumba was cut with a car washed off the road. Lots of people trapped in town overnight. Getting in or out needed a four-wheel drive with water a metre deep flowing through the caravan park. A couple of very soggy vans were towed out and another car was under water where the second picture was later taken.

Standing at the foot of the steps behind the shops it’s a long swim to the toilets

This is the public memorial dedicated to all the timber men in the district which includes Malcolm’s name.

It usually stands high and dry by a long way but the Tumbarumba creek by now was 100 instead of 2 metres wide.


Less than 12 hours after taking those images the air temperature dropped to less than freezing and Tumbarumba got its biggest dump of snow in at least twenty years – it was 15 cm deep on the roof of my car and caravan, covering the streets, houses, trees and hillsides and lasted until after lunch before eventually thawing except for shady area and snowmen which remained icy until the next day.

A snow-covered Tumbarumba front garden

Snow covered hills behind the Tumbarumba townships


An uncommon sight, floodwaters in the foreground and snow-covered hills

Six days later the water still flows with a roar over the Paddy’s River Falls where sometimes over the past years it has been a mere trickle



An Early End – a New Plan

Farewell Mal

Mal’s red hair was gone but his spirit was strong ,back in June when we visited him before our trip.

On Monday 11th we farewelled our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart at the Tumbarumba Presbyterian Church and the cemetery. The funeral filled the church and its hall to overflow – Mal was a big man, well-loved by his family and friends and widely respected within this rural community. In his life he had an enormous impact on so many people. As his son reported in the eulogy Mal loved to talk with people – wherever he was, whoever they were and about a wide range of interests. We will all miss him greatly.

Robyn Stuart with a small part of  Malcolm’s large family after the funeral when we had a chance to remember how Mal had influenced all our lives


Every trip, like a good story, needs a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s nice if the end has potential – hope.

The germination of our trip was long and slow. When we travelled through Central Australia more than thirty years ago, camping in tents with two very young children, we said on return that we wanted to see the West but it would need to wait. The actual planning probably took 2 years, gradually building momentum as departure got closer. This blog covered the month before we left until now.

The middle I think was our time after we left the Eastern States. We had previously travelled extensively in the East,  South Australia and the Northern Territory so it was Western Australia and the Kimberley that was so new, a landscape beautiful in an almost alien way, best described by Mary Durack.

If one were to paint this country in it’s true colours,I doubt it would ever be believed. It would be said at least that the artist exaggerated greatly,for never have I seen such richness and variety of hue as in these ranges.”

The distances were enormous, the populations scattered and small without the influx bought into the Pilbarra by the mining boom in minerals and oil and my favourite town of all would have to be Broome. As Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins sing in Bran Nui Dai ” Soon I’ll be dreaming in Broome” “.

Our trip really ended in Tumbarumba with Mal’s funeral.  We may not end up getting home for five or six weeks, but we have neither the time nor the heart to drive back across the Nullabor and complete what we had planned – Perth to Esperance through what is reputed to be some of the most beautiful countryside in our country.

We will be back, however. Maybe next year or the one after  …. there will be a gap but stay tuned for the next instalment


  • We travelled for 101 days – 14 weeks and 3 days
  • We travelled for 16, 600 km – mostly towing the caravan at an average speed of 75 km but attempting to cruise at 90 kph on country roads.
  • We used  about 1070 litres of fuel paying up to $1.80 per litre. When travelling it sometimes cost $150 per day
  • We made seventeen different tours starting with a winery tour in Mudgee  and ending with our sailing with Dugongs at Shark Bay. We found the tour guides to be always informative and passionate about where they live even if they had taken the same tour with similar tourists a thousand times before
  • We took advantage of volunteers wherever possible
  • We spoke to our fellow travellers regularly – they were better than any written travel guides. Through such conversations we decided to stay in Lake Argyll and Coral Bay which were highlights of our trip.
  • Australia is an amazing country – if you possibly can – get out there and see it!


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Trip from West to East

A Fast Trip Across a Large Continent

The illness to our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart meant a dash from Perth to Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains in NSW a distance of nearly 3,600 km. We left at Dawn on Tuesday with the intent to drive during the daylight hours as far as possible each day, stay wherever we could and get to Tumbarumba by Saturday afternoon.

The first two nights we free camped on roadside stops at Fraser Range Area, 80 km past the Norseman turnoff (the first picture) and then at the 222 km Peg Camps Rest Area 222 km West of the Eucla border between Western Australia and South Australia (the second picture). Free camping meant that we could drive further and get away earlier in the morning. We will do more of this on any further trips. You can manage a couple of nights with a bucket wash instead of a shower!




At Eucla, fueling after the border quarantine post, we got a mobile call to tell us that Malcolm had died, in Tumbarumba Hospital, with his wife and children with him. This did not change our intention to continue to be there as soon as possible.



Considering how long we were driving, towing the van, the trip went very smoothly, with stops at the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park at Wilminton (just past Port Augusta, now in South Australia) and at Balranald the next night. Having used all our prepared meals we ate out both nights. On this trip we have travelled through every State and Territory on the Australia mainland – sorry Tasmania, left out again!

We arrived in Tumbarumba on Saturday at 3.30 pm, having travelled via the Hay Plains and Wagga Wagga – our shortest days driving at 550 km.


Geraldton – Wind, Museum and War Memorial


Geraldton is the fourth biggest city in Western Australia and according to the lady in the caravan park, the third windiest city – not sure whether in Australia or on earth but we are quite prepared to believe it.


In the background is the Port and city of Geraldton  in the foreground the Chapman River flows through the reserve adjoining the caravan park.

The two highlights of our day in Geraldton were the visit to the museum where there was an amazing display on the shipwrecks along the disastrous coast  and our time with a volunteer guide at the Memorial to HMAS Sydney overlooking the harbour.


The mutual sinking of the Sydney and the German  auxiliary Cruiser Kormoran on the 19th November 1941 with the complete loss of the 645 crewman on the Sydney, while 318 of the 399 personnel from Kormoran survived to become prisoners of War in Australia. This was Australia’s greatest ever naval disaster.


The memorial is in four parts – the huge standing stele,  the size of the bow of the HMAS Sydney stands in front of  The “Dome of Souls” structure, comprising a stainless steel dome, made up of 645 silver gulfs, representing the sailors lost at sea, a polished bronze propeller altar in the centre of a granite ceremonial area and an “Eternal Flame” that hangs above the altar.


The memorial wall lists the names of all lost, alphabetically giving rank and state of origin. I know there were four civilians on board working in the ship canteen but I am intrigued by Percy Skewes, enlisted in the RAN from Queensland with the rank/position of School Master.


The most touching part of the memorial for us is the sculpture of the waiting woman, dressed in the style of the 1940’s and given an age where she could be either mother or wife watching and waiting for the return of the Sydney, lost nearly 3 km down and 150 km to the West of Geraldton, where it had berthed for recreational leave only four weeks previously.

A Kalabarri Wild Flower Gallery

Natures Florist Shop – – but don’t pick the flowers!

The road from the main highway through the Kalbarri National Park to the seaside town of Kalbarri is famous for its wildflower display for five months of the year from June until the end of November nearly 800 different species of wildflower progressively burst into bloom in sequence. We had spotted lots in the car on the side of the road but checked with the visitor Centre. A friendly, helpful lady confirmed the wildflowers were out but so many visitors “drove fast and never got out of the car and then complained there were none to see!”

If you get the chance to see them you will find the brochures are misleading, however. I suspect that in some particular parts you get meadows of flowers and the brochures are carefully compiled like my photographs below – particular blooms surrounded by bush – but then next month a different flower will take its place in the spotlight.

Western Australia’s famous floral emblem, the red and green kangaroo paw flourishing in the sandy Kalbarri soil

A large bush growing for kilometres along the road

More than 2 metres above the ground these bright yellow flowers stand out against the bright blue sky

In one area of a few square metres are five different wildflower varieties making a bouquet growing at ground level

These bushes, about a metre tall and across show up like humps across the bush

Small Grevillea like flowers cover these bushes

The pink flowers are open while the red buds are getting ready

The Green and Gold of Australian colours carpet this area of the bush

A posy worth picking for your beloved but don’t – its illegal – just enjoy them in the ground together



Lots of the local plants are well protected by spikes

Monkey Mia – Dolphins and Dugongs

Dolphin Feeding

We stayed in Denham, within the World Heritage Site on the western side of Shark Bay but 29 km from Monkey Mia the site of the famous visiting Dolphins in the eastern facing half of the Bay. Reviews of the resort/caravan park at Monkey Mia were fairly negative in terms of value and service so we were happy to make the early drive for the dolphin feeding at 8 am.




A female dolphin and calf approach the beach.

Only the mature (15 yo) females get fed. Males and calves have to learn to fend for themselves but the calves still learn to “play” and interact with the visitors


The oldest dolphin, Nicki (35 yo) is a daughter of one of the original 3 females who learned to come to the beach for fish,

encouraged by a lady who stayed in the caravan park.

Of the thousands of dolphins in the bay, it is only the family of these three (currently 15 mature females) who have adopted this behaviour.


Dolphins are only fed 3 times each day, when they approach the beach, starting at 8 am. Only 5 dolphins are fed each visit, from their own bucket, supervised by their own volunteer, a carefully measured amount of fresh, local fish.

They are only given a small proportion of their daily food needs to encourage them to retain natural feeding and social behaviours

Dugongs and more Dolphins

In the afternoon we returned for an eco tour of the eastern bay in a large sailing catamaran, allowed to enter the sanctuary area where the dugongs feed on the marine grasses. Shark Bay has the largest amount of marine grass (underwater, flowering plants) and the worlds largest population of dugongs, very large marine herbivorous mammals.



Dugong and calf on the surface right in front of the boat sowing the whale shaped tail that caused them to be confused with mermaids.


Dolphins attracted to the boat sometimes play for a while around the boat before going back to fishing.


Our catamaran used its motor to cruise to the viewing area but then sailed slowly around to allow viewing of the wildlife.


Coral Bay to Denham

Goodbye to Coral Bay

After a week of doing very little except snorkelling twice a day amidst the coral and tropical fish on our last two days in Coral Bays we planned a couple of excursions. On the Wednesday we tossed up between a 5 hour eco excursion to the outer reef to swim amongst the giant Manta Rays and look for whales and dugongs (which have become a real desire for Julie to see) or a shorter 3 hour trip in a glass bottomed boat to visit the feeding grounds of the Green turtle and snorkel on the inner reef. We chose the latter, not prepared to risk 5 hours on a boat considering Julie’s vertigo and Gary’s chronic sea sickness. Thursday Gary planned to join a kayak safari to paddle the three km to the reef, snorkel on pristine sites that you cannot get to without a boat and then paddle back. Unfortunately – it takes four to justify a safari and there was just Gary so it was just a last snorkel off the beach and then a goodbye photograph to help remember Coral Bay .

The sun has set some time ago but the water is warm and these children want to squeeze the last minutes out of a beautiful day


The trip to the inner reef was excellent. We passed across turtle feeding grounds where the boat was surrounded by Green Turtles, diving for food the rising for a breath and it was easy to photograph them.


Swimming just below the surface in this feeding zone this Green Turtle is unconcerned by the boat and the tourists



The trouble with being an air breathing animal in the water is having to interrupt your meal to come up for a breath

Any photographs I took of the coral through the glass bottomed boat were very disappointing in comparison with reality, so I choose not to post them. In the water snorkelling I had a disposable underwater film camera to capture the coral, the brilliantly coloured fish and my closeup encounters with Green Turtles but I will have to wait until I reach Perth to get them  printed and hopefully scan the best for posting. If I ever came to areas like this again I would buy an underwater digital camera – a fellow traveller had a little Olympus rated for 10 metres which had cost about $300 – good value to be able to see and share your underwater experiences.

Crossing the 26th Parallel

Our trip from Coral Bay to Denham (via shopping stop in Carnarvon) was one of our longest days – our latest arrival at nearly 5 pm. It involved a crossing of the 26th parallel going south and then recrossing it going north up into the World Heritage area of Shark Bay. Denham is the most Western town in Australia and our Caravan Park is on the beach facing just the Indian Ocean, shielded by Dirk Hartog Island, site of the first European landing  in Australian waters. It is our access point to Monkey Mia with tours of Shark Bay and the famous visiting dolphins.