A Happy New Year from Western Australia

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More riding fun out in the bush

‘It’s turned out nice again!’ This is one of the childlike rituals we folks from a cold wet grey country (ie England) love to indulge in as we delight in enjoying any trip to a place with predictable sunshine from one day to the next. The morning found us at Yanchep National Park where we were able to get up close to some imported Koalas (they aren’t native to WA) relaxing in the way only they know how. They were all fast asleep draped in the branches of their Eucalyptus trees and paid no attention whatsoever to the oohs and ahhs of the tourists trying to spot them through the camouflage. Koalas sleep for much of the day to conserve energy and because their food is quite low in nutrients and takes a long time to digest – not because they are excessively lazy. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.

Dream time

Next I visited Denise Kowald at  1300 Trail Rides at Neergabby for a spot of horse riding. There isn’t a better way to see the local landscape than on horseback in my opinion. There aren’t 1300 trails (as I thought – duh) 1300 is actually their phone number – but there is certainly an amazing variety of Australian landscape that lucky Denise has to take her guests out riding on. Denise set up up her trail ride business about three years ago now, and visitors from all over the world have enjoyed riding through the unspoilt landscape here. Over 140 acres of bush and open land to ride across is a  real treat around these parts, where much of the coastal strip is being rapidle claimed by housing developers catering for the expat’s desire for their own little pad on a brand new estate. Denise has a lot of very handsome horses, some cute miniature ones and a variety of other animals to keep you amused. I especially like the Australian cattle dogs, a tough, intelligent breed, with Bob, the Blue Heeler being a particularly robust specimen.

Bob – the blue heeler cattle dog

1300 Trail rides is just over an hour’s drive North from Perth will find you in a perfect spot to explore Australia’s South West country meandering along the Moore river (more of a stream in the summer) along the sandy river bed or up to the top of the hill for the very best view. Many trails are based upon tracks that were used by the early settlers probably to transport their sheep cross country. The flora and fauna are also stunning. The ‘Christmas’ Trees (actual name Nuytsia Floribunda) are covered in their bright orange flowers at this time of year and we saw wild grey Kangaroos and Emus and heard the call of a Kookaburra (sitting in a an old gum tree presumably) The horses are lovely, gentle and willing, I was riding Coobra a big grey and we did the two hour bush hill ride which was a lot of fun. Denise has lots of hats and boots so you don’t need to worry about bringing your own gear, factor 30+ sun cream and the amazing nature’s botanicals fly repellent cream, so you can be 100% comfortable on your expedition.

Denise loves her job

I had a great afternoon at 1300 Trail Rides and if you can tear yourself away from the fabulous WA beaches it’s a top way to experience the great Australian outdoors.
Back at our beach pad there was some purchasing to be done at the bottle shop – the equivalent to our Off Licence or  Liquorshop – with the approach of the New Year celebration looming. Alcohol is very expensive in Australia even though the country is a huge wine producer, it is heavily taxed. In the UK we are used to very cheap alcohol especially as our supermarkets tend to sell it as a loss leader so its a bit hard for us to pay the equivalent of £15 for a bottle of wine that would be about £4 at home. However we managed it, cheered on by the imaginative names and funky labels. ‘The Black Chook’, ‘Smokin’ Gun’, ‘Mad Fish’, ‘Suckfizzle’ and my favourite ‘Dreaming Dog’…

Canine tipple

Back at South Beach even the outside toilets are decorated with murals which really are works of art. A mural of King Neptune points the way to the Gentlemen’s conveniences while a very foxy mermaid heralds the way to the Ladies. At home it is impossible to imagine that they wouldn’t be covered in some vulgar graffiti by now, but luckily they don’t let just anybody in to Australia..

Exotic bathroom stop

I had tried swimming the day before despite being aware that this coast is also home to the Great White Shark which snacks on a few people every year here. I was mindful of sterling advice such as ‘always swim near someone who is further out than you – they’ll get them first’ and I did keep my eyes out to sea looking for scary shark shapes. I actually saw some dark fins emerge close by just after I got out and nearly had a cardiac arrest but they turned out to be  a couple of wild dolphins dancing across the bay – lovely.
New Year’s Eve was drawing to a close as we reviewed our options for the evening of the last day of 2013. As we lay on the beach being lightly sandblasted by the Freo Doctor (local mad wind) getting busy with the sand dunes we looked up and saw one of those bi- planes trailing a message across the sky. ‘I love you Julia – will you marry me?’ How romantic – at least I hope Julia saw it that way.

Did she say yes?
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Expensive to intoxicate