An Unexpected End To Our Holiday

Day 10

The day dawns bright and sunny and, what’s even better, there is very little wind. Yes! Today is our last day in Dongara as tomorrow we have to begin the long trek home. Over a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns we discuss where we might stay on our way home. We have three nights to do a trip we have done a few times before. We’ve stayed at a free camp at Buntine Rocks, a free camp at Greenbushes, Cliff Head free camp and a caravan park out in the middle of nowhere. This time we want to try somewhere different.

While we don’t always go North we do find ourselves wanting to explore further North especially in the colder months of May and August. Generally in those months we are craving some warmth and sun so the chances are we will be coming this way again. It would be nice to check out all of our options. We were talking about Ellendale Pool, just outside of Geraldton, as an option for our first night when the phone rang. It was Kym our Relief Manager. His wife, Shirley, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer had taken a turn for the worse and he was really, really worried about her.

Over the morning Shirley had become increasingly confused and forgetful and Kym wasn’t sure if it was a side affect of her medication or if something had gone terribly wrong. She was constantly exhausted, not unexpected with treatment, but the memory loss was new and entirely unexpected. Of course we said we were coming home immediately.

For the next hour we raced around packing everything up in preparation. We have our pack up routine down pat but we weren’t really prepared for it. We had been at Dongara for 4 nights and had spread out. When our pop top is up we have a fantastic shelf in which to store things that we need easy access to. When we stop for a few nights lots of things end up on this shelf. Unfortunately when the pop top comes down everything has to be off that shelf. After four days of spreading out we had a lot of stuff to pack up.

Sam and Coco knew something was wrong as we frantically packed things up. We had a long drive ahead of us and instead of taking three nights to leisurely make our way home we were going to do nearly 700km in one day! Coco started to get stressed so we had to slow down a bit. W didn’t want her having a seizure.

All packed up we said goodbye to the rest of the family, who had plans to be in Dongara until Saturday. They were, of course, disappointed to see us go but completely understood our need to leave early.  Poor Imogen, who was looking forward to one last walk on the beach with us and the dogs searching for any remaining sea urchins and shells, shed a few tears but it just can’t be helped.

We’re keeping in contact with Kym and it looks like Shirley’s oncologist wants her to check in to hospital tomorrow morning. He thinks it is a side affect of her medication but they want to give her a good check up just to make sure. We need to get home tonight. As per industry standard, we don’t get a refund on our final night at the caravan park but we didn’t expect one. It’s not their fault that we have to leave but we will be back. We like this park and this area- perhaps not in the windy season but May and August are lovely here.

By 10.30 we are on the road, homeward bound. We debated whether to take the inland road, the Brand Highway, or the coastal road, Indian Ocean Drive. Indian Ocean Drive was quicker, according to google maps, but we thought it could be windier that is, until we spent a bit of time on the Brand before we got to the Indian Ocean Drive turn off. Sadly the wind had picked up and there was no escaping it, on the coast road or the inland road, so Indian Ocean Drive it was.

Despite the urgency and our cut short holiday the Indian Ocean Drive is still very scenic. It’s renowned for idiot drivers but still scenic all of the same. For a fair distance, through Eneabba, Jurien Bay and past Cervantes, there are huge white sand dunes on one side and beautiful coastline on the other. The beaches in WA are truly amazing. The sand is white and the water has shades of emerald green, sapphire blue and turquoise. It’s just magic! Further along near Lancelin the sand dunes give way to wheat fields as the road touches on the outskirts of the wheatbelt. Not a bad view for a couple of hours.

As we are driving along the wind is buffeting the car and van and our fuel consumption is up around 18.6L per 100kms. It even went as high as 19L per 100kms. For our car and van, even a van full of water and food, that’s really high. We are driving into a head wind. I can now understand why so many grey nomads, who often have no set itinerary, stop and ride out the wind in caravan parks. Especially when petrol is so expensive as it is at the moment. I’m also seeing the benefit of having a pop top over a full sized van- just don’t tell Mark I said that. I’m not ready to concede that he might be right just yet.

We stop for a quick lunch at a free camp alongside the road at Moore River just outside of the town of Guilderton, the most dog unfriendly town we have yet to encounter. We have a long drive ahead, through Perth (where we purchase the most expensive fuel yet on our whole trip- $1.73) with a quick break at the in laws, and dinner stop at Australind before finally getting home. It gives us plenty of time to think about the situation that is happening right now.

Poor Shirley. Like any cancer sufferer, the diagnosis in itself is stressful, the potential end result terrifying and often they have to beat it more than once. To have side affects from the medication as well truly sucks. While she hasn’t had any of the vomiting that so often characterizes cancer treatment, I’m not sure if this isn’t worse and more terrifying for her, her husband and her family.

When I was younger the statistics were that one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer before they are 85 years of age. Now it’s one in two and I can well believe it. I know so many people that have been diagnosed, some of whom have passed on because of it: 3 work colleagues, 1 colleague’s wife, 1 colleague’s boyfriend, 1 colleague’s husband, 3 family members, 1 friend, 1 mother of a best friend, Shirley, 1 in law and that’s not even counting the slew of celebrities that I know of. All of these people are affected by cancer, not to mention their loved ones, family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances.

We can hope that Shirley’s symptoms are a side affect of the drug, that her doctors can either adjust her medications or give her something to minimise the symptoms and that her symptoms are only temporary and the old Shirley will return once her treatment is over.

It is 9pm by the time when we finally turn into our driveway. Mark and I are both exhausted but Coco and Sam, who have slept most of the way, perk up when they realise where we are. They are just happy to be home. Kym certainly seems relieved to see us. He has been facing this all by himself as well as holding down the fort on our business while he waited for us to get home. Now he can hand over the reins to us and just focus on his wife. Shirley, who was exhausted, has gone to bed. Tomorrow Kym will take her back to Albany and she will check into the hospital where she can get the care she needs. Yes our holiday was cut short but under the circumstances we don’t mind at all. We just want Shirley to get well again.

Our Cosy Little Van

It was 10.30pm before Mark took Paul back up to the chalet last night which was why I was so cranky and tired when I had to get up and take the dogs for their morning walk to wee and poop. It’s not a simple thing this wee walk in the morning. Coco won’t go on the grass near our site and Sam needs to sniff everything and pee on everything. While I grumble about crawling out of bed at 6.30am on my holidays, I’m sure this morning walk is one of the highlights of Coco and Sam’s day. I’ll be lucky if it takes less than half an hour.

While we are driving to a different stop every night I don’t begrudge being the one to get up early and take the dogs for their walk. Mark does all the driving so I like to let him sleep in a bit. If I’m tired I can have a snooze in the car. When we got here to Dongara though, I was hoping, with a five night stay, that I would get a morning sleep in and Mark could take the dogs out. Sadly that is not going to happen.

Mark took them out one morning and came back and said he was never doing that again, which made me rather cross until I discovered the reason why. Mark had taken them up the hill to a section where there was a lot of grass and trees and very few campers or caravans. He was minding his own business when out of one of the tents came a little girl. She approached Mark and asked if she could pat the dogs and Mark agreed that she could and she did and kept chatting away happily. Mark thought nothing of this. He was just walking the dogs for a poop and both Coco and Sam were happily sniffing every bush, insect, leaf, bit of bark, whatever they could find to sniff.

Now Sam doesn’t care where he poops. He’ll poop right out in the open, on a walkway, in the middle of the road even and he walks when he poops so he spreads it out everywhere. Other owners of male dogs have assured me this is quite normal. Coco , on the other hand, is super lady like. She likes to do it in a neat pile, hidden away under a bush. As Mark was chatting to the little girl, Coco decided she needed to poop and started hunting around behind trees and under bushes for the perfect spot.

It was at this point that the little girl’s mother had come out of the tent looking for her daughter and she sees a 50ish year old man with two dogs walking into the bushes with her little girl happily following along behind. I can imagine what she thought! And she instantly yelled out to her daughter not to go in the bushes and called out her big, burly, tattooed husband who came out of the tent and stared death stares at Mark. Mark let Coco finish her business and then hightailed it back to the van. He could completely understand why the parents had been concerned but he was angry because he had been doing nothing wrong and the little girl, unsupervised by her parents, had approached him.

When we took the dogs to the beach later on we deliberately walked past their tent so that they could see that Mark was not alone but in fact a part of a couple; an ordinary couple just walking their dogs with just as much right to be in the caravan park as they did with their children. It’s so sad that society is in such a state that people assume the worst. My husband felt he had been labelled a dirty old man and all he had been doing was walking the dogs in an area that had grass and very few people. He was trying to be considerate. So now he won’t walk the dogs on his own and I have to get up every single morning and take them for their wee. So much for my holiday sleep in!

Today’s plan is for a walk on the beach- as usual- and then a chill afternoon after lunch and a BBQ together in the evening. This morning it is just Mark, myself, Coco and Sam and Lorraine and Imogen. Jai  is doing some homework and Paul and Glenn are staying up at the chalet with him. Imogen doesn’t mind. She seems to be on a mission to collect every single dried out sea urchin shell that has been washed up on the beach, along with the mounds of seaweed, in the storms of the recent week.

Today Lorraine, Mark, myself and the dogs are all eagerly helping her with her self appointed task. This required us to climb over, and along the top of, the Himalayas of seaweed. Some areas were exceptionally firm but with a slight spongy bounce. Other sections you sink into about a foot or so and stinking water wells up under your feett and you can lose a thong. Who am I kidding! You could lose a small child! Coco and Sam think it’s great!

By the time we’ve made our way along the ridge of seaweed Imogen has collected two full buckets of sea urchin shells, two dead crabs (small), a dried out Lobster’s head (to go with the tail she found the other day) and a piece of wavy sponge. Mum, Lorraine is just delighted! She would have collected more but Paul’s brother John had stopped in for a chat on his business run up the coast and we all went back to the caravan for some more nibblies. There goes the diet!

After a quiet, restful afternoon we are gearing up for a BBQ but the wind has other plans. It has started blowing a gale and Imogen and Jai are almost light enough to be swept off their chalet verandah. Our awning had to get packed up and we are trying to work out where we are all going to eat our yummy BBQ. Because of the dogs we can’t go to the chalet or the BBQ area so it’s to the caravan. There is talk of angling the cars in certain directions to create a wind break but by the time the boys and kids have finished cooking, sitting outside is out of the question so it’s into the caravan. Our 18 ft caravan, ideally meant for two, has 2 big dogs, 5 adults and two children all squeezed in eating our BBQ. Cosy! All we can hope is that tomorrow will bring less wind and more sunshine. That would be nice!

Fishermen. . .or not.

Day 8

Well last night wasn’t exactly the best night to go fishing. While it is Spring the temperature here is anything but Springtime. The wind was howling and it was cold but they all braved it in the hopes of catching some fish for a BBQ dinner for tonight. Unfortunately we are out of luck and it will be snags on the BBQ.

They all had fun, though, and they did catch a few fish but they were all too small and had to be thrown back. Imogen couldn’t understand why they had to be thrown back and insisted that it would be okay for her to keep one, just for a little while, in bucket filled with sea water. As she was so insistent Paul allowed her one but only for a very short time and then it would have to go back into the ocean to grow up to be a big fish. He slipped it off the hook and put it in her little bucket. The fish promptly jumped out. Imogen, a child who is fastidious about have no seams in her socks because it annoys her, is surprisingly very un-squeamish with other things and picked up the fish and put it back in her bucket. It jumped out again. She picked it back up and put it back in. It jumped out again! ‘Stupid bloody fish!’ she said at which point, trying not to laugh, Paul intervened and put the poor fish back into the ocean.

Imogen’s lack of squeamishnish extends to anything she finds on the beach from shells, dead sea urchins, broken bits of coral, crab claws, lobster tails, bits of sea sponge;- she has quite the collection and it’s a collection that is getting bigger and bigger everyday. Imogen assures me she has a big enough bag to take it all home. What she plans to do with it at home in suburban Perth is anyone’s guess. When Lorraine noticed that we were collecting a few pieces of cuttlefish from the beach to pop into our aviary for our galahs she suggested that Imogen would be quite happy to collect some for us. I agreed that she could but suggested we limit the collection. We don’t need to take ALL of the cuttlefish back with us, just a few pieces.

So the boys arrived home late, 9pm, cold and hungry. Lorraine and Imogen had bailed early, smart move, and I was holed up in the caravan nice and toasty keeping the dogs company. As Paul was stopping down with us for dinner I decided to go with hamburgers. Paul has simple tastes and, while I know the fare up in the chalet with Lorraine would have been lovely, hamburgers and a beer suited Paul just fine.It suited me fine too as it really wasn’t a lot of cooking. No cooking, in fact, as Mark is the Tong Master for the BBQ. I just do the prep work.

We spent a nice evening reminiscing about past travels, in particular Mark’s travels with his parents when he was a kid and what he remembered:- Cyclone Tracey, Christmas Eve 1974, featured strongly- being tossed around in a caravan during a cyclone isn’t really something that you forget. We chatted about the differences between vans back then and now- their van was 28 foot long- unheard of now, and different fit outs- what works and what doesn’t. It’s funny, whenever we get chatting to people who caravan or who have caravanned in the past the conversation often ends up being about where you’ve traveled but, more importantly, about the van and how you fitted it out.

We have plans, somewhere down the track, to do bigger and longer trips, leading up to the big lap or two or maybe three, and after a few trips in our current van for two weeks at a time we know we will have to upgrade. I want a decent size fridge with separate freezer as I find it so hard to fit enough in. Even with a separate freezer in the car there’s not enough space. Due to Sam’s allergies we feed our dogs a chicken mince made from ground up chicken frames. These come in 1kg frozen lots. For a 14 day trip we need 9kgs. That takes up a lot of space. What we will do for long trips I really haven’t thought that far ahead.

Mark wants an ensuite where the toilet is separate to the shower unlike our current van which has the toilet in the shower cubicle. This works fine for small trips, a little bit cramped, but workable especially for me. Not so much for Mark who is not much taller than I am but quite broad in the shoulders. We would also like an off road or semi off road van for more flexibility.

Both of us are okay with these upgrades plus having all of the things that we currently have, or have added on to, with our current van. But Mark wants another pop top for fuel efficiency and less wind resistance. I want a full sized van for more storage- not that I could fit much more in with weight restrictions- but I would at least be able to put things we use regularly  in easy to access cupboards. So every time we have a chance to chat to people who are travelling, or who have traveled, we sound them out on how their van works, or doesn’t work for them.

All in all it was a great day and a good night even though we still don’t have any fresh fish to put on the BBQ. Maybe tomorrow night. Fingers crossed.

 

You Can Never Pick The Weather

Day 8

Today dawned cold and wet but none of us even saw the dawn. A late night of fishing and a very late dinner meant that we all slept in- well everyone but me as someone had to get up and take the dogs for a wee walk and give them breakfast- but never-the-less we were all a bit slow this morning.

Overnight it had rained and the day looked like it was going to be cold and wet. Lorraine and Glenn started talking about maybe taking a trip to Geraldton- apparently the town of Geraldton has quite a few parks for kids. Jai, it seems, is getting a little bored with the beach. Imogen, on the other hand, can’t get enough of it. Mark and I aren’t so keen on Geraldton. A lot of the parks aren’t dog friendly and essentially it is a big port town which is not really what we are in to. We suggested that if Lorraine and Glenn wanted to head into Geraldton they should but we wouldn’t and Paul could go with whom ever he wanted depending on what he felt like doing. Mark and I were just going to take the dogs for a run on the beach and then I was heading in to Dongara for a few supplies.

But then the weather surprised us. As the wind picked up, the sun came out and by the time we had made it to the back beach access with the dogs I was ready to take my jumper off. Everyone else decided to put off their trip to Geraldton and we met down on the beach. As Paul couldn’t walk that far Glenn drove the car down to the vehicle beach access and dropped everyone off and we took the dogs along the beach to meet them.
As usual as soon as they were off the lead Coco and Sam were into the mounds of stinking seaweed and chasing birds into the stagnant water. They stunk! But they had fun and a further walk up the beach to seaweed free water so that the dogs could have a swim (wash) in the fresh ocean water was a necessity.

When the others arrived the kids found a bit of a sand dune and the boogie board was brought into action. Suddenly Jai didn’t find the beach so boring anymore as both he and Imogen sledded down the sand faster and faster. Eventually Jai went so fast he rolled most of the way but they had a lot of fun. A decision was made to try and return tomorrow, look for a bigger hill and bring some cardboard to slide down on because that would make it go faster.

Paul and Lorraine joined me in Dongara for supplies; replacing Sam’s broken collar, getting some nibblies for this afternoon and a cake from the bakery. Paul also needed some sneakers as thongs had proven difficult on their fishing outing the night before. So we also hit the Dongara Op Shop which I have found, from past experience, to be a rather good one. Paul scored some shoes- nothing flash but they would do, Lorraine found some games for the kids and I scored some books all at bargain prices.

Back to the caravan for some nibblies;- cheese, bikkies, cake, salami, olives as the boys debated if tonight would be a good time to go fishing. The weather had changed again! The sun was still shining but the wind had picked up and it was really cold. Everyone dug around for jackets and long pants to keep warm. A last minute ‘what the hell’ lets go fishing decision was made and they were off again. Glen, Paul, Mark, Imogen and Jai all keen to fish and Lorraine along to prevent Imogen from falling in the water while I stayed back at the caravan with Coco and Sam and some peace and quiet. I may just have a read of one of my new books!

Our First Fun Day Together

Day 7
Last night before we all went our separate ways for dinner we made plans to meet in the morning. Our dogs needed a good run on the beach and the kids wanted to head down and hunt for some more sea urchins, shells and what ever else they could find. As we have to be up by 7.30am to give Coco her medication we figured, like all previous mornings, that we’d be up and ready to go but for some reason we were really lagging behind this morning.

Maybe it was the late breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns and lingering over coffee but we were very unorganised and the kids had been on the beach a while by the time we got there. They had found a fort made out of balls of sea grass and were having a lovely time collecting shells and playing amongst the mounds of stinking seaweed. The dogs thought it was fun too; Coco even climbed into the fort for a closer inspection before darting off with Sam to roll around in some stagnant water and some more seaweed.

Coco and Sam love this beach. There is always a lot of seaweed there and they just love the manky smell it has. Us not so much but it is fun for the dogs. They bounce all over the spongy mounds, roll in it, bury their heads in it and just have a wonderful time.This time, due to some recent bad weather, there is an awful lot of seaweed. Coco and Sam are in heaven. On top of that Jai and Imogen keep finding all sorts of sea creatures and shells which the dogs just love to sniff.

Sam is not as brave as Coco and when he spots a piece of cuttlefish floating in a pool of water he very timidly approaches it. As he touches it with his nose it disappears beneath the water for a second before bobbing back up again. Sam is startled and takes off only to come back and have another tentative look. Coco, cool, calm and collected just wades past him in the water and picks it up in her teeth before dropping it again declaring it not tasty!

Glenn decided he was going to find a crab for the kids and started digging with the kid’s spade near some crab holes. He was at it quite a while and had dug a massive hole but he was successful and the kids were delighted. Of course they filled in the hole and, after a little while, put the crab back on the sand.

As the wind picked up we made our way back to the park, Coco and Sam got a hose down, and then we headed in the opposite direction down to the waterfront marina and the jetty. We set ourselves up at a picnic table and the boys had a male bonding session, talked fishing, caravans and whatever else guys talk about while they watched the dogs, and Lorraine and I set ourselves down on the sand and watched as Jai and Imogen built moats and tunnels for the water to flow in and collected even more shells, bits of crab, sponges and flotsam.

By 1pm we were all tuckered out, including the dogs, and we headed our separate ways for lunch. By the time we had walked to our caravan Coco and Sam had introduced themselves to half a dozen people in the park. It seems that even though there are many people that travel with their dogs there are just as many that leave them at home with friends, family or sitters and people miss their dogs.

Mark and I were thinking a nice quiet afternoon would be just the thing so I set myself up in a chair with my knitting and Mark went online and did some banking before the urge to check gumtree became too overwhelming and he went ‘window shopping’ just because he can. The dogs just flaked out! They must be settling down a bit as they get older:- Sam is 3 and Coco is 4. Our last holiday they needed at least two big runs and swims on the beach. This time one run and a little walk is enough to to keep them napping all afternoon.

Before we know it it’s 5pm and Mark is talking fishing. A message comes down about equipment and he’s off. Once again Mark, who packs his own clothes for each trip but leaves practically all the other packing to me, has failed to pack enough clothes for what he needs. This time he has left his fishing clothes at home so whatever he decides to wear tonight, and on subsequent fishing trips, will need a thorough washing as his fishing gear always comes back stinking of fish. Even when he doesn’t catch anything! Fingers crossed this time that he actually manages to catch a feed. He really is getting tired of just feeding the fish rather than having a feed of fish!

Here at Last!

Day 6

Today is the day, hopefully, that the rest of the group will join us. If all goes well and there are no more issues with cars, Paul, Glenn, Lorraine, Jai and Imogen should join us at Dongara. They have a 2-3 hour drive- that’s if Imogen doesn’t get car sick and they need to stop and take time out- so they should be here just in time for check in.
We can check in earlier as we have booked a caravan site so we plan to leave Cliff Head by about 10am, do a few things in Dongara such as stock up on groceries, by some bait for fishing etc and then head down to the caravan park. But first we have to give the van a quick clean before we leave. We have sand everywhere!

While the wind isn’t too bad this morning we are ready to move on and find some place more sheltered. We think we have picked a nice spot in the caravan park- and it is nice- but once we set up we realise it really isn’t suitable for us. For starters it is up on the hill and still quite windy- nor great for our awning-, we have quite a few neighbours in tents with a hoard of kids and across the way we have a couple of dogs, one who is just as excitable as Sam.

Travelling with dogs can be difficult sometimes- just like travelling with kids. There are a lot of places that you can’t take your dogs, like National Parks, some beaches, some play areas and some caravan and camping spots, and there are always heaps of rules when you can take them some where. While I do understand that the rules are there to ensure that that everyone is safe and has a good time I do get annoyed sometimes that parents don’t have to sign a rules form when they check in with kids- especially when your enjoyment is spoiled by someone else’s unruly kids!

The spot that we had picked was not good for Sam. The hoard of children running around screaming just seemed like too much fun for him and he wanted to join them. They would yell and, if we stayed there in that spot long enough, he would bark- his version of yelling. One of the rules in a caravan park is that dog barking can’t disturb other guests. There is no rule about children screaming. Apparently that is okay.
Also the other dog, whose owner was being very attentive and keeping his dog under control, wanted to play with Sam and Sam wanted to play with him. But dogs playing and meet and greeting can be quite vocal- and that can affect the enjoyment of other guests. Children yelling across the park to each other, though, is perfectly acceptable.

For us, and possibly for the other dog owner but not necessarily the parents of the tribe of children, this spot meant constant vigilance in keeping our dogs quiet and well behaved. Sam and Coco are good dogs but they are living and breathing animals and they are young and they like to play so we had a look around, found a more suitable spot and asked at reception if we could move. Thank fully we could and we now have a nice spot tucked away in the corner. We are happy, the dogs are happy and the kids are happily screaming away on another level where it doesn’t bother us.

Mark wasn’t so happy that he had to set up twice though! But we are in a comfortable spot and just as we start to settle in we hear that the rest of our group have made it. Yay! It’s not long before they come down and join us, the kids bringing their collection of shells and dead sea creatures that they have collected on their travels not at all concerned by the dramas of their trip here; the boys start talking fishing and Lorraine and I are happy to relax and chill out with a glass of wine.

Sun, Sand and Wind

Even though the wind dropped last night I didn’t get a great night’s sleep. Due to the hotter than we are used to nights that we have had so far I had removed our feather doona from the doona cover. Up until now it had been too hot. Unfortunately last night the temperature dropped and I spent most of the night cold. I managed to get some heat from snuggling up to Mark and at about 4am Sam decided to join us and I didn’t complain. He’s heavy at 35kgs but he is warm.

At 6.30 am I was up and off for a walk- no I wasn’t being enthusiastic- I needed to use the loo- so I trundled off up the track to the main camping area, used the facilities and had a lovely walk back to the caravan on the beach. What a way to start the morning!

Once again there is an offshore breeze and the water is flat and calm with a nice shallow section in front of the caravan, clear of weeds- the perfect spot for a swim. We took the dogs down first for a run on the sand and, as always, Sam was the first to dive into the water. As there were no waves Coco soon followed suit and they had a lovely time. Sam created a fair bit of amusement for us when a piece of seaweed drifted towards him. He wasn’t at all keen, backing up, avoiding it, keeping his eyes right on it. Coco solved his dilemma by going up and biting it! She decided it tasted bad and spat it out but she gave him courage. Of course they then came out of the water and rolled in the seaweed, the dried out version of the thing he had been so afraid of.

As the day was beautiful and clear, with a slight breeze and quite warm I decided that I, too, would go for a swim. Not being the best reader of the ocean, or the best swimmer in the ocean I pretty much went in as far as the dogs- thigh high- and sat down. I had clear water, blue skies and the whole beach to myself. After a while I went back to camp and bought Sam back for a swim with me but his courage and sense of adventure deserted him without Coco by his side so I swapped him for Coco and she had a little swim but then decided to drink the salt water- not good- so I took her back too, and just enjoyed my time in the water.

I had a lovely clear patch with no seaweed and I spent a wonderful half an hour just floating in the water. At one point I thought I felt something biting my toe- nothing painful- but something tugging at my toe all the same. I stood up in surprise but that stirred up the sand and I couldn’t see anything so I figured it was just a piece of seaweed hitting my foot- nothing to freak out- about so I sat back in the water. But I felt it again and sure enough something was biting my toe. I looked down and there was this fish about 1/2 a foot long tugging at my toe- my big toe that had a bright red patch of nail polish on it. He must have thought is was coral or something!

It was at this point that a message came through from the rest of the family that things weren’t going to plan again! This time it was Glenn’s car that was having trouble- something to do with the gear box. Now they were back in Lancelin again and, after much to-ing and fro-ing and talks with mechanics and phone calls to other family it was decided they would stay there for the night in a chalet, Lorraine’s parents would drive up and pick the caravan up and take it back to Perth and then both cars would drive up to Dongara. Glenn’s car, apparently, would be fine as long as it didn’t tow the caravan. A call was made to the Dongara caravan park and they kindly changed the cabin to a larger one and cancelled the second site for the van. Dramas, Dramas! And all with two kids in tow!

For us the day deteriorated a bit too. Our lovely morning turned really, really gusty and our pilot light in our fridge kept going out. When the ranger came around he told us that from October to January Cliff was generally windy – and I mean WINDY not windy. It got so bad that we had to drop the awning down, which left no shade for the dogs. Apart from which we now felt like we were being sand blasted so it was into the van for the lot of us. By 4pm we decided we really had to shift the van. We had it around the wrong way and, apart from not being able to keep our fridge going, we were getting buffeted because we were side on to the wind. Coco really didn’t like the way our canvas in our pop top section sounded and she started to show signs of stress.

So while getting sand blasted and wind burn we shifted the caravan to put our bum into the wind. The difference was immediate- and our fridge worked! But lesson learnt- several actually! Face your van bum into the wind rather than side on to minimise buffeting, and to keep the fridge working, and don’t go to Cliff Head between October and January!

As usual Cliff Head put on a lovely display at sunset but we stayed in the van to watch it. We had seen no one on the beach since about midday and several people had packed up, perhaps fearing the weather would deteriorate and headed into Dongara for more shelter. The wind did settle down a little after dark but it was too late then. Our van was full of sand and grit!