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At long last, the final pictures of our journey out to Western Australia.  There were many reasons to fly to WA for our campervan roadtrip:  the weather, the coast, the abundance of trees found no where else.  But you know us, and knowing us as you do, you had to know there was a hike in there somewhere.

For the past three years, we have tortured Kristin & Damiano with tediously long day hikes for which we are typically underprepared  had the pleasure to share our love for the outdoors with our best friends and have seen some pretty beautiful terrain — from the open plains and a wispy Fairy Falls in Yellowstone to a 2-day excursion up Mt. Chirripo through rainforest and sub-alpine ecospheres and knee-deep in mud.

We had our reputation to live up to.  So it was with that in mind that we set off to WA for a week’s worth of adventuring and a day’s worth of tramping on part of the infamous Aussie Bibblumun Track.

The Bibblumun Track is a 1,000 km long distance trek from the suburbs of Perth to the far South East coast of Western Australia.  We conquered but a piddly little 12kms (we think).  See, we didnt really bring a map and estimates of the portion from Peaceful Bay to Conspicuous Cliffs ranged from 10-15kms.  Also, we were a little short on water.  And Dami didn’t have hiking boots.  And our (new color filtering) camera ran out of battery they day before so I had to lug the big ‘un all day.

In short, a typical fantastic four hike.

But oh what a beautiful little stretch of the trek it was…  Read about the journey on the out and about page and experience the beauty of Western Australia, from shrub to sun to sea.

After there was Margaret River, and before there was the great day hike along the Bibbulmun Track, there was some general tramping in Walpole Nornalup National Park with Kristin and Damiano.  We spent some time wandering through the Valley of the Giants, home of the towering karri gum trees, girthsome tingle trees and crazy-barked jarrah trees.  More pictures you know where

Our first days out west involved a 6am near-missed flight, loading up the campervan in Perth, driving south to the wine region of Margaret River, ample tastings before sunset, fortifying ourselves with food and wine for the days ahead, and (on day 2) a morning’s drive further south to our ultimate destination:  Walpole-Nornalup National Park, WA.

On the way to Walpole, we stopped at Cape Leeuwin, the most south-west point in Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and create a seriously wicked landscape (and seriously strong wind!).  The unplanned stop was quite apropros, since our last two annual adventures with Kristin & Damiano have involved trips to the Continental Divide of North America (in Utah and Coast Rica, respectively). So of course we had to snap a photo at this momentous spot.  We also amused ourselves with some windswept antics – the wind was so strong you could literally lean into it with considerable force and the oceanic gales would still keep you upright!

Pictures of our afternoon in Margaret River and visit to the Cape are on the photos page.

(claire & kris, watching the sunset)

what I love about Melbourne weather:  the aftermath of an afternoon deluge…

(photo by kcma)

Week 6 coincided with a lovely Valentine’s Day weekend in the remote and rugged town of St. Helens, on the southernly edge of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area.

Week 6:  Beach tramping in the Bay of Fires
Distance: 8-10kms (4 hours)
Grade: Moderate
Weight: 3kgs

An afternoon hike in the Bay of Fires was the perfect “us” weekend moment – 4 hours of sand, surf, brush, beach, blazing our own trail in the sun. 

The Bay of Fires is known for its rugged coastline, white pristine sandy beach, turquoise waters, and orange lichen stained boulders.  Needless to say, gorgeous but challenging hiking terrain.  We beat the beach by spending much of the trail in the brush that took the place of normal sand dunes, and side detours through and to a large inlet lagoon.

After our exertions, we sat down at a bayside cafe for a drink and leisurely reading session.  Happening to be in the right place at the right time, we watched a school of dolpins play in the surf (and surprise a surfer!) in the shallow waters just 10 meters off the beach. 

It was a lovely weekend in St. Helens, and reminded us all the reasons we love the great state of Tasmania!  Full pictures on the out and about page.

I’ve always loved tulips.  I have countless pictures of me as a child bent down to sniff the elegant petals of spring’s bloom (but, ironically, no pictures of my disappointed face when I realized tulips don’t actually have a scent).

Tulips have a great history.  As any good financial analyst knows, tulips were the source of the first economic bubble (and collapse) in Holland in the early 17th century, trading, for a brief period of time, for 10x the annual salary of an average worker in gold…

…and why not, for a bloom this beautiful?

Growing up in good old North Andover, my family always visited the Stevens Garden is spring for our tulip fix.  The last few years in D.C., the three of us would trek down to the tulip library by the cherry blossom- and tourist-dotted banks of the Jefferson Memorial.  And in Australia this weekend, we visited the Tesselaar Tulip Farm.

The Tesselaars came to Australia from the Netherlands years ago, and started their family farm in the Yarra Valley.  But contrary to public perception, and despite persistent images of the tulip along side clod-bearing maids, the Dutch were not the original tulip growers.  Nay, the Turks are thought to have supplied the first bulbs to the booming Dutch economy, triggering a national obsession, a breakthrough in botanical science, the boom and bust years of “tulip mania” and centuries of associating fields of blooming tulips with spring.

(Incidentially, Michael Pollan’s The Botony of Desire is a fabulous book about the interdependent relationship of man and plant and has a great chapter on tulips.)

Pictures of our day at Tesselaar are on the photos page.

When Steve’s parents were here, we took a week long vacation with them to two Australian islands–Kangaroo Island and Hamilton Island.  Cathy had always wanted to visit Kangaroo Island for the up close and personal encounters with Australian wildlife. Dave’s life long dream was to see the Great Barrier Reef.  So for their visit, we spent 4 days off the rugged southern coast at Kangaroo Island, and 5 days in Queensland on an island in the Great Barrier Reef.

(c&s W at Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island)

A pretty great way to see two vastly different parts of this great continent if you ask us!  The first part of our adventure started in Kangaroo Island.  Pictures and story of our adventures on Kangaroo Island are on the out and about and photos pages.

(Australian and New Zealand fur seal pictures are definitely worth a gander!)

For our first weekend with the Whites, we treated them to a Sunday afternoon, Victorian style.  That is, a wine tour of the Yarra Valley and some seriously adorable Aussie animals at the Healesville Sanctuary.

Although it rained a bit (OK, maybe a lot) at the zoo, we compensated by getting warm and toasty with some afternoon wine.  Full pictures

Day 1 of our adventures with Cathy and Dave and we’ve seen kangaroos, wallabies, cockatoos, dolphins, a fur seal colony (seriously
up close and personal), sweeping oceanside vistas and the elusive echidna.

We’d call it a quits now and return to Melbourne happy, but we’re paid up at the house on Kangaroo Island for the next few days and our flights to QLD on Tuesday are already booked. Guess well just have to continue the adventures on this wilderness island and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef one more time…

For my birthday this year, the State of Victoria was kind enough to declare a holiday and Steve was kind enough to take me to Tasmania for the long weekend.  We spent 3 glorious days in Hobart and on the Freycinet Peninsula in TAS.  In sum, so beautiful. 

There are in our existence spots of time,

That with distinct pre-eminence retain

A renovating virtue…

That penetrates, enables us to mount, when high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.

~ William Wordsworth

My recent reading material has awakened in me much contemplation on the subject of travel.  So it is not without pause and contemplation that I say that this was, perhaps, the most beautiful place we’ve ever been in the world.  It is certainly one of those spots in time that I will retain.  

 Annotated and pictorial story of the weekend on the out and about page; full pictures on photos page.  (Oh and, for anyone else out there for whom traveling and exploring the world around is a defining personal characteristic, I highly recommend Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel.)