True to his word Ben finished work early and rode out to meet us in Collie. In fact he found us before we reached Collie. Real nice of him given the weather. By now it was late afternoon which meant it had got significantly colder and it had begun to rain. The kids welcomed us in and the bikes found a safe dry space in the garage. They hadn’t seen such luxury in a long time!
The family is pretty awesome! Ben and Rhiannon like the same kind of music as us and Ben rides my dream bike: A Yamaha XJR1300. He also has a wickid Enfield. Rhiannon is learning to ride a bike too. The kids proceeded to show us all their different toys and over the days we would see acrobatic performances and dance moves. And then there is the dog Ariel, who never moves from the fire place except to eat, Harley, the cat that loves cuddling up when you’re asleep and a few chickens in the garden.
We spent a lot of time in front of the fire place in the garage, enjoying a drink or two, chatting away about this and that and watching YouTube videos of the crazy motorcycle rallies Ben had been to. Ben plays the didgeridoo really well and knows lots of aboriginal which he learned from his aboriginal work colleague.
The next day Be had to work so Rhiannon and the kids took us to the Farmers Market round the corner. The kids munched away on the freebies and passed us some as well. The guy at the meat counter already knows them and cheffed up some sausages specially for us.
We popped down to the beach that is just a short drive from their house. The kids got completely soaked when a bigger wave surprised them as they ran up close.
So we went back to the house where the kids introduced us to spearmint milk. It was disgusting, like liquid toothpaste. Nothing like those surprise jelly beans that either taste of a yummy fruit or (looking exactly the same) of stinky socks, sick or something else revolting which they had made us try the night before.
We used the afternoon to share photos and make a new plan. Ben and Rhiannon said we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted to, which is really nice of them. But we didn’t want to intrude their family life for too long. The weather forecast was still bad with no improvements in sight. It would be a real shame to miss out on the southern corner of Western Australia. But in the rain it would be no fun at all.
And to be honest I wasn’t sure how much further Lea would make it. The engine was sounding worse and worse. And the chain was stretched to the limit once more because it had been scraping over the bolt holding the gear-shifter on, tearing out the little rubber seals. I would fix that in Canada. So with equal measures of regret and relief we decided to book a wickid hostel in Fremantle instead. Rhiannon had studied there and had heaps of good stuff to tell about it.
While the kids were in school the next morning Rhiannon took us on a little trip down the west coast. First up Busselton Jetty. A train runs along it but we decided to enjoy a bumble along. In the distance the rain clouds emptied out over the water and they were getting closer. But we made it back before the drizzle began.
We had a quick walk round Cape Naturaliste (but didn’t spot any whales) and escaped here too just before the rain arrived.
Next up a stunning little beach. I think it was called Yallingup. There were lots of tiny shells and bits of pretty rainbow coloured crabs. We left as the first raindrops started drizzling down.
It was almost time to fetch the kids from school so popped by Canal Rock real quick. We spotted a seal rolling around in the shallow waves on one side while huge waves crashed into the rocks on the other side. A natural canal in the rocks channels the water through in bursts, right under a little wooden bridge. It is a spectacular place.
Sadly we had to hurry back to get the kids. But Rhiannon stopped the car for me in any case so I could take a few quick pictures of the cow field full of lilies. These pretty white Death Lilies are a weed here and grow everywhere covering the landscape in white carpets.
The next day was a Saturday so Ben was off work and the kids didn’t have school. We dropped Brianne off at her grandma’s house (where the wickid old lady was building a dance studio for her and the boys raided the freezer for ice cream) and went on a big family trip. Up in the nearby hills are lots of quaint little towns with picturesque wooden houses and pretty little shops and cafes.
We drove round Greenbushes where Ben and Rhiannon would love to buy a little holiday house. These towns are proud of their history. There was a little wooden prison with just two little cells on display and Rhys announced he’d just break out using an axe if he was incarcerated here.
Around the corner and up the hill a platform affords a great view into the local lead mine. There are lots of mines round the area and many are still active. The one near the grandma’s house keeps her on her toes with the big bang of the dynamite explosions.
Ben and Rhiannon knew of a great little place called Donnelly River where you can feed the kangaroos, emus and parrots. It is an old timber mill town. The mill has fallen into bad disrepair but the little wooden houses have been kept and are rented out to tourists now. The little shop sells kangaroo food and Rhiannon bought some for all of us.
Of course we had fed roos before in Tassie. But this was something else. Roos are quite gentle, but emus peck and they can accidentally get your finger so you have to hold your hand really flat.
The kids were looking out for an emu they had named Gunnar. Unlike the others this one was pretty tame and allowed them to pet him even without food. He would lie down for them too, if he tapped him on the back.
The parrots also known as twenty-eights were a little shy and mustered us from the safety of he trees before finally landing on our hands. Their claws were a little spiky on my fingers but nothing I couldn’t handle.
When we were finally out of food we headed down to the Donnelly River reservoir. It is a tranquil little place. Of course Rhys managed to get completely soaked trying to get hold of the rope swing. Shame, from now on he would have to stay in the car as it was getting too cold to run around without shoes or pants.
We popped by a pretty little place called Balingup and then it was time to head back.
Ben and Rhiannon had gifted me a little packet of fairy fire. We put it in the fireplace in the garage and it made the flames all rainbow coloured. It was magical.
We finished this awesome day with a party in their little bar. Granny had sponsored a yummy Chinese feast for dinner and we played pool. Brianne provided entertainment dressing us all up and later the instruments came out. Ben played ukulele and sang while Brianne was dancing away with bells around her ankles. We were handed various drums and percussion instrument.
What an awesome day! Eventually I couldn’t stop yawning so I left Ben and Aidan to chat about music and rolled out our sleeping bags in the living room as usual. (Rhiannon had initially offered to set up a bed but we were just fine like this. And sleeping bags were much easier to pack away so the kids could use the room in the day.) By the time Aidan came to bed Harley had made himself comfortable on his sleeping bag and was deeply asleep. Aidan managed to squeeze in at the side.
In the morning Harley had squeezed himself between our heads.
We got ready to set off feeling a bit sad. We had had such a great time with these guys. They’d opened their home as if we were one of the family and we got a little flavour of what it was like to live in this part of the world. Thanks to them we had seen lots of pretty places in the south of Western Australia after all.
Ben grabbed the Enfield and joined us for a bit, then wished us good bye at a petrol station.
As I went in to pay for Lea’s petrol and older guy came over too Aidan. He invited us in for a coffee. When we declined, keen to reach Fremantle before the looming rain, he promptly invited us to come over for dinner at his place in Perth. It seems there are a lot of super nice people in Western Australia.