Wednesday, July 27, 2016




JULY 2016

As a winter break to escape the cold and wet we chose Cape Leveque and Broome, Western Australia. Broome is located 2,240km north of Perth and is a coastal pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region of WA. Cape Leveque is around 200km further north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula.

An early morning direct 2.5 hour flight from Perth to Broome, we welcomed the 27 degree heat and headed to the shops for supplies before heading up to Cape Leveque. The road to Cape Leveque is an unsealed, red dirt highway. Travelling at a speed of around 80km/hr is advised as although it looks flat, there are many unseen bumps and holes.
The 200km dirt highway to Cape Leveque

Half way to Cape Leveque a visit to Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community is a welcome detour and a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch under the well established trees. Beagle Bay is well known for its Church which was completed in 1918. For a $5 donation visitors are welcome to visit, but please don't ring the bell!

5 Bed Ensuite Cabin
We had booked to stay at Kooljaman a100% Indigenous owned facility which offers a well appointed camp ground for those travelling with their own camp gear or there is are "glamping" options for couples and families. We chose not to transport tents, billies and sleeping bags and opted for a five bed, ensuite cabin, complete with BBQ, full sized fridge/freezer and linen.

Kooljaman is a dry community, all alcohol is BYO and although there is a shop on-site, it doesn't offer a huge amount of supplies, therefore it is advised to shop in Broome. Petrol and a larger shop can be found at One-Arm Point (approx 20km from Kooljaman).

There is a swimming beach on the east side of the Community with 4WD access. Compressed air is available on your return to camp so you can re-pressure your tires. The Western Beach is closed for swimming due to strong currents and tidal movements. I think it is also a way of keeping "explorers" off the stunning rock formations.

The sunsets are to die for and best viewed from either the balcony overlooking Western Beach or from the beach itself. Raugi's restaurant offers a fine dining menu using local indigenous ingredients or there is a more casual wood-fired pizza outlet.

Dinka's cafe is open during the day for casual dining, coffee and refreshments. Beach chairs and umbrella's are also available for hire from Dinka's.

As previously mentioned this part of WA is famously known for its Pearling Industry. Not far from Kooljaman is Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Pioneers of pearling in the region, the farm offers a range of tours, a licensed restaurant, accommodation and of course a selection of pearls for sale in the boutique.

We opted for the Pearl Farm Discovery Tour which gave us an informative insight into the history of Cygnet Bay Pearls, the pearl farm and production.

One-Arm Point Community (Ardyaloon) is located on the point of the Dampier Peninsula. The Community is open Monday - Friday and an entrance fee is payable. The Ardyaloon Hatchery is open to tourists on the weekend as well as the surrounding beaches.

Our return trip to Broome seemed a lot quicker along the dirt road. We had booked into Cable Beach Club Resort and were glad to wash off the red dirt. We had stayed at Cable Beach previously and found the resort very comfortable and well located. Within the resort there is a good selection of restaurants, so leaving the resort is very hard to do.

We did venture out and visited the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park. After the tragic passing of Malcolm the park moved to a new location. Open from 3pm - 5pm daily, we were collected from the resort and transported to the park in time for feeding. Watching the huge snapping crocs had everyone move away from the fence very quickly, while baby crocs were passed around for cuddles and photos.

We didn't spend any time in Broome Town apart from the day we arrived. Broome is a typical tourist town with souvenir shops, museums and alike. It also boasts a popular racing carnival and some good restaurants.

The No 1 attraction of Broome would have to be a camel ride along Cable Beach. The camels are on the beach in the morning and for sunset and are popular with young and old.

Friday, February 5, 2016


27 DECEMBER 2015 - 10 JANUARY 2016

This December/January our travels took us from Chengdu in Southwest China 1630km across the country to Shanghai in the East. We achieved this by travelling by China's High Speed Rail network which spans 28 of the 33 provinces and travels at an average speed of 200km/hr.

We were the usual brood - two seventy-somethings, two forty-somethings and two teenagers, along with our very flamboyant Chinese interpreter and friend Sissi from Shanghai's BG Interpreters.

Visas: Prior to arriving in China, you will need to visit your local Chinese consulate and obtain a visa. These can also be done online. As part of the application you will be required to show hotel confirmations, so be sure to have booked a place to stay before applying.

Vaccinations: Check with your GP for the recommended vaccinations and make sure you have them at least a month prior to departure. 

Chinese Gov. Controls: The Chinese Government have strict controls/firewalls on internet connections. If you rely on certain applications ie: Google Search, Facebook, Google Drive, Instagram, Maps, Gmail or if you have a Google phone, these won't work in China unless you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We learned the hard way, as although we hired a mobile hotspot wifi for the duration of our stay, we didn't unlock the VPN (which needs to be done outside China) so we were unable to access any emails. Fortunately, we could access the internet via Yahoo and Baidu, however if you rely on the cloud to access confirmations and itineraries, then make sure you print a hardcopy! Don't rely on the hotels wifi or business centre for access either.

My husband had previously travelled with our interpreter Sissi on business, so we were very grateful when Sissi agreed to accompany us on our family adventure. Prior to our arrival Sissi organised all our airport/railway transfers, car hire and deposits, restaurant bookings and made numerous phone calls on our behalf. 

The majority of people in China don't speak any English, so catching taxi's, ordering food or buying tickets can be a very frustrating game of charades. We even found that some taxi drivers had no idea where the hotels were or could comprehend the hotel business cards written in Chinese! Our experience with taxi drivers didn't differ between Chengdu and Shanghai.

Car & driver hire: An 11 seater van and driver averaged around AUD $200-$300 per day depending on the rental time and distance you travel. This included all tolls, parking and lunch for the driver. None of our drivers spoke any English so Sissi proved invaluable when we needed to contact the driver to collect us or if we had a change of plan. I also had all the names and addresses of the destinations on our itinerary written in Chinese. Most of these I was able to copy and paste from Tripadvisor.

HSR Tickets: High Speed Rail tickets can be booked online via C-trip. Tickets can be booked a maximum of 60 days prior to travel and can be delivered to your hotel, however someone must be there to sign for them. Alternatively, you can book online and collect your ticket at the train station. We collected the tickets for all our train trips the afternoon prior to our first departure. We queued for at least 40 minutes and then waited another 40 minutes for the tickets to be issued.

The trains don't wait for anyone, so make sure you are at the station with time to spare as not only do you go through a security and passport check, your platform could be a 200m (or more) walk from the security point. 

Note: High Speed Trains are G, D or C trains. Each of these have different types of seats. G trains and some D trains have Business Class seats.



Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan Province. Home of traditional spicy sichuan hotpot, giant Pandas and brocade, the city has grown quickly to accommodate the influx of visitors arriving via air and rail.

In Chengdu we chose to stay at the Sofitel Chengdu Taihe through

Winter in China is usually dry, foggy and moderately polluted with fewer hours of sunlight. At 7.00am music started playing outside like an alarm clock to wake the city up. The day was still just coming to light at 8.00am when we joined for breakfast.

Day one of our adventure had us collected from the hotel around 9.30am and taken to the Jinsha Site Museum. This archeological site was discovered in 2001. Dating back to the Shu Kingdom it is a huge discovery for the city and gives a lot of explanation as to the sudden disappearance of the bronze age Sanxingdui culture. 
The main gate to the museum is the South Entrance, however the Exhibition Hall at the North Entrance showcases the variety of artifacts that have been unearthed. Viewing all the gold, ivory, jade, pottery etc. and reading about the history of the people and culture before moving to the Relics Hall puts the burial site, residential site and palace foundations into perspective. The gardens are also particularly lovely to wander through.

Relic Hall, Jinsha Site Museum

Note: Be sure to take ID with you when visiting museums in China. Entry is free for those over 70 and teenagers under 16 are concession. Don't put your passport away too quickly however, as although the ticket office have issued you a ticket, you will need to show your ID again and again and again at any guarded door or gate.

The Song Xian Qiao Antique Markets are the second largest in Chengdu and a good place to shop for souvenirs. Located near the Du Fu Thatched Cottage and Wu Hou Temple, it is best to visit late morning when it really gets into full swing. This is also a great place to practise your bargaining skills. It is also a nice place to stop for a bite to eat overlooking the river.

A bead stall at the Song Xian Qiao Antique Markets
Chengdu was not only the birthplace of the first widely used paper money, it was also the origin and major production base of Chinese Silk which was traded along the famous Silk Road. The Chengdu Shu Brocade & Embroidery Museum gives you an amazing insight into the history of Chengdu, silk production and the different types of brocade. Even if you aren't interested in embroidery, try not to miss this museum.

Jinli Old Street is a great way to end a cultural day. It buzzes with locals, tourists and foodies dining out at the food stalls. It is one of the oldest streets in the province and showcases the architectural style of the residences in western Sichuan Province.

Other famous streets to visit in Chengdu are Kuan and Zhai Xiangzi (Wide and Narrow Alley). Both are close to the People's Park which houses traditional teahouses and is a nice place to people watch.

Steamed snow pear with peach sap
Yu Zhi Lan Restaurant is a must in Chengdu. Located at No. 24 Changfa Street, Qingyang District Ph: 028 6249 1966 email: Make sure you book in advance for this gastronomic degustation. The set menu is from RMB 600 per person and includes tea. A wine list is available on request. 

Handmade 'golden silk' noodles



Mount Qingcheng is about an hour and a half drive west of Chengdu. Located here you will find the Dujiangyan Irrigation System which dates back to 256 BC and Panda Valley.

Panda Valley is one of China's best kept secrets and tours of the Giant Panda base can be organised via the Six Senses Mount Qingcheng Resort. (Panda Valley is not to be mistaken with the Chengdu Panda Research base located in Chengdu.) There are only around 20 or so Panda's housed at Panda Valley and on the day we toured we had the whole park to ourselves. It was an absolute treat to be able to watch these amazing creatures in a natural environment and learn from our very knowledgeable guide Olaf, from Six Senses Resort, all about the research, rehabilitation and conservation program, the history of the Panda and general information.

After our visit with the Panda's, we headed to Six Senses where we had a very nice lunch at the F2F Restaurant after a tour of the recently opened resort. With magnificent views of Mount Qingcheng, a fabulous spa, pool and organic garden, we suddenly wished we had booked to stay a night or two. Six Senses also offers tours of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Mount Qingcheng and the history of Taoism.

Six Senses Luxury Indoor Pool
Views of Mount Qingcheng from Six Senses

Mapo Tofu is one of Chengdu's traditional dishes and comes highly recommended. Unfortunately, after our huge day out we didn't make our booking and instead had a very nice japanese dinner at Fuji Restaurant located on the second floor of the Sofitel Chengdu Taihe.



Sichuan  province is home to a dozen historical towns, so we took the opportunity to visit Yuantong on return to Chengdu from Mount Qingcheng. 

Yuantong is about 40km from Chengdu and has a history of more than 1,600 years. Along the river, rich traders built their shops, warehouses and homes which can still be seen today. 

A traditional teahouse in Yuantong



We arrived in Yichang mid-afternoon so took the opportunity to visit the Chinese Sturgeon Museum. Producers of the increasing popular chinese caviar, the sturgeon's habitat and migratory patterns were interrupted by the construction of the Yangtze River Dam. Now a state-protected animal, the conservatory institution houses various species of sturgeon and other marine life found in the Yangtze. 

In Yichang, we chose to stay at the Crown Plaza. On our first night we had a very nice dinner at the hotel Teppanyaki Restaurant on the 2nd floor. 

Map of the Three Gorges Dam area

Yichang is the second largest city in Hubei province and the Three Gorges Dam is its number one attraction. 

Spanning the Yangtze River at Sandouping around an hours drive from downtown Yichang, the Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest hydropower project.

Visitors to the dam are bused from the visitor reception centre to the scenic area. Where you can view the two-way five-step ship lock. 185 Platform is located on the left bank where you can get a birds-eye view of the whole dam. Across the bridge is the Memorial Park where you can see the lower side of the dam wall.

Views Xiling Gorge from Fangweng Hanging Restaurant

The Three Visitors
Xiling Gorge is the longest of the Three Gorges and has some of the best cave scenery in the area. 

Sanyou Cave and is named after Three Tang Dynasty poets and officials. The stairs down to the cave are quite steep, so only go if you know you can get back up the stairs! 

Lunch or dinner at Fangweng Hanging Restaurant is not to be missed. The main part of the restaurant is in a cave, however balconies protrude the cave with a couple of tables on each. Make sure you book and request a window or outdoor table as the views of Xiling Gorge are amazing. We had one of our best meals at Fangweng whilst we watched bungy jumpers bravely throwing themselves off a platform on the opposite side of the gorge.


Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province and was just a lunch stop as we had to change trains to Nanjing. With a couple of hours to kill, we visited Hubu Alley. It was New Years Day when we visited, so the famous food street was full of visitors and the food didn't disappoint. Everything from poultry, seafood and dumplings were on offer. After fighting the crowds, we found a quite table and tucked into freshly made dumplings. 


Originally known as Nanking - Southern Capital, Nanjing is one the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and boasts an extensive history. 

In Nanjing we stayed at the InterContinental which is the largest skyscraper in the city at 88 levels. It can't be missed, however taxi drivers did struggle with the name and location card distributed by the hotel!

The best place to start your visit to Nanjing is at the Nanjing Massacre Museum where you learn how over a six week period from December 1937 - January 1938, the Japanese rapped and murdered 300,000 civilian Chinese people. It also tells the history of Nanjing and the layout of the city along with a moving tribute to those who fought and lost. It a definite must do!

People start queuing to visit the memorial from 8.00am for the 8.30am opening. I suggest you get there early as once the tourist buses arrive the queues become very long. 

Nanjing is a very pretty city with wide roads and plenty of open space. It has a young student population. Nanjing University is one of the oldest in China. It is a really picturesque place to visit with avenues of trees and old buildings still in use today. The markets and food streets near Nanying Yanging alley on the Shanghai Lu side of the university are also a great place to wander. 

The Confucius Temple and Fuzi Miao Scenic area is popular with tourists and boast good food stalls. From here we also visited the Ruins of the Ming Dynasty Palace.

Seleccion Espanola was a nice change to Chinese food. Owned and operated by two young Spanish backpackers who decided to "give it a go", the restaurant is small and simply furnished. The food (cured meats, pincho's and paella) and atmosphere was very good and although the service was a little slow, there were a couple of reds on the wine list we were happy to try, so the wait time was well spent.

Zheng He was an explorer in 1405 and made 7 voyages around Asia and Africa on huge treasure ships built in Nanjing. Today the Zheng He Treasure Ship Park has a replica ship and information regarding the designs, building and voyages. The park is another example of Nanjing's peaceful open spaces.

Gan's Grand Courtyard is a large, once private, residence located in central Nanjing. Gan was an ambassador educated in England and France in 1866 and he and his family lived in the residence. You can wander through the impressive gardens and courtyards and get a feel for how the family lived. Some of the rooms have been left set up as living, bedroom and kitchen, while the residence is now mostly used for cultural classes.

If you are looking for a fun, noisy, traditional meal go no further than Nanjing Impressions. Set up as a tea house with waiters in traditional dress and live cultural entertainment, the food was delicious. We visited the Nanjing Impressions at Deji Plaza, Nanjing.

We really enjoyed visiting Nanjing and would love to return and visit the Zhong Mountain Scenic Area, Xuanwu Lake Park and the Yuejiang Tower Scenic Area which apparently has a beautiful temple, however is no where near as touristy or busy as the Confucius Temple.

Saturday, August 29, 2015





Karijini National Park is located in West Australia's Pilbara. 1400km North of Perth, the closest towns are Newman, Tom Price and Karatha.

We flew from Perth to Newman where we collected a 4WD and drove the 160km to Karijini. Newman is a mining town, mainly populated by BHP Billiton. Mt Whaleback is the main Iron Ore mine, with Roy Hill (owned by Gina Reinhart) also using the town for accommodation and housing.

Flying into Newman over the desert and the red, red earth and not much else is like admiring an aboriginal painting. It is so beautiful and if you have never been to outback WA it is definitely one for the bucket list. August is also the start of wildflower season and you don't have to go far to see the picturesque flora. 

We reached Karijini Eco Retreat just before sunset. We had booked a couple of Delux Eco tents complete with ensuite for the duration of our stay and booked into the restaurant for dinner each night. The temperature was cool, but not cold and without a cloud in the sky the stars were magical.

Karijini Eco Retreat, Delux Tent

I had previously booked the West Oz Active Red Gorge Adventure with Pete West! Ten of us were collected from the Eco Retreat at 7.30am and we headed over to the West Oz Active HQ where we were kitted out with wetsuit, booties, thermals, helmet, harness and tube. 

From there it was a short bus ride to Knox Gorge where we started our day of abseiling, rock climbing, tubing and canyoning. It was exhilarating. First we waded through chest deep water and were then lowered over a huge bolder only to go shooting off a 4m high waterfall into the pool below. From there we floated on our tubes through Red Gorge and Junction Pool and then pulled ourselves up a waterfall and rock climbed up to Hancock Gorge where we completed our day. We were exhausted by the end and my knees and leg muscles had really had a good workout.

Back at HQ we handed back all our gear and headed back to camp for another yummy dinner in the restaurant and early bed. 

Joffre Gorge Amphitheatre
Not in a hurry to go anywhere we had a leisurely breakfast and headed down to Joffre Gorge which can be accessed from the Eco Retreat. This was one of my favourite with the amphitheatre made of rock and the waterfall. It’s amazing to think that we were the only ones there enjoying the warmth of the sun and natural landscape.

Back up the top and we packed a picnic lunch and headed to Weano Gorge. From here we took the longer route and headed down to Handrail Pool where we stopped for lunch. 

Handrail Pool was another favourite. In the summer it would be the perfect place to picnic, swim and spend a day, however in August the gorge doesn't see much sun, so the water and rocks made the gorge very cool.
Weano Gorge leading into Handrail Pool

Kalamina Gorge was a really pretty walk mostly in the sunshine. Both children swam under the waterfall and by the time we got back to the car it must have been around 3pm.

Our last day and with check-out by 10am we packed up and headed over to Dales Camping Area. We stopped in at the Karijini Visitors Centre which had an interesting museum attached. 

Fortescue Falls
At Fortescue Falls the children had a swim in the beautiful clear water and then we walked through Dales Gorge to Circular Pool. This whole area is stunning and a great day out. I can imagine in peak season it would be very busy with people sunning themselves and having picnics.

We took the top route back to the car, picked up our lunch and headed back down past Fortescue Falls to Fern Pool. As one lady said “you’ll want Fern Pool in your backyard”. I have to agree with her it was a magical oasis and a perfect way to spend our last hours in Karijini.

Fern Pool
With a flight to catch, we drove back to Newman and toured the town, driving through the new and old parts of town and then up to Radio Hill lookout where we could see over Mt Whaleback mine, the golf course, the town of Newman and beyond to the airport.

We had an early dinner at the Capricorn Outback Bar and Grill near the airport and arrived back in Perth around 9pm. A four day retreat in the outback and no communication with the outside world. I think we will do this trip again next year!