The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Around the World (Again) Bunbury


Sunset Over The Indian Ocean at Bunbury
 I would just like to say I do not have the faintest idea what brought me to Bunbury (well the bus did), other than it had been my very first port of call many years ago. Also when I had been doing my potted history research on the founding of the state of Western Australia, this name popped up quite a few times. Now so did some other ones, like Margaret River and Albany, but Margaret River is a wine growing are and the British Foody Capital of Australia fêting such TV Kitchen celebrities as Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein and Ceth Bains, not that I have anything against any of them far from it I rate them all in my top 10 favourite chefs. But they get so much TV coverage that I didn’t want to spoil it for them by hogging the limelight. Albany well that almost pulled it off as I had also been there on my first Round the World in 1975, but besides being the first actual settlement and the place that can claim be where the Brits first raised their flag and claimed all land West of the 130° and thus stopping the French from nicking it before we did, it doesn’t hold anything that I would go those extra kms for. So Bunbury it was!    


The name gives lie to he fact that Lt Bunbury didn’t discover Bunbury, but that grace must go to the Dutch (discovery is such a bad description as it was already well settled and had been for many thousands of years and the Chinese had more than likely been here prior as well).
The original occupants (Ranging from the Swan River in the North and as far as Esperance to the East of Mt Ragged) who had been resident on these lands since time immemorial were the Biddulum  or Nyungar (Nyoongar) Nation, the Bunbury tribe were called the Burrong wongi. Sadly there are no pure blood Aborigines alive from any of the Biddulum nation alive today.

The Dutch
According to the Gerritsz chart they arrived here in 1628 (or there about) and did chart the coast line of Western Australia. They named it Land van de Leiuwin and a little further north I. der Edels landt, but and it is a very great but, it could well have been visited and charted by that great maritime nation, of the earlier years, the Portuguese that were the first Europeans to have sighted, visited and charted these waters. Alas all Portuguese nautical records from this period stored in the Casa de India, were destroyed in the terrible earthquake and the ensuing tidal wave (it would be called a tsunami today) of 1755.

The Portuguese sent several expeditions to explore for “The Southland or The Isle of Gold”, these took place in the first few decades of the 16th century under Diago Pancheco and Fransiisc de Sequeira. Some of their expeditions ended in disaster, in fact Pancheco stayed here forever as his caravel foundered, was wrecked and he lost his life.
Fortunately not all record were lost, as a turn-coat (traitor) Joao Alfonso who sailed as a pilot on the Sequeira expedition, a volt faced and joined the French, changed his name to Jean Alfonse and wrote a book titled Voyages Aventureux , in this he describes the voyage from the Great Southern Ocean along the coast of “The Southland” up to the North of that land.

The rest of the history of the town is interwoven with the rest of the settlement Western Australia.
It is a pleasant little town on the mouth of the Leschenault River named after the botanist on board a French ship called the Geographie in fact the French laid claim to having been the first Europeans to have visited these shores but as can be seen from the facts, they do have delusions. Enough to say they named a few places and much of this can be put down to that Gentleman of exploration Baudin.

The town is almost completely surrounded by water and sandy beaches with a few Basalt rocky outcrops (bit like a miniature Giants Causeway). This is a favourite place for rock and beach anglers as in the surf there are some nice whiting to be caught. 
I arrived at the out of town bus/railway station; this is about 4km from the actual town, why didn’t they tell me beforehand that there are two bus stations. This has come about as at one time the railway did run right into Bunbury, this is called the “Old Railway Station” and is now only the bus station and Visitors Information Centre (a very good one at that). This is now the main Bus Station in Bunbury, though the fast Route Busses only use the out of town Railway and bus station. (If you can get your head around that you are a better man than I am Gunga Din).
Not having realised that I had alighted at the wrong bus station (not that it made any difference as it didn’t stop at any other) I started walking in the general direction of what I thought must be the town, due to the fact that a woman and her two sons also well laden with baggage also were walking in that direction (I just followed them). I was lucky as at an intersection, the lady turned to me and said are you going to the backpackers hostel, I said yes the YHA, she said well you need to go down that road and it is quite a walk, I said oh! I don’t mind, I have quite sturdy legs, she looked me straight in the eyes and said “well you will need them as it is about 4km, keep on that road and it will bring you into town”.  I thanked her and set off in the direction that she had pointed. It was hot, very hot, but who cares, I only had my Rucksack, my document rucksack, a cool bag and a green dry store bag to carry. I walked what seemed about 1 km (it was in all probability a lot less) and saw across the road a bus stop, discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to cross and wait for a bus, any bus it didn’t matter they must be going someplace in the general direction of Bunbury.
At last along came a bus and I got on asking the driver if it went to Bunbury, with an affirmative nod and a 2dollars reply, I was up and running (it is great when the plans that you didn’t make come together). I was dropped off at the “Old Railway Station” bus station and as luck would have it, there is a sign pointing in the direction of Dolphin Retreat YHA Centre. I walked up Wellington Street and there it was the YHA, just as it looked in the handbook.

I entered and was greeted by the woman at the reception, was given my room key and my linen paid the deposits ($10 for the Key and &10 for the crockery and cutlery). My room was right next door to the reception, so that was good, the door was open and I entered, to be greeted by 3 Estonian lads on a working holiday, there was also a Japanese lad also in the room, but he was still working. This was a 6 man dorm so two upper bunks were free, I chose one and made my bed (always the first thing a backpacker does). I then went on an orientation tour of the hostel.
Dolphin Centre YHA.
It is at 14 Wellington Street, it is a very small hostel only having 13 rooms, most of these are dorm type, but there are a couple of doubles/singles and a family room, double bed and a double bunk bed.  It has two external double rooms, that face to the front and I suppose these are meant to be a bit quieter. The kitchen is very small, but has been recently renovated (new stainless steel range), there is a second  hob, both are gas. There is quite a bit of fridge space, but as normal it was chocker with bottles of coke and backpacker cool bags. The second fridge supposedly for those staying less than 7 days (no one took any notice of any of the notices) was full of 6 packs of beer and bottles of wine.
The toilet area had also had a makeover in the recent past and was clean, if cramped, for the males, two shower cubicles, two tiny hand basins and a toilet in the space that would normally be for the two showers maximum. There are two female showers, I imagine with toilets and a separate unisex toilet. The common room, contains the TV and the two internet computers, there is WiFi, but at $3,- an hour rather exorbitant (cheaper to go to the Library it is free).
There are three well-worn couches and in a small alcove, the dining area. Outside are further communal areas, there is a container games room with tables, couches and a second TV. An area between the Main Hostel and the container is where the main communal action takes place, there is a large sitting out area, a pool table and a long wooden bench/table. The hostel allows alcohol on the premises and this is consumed in great quantities at this table.
Just around the corner from the sitting area is the small laundry with one washing machine and one tumbler drier (I washed twice, but there is no need for the tumbler drier, as there is a rotary drier down at the bottom of the garden so as to speak)
Because the hostel is used in the main by working backpackers, “it is well worn” and the rules posted on the walls not strictly adhered to. But it does try and keep it clean, alas many of the hostels occupants seem to lack the common decency to wash up after themselves, the sinks would be full of unwashed pots, pans and utensils each morning and the place in a general state of disarray.
You would think from the above I would be a little disillusioned with the hostel, far from it, the hostel is run on a more or less self-run basis, there is a resident out of hours caretaker (Felix), two of the living in girls are part time housekeepers, two smashing girls and very helpful. Vivien from Cyprus arranges all the activities, like BBQ’s, Movie Nights, Restaurant visits, paddle boarding etc etc. That was the nice thing about the hostel, it is laid back and easy going, quite a few working as volunteer’s down at the Dolphin Centre and can arrange to get you on a trip at a reduced rate. 
I liked my time here so much that I actually extended my stay for a further 2 days (I was originally thinking of maybe going to Margaret River).
So that is a bit about the YHA, in terms of facilities it wasn’t all that good, but for friendliness, helpfulness and companionship, it gets a gold star from me.
After the orientation of the hostel (it didn’t take long as it isn’t all that big), it was time to go into town, this is just down the road, Victoria street being the main street in Bunbury, but at the end of Wellington Street across from the bus station are two Shopping Malls one contains a Coles supermarket along with a bakers, a fresh fish shop, several clothing and shoe shops and then the cheap dollar shops. There is also a few fast food outlets and a couple of cafes, they are also have a large car park a lot of it covered. The Coles has everything that you will want, though I bought my meat at a small in town butchers, who used local farms for his supplies and also sold a lot of other local produce.
Bunbury has also a nice theatre, a small open air arena and a cinema, everything is within easy walking distance, though the drinks in the bars are at least $3,- more than in Perth (perhaps the reason why they drink in the hostel most of the time).
I bought some basic stuff, had a coffee and then walked along the inner harbour to get a feel of the area, as this was all new and had changed a lot since 1975. I then walked the length of back beach to see what type of fishing could be expected.
I went back to the hostel cooked my meal and sat down to watch a bit of TV, chat with the other inmates and just relax. There was a pool competition taking place, I was asked if I wanted to take part, but I declined, as it was many years since I played it.  Some of us watched the Lord of The Rings part 2, but as the tele goes off at 23:00 without fail, I missed the last 30minutes (the television is on a timer, this is so that the silent hours are observed). Time for bed and a bit of shut eye.
Next morning I was up early, but it seemed so was most of the rest of the hostel, my three Estonian mates worked out of town at a farm, pulling weeds, Dan the Japanese chap worked at a meat packing factory, so these were up and about with me. I let them get finished in the showers etc, then made myself breakfast (bacon, sausage, mushrooms and eggs). Toast, jam, vegemite, tea and coffee are free.
The hostel was populated by a lot of different nationals, 4 Brits, 1 Cypriot, 5 Germans, 2 French, 1 Japanese, 1 Chinese and then the floating visitors like me, only staying for a short while, these came in all shapes and sizes from families to groups and single backpackers.
When I had breakfast, showered, I packed my small backpack and set off towards the end of the spit, that forms the entrance to Leschenault harbour, there were some silos and these I seemed to remember from all those years ago. There were also some fishing boats and I did fancy a fishing trip. When I got there I thought I was in luck but on inquiring no luck they only took tourists out around the bay whale and dolphin watching, these were a little larger than I was looking to hook.

I walked to the end of the small jetty and had a chat with a chap in a day glow vest (always a good person to ask, though most workers of all description wear them these days), but I was lucky, well not so lucky as he said that now no fishing charters leave from Bunbury, they all leave from Busselton down the coast.

We chatted about my visit back in 1975 and he said you would have tied up at the old jetty, that has just been demolished and the only part is the loading crane over there, pointing across the entrance. It all came flooding back, yes that is where we loaded  our cargo of mineral sands, we chatted about those times and we reminisced about when this had been a major seaport, now the loading facilities have been moved out of town, were now fully automated, with conveyor belts and overhead loading gantries. They are not far distant from the Dolphin Centre my next port of call, but first a spot of lunch at one of the restaurants at the new development at what had been the old loading jetty. I then walked around the bay to the to the Dolphin Centre, not a lot happening here, I had visions of the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre with few penguins. I walked back, found the library (at the end of Victoria Street) made some enquiries and headed back to the YHA- I now had the plan of Bunbury imprinted in my brain. I will now do a quick run through of my wonderful time in Bunbury, the weather was hot, very hot at times over 40°C, but that doesn’t bother seasoned salts like us, does it (did I see you nodding).

But I went along with most of the activities that the YHA mob dreamed up, though I did go to the cinema with them I saw the Hobbit while they watched Captain America or some other such crap.

After one of the lads and myself went surf fishing and caught a few nice whiting, we went BBQing at sunset, for no other reason that there are some smashing sunsets on Backbeach and we had some fish to cook.


We went kayaking and paddle boarding together.

I visited the smashing nature reserve, a piece of natural wet lands that has been left to its own devices, with the exception of a bit of a board walk to protect the banks and reeds and 2 hides.

We went out for a meal mob handed, Monday being all you can eat carvery at Hungry Hollows Restaurant. Backpackers tend to eat a lot when they can and when times get hard live on cornflakes and pot noodles 

Of course I went along to the Dolphin Centre to watch the dolphins come in to inspect the visitors and volunteers alike.


All in all it was a fantastic, relaxing time and I met and made a lot of nice friends. But we did have time for one last BBQ and one last sunset over the Indian Ocean.

When it was time to leave it was with a sad goodbye, but I had to be in Perth to catch my plane to SE Asia in a few days time, so I headed for the Old Railway Station (the one IN TOWN Bus Station one this time) and boarded my bus to Perth and my place booked in the YHA in Perth.
So it was bye bye Bunbury.
I was feeling a bit peckish on arrival so popped across the road and had a mixed tempura and a miso broth!

Perth held nothing new for me though I did revisit the State Art Gallery again; the outside was being transformed into a stage for the forthcoming Australia Day celebrations.

This time I also had time to visit the remains of Perth’s original Jail and the barracks now a hotel.

It has a vine in the entrance courtyard, that is supposedly the oldest in Australia, it is certainly captive.

I also had some of that wonderful food on James Street and met a few old acquaintances in the Brass Monkey

Then the next day it was off to catch my flight to Thailand, Cambodia and the next part of my journey. As I looked out of the window of the Thai Air plane and saw Australia disappear beneath me, I wondered if I ever would cross the Nullarbor and complete my last piece of Australia, or if I will be too old and will never see it? Only time will tell


No comments:

Post a Comment