Bacon and eggs on the BBQ, hot coffee in hand, yet another beautiful day – Esperance couldn’t have turned on better weather if it tried!! The mornings wouldn’t be the same if Ava wasn’t so excited to see Trixie. Trixie had perched himself on the kitchen table, holding Caroline’s laptop with Audrey’s reindeer antlers on top of his head. Ava whispered to me “No work today! You can’t write the blog, Trixie has the computer”! Little does Ava know we have back up devices for writing the blog. Can’t get away from it that easily.Our first port, or stop for the day was the jetty off Taylor’s beach. We were using the ‘experience’ present we received from Nonna and Gramps to go on a cruise around the Recherché archipelago with Esperance Island Cruises. These archipelago are a series of 105 islands and rock formations that extend approximately 50kms off shore – today we motored around 6 of the islands extending approximately 20 kms off the Esperance coastline. Caroline started Hema to see if it would plot our course – it worked perfectly!
We were guided by a fantastic Captain (not Greybeard) and an extremely knowledgeable co-pilot. I would go so far as calling the co-pilot an expert in the Recherché archipelago as he spent seven months as the sole inhabitant on one of the islands, to research the native flora and fauna! Seven months with no company is a long time – I hope he packed a volleyball!! Love that movie!
Many stories were shared with us along our journey, including a run through of the local history of Esperance. Caroline furiously taking notes for some of the journey on my phone captured the first interesting thing she had heard – Esperance was the first place in Australia to have a wind farm – the first commercial wind farm that is still operating, established in the early 1990’s. Really Caroline. Wind farms! You are supposed to be on holidays!!
Charley island was one of the first islands we were to observe from the comfort of the boat (you aren’t allowed to ‘board’ any of the islands within Recherché archipelago, unless you have written approval from the Government). This island supports a population of bush rats, however has other inhabitants including the white bellied sea eagle. The co-pilot retrieved a frozen fish from the on board fridge and waved it around his head a few time to gain the eagles attention, whom was perched on a tree branch quite some distance away. The eagle took flight, interrupted on a few occasions by his neighbouring seagulls, whom seemed more interested in annoying the eagle than going for his food. Finally the eagle got closer to the boat, swooped down, talons extended grabbing the fish before returning to his ‘perch’. There would have been less than three seconds from when the eagle glided around the food to when it had grabbed the fish and started making it’s return journey. A very cool thing to witness!
Charley island was also known for sea lions (of which we saw numerous on our cruise around the islands), goats, which were introduced in the 1800’s when the land was inhabited, to act as a deterring food source to foxes that once also lived on the island. The goats still exist to this day and demonstrated how confidently they can traverse the rocky parts of the island.
Other islands were known to have a significant number of snakes, including death adders and one from the same family as the brown snake. Only 6 islands out of the 105 islands within this archipelago have beaches. All six are infested with snakes. One rumour that was suggested was that Australia’s first and only Pirate, Black Jack Anderson had introduced snakes to the islands to protect the treasures he accumulated over a ten year period. A treasure he made from stealing seal skins.
Black Jack started off his career as a whaler in Albany. The account goes that he was on a bit of a bender with his whaling crew mates, got into a fight and murdered a fellow seaman. This action forced him and a few members of his crew to evade the law by starting a new life in the archipelago. With many ships travelling through these waterways bound for Hobart or Sydney, Black Jack and his crew made their fame and fortune from plundering passing ships. To this day it is unknown what happened to Black Jack. Did he die of natural causes, one rumour suggested he married an English lass, while the other suggests his own crew turned on him, murdering him as he slept.
Not as grim as the story of Black Jack Anderson, Boxer Island, another island we visited, was named after a local boxer whom was exiled from Esperance due to a drunken brawl. His ‘home’ for three months was to be an island located 7kms off shore. He was dropped off at his island with enough provisions to last the three month sentence, then the ship departed to drop off some women prisoners onto another island farther out to sea. The sailing trip to drop all the prisoners off at their respective destinations took the ship one full day. We heard from the co-pilot that the ‘boxer’ swam the 7kms back to shore shortly after being dropped off, being found by the local Police at Esperance’s pub. After being dropped off once again at the same island and returning to Esperance shore three days later for his second trip, he was dropped off to another island, 15kms away. The Boxer didn’t swim the 15kms, he waited out his six month sentence to be rescued by the prison boat. The island 15kms out was therefore named Boxer Island, the island that beat the boxer!
After a entertaining and educational three and a half hour cruise, we returned to the jetty we had departed from earlier in the morning. Bless Ava’s little cotton socks, the first words out of her mouth when we touched dry land were “Dad, can we go to the pub?” Unfortunately Ava’s motive was not re-hydration, rather she wanted to drive the toy cars they provided for kids. Sadly the pub was closed – no drink for daddy, no drive for Ava and Audrey..
Walking back to the caravan park, we spotted a miniature train ride that we thought may be fun. As the girls had been extremely well behaved, I purchased four tickets and an elderly gentleman played the role of train driver. The girls sat in their seats, I just struggled in – I don’t think these caboose are constructed to fit a caboose of my proportions! Surprisingly I fit with ease and off and away we went. The driver tooted his horn and started up the petrol engine. We travelled along the tracks, bending this way and that – passing boys on a BMX track performing tricks, went through a tunnel and around a pond or two. At the conclusion of the ride, Ava came up to me and gave me a big smooch and a hug proclaiming “thank you daddy, that was the best train. Ever!” The twelve dollars spent on the miniature train was worth the affection from Ava and that comment alone!
A quick lunch at the caravan park. The girls had a lunchtime sleep, I started writing some of the blog while Caroline went off to do a massive food shop to last us for the next few weeks. She returned to the park with the biggest shop done to date and had filled the car up with fuel on the way! As the girls had just risen from their daytime slumber Caroline wanted me to get them out of her hair whilst she packed in the groceries. Knowing the small dimensions we have to pack the shopping, I imagined Caroline using ‘tetris’ like skills to put the groceries in their rightful place. I volunteered to take the girls for an ice cream, “two ice creams in two days Daddy” Ava exclaimed. “Yes Ava” I replied quietly thinking to myself, ‘a little treat for the girls and daddy’!!
Audrey chose lemon gelato, Ava raspberry, while I was a little more forthright with my decision today, a scoop of English toffee along with a scoop of salted caramel. Shortly after starting to eat our ice creams Audrey performed one of her usual tricks. “I need a poo and a wee” she said. So off we trotted ice creams in hand to the local toilet. Job done, hands washed and recommence ice cream eating. The girls loved their gelato and were extremely good at sharing with each other. I am not sure whether their fondness for the raspberry gelato was due to the flavour or the after effect. Both girls had ‘lipstick red’ lips and matching tongues. Nonna, here is a photo especially for you!! The girls and I returned to the caravan park. Caroline had finished her shopping and was pleased with her efficiency “I still have room to spare!”.
We left the caravan park and headed back to the art dealer we visited on the previous day. We really loved the piece titled ‘Scrimshaw Black Jack Anderson’ – a painting about the aforementioned Australian Pirate. Loving the artwork so much and knowing what we had learnt today about Black Jack, we knew that it would be a living reminder of our 3 months in a caravan adventure. Recalling the advice provided in comment to yesterdays blog from Nanna along with Nonna’s wisdom “you never regret your extravagances but you can regret your economies” we purchased the painting and arranged for it to be sent home for our arrival.
Not feeling too motivated to cook a campsite meal, we agreed that a local meal would be the best way to end our evening in Esperance. The girls settled on ‘cow and chips’ (otherwise known as steak and chips), Caroline had a lovely thai beef salad, while I had beef nachos. Once again Ava and Audrey excelled themselves in the behaviour department, sitting patiently colouring in whilst waiting for their meals. Seeing as this day has been framed around art, we have included their fantastic colouring in to immortalise their efforts!!
Returning to the van, I am really looking forward to our next destination – only 100 kms East of Esperance, a campsite at Duke of Orleans Bay. When speaking with locals from Esperance they filled us with confidence that we had chosen a lovely location to spend Christmas. Stay tuned for more!!