Killer Pigeons and Wet T-shirt comps

Well we made it to one of Europe’s most famous cities, Venice. Venice has been known by many names, “La Dominante”,” Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The floating City” and the “City of Canals”. Maybe one name they have forgotten is “The City of Kamikaze Pigeons”. The crazy pigeons fly at break-neck speed at head height straight for your face. It was kind of funny at the start but it did get a little ridiculous. We started to see if we could give them a whack when they were trying to dive bomb us. Venice has been described as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” by The New York Times. Yes it is

Thanks Vee for these photo's

Venice Gondola’s

beautiful and is steeped in history, but that is a BIG call. I have visited countless beautiful cities and would consider Venice up there with the best of them but it is now over-run by tourists and it shows.  It is dirty, there is rubbish everywhere, the famous canals are filled with all types of tourist waste and the usual scammers and pick-pockets are everywhere. One of the Contiki crew got their bag nicked. They had to chase the guy through the streets with the pick-pocketer throwing stuff out as he ran. They were lucky and got everything back minus their money. They did however miss the ferry back to our campground. I think they hitched a ride with some random guy. They told us that the police in Venice did not want to have anything to do with them and just moved them on.

Thank you Vee for these photo's

Tiny romantic bridges over the Venice canels.

We wondered around the city and checked out the must sees, just so we could say we have seen them, like the limestone “Bridge of Sighs” the gothic arches of “Doge’s Palace” and “St. Marks Square” where the killer pigeons attack. Venice has some great markets. I love markets and constantly find myself lost, and found in them. Venice did not disappoint. They were great to loose yourself in. I brought myself a couple of Venetian masks to hang up and even a couple of “hand made” masks that one day I can wear to a Masquerade party. I use the term “hand made” loosely as I am sure they were made in bulk and the lady probably says that to all of her customers, but they looked great and are something that I can look back on and remember.

Thanks Vee for these photo's

Gondola ride in Venice

One of the must do things in Venice is take a Gondola ride. Contiki had organised one for us and we all bundled onto our tiny little long boats and were guided through the Labyrinth of canals by men wearing black and white striped shirts and red neck tie things (yes they actually do wear that). We were told that we would be on the Gondola for 45mins but were back at the jetty in 30mins, feeling a little ripped off however it was pretty cool to see Venice from the water in something that is a part of the cities magic. We could see how the buildings actually

Thank you Vee for these great photos

Very beautiful canels

went below the water level. You could see some of the buildings had doors that you could no longer use as the water is now half way up them. But, it gave us a closer look at how dirty the water is and how much the city needs help, it is sinking and it is noticeable. I have seen photos of St. Marks Square under water; they erect planks of wood so people can walk around it.

That night at least 6 Contiki buses full of 18 to 30 something’s ready to party converged on the campground. Contiki put on the “Fusina Beach Party” which is one EPIC party. Cheap drinks and plenty of them. Everyone gets a “Lifeguard” singlet and everyone is

Fusina Beach Party Lifeguards

I am not sure how much life saving we could do???

just wearing their bikinis and boardies. It is a hot night so there is not much clothing being worn by both sexes. They had a sumo wrestler comp, tug of war and a DJ that got everyone dancing like mad. They announced the start of the “Abs of Steal” comp for the guys and the “Wet T-Shirt” comp for the girls. By this time everyone was pretty liquored up and ambitions were out the window, down the river and out to the ocean. Guys were getting all greased up by the Contiki girls and were at home flexing there muscles, the Girls were getting hosed down, wiggling and jiggling all over the stage, Much to the excitement of all the rather intoxicated male gappies (Gap year students). At one stage a wet t-shirt competitor thought I don’t need this shirt anymore and off it came. Later that night a certain Japanese man who is a complete legend and can party bloody hard jumped up on stage and dropped his pants much to the surprise and cheers from the crowd.

The next morning a few very sore heads were slowly rising and making their way up to breakie, all looking worse than the next. We sat in silence nursing our breakie, thanks Vee you are a champ until someone piped up and said, “Does anyone remember…………” . Then everyone’s stories came out and there were a few. We packed up tents, had our much needed coffee’s at hit the road to Florence.

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A Mountain, A 30ft Giant Ram and a Kombi

My wife and I packed up the Kombi the other week and hit the open road. We were in desperate need to get away for a few days. You see, we are in saving mode again, this time to build our dream home on our little slice of heaven 1 hour north of Perth Western Australia. I will write a post about that little gem another day. We are living with the in-laws with my wife’s brother and girlfriend in a 3×1 home in suburban Perth. It is a little cramped at times to say the least. Anyway, we packed up the Kombi and drove the 5 1/2 hour drive from Perth to Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range National Park, in the breathtaking Great Southern Region of Western Australia. We had guessed it would take us closer to 7 hours in the Kombi but we were in no rush and we love the journey as much as the destination.

So Saturday morning came and we fuelled up and were greeted by another Kombi and wished him a great day out surfing and we were on our way. The first hour is pretty much just on the Freeway and then onto the new Forrest Hwy. This new road has opened up the south west and made it so much easier and faster to get down there. We drove through the picturesque sleepy town of Pinjarra that is seriously benefiting from the influx of passing traffic now. We then followed the winding roads and the flowing hills through Dwellingup. We passed through towns like Boddington, Williams, Arthur River, Kojonup, Tenterden and finally stopping for our last fuel up in Mt Barker. We turned off Albany Hwy and headed into The Stirling Range National Park, we were soon graced with our first sight of the beautiful Stirling Ranges. They stand strong and proud almost standing guard over the Great Southern Region. We wound our way through the farmland getting glimpses of the range between trees and paddocks and strangely enough a very bushy golf course. We were soon heading into the shadows and were greeted by the grandeur of the range. I was starting to get excited and even felt my heart rate climb as I knew in an hour I would be climbing my first trail for the weekend at Mt Trio. We found our camp ground, staked our claim and drove to the base of Mt Trio, dodged a bobtail lizard that was sunning himself on the gravel road, chucked on the sunscreen and started the accent.

Bloody hell the flies, the flies were so bad it was almost unbearable. There was no talking as we were to scared to open or mouths in fear of a swarm of flies making their home in there. The first 30minutes were so steep and hot it was quite difficult. But as we made it to the first pass we were stopped in our tracks by the view.

Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park

Stopped in my Tracks

Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park

Half way up

We took a short break and were relieved we were out of the valley with a slight breeze. The flies had buggered off and it was much cooler, actually very pleasant. We pushed on and made it to the top. We were surprised to only have bumped into only one pair of hikers on the way up. At the top it was windy but the view was breath taking. Mt Trio is only a small mountain but it is up there with the best in WA. It reaches 856m and consists of 3 peaks joined by a “Saddle” The trail is 3kms return and is said to take 1.5 – 2 hrs. We made it to the top in 40mins and down in 30mins.

Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park

At the Top

Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park

We made it

That night we camped at the Moingup Springs campground in the National Park, a Departments of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) campground. There is a ranger that collects your $10 per person per night fee. Which I felt was little steep for a camp ground but it doesn’t really bother me as that money does go to the National Park. The campground facilities were nice, there were proper toilets, not the drop dunnies that we are use to at these campgrounds.

Moingup Campground

The Kombi

In the morning we woke up early-ish and headed to Bluff Knoll, signed in the visitors register and started to wind our way up the road to the base. The base has great facilities, toilets, picnic areas and some shelter. The road up to the base is an experience in itself. We had to take it slow in the Kombi and at one stage I needed to shift down into 1st gear. Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the Stirling range and one of the most spectacular views in WA. Bluff Knoll is a mere 1095m so only a small mole hill compared to the worlds great mountains, but here in our very flat country Bluff Knoll is very unique. At the car park, lets call it “Base Camp” you get a jaw dropping view of the mountain and a giddy feeling of what the view from the top is going to be like. We got our kits together and started the climb. We were using this hike as a part of our training for Everest Base Camp Trek in April next year so we packed our kits up to 10kg. It was interesting as we passed many people who were making there way down with only one water bottle and hiking in runners. They would of all looked at us strangely. We had on full Alpine Hiking boots, hiking pants, full day kits with water bottles hanging off them.

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

Our travel mascots

The hike is beautiful. There was wildlife scrambling around. We saw a large lizard, drank water from a fresh water spring and stopped regularly to take in the view. On the southern side of the mountain the wind picked up which was a welcome relief. The day was so clear that we could see the ocean approximately 40km in the distance. It is at this point were you start to realise how high you are and then you seem to get that little bit more energy and pick up the pace to get the top. The last 30 minutes is a real hike, your out in the open, the flora changes into this low lying scrub that is scratchy. Lucky we were wearing our hiking pants hey! At places the track disappears and you find yourself walking up a creek bed. The rocky out crops we could see from base camp start to appear and soon you see a little sign that says 250m to the summit).

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

Fresh water creek

One and a half hours after we started we were having our morning tea sitting at the top finding ourselves just gazing out into the vast flatness of the country side, from this perch high up in the sky. From our rocky seats we could see for miles over farmland, over the other mountains and over to the sea. It was an amazing moment. It was windy but we did not care, I could of stayed there all day. However we did have the big drive back to Perth so we started our decent. Forty-five minutes later with few sore knees, we were back in the Kombi, refreshing ourselves and getting ready to find our way home.

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

At the Top, checking out the view

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

Ill let the view speak for its self

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

King of the Mountain

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park

My beautiful Wife Kristy at the top

We decided to take a different way home and I was hoping that I could get us to Wagin so I could get a photo of the Kombi infront of the famous Giant Ram. We ended up taking this ridiculous way home but we got there. The amazing thing was we found ourselves in Broomehill around lunch time and at this little Winery/ cafe by the name of “Henry Jones Winery & Cafe. Now if you ever happen to be anywhere near Broomehill you must drop in and say hi to Annabel and Jim. These two lovely people own the winery and have rescued the beautiful old building from demolition. They are renovating the corner store that also has the original town bakery and the original wood oven, butcher and now a art store. Annabel gave us a tour through her pride and joy, I cannot wait to get back there and visit her again. The food wine is to die for.

The Giant Ram, Wagin

I just had to get a photo

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