A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 7)

How are you at navigating? Are you any good with reading maps? Do you use the sun to gauge direction? I'll admit navigating has never been my best attribute, yet as hubby is the driver that leaves me as the navigator. Sometimes that is not a good idea especially on the other side of the country. No matter how many times we have visited Perth, I can't get the hang of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean when I have grown up watching it rise over the Pacific. This seems to throw my sense of direction out every time. I know the sun sets in the west, but my brain tells me it rises over the ocean, so I have this internal argument whenever we are in Western Australia as I just can't determine north in my mind. It's an internal struggle that baffles me. I was in the midst of working through one of these navigational struggles when we departed Perth. Hubby as usual, just started to drive not waiting for my directions. He knew where we were heading. I'm glad one of us did. Our next planned stop was Geraldton, a 4 1/2 hour drive north if we didn't detour. Only problem was, I wanted to go via the coast road and it took me some time to work out exactly which road hubby had taken. We were further inland than I had hoped. After some discussion, (and convincing on my behalf) I found a road to take us across. An hour later we were back on track heading towards the Pinnacles.

The Pinnacles Desert is an amazing place that we have been to before, but I wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Information Centre in the hope that they might be interested in considering my books. We did take advantage of being there and drove through the site again. The Pinnacles are stunning limestone formations that jut out from the desert floor in a fashion similar to a termite nest. They rise from the yellow desert sands in various heights up to 3 m tall and number somewhere in the thousands. As you wind your way through the drive, there are places to pull over, allowing you the opportunity to walk around and take spectacular photographs. It is believed these limestone Pinnacles were formed from the shells of an ancient sea bed. At various locations you can see the superb aqua of the ocean as a perfect background. The visit did prove worthwhile, the manager of the Information Centre was delighted with Emma the Eager Emu and Frazzled Freya and to my excitement placed an order to stock both books. After all, if you are lucky and stay in the area overnight, you will be more than likely to see both emus and frill-neck lizards so my picture books are perfect for their gift shop.





Geraldton to my surprise was a much larger town than I had expected. My Grandfather had been stationed there during WW2 so I was interested to see what it was like. It is a very well maintained town with beautiful old federation architectural buildings down the main street, but there are also many new modern buildings around as well. The harbour is filled with an abundance of fishing boats and yachts. I thought it was really quite pretty. We only stayed overnight though as the plan was to reach Shark Bay and Monkey Mia the next day.

The drive from Geraldton to Shark Bay should have been easily done by lunchtime, but there was so much to see we didn't arrive until well after dark. We detoured off the main highway across to the coast to see the very small fishing village of Port Gregory and its amazing Pink Lake. The lake becomes pink at certain times of the year due to bacteria in the algae that gets trapped in the salt granules that cover the ground instead of sand. A bit of local sense of humour was on display, look closely at the fisherman in the photo. Everyone stopped to take a pic, myself included, I couldn't resist.

We continued along the coast road to be able to stretch our legs and do the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs walk. This walk should come with a warning, it's not for the faint-hearted.  There are several walks to choose from, all along sandstone cliffs that plunge around 100 m to the ocean below. They do provide spectacular views and you can choose the short walks to some of the lookouts. However we decided to take a path between lookouts that leads along the edge of the cliff top. About halfway around I realised this was perhaps not a good idea. The wind felt like it was almost gale force and hubby is frightened of heights. The path was so close to the edge he was terrified. There are no railings to protect you from falling off the edge. He gripped my hand so tight I thought I would lose circulation. He was so relieved when we reached the end of the trail, until the moment he became aware he would have to turn around and make the trek back along the path to reach our car parked back at the opposite end. I should mention also, be sure to take plenty of water with you if you ever do this walk. The path is very exposed, there is no shade and it is quite hot, even with the wind.




To my delight, even though my son had said it was a bit late in the season for wildflowers north of Perth, we found many stunning examples. I couldn't resist asking to stop the car to take photos of wildflower displays the likes of which I had never seen before.

Swimming with the dolphins at Monkey Mia had been on my bucket list for years. On arriving at Shark Bay I was so excited, the time had finally come. To top things off, as we drove around the back streets of the small town we came across a couple of emus grazing in someones yard.  Unfortunately Monkey Mia did disappoint me a little. It has become too touristy. What was once a pristine wilderness area is now set up to make money. Be prepared to pay to enter the National Park, pay to watch the rangers feed a small handful of the older dolphins, pay to go out on a boat to see the dolphins. No longer are you allowed to swim with them either. In fact you are not allowed in the water at all if the dolphins are there. I understand the need to protect them as the place has become very popular and it would be far too much for the dolphins if everyone were allowed to touch them. Our understanding of protecting animals has improved so much and it is good to see them well cared for. An English tourist tried to wade into the water to touch the dolphin we were photographing, the park ranger appeared in no time to demand he step back and leave the water. Still couldn't help being a little disappointed, I had come so far and was so close, but could not join this magnificent creature in her watery world.




We had lunch at the Aquarium and had a fascinating tour by a marine biologist who shared so much knowledge of the marine life of the area. To complete our day we took an off road drive through the red sand dunes. Once again we came across emus, this time a whole family, with chicks as well. They were gorgeous. I loved finding them out in their natural habitat. 

My lack of navigation skills had proved not too much of a problem. We made a few unnecessary detours, but in the end, they proved to find some wonderful worthwhile places to see.

Have you managed to navigate a trip successfully or discovered amazing unplanned places? Where did you go?

Next week: The return trip begins. Gold mining towns and back across the Nullabor.


Fun, laughter, mischief tied together in my two new books!

As most of my readers know by now, one of my goals in life is to help parents improve the literacy skills of their children by providing uniquely fun and imaginative books for them to read together. As I stood beside my former colleague and dear friend Sue LaFlamme and listened to her present the opening speech for my double book launch I realised two things. She really gets me and understands my dreams. I felt so honoured by her wonderful words of praise for both myself and my books, that I wanted to share her speech with all my readers that could not make it on that memorable morning here in Canberra. So, without any further ado, I give you Sue :-

It is with great pleasure that I introduce a fabulous person and author, Sandra Bennett, to you today. I have known Sandy for more than a decade and I have observed some wonderful things about her: - she is fun - she loves to laugh - she enjoys good mischief - she has a great sense of humour - she understands lots of special things about other people and particularly about kids, (big and small)

Most importantly she knows how good a fabulous well planned, researched, well-written and well-read book can be. So, I'm extremely lucky today because I am able to suggest that you dive into the pages of two new books. These are called "Emma the Eager Emu" and "Alien Shenanigans/" Book_Launch_12_46 Book_Launch_8_01 The two books are completely different, cleverly illustrating that Sandra Bennett is an adaptable author, knowing that her reading audiences love to read a range of genres and books that emphasise different things.

I think that your toughest decision today will be which one to read first, Emma the Eager Emu or Alien Shenanigans? Flip a coin! Heads. So, it's Emma the Eager Emu.

Actually, I'm not going to read it to you, but I'll introduce Emma to you through my eyes. First of all, Emu's are such big birds, that have big dreams. I'll tell you now, Emma is the same. She dreams big - of something I always wanted to do as a child - and that is to fly. Emma is extraordinary. She has intellect, persistence and the strongest of desires to make dreams real. Emma sets about this. as her creator - Sandra Bennett, sets about tasks - she plans, imagines, deliberates, investigates and keeps on going!

In the end I think you'll discover Emma's amazing feat. I can't tell you more, except that you will really enjoy reading this book. I will add that the illustrations are an absolute delight. Gourmet! Emma the Eager Emu will be well loved and recommended.

Now I turn to "Alien Shenanigans." It has a certain unknown mystery about it. Dad da daa! Are there truly such things as aliens? If so, or not (as the case may be) we can imagine that there are! We can also imagine a melody of mishaps around mischievous full of beans kids, especially when they come into contact with an observant, witty, lovable alien.

I wonder what your favourite part of Alien Shenanigans will be? Will it be foods that fly, the giggles, the serious investigations or the extreme science experiments?

My favourite part is the driving force behind the story - the kids. Sandra Bennett knows that without these characters - the kids - books, life and the universe would be somewhere less special, adventurous, creative and imaginative. True!

So, without further so ons, I'll introduce the lovely, clever and fun Sandra Bennett and her two new reads: "Emma the Eager Emu" and "Alien Shenanigans."

Thank you so much Sue for your faith in me and my books. The time you spent reading and preparing your speech was very much appreciated. I hope the kids in your class enjoyed both books.

Hands up, who believes in aliens? Could there really be lovable, mischievous aliens hiding out there somewhere?

For helpful tips and tricks to improve your child's reading come and join in the discussion by joining my facebook group Raising Awesome Readers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/847306541974020/855851921119482/?notif_t=like

Five Fun Facts About Emus

With my book launch almost here, for both "Emma the Eager Emu" and "Alien Shenanigans" meaning double the fun with double the books launched! I thought it was time to have a fun look at a few fascinating facts about emus.  20150514_165618-1

My very first memory of an encounter with an actual live emu was when I was ten years old and I visited Symbio or what it was then called, Helensburgh Zoo, nestled in a quiet little town in the middle of Sydney's Royal National Park. We were having a picnic lunch, (as you do) and I was happily eating my sandwhich, (most likely vegemite) when I turned away to look at a friendly hairy nose wombat that came wobbling towards me. Next thing I knew, an emu had snuck up from behind and stretched out its long neck and snatched my sandwhich from my grasp.

This leads me to fun fact no 1.

1. Emus love to steal food from unsuspecting picnicers and campers. If Emus are around when you are eating, keep an eye on your food at all times!

2. Emus have rather long necks and very sharp beaks which they can use to their advantage when sneaking up to steal your food.

3. Emus have big beady eyes, (all the better to see your food with). These eyes have two different eyelids. One is used for blinking just like you and me, the other is used to keep out the dust, and it gets very dusty in the Australian Outback.

4. An emus egg is enormous! They are very thick shelled, dark green and weigh about 1/2kg or 1lb. After the mother lays 7 or 8 eggs, it is actually the daddy who sits on them to keep them warm until they hatch.  20150514_164223-1The illustrated emu egg pictured here has been hand painted by an Indigenous Australian, beside it lays a chicken egg for you to compare their size.

5. The emu is the tallest bird in Australia, second only in the world to the Ostrich. An emu stands up to 2m tall or almost 6.5 feet, so her legs are very, very long! In fact she can run so fast, she has been said to "run the pants off a kangaroo!"

Below is the link to the Wiggles performing the classic song "Old Man Emu" who can "Run the pants off a kangaroo!" Love It hope you do too! :)

Old Man Emu by the Wiggles.

Don't forget the book launches.

1. Paperchain Manuka (Canberra) 11:00 am Saturday 16th May 15

2. Shine Gifts Cullen Bay (Darwin) 5-9 pm, Friday 22nd May 15