Sunday, 31 January 2021


 Who would have thought that I would still be at new Norcia. How one's life can change - and all in a good way. I was so fortunate to be able to stay here and carry on with my volunteer work when the borders shut in March last year. I had the caravan packed and was ready to leave for a trip to Queensland! There is plenty to keep me occupied.  I now have a fancy overhead scanner to work with. Perfect for the very old hand-written & fragile books that dont like being flattened on a photocopier. The monks now have digital access to all these precious books. I have also 'progressed' to the Collections Office and have the interesting job of checking that all the artworks are where they are supposed to be according to the computer. Another steep learning curve.

The Hotel is now called a hostel and although no longer run as the local pub, is being used for group bookings. The Abbot - an ex chef - is doing wonderful 4 course fine dining experience about  every 3 months. They are proving hugely popular and sell out very quickly inspite of the $120 per head price. Many come from Perth and stay the night in the Hostel, Convents and the guest house. Between these dinners there are musical evenings with Fr Robert entertaining us on the piano with his amazing musical talents. These evenings are more intimate with 40 people in the bar. Once again the Abbot cooks, and the next one is a French theme.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

2019 - 2020 New Norcia

Things have slowed down so much these days - well - at least as far as travelling goes.  I spent 2 months in Esperance house sitting on 12 acres. Just a lovely cat to look after, and birds to 'water'. It was so lovely to see and hear so many birds all day - not something I have experienced much in Australia. Lots of frogs around also.  Did many more beanies and managed to sell 20 of them to the local Mermaid Leather shop. I gave another 30 to friends in Waroona to sell as fundraisers.
I spent a month wandering along the southern coast. Stopped at Stokes Inlet for 5 days. A National Park and really well set up. Nice private sites. good for fishing and swimming I gather. On to Hopetoun [via Jerracutup Road] to do laundry and wash the dust of vehicle then to Wealstead. Great big flat area on a farm. Very tidy facilities although would be a problem if all the sites were full as there are only a couple of toilets, and a shower. The farmer is planning a kitchen area. Drove to Chester Pass for groceries at Woolworths. Plenty of parking there.  On through Albany to Ayr Sailean cp for a few nights. Very uneven sites if you dont want to unhook but great for the price. Rained while I was there which set the crickets off - SO noisy, then they suddenly stop!

Next stop was Shannon NP. What a change since my last visit. There are now 68 large drive through sites, new toilet/shower rooms and a kitchen, dump point and skips. wood, and axe and chopping block are provided to light the donkey for a hot shower. The old forest sites are still there but lots of Marsh flies I was told (in March). Was damp for the 2 days I was there also, and with no TV/phone or internet I managed to make more hats and read many books.

Next stop was Bridgetown CP for water, long hot showers etc. Quite a noisy park as the main road is above it and trucks start early in the morning!  Nice not to have to unhook though.
On to Nannup. I was going to check Workman's pool camp but Google showed Mowen Road beyond there as gravel so carried on to Alexander Bridge. What a lovely - and popular spot. Good toilets and drinking water. Had 6 days there, 3 of them with family trying their new camper trailer for the first time. We called into Sue's Bridge - very few caravan sites and the 2 camp hosts were using 2 of them! Heading up to Donnybrook I see that Mowen Road is a great sealed road now - somewhere to go another time.
Back to Waroona to catch up with friends. 3 of us went to Opera at the Mill at Jarrahdale. Did the VIP dinner and had a wonderful night. Stayed in an AirBNB there. 

Back up to New Norcia for 2 weeks volunteering in the archives again. So much needs doing. I have been scanning old records, and managed to sort and check about 1,500 photos. There are thousands to do. They have been numbered and scanned and put into boxes but all need checking and sorting into manageable packets. I was also shown the rooms full of donated books that need to be catalogued. I now have the house keys and will move in for a 5 month stay when I finish my 2 week house sit, so will probably not be writing much more in this blog this year.

 Update as at Sept 2019

Had a wonderful 4 months at New Norcia. Am in a house but doing 35 hours a week in Archives. Scanning letters, sorting and checking old photos, sccanning old admission records from the orphanage etc. Also so many laughs with the Archivist, and good company at the pub when I go there once a week. Have finished sorting 30,000 photos and only have 6 more folders of letters to scan. Lookng forward to a few more months  work when I get back in October.

September was a month off as the archivist was away so hitched the van and took a week to go to Kalgoorlie. Was going to camp out at Lake Perkolilli for the vintage car races but when the heat got up to 35 I decided that camping in the scrub with hundreds of others was not really my scene. So - hitched up and headed up to  Menzies with the intention of staying at Niagara Dam. Unfotunately I got side tracked with taking photos of great old cars and forgot to plug in the lights. By the time I got to Menzies the plug has disappeared. Luckly I got one sent down from Leonora and managed to wire it up. 2 days in the caravan park was not a problem with power for the AC in the heat, good company next door and meals at the pub!!!

Spent a night at Niagara Dam. No water and the loo is very full unfortunately. Only stayed one night as it was very hot but somewhere I would like to camp again especially if there is water in the dam.  Back to Broad Arrow Tavern for a night. Plenty of room out the back near the big tank, but was really surprised that the kitchen shuts at 5.30 so if you want one of their 'famous' hamburgers [average!] make sure you get your order in before then. The tavern shuts at 7! Had a couple more nights at Kalgoorlie and went out to see the races for a few hours. Thousands out there camping in the scrub. So pleased I didnt take the van out there.... DUST!!!! Some amazing old cars and motorbikes racing. There is an airstip in the centre of the lake and several small planes flew in as well. 

From there to Southern Cross then a lovely quiet drive on great sealed road via Bullrush to the Beringboodin Rock [only 10 km of good gravel road] where I stayed for 4 nights. The camping area has been set up with 8 flat sites and you can no longer drive further back around the rock. But have the luxury of a flushing loo! Lovely easy walking all over the rock.
Next stop was Beacon caravan park where if you book in at the great community shop you get a $10 voucher to spend in the  shop or for a pizza on a Friday at the Bowls Club. The info centre has lots of interesting stuff for sale.
I checked the Mollerin Rock camp but decided not to stay. Lots of room, toilets, firepit and good road in also. Suitable for caravans but might not be so good if the road was wet.
Spent a very quiet Saturday night at Cadoux camp instead. Beside the Recreation centre - and a golf course over the other side of the oval. It does say to get the key from the shop but not sure why as the shop is shut in the weekend, and there are unlocked public toilets beside the shop just a short walk up from the camp.
I am now back at New Norcia for a couple of months.

December update:
8 months working and still really happy to head off each morning to sit at a computer!!!! The letters are done! What a mammoth job, although there are still 5 boxes of the really early ones that I need help with as they have not been translated or summarised in a form that I can deal with. Might try again next year now I have had more 'experience'. I have learnt so much working here. "How hard can it be scanning letters " I thought.  That is easy enough but it is the absolute care needed in getting number/dates etc absolutely right that I now appreciate having decided to go back to check and having had to correct a few errors. I have also catalogued a donated collection of personal letters and photos - even that has a format to follow. Interesting stuff.
A couple of weeks holiday over Christmas and then back for a few more months - all new projects to start I am told.
How life can change in a flash. I had starting packing up the van mid March ready to leave the house that has been my home in New Norcia for the past 11 months  when the virus put a stop to life as we know it. I had decided to get back on the road and spend 2 months travelling to Mackay to see the family there. Fortunately I am able to stay here in the house and keep working, all be it for one of the Monks rather than the Archivist. All good and I am able to 'work from home'. I have had to unpack the caravan athough am not having so much wtuff back in  the house now!
The whole town has shut to tourist, with just the roadhouse open for food and fuel, plus the Post Office.

Update June 2020.
 Seems I will be here for a lot longer - WA borders are still closed and plenty of work for me it seems. So much for my big road trip = but very happy to stay here, and more interesting projects to do. I am helping to finish an enormous index of people and their activities from the 16 Salvado's diaries [1847-1900] and typing up the daily chronicles that the monks wrote - working on 1973. There is more scanning to do - pre 1900 wage & account books which will also need to be typed up - makes searching so much easier. I have written up info for display boards for the museum, and have more signs to make now the museum is being updated. I helped 'decorate' the old hotel with potties and lanterns, and will probably spend time in collections soon as the data base there needs updating.

In the past year I have scanned almost every letter in the archives, [the Salvado Collection of 20,000+ documents from 1837-1901], checked them off with their summary, written a few summaries where needed [not the Spanish/Italian obviously]; sorted into packets and checked the info on 40,000+ photos, scanned a few that were not done, digitised aboriginal orphanage records, made a pupil database.... This has been an amazing learning experience for me as archives require great precision and care. These archives are privately owned by the Monks and the information only available to researchers through the Abbot, but Salvado's sincerity in caring for and educating the Aborigines was very deep. Many children were given to him by their parents in those early days  to live here and be educated.  A fascinating place to spend my time - and to be able to sit at a computer most of the day is perfect LOL. I have a comfortable furinshed house in exchange for my volunteer work 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Had a lovely family Christmas around Perth then back down to Waroona to house sit for another 6 weeks.

Left late Feb to see friends at Seabird then on up to Sandstone. Stopped at Kirkalocka free camp which is about 4 km south of the station. Lovely big area well off the road, toilet and 2 dump points. Also stayed at the Miling caravan park - very small but it is quite adequate. there was heavy rain a couple of nights at Sandstone and at the station. Lots of water lying round and fresh green grass!!!!

 I drove though water over 2 floodways just out of Mt Magnet - that was exciting! Booked into the cp at Sandstone then decided to leave the van there for a week so I could go 50 north to Barrambie Station to stay with friends. Was not sure about gravel roads after rain. Had a lovely week at the station - recycles curtains for the bathroom and kitchen. I knew carting my sewing machine all round Aus was not a waste of space LOL. Did lots of experiments with baking bread. Decided that the dough hook and baking normally seemed better than the bread maker with it's smaller loaf.

 Went for a drive up to the vermin fence, checked out the airstrip, and up to the hills where there are many old mine shafts - and areas of new test bores. Apparently these hills are riddled with old shafts that have not been fenced or marked!

We went to Jundoo Dam one afternoon hoping to get some yabbies. No luck but would be a lovely camp.

 I picked the van up again and went to the dam but decided not to stay as it was very windy and clouds were building up. Was worried about heavy rain washing the road out and branches blocking the access also. Ended up at Mt Magnet instead. On down to Jibbering Reserve north of Wubin. Huge area with scattered trees. Far enough off the road to be quiet. Stopped at Dalwallinu for groceries and fuel and on via Kalannie to Beacon CP. Passed a huge cattle feed lot. Good sealed road all the way. Beacon has a great cp - very clean and tidy.
Royalties for Regions has done a great job of upgrading these small country places.

On to Mangowine Homestead for a few days. Only $12.50 a night for power, scheme water and a shower - a lean-to in a shed but does the job just fine! It is very hot at the moment - 37 so have the AC running. Caught up with my Kiwi friends - they are heading home this year after 5 years of spending 6 months a year travelling around. Good timing as I decided to update my passport and needed a Kiwi who was not family to verify my identity! Was perfect being able to do it all online, including uploading the photo.

Next stop was the Westonia Caravan Park where I was only intending to  stay for a couple of days but such a lovely tidy place, very good nightly and weekly price and some lovely people that I stayed for 9 days instead!
There is an amazing place there out in the bush on the edge of town. A hermit built a shack and lived there many years. The places is surrounded with brown glass beer bottles.  He had started to stack them but..... Also had built a long drop loo at some stage. Amazed me that no-one seems to have touched the place since he died - but I gather he was well respected in the town. He put the bottle tops back on many of the bottles.

Westonia is a delightful very tidy small town. They encourage retirees - I think the Council retirement houses are $80 pw! Free use of the pool and gym etc. A community run grocery shop, coffee shop and a tavern. Although the mining camp is right behind the caravan park it is very quiet. The Edna May mine is on the edge of town, and there are some lovely drives in the area to view the huge rocks.
April - flew to Mackay for my granddaughter's 12th birthday. Love flying over this country. Had to Google one area that was quite stunning - it was Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.

Back to New Norcia to do some more scanning in the Archives. Thoroughly enjoying that work. So much history in the letters written in the 1850-60's. I did manage to back the caravan into an overhanging branch there which broke a piece off the AC cover, and put a small split in a dent on the top. Thank goodness for insurance - $7,500 later!!! They replace the complete skin on the back just to get to the split. Also replaced the decals. One advantage of house-sitting is that I don't need the caravan to live in.

June - November saw more house sitting around Waroona, and 3 more weeks at New Norcia. I spent a week around Perenjori and Moora looking at the stunning wild flowers and checking out future camping spots.
I also decided to upgrade my vehicle. The old Navara was starting to cost too much to keep running so now have a 2012 Colorado.

I was Googling crochet patterns for a friend and found Tunisian Crochet  so started making beanies. I have not done hand crafts for years and am loving it.
A great 3 week trip back to NZ. spent most of the trip catching up with family, and friends I have not seen for many years. Shame it was rather damp much of the time.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Dec 2017

Almost the end of another year - how time flies :) I have spent much of the year around Waroona house-sitting again and spending time with the lovely friends I have in the area. Three months on one property - almost like having my own home!!!! I spent an extra 12 days there looking after some dogs and beautiful pups.
Spent 2 weeks back in New Norcia in November working Monday-Thursday scanning hundreds of letters from 1858 – 68. Firstly from Fr Martelli to Salado (the founding monk) in English for Dr Kinder to work on,  then from Salvado’s brother Santos – all in Spanish which will now be translated into English. There have been summaries done on all these letters and what interesting reading they are.
‘ thank you for the ton of tobacco. It was good to smoke but too mild to use as a sheep dip!’ (yes I Googled it – was used for lice etc)
‘it seems the Liberals over East are determined to get rid the savages to make a place for the white savages who will be far more ruthless’
‘she heard that the laundry lady used washing blue to whiten the clothes so she tried it on her face – and was quickly cured of her vanity’
‘… has been elected Foreign Minister (in Spain?). He is a convicted fraudster and married to a whore’.
‘We have found a cure for cholera. Juice of half a lemon, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of rum. We have cured 3 people so far. Also a decoction of mercury is excellent for purging the stomach of impurities’
And a beautifully written letter from the local aborigines asking the monks to please stop shooting their dogs even though the dogs were trying to ‘eat the little sheeps’!
I could have spent the whole time just reading these letters! The monks leased huge areas of land and looked after the local aborigines, who helped put the road through to Bindoon. They also traded many horses and set them by boat to India.  If anyone wanted to do history from 1847 I would recommend these archives as a goldmine of information. The monks were well informed of events in Europe as well as Australia.
I didn’t have access to the library which is in the monastery but they have books there that are very rare. Some of these are the only ones left in the world I gather! The priceless ones are all in a fireproof vault. A good thing too – lightning struck the copper pipes to the gas hotwater at the old police station while I was there and started a fire. Put out quickly before too much damage done.

I have decided to go back next March for a couple more weeks and whenever I can during the year. There are 30,000 photos that have been numbered but need to be put in order so they are easier to access as well as thousands of documents to be scanned. In exchange for help, volunteers are given free accommodation and 3 meals a day, but are only allowed to stay for 2 weeks at a time.  Wine is available at both lunch and with the 2 course evening meal, and of course their wonderful bread is always in abundance!!! Too tempting!!!!
I have had a month in the van again and wandered down to Greenbushes and Manjimup. It is still a lifestyle that I really enjoy but I am running out of 'new' roads to travel. Off to Perth for Xmas with family then back to Waroona to do it all again - have several places booked already  so looking forward to that.

Monday, 8 May 2017

April - October 2017

From Lake King I wandered up to Gingin for my cousins 70th. Lovely weekend. I was rather surprised at how much stubble is being burned off - very smokey. I thought that practice was discouraged. 

Spent Easter with friends at Seabird, then back to Waroona via 'back' roads to avoid the school holiday traffic. Lovely drive via Gingin, Bindoon Hill, Toodyay to Katrine camp beside the river. Bit tricky to get in to but flush toilets - always a big plus. Then to York intending to fill up with water - but my fancy anti-vandal tap fitting doesn't work on those tap. Got water at Beverley instead. On down to Pingelly and across to Pumphreys Bridge. Lovely big area down by the river, up behind the hall and on an oval out the back. Thought I was the only one there and a bit nervous about all the traffic stopping at the hall during the late evening. seems to be a meeting place - or maybe they just stop to use the loos. Anyway -  I see a van tucked away on the oval next morning.

 Enjoyed the drive via Crossman and Boddington. Thought about stopping there but went in to Waroona via Lane Pool. I had forgotten how narrow the north end of that road is - and with weekend traffic it was a slow cautious trip!
Farm sitting again - a couple of dogs and 600 acres. Enjoying being back amongst old friends in Waroona.

From there I went via Mt Barker (laid up a few days with a nasty cold) and on to Esperance where I had another farmsit for 6 weeks. Lovely old renovated house, 4 farm dogs, a cat, a bird and chooks. Did a trip to Lucky Bay, hellfire Bay, Stonehenge, Cape Arid (almost - road too wet and slippery).
Found the amazing Hakea Victoria in Helms Arboretum. Pity it is such a spiky plant - certainly has stunning colours.
Stood beside a snake at Hellfire Bay - thank goodness it seemed to be asleep. Not sure if a Tiger or  what but not getting too close whatever it was.
Stonehenge was amazing and the tidiest Tourist destination I have seen in Aus. The farm & business is for sale!
Big flock of black cockatoos flew past a couple of times - migrating I am told.

I made my way back to the next farmsit out of Waroona. Will be here 3 months so looking forward to catching up with all my friends in the area. The weather has certainly changed - wet and wintery but at least everyone has grass again.
New Norcia Benedictine Retreat – 29/9 – 2/10
My birthday present from the family was a weekend retreat at New Norcia. Lovely group of 9 people I was with. All good Catholics…..and heathen me. Dom Chris looked after us and ran sessions where he told us about being a monk, how New Norcia runs and the Benedictine Philosophy which was all very interesting. I did feel though that I had heard so much of that from ‘life coaches’ and motivational speakers – just not with the concept of God being the giver of this inner strength! We were shown very old material maps of the 1 Million acres they used to own & lease – down to 20,000 acres now which they have decided to lease out as that will make them more money.
Had silent 3 course meal with the monks one day – complete with our own '2.5 glass' bottle of wine. Coffee with another monk after lunch – and a glass of port! We were served by the Abbot and another monk while we listened to readings. Self-help cereal and toast breakfast and 2 course dinner with wine also!
They built 8 bedrooms against the monastery wall when they decided to expand the guest house. All twin ensuite rooms – with aircons donated by an Irish man who decided they were too hot! A suggested donation of $80 including meals is the going rate. Lots of people booked this week.
Went to Vespers a couple of times where the monks chant the psalms unaccompanied, and a beautiful Mass on Sunday in the chapel with the huge old organ. One of the new  monks is a musicologist and plays magnificently. He played Tchaikovsky’s Barcarolle on a piano during communion. Stunning acoustics in there. Maybe 30 locals there as well, and morning tea afterwards.
The monks pray 7 times a day for half hour (except Sundays ) starting at 5.15 am and last one at 8.15pm. Means they cannot ever get too involved in their other work and forget about their ‘mission’ to become a better holy person! They all commit to the monastery for life – some have been there 60 years!!!! The 3 we spent time with were delightful  - very well educated and lovely humour.
Anyway – I stayed an extra night so I could meet the Archivist who has been there for 10 years. I will go up for the 10 days soon to make a start on scanning letters from 1847 – 1860 from the original monk to people in Europe asking for money……and who knows what else. The Spanish ones have been translated and are on computer – they just need the originals copied now. There are thousands of documents to digitise all kept in temp controlled room. Huge interest from around the world for this stuff apparently.  I plan on going up there in March for however long I don’t know - 😊 Just waiting to hear where I can camp etc and what cost if any ….. 
Unlike priests, the monks do not administer to a congregation – although some monks are priests as well and do Mass etc. Father Anscar has spent 28 years at Kalumburu working with the bush aborigines and built a museum there. Full of funny stories and has written a couple of books about an abbey cat. He is feeling very sad though – since he left 5 years ago, 30 of them have died through drugs, suicide etc.
Interesting that anyone can go to Mass – I always understood it was absolutely not done if not Catholic. But the history of the place I find quite compelling. 

Decided to do a 'Morphography' picture for the Waroona show!