I was awake around 6 am and went out for a walk, hoping to catch some birds with my long lens. Sunrise was a little before 6:30 am so there was light enough but the heavy morning mist made it difficult to see and focus. I managed to catch a couple of images as I enjoyed my circuit around part of the river walk we missed yesterday and back the same way we had come.
We had agreed to go to breakfast at 7 am so I arrived back a bit after 6:30 am to shower. As I opened the door to our room Lynne popped out of theirs to tell me they had seen in the guide that there was mass at 7:30 am and they were planning to go. We showered and joined them in the chapel but there was no mass today. We discovered later that the monks had visitors and had all gone with them to Rottnest Island to see the quokkas.
Breakfast was self serve. We ate muesli with yoghurt followed by toast and coffee. By the time we were done with eating and talking it was around 8:30 am.
My recollection was that the information centre opened at 9:00 am. We were 10 minutes early for that and found the actual opening time was 9:30 am. There were seats and birds to watch so waiting was not a problem. John and Lynne used some of the time to call the car rental company and arrange to upgrade to a larger vehicle on our way south tomorrow. That should solve our baggage problem.
While we were waiting we were approached by Steve, a tour guide who was there with friends. He inquired where we had come from and what we were planning while in WA. He needed no encouragement to launch into a spiel about the 5 wineries we must visit in Margaret River. He got only as far as number four with deviations before he wandered off onto other subjects. That entertained us until opening time and will have us doing some homework to incorporate at least some of his suggestions.
Once inside the information centre we bought our tickets for the afternoon walking tour and access to the museum and gallery. We also browsed the offerings in the store and Majella bought a couple of small items.
The museum and gallery were in the same building and extended over three floors. We spent some time in the museum area on the ground floor looking at displays of historical objects and reading the information panels about the history and development of the monastery and town.
Around 10:30 am we walked the short distance to the roadhouse where we had coffees and a small snack. Then it was back to the information centre. The current special display is a series of central Australian landscapes by Albert Namatjira, his sons, and a couple of other artists from Hermannsburg. There were some similarities in style but also visible differences in quality.
Upstairs we found a gallery with an extensive collection of religious items (vessels, vestments, and more), some art works by 17th and 18th century European artists, and a variety of contemporary art. Most had religious themes but in some cases the connection was challenging to discern. Among the more memorable was a set of photographs making the 14 stations of the cross. In some the connection of the image to the event was clear but in others it was less obvious, perhaps intended to encourage deeper contemplation.
Lunchtime was approaching so we had to rush through the final exhibits on the floor above that. They included some older paintings and a variety of objects from the period when the building served as a school for indigenous girls.
Our three course lunch, the main meal of the day, was served at 12:30 pm. It consisted of creamy tomato soup, meatballs with mashed potato and mixed vegetables, and a platter for fresh fruit pieces (strawberry, kiwi fruit, rockmelon, and watermelon) with ice-cream. As at dinner last night, there was fresh bread and wine or water available.
There was some time for a brief rest after lunch before we headed back to the information centre for our 1:30 pm guided tour. Our guide, Tracy, was a former Scottish backpacker who had met a farmer while travelling in the area and stayed. She was well versed in the history and other aspects of New Norcia and delivered that with a smattering of her own personal stories in her Scots accent.
The walking tour lasted almost two hours. It started with a brief talk about the history of the monastery and schools. The abuse of children that had occurred was acknowledged and we were told about the memorial rock that had been placed in cooperation with the indigenous community whose children had been among those abused.
Highlights of the tour included the church in the centre of town and the chapels in the boys’ and girls’ schools. They each included beautiful painting, wood carving, and plasterwork. The church had been extended at one time for extra capacity, though that is no longer needed. It has a large pipe organ which was imported from Germany in more than 30 crates and took 18 months to be reassembled.
After the tour had finished, we walked back to the guesthouse, paid for our accommodation so as not to miss the office which closes early, and then set off in the car to see some wildflowers in a nearby reserve. On the way out of town we spent a few minutes by the memorial rock to place pebbles and reflect on those sad events.
My iPhone navigation app guided us to Rica Erickson Reserve, about 20 km out of New Norcia. Because the app was set to a location close to the far end of the reserve we did not see the first sign. Just beyond the second sign there was a rough track going off the sealed road. John drove a little way on, turned, and then crossed the rough gutter onto the track. We parked a few metres in and walked among the wildflowers in the bush. There was a wide variety of blooms in different colours, shapes, and sizes so we spent 30 minutes or so looking at flowers and taking photographs.
Getting out of the track where we had parked was a challenge. John had to do a 3 point turn in limited space and then carefully navigate the gutter back onto the road. Then he had to drive further on to turn and come back to collect us. That all ended smoothly and we made it back to the guesthouse without incident.
According to the schedule, dinner was later tonight at 7 pm so we had time to relax before eating. Majella, Lynne, and John walked up to the lounge to play cards. I waited in our room for a while to catch up on writing. Around 6 pm I wandered up and watched the card players for a while. That was lucky because dinner was actually at 6:30 pm.
Our menu tonight was tomato soup followed by quiche and salad. Both were delicious. As usual there was fresh bread and wine for those who wanted it. We sat at a table with Wendy, a WA local from York, and her friend Mandy from Sydney. We talked about a variety of things including John’s Camino experience and tourist attractions in Margaret River and elsewhere in the southwest.
After dinner I was cajoled into playing a few hands of five hundred. Majella likes her games and Lynne and John play Bridge and are keen for any card games. I’m less enthusiastic about card games, especially when I can think of other things to do such as finish this post and select some photos to go with it.
By 8 pm the card players were all done. We talked briefly about plans for tomorrow, agreeing to eat breakfast at 7 am and make an early start. Then it was time to retire for the night.