Published: September 4th 2007June 29th 2007
Campervan company - Trailmasters - was located shortly before 10 a.m., after
another hearty breakfast at the Emperor's Crown. A few formalities, like leaving
a $5000 bond, were quickly gotten over with and I chugged out in the Mercedes
diesel, pop-top camper on a beautiful, sunny winter's day in Perth to collect my
other half and head north for more sunshine and cheaper beer - it's astounding
the pre-conceptions you have before each experience in life. If you could just
do it all again .... Well, the first thing that I wouldn't have repeated was to
stop in a shopping centre just north of Perth and fill the van's teeny fridge
full of food. Our first big grocery bill was nearly 300 bucks - ridiculous! -
except for the 80 bucks worth of booze which was considered an essential item
so that we wouldn't kill each other over the 3 weeks in a very enclosed space.
Anyway, deliberations on how much juice, which bacon, the best fruit, the least
offensive vegetables and how much my total baked bean intake could be before I
became a danger to the local population proved to be lengthy and complex, so it
was nearly 3
p.m. before we faced our mobile residence northwards once more and
attempted to make some ground up. We got as far as Guilderton, just over 150
clicks north of Perth. Even getting that far meant breaking the cardinal rule of
driving in WA - no driving at dusk or dawn, so as to avoid having a misfortunate
kangaroo mashed into your front bumper. It was well after 5 when we rolled
into the immaculate campsite at Guilderton, which was windswept, spotless and
extremely quiet ..... This was to prove the defining characteristic on the west
coast: all the locations proving to be apt reflections of it's capital with
cleanliness, tranquility and no-fuss as points of pride. That was grand, we pulled
in, plugged in our vehicle with the long orange chord we had been provided with
and headed to the camp kitchen to have our first aussie barbie. This is not the
the hot coals and cast iron grill affair that many europeans associate with a BBQ,
but rather a half metre square hot plate, heated from below at the press of a button
and inclined towards a hole in the centre to allow the grease and oil to flow
Our first barbie was Agnes and I, myself and herself, me and her nibbs - just the
two of us. Not a sign of anybody around, just coming up to 8 o'clock and even the
few grey nomads on site were already tucking in for the night. I should explain that
the people of retirement age who travel the highways and byways of the australian
continent have been labelled grey nomads by either themselves or possibly younger
nomads. In any case, these very experienced travellers have hitched a caravan to
their 4 wheel drive or loaded all their favourite ornaments and pictures of
grandchildren in the Winnebago and spend their time travelling around the continent
(usually following the coast in one direction). More on this species in a later
excerpt, but suffice to say for now that none were present at our inaugural feast
of pork chops, caramelized onions, teriyaki sauce and Emu beer. A recently acquired
Swan valley wine (Lancaster, I seem to recall) was also partaken of in liberal
measures and despite our solitude (or maybe because of it for the first time in
months) we had quite an enjoyable evening.
The next day we breakfasted in
The long road ahead ....
... from the right side.The left that is!
the kitchen, had a walk up to the beach lookout and
photographed our first pelicans before turning off onto the Brand highway and heading
north on the wrong side of road. Yes indeed, despite 3 months back home in Tipp
driving on the left without a single mistake, the first chance I get in Oz to
commit suicide came surprisingly quick. We were trundling along at a nice speed of
90 kmh (still wary of the kamikaze roos) when I noticed a car in the rear view which
appeared to be performing a very unorthodox overtaking manouvere. Even though it was
more than 300 metres behind it had already crossed over the white line to overtake us
and was not gaining very fast. Sweaty armpits, palpatating heart and a dry throat,
close to death feeling which I had not had since looking up at a big wave in Asturias
meant that I meekly steered the van back to the left side of the road and for the next
couple of weeks surmised about the various tragic possibilities that could have come
to pass for those 4 to 5 minutes which we drove on the right hand side of the
Thanks to the extremely low population of WA our chances of survival were statistically
better than elsewhere around the coast, but one hurtling road train would have done us
in for sure. These monsters are literally goods trains on tarmac - a juggernaut with 3
or 4 artic trailers towed behind, mowing down roos and cattle at a constant 100 kmh and
only stopping for coffee, meat pies and other manly needs. Our number wasn't up, I guess.
Maybe our minds had been on other things, like the fact that the fridge had defrosted
during the the night and our food was already going off. We had called the rental
company, Trailmaster, before leaving Guilderton, but they didn't seem overly concerned
and in any case since it was a Friday, they could not get us help until the Monday earliest.
A poor excuse for our lack of concentration, but this fridge problem was to plague us for
over half our trip. Anyway, our attentions were soon divereted shortly after we entered
Namburg national park and saw a gaggle? group? party? of 4 emus, erractically running around.
This was quickly followed by 2 very dark brown kangaroos sticking their heads
out of the
bush and hopping gracefully away with a look of non-interest in our vehicle and it's
mixed race occupants. Still, we were absolutely thrilled! All this wildlife and it was only
the second day. It was going to be a 3 week safari!
We arrived at the official park entrance shortly afterward and purchased our 4 week national
park entrance card without a second thought (WA only), so convinced by the initial output of
wildlife that we would have happily paid twice the price. Were the really rangers in disguise?
Surely the Emu's legs are too thin and the roo's jumped too high? I don't believe that we ever
saw so much fauna in such a short period of time during our whole time in Oz, except maybe will
snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. We luncheoned at Hangover Bay, and although not suffering
from that condition we decided to empathize with the general idea by boldly consuming a can of
Emu in the early afternoon - this was to become a daily ritual on our travels, well for me at
least. Next was the Pinnacles. A weird formation of limestone columns, among windswept sand
dunes, with a 3km
driving route winding through them. Photogenic for sure, but not very interesting.
The nearby town of Cervantes, gave us both a good laugh, as every street is named after some
spanish city or person - Madrid street was very disappointing.
The big town of Geraldtown proved a necessary stopover the following Sunday, as we could see a
mechanic the next day concerning the fridge problem. A fairly big place, by WA standards, it proved
to be another quiet stay for us. The man announced that the fridge worked fine on 14 volts from the
engine, but the 12 volts from the battery wasn't sufficient. Solution? Trailmaster said that their
man in Kalbarri would know, we pointed the van that way.
There are more photos below