Published: June 27th 2009June 14th 2009
After a flight from Cairns to Brisbane (2 hours), 1 hour wait then fly from Brisbane to Perth (5 hours) we were finally in Western Australia. Amazing to think it would take us that long to fly across the same country. Once again, they were all correct when they said that OZ is big!
We had our first day wandering around in Perth, which was a beautiful city. The views from Kings park across the harbour are some of the nicest of any city. The fact that the bus to Kings Park is also free is another bonus for Perth! Con though was some camera shop in the old London street as we got ripped off big style for our camera repair, 20 GBP just to blow some air on the lens cover to loosen off some dirt!
We payed for a taxi to the car rental company we were booked with. We started to fill in the paper work, but just then when they asked us where we were heading (i.e. out to a bit of the outback at Kalgoorlie), they informed us that they do not allow the cars outside the city. What a blow! Vik managed
to snap about how the website doesnt mention this, we are now out of pocket for the taxi and left having to spend time to organise something else and make our way back into town. They couldnt have cared less. If you are going to WA and want to rent a car DO NOT search for the cheapest deal on the web, it is cheaper for a reason and their websites are not clear.
Anyway, we found Avis and amazingly managed to get a car that we could take wherever we wanted and we saved a hundred pounds! We never lost any time and made our way 600km east towards the outback gold mining town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Immediately getting out of Perth it is carpeted with Green Bush and orange earth, it was really feeling like the Australia that we thought we might have seen by now. We got some digs opposite the local brothels and immediately went to check the notorious bars in town.
They have "skimpies" working behind the bars which is to say that the barmaids are attractive young females serving up beer in their underwear. We got our extortionate beer and sat down to
soak up the atmosphere. Later on there was live rock music and of course some of ACDC´s Highway to Hell for Vik to dance about to. Across the road, the pub was flashing up in neon the daily exchange rates for Gold and Nickel. Next day we headed to the Super Pit, the biggest gold mine in OZ. This pit is enormous and the trucks look teeny weeny driving about. We were there for the 1pm Explosion. We expected some kind of warning of when it would go off as apparantly its never that timely. There was no warning, the little tin hut and ground started to shake like there was an earthquake, then we heard the sound of the explosion, but we couldnt actually see where it had went off. Nevermind, it was pretty cool to feel the earth moving.
We took a drive out to Mackay a tiny place an hour from Kalgoorlie so that we could drive another hour on unsealed sandy roads to Lake Ballard, which is a salt lake with weird alien like sculptures on it. We arrived at Lake Ballard alone and now feeling very very remote. Perth is considered to be one
of the remotest cities on earth, so we had driven already 600km from there, then 130 km to Mackay then another 55km to Lake Ballard. Lake Ballard was incredible, otherworldly kind of place. The sculptures are like aliens and you feel like your in their world. There are thousands of flies and they all want to smother you. We checked a few of the sculptures out and soaked up the atmosphere for a bit but had to make a move to avoid the Kangarroo traffic that comes out at dusk. We headed back on the dusty road and got blinded by a couple of trucks kicking up all the red earth all over the car.
We decided to stay another day in Kalgoorlie to check out the open day at the mining museum. We panned for gold, and Neil found a few specks and we had a tour in an old mine. There were competitive activities going on that involved the emergency mine rescue teams. They were competing at resolving set up accident scenes that we stood and watched and then became worried about how long they would take in a real life situation. We headed back to town
Mummy and baby truck
Just for reference the smaller truck on the right is the size of a bin lorry.
to check Boldour, once a separate town but now eaten up by Kalgoorlie. Boulder was another kettle of fish. Within 5 minutes of being on the main street, a man shouted "nice arse" at Vik (or maybe it was Neil?) out of the car, then two guys were getting chased up the street by a shop owner looking for money for the chewing gum they had stolen and then to top it off as we approached a pub a man ran out of the door and threw a pool ball across the road an on to the roundabout for no apparant reason or with no concern to whether there was traffic or pedestrians. We decided it was best to get out of Boulder, but when we got back to Kalgoorlie there was nothing open to buy food. Remebering the shop in Boldour we had to head straight back to get some food and then we took off at speed in our 1.3 Hyundai Getz.
Next stop on from Kalgoorlie was South to Esperance. We were told that the most beautiful beaches in the world are here (told by Australians of course). We had a quick drive round and immediately
saw some of the amazing coastline. The next day we headed for a national park and climbed Frenchmens peak for incredible views over the park. It was breathtaking! one of the best lookouts we have experienced. We made our way down the ridiculously steep hill and headed for famous Lucky Bay. Wow! Lucky Bay IS one of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see. They were right. Unlike the East of Australia, the beaches here are very quiet, the sand is like white flour and the water is the most awsome blue colour.
We checked out some more spectacular bays in the park, but you cant really swim here, its full of surf, which normally wouldnt be the kind of beach that we would like, usually opting for calm waters that quietly lap at your feet, but the colours here were incredible. Unfortunately we did it a bit wrong, and never brought any food or stuff to barbeque and were starving hungry so headed back into town.
After Esperance we headed to Albany. Albany, also has some nice coastline but not quite of Esperances´ beauty. There is some wreck diving, but it is very expensive. We decided
See the weird alien standing there?
it would be best to press on the following day. We checked out the famous Tingle Tree top walk. Nice enough and quite serene with some trees that you can walk through. We kept going until we got to the famous wine region of Margaret River. It has some nice coast line and apparently some of the best surfing in the whole of OZ and the world. So we still hadnt tried surfing, why not try it in THE place for surfing. Unfortunately as this was wine region, we decided to get some wine. It was going down to well so we went for some more and some beers. We had met a couple of guys at the hostel and sat chatting to them. One actually turned out to be quite an arse and kept flicking his bottle tops anywhere he pleased and one cap actually sliced across the top of Neils nose. We awoke with a hangover and headed down to the surfing.
The guy who ran the surfing lessons was your typical expected Australian surfer, with bleached streaky hair and just really cool dude image. We were put with another instructor as the owner was taking the
school kids out for their weekly lesson. We thought it was great that in OZ you get surf lessons form part of the curriculum! Anyway, the waves looked ok initially but when we got down to the beach, they seemed to get much bigger and started to look pretty intimidating. We had stupid extra long boards for begginers and we started to paddle out. Paddling out was really tiring and turned out to be the most difficult part. At first we could get on to the boards to ride the waves but only on our knees. It immediately became apparent why people adore surfing, it is really thrilling. Several more attempts and we were able to stand on one foot and one knee. It was too exciting to remember that you were supposed to stand all the way up. Vik managed to ride all the way back on to the beach but the surf was pretty strong and started knocking the board back and forward against her. Everything was fine though and Neil turned up also half drowned having swallowed a litre of sea water. A rest was needed before getting back in and going for full standing up position.
We did both get up in the end but only for a few seconds before being knocked off. Surfing tried and tested, tick. We will definately be doing it again.
We stayed in Margaret River a few days, checked out a cheese shop, searched endlessly for some chocolate factory with no success and finally visited the sheep shearing shed. The sheep shearing was pretty cool and we got to hold and feed some lambs. The sheep dogs did a little display of their stuff with one actually climbing on top of the sheep and scaring them forward. We got a free sample of the raw wool which we are still carrying about, so now Viks bag smells like a roast lamb dinner.
From Margaret River we headed to Freemantle, a town near Perth. Fremantle is full of cafes and the streets are crowded with people eating outside, so it has a nice atmosphere although we still opted for our cheapy Asian food court specials. We got ourselves out of Freemantle and headed to Rottnest Island, only 30 minutes in the ferry. Rottnest is a weekend getaway island for Perthites and we hope they realise how lucky they are.
There are no cars allowed on Rottnest, so the Bicycle is king. We rented a couple of bikes and made our way round the island. OK it is busy at the entry point, but there are enough bays here to get one all to yourself. Some of the beaches and bays are spectacular. The water is crystal clear and warm. Even when we headed away from the coast and into the centre, we found some interesting salt lakes. The famous Quokkas (type of marsupial that is like a big rat) are extremely friendly (looking for food) and come running up for pets. Rottnest is lovely, we could imagine that living in Perth would be great! A beautiful city with an amazing paradisical getaway island for the weekend.
We had a few more days left with the car so we decided to head North of Perth to get to the Pinnacles desert. We finally got to our stop for the night and were in time to visit the pinnacles for sunset. We drove along and into the golden sands on the 4km circuit. We found a cool spot to watch the sunset against the hundreds of golden cone shapes coming
No need to work anymore
Neil has panned for gold and found his fortune
out of the desert. We were warned about driving back because of the Kangaroos, and they are not wrong. We seen quite a few at the road sides and they are huge. We traipsed back very slowly. This small town we had stopped was in season for cray fish and the owner of the hostel gave us a voucher to go to some country club for a meal. We got the crayfish platter for two and it was fantastic, also including squid, prawns and snapper. Full up we headed back to the hostel, where they seemed to have some fascination with crop circles, photos everywhere and UFO magazines lying around, folders filled with conspiracy theory information and the likes. It kept us amused for the evening, especially the bit that was apparantly written by an alien telling us that they are all around and we only have to ask to see them and they will appear.
We returned the car in Perth a couple of days early and didnt expect anything back, but actually Avis discounted the unused days. Good old Avis, definately reccomend them. We had a day in Perth and actually bumped into Paul from On the
Wallaby back from when we were in Cairns. He was there on holiday, whats the chances eh!. Anyway, by now we were starting to talk about our South America trip, only the day before we go. Only then did we realise that we had a 13 hour flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires and then 10 hours to Ecuador (due to a couple of stops). Finding it a bit hard to take a 23 hour flight after also a 5 hour flight from Perth to Sydney, we got thinking to just starting in Argentina. This would mean that we would not naturally end up in Rio for our flight home so here we started to cococt a plan to actually travel through Columbia, Venezuela and back down through Brazil. Quite a change of plans, but Columbia and Venezuela look pretty interesting. We were not sure if we were just being silly so we decided to toss a coin to see what it would advise. The coin was tending to tell us to stick to our original plan, so it went from best of 3, to best of 5 to best of 7, but the coin would not come up with
Just one of the spectacular bays
answer we wanted. We decided that as the coin is not actually the boss of us, we will do what we want to and start in Argentina. Great! thats that decided. We flew off to Sydney and arrived at 6am in the morning. Eventually got a room and thought we would get a good sleep before the long haul. Well we couldnt have been further from the truth. We are back to the club 18-30 East Australia that we had left. Our next door neighbours came back in at 3 or 4 in the morning and brought with them what sounded like a party of 10 to their double room for a party. We banged and shouted for them to keep quiet, only to get our walls banged back. We just gave in and lay there waiting for it to end.
Before we got to Australia, everyone tells you how amazing it is. We were not sure whether to beleive the hype. The East Coast was pretty good, but we were blown away by our time in West and will definately go back as there is still tonnes to see. A couple of dissapointments were the Beer and BBQ's.
The Beer is always cold, but it is very tastless, a bit like carbonated water. We never saw a proper BBQ in the whole of OZ, they only use gas powered hot plates, just absolute rubbish and you would be as well frying the stuff. Very surprised as we thought as beer and bbq's are a national institution that they would be great, but it hardly matters when your in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hard to believe another section of our trip was over.........but a totally new one was beggining.
There are more photos below