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Published: April 30th 2019
We started our trip in the Fremantle suburb of Perth. We woke up to bright blue skies and a crisp clean freshness in the air. The high street reminded me of Wellington in New Zealand with the artistic flair of boutique cafes lining the streets, bringing character to the beige sandstone buildings. After a quick bite of avo on toast, we hoiked on our backpacks and strolled down to the Barrack Street jetty.
After a short ferry ride over to Rottnest Island, we grabbed a couple of hire bikes and set off in search for the cute Quokka, famously described as the happiest animal on the planet. We took the intermediate trail around the south-east of the island towards Little Salmon Bay passing crystal clear sea bays and pure white sand stretching into the distance. We circled inland towards the salt lakes, consisting of vast flat plains covered in a thick layer of salt that glimmered pink in the beaming sunlight. We finished the day off with another gentle cycle ride and some yoga on the beach as the sunset. Rottnest was definitely a hit and exceeded our expectations with its abundance of quokkas, pristine coastline and great
Our next stop was Mount Hawthorn, ten minutes drive from the centre of Perth. The temperature was unusually cold for April and had plummeted to a brisk eight degrees. This, along with it being Easter, meant the city streets were deserted by 5pm with only a few takeaway restaurants open and a hand full of tourists roaming the streets. But, as all Brits do, we powered through, chucked on a scarf, and took ourselves on a walking tour around the CBD and down to Elizabeth Bay.
Easter Sunday in Fremantle was filled with hustle and bustle and the sweet sound of live violin music on every corner. It was a great atmosphere with vibrant markets, vintage hipster clothing stores and cool bars and restaurants roaring with trade. We stopped at a small food court selling every Asian cuisine you could imagine. The busy kitchens created a semi-circle around a community of garden chairs and tables in the middle. The social atmosphere created around dining very much reminded me of the types of food markets you get in Thailand. On our departure from Fremantle, we stopped at a second-hand book store with over
100,000 books. We could have stayed there for hours, wandering up and down the aisles but we had to hit the road as we had a three-hour drive to our next stop: Bridgetown.
Just outside of Bridgetown we stopped at a farmer’s garage sale and got some recommendations of places to visit and a couple off $2 surf t-shirts! As we parked up in the town, the smell of smoke from roaring fires filled the air. We finished off Easter Sunday in a cosy local pub with a roast lamb dinner before collapsing for the night at the beautiful Shambhala guesthouse! The views the next morning were spectacular and we enjoyed some freshly cooked bread and local jams before taking our yoga mats out to continue enjoying the view in the sun.
Our next stop was Denmark, via the famous diamond tree near Manjimup town. This towering Karri tree is 52 metres high and was used as a fire-spotting lookout because of its height and the metal spikes screwed in to create a spiralling ladder to the top. Will couldn’t resist a quick climb to have a look at the views above the treetop
canopy and I watched in amusement at the people's legs shaking as they descended down the rungs.
Denmark is a hidden hippie gem. There is a great vibe in this small town filled with cafes selling homemade delights, yoga studios, dream catchers hanging from windows and the smell of incense wafting from the shop fronts. We only had a quick stop here but managed to fit in a yoga session and an organic Buddha bowl before we left, after our substandard fish and chips the night before, where the cashier openly admitted that imported fish has typically been frozen for two years before we eat it!
Albany was our next stop and only a short one hour drive from Denmark. As soon as we arrived we were struck by the historic colonial feel still present: The highstreet still has the original town hall and the oldest pub in Albany which opened in 1835. By the bay is a replica ship that was built to celebrate the 150 year anniversary since European settlers in the town. The Brig Amity arrived in Albany in 1826 and set up the first outpost in WA, two years before
settlers arrived in Perth. Although modernised, Albany has maintained its European character and is a great place to stop over and learn about the local colonial history.
Albany to Hopetoun was our longest stretch of driving, and predominately consisted of straight barren roads stretching as far as the eye could see. The flat grasslands were scattered with live cattle and clusters of trees. We spotted an animal hide hanging on the fence so stopped to have a look. The ground was scattered with animal carcasses and as we approached the fence we were horrified to see a number of foxes and other animals hung up to dry in the midday heat. The smell of rotting flesh was pungent and the flies irritated our faces. We’re still not entirely sure why they were hanging eerily along the roadside but we didn’t want to hang around any longer to find out!
Shortly after this we came across a road accident and were advised to bypass as it was going to take a while to clear. The only option was to take the car off the sealed road and down the edge of the farmer’s field, churning
up red dust as we went. The rest of our journey was fairly uneventful except a quick spotting of a wild emu at the side of the road. Our day ended with a beautiful sunset behind the Fitzgerald National Park as we watched some kids excitedly fishing off the jetty in Hopetoun.
The next morning we joined the Anzac parade in Ravensthorpe. There was a great community spirit as this small town sang and told anecdotes to remember those that were lost in the war. It was a very touching experience to be a part of and see how a small remote town in WA unites together. After the bagpipe parade, the national anthem and some tea and cake, we set off again to our next stop: Esperance.
Esperance was the biggest town we stopped in since Perth. If there is a Macca’s and Woolies out this way then a town is considered big! On the outskirts of town is a lake named Pink Lake because the salt content makes the colour of the water look pink. Unfortunately, the lake hasn’t been fluorescent pink for 10 years, however there is a slight tinge in
the salt crusted sand. It’s still worth a visit and we walked over the crusty dry flat salty sand plain on the side.
The next morning will surfed with one of our friends from Sydney and then we all met up from brunch afterwards and exchanged our WA travel adventures. One of the highlights of the Esperance area is the Cape Le Grand National Park located one hour away. As you approach the park you can see protruding from the flat landscape is the Frenchman’s Peak. We took a steep hike to the top, clambering up the jagged rock face that at points felt quite unsafe! Nevertheless, we made it in one piece and the views at the top were spectacular with a 360 degree panoramic view of the National Park. It reminded me of the scene from the lion king where Simba is held out from the rock over the vast plains, except there were no lions out there, only kangaroos! Although challenging, the views and caves at the top are well worth the climb and I would recommend this to anyone going to the national park.
Our next stop in the National
Park was Lucky Bay, which is famous for its pure white sand, turquoise blue sea and the kangaroos that chill on the beach. As expected, the scenery was incredible and we were able to see a mother and joey on the beach. The final place we visited was Thistle Cove, which was more secluded and my favourite beach of the trip and maybe even Australia! This small cove is protected by elaborate rock formations from every side, including a giant wave looking one that we sat on to enjoy the view of the powder white sand and gently crashing waves. We drove home at dusk with Oasis blaring and were lucky enough to see in the distance emus chasing each other and kangaroos play fighting in the grass. Will sneaked in a quick surf lesson before we left the next morning and ended up talking live on the radio with the surf trainer who gives a weekly surf forecast.
Our penultimate night was spent in the tiny town of Norseman, directly north inland from Esperance and the start of the rusty desert sand. This mining area took a hit when the local gold mine closed down a
few years ago and has left the town with only a small local pub and a couple of motels. The town’s population is roughly 500, 300 of which are of aboriginal descent. This was only a short stopover on the way to Kalgoorlie for our final night to break up the long journey inland. Just out of town is lake Cowen, a huge dried up lake leaving behind a barren red sand plain speckled with salt crystals that glisten in the sun. After a few panoramic photo's, we continued inland north 200km towards Kalgoorlie. There was a real sense of remoteness on this leg of the trip, with only SOS signal on our phones and a handful of road trains trudging along providing transportation to and from the mines.
The main attraction for tourists in Kalgoorlie is the Super Pit. This enormous hole is 3.7 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres wide and around 480 metres deep and is one of the biggest gold mines in Australia. This billion dollar operation runs 24 hours a day and is the main provider of jobs in this remote city that was built solely to provide for the workers on the mines. I had conflicting feelings about the pit, it was sad to see huge diggers destroying the land for money and gold, but the opposing argument is the jobs it provides for the community.
At the mount Charlotte lookout we met Brian champion a wise kaprun elder who has lived in Kalgoorlie most of his life. It was fascinating to hear his stories of the land and the animals and how the aboriginals have used this to predict weather patterns and seasons for thousands of years. At 81 years old Brian is the last remaining Kaalamaya speaker in Australia and has been working tirelessly for the last 10 years to preserve all the words in his own dictionary that he wants to pass onto his family. Brian was very inspiring and I really enjoyed listening to his stories, but I came away with a sense of sadness that when he’s gone so much knowledge and culture will be lost forever. Let’s hope, through his six children and twenty six grandchildren his tale will live on for future generations.
We met so many people in just two short weeks. From the firefighter volunteers in Ravensthorpe to miners in Coolgardie and Norseman, the local people at bars, the South African guesthouse owners in Bridgetown, the travellers at the roadside heading home to Mildura and the wise Elder in Kalgoorlie. Each and everyone person had their own story to tell, where they had come from and where they were heading. The friendly waves and smiles from drivers and walkers as we passed through towns was incredibly touching. People in the outback have such a different way of life to what we are used to but they are content and happy with what they have and some of the friendliest and welcoming people I have ever met. I can’t wait to come back to WA and see what the north has to offer!
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