BootsnAll Travel Network

Last Australian Adventure

Today is my last full day in Australia. Tomorrow I have an overnight (I have to sleep in the Bangkok airport) to Hong Kong. I am both nervous and excited at the prospect. China is regarded by some as one of the most difficult Asian countries to travel in. They are probably the least Anglicanized I guess you could say. You will find less people speaking English here than in many other Asian countries. I can’t form an opinion yet as I have not been to Asia before. I have booked a room at the Kowloon New Hostel in Hong Kong so now I only have to figure out how to get there. I originally thought I would be done with hostels once I got to Asia, but I soon found out that room prices in the bustling cities of China rival those in the western world. It appears I will have another month or so of hostels. I know it will get cheaper though as I have found hotels in Nepal that have single rooms for about $5.00 a night.

I decided to spend my remaining time in Australia with one more trip. I needed some time by myself for a while. To that end I rented a car alone and decided to head for the huge forest, vineyards, and rugged coastline that lie south of Perth. To make the trip more interesting (and to save money) I decided to see if I could actually do the trip without paying for places to spend the night. I would just try to find out of the way places to sleep in the car. This would also save me from getting my tent dirty as the weather was very rainy. I didn’t want to ship a dirty tent back to the US and have customs reject it due to quaratine concerns.

I rented a Toyota Camry from Apollo Cars for four days. After picking up the car, I headed southeast down the Albany Highway for my first stop which was as you can guess Albany. It took a while to get out of the mass of suburbs that surround Perth. Once free of suburbia, the landscape opened up into rolling farmland and sheep resembling New Zealand. In fact this whole section of the country reminded me of New Zealand in a way except for the fact that there were kangaroos everywhere, and the trees where mostly of the eucalyptus variety. I arrived in Albany around 3:00 pm and went to the visitor information center. Western Australia is nice in that each town has a government sponsored information center. At the visitor infomation center, I found out about a well equipped free camping area on a beach outside of town. I also got some information on the sights. I spent the remainder of the aftenoon in Frenchman’s Bay (Torndirrup National Park) looking at some amazing rock formations along the coast. This included a series of blowholes that were only blowing (quite loudly) air instead of water. The waves just weren’t quite high enough. I then headed to my campsite at Cosy Beach. Cosy Beach was equipped with the latest in free camping luxury. It had flush toilets (instead of a pit), a gas barbecue with an automatic starter, picnic tables, and off colored water from a tap. I had stocked up on water before I came so I didn’t have to partake. The camp was set as the name implies on a beach which is across the water from Albany. I could see windmills in the distance happily spinning away generating power. I shared the campground with another couple in a campervan. I didn’t meet them though as they kept to themselves which was fine with me as I was looking for some solitude. I used the barbecue to boil some water for supper that night. This is not the most efficient means of heating water as I first had to get a large grill hot and then get my pot (left over from my west coast trip) hot. I ate tunafish, noodles, apples, and chocolate. I read for a while and then went to sleep on the backseat of the car. It rained quite a bit that night and turned cold. I was originally only using my silk sleep sheet, but had to pull out the sleeping bag in the early morning hours. It was a very nice sleep though as I could hear the ocean all night long.

Day 2 was spent up and amongst the large karri trees. These trees are mostly a form of eucalpytus that rivals redwoods in height. The highlight of the day was a stop at the Tree Top Walk and Ancient Empire. The Tree Top Walk consists of a series of catwalks and platforms that climbs into the tops of some of these tall trees. The Ancient Empire Walk is a hiking trail that took me through a forest made of of ancient red and white karri trees as well as smaller karri oaks and wattles. The forest was damp and cool just as an ancient forest should be. There was a hint of, what I thought, was eucalyptus in the air. At least that’s what I thought it was. According to one education signpost, the smell (or tom cat smell as it described it) was actually produced from the karri wattle tree. Shows you how much I know. I didn’t think it smelled like a tom cat though. I thought is was fairly pleasant. After leaving the big trees, I hiked out to a series of rock formations on the beach where I proceeded to slip and hurt my wrist. I am hoping it is just a sprain and not a small hairline fracture, or something. It has been several days and some movements still cause me a fair amount of pain. I decided to try to spend the night near the town of Augusta. I first visited Cape Leeuwin which boasts a tall lighthouse. I then went into town and tried to find free camping. There was a site quite a ways out of town, but it was very basic camping having pit toilets and wood fire barbecues. As I had no wood and the campsite was in a national park (technically it’s illegal to collect firewood for building fires in Australian national parks), I still needed to find a place to cook and I wanted a shower. Coming down the west coast, I had noticed that caravan parks often let you use their facilities for a small fee. I decided to try my luck. I went to a caravan park in town and inquired about this. The guy told me that he didn’t do this and didn’t know of anyone that did. Despite my informing him that it actually was quite common, he let me use the showers for free (after telling me I couldn’t pay to use them), but I couldn’t use the camp kitchen. Well this solved the funk portion of my problem, but I was still hungry. In a local park, I did find a free gas barbecue facility that is found in many small towns in Australia. I once again set about boiling water on the barbecue. A flock of seagulls came whooshing in and waited for me to turn by back, for an instant, just so they could still my food. They kept watching me ominously with their black beady eyes and I stared back. It was like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. After I won the staring contest with the birds, I then appeared to attract the attention of an Australian couple taking a walk. I think it must have appeared odd to see someone cooking in a pot on top of a barbcue. (These barbecue consist of a solid stainless steel plate with a fire underneath like in a Japanese restaurant.) They are usually used for cooking meat. Anyway, the couple came over and we spent about the next hour discussing the status of health care, retirement systems, and crime in America and Australia. It is rather an odd topic to have while eating cheap instant noodles cooked on a free barbecue. As always, I have found myself having to correct a few misconceptions (no, everyone in America is not walking around with machine guns and, yes, the government does provide health care and pensions for the disabled and aged). They are not just left to die in the streets. I am exaggerating a bit, but not much. I greatly enjoyed speaking with the couple and ended up staying in town until after dark. This meant I had to play a game of dodge the kangaroo to get out to my campsite. Kangaroos have a bad habit of hanging out on the roads at dusk. This included one big kangaroo (which was taller than the car) who decided to try to stare down the car instead of moving. The kangaroo blinked before the car, and I was on my way. I spent the night beneath some very tall karri trees. I didn’t get to see the campsite very much as it was after dark. The campsite was supposed to cost $6.50, but no ranger ever showed up to collect it. The campground did have a pit toilet which I used after carefully checking for frogs and spiders which like to live in such toilets. I had heard stories of people sitting on toilets, only to have a frog jump on, or lick their rears and I didn’t want to experience this for myself.

On Day 3, I left the big trees behind and made my way through wine country. This was a more slow day as I didn’t have as long to drive. My first stop of the morning was on a beach where the mouth of the Margaret River enters the Indian Ocean. It was full of surfers braving the cold water and gloomy skies to try to catch a good wave. I then stopped in the town of Margaret River itself. I had to use the Internet to do some research on how to make a claim on my credit card. About two hours after I got the car, a rock hit my windshield which cracked. I am responsible for the repair. I have a rental car benefit on my credit card and I am hoping they will reimburse me the $250, or so I will have to pay for the windshield. For lunch, I stopped at a deer farm and bought some sausages made from red deer. I then made my way to Cape Naturaliste where I spent time doing some coastal walks and viewing sea lions. My last stop for the day was in Busselton where I viewed the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. In Bunbury, I inquired about places to spend the night. The lady at the visitor center told me of a free campground which supposedly had barbecues. So I thought I was set. Well, I arrived at the campground to once again find wood fire barbecues. According to the sign, a ranger was supposed to provide firewood and I had to pay a fee. Again, due to the presence of no ranger, I camped for free. This campground had quite a few people in it. They informed me that no ranger had been around for a few days, and they were using firewood that they had collected. I was offered the use of someone’s gas stove, but I decided to undertake the challenge of cooking (boiling water) on a wood fire as I had never done it before. I set about collecting some dead limbs. Most of the wood was jarrah which is a very dense and hard wood. I found this out after I borrowed an axe to split the wood I had collected. My wrist was not happy with me at all, but I wanted a hot meal. Jarrah also takes quite a bit of work to get burning but once it does it burns for a long time. The barbecue plate above my fire pit was quite high so I had to build a rather large fire to be able to heat up the metal plate. After eating my supper, I spent the next few hours visiting with my neighbor at the next campsite. He was a retired 76 year old dentist who was camping around Australia alone in a camper. His wife had died quite a while ago. He had worked as a dentist in several South Pacific nations. He had quite a few interesting stories and also had white wine that he made available to me (I only had water.) I let him use my light to aid in his cooking as his was quite dim, so I think it was a fair trade. I again slept in the car for the last time

I decided to spend my final day in Freemantle. Freemantle is a suburb of Perth (hence I stayed in a hostel instead of camping). It has many old buildings and hosts a market on the weekends. It was a rather slow day spent reading in the hostel and wandering around town.

Today, I returned the car and ran errands that I wanted to get done before going to China. I mailed my tent and air mattress home, got a hair cut, uploaded my remaining Australian pictures, and updated the blog. I have enjoyed my time in Australia and have definitely got a sense for just how empty the country really is. I really enjoyed interacting with the Grey Nomads in the campgrounds. They are always very friendly, helpful, and funny. I guess I will conclude by saying “Watch out squat toilets, here I come”.

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One Response to “Last Australian Adventure”

  1. bayougenius Says:

    Hey the pics were beautiful. Take care of that wrist. Good luck in Hong Kong!

  2. Heidi Says:

    Wow. Either I am a big wimp, or European women are much more adventurous than American women. I’ll admit that I have been living vicariously through your blog, alternately insanely envious of experiencing the karri trees and guiltily glad that it’s not me who is cold/wet/hungry/subsisting on ramen noodles. You are truly quite the adventurer. And of course the resident feminazi takes great offense at you implying that 7 women can’t make up their minds! 🙂

  3. Posted from United States United States
  4. Gashwin Says:

    Hey check your gmail — just talked with Kem and have some more info about Guangzhou.

  5. Posted from India India
  6. Preeti Says:

    I think having one’s bottom licked by a frog while using the privy would be less objectionable to getting a spider bite in that same region. Granted it could be a poisonous frog, but, well, you know my feelings about creatures not having 4 limbs. Sounds like you fell poorly on that wrist – lucky for you it’s not more serious. Hope it feels better soon. The now-free-of-funk free shower cracked me up.

  7. Posted from United States United States

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