BootsnAll Travel Network

All according to plan

Perth, which is the capital city of the state of Western Australia, has the distinction of being the most isolated capital city in the world. It is closer to cities in Indonesia than it is to other cities in Australia. One might think this would lead to a closed off or backwards mentality, but in reality Perth is a cosmopolitan, exciting city. Unfortunately, due to travel planning and one difficulty after another, I wasn’t able to see much of it before I left for the southwest coast.¬†After realizing that Lora and my cousin Heiko were not at the train station that I arrived at, I quickly decided to get to the main train station and see if they were there, so I bought a cheap train ticket and went 3 stops to the Central Train station. Unlike other cities in Australia, the public transportation system in Perth seemed to be new, clean and convenient. When I arrived at the train station, I saw neither Lora nor a 30-ish looking guy searching for someone. Since I haven’t seen my cousin since I was about 4, I had no idea what he looked like, though he had a picture of me. My backup plan was to meet Lora at the hostel she was staying at, so off I went, just a few blocks away. After checking in, I got to our room and started to settle in. Lora arrived a few minutes later, having been waiting for me at the train station. Luckily, it wasn’t far for her to go and we both realized it was just a big mess. Now I had to find my cousin, and after getting online and finding his phone number I gave him a ring. He had also gone to the main train station, but then tried to go to East Perth, and was now back home. So we made plans to meet after lunch.

Lora and I had these grandiose plans to buy a car and drive up the west coast to Darwin, and either sell the car there, or continue on through the center and sell it in Adelaide or back in Melbourne. My cousin picked us up and after we told him our plans, he drove us around a bit to some used car lots, which for some reason were closed on a Saturday. We were both pretty tired, and we had decided early that day to go to an AFL game that night, since Lora hadn’t been to a game yet. My cousin Heiko wanted to come as well, and a nice guy working at the hostel gave us the name of a friend of his who could get us cheaper seats. We bought some tickets for the game between Freemantle, which is a suburb of Perth, and Carlton, which I think is a suburb of Melbourne. It’s kind of interesting, because the teams don’t have their own stadiums, they all just play in about 6 throughout a few cities in the southern part of Australia. After a quick beer before the game, we arrived at the stadium in a new, expensive suburb of Perth called Subiaco. The stadium was pretty full since Freemantle is such a closely situated team. The game was pretty fun, but we were all getting a bit tired and after the game decided to call it a night.

The next morning Heiko picked us up again to take us to Cottelsoe beach, which is really popular normally, but it was pretty chilly and windy so it wasn’t that crowded. It was a beautiful beach though, and we lazed around for a few hours before we headed to Freemantle, or Freo as it’s known to the locals. Freo is a big suburb of Perth about 20km away, but has a feeling all it’s own of being really a small separate town. There is a big market there as well, and we strolled through many of the stalls there, which included everything from produce to clothes to food and art. I managed to find a German bakery there, and bought a nice big loaf of rye bread, something I have been craving for a while. After a few hours in the market and around town, we went to a really popular seafood restaurant along the water Cicerello’s. It was too chilly to eat outside, but the food was great and cheap, and obviously popular, as we left our seats other people swarmed to claim our table. Again, we called it an early night as Lora and I had to sort out our transportation situation and figure out what we were doing. We were aiming to leave Perth the following day on Tuesday, so we had to figure something out.


Not surprisingly, things did not go as smoothly as we thought it would. We ruled out buying a car, as we thought it was just too much hassle for a little over a month. So we were attempting to rent a car, which we thought would be fairly easy, until we realized that the following weekend was Easter. Things were booked out, and we had a hell of a time. We finally managed to get a rental car, after convincing the woman helping us that she should just give us a bigger car for the economy price. They were out of all budget cars until after Easter, so we would have been stuck with a much bigger tab or no car for a week, but it all managed to work out. I was a little apprehensive about driving in Australia, but having driven in Ireland prepared me slightly for it, and I quickly got used to driving on the left. I’m sure it also helped that I’ve already been here for 3 months. After picking up the car on Tuesday morning, we loaded up the trunk with all our gear, and set off for the southwest coast. Our first stop was a place called Margaret River, a very popular weekend getaway spot for residents of Perth, and for wine drinkers.

Since we arrived late in the day, we couldn’t do a lot when we got there except walk around and find something to eat. We had booked a wine tour for the following day, so we went grocery shopping and decided to drive down to the beach, which was a popular place for surfers and to watch the sunset. It was clouding over as it approached nighttime, and there wasn’t much of a sunset. Driving back to the main town was a little hairy, as kangaroos come out at night and both of us are really scared about hitting one. Not just the damage it would cause to our rental car, but if it’s a big enough roo, it can really be dangerous, just like hitting a deer at home. So we drove really slowly and kept careful watch on the sides of the roads where they tend to hang out. We arrived at our hostel safely and vowed to try and not drive at night anymore.

The following day our tour bus picked us up for our wine tour. Even though we had our own car now, it isn’t very much fun to tour vineyards if one person has to drive, so we opted to spend the money on a tour. Our tour guide Brian introduced himself, and made us all wear nametags with creative nicknames we had to give ourselves relating hopefully to booze or wine. So off we went, Legless Lora and Cabernet Kirsten, to our first stop which was a cheese factory, already trouble for me. We did quick introductions with the rest of our group, which was mainly couples and a larger family from Britain. The tour was to take us to 4 wineries and a brewery, and include lunch as our second winery. Brian unloaded a big antipasto-style feast with bread, meats, cheeses and different spreads, including some awesome homemade pestos and another paste made out of whitchetty grubs. Whitchetty grubs are small white worm like critters that the Aboriginals eat, and they are usually included in a bush tucker lunch, usually just to gross out the tourists. But the spread tasted pretty good, and he hadn’t told us there were grubs in it, no one would have known.

The wine tour continued on, and by the time we reached the brewery, we were pretty happy. After a full five hour of drinking, they dropped us off back at our hostel. We had made plans to meet everyone at a pub later on, and we made it over there with our roommate for a few beers and some dinner. The two couples that made it out were Patrick, from Ireland and Aysha from Sydney, and Serge and Daria from Jakarta, an interesting mix of people. We stayed out pretty late, and having not been out drinking for some time, the next morning we were both in bad shape. One thing we sort of forgot about when renting a car was that one of us had to drive it, even if we weren’t feeling well, one good thing about taking buses everywhere. Luckily our next stop was only a few hours away at a small town called Pemberton, at the start of Tall Timber Country. The main attraction in Pemberton is a huge fire spotting tree called the Gloucester Tree. After arriving in town and checking in to our hostel, we hiked the 4km to the tree to get some much needed exercise. You are allowed to climb the tree, which is 61meters high, on iron rungs nailed into the trunk. This was exactly what I was afraid of, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it up and back down without freaking out. There were people climbing up when we arrived, but we both opted out of that pretty quickly. There was no safety rope, and just a small net that was strung along the trunk, which was supposed to stop you from falling.

We walked back to town and made some dinner, having a whole cabin almost to ourselves with a fireplace and a TV. Neither one of us expected the driving to wear us out so much, and forgot how tiring sitting and driving all day can be. With Easter weekend looming the next day, our plans to make it to the Sterling Ranges National Park changed because we couldn’t get accomodation anywhere in the vacinity. We had completely forgotten about the holiday and the affect it would have on the these small vacation towns, where Perth city-goers would make it a long weekend away. We were lucky to get two beds in a small town called Denmark, not where we wanted but we didn’t really have a choice. We arrived in Denmark the following afternoon, after driving through beautiful national parks and forests of ancient and huge trees. We stopped at one place where you can do a tree top walk, where they have built these huge metal suspension bridges to take you up and through the canopy, at the highest point is 45 meters. Even though we were on a bridge it was still slightly scary for me, because once you start walking on it, it starts to move and swing a bit.

We kept driving through the forests and towering Karri and Tingle trees. The tingle tree only exists in the southwest corner of Australia, and is well known for having huge bases that hollow out where you can stand inside, or park your campervan inside if you so wish. It was beautiful scenery and a wonderful drive through these winding roads. We arrived in Denmark on Friday night, and it was obvious this was a popular destination for the weekend. There was a big market and festival on Saturday, and plenty of beaches and hiking to do as well. Since Lora and I were both feeling slothlike from driving so much, we got up early on Saturday and did a long hike along the coast. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and our hike was pretty spectacular, bringing us along some sand dunes to the Elephant rocks and other cliffs overlooking the southern ocean beaches. After a hard three hours on sand, we plopped down on Greens Pool beach, considered by some to be the most beautiful and best-kept secret beach in Australia. Huge boulders blocked the waves and tide, and inside the pool was crystal clear, but icy water. We were not expecting that cold shocking water, since it looked so inviting to swim in after our long hike. There were plenty of people in the water, but many had wet suits on. It took us a while to work our way out into the water, and we could only stay in for a few minutes. I’m sure in the summer it would be awesome.

After relaxing on the beach a bit, we went back to Denmark and the market. The town was really bustling, and they had a lot of different singers and performers on stage, along with food and arts and crafts, held along the river. It was a nice day outside, and the night wore down with some pizza and beer. We had planned to get up early and do a small hike or sightseeing hike in the Sterling Ranges, a detour from our route back to Perth. But it was pouring rain when we woke up, so we scrapped that plan and decided to try and get back to Perth earlier than planned. We just had one night in Perth before heading north, and had a few things we needed to get done and buy for our journey, most noteably some CD’s for our grueling long rides without radio stations. Forgetting again about Easter, you’d think we would have learned, almost everything was closed when we arrived in Perth, except a few stores and restaurants. We bought some groceries and made ourselves a nice Easter dinner of ham, corn on the cob and fried potatoes, and realized we would have to get up early again. Our hostel told us that most shops wouldn’t open until noon, so we had the morning to get on the internet finally, and then do our errands before heading off. Our next stop was the small town of Cervantes, for which the main reason for being is it’s proximity to The Pinnacles. The best time to see the Pinnacles is at sunset, so we’re off now, should be only a 3 hour drive if everything goes to plan.

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