AMAZING HOW TIME FLIES
We arrived at Perth following our flight from Singapore over 10 days ago and had 6 days to explore the best of what Perth had to offer.We paid for the shuttle bus to drop us off at our home for the next three nights - Billabong Backpackers, in the area of Northbridge very near the Central Business District of Perth.
This would be the first time on our trip that we would share our sleeping room with other people. Having had the luxury of our own private accommodation to date, this proved to be a bit of a shock to the system and meant that Steve could no longer dance around the bedroom naked, neither could we leave our belongings strewn across the room.
However, we were very lucky with the other 7 that we shared with. We were allocated the top bunks of our room which we shared with a sweet French couple who were travelling for a year - David and Sonderine from Toulouse.They were both new to Perth, and despite the language barrier, we were able to get to know them pretty well.
In the adjoining room we were surrounded by more English people. Two guys named Jack and a Jacob, add Jackie to the mix and that is a hell of a lot of 'J's'.Sharing a room was not the only 'first' in Perth. We had left Indonesia where it worked out cheaper to eat out than to cook for yourself, yet in Perth the opposite applied.A fully functional kitchen would see a combination of pasta, baked beans and more pasta cooked by Steve (Ramsey) over the next three nights.As it was a Sunday when we arrived, we decided to see what all the fuss was about regarding the famous Australian 'Sunday Sessions'. This is the equivalent to our Friday/Saturday nights on the town, except , as the name suggests, it takes place on a Sunday - all day.Monday must be a write off - as everyone seemed pretty smashed.
On the first full day in Perth, we ventured to one of the most beautiful beaches we have been to called Cottesloe.This beach is a train journey outside of the city, followed by a short walk to gleaming white sand and freezing cold sea - YES - freezing cold.Of course, Steve was first in the sea and neglected to tell Jackie that it was cold, instead telling her that it was as warm as Bali. Watching Jackie bound towards the water from his now warmed up towel was funny, as she suddenly shrieked and quickly retreated from the water.The only downside to this beautiful beach, and, our experience of Australia so far, is the amount of flies that would continue to land on your face, mouth, neck, arms and legs. At first, Jackie thought that Steve had forgotten to deodorise as no one else on the beach seemed to be waving their arms around like a helicopter trying to brush these persistent bug(gers) off their faces, yet even as we type this blog we are getting attacked nineteen to the dozen.
Although there were other choices for lunch at the beach , as soon as Steve saw the Fish and Chip shop you can guess the outcome - yum, lovely fish with hardly any batter.
That night we spent the evening around the pool at the hostel, attempting to make friends and enjoy a few cold OZ beers - namely VB which will be the beer of choice during our time in Australia.
On Tuesday we caught the CAT bus, totally free-of-charge, around the city and ended up at Kings Park.This beautiful park is situated high up on the edge of the famous Swan River and gives breathtaking views across the city. We spent the day lazing in the Park which spreads over 4,000 acres. That evening was a mixture of more pasta and beers with our new found friends.
Wednesday, we travelled to Scarborough beach - probably even more beautiful than Cottesloe.A friend from home (Sophie) happened to be in Perth the same week, and we met up with her and her boyfriend and friends who were all over for a wedding.We spent the day on the beach playing beach cricket - yes Jackie got a higher score than Steve (in fact double his score!) - and loving what all backpackers love - a free lunch - love you Sophs!
This was our last day staying in central Perth before moving to the suburbs to a town called Fremantle or Freo as it is affectionately known.We moved to a hostel that was not a nice as where we had left, but the town was far more beautiful and to be honest not as strange as Northbridge. Both of us found this part of Perth a little odd.It was fun, don't get us wrong, but when you first land on Australian soil, you expect to be blown away. Sadly Perth or probably more accurately Northbridge, did not do this for us. In places it is lovely, like Cottesloe, Scarborough, and all around the Swan River but it is not a pretty city and it's not really a city either, more of a big town. It reminded us of a spread out Southend, with some attitude and strangely empty.
So what did Freo have to offer that was different? Firstly it had a very good vibe, which we first experienced when we stumbled across a micro brewery that served 3 different types of fresh larger, yummy pipsqueak cider and Margret river wine. It was not long before Steve was slurring his words, three of which were "Fish and Chips". Freo is famous for its Fish and Chip restaurants, and of course we had to try, even though it meant F&C twice in one week, in our defence we did go running once this week so we deserved it.
The following day we had to be up early to catch the ferry to Rottnest Island, a 30 min journey from Freo. Wow - this was amazing.We hired bikes and set off exploring the island which has no other transport than bike, unless you wanted to take the scenic coach - which in hindsight would have been far easier, but no where near as beautiful.
Steve found Rottnest to be "Breathtaking" - LITERALLY. We cycled round the entire island which takes around 2 hours, but we stopped at the various beautiful coves and beaches on route.For a small island it has so many uphill roads that it was essential to stop to get our breath back. However, it was worth every bit of the hard work. The island used to be a prison, which seems unbelievable as the inmates (if they got to see the island) were thoroughly spoilt. There were times when it was literally just the two of us on a stretch of unspoilt beach. It was on Rottnest island that we saw our first snake and also the native Quokka, that was once mistaken for a huge rat, hence the name Rottnest (rat nest) island.
Again the evenings were spent with some variation on the previous evenings pasta dish, although one night we did go all out and actually make a spag bol, and chatting to other travellers. It is quite amusing watching those that are travelling around the age of 18 - 22, some making out with each other, others talking absolute nonsenseand drinking far more than their body weight in any cheap alcohol they can get their hands on.We were far more reserved, meeting other like minded frugal travellers, including a great couple from Scotland who were filled with passionate storiesabout South America - which was interesting but still seems so far away still.
After 6days (which is more than enough ) in Perth and the surrounding areas, we set off to the airport once again, this time to fly to Alice Springs.
On arrival we were hit with the heat - but a very nice dry heat. Not humid at all. We had already booked our trip and accommodation here and the next day we set off on a three day excursion including Ayers Rock, The Olgas and Kings Cannon.
It was an early start with a 5.40am meet at the front of the hostel. We were picked up in a mini bus by a tour guide named "Magic" and driven 5 hours to the start of our adventure.
Now it had not rained in the 'red centre' for 22 months - until now. In the month of November alone, Alice Springs has had 153mm of rainfall - and the last time it rained that much was in 1843. So there we were about to set off on a walking/camping and sleeping under the stars trip and it was raining, pouring!!!!
However, in the end this added to the trip. Due to the rain, it was not as hot as it should have been and we were able to go on walks which would have otherwise been forbidden.First we visited the Olgas - or as the locals call it Kata Tjuta. This remarkable range of huge rocks proved to be the best part of the trip, with the weather adding to the dramatic scenery. As we walked and the storms blew in, the rain water created the most beautiful waterfalls and rainbows connecting the valleys together. After a short sharp burst of rain it only took 15 minutes for our clothes to be bone dry again so it was never a problem, it fact quite welcome at times to cool us off.
From here, we drove to Ayers Rock for sunset. After the stunning scenery of Kata Tjuta, Ayers Rock - although still beautiful, was a little bit of an anti-climax. From a distance the rock is amazing and exactly the same as the post card image that you see, however we expected to roll up and it only be our group watching the rock change colour as the sun lowers in the sky. How naive. Three hundred odd others had exactly the same idea and were all positioned in the best stations for photography, all being served the same champagne and crackers from their tour guide - not that we were complaining about that. All in all it wasn't as romantic as we had thought it would be but we still feel we would have missed out to have come all this way and not seen it.
That night we went back to camp, which was permanent tents for the night, and with the weather completely unpredictable we were glad of the shelter. We had a BBQ (the first one in Oz so far) which was Kangaroo fillets - Jackie's favourite.... Despite the thought of eating a poor kangaroo, it was actually really tasty according to Steve, who ate Jackie's portion and his own.
Our tour was made up of a number of different nationalities, from Korean and Chinese, to Italian and Germans and not forgetting the Irish and Dutch - who seem to be everywhere we go.To start with we were not sure how this was going to work out, but the Magic of our tour guide and Steve's stupid drinking games and Jackie's expertly toasted marshmallows helped to bond the group together and over three days much fun was had - apart from one thing...the early morning starts.
Day two we were up at 3.45am, back to Ayers Rock, this time for Sunrise.Again, neither of us were blown away by either the very early start or the sunrise itself on the rock but it was followed by a two hour trek around the base of the rock, which was more interesting with Magic (our leader) telling us the various Aboriginal stories and tales on the way.Their culture is amazing. To think that they can survive in that scorching heat - usually around 35 - 45 degrees - and with the resources that they had available is beyond belief. After walking around the rock, we all visited the cultural centre where we were able to hear and learn more about the people, the food, the history and the animals of the red centre. It was also really interesting to read the 'Sorry Book', with letters of apology from all the people who have taken part of the rock home with them then suffered some form of misfortune and promptly send it back with a letter of grovelling apology in order to end their bad luck.
We then set off on a 4 hour bus journey that would take us to camp that night near to Kings Canyon. On route we had to stop to collect wood for the campfire and to unearth wigity grubs that we would eat for pudding - yum! It was 38 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, a complete contrast to the day before and we were out digging at the bottom of trees for grubs to eat at 1 in the afternoon. It was roasting.
These grubs - as you may have seen on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, live in the root of the Wigity Bush, so there we were digging up roots of a bush and looking for a point where the root changes shape, a clear indication that there was a bug in there for us to eat.22 people on our trip, and how many bugs did we find? One!! One which would later end up in Steve's stomach.Apparently it tasted of a crunchy marshmallow - of course it did Steve!! Jackie wasn't so sure and instead roasted her own real marshmallows over the camp fire to the pleasure of the other 21 on the tour. Still Steve put on a brave face and chewed it, but only after it had been cooked on the BBQ and was no longer wriggling.
That night we slept in SWAG bags under the starssssssssssssssss. The reason for so many 'S's is simple. There were more stars than sky, it was remarkable. Being in the middle of nowhere, with no lights aside from the camp fire, there was nothing to take away the gleam from a million stars. So there we were, covered in deet to keep away the mosquitoes and hopefully the dingos, and we both fell asleep under the stars, although it was a little hot and sweaty in the SWAG bags.
Up at 4.30 the next morning to take in Kings Canyon, which was a tougher three hour walk but again we were very lucky with the weather. It was glorious and up to 42 degrees. The canyon was amazing, made completely from sandstone and once we had made it up 'heart attack hill' to the top, it was worth every second. It has a permanent billabong (water hole) that you were able to swim in but we held off until after the walk where we returned to the resort and jumped straight in the pool to cool off.
That evening, back in Alice Springs, we went out with our group for dinner - Steve had 'Camel Pie" with chips (of course) and Jackie went for vegi lasagne, a safer option after seeing all the meats that were on offer here. We did both try crocodile spring rolls though, which were lovely.
And that brings us up to date, we are now in the internet room, time flying by, flies flying by our ears, waiting for our taxi to take us to the airport - it is time to attack the east coast - first stop Cairns - hopefully the flies will stay here in Perth.
Love to everyone that has read this.
Steve and Jackie