So I have finished up at the job, it was great because I managed to save lots, and had a great and very interesting Australian experience working there. Learnt a few things about what it's like living in a small town away from everything, both the good and the bad!I ended up staying at a friend's house for a few days, to have some time off afterwards and to see some of the South West.
It's been really nice to have some days off, one of the boys called Hammy, a 23 yr old Pastry chef on one of the big oil tankers took me fishing where we spent the day running along the rocks near to Windy Harbour, chasing huge schools of Salmon along the shore, and managing to caste our lures into the middle and watch all the salmon chasing them as we reeled in, then if we were lucky we got a bite and wrestled the beasts. Was very exciting but we lost quite a few as it was hard to pull them up the rocks, although I did manage to land a smaller salmon trout, and a HUGE salmon, it was so heavy I couldn't hold it, and Hammy reckoned this was one of the smallest in the school, and we had hooked bigger ones earlier that day (the ones that got away!) anyway, we ended up throwing the big salmon back because there was just too much to eat, and kept the smaller one for dinner. I then drove his 4WD through the sand dunes (slightly doubting my own driving ability in such rough terrain- but didn't do too badly, well we didn't hit too many trees), these are apparently the biggest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. I don't know how true this is, but it sure sounds good! And was beautiful because they were completely untouched with hardly any footprints or tire marks, almost like the fresh powder snow in the morning on ski season before all the tourists ski all over it. It was lots of fun driving along the huge stretch of untouched white sand beach, with not another car or tourist in sight on a perfectly clear sunny day. I saw about 5 dolphins surfing in on the big waves, jumping , playing and catching fish. It was one of those moments when you just think... I am so happy to be here!! I also saw a really long sea snake in one of the waves, but Hammy didn't see it, and didn't believe me. Thought I was on drugs or something!
We then drove back via a few scenic stops he wanted to show me, like this big flat calm lake, with some nice wooden cabins, and then we stopped at a vineyard for a spot of wine tasting.. I loved the Pinot Noir, and Hammy bought me a bottle (much to my protesting)! He also bought a crate of another wine for himself. We then went back to his house and cooked the fish making batter out of flour and egg, and combined with cous cous, cheese and salami, was cool to sit in his back garden with the sun setting and the cows roaming around from the next farm, and overlooking the dam where he catches the Marron (expensive black crayfish). Hes an interesting guy, makes a lot of money from his job, everyone around here seems to make a truck load from either the mines, or working offshore. And most of them get something like 5 weeks on, 5 weeks off!
Northcliffe Holiday and Margaret river (famous for world surf comps and winerys!)
Last few days have been very interesting for sure! Had lots of fun chilling in Northcliffe with everyone, my friend Gundy took me to Margaret river, which is really beautiful, and we also went for a little road trip in the surrounding areas, Augusta, and a few other places I really wanted to check out.Gundy is living in another world, he earns so much money welding pipes offshore on oil rigs, taken in on a helicopter and gets lots of time off, I couldn't believe it- he paid for this amazing apartment for us to stay in Margaret river.. I had my own huge room with double bed, big hot tub, huge lounge- its was luxury! I did try to persuade him to stay in the backpackers so I could afford it but he was having none of it!
Towards the end of the week I was really looking forward to leaving Northcliffe, I had had the best of it, and now it was time to get back on the road again. As my bus left, I looked out the window and saw Bryce, Fi and Mitch all jumping up and down waving goodbye from their verandah feeling sad and happy to leave. Very excited of what was to come.
Met a funny girl on the train from BunBury to Perth, she wanted to hear all my travel stories etc. She thought they were hilarious and wanted to travel herself. We had a random conversation which led to me drawing a smiley face on her converse trainers, and her telling me she would remember this random conversation forever now! Once I was back in Perth it was weird to see so many people and such big buildings. It was a relief that it wasn't as hot as when I left it. I checked into my hostel and bumped into a girl I met in New Zealand which was crazy! Then spent the next couple of days sorting boring stuff like bank accounts/ injections for asia etc. Also randomly saw Jorris, the crazy dutch guy I lived with in Melbourne hostel for a while. Was great to see a friendly face, such a funny bloke, think I will visit him in Amsterdam one day.
A French guy called Alex Brin, replied to an advert I had put on Gumtree ( website you can buy/sell/share stuff and use it for finding rideshares) he had an old station wagon and was travelling up to Exmouth over about 2 week road trips stopping at all the attractions along the way. Sounded perfect, so I met up with him outside the library- all seemed good, his plans were similar to mine and he seemed laid back. He was only a little bloke, I thought I could probably knock him out if I needed to. Ha (sorry if you are reading this Alex!!). I was surprised he was French, as most of the French people I have met, have only wanted to travel/ talk with French people (he knows I wrote this here because I just read it out loud to him). But I figured the fact he was willing to take me knowing I was from England must be ok- maybe I can improve my French along the way! So I agreed to leave with him on Wednesday, giving me a little time to do finish my boring jobs and see a few friends in Perth. I haven't used my phone the whole time in the 'Cliffe' because no signal, so once it was back on it was very hectic catching up with everyone, who all seemed to be in Perth at the same time and wanting to meet me!
19th April 2011
The Casino- Diamonds are a girl's best friend!
Had a great day roaming the streets of Perth with Gundy (from Northcliffe), as he had come up to Perth for a medical for work. And we decided to go to the casino, so I put my best (backpacker!!) outfit on and met him at the casino. It had been a long time since I had been to one, and there was money flying everywhere. Met his friend Janine, and we all went for a gamble. My German friend Sarah from Melbourne also came to join in (was awesome to see someone not from N.Cliffe and to tell her all the gossip).
I ended up playing on this big wheel with cherries and watermelons etc. I put $10 on diamonds a couple of times at 47-1, they were telling me this was a stupid idea because it was so unlikely to come up (but I had a feeling! Which I think everyone who gambles successfully, and unsuccessfully says, but anyway!), there was only 1 of them on the whole wheel. But I was persistent, 'ok one more go, then we will play roulette'and to my shock, and everyone on the table, it came up!! So I won $470! Backpackers dream and 1 weeks wages! I actually cashed it in right there and then like a sensible girl, and kept the lot!
20th April 2011 The West Coast Road trip begins!
Next day I woke up cashed my winnings in the bank (slightly worried it was too good to be true and it was counterfeit money or something) but I walked out the bank happy with a lovely receipt showcasing my beautiful new bank balance. I then met the French guy outside the hostel, the nearer the time came, the more I was wondering what the hell this road trip would be like! I had pushed to the back of my mind, that I was actually going to be spending 2 weeks with this chap. But that's the fun of it, you never know whats going to happen, and I think that's what makes it exciting! So he helped me put my stuff in the car, and I went back to get something and slyly sent Gundy the number plate (as strictly requested by Gundy!!). But as soon as I was in the car, I realised he was a good guy, and we had a lot in common including the mutual love for 'into the wild' my favourite travelling film, and the guy in it calls himself Alex Supertramp and actually looks quite a lot like French Alex. Uncanny! We got lost a little bit at the beginning; my co-pilot skills were a little rusty.
We arrived at The Pinnacles just before sunset, just before the park closed and drove the car through, there were MILLIONS of black flys everywhere flying around our faces and mouths, I went to talk and actually nearly ended up swallowing one, had to spit it out! URGH!!! The heat was stifling even at this time. We took a look around, it was basically miles of desert with loads of big sandy rocks protruding from the ground. It was amazing really! I still don't know why they were there, but it is a natural wonder. I think if we had spent the time in the information kiosk we probably could have found out but we lazily decided to take it as it was, and just enjoy the sights as the sun set. The rocks and sand was almost orange. I got some amazing pics, but later lost my camera on the trip somehow, I think it fell out the car so I lost these pics which I am very sad about. But I took some from Alex.
We then drove to a town called Cervantes, a nice beach side town, with very nice houses overlooking the Indian ocean. We drove around in 'Le Dude' (the car's name) a bit looking for a place to stay, and decided on the school carpark (thank god for the Easter holidays!) I slept pretty well in the car, and we didn't get told off by any rangers or anything so it was all good! The plan was to spend zero money on accommodation/ camping sites.
Next day we drove to Geraldton, and filled up fuel and food etc. Sat having lunch on the sea front. It was a pretty standard town, nothing special, we decided to carry on that day and get to next location. But as we were standing up a chinese girl called Kiki stopped us and wanted us to answer a questionnaire from Uni, she was funny and we had a long chat with her. She took a shine to Alex and asked to kiss him (much to his embarrassment!). She became the topic of most of the jokes for the rest of the day.
We got back on the road, and it was not long before we drove through a town called Northampton!! Which I thought was great! The town actually was very small and not at all like Northampton is I don't think.
Driving through Australia
Driving through these roads, miles and miles of nothingness, with only one car every 15mins or so on the road. I was blown away by the mass of bushland and just empty space. It felt a little like being in the middle of the English Channel, and you can only see the horizon, with no land or boats. This was the same but you could only see flat land for miles. Every car you pass always waves at you because they are happy to see someone else. I can imagine that it would be very much like this to drive through the center of Australia. But I believe that if you had car troubles, any car would stop for you (as long as its not wolf creek!!). I think that is one of the reasons Australians are so friendly and helpful, because there is just so much space and so few people in comparison. Interestingly I found out from Bill Bryson, the great author of 'Down Under' the book I am currently reading (a must read for anyone thinking of coming to Oz, or been there),that in Britain the average population density is 632 people per square mile, in the US it is 76, and Australia (although very skewed because they all live on the coast) it would just be 6 people per square mile! 86% of aussies live in urban areas, which leaves a huge amount of land untouched (these figures might be a little outdated but you get the picture)!
I also found that the land used to be lush and green, but now it is just brown and dry. According to Bryson's research, a man name Thomas Austin in Victoria imported 24 wild rabbits from England in 1859 for sport, but they bred so quickly they over took most of Australia at a rate of 75 miles per year. And because there were no predators able to recognize rabbits, they just kept breeding! I think is a similar problem to the cane toads they have in queenstown which came across on ships. The only thing that saved some of the bush was the virus Myxomatosis from South Africa, but a handful were immune to it, so one day the problem will reoccur! They even tried built a fence across the whole of oz to beware for them! Anyway enough about rabbits and frogs... sorry off on a tangent there.. back to the trip..
We drove past a motor boat overturned left abandoned on the side of the road which had obviously come off its trailer, maybe a flat tyre, which Im sure its owner would be coming back for.
The distance between Perth and Exmouth is 1259kms which is 780.58 miles. Which is nearly double the length of the UK! Alex was telling me a friend of his was in Australia something like 5 years ago and couldn't travel the west coast because there were no roads built! And now she can because they have. I just cant imagine those workers making those roads in the boiling heat miles from anywhere, but also kindof exhilarating that they were the first ones to drive there. The weather by the way is sweltering must be 30 degrees or over now.
The sky is always amazing to look at whatever time of day, but the sunsets just blow you away with reds, purples, yellows, blues and then at night the sky is so clear and just full of stars and on occasions you will see an amazing shooting star.
So we arrived in Kalbarri and immediately decided we liked it. It was a laid back happy holiday town with a beautiful little harbour, there were signs saying there was an acoustic set on that night in the local pub, so we got some takeaway beers, and drove around a bit to try and find somewhere to stay (we did spend quite a lot of the trip doing this, but it was quite funny). In the end found a golf course attached to loads of bushland, so we pitched the tent up in the middle of this. It was a bit scary and felt like we could be in the middle of Australia, I had no idea what animals might be creeping around, and the noise of the crickets was so loud. I was a little bit worried about sleeping in the tent, and I was sooo grateful when Alex offered to stay in the tent, he said he didn't mind atall and said it was really comfortable, I must say I didn't put up much of a fight! We cooked dinner on the portable gas stove in the dark, and used the car roof as a table. We then went to the acoustic set, where these two guys were singing and pretty good. The one song that Alex remembered was "Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you." And the next day it was the only song in our heads, singing it all the way, and there and then we had the first entrant for the 'West coast Frog and Pome soundtrack'. Other songs that made it were the Jerusalem song, Into the Wild soundtrack song, bittersweet symphony- the verve and some other french reggae songs on his cds.
The next day we spent the morning dossing around at the pub, chatting about previous adventures. Alex is going to drive North up to Broome, then across the center to get to Cairns, and wanted to do the surrounding areas, so we had a long chat about where I went and how etc. He also told me about where he lives in La Rochelle, and there is a cool island nearby which I have to go and visit. In the afternoon, we took a ride to 'Red Bluff' which had some great beaches, and decided to go fishing. We had lots of bites but just couldn't catch them. I think out hooks were too big. But we had lots of fun, and we did catch this tiny blow fish which was really cute! He kept puffing his body out because he was scared so we put him back.
That night we found another spot in one of the national parks to camp, pitched the tent etc, and then the rangers came, they were pleasant but we had to get out. With a groan, we pulled down the tent and went in search of the 'free campsite' they spoke about. We went into one overflow campsite which some guy told us we were supposed to pay $10 but we sneaked in, and made some friends with a load of Irish people and had a drink with them and sneaked out the next morning after having a nice shower that morning and they were none the wiser.
Car troubles and very brief visit to Kalbarri National Park
We had woken up bright and early as we had a big plan to go on a hike in the canyon in the national park, so we paid the NP fee and travelled for about an hour down this extremely rough dirt track road in scorching heat. It did feel like the car was going to fall apart! But when we got there, we stopped at a lookout and the views of the canyon were spectacular! Absolutely huge! It made me wonder whether this would be similar to the Grand Canyon in the US (Obv a smaller version I suppose). We took a few photos, and went back to the car... but it wouldn't start!! This was potentially the worst place to break down..it was only 10am and must have been over 35 degrees already, there were millions of black flies everywhere. Thankfully, another car had a jump lead and we managed to start the car up again from theirs. From this we knew it was a battery problem, but we had been driving for ages so it should have charged it! We had to turn back and miss out on all the other spots and the hike. When we got back into town, it broke down again in the middle of the road. But straight away two ozzy guys jumped out ready to push the car and try and jump start it again, but this time it didn't work. We found a local garage who charged a call out fee but it wasn't as bad. It only took an hour or so to find that it was the regulator that was broken in 'Le Dude' so that was fixed and we were on the road again, only problem was that we had to drive for a couple of hours straight to charge it! So there was no way we could go back to the Canyon which was really sad because it would have been amazing to do the hike we had planned, but at least Le Dude was fixed and happy again. Duly noted, was the amazing generosity and helpfulness of the Kalbarri people.
We drove all day to reach the next town fantastically named 'Shark Bay', which I found came from Captain Cook when he sailed around Oz, when he was astounded by the number of sharks they found in the area. Comforting to know, as we would be going snorkeling here! But someone once told me that there are so many dangerous creatures in the Ocean that you should just not think about it, and enjoy it! I wasn't so sure this was the best advice but anyway! We had a nice drink, watched the sunset and cooked dinner. There was this huge truck nearby with really loud music blasting out, so I went a little closer to investigate, and this guy had converted this big shiny truck into a huge two story house with a kitchen, upstairs bedroom, living room, and a back garage with his motor bike in!! It even had a balcony on top with at this moment a fantastic view of the ocean! He saw me, and told me to have a look inside if I wanted. It was amazing! It had caused quite a stir on the seafront aswell and people were pretty much lining up to see inside! Only problem was, I can't imagine he would ever get away from the rangers with that thing.. when we have problems with a little car!
That night we found an industrial area to camp in, and had a good nights sleep.
Next morning we drove 30 mins down the road to Monkey Mia, a holiday resort famous for attracting dolphins to the beach. Once again, you guessed it..we went fishing. This time we were more successful than before. I made friends with an older couple who were fishing next to me who gave me a smaller hook (again helpful aussies!), and we used prawn as bait. I managed to catch whiting big enough to eat and a flathead- really cool fish as the name suggests again. Saw loads of rays and sharks, all in very shallow water, just knee deep. The couple then caught a sting ray with lovely blue spots on top, and within a second the guy I was fishing with on the other side caught a shovel head shark!! I didn't know what to look first! So much commotion on the beach and there was me juggling my rod with the camera rushing from ray to shark and back like a crazy fisher lady.
The resort was incredible- cool beachfront huts. White sand beach. Emus walking around right next to the people sunbathing, it was quite surreal. I had decided to go into the café, I looked towards the counter.. and I just couldn't believe it!! There in her resort work uniform was Kirsty Perkins!! One of my very good friends from University!!!! We just looked at eachother in shock, and couldn't say anything but 'oh my god!!!' we almost didn't recognize eachother because it was such a shock and so unexpected!! I knew she was in Australia because she was originally one of the reasons I had come out in the first place but her plans had changed at the last moment as they so often do when travelling. But the last I had heard from her, I was in Melbourne and she was fruit picking in Bunbury on the East Coast. It turns out she was really close to Northcliffe when I was there too but just didn't know it! She was with George, another girl from Uni who I also saw working the restaurant, and had met in Tignes when her and Kirsty were doing a ski season the same as me, but in a resort a couple of hours away! Was sooo nice to see a friendly face, and luckily she had a few hours off work, and we had a good long chat and catch up.
Later that day, Alex and I cooked the fish that we had caught and cockles he had found and treated ourselves to a bottle of wine to share. We were sat near the beach and Alex was teaching me some french words and sentences, and I heard a girl calling my name through the dark from the other side of the beach, I thought they must be calling someone else so we carried on but it kept coming, and I realised it was my Irish Friend Orla who I had met on Frasier Island, and then again hung out with in Sydney! I knew she was doing the trip but didn't think we would be in the same place at same time. Again, this was amazing coincidence! Alex must have thought I know everybody in the resort!! Unfortunately she had to go with her tour, but was so great to see her just for a minute.
We went to the bar and had a couple of beers. We had planned to just drive down the road a couple of minutes and pull off and sleep near the beach. But as we pulled out, a police car pulled out and stopped us for a 'routine breath test!' we hadnt even thought about that, this never really happens in Australia and it was very unlucky as we were only going half a mile or so, and this was the most we had drunk the whole trip. I was certain he would fail the test and I didn't know what would happen if he did! We hadnt even had that much dinner. But amazingly the policeman said he was lucky!! They asked me a few questions. Policemen always scare me so I was stuttering along. Thank god for that, in the end we ended up sleeping where we did the night before. Untill this point we hadn't had much luck with the car!
Stopped here, worth a mention, whole beach made of shells white shells all exactly the same size and shape.
Not even worth a mention, this place was crappy town we had to stay over night.
Coolest place with makeshift huts or old caravans people living in the most simplest ways no electricity etc. Found a fishing lure in a little public hut, it was a pink tiger prawn and we somehow named it Kate (after princess Kate) and then later my bag was called prince William, don't ask me where we came to this conclusion, but it was pretty funny when a fish stole the lure, lots of wisecracks and use of all the rude english vocab I taught Alex that he had never learnt at school.
A storm was coming so had to go back to carnavon as did not want to get stuck there and the road was prone to flooding.
Met some of Alex's french friends, Gwen and Lynda was hard as they mostly just spoke french to eachother and I didn't understand. But later they made the effort, and were very funny. They loved learning all the rude words in english and used them in every sentence somehow!! Then the storm came and slept in the carpark, got woken early by the ranger, then moved on because a rubbish truck was stuck behind us.
Was glad to leave Carnavon
Blow Holes, Termite mounds and Stromatalites
On the way up we stopped at some blow holes, amazing holes in the rocks, that the water gets caught underneath and the pressure forces it up through the hole to create an amazing white fountain very high above the rock! We also stopped at termite mounds,huge orange mud piles, made by termites, they were as high as me! We also stopped at a place where there were ' stromatolites' its hard to explain what these are, but I think they were basically the first forms of life found on the earth to provide oxygen, and they were originally covering the whole earth, but now they are just here. They are part of the reason why we are alive today. They just look like weird s shaped rocks underwater, but pretty amazing things!