Had no internet for few days as been relatively remote and limited WIFI.
Perth was cool staying with Cindy and Julie. Went out with them on Friday night to a club to see the album launch of their mate Ben who is in a band so chilled with him before he went on then saw them play - really good! Called Serial Killer Smile. Warm-up bands were quite hardcore so was a nice surprise when they went on as they were far more mellow and Ben's voice was great. Had a few Carlton Dry beers and got to know our hosts and see the sights of Northbridge.
Saturday we watched the Queen's farewell BBQ on TV, then once we knew it was all over we went into town and checked out some of the CHOGM (commonwealth head of gov meeting) events where the Queen etc had been. Went for a walk over to King's Park (bigger than Hyde and Central park!) and walked around it though a lot was shut off for all the dignitaries having lunch at the restaurant as it has amazing views over Perth CBD. Bought some marinated chicken kebabs and had a BBQ at the house for dinner as Cindy and Julie were out for the night so we were able to relax in front of the TV and make use of their DVD collection. (Note: do not watch 127 Hours whilst eating!) On Sunday we did some chores around the house and then chilled at the beach in Scarborough as like it used to be back home all big shops and tourist attractions were closed. Monday we went about an hour south with all the commuters on the bus to Fremantle where we caught a special ferry to Rottnest Island which was really good. Plenty of empty beaches to ourselves, with lots of wildflowers etc and saw some Quokkas, had a pie, gravy and chips and spent the day there exploring.
On Tuesday we left Cindy and picked up our Hippie campervan, then headed straight up 5 hours to Geraldton where we did a grocery shop, watched sunset and set up for bed - with no internet/ TV/ space to sit and chat it turns out bed time is more or less 8pm in the camper! Wednesday morning we got up quite early and drove another 5 hours to Denham, Shark Bay (twinned with Denham Bucks as it says on the sign!) via two very old skool service stations (Billabong and the Overlander) where petrol was 20cents more expensive than in the city, but a necessary purchase after so many miles. As we headed up the peninsula we stopped off at Hamelin Pool which is where the stromatolites are to be found (one of the earliest known forms of life and reason we started having enough oxygen to exist?!), which are basically rocks in the sea. We thendrove another hour or so and ended up at Denham, where we went down into the small town and walked along the sea front and grabbed some food out (the stuff in camper van playing up so little choice but to have to eat out!...not ideal financially but our cooker, kettle and fridge have all gone kaput so have rang the company to see what kind of compensation we can get as we're too far for them to get an engineer out).
Up very early Thursday to drive the short distance over to Monkey Mia to feed the wild dolphins! They come in to the same section of the bay everyday and they have a limited feed so they don't get too dependent. We both managed to get picked to give a dolphin a fish so that was cool! We then chilled there and used their facilities, beach, kitchen and shower too before heading back to Denham camp site as is far more basic down there (but cheaper than staying at Monkey Mia).
Friday we drove down from Denham to a place called Kalbarri, a small coastal town next to the Kalbarri National Park which unfortunately we didn't have time to see properly, nor did we have the right vehicle to see it as most of the tracks were for 4X wheel drives. On the way we stopped at both the Overlander and Billabong Roadhouses (not as we know it…more a petrol station with building with variety of drinks, snacks, camping gear and some hot food to order as well as gluten free cakes for Hel). They are the only two places to stop on the long road between towns and in between nothing but straight driving. Got to our camp/caravan site at 3ish and were met by a talkative parrot, then had a little drive around the Bluffs. Edd went for a run and swim while Hel cleaned the caravan (inside) and organised! We then went for a walk to the beachfront pub during its Happy Hour before then heading back for dinner (noodles with BBQ'd frankfurters).
Saturday was always going to be a long day of driving, approx. 7 hours from Kalbarri down to Fremantle just South of Perth. Quickly stopped at a bakery in Kalbarri to fuel ourselves up then hit the road! About halfway down we had to stop briefly with a few other cars whilst the road was tarred which allowed us time to make use of our on-the-go kitchen to grab a snack! Then we continued down to Coogee Beach, which was our next stop just south of Perth and we headed back into Fremantle once we got settled at the site, which seemed to be wedding central (saw about 7 weddings in 5 minutes driving through!) Had a walk around the waterfront where there was a huge Ferris wheel and a few breweries. We'd planned to visit Little Creatures, a brewery and restaurant recommended by Cindy but they wouldn't let us in without passport ID! So ended up in Joe's which was next door and far less pretentious. It was a very good seafood place where just as we sat down a couple of wild dolphins were swimming around outside. Great food in honour of Stefan and Claire's wedding back home= amazing garlic bread then prawns stuffed with bacon and spinach (Hel) and West Australian Snapper (Edd). Walked round a bit more then headed back to the site from where Hel tried again to call home to dedicate our meal to Stefan's wedding, but after three payphones crawling in bugs and 2 phone calls to the operator of the phone card she had to give up.
Short and sweet stay there and up on Sunday to drive the relatively short distance down to Margaret River. Stopped via Rockingham to investigate Penguin Island but the weather hasn't been great over the weekend so we decided to just continue on with the drive. Arrived fairly early into MR so had a walk around the main street which is really nice and quaint, and had a late lunch in Dome (café/restaurant) from where we saw lots of competitors who had taken part in the local Anaconda challenge (which Ben Fogle was at!) Had more of a drive round (saw some living wild kangaroos finally!...previous sightings only road kill…) and stopped at Olio Bello an olive grove about 5 minutes from our site where we got stuck in on the free tasters (Hel enjoyed the garlic and basil infused blends whilst Edd was most taken by the spicy sundried tomato dip), then we went to check out Gracetown (where our caravan site actually is and which is noted for its beautiful location) which was very small but we did a coastal cliff top walk for a bit despite the wind and can appreciate why it is so widely regarded. Needing to find entertainment in absence of TV/internet we headed to the river mouth of Margaret River which was a great idea as its really nice and we watched a load of surfers ride some pretty big waves until sunset or so. Stopped via IGA super market and picked up steak and Gnocchi for dinner (to continue our odd combinations theme!). Cooked that at the site's outdoor, open kitchen and half way through eating a few bumps near the water tank and roof indicated something was on its way, turned out to be a possum! It climbed and sat atop the fridge watching us until we headed back to the van for the nightly pitch black (bug avoidance!) preparation of the bed in the back.
Today we had a leisurely start listening to the rain cannon off our roof. It eased by the time we needed to be up so we could join the wine tasting tour we'd booked! Visited Adinfir, Brookwood and Tassell Park wineries, trying all sorts. Shock favourites emerged in white Port and sparkling red wine (served chilled). Our lunch was cool too, trying smoked Kangaroo, crocodile and many other things (including witchedee grub for the more adventurous members of our group = not us!) We then headed onto a cheese factory, chocolate factory (treated ourselves with a vanilla malt, soy cappuccino and slice of choco caramel cheesecake!). The final stop was arguably the best at The Grove vineyard which specialises in flavoured liqueurs. The guy doing the talk for our tasting was very funny with dry sense of humour and probably the winning combinations were strawberry liqueur with ginger ale, and macadamia nut liqueur with chocolate liqueur, coconut water and a splash of cream! Really good day out and now to prepare our dinner (noodles!) Finish with the camper tomorrow before flying on to Alice Springs on Wednesday.