Arriving in Australia was a bit of a culture shock after two months in Asia. I'd arrived at about 2am with no accommodation so just hung around at the airport until the shuttle buses started! Then I seemed to be in shopping Mall hell where everything was SO expensive and I met one or two Ozzies who were not at all polite or helpful and I ended up staying in a budget hotel that reeked of cigarette smoke and I decided to leave the city the next day.
What a relief!! I booked myself onto a 6 day minibus tour down the south west coast as far as Esperance and it was absolutely wonderful. Also on the trip was a group of ladies from Queensland who I secretly named The Golden Girls and a young French student and her mother (Elise and Agnes). What a laugh. Those Golden Girls had me in hysterics for three days with their comments and observations as they gazed out of the windows. A couple of them kept "wowing" at the Hydrangeas and the Agapanthas they could see and believe me in a Queensland drawl it was vert funny. Another got all excited everytime she saw a Co-op. My favourite was Del who must have been eighty and kept saying "Where the bloody hell are you?" like the ad. We had a lovely driver/guide called Simon and he made us coffee and cakes every morning. We travelled down to Bussleton (famous for it's jetty) and on through several little seaside towns and on to Margaret river and Augusta. We visited some fabulous caves and a saw a sheep shearing demo (very geared towards entertaining the many children who were there it being the school holidays). On the second day we drove through Karri forests which were lovely and we stayed in a log cabin - a bit like Centerparcs style. I went for a walk around the lake the Golden Girls had a game of crazy golf and came back buzzing from the experience. We awoke the next day to the sound of heavy rain - the first I'd had in weeks! An option was to climb up the Diamond tree. This tree is about 4 metres high and was previously used to observe forest fires. now they use planes and it's only the crazy tourists who climb up it. It's basically just rungs spiralling up the outside of the tree - nothing to stop you if you fall! A great view from the top though. Only simon and I went up. We then took the Tingle treetop walk which was a lot easier but rather shaky and strange. There seemed to be alot of babies crying up there - I don't think they liked the movement and I didn't appreciate the noise. The Tingle trees were nice though. We stopped off a lot at various points along the coast - some lovely beaches and some very odd rocks. For example we visited Elephant Rock, Dog rock and Dinosaur Fossil Beach. Well Dog Rock was pushing it a bit but it did have a collar! Our third night was spent in Albany - another nice little town. We were joined here by Robert who is English but been living in Sydney for 15 years and a new driver, Andy.
We lost Simon and the girls from Queensland the next day as they were all going back to Perth. The rest of us carried on to Esperance - a very long drive where I just gazed out at mile upon mile of dry bush. The bush fire risk dials were all set on "Extreme" although they now use a new catagory "Catastrophic". Scary stuff and there were actually fire going on in the Perth area at this time. I also had to sit and listen to Robert and Andy up at the front philosophising about the world. I found out later that Andy was in the process of turning to Buddhism which explained some of it but to be honest I think they were both going through mid-life a crisis. I thought "Shut up and look out of the window!" Finally we arrived in Esperance and WOW was it worth it! The bluest sea I have ever seen and miles of white sand. Beach after beach and barely anyone on them bar the odd kite surfer. Fish and Chips in the cafe that night! We had a whole day in this area. We climbed up Frenchman's Peak - that is everyone but the French. It was a giant rock with a beret shaped rock on the top (hence the name!) Then we went for a couple of long swims in the sea. It was wonderful - lots of waves - and relief from the heat. They were having a heatwave in most of Australia at this time and it got worse.....
I could have just stayed at this place for a whole week (someone on a previos trip did - just stayed there!) as it was so beautiful and relaxing. But we had to make another extremely lengthy journey back to Perth. The monotony of the staring at the never-changing landscape was broken by a visit the Wave Rock and guess what that was in the shape of. Good for photos though unlike Hippo Mouth Rock which was in the vicinity. Dog Rock was better. And also we visited a rather sad wildlife park which looked like someone had just dropped cages into the bush an trapped whatever marsupia happened to be standing there. I observed two sleepy koalas and a group of white kangaroos. The highlight of the trip for Elise and her mother was a stop at the dog cemetary. They were laughing their heads off. How mean.
I spent another couple of days in Perth city centre and grew to really love it. It's a very modern and clean city and the whole area by the river is lovely. I spent a lot of time strolling around the area. I walked up the hii at Kings Park where you get a greta view of the city. Being warm and sunny everyone was out making the most of it. There were some botanical gardens up there and an awful lot of war memorials including an eternal flame. At six o'clock I was amazed as it seemed Perth's entire workforce came up for a run! In a matter of minutes the park had become an external gym, people were doing push-ups on the paths and all sorts! There was a set of steps called Jacobs Ladder and I could barely walk down because of all the joggers coming up.
For the next few days I went to stay with Lorraine and Dave who moved over there from England about five years ago. The kids had grown up - my god! Teenagers! They live out in one of the many suburbs and that was another side of Perth I hadn't expected. The train run along the centre of the freeway and when you reach your destination you climb over the bridge to a car park where your very nice friends (who have allowed you to stay with them despite the fact they have just got back from their holiday in Queensland!) pick you up. It was so lovely to see them again and to be staying in a house for the first time in two months that I wasn't totally bothered at finding wire coathangers in my bed and dogs locked in my room of an evening (not by one of the kids either!). I drank far too much wine and ate barbecued roo and I loved it! They took me to some lovely local spots, especially the beaches and Woolworths. And I went to watch Lorraine rehearse her Hot Mamas routine for the girls' dance show (Shame I didn't get to see the fat suit!) Lorraine and I ventured out to Freemantle one day. It was a lovely little town and the market was on but it was really too hot too appreciate fully. No one was walking down the street - everyone was just hanging around in bars and coffee shops trying to stay in the air-con.