Firstly, I apologise for the negative tone of the last blog, but everyone seems to be assuming we are having the most fantastic time, and on the whole we are, but sometimes it is just real life with all the problems to overcome! So this blog is a bit more upbeat, although we have had some tricky moments in this one too!
We finally got to Rottnest, picked up our hire bikes (there are no cars on the island) and headed off to the nearest white sand beach. On the way we spotted our first quokka, delightfully friendly creatures, which look like small wallabies but are known for their tame demeanour. They shot to fame when Roger Federer posed for a selfie with one! The beaches are to die for, with white sand and turquoise water and you can snorkel many of them. Having not snorkelled since Green Island, Queensland, many months ago, I found it hard again - I am just not that good with water!! However, I had another go later in the day and managed to get my confidence back - I did ditch the flippers though, I need to be able to get my feet down quickly, lol! We also did a guided quokka walk where we found loads of quokkas happy to be photographed.
We did eventually get our Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) lesson too and, to be fair, the weather couldn't have been better. The sea was like a millpond until you tried to stand up on the board! Bizarrely, the faster you went the easier it was but my instinct was to balance before I set off which led to a few wobbles and one big falling-in. Bob, who has been known to windsurf, found it a lot easier and stayed dry for the entire lesson. Our instructor kept giving us more advanced techniques to master in an attempt to get him to fall in at least once, but Bob was the star and was doing surfing turns, and changing stance, by the end. I was just pleased to be able to stay on the board and manoeuvre it as I wished!
The same afternoon we went into Perth to do a tour of the WACA, the famous cricket stadium. We biked to the bus stop, caught the free bus to Fremantle Station, paid $4.70 each for the 45min train journey to Perth, then caught the free bus to the WACA. Perth and Fremantle have made it very easy to get about and, as a result, you end up going more places and doing more things. The WACA is such a cricketing icon that it was quite sad to see that it is obviously being replaced by the new, bigger, better Optus stadium within sight across the river. It has lost the big test matches, although it gets some of the revenue, so we are guessing that the WACA may not last too long. The Museum is full of cricketing glory, but we were particularly interested in the newest additions from the last Ashes test series, as we had been to the 5th day of the 5th test in Melbourne. Jimmy Anderson's shoes were there, a stump signed by all the players, both English and Australian, as it was the last ever test at the WACA, and Joe Root's name had been added to the Honours Board of Visiting Test Match Captains. We were even allowed to walk out onto the ground up to the wicket area, which was something we hadn't done on any of our other stadium tours. It was weird standing out there in the middle, imagining the crowds of fans all around you!
And then our bad luck started again. We got back to our bikes to discover Bob's had a puncture. I was just resigning myself to a long walk back when we remembered seeing a bike hire shop near the SUP place, and said puncture was fixed in 10 minutes. Phew!! The next morning we went to exchange our empty gas bottle for a full new one at Bunnings, the Aussie equivalent of B&Q. Bob got it back to the van, pulled the safety bung out and was left holding a bit of plastic with the bung still firmly in place. We couldn't budge the bung with our meagre tool resources, so we had to wait until a man from 'paint' appeared with a 'mega' screwdriver to release the safety bung! And, they say things happen in three's, we also couldn't open our new 10-litre container of water and ended up cutting the top off with a penknife!!
So now, stocked up and gas functioning, we set off up the west coast. Wow, this was a sobering journey as the distances between places were huge, and sometimes there was only a road-house, or just a rest area, to stop at. We have made a conscious decision to never get low on fuel, just in case the next roadhouse has not had a fuel delivery and we need to get to the next one (which could be several hundred kms away in WA!), so we have been refuelling when half empty. Just as well as, when we pulled into our first servo, no diesel!! So it does happen and we will carry on being careful!!
After spending a while in caravan parks we opted for our first Station stay at Nambung Station, near Cervantes. A Station is a large farm in the middle of nowhere, but we fancied some peace and quiet and the Station also covers part of the Pinnacles National Park. Farm tours were promised, including seeing the Pinnacles from a point where no-one else can get to. However, once again, things haven't gone quite to plan. Nowhere did it mention that the road into the Station meant travelling 22km on a red dirt road! Winnie is not good on these corrugated tracks, she is just not made to cope with them, and everything shakes, rattles and rolls, literally. Luckily this road was in good shape, not too corrugated, so we made it in eventually, only to find that our host, Sonia, had the dreaded Australian flu (which made us both so ill last year) and wasn't able to do the tour! Aaaaarrgghhh! So, the next day we set off down the dreaded red dirt (only 10km to get out on a different route!) and drove to the Pinnacles ourselves. This was even more frustrating as we literally drove an hour in a circle to end up behind the far side of the Station! However, we then spent ages walking, and wondering, amongst the limestone pinnacles set in golden desert sand. It was quite surreal and felt like you were on a different planet. No-one can explain how the pinnacles were formed but there are two main theories - I prefer the petrified forest theory as they do look like broken off trees and some even look like wood.
We then went into Cervantes and tried to reach Lake Thetis with its stromatolites. However, the red dirt road in was SO corrugated that we had to abort. Winnie, and us, just couldn't stand it! Cervantes itself was quaint, much smaller than I imagined but famed for its Rock Lobster Factory, which exports principally to Asia. We did a tour of the factory, although it was a quiet day, but we learnt a lot about the process of catching, grading and shipping live Rock Lobsters. Apparently the Japanese prefer the smaller ones while Dubai pays a premium for the huge ones!! It was mind-blowing - the factory can hold 20,000kgs of live lobster at any one time. Each boat has a yearly quota, to ensure sustainability, and they have to work out how to use this efficiently, bearing in mind that the Chinese New Year celebrations result in huge orders. Apparently the fortunes of two state airlines significantly improved when they took on the export of the lobsters! It was also interesting to hear the lady say that they 'exported' to Melbourne and Sydney! WA really does think it's a separate country, and no wonder, given the distance it is away - it's nearer to Asia than to the Gold Coast! We just had to sample the Rock Lobster in their lovely restaurant, and it went down really well with a bucket of prawns and a glass of Chardonnay- a rare lunch out!
On our way back to the Station we had a little drama too. I noticed a small fire at the side of the road. I think they had done a burn-off, but there was a smoking pile that hadn't been extinguished. As we drove further to find somewhere to turn around we spotted two more. Now, we were worried as there have been so many big bush fires this year. We were in the middle of nowhere, we couldn't get to the fires - our first thought was to use our water to put them out but there was a fence in the way! So we called 000 (the 999 equivalent), gave them the location and details and they said they would look into it. We drove off, not sure if it was an emergency, but knowing we couldn't have driven on without doing something - just in case!
We also spent a day relaxing on the Station. It has been very windy here (driving past a huge wind-farm on the way in should have given us a clue?!) but one night was exceptionally so. It kept me awake most of the night and so I was more than grumpy the next morning! It also put us off driving the 10km on the dirt road, and then another 50km, when we wouldn't have been able to enjoy the beach and snorkelling, which is what we had planned to do. Looking at the map meant that driving anywhere different was just duplicating what we would be doing tomorrow, when moving on, anyway, so we opted for the lazy option and stayed put. We enjoyed the solitude, as everyone else had packed up and gone, and the wildlife was amazing. It was sunny, 29 degrees, although still windy, and we were looking out over vast fields in every direction. The Station has 300 cattle and 3000 merino sheep, of which we saw very few. However, there were emu's constantly walking by (can't get used to that!), black cockatoos and flocks of galahs in the trees. There were also friendly donkeys, horses and llamas. It is a beautiful place, the sunsets have been awesome and the sky at night has been amazing as there is no light pollution. The last day though was the best day. After deciding to stay on site all day we had the most 'different' day for a long time! The silence was deafening, the birds awesome, the emus entertained us all day and the sunset was to die for. But, to cap it all off, we saw the full moon rise amidst the pink and blue hues of the sunset. A campfire was then lit by the station manager, which we have shied away from before as it's too hot, even in the evening, but we were the only ones there, the stars were out and we were in the middle of nowhere. What could be better?! Our departure the next morning! This was unreal - as we drove out of the campground a flock of galahs swooped in front of us, perched in a tree waiting for us, swooped to the next tree and the next showing us their grey backs, then their pink fronts and just keeping ahead of us all the time. When we eventually reached the Station exit they turned and swooped back to the homestead. It was a very personal goodbye, or that's how it seemed! All in all we have loved our Station stay, another different experience.
And so, we're off on the next part of the adventure tomorrow, bring it on!
Jane Wow lots if ups and downs! Travel safely xx
Brenda More great experiences to come .Sandy Cape recreation park .12 km N of Jurien Bay turn left .6km of dirt road .camping area near beach .sand sledging on huge sand dunes & board walk on the cliff tops to the look out ..enjoy xx
Grover Vee Know what you mean about corrugated roads. Used to drive on them in Africa. Killer hard on the vehicle and passengers. Great that you got to experience the wildlife. Happy trails!
Rosey What an adventure you two are having. The bad times are as much part of the adventure as the good - I found it made me appreciate the good times a little more, hope it’s never so bad that you can’t look back one day and laugh about it all. Still missing you both and still loving the blog xxx