Hi there to one and all.
Following on from Zoe's last blog entry I have a couple of items to add and one to amend.
While on our Great Ocean Road trip we stopped at the 12 Apostles and viewed the rock towers. To the west of the Apostles was an arch which was imaginatively called "The Arch" - it seems we are some of the last people to have seen the Arch standing as it has now fallen down!
When we finished on the GOR we headed up into the Grampians to go and view MacKenzie Falls. We stopped on the way there for lunch and went for a walk round in a park near a lake and we saw loads of wild kangaroos and emus. They were awesome. The falls were a let down and as it was a bank holiday weekend there were millions of people there and it was not a good experience.
Finally, our amendment. Wicked campers as a whole are not as dangerous or evil as we thought last week. It seems their Melbourne depot is a particularly poor facility with staff who couldn't give a stuff about the customers or the vehicles. The van we were given (called Strawberry) is a piece of junk which should have gone to the scrappers long ago. More on this subject to follow.
Our journey from Adelaide to Perth was via Tiger Airways, a recently established budget airline. By budget I mean 2 people on a 3 hour flight for forty quid! They can run these fares because they get a million people on each flight. Legroom is nonexistent but for the price we shall endure. When we arrived in Perth at midnight we got a taxi to our hostel and were given bunkbeds in the crappest room in the whole place. The room was noisy and airless and neither of us got more than an hour's sleep.
Wednesday dawned and we set out for the Wicked depot to check out the vehicle that they planned to send us out in for our Western Australia odyssey. The walk to the depot was really nice and took us along the River Swan past some lovely sights of Perth. When we got to the depot we were pleasantly surprised to find a nearly new van called "Hot Pants" had been made ready for us. Part of our previous rental fee was to be refunded to us and things were looking up. We left the depot eager to begin our journey the following day and to celebrate we upgraded ourselves out of the crappy room in the hostel and into a double on the quiet top floor. The day continued to get better as we got a call from Jarvie who was in Perth on business - he took us our for an excellent steak dinner, the tab for which might well find its way onto his expenses claim form!
The South West corner of Australia in a Wicked van was the final leg of our time in Oz. With no fixed agenda, just a loose idea of what we wanted to see we hit the road. Immediately I discovered what was to be the only fault with the van - the engine was so good and the lack of weight in the back so apparent that we were wheelspinning away from nearly every junction. Made a change from the last van which struggled to move at all.
Our first stop on Thursday was Freemantle where we visited a museum which is housed in the old lunatic assylum. Pretty good but not earth moving. I can't actually remember if we did anything else on that day other than drove further south and park up for free camping near Bunbury.
With the benefit of daylight we were able to see that we had chosen to camp on the edge of a really exclusive housing area - houses with swimming pools backing onto jetties with big motor yachts moored at them. So, Friday began with a walk along the sea front checking out the houses and then a trip to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. This centre is located on the shore of a sheltered and enclosed bay which is frequented in the summer by bottlenose dolphins. They come right in to the shore and it's possible to wade out and have them swim around you and butt up against you. Unfortunately in Winter the dolphins go somewhere else so we just checked out the interactive displays and videos and stuff at the centre and chatted to one of the volunteers on the beach. He gave us the benefit of his local knowledge and created a route that we followed for the next 3 days.
After the dolphin centre we stopped for lunch at Busselton. Here they have the longest jetty in the world (2km long jetty with an underwater observatory at the end). I'm sure you have guessed what is coming next, currently it is closed for repairs and so we could only get 200m along it. From this vantage point we got to see a mother and baby bottlenose dolphin feeding and playing in the bay which made up for our disappointment of that morning.
The remainder of Friday was spent travelling down the coast in the region known as Margaret River visiting beaches that took our fancy including Smith's Beach. That night we ended up out by Leeuwin Lighthouse just south of Augusta. We met a bloke here who told us that whales had been seen in the bay at Augusta for the preceding few days so we were hopeful of finally seeing a whale.
Saturday arrived and we finally got to see whales. We watched them from the headland for a while as they splashed around in the bay and then managed to get on a whale watching boat to actually get out amongst them. It was worth the wait and we have been on a high ever since. They were breaching and tail slapping and everything. Following a brief lunch stop we took a drive to Pemberton in the afternoon where I climbed the 65m high Bicentennial Tree. This is an old fire watch tower that has been built at the top of a Yarri Tree and you get up to it by climbing the spiral staircase of metal stakes that have been hammered into the tree. It was nervewracking and my legs shook all the way up and back down. Unfortunately I did not video a group of locals dropping a 14 pound pumpkin from the top of the tree just as we arrived. The noise as it smashed into the ground was unbelievable as was the area over which this pumpkin got spread. As we left Pemberton we stopped to pick up a hitch hiker called Ned. This guy really livened up the hour long jurney to Walpole. Not sure if he would be classed as a character or a nutter but he was fun anyway.
We visited the Giant Karri tree on Sunday morning. More by luck than judgement we had camped in a national park on Saturday night and next to our camp was an info board directing us to this tree. The base of the tree is probably 25 to 30m circumference but the middle of the tree has been removed by a succession of fires so the tree is just a shell of stilts around its perimeter. Amazing that it stands really! People used to take photos with their cars parked in the cavity of the tree but thankfully this practice has been stopped as it was killing the roots and therefore the rest of the tree. From here we visited the treetop walk in the Valley of the Giants. This is a 400m long steel platform which goes from ground level up to 40m above the ground and then back down again. The views were awesome and the experience really surreal.
Having done the treetop walk we had ticked off all of the things on out "to-do" list for this corner of Australia so we carried on along the south coast stopping at anything that looked interesting. We visited Greens Pool, Elephant Rocks & Elephant Cove and then hit the town of Denmark. Once we had seen all the barometers on display (can you get much more random than a barometer display!) at the visitors centre including a 10m high glass column barometer we took a final trip to the beach and walked along in the surf and the sunshine. Seven weeks in Oz with inclement weather finished on a real high.
Today we drove the long straight 400km back to Perth and returned the Wicked van. We are just tying up loose ends at the hostel and getting ourselves set for the flight to Singapore tomorrow. Our South East Asia plans are by no means finalised but we reckon on going as follows:
Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand to Laos to Cambodia back to Thailand
with Nepal and India to finish.
See you in October.