Perth

Road Trippin’ in WA

Another year, another trip down under. This time I touched down in Perth, in Western Australia- the most isolated place in Australia. What I mean by that is if you were to travel due west, across the Indian Ocean, there is nothing in between there and the shores of South Africa, some 8,674km away.

Perth on World Map
Source: http://www.dsd.wa.gov.au/

In Perth I was staying with Angie, a friend’s auntie, and we decided to do a little road trip. The first day we headed four hours south to a little Australian bush town called Gnowangerup- an Aboriginal name meaning “the place where the mallee hen (Gnow) nests.”

Gnowangerup, Western Australia
Gnowangerup, Western Australia

We stayed with Angie’s friend, Amy, who was a white witch no less. I didn’t see any evidence of this but thought I had been put under her spell when I woke up the following morning and didn’t mind that I hadn’t drunk any alcohol on a Saturday night.

We left Amy’s the following morning and made our way further south to a place called Walpole. This area is famous for its giant tingle and karri trees, and one of the best things to do here is a tree top walk called the “Valley of the Giants.” The elevated walkway is 40 meters high, making for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

66 km from Walpole is Denmark, a coastal town in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. We went there to see Elephant Rocks- so named because the huge rocks look like a herd of elephants. It’s quite a sight to see against the backdrop of the Great Southern Ocean.

A ten minute walk from Elephant Rocks is Green Pools. It’s absolutely beautiful. The blue and turquoise water is crystal clear and licks the pure white sandy beach. It really was stunning. There was nothing to do but sit on the rocks and gaze at the scenery.

Our road trip took us to Albany next. Albany is the oldest permanently settled town in Western Australia. It also has an important role in the Anzac legend because it was the last port of call for troopships departing Australia in the First World War.

We visited the Desert Mounted Corps memorial on top of Mount Clarence. The memorial was built to commemorate the soldiers of the Australian Light Horse Brigade, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps from 1916-1918.

Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, Albany, Western Australia
Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, Albany, Western Australia

Another interesting stop in this area is Frenchman Bay where we went to look at granite formations called The Gap, Natural Bridge, and Blowholes. The rocks here were once connected to Antarctica when Australia was Gondwana. They are around 1800 million years old.

The Gap is, literally, a gap in the rocks where the ocean hammers into and makes a thunderous roar. The Natural Bridge is a huge granite arch and was once known as ‘Devil’s Gate.’ And the Blowholes are a series of crevices in the granite, gradually eroded by the Southern Ocean. When the waves force water through the cracks loud hissing noises can be heard.

We walked quite a long and windy path down to the granite formations, and we didn’t exactly know where they were but we heard them long before we saw them. With each wave the holes blow air and water out of the top. It made my heart pound though, and it’s quite mesmerising to watch.

On the way back we stopped in Bridgetown for food; Suttons Lookout for 360 degrees views, and Balinup to visit the cheese factory, and arts and crafts centre. We saw a dolphin at Koombana Bay-only a quick glimpse mind you, but I was rooted to the spot for 30 minutes in case it appeared again. Mandurah for fresh fish and chips, and finally back to Perth. I had a fantastic couple of days exploring a part of Western Australia. I am so grateful to Angie for driving- our round trip was a mere 1,400km!! That’s nothing when you are travelling around Australia.

Travels Round Australia-Perth

The Indian Pacific train is one of the few true transcontinental trains in the world. It runs from Sydney to Perth, covering around 4,000 km from east to west. It takes 3 days. I boarded in Adelaide so the journey would take only 2 days. 2 days on a train? Only in Australia.

Source: http://www.greatsouthernrail.com.au/trains/the_indian_pacific/
Source: http://www.greatsouthernrail.com.au/trains/the_indian_pacific/

Nothing much happened.The first night was uncomfortable as there was a cold draught which kept waking me up. I had booked a Red Kangaroo seat, which was all I could afford, and I was expecting someone to sit next to me. But once the train started moving, the guard came over and told me she had seated the passenger somewhere else, so I had two seats to stretch out on, but they weren’t quite long enough. Still, it was better than not lying down at all.

The first stop was Cook, located halfway between Sydney and Perth- population 2 people, 26 chooks and 50 million flies. It was a ghost town in the middle of the desert. Apparently, this is the first place the train can stop because, around Maralinga, there is radioactive contamination, from when the British used to do nuclear tests in the 1950s. We had a short time to wander around and buy a postcard or two from the small shop.

Source: http://www.traveljournals.net/pictures/45519.html
Cook (Source: http://www.traveljournals.net/pictures/45519.html)

On its journey, the train crosses the Nullarbor Plain. In Latin the name literally means no trees (nullus-no; arbor-tree.) The scenery is relentless but very dramatic. It is the worlds largest area of limestone bedrock, around 200,000 square kilometres. Huge is not the word.

Source: https://storify.com/angiefran/nullarbor-plain
Source: https://storify.com/angiefran/nullarbor-plain
Nullarbor Plain  Source: https://storify.com/angiefran/nullarbor-plain
Nullarbor Plain
(Source:
https://storify.com/angiefran/nullarbor-plain)

The next stop was Kalgoorlie, which is famous for it’s gold. We had three hours here so, to pass some time, I booked myself on a trip around the town.

Source:  http://www.ozroamer.com.au/experiencea-little-goldrush-fever/

Kalgoorlie (Source:
http://www.ozroamer.com.au/experiencea-little-goldrush-fever/)

We went to the Super Pit, which is Australia’s largest open cut gold mine. It is massive- 3.5 km long, 1.5 km wide and 570 metres deep. So huge it can be seen from space. The pit produces 28 tonnes of gold each year.

Kalgoorlie Super Pit  Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-17/super-pitjpg/4205856
Kalgoorlie Super Pit
(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-17/super-pitjpg/4205856)

Arriving in Perth, the scenery changes from dramatic, relentless, open desert, to lush greenery with rivers running through the hills. I arrived in Perth early in the morning, where my hosts, Angie and Bec, were waiting for me.

(Source: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/13927754-post2.html)

Perth is the most isolated city in Australia-the next country to the west is South Africa.

After chilling out and relaxing after my mammoth train journey, we drove to the beach so I could see the Indian Ocean. In the distance a huge storm was approaching. The clouds were so black, blacker than I had ever seen. We watched it for ages and the thunder and lightning eventually passed right over us. It was spectacular, made even more so by a tornado hitting the water. Then the rain came, and I have never seen anything like it. On the drive home we couldn’t see a foot in front of us.

The next day we took a trip to Freemantle. A lovely town with the cosmopolitan feel of a big city but with a more relaxed pace. We wandered round the markets and had a look at the shops, stopping off for a drink in one of the many cafes.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle)
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle)

Afterwards we visited a memorial on a hilltop that overlooks the whole of Perth. The memorial is located on Monument Hill and was erected during the 1920s to commemorate the losses of the First World War. Interestingly, the Fallen Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial is designed so that at dawn, 1914 is illuminated; and at sunset, 1919 is illuminated alluding to the lines in the “Ode of Remembrance”-

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”.

25th April every year is ANZAC Day and on this day the shadows are perfectly aligned.

Fallen Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Source: http://steve.doig.com.au/tag/memorial
Fallen Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (Source: http://steve.doig.com.au/tag/memorial)

Bec and I took a trip to Rottnest Island. We caught the bus to Freemantle, and caught the ferry across to the island. We hired a bicycle each and made our way to the 9.2 inch battery site, which was used to defend Freemantle and Perth during the war. The guide told us how they used the guns, and then took us on a tour of the tunnels underground, which housed the engine room and artillery store. It was really interesting to imagine the men and women down there.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rottnest_Island)
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rottnest_Island)

The beaches on Rottnest Island are stunning and the water is crystal clear. We cycled around enjoying amazing views from the lighthouse. There are also a few lakes on the island which, due to minerals present in the water, are a hundred times saltier than the sea.

(Source: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g488366-d3198108-i61496997-Rottnest_Island_Salt_Lakes-Rottnest_Island_Cockburn_Greater_Perth_Western.html)
(Source: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g488366-d3198108-i61496997-Rottnest_Island_Salt_Lakes-Rottnest_Island_Cockburn_Greater_Perth_Western.html)

We then made our way back to the harbour and had lunch, where we saw a friendly Quokka- a bit like a rat but it is the size of a cat. I am not joking. All in all a fabulous day out and, after a few beers, we took our tired selves home.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quokka)
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quokka)

BOAT TRIP FROM HELL! I was invited to go on a ladies fishing trip by one of Angie’s friends, Cary, who is sadly no longer with us. He said it was on an awesome boat. He said it would be fun. The boat was far from awesome-it was a typical fishing boat, with none of the luxuries I had imagined. And it was far from fun, believe me.

Cary picked me up at 5.30am and we drove an hour or so north, to Hillarys Boat Harbour, to meet the boat. We left the harbour at 6.45am and it took about an hour and a half to get out to open sea- about 40km. Well, it was OK when the boat was moving, and I was quite enjoying myself, bit like being on a roller coaster. But when it stopped the ocean’s swell caused the boat to pitch at 90 degree angles. And the north easterly winds were making it even more rough and choppy. Trevor, the skipper, had assured us that it would get calmer. He said it would get calm!

Nice and Calm (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillarys_Boat_Harbour)
Nice and Calm
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillarys_Boat_Harbour)

I felt rather queasy but I managed to cast off a few times. By 10am I had to move across the other side of the boat, where I sat and tried to think of anything else but how sick I was feeling. That didn’t work. On board there was a reporter, Steve, from the Fishing WA Magazine, who was doing an article about the trip. He was also feeling a bit green. And a woman, Jackie, who was feeling the same.

Steve suddenly got up from where he was laying and puked over the side. I couldn’t help myself any longer and followed suite, closely followed by Jackie. For four hours this went on, the three of us taking it in turns to throw up. It was awful! I thought it was going to be the longest day in the world and it was!

(Source: http://www.boatus.com/cruising/feelfree/previousarticle.asp?bid=3293)
(Source: http://www.boatus.com/cruising/feelfree/previousarticle.asp?bid=3293)

I felt better at 1.30pm and thought I might try a bit more fishing, but after being flung about and feeling sick again, decided that I would just hang on to the boat instead. Steve didn’t even take any pictures, which he was planning on doing if someone caught a fish.

On the way back to the harbour the sea was like a millpond. Typical. And even though we had felt absolutely awful, and I didn’t catch one little fish, we managed to laugh about it on the way back. You live and learn, and to this day I have never been on a fishing trip again.

My time in Australia was over. I was quite sad to be leaving because I had an amazing time. I had travelled to a lot of different places, and I had seen loads of cool stuff. I had two fantastic months. It’s a trip I will never forget-stored in my memory bank forever. That trip was to set the scene for my life as I know it now.