Security in the Perth Airport domestic arrivals terminal is somewhat lax, and as such they will let pretty much anybody in, past the baggage pickup, and right up to the gates.
Case in point: my Uncle Pierre was able to meet us the moment we got off our plane from Melbourne, and he immediately became a co-conspirator in our attempt to un-intentionally smuggle a Victoria lime past quarantine and into Western Australia, a big no-no.
The shock and excitement I felt from actually being able to visit his somewhat recently adopted home base was almost palpable, and we couldn’t keep the giant smiles off our faces as we collected our now-famously-attached-to-avoid-checked-baggage-fees-baggage and made our way into the sweltering 40 degree heat of the parking lot.
We caught what must have been Perth rush hour as we headed south in Tammy’s mercifully air conditioned SUV towards our home for the next 10 days: Mandurah (you’d better not pronounce the ‘u’ though or you’re in for a beating from the local language police… It’s pronounced ‘MANdrah’).
Even if we’d been living in the luxury of 4 or 5 star hotels since we’d left Canada (which we hadn’t… hostels only), Casa di Pierre & Tammy would still have impressed us immensely, but even more so because it was immediately made to feel like a palatial home away from home for us; our host breaking out welcome drinks and smoked salmon canapés on the 2nd floor terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean not a stones throw away while we basked in the dying rays of the setting sun.
The ocean, being so close and so inviting, couldn’t keep us away, so Pierre and I had a quick swim before retiring to the equally stunning rear patio (I should really describe the scene as more of a giant cabana bedecked in lanterns and other lights, with grapevines mingling all about and offering their bulging fruit) where BBQ flatbread pizza awaited our immediate ingestion.
When Aunt Tammy finally arrived home from work after a long and arduous day at the grind, she settled in with us to eat, and we all took care of a bottle(s?) of wine before calling it a night.
‘Ah, the beginning of a relaxing 4-day weekend with overseas visitors!’ they must have thought… Silly them!
Without going into too much detail, I had decided that a ‘quick drive down the coast to Margaret River’ was a necessary activity for a Friday, and the following morning we rose at 7 for a wake-up dip in the ocean, after which Julie and I were treated to a breakfast feast on the as-mentioned-delightful 2nd floor terrace, before setting out for the famed wine region.
After a 2+ hour drive, our appetites had miraculously returned, and we decided to stop for a bit of nosh at a Jill P.-recommended winery; Leeuwin Estate, where we were early enough to be granted the best table on the terrace, overlooking the spectacular main arena (front lawn) of the establishment.
This meal turned out to be the most luxurious lunch I’ve had in my entire life, consisting of an amuse-bouche, tapas style tasting platter artfully paired with 5 wines, a main course (with a proper glass of wine), dessert, espresso, and lastly: wine tasting at the cellar door (for which the tasting notes were absolutely ridiculous).
The whole affair lasted over 3 hours, a tranquil yet extravagant experience that allowed us to get a great start on the long unwind from our weeks of rushed hostelling around the East coast of OZ and two islands of NZ.
The only downside was that by the time we got back on the road to check out some other local attractions (read: more wine!), it was nigh on 4pm, leaving us time only for a quick visit to a chocolate factory (sugar overload!) before Julie took the wheel of her first 4×4 and DD’d us back to Silver Sands.
The next 9 days were almost a blur, which is somewhat silly considering it was the most relaxing Julie and I had done since leaving our jobs back in snowy Tdot.
I say relaxing, but that was really only for us… Our hosts not only looked after our every need, but also prescribed themselves more than mere moments of highly stressful activity, namely the very next day: Australia Day (the Aussie equivalent of Canada Day), for which they had planned a beach-party/backyard-BBQ for a bunch of their near-by friends and Julie and I (this all after a morning trip down to the Eastern Foreshore to see our very first flotilla [in honour of Australia Day]).
we spent a day on the beach figuratively chilling, but literally getting baked even in the shade of Pierre’s trusty beach lean-to-brella (or whatever), followed by a scrumptious supper of BBQ’d barramundi salad rolls with some secret peanut sauce that Julie couldn’t get enough of.
Even though there were a few hiccoughs getting started (getting a proper air compressor to repressurize the tires after tearing around at 18psi, making the 12v-jumper-cable-alligator-clip-powered air compressor actually work with a vehicle that has the battery firmly and inaccessibly installed underneath the front passenger seat [engine compartment jump points apparently exist], etc…), tearing around in 50-60cm of sand in 4wd on an incredibly stunning white sand beach was so much fun and well worth it.
Oh, and the picnic lunch courtesy of Tammy, crystal-clear water reef snorkelling off the beach (which also happened to be Julie’s first time!), and ‘celebratory’ beers thereafter didn’t hurt the atmosphere one bit.
So, if you ever get a chance to go to a beach park meant for off-roading, take it!
Sadly, all long weekends must come to an end, and the following day being Tuesday meant that our hosts had to get back to the grind for the rest of the week.
However, instead of giving us the boot, they left us the house (beach included), the 4×4 with a full tank of gas, and instructions to have as much fun as possible in whatever way we saw fit.
What a raw deal… 😉
We took a drive around town, but other than hitting up the local
candy liquor store for a peruse and grabbing some fixings for dinner, we did absolutely nothing all day except relax like it was going out of style.
Wednesday read a lot like Tuesday, but for the added bonus of dinner out at a tasty Indian joint on the wharf area, followed by ice cream at Simmos in the same locale, a lazy walk back to the car and an early night for the lot of us.
Up to this point, we’d restricted ourselves solely to demanding attention from Pierre and Tammy, and it was very nice to spend so much time getting re-acquainted, but having the opportunity to go out and explore WA on our own was one we couldn’t pass up.
Hence, with the encouragement, support, and entire contents of their house (well, more like garage and storage areas… We left the fridge and tv), on Thursday morning we packed up the Touareg, and Julie and I drove down the coast back towards Margaret River for a couple days of luxury car camping (also Julie’s first time:p).
Did I mention that there were microbreweries on the way also?
Our last stop before settling down for the night was at Eagle Bay, at the North West tip of the Margaret River region, and it’s too bad the light was failing (although you wouldn’t know it from the pictures) otherwise I’d have gone for a proper swim in the crystal clear water.
From Eagle Bay, we booked it South to a campsite we’d found on the local tourist map which, due to a strike by the park rangers (apparently an annual-ish thing during the tourist ‘off-season’), ended up being freeer than America (…),
and got there with just enough light to notice some more ‘roos by the side of the access road (obviously that called for another photoshoot:D) and to set up camp for the night.
The next morning was stunningly beautiful, more so because we survived the night in the wilderness without getting eaten by wolves (of which there are none in WA, or OZ at all for that matter… dingos perhaps, but definitely no wolves… at least not since the early 20th century) or giant lizards (of which there are many), or getting caught in the middle of a kangaroo boxing match.
After tearing down our ‘humble’ abode (complete with princess-sized queen air mattress)
we took advantage of our being alive, and drove down the road signed ‘beach access’ where we were graced with some incredible panoramic views,
rock pools that we could explore (don’t get too close! rogue waves can and have swept many poor souls out to sea… or down to Davey Jones’ Locker, or where have you…) and tons and tons of DOLPHINS!
It’s hard to see them right close to shore in this picture because I don’t have a proper telephoto lens but here you can see a particularly decent post-zoomed-in shot of one of many many dolphins that were around, jumping right out of the water (in pursuit of breakfast-fishes I presume). The beach also happened to be one of the best body-surfing spots I have ever discovered, and if not for the beck and call of more wine, we’d have stayed in this paradise the entire day.Wine tasting in the morning is much quieter than in the afternoon, and the staff generally look at you as if you are a proper wino (even though they are the ones manning the cellar doors which generally opened around 10am), but that couldn’t keep me away, so after the beach, we hit up a few more wineries: Eagle Vale (which had emus in their front ‘yard’)
before discovering my new favourite coffee shop-heaven; Yahava KoffeeWorks, where I also found my new favourite coffee table (old espresso bars!!! so awesome) and a proper roasting and tasting bar (Thanks for everything Steve!).Now sufficiently twitchy from ‘tasting’ (read: drinking) 5 or 6 espressos and a few cups of different french pressed coffee, we settled down at a nice picnic area for a lunch of BBQ corn and sausages (free public bbqs ftw!)
after which we visited the first winery established in the Margaret River region: Vasse Felix.
Coincidentally, there ‘happened’ to be a microbrewery along our chosen route today too, so after not much ado, we settled down on the Cheeky Monkey Brewery patio for a tasting flight session in the evening sun
the rays of which illuminated a local herd of cows off in the distance (photoshoot ensues)
before we headed back to our (free!) campsite in time to catch more ‘roos chillin
and with enough light to notice a giant hole in the ground with scary-looking tracks leading into it.
The night happened to be particularly clear (much like the previous string of nights… we were blessed with incredible weather… consistently hot, but clear and beautiful), so after recognizing that we were as happy as larks, and that if we weren’t happy in this exact moment then we’d never be happy, I fiddled around with my camera and tried my hand at tripod-free night-photographizing.
When you have grown up your entire life of 30 years with the Big Dipper (what some nerd-folk might call Ursa Major) as the centrepiece in your night sky, to be confronted with Orion and his famous belt
and the Southern Cross (again, some silly academic has taken to naming constellations, and apparently their vernacular for this particular star-bunch is the Crux)
as the mainstays of the clearest night you’ve seen in a decade, it is not only disconcerting and humbling, it is in fact completely overwhelming to the point where I was actually light headed and short of breath… Something about being upside down perhaps…
Now that I’d figured out how to take nice blurry underexposed shots of the aforementioned star-bunches (that has a nice ring to it eh? not like the ‘technical’ term: constellation…), I tried to take a few shots that fully demonstrated the absolute incredulity of what we were witnessing above us.
The Milky Way:
and some more breathtaking examples of a sky that would make any non-pagan disavow their chosen en-masse-religion (no pun intended) in favour of something else (science maybe? nah… you can explain a lot with science, but you still need some spiritual sprinkles on top of the hypothetical science-cupcake to come close to any sort of comprehension of the magnitude of such wonders)
I really wish I knew how to use my camera better… and that I had a proper tripod (I’m looking at you Manfrotto! Design me a full-size-feather-weight-titan-strength-completely-collapsable-down-to-the-size-of-a-can-of-beer tripod that I can afford [if you want to give me one for free and sponsor my photographizing for the rest of my trip, I’ll allow that also]) so that I could properly document the darker (less light) parts of our trip… Especially midnight kangaroo boxing matches that we discover behind our tent while trying to fall asleep.
After surviving another night in the wilds, we woke up to a beautiful saturday morning and struck camp again, then hit the road, only to immediately find a parrot in the middle of the field in which we were stargazing the previous night!
No sooner had I put my camera away and driven another 100m, then I had to jump out of the car again to take photographic evidence of the creator of the scary-looking tracks in the dirt near our campsite (or a member of his/her family); the Goanna, soaking up the first rays of the morning sun on the side of the road:
We made it back to Silver Sands safely (alliteration? ftw? thanks highschool english teachers!), and after some toast and coffee to replenish the energy coffers, we turned back around, jumped in the car with Pierre and Tammy, and drove North to Fremantle in search of more sights before our flight to Bali the next day.
I realize a theme has begun to recur in that microbreweries always end up being along the routes we happen to travel, and Fremantle was no exception, as we conveniently (well, actually not so conveniently… Their brewery happens to be on the ‘opposite’ side of a set of railroad tracks to the town proper, so we took a long roundabout way of getting there that turned out to be completely unnecessary had I not been so smart and following my usually-accurate-with-walking-directions google maps…) stopped by Little Creatures for a mediocre-at-best pint of their bright ale draught on their very-much-awesome wharf-side terrace lounge)
before doing a lightning fast walking tour of the rest of the beautiful harbourfront then stopping by a didgeridoo shop (yes, that is a thing) for Julie to dig a didg (hilarity ensues).
We wanted to see as much of WA as possible in our short time there, so I instructed our incredibly-patient-and-accommodating hosts to continue driving, this time in the direction of Perth and all it’s wonders, in this case Kings Park which we hastily dropped in on for a quick and painful climb of the DNA Tower (ranked #10 of the top ten things to do in the park)
before my famous hanger started to get the better of me and we all agreed that dinner on the Perth ferry dock would be the perfect itinerary-ender.
Unfortunately, our time in the lap of luxury couldn’t last for ever, and after a quiet drive back to their beautiful beachfront house and a good night’s sleep, we were graciously driven by my Uncle Pierre and Aunt Tammy back North to Perth again the next morning, this time to the international departures terminal of the Perth Airport where we pushed the limits of our checked baggage weight restriction (Julie is carrying around a couple cans of baked beans… don’t ask… or do ask… maybe we will tell you that story if you’re interested…)
before hopping on the budget airline Air Asia for our very much no frills 4hour+ flight to Bali for which we will have a blog post up by the end of March at the rate we are going…
Please stay tuned! I know we aren’t great at getting our chronicles online in a timely fashion, but we will continue cranking out memories as our trip progresses.