From Perth to Esperance
Having now met all three German girls we set off on our two week adventure in the little (but reliable!) Mitsubishi Campervan. Silvia and Tanya were to share the driving and sleep in the van, as the insurance was for those over 25 unfortunately. Christiana and I would share the 2 man tent thinking that, with it being the start of summer, it shouldn't be a problem at all!
Over the 2 weeks we made the most of each day doing trips in between driving the open road and then pitching up at lovely little campsites. Our plan was to just follow the coast around from Perth to Esperance and stop along the way as and when. Arriving in each place, we would assess how much there was to see and either just have a pit stop (as was the case for many little places which were so little it was surprising they were even on the map!) or stay for a night or two. The campsites really did vary from ones which had a spa (for the upmarket backpackers) to ones where hearing the munching of Kangaroos next to you was a nightly occurrence.
The majority of the campsites we stayed in were right on the coastline and in just a few minutes you could be sitting on a beautiful, long beach, watching the sunset with not a sole to be seen for miles!
Setting up camp
I much prefer staying at the campsites here to the hostel, especially on the West coast, it's a great opportunity to meet the locals. As the country is so vast and only 1.9milion Australians live on the west coast numerous tourists on this side of the country are actually Australian, one tourist destination said that 2/3rd of their trade is from Aussies (the remainder being from Germany or the UK!).
The beginning: Rockingham to Bunbury
Following a night out just south of Perth, for the Sunday session at Cottesloe beach, we stopped for the night at Rockingham. Our plan was to pitch up at a campsite, however with it being a little too late to do so we found the McDonalds car park sufficient. Surprisingly I didn't really have much beauty sleep that night partly due to the steering wheel preventing any leg movements but mainly because I was worried that any minute a police officer would coming tapping at the window!
Penguin Island at Rockingham was our first stop, however it might have been more aptly named seagull island as they were there in their masses!
The miniature penguins were very cute though but it's really at night time that they emerge onto the beaches all over the island. Mandura was a great destination for a lovely lunch break before moving further south for our first real campsite close to Bunbury where we briefly stopped for the 200m walk around the mangroves (apparently a highlight!). The sun was shining and we hoped that/expected it would continue this way!
Another beach for lunch
Busselton to Dunsborough
I have to say that we were all somewhat disappointed in little old Busselton. The town was similar to the majority of towns on the West Coast, mostly bungalow buildings, wide roads with only a few cars on them, 1 or maybe 2 (if you're lucky) supermarkets and a school. Busselton, however had the longest Jetty in the South West and Lonely Planet had recommended a visit to the underwater observatory. Well we were a little unsure whether to pay the $22 to visit as this was 2 nights accommodation for us and we should have listened to our gut instincts. I think that during the 10minute guided talk we saw 3 fish, or was it 4?!
At least our money went to marine research, so it wasn't a total loss.
Cape Naturalist to Cape Leeuwin
After a swift getaway we had a much more successful afternoon hiking around the trails of Cape Naturalist near Yallingup and managed to spot some whales in the Indian Ocean (well after a lovely couple had stopped us mid photo session!).
We continued our trip south to Margaret River, a region known for its wines!
One of the highlights of the trip has to be the Margaret River wine tour! It was fabulous and really good value for money. We were picked up by the Bushtucker van at 10:30am to begin the 4 Wineries (Adinfern, Knotting Hill, The Grove and Tassel park), Brewery, Gourmet lunch, Chocolate factory and cheese factory tour. All 40 tastings went down a treat and before we knew it all 22 of us (all different ages) were being dropped back off in the town after 7hrs drinking!
Knotting Hill Vineyard
Margaret River landscape really reminded me of the countryside in the UK. Due to the large amount of rainfall they get in this area (and all of the S.W we later discovered) it's perfect for wine growing and gives the landscape a very 'lush' feel to it. There are also numerous limestone caves in this region, Lake cave was definitely worth a visit.
Inside Lake Cave
The weather was a bit hit and miss throughout our trip around the coast, quite similar to that of our April showers. At times Christiana and I were adamant that we were going to be blown away and a number of times had to step out in the night to rescue the outer lining of the tent! As temperatures at night began to drop I ended up at one point wearing trousers, a fleece, wolly hat, socks, sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner to bed! Thinking this was a little extreme I gave in and bought a new sleeping bag which was suitable for lower temperatures!
Moving on to Augusta we made a stop at Cape Leeuwin, which can also be reached along the coast from Cape Naturalist by a 140km walk (or there abouts), maybe a challenge for next time! The challenge we took on however was to scale the 61m Gloucester tree in Pemberton with no safety net what so ever and no one there to watch for our safety! The climb was worth it and gave us an amazing view over the Karri Eucalyptus trees.
The Tree Top walk
The other natural wonders we visited included the Elephant rocks in Denmark, the Natural Bridge and Gap in Albany where Australia was attached to Antarctica and Waverock in Hyden which was formed as a result of chemical weathering.
Elephant Rocks in Denmark
Where Oz touched Antarctica
Attempting to 'surf' the wave
Girls on a beach next to our campsite in Albany
This is definitely a place to visit if you're on the West Coast. The town has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and the coast here is beautiful. There are islands dotted around, surrounded by turquoise sea and cream sands. It was here that we experienced the phenomenon that is in Australia - the Melbourne cup! We had been told that the whole of the country comes to a halt to watch the 3 minute race and that's what happened, literally!
As happens with most towns, the majority of the inhabitants take the day off and dress up in hats and the works. They begin drinking before the race and continue throughout the day with a quick glance at the screen to see if they had a winner.
Due to the bad weather that Albany had been subject to (showers and a few gusts of wind) 5 minutes before the race the whole central part of town suffered a blackout! All those punters poised in front of the screen, I have to say it was amusing to watch! Luckily just as the horses set off the power came back on - phew! (Those who know me will be surprised that I didn't have a bet, mainly because the girls I was with weren't that interested in it).
The weather did however prevent us from taking a hike up to the Stirling National Park, we did however try but unfortunately we were to sodden to walk further more than 20minutes and had to do an about turn. The hikes in Esperance, however were a little more successful and the climb (literally) up the Frenchmans peak was well worth it for the view overlooking Cape Le Grand National Park. We met a man from the UK at the top who had driven his little MG (Bridget the Midget) overland through to Iran and Nepal, then shipped it to Oz and was going on to S.America. It really inspired us to keep going in our little van, even though the fan belt was beginning to make a few too many noises for our liking!
Stirling Range in the lovely Australian weather.
Views from Frenchman's peak
Bridget the Midget (has her own website!)
Well what can I say, I think that the pictures say it all.
The beaches are the best I have ever seen - just perfect! The town itself is nice, more suitable for the retired I think but lovely National parks to trek around if you don't fancy the beach.
Esperance was a trek to get to, almost 400km from Albany but well worth it. We would go for 100km without the scenery changing and only a handful of cars to be seen.
The Open Road!
We'd stop in a little town which had just a school and petrol station and I can only assume that the kids lived in the bush as there weren't any houses nearby.
Back to Perth
So after two weeks I said my farewells to the girls and headed back to Perth on the 10hr bus ride with 40 old ladies! It was a great trip, thanks Christiana for twisting my arm to join you guys! However after 2 weeks in a tent it was nice to have a mattress again! Im now in Perth for a week before my next road trip and loving it. Very keen to return to work here in the near future.