I finished an incredible 10-day road trip from Perth to Melbourne a few weeks back. We went by way of Margaret River, Albany, and Esperance. For those of you unfamiliar with the size of Australia (or Western Australia in particular), that’s roughly the same as driving from San Francisco, CA to Mobile, AL via San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, and New Orleans. Similarly, there is coast on both ends of those drives with long stretches of desert in between.
The scariest thing about distance is that you don’t know if they’ll miss you or forget you.” – Nicholas Sparks
“But wait, Drew, weren’t you just in Tasmania. And what about Perth?” you ask. Well, here’s the lesson as I understand it (truly, I have not learned it yet): if you’re blogging, do NOT wait to post. Do NOT email your friends and family members about what you did – even in the slightest! – before you have your blog posted. With each telling of your tale, it becomes harder to commit it to written word and spend the time formatting photos to go along with it.
Now, on with the trip! We rented another SUV, this time a Toyota Kleuger – give me the Mitsubishi Pajero any day over this one. We left Perth on a rainy Friday and headed South toward Mandurah and Bunbury. Interestingly enough, we met up with Suzie and Rachel, two fun chicas we first met near the beginning of our travels in Australia…way back in Cairns! The beauty and wonder of Facebook.
After lunch, the girls took off and we went on a secret adventure (props to Aaron, a true-blue Aussie, for telling us about these hidden spots) along the rocky coast to find a giant cave. In hindsight, not telling anyone where we would be and crossing over rocks which were engulfed by the incoming tide probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but what adventurer says, “I played it safe the entire time.”?
That night, we slept at Meelup Beach under the breathtaking array of southern stars. In the morning, we stopped at another secret spot and went for a brisk dip in a natural pool amongst huge boulders. Imagine a private pool with a white sandy bottom, small fish darting around, and fresh, foamy blasts of sea crashing over rocks nearby, refilling your pool every 30 seconds or so. I cannot do this location justice with words or pictures – it was a place of dreams.
Before 9am,we trucked down to Margaret River Valley. This is the wine region of Western Australia and where most Perthians (I don’t think they call themselves this, but I like the Ancient Grecian feel of it) visit occasionally on long weekends. We watched a few early sets of a surf competition and then saw a bit of the tourist trap of the city. While I realize wine tastings are generally the thing to do in wine regions, we had a lot of driving ahead of us and you know what they say about drinking and driving, kids.
So, we soberly pushed on to Hamelin Bay and walked along the gorgeous beach, watching the giant black stingrays lazily glide along the shore. After a bit too much time there, we drove to Blackwood Meadery just in time to have a quick taste of unfiltered mead (okay, one small tasting…it was mead and I’ve been working on a game about Vikings – it had to happen!). We bought a bottle and a few mead beers before driving to a secluded camp ground on the Rooney River. And by secluded, I mean easy to miss the trail opening from the road and massive ruts along the trail which required all-wheel drive to traverse! Had the mozzies not buzzed my ears the entire night, this would have been an amazing place – still pretty cool though.
In the morning, after meeting our fellow campers, Craig and his dog, Berry (or Barry?), we took off on a drive to Albany by way of The Valley of Giants, large trees akin to the Ents. We stopped at a bakery in Walpole for coffee and decided to eat some of our food for brekky, but were told bringing our bread and peanut butter to the BYO cafe was “HIGHLY ILLEGAL”. The old server at the Golden Wattle was so shaken by our offensive crime that she didn’t bother to tell us our coffee had been sitting on the counter for 5 minutes and was now lukewarm at best. I call that a crime!
A quick stop at a Toffee store earned us a little time with a fella named Wilbur. His interest in us last about 2 seconds before he went back to rooting around in the grass for food. The Thousand Steps near a wind farm was a nice stretch of the legs after so much driving – plus the views were incredible. We later stopped at the Gap (not the department store) and the natural land bridge: two amazing feats of erosion, side by side!
Then there was the mountain. 3kms up a rocky peak wrapped in the chilly mists of a cloud. Our amazement on top of the clouds was unperturbed by any others as we were the only ones on the mountain! I shouted defiance at the gods as loud as I could, for I was a man. A man who conquered a mountain.
After a fairly quick drive through Denmark, we stopped in Albany for a jerry can to prepare for the approaching desert drive. With 30 litres of water, canned goods, bags of chips, cookies, Pepsi Max, and 20 litres of fuel, we felt prepared. Find out how we fared in Esperance, the Treeless Plain, and on the Great Ocean Road in the next installment!