I think I’ve fallen in love…

On Wednesday 31st January, I arrived in a beautiful part of the world known as Monkey Mia…it’s now Thursday 8th February and I’m still here. I’ve fallen completely in love with this place.

I thought I’d only be here for a couple of days but on my first day here I discovered the opportunity to volunteer at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Experience centre. The lack of volunteers (it’s the quietest month of the year now) meant I could start the very next day and I’m so glad I did!My hours are from 7:30am to 12 midday, so I still have plenty of time in the afternoon to go off and do other things here, it’s the perfect balance. Though it has to be said, the first two days I slept all afternoon AND still managed a full night’s sleep both nights. Turns out travelling is tiresome work!Volunteering involves recording dolphin data: which dolphins have come into shore at what time; how many fish they’re taking from us and the weight of those fish; what they’re up to behaviour-wise in the water. And the best bit of all, is the feeding! Each morning up to three times a day before midday, we run a ‘dolphin experience’ where the public are invited down to the shore, told a bit about the dolphins by one of the rangers, and then us volunteers bring the fish down and pick out random members of the crowd to come out and feed them a fish. We have 5 dolphins on the feeding programme and each of those is allowed no more than 10% of their daily requirement. This is to encourage them to forage for the rest of their food and carry on with normal dolphin behaviours. Nobody is allowed to touch the dolphins, not even the rangers, and there’s a law preventing people from swimming with 30m of them. If a dolphin approaches you in the water you’re asked to just remain still and let them do their thing. It’s a perfect way to get to see wild dolphins close up without effecting their natural lifestyles.When I was a child, dolphins were my favourite animals, mostly just cause they seemed cool. Now having got up close and personal with them, that view has been reinforced and I have a newfound appreciation for these beautiful beautiful animals!

I’m leaving Monkey tomorrow but I already know I’ll be back – I’ve even been asking around about jobs here..! Definitely got a new favourite place in the world.

Francois Peron National Park with the Vollie fam!

Some photos from the 4-wheel-drive trip that I took on Wednesday afternoon with Georgia, Ryan, Alex and Ben; 4 other volunteers who I met at Monkey Mia!

Splashing around at Herald Bight, photo creds to Georgia

Stunning sand tracks through the National Park


Beautiful Rottnest Island

Beth had hyped this place up so much, and it certainly lived up to its reputation.

Rottnest Island is a beautiful little island off the coast of Perth. We got the ferry over there at 8:30am on Sunday 21st Jan, leaving plenty of time to explore the island during the day. We picked up the bikes that Beth’s Aunt had kindly left on the Island for us to borrow (Thank you Sally!), and set off to find our accommodation. Having not ridden a bike myself in about five years and having to take all our bags and whatnot with us, this was an interesting ride! But I got the hang of it eventually and actually kind of fell in love with cycling..! Rottnest is so small and protected that the only vehicles are essential delivery vans and tour buses. It’s too big to walk everywhere though, so everyone cycles. It sort of felt like being in Amsterdam!

We spent a fair bit of time at the beach and mooching about the island, but these were my two highlights…

Highlight #1: The 22km bike ride! On the Monday, we cycled all the way around Rottnest, stopping off at most of the beaches along the way. This was hard work but I can honestly say, one of my favourite days so far. I always feel really good after a great workout, but what made this even better was the stunning scenery, the bright sunshine, and the breeze blowing on my face to cool me down.

We both decided we didn’t have the energy left to cook dinner when we returned to our hostel, so we went to a restaurant on the Island and had dinner there, which for me meant fish and chips – fresh, locally caught, grilled fish. Delicious! And full of protein after the exercise so that was a bonus.

Highlight #2: On Tuesday morning I decided to jump out of an aeroplane, because why not?! I discovered the service on the ferry ride over and as soon as I saw the poster, I knew I had to do it. I jumped from 14,000 feet over the island, and the views were beyond incredible.

The last time I did a skydive was about two years and while I’d sort of forgotten what it felt like, when people kept asking me if I was nervous this second time round, I wasn’t because I knew I’d done it before. That is of course, right up until the moment when I was just about to leave the plane and then my brain sort of went “fuuuuu*k, what am I about to do?!”

As soon as I was freefalling though, that all went away and all I could focus on was the exhilaration and adrenaline coursing through me! Cruising down over the Island after the canopy opened and taking in the views of Rottnest below, Perth in the distance and the vast expanse of Indian Ocean all around was something I will never forget.

Below is a collection of photos from our time on Rottnest.

Quick rest from the bike ride, stopping at the lookout at the West End of Rottnest Island
The most beautiful spot to eat lunch
Turned my back for a second and this cheeky guy started trying to nibble away at my bike!
This one speaks for itself…
Freefalling over this magnificent island
We made a friend on the beach

What a week!

My apologies for the lack of activity here on the blog, but there certainly hasn’t been a lack of activity in real life!

I will do some individual posts with pictures, but for now, here’s a summary of the last week and a bit. You’ll remember we returned from Kalgoorlie on Tuesday 16th Jan.

Wednesday 17th: Drove to Yanchep National Park – about a 40 minute drive up north. We spent the morning here and I saw MY FIRST KANGAROO! I was so excited, and they’re so goddamn cute!! If you have a look at my Instragram, there’s a photo on there, and I’ll put some more up here in the next couple of days.

Thursday 18th: We drove to Yallingup – this one was a 3 hour drive down south. Yallingup is a beautiful little beach town with some lovely walks and gorgeous views. Having inadvertently driven past our campsite, we decided to just keep going and have a look around. This led to us finding a nice 4km walking trail, the Yallingup Caves, and of course the beach! This was also where we trialled our $12 (about £7) tent for the first time, and let me tell you, it was a darn sight better than the $70 tent we’d bought the week before and promptly returned when it broke on first use!

Friday 19th: We were on the beach by 8:30am! Now this is why I came to Australia..! After a couple of hours there, we started making our way back home but with a few more stops this time. We had another swim and sunbathe break at Eagle Bay, and after that, drove to Busselton. This town is the home of the longest wood pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as 1 of only 6 natural underwater observatories in the world. Basically, Busselton was pretty cool! We got the tourist train down to the end of the 1.841km jetty, went down the steps at the end and were met with beautiful views out of the underwater windows. Again, pictures to follow.

Saturday 20th: Today, Beth worked all day so I mooched about Perth by myself, and we went to the beach after she finished. (Again, how cool is that! “Oh hey do you wanna go to the beach after work?” I love it!)

Sunday 21st – Wednesday 24th: Rottnest Island! I’ll write a separate post about this one because frankly, Rottnest deserves it. The last night of this particular adventure is where the drama kicked in hard and fast. We rode back to our hostel after an evening on the beach with some people we’d met earlier in the day, and just we arrived back, Beth managed to fall off her bike and break her wrist. So ensued a rather traumatic night for the both of us, involving a ambulance call out, a nurse who I didn’t get on with, a night in the island clinic for Beth, and a night of worrying for me. In the end though, we both got about 2 hours of sleep, and things calmed down. I can happily report that Beth’s wrist is ‘the best of a bad situation’ – it’s her left hand and a good clean break, nothing nasty and no surgery required. On Wednesday morning, we made our way back to the mainland on the ferry. Beth had to go to the hospital to have her wrist double checked, but I got home, had a shower and fell straight to sleep for the next 7 hours!

Thursday 25th: A rest day! At this point we both needed another day of doing nothing. It’s been a full on three weeks since I got here and I’ve loved (almost!) every moment of it. But sometimes even the adventurous traveller needs a rest. And Beth was on strong painkillers so that pretty much made her unable to do anything but sleep!

Friday 26th was Australia Day, which we spent with friends by the beach. And that brings us up to now…

Saturday 27th. Today’s my last full day in Perth and my last full day with Beth. A broken wrist tends to put a spanner in the works so where Beth was going to accompany me to my next destination, I’ll now be going on my own. So really, this is where the proper travelling begins. I’ve put all my worldly possessions into a rucksack and tomorrow I’ll jump on a coach and see where it takes me! Wish me luck!

Kalgoorlie-Boulder & The Super Pit

16 hours travelling for 33 hours in a destination – that’s what Australia’s all about, I’ve learned! It’s such a whopping great country that everything is miles away from everything else!

We hopped on a train at 2pm on Sunday afternoon and arrived in Kalgoorlie at 10 o’clock that night. Kalgoorlie and Boulder (two towns amalgamated into the district of Kalgoorlie-Boulder) cover the area which used to be known as the Golden Mile, where the Australian Gold Rush occurred in the 1890s. Three men were travelling through the area when they stopped to shoe their horse and accidentally discovered signs of gold. Three days later, the area was filled with hundreds of prospectors mining for gold. Over time, gold drew more people to the area and the population increased, and thus the towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were born. In the 1980s, businessman Alan Bond started buying out individual leases with a view to combining them all into one big mine. He didn’t finish the job, but shortly after he left the picture, two big mining companies formed a joint venture organisation called Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM), who took over the management of this project. They created what is known today as the Super Pit – one big giant gold mine, spanning 3.5km across, 1km wide and 600m deep.

All of this history and more, we learned in our one short day in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. We started by with a walking tour up the main street in Kalgoorlie. Stumbling upon the WA Museum was a happy coincidence, where we saw an exhibition of aboriginal history, a collection of the different forms in which gold was found in the area, and a lift up to a lookout platform, giving a birds eye view over the landscape.

The view from 33 metres up over The Golden Mile. Check out those clouds!

Not realising quite how far Boulder and the Super Pit were from Kalgoorlie, we set off on foot, and ended up walking about 8km in each direction. And what’s more – it rained! Australia must’ve decided I was getting homesick and to make it feel like I was back in England!

As we came into Boulder, the buildings started to look less rustic, with more car dealerships than Churchfields Industrial Estate and numerous fast food outlets. I spotted the most bizarrely situated Nando’s restaurant and also a Church which really didn’t look like a Church..!

Doesn’t it look odd in such a fancy looking building!
With all due respect, this church looks more like a KwikFit…

Our walking tour headsets instructed us to “saddle up our vehicle,” but since we were without said vehicle, but still wanted to see the Super Pit, our walk continued. We made the (smart) decision not to walk alongside the highway and eventually managed to navigate our way round some side roads that allowed us to cross the highway safely. We were actually feeling pretty good as we trudged up the hill in the rain, with our steadfast British spirit keeping us going! The term ‘character building’ comes to mind!

Let’s play a game – Australia 2018 or DofE 2015?!

Anyway – we got there. And boy oh boy it was worth it! Unfortunately the weather meant that there were no tours of the inside of the Super Pit running, but from the lookout point we had some amazing views and were able to read some more information on the history and the current operations of the mine. Honestly, I never thought I’d find a big hole in the ground so interesting!

The Super Pit in all its glory!
This is a scoop used to load the rock into the transport trucks to be taken for processing – each truck carries around 200 tonnes of rock. 1 in 7 trucks of rock may contain about 500g of gold, the rest being ore or waste rock. KCGM spends about $11millionAUD a year on mining equipment. Seems like the input-output ratio doesn’t quite match up!

Having earlier said we’d get a bus or taxi back down to our hotel in Kalgoorlie, we actually decided we couldn’t do ourselves such an injustice, so walked all the way back too! 25,000 steps all in all *muscle flex emoji*

Awaiting us at the end was some souvenir shopping, dinner in a restaurant opposite the hotel and a glass of crisp white wine… well deserved!

The Story of The Dragon Tree

img_1126-1After my tiring walk from Elizabeth Quay to Kings Park, this little story made me feel all happy inside, and I thought it deserved its own blog post!

The Dragon Tree, which is around 80 years old, was relocated from a property in Dalkeith (a suburb of Perth, about 9km from Kings Park), after the property was sold and scheduled for demolition. On the 18th November 2014, under police escort no less! this brave little tree (or not so little) began its journey on the back of a truck to Kings Park.

They started the relocation at midnight to avoid traffic disruption, (which is a lot more considerate than anything Salisbury would’ve done..!), and the 10km journey took THREE hours!

Once the tree arrived at Kings Park and was safely upright, they installed support anchors to keep The Dragon Tree stable until the root system re-establishes itself, which’ll probably take a few years.

I just thought this was such a nice little story, that this rare and ancient tree got a new lease of life and wasn’t destroyed by demolition crews!

Oh, and one more fun fact – The Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) is named as such because of its bright red sap, which is often referred to as Dragon’s Blood…so there you go!

Elizabeth Quay & Kings Park

Today was my first day left entirely to my own devices, since Beth was at work. If you want to learn to enjoy your own company, a day in Perth City is the way to do it!

My day included getting off the train at the wrong stop, an amazing potato salad, some beautiful views and a hella long walk in the 35 degree heat. But, since a picture speaks a thousand words…

View of Elizabeth Quay Bridge

Look! Look at this! $10 for a delicious, healthy lunch!


Frangipani flowers – Spotting these beauties on the pavement made the long walk up to Kings Park much more bearable.

I spent the morning at the Quay, sitting in a little café by the Swan River, reading, writing and watching the world (and the boats) go by. After a mooch around the tourist shops, I decided to shun the suggestion of getting an Uber to Kings Park, and walked there instead. Even looked at an honest-to-God paper map! It was only a couple of KMs but in the 35 degree heat, it was a bit of a challenge for my little legs! Worth it though, as once I got there, I had a look at some of the features – including the War Memorials and the Dragon Tree (more on that here), before finding a patch of shade and settling down on the grass for a snooze.

Kings Park was honestly such a serene and beautiful place; I could’ve spent all day there. I also had a look around Aspects of Kings Park, a gallery and shop which showcases and sells contemporary Australian craft and design items. They focus on local artists, and display the names of those artists next to their work. I love this, as it’s so special to buy a souvenir or a gift, knowing that it was designed and made in the place you actually bought it and represents something about that place – the authenticity makes it mean so much more. I’ll definitely be going back there before I leave Perth!(https://www.aspectsofkingspark.com.au/)

Errands and Exploring

Thursday = my most productive day so far in WA. This may be something to do with the fact I was awake at 5am – damn you jet leg!

After trying and failing to fall back to sleep, I got up to make myself breakfast and sat reading on the balcony – pretty perfect way to start the day. By 9am, we were in the car on our way to Garden City to do some grocery shopping. In Cole’s, the main Australian supermarket, I managed to get a little smartphone for less than $30 (about £18) AND it already had $10 loaded onto the SIM card. So now I’ve got myself a little Australian phone to save myself all those international call/text charges!

Around 11, Beth dropped me off at the gym, and I tell you, it was the nicest gym I’ve ever set foot in! I managed to get a really good deal on a two week membership, for full use of the gym facilities – not that I need a sauna, it’s plenty hot enough outside!

The day was rounded off with a drive to North Fremantle, the oldest settlement in the Perth area. It’s named after Captain Fremantle, the English naval officer who colonised the area. Visiting and learning about places like Fremantle takes me back to the days of A Level Theatre Studies and Our Country’s Good! In fact, it was partly those days that made me want to come to Australia in the first place; I became fascinated by the cultural history of this place. I’m enjoying seeing it first hand.

On the high street in Fremantle
On the High Street in Fremantle

There was some fascinating architecture in Fremantle. Original 19th century heritage buildings remain there. Though, to me they looked bizarrely artificial – at points I felt like I was walking through a film set!

The sand track leading to Fremantle Beach

The 5am start finally got to me once we got home, and as impressed with myself as I was for staying awake all day (and not having a 4 hour nap like I did on Wednesday!), I went to bed, defeated, around 8pm. Though not before making and eating a damn good stir fry with Beth!

A successful day if you ask me ☺️

Four things that happened on my first day in Perth

  1. Gay couples can officially get married in Australia, as of today! I heard stories on the radio today of couples who got married last night after midnight so they didn’t have to wait a moment longer. Congratulations to them!
  2. Nico the Silverback Gorilla passed away 😦 Technically, this happened yesterday, but I didn’t find out until today, and when I did I was rather sad. Nico was the oldest Gorilla in Europe and thought to be second oldest in the world. He lived on the Island in the lake at Longleat and was a beautiful sight to behold on the trips I’ve taken to there during and since my childhood. He was such an icon – RIP Nico.
  3. Beth’s car broke down! The poor thing, which hadn’t been driven for 3 weeks, had a dead battery when we tried to set off to the shopping centre. Fortunately a set of jump leads and a friend’s car can get you a long way, so disaster was averted.
  4. I went for the windiest beach trip known to man and looked like some kind of sand monster by the time we left. It was gorgeously sunny and warm, but the easterly winds were blowing sand everywhere, meaning I only made it about an hour and a half before dusting off and calling it a day.
Photo credit: Beth Cusack

I have no clothes…

Day 1 of my Australian adventure and I think the locals have begun to notice that I’m wondering around in nothing but yesterday’s knickers…

Okay, so it’s not that bad, but at the time of writing I have nothing to wear but the clothes I wore on the 22 hour plane journey (and those need to see a washing machine before they see the light of day again).

I’ll add some context. The first leg of the flight was actually fairly pleasant – I got through two movies, 6 episodes of Brooklyn 99, a few chapters of my book and even managed to snooze on and off.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur about 20 minutes behind schedule but thankfully our connecting flight was slightly delayed anyway.

Beth and I didn’t manage to get seats together this time and I ended up stuck between one guy on my right, who practically folded himself up so he was all knees and elbows sticking out everywhere, and another on my left who thought it a good idea to spread himself and his belongings as wide as possible. Now, I know I’m not huge, but I like my personal space.

Fast forward 6 hours and I’ve moved seats, had some grub, watched another film and we’re coming into land at Perth International Airport, 20 minutes early!

Since all had gone well up to this point, there was bound to be a snag at Perth airport. As we stood waiting for our checked luggage, we got increasingly nervous when the conveyor belt was on its third rotation and our bags were still MIA. Finally, the belt stopped and we were told that if our baggage wasn’t there, we were to file a report with the baggage services desk. This took us about another hour and we didn’t leave the airport until 3am local time!

In all the faff I’d almost forgotten where I was, until I stepped out of the terminal and into the warmth of the night. I was hit by this amazing smell, very sweet and very clean. It certainly didn’t smell like England! Suddenly the feeling of surreality set in and I became a bit overwhelmed… I am actually in Australia. For real. Fortunately this also came with a bizarre sense of calm, which I reckon bodes well for the rest of my time here..!

We’ve been told our bags should be delivered to where we’re staying on Wednesday, so keep your fingers crossed for me that I can have my clothes back and poor Beth can stop lending me hers!

Last bit of excitement before heading to bed; watching the sun rising over the Swan River.