May 12th – Storms

I do not like rain.

This is something that my boyfriend and I disagree on. If we’re out in the rain, I’ll inevitably whinge about it, and he’ll inevitably question why I hate it so much.

He loves rain. But there is one element of it that we can agree on and that is that the sound of it on the roof or the windows, when you’re snuggled up in your pyjamas with nothing to do and no where to go, can be calming and soothing. It makes me feel cosy too, knowing that it’s gross outside but I’m all warm and comfy inside.

I know a lot of people who are scared of thunderstorms. But I’ve always loved them and been fascinated by them (again, from within the comfort of my house with four walls!). In my old home, my bedroom had a window seat, and if there was a thunderstorm, it wouldn’t matter what time of the night it was, I would get out of bed and sit on the window seat to watch the lightning strikes and listen to the rain and thunder. I just think there’s something so beautiful about it.

Last year, when I was in Australia, I was near a town called Broome, on the North West Coast and I was there during wet season. The night I was there, the most fantastic electrical storm was occurring and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It actually started as I was driving into the town and I sat in the car for ages, just in awe. For once, I didn’t try to take pictures that would inevitably turn out like crap, I just sat there and enjoyed the moment because I think it was the most incredible thunderstorm I’ve ever seen.

This has been a little bit of a rambling post but my point is, I don’t like being in the rain, but I do like watching thunderstorms. Fin.

The Roadtrip: Days 1 & 2

Wednesday: Today I set off up North for my big drive to Alice Springs. After filling up the car with petrol, buying some snacks and plugging in some tunes, I was well on my way!

The day was uneventful, but that’s exactly what you want when you’re driving alone across Australia!

I did have an interesting experience with a lady in a service station though… I had decided to buy a jerry can to fill up and keep in the boot, just in case I needed it in an emergency. The first can I picked up had no lid, so I checked the others and sure enough they didn’t either.

When I mentioned this to the lady at the till, she didn’t seem to get what my issue was – her response was along the lines of ‘what’s on the shelf is all we’ve got’. Sigh. “Okay, but I can’t put petrol in something that doesn’t seal,” I countered.

After some backwards and forwards and a bit of sign language, she disappeared into the back room and came back a full ten minutes later with a lid for the Jerry can. I presume they keep the lids out the back to stop people from stealing the cans, and this is fair enough. Just a shame the whole thing took so long!

I covered 550km and ended up in a town called Karratha for the night, where I stayed in a very quirky little Backpackers hostel. My supplies were waning and I was feeling tired so I decided to treat myself to a bought dinner out rather than cobbling together my own. It was only when I got into town and seated myself in a restaurant that I realised it was Valentine’s Day…

But! I stood my ground, sat on my own, and enjoyed my Valentine’s date with myself…because I could!

Thursday: Word of the day – rain. It’s wet season up north so this wasn’t unexpected. I left Karratha around 8:30am and managed about 600km without a hitch. Then I had another interesting petrol station experience – anyone noticing a pattern here?

I stopped at a roadhouse with about a quarter of a tank left, only to discover they were only taking cash…of which I had none. The next service was another 230km away, and even with the contents of the Jerry Can I wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully the cashier finally agreed to let me owe the money – she took my card details and name and said they’d charge the card once their system was back up. The fuel here was also horrendously expensive so I only filled up enough to tide me over and then made a point of driving more economically (aka slower) to the next service.

But alas, I didn’t get that far before another interruption! The rain had already hit by this point and about a kilometre after the roadhouse, I encountered my first bit of flooded road. No matter, it was merely a couple of centimetres and nothing to write home about. There were a few more of these before I eventually found myself facing one which did look a bit more dodgy. I’m pretty sure I could’ve got through it, but since there was a guy and his daughter with a tow truck, literally waiting to give me a ride over (yes, really), I didn’t bother taking the risk. Saved me some fuel too!

I eventually got to Broome around 7pm, having covered 850km, and checked into the YHA. A shower, a cold beer, and some time spent watching the incredible electrical storm unfolding were the next things on my agenda, and since I have achieved all of these, I am satisfied.

There’s a chance that if these rains get worse overnight then I may be stuck in Broome tomorrow if the roads are closed. I can probably spare a day though, it’ll just mean the other two are much more km-heavy. We’ll have to wait and see!

Adventures in Exmouth

Quick summary of today:

  • I got up at 5am to go to a yoga class which turned out to be cancelled.
  • I went back to bed until midday.
  • I drove into the Cape Range National Park.
  • Here, I walked through the Mandu Mandu Gorge, went for a swim at Turquoise Bay and watched the sunset from Vlamingh Lighthouse.

Enjoy some photos!

Turns out the 10 second timer on the iPhone camera is pretty useful for solo adventurers like me. Special thanks to the rock that I perched my phone against to take this.
Mandu Mandu Gorge
Red-faced and sweaty after the hike – so worth it!
This was the view over the Ningaloo Reef from the site of the WW2 interpreter, just near the lighthouse. Learned a lot of interesting history up here.
Vlamingh Lighthouse against the sunset

An update on my plans

Many of you will have heard me talking about my itinerary for this trip, and so many of you will be expecting me to head east pretty soon. But I’ve had a change of plan.

I felt that 2 beautiful coasts, plus a week in Alice Springs was too much to tackle in just 2 and a half months. When I leave Alice Springs I’ll have only three weeks before my flight home, and the last thing I want to do is rush any part of this experience. So, I’ve decided to come back West after Alice, and experience more of what WA has to offer. Even in the 5 weeks I’ve already been here, I know I haven’t seen even half of it!

As mentioned in my previous post, changes of arrangements during a big trip can be a little anxiety-inducing, but this is one decision that I’m 100% confident is the right one!

You Live and You Learn

That’s the phrase that keeps going through my head as I’m travelling around WA.

Not everything can go exactly according to plan when you’re travelling, and unfortunately for me, anxiety makes it even harder to let go and just let things happen!

Yesterday I left Monkey Mia and travelled South to a town called Geraldton. Due to a bad experience with the shuttle driver who took me to Monkey, I wasn’t going to get the shuttle back, and hitching a lift with two other volunteers who were heading back to Perth was the most cost effective and sensible seeming way to move forward.

When I got here, I checked in to my AirBnB, sat down on the bed and burst into tears. Going from the beautiful beaches, blissful remoteness, and friendly faces of Monkey Mia to the utterly juxtaposing overcast skies and small city that reminds me painfully of Salisbury was too much for my sleep-deprived head to cope with.

Fortunately a quick FaceTime chat with Beth helped me to calm down and rationalise; leaving Monkey was hard, but I’ve done that bit, it was amazing, and now it’s time to keep moving. And I can always go back!

As for my next steps, I have to stop feeling like I’m wasting days. Today I slept almost all day, which sounds like the ultimate waste of a day, but truthfully, after a spate of late nights and early mornings, I needed the catch up.

Tomorrow I’ll go out and see what the town of Geraldton has to offer – I’ve done some research and I know I can fill a day. Tomorrow evening I get back on the bus to Exmouth, where I’ve made the decision to hire a car for the rest of my trip. The logic there is to make things easier, and allow myself the freedom to go where I want, when I want, rather than relying on buses that only run twice a week!

I’ve learned three things:

1) You’re allowed to have a rest day – we’re all human and we all need to sleep!

2) Sometimes you have to take what feels like a step back, before you can keep moving forwards.

3) You can’t control everything. Even the best laid plans don’t always work out, but there’s a solution to every mishap.

It’s all part of the experience, and now I know for the future. I’m living and learning.

And I’ll tell you one more thing – I bet people didn’t expect to read a post like this on my blog about the epic experience of travelling around Oz, but not every second of every day is filled with joy and excitement. That’s part of the travel experience too, and it wouldn’t be an honest account of my travels if I didn’t mention the shit parts.

Tomorrow’s a new day – wish me luck!

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.

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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..!

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Doesn’t it look odd in such a fancy looking building!
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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!

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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!

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The Super Pit in all its glory!
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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!