Our first few days in Perth were a little rainy (we were told that isn’t normal, although our experiences have proved otherwise), but that didn’t dampen our spirits! We had some delicious brunches with my brother Dan and his wife Liis, and in the brighter moments spent some time doing many of the excellent out door activities Perth has to offer. This included hanging out on several of Perth’s beaches watching the kite surfers and sunsets, and Paul even went for a paddle a couple of times.
We visited Kings Park, which was lovely, and the smattering of rain meant that we were treated to an awesome rainbow (this became a bit of a theme for the first part of our trip).
Paul and Dan decided to have a round at Dan’s local golf course on one of the brighter days. I knew they would be a while when I received a text from Paul declaring a state of spaghetti-o’s at the first hole due to a rather large lake they had to get across. I am told they both managed it like pros though, and although Dan won the day overall, a good game was put up by both.
We also spent a day in Fremantle, which is a big area at the North of Perth. We started our day with a visit to the old prison, which was very sobering indeed. The conditions were awful, and it was hard to believe the prison was active right up until the early 90s. We met Dan for lunch in the Fremantle Arts Centre, which was a little more light hearted, and then Paul and I went for a wander around, finishing in Little Creatures Brewery, where we sampled some of their very tasty beers.
Dan had a few days free about a week into our stay, so the three of us headed down to Margaret River for a little mini-break. We did several walks round the area, which were all very beautiful…
And encountered a number of additional rainbows…
While we could easily have spent several days on all the different local walks, we were very keen to try something a bit different and were delighted when we found a bushtucker canoe and caving tour. Off we set nice and early, to where the Margaret River meets the sea. Dan, Paul and I were put in one canoe, with the other couple and our tour guide in the second. We were told to nominate one person to steer and the others to be the powerhouses doing the more serious paddling at the front. That didn’t take much thinking about really, and I took my spot at the back ready to steer. It took me a little while to get the hang of more subtle steering (so we didn’t zig zag our way through the entire river), and soon we had a good rhythm going (although it wasn’t as effortless as the other canoe made it seem – but then they did have a professional!).
We stopped after a while and went for a little hike up to the top of a hill to look out over the sea on one side and the river on the other. Our guide gave us lots of information about different plants and berries you could eat if stranded in the bush (although I wouldn’t trust any of us to be able to point them out for you), and then we took shelter at the mouth of the cave as it started raining a little – perfect time for lunch! The guide had brought with her different meats (including emu and kangaroo) as well as a number of other weird and wonderful nuts and berries to go with them. The highlight of the lunch was when she brought out a tub with a witchetty grub, cut it up and started offering it around.
The boys totally chickened out, which meant it was up to me to step up and give it a go. I reckon the worst part is the idea of eating it, because the grub itself doesn’t taste of too much!
Next we were given torches and taken into the caves, which had once housed the survivors of a ship wreck in 1876. Then our guide asked if anyone fancied crawling through one of the smaller cave passages. “You will get dirty,” she said, “but it is good fun”! Feeling adventurous after my witchetty grub experience I quickly volunteered, only to then discover the others were all bowing out. Too late to back down now, I crawled in after her. As we dragged ourselves on our bellies through the tunnel she said – “ah, dirty and wet… there is a big puddle here”. As there was no room to turn around (it really was pretty tight), and given my clothes were already covered in mud, I carried on regardless, and all too soon we had made it through and were back in our original cave with the others, who were all waiting with cameras. Again, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself afterwards, even more so when the guide said I had won a bottle of wine for being so adventurous… hurrah!
Dan had to head back the next day for some of that pesky work stuff, so Paul and I were forced to soldier on with a wine tour without him. It’s a tough life. We were taken to 5 boutique family run vineyards and a microbrewery, as well as a cheese factory (which Paul sat out), an olive oil factory and a chocolate shop. It was a smashing day, and we even discovered a couple of truly exceptional wines (including a lovely red wine that was served at a royal banquet for Princess Mary of Denmark). The hardest part about wine tours when you are travelling is that you can’t buy all the wines you like because there isn’t always enough time to drink them all before your next flight. We did try to encourage a couple of the wineries to send some wines to the UK, but it didn’t sound like it was likely any time soon, so decided we would just have to come back another time!
All too soon it was time to move on from Margaret River and head to our next stop Albany. The drive was pretty long (about 5 hours –not that long by Aussie standards) so we broke it up with a few stops on the way. Our favourite was getting to do a tree-top walk in the valley of the giants in Denmark . The boardwalk takes you through a forest of red tingle trees, the highest point is 40m above ground, and even then the trees are taller…
Another incredible sight in Denmark were the elephant rocks… we were sceptical when we first heard about them, but as we turned the corner were amazed to find that they did actually look like a herd of elephants (unlike dog rock in Albany which we found harder to see, despite the locals painting a collar on him)!
Once in Albany, the incredible views continued. We took a trip to Frenchman Bay, where we saw more beaches and cliffs. During one of these walks, Paul got a bit of a shock when he got too close to a blow hole just as it went off.
As before, we were keen to find different ways to see the local sites, so we also went horse riding. Neither of us had really done much horse riding before – apart from once earlier on our year away. Our guide was Justin, possibly the most chilled out man we had met. He introduced us to our horses (Belle – mine, and Yarra – Paul’s). We spent the first 15 mins getting to know them on the ground, walking them round a paddock learning how to lead them. Sounds easy enough, but these horses were no fools and they knew we were amateurs! In the end we came to a compromise with the horses, whereby they would mostly listen to us and we respected that they were doing us a favour by not throwing us off!
This worked pretty well and we got on and went for a gorgeous (and gentle) ride around a beautiful bay. Two hours later, and with only minor hiccups (like Belle stopping, turning around and walking off in wrong direction – I managed to convince her to get back on track eventually), we were back at the start. It was a great way to see some of the area, even if we were walking like John Wayne for a couple of days afterwards!
And suddenly it was time to head back to Perth in order to start the second part of our Western Australia adventure – going North – but I will let Paul tell you about that next time!