After 4 months in Asia and Indonesia we found ourselves now racing towards Australia, sad to be leaving. From now until the end of our travels English would be the spoken language, food and brands recognisable and toilets 100% squat-free. We were going to be visiting some amazing places still so we knew it would just be a different sort of travelling to what we’d been used to.
We encountered some of the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced as we approached Perth on the West coast of Australia. The city was experiencing a pretty bad storm so strong winds and rain greeted us. Emma was reduced to a crying wreck on the flight (a common occurrence since our Thai boat ride) while I unconvincingly tried to reassure her everything would be ok. Other than that the flight had been pretty good. We’d been given a free dinner soon after take off along with one of those blanket/face mask travel packs all of which no one else on the plane had received so we were feeling pretty smug. Our Round the World tickets had got us a nice little upgrade. Having left Bali at 10pm the previous day we were now at Perth airport at 2am and feeling pretty knackered and pretty cold, Australia was just coming out of its Winter and we were witnessing one of the coldest spells of the year.
Our main reason for this one week foray to Western Australia was to catch up with my ol’ buddy Paul Dean who both of us knew from our school days along with his lovely wife Debbie and the latest addition to their family, the beautiful little 2 month old (then) Evie. Paul very kindly picked us up from the airport at 4am on that very windy morning. He rolled up in his huge Nissan 4×4 with a big smile and hug for us despite the time of day. Within half an hour we were at Paul and Debbie’s lovely house and Debbie even came out to see us. It felt a little surreal to be with friends again so far from home and having arrived in the dark it was difficult for us to believe we were in Australia, it felt like home. We had a quick catch up and enjoyed our first cup of real English style tea since we left and then hit the bed for a few hours. When we woke up it was light and we got our first glimpses of Australia, our brains now registered we were down under. In some ways it’s very like England and then you see some weird plant or bird which reminds you that you’re a long way from home. The houses are all sprawling single story buildings as space isn’t something they’re in short supply of. Think of Ramsey street and you’ve got it.
Over the first few days we took it easy and visited some local shopping centres which always gets us excited. The supermarkets are all either Woolworths (no relation to the dead English company) or Coles, Coles seems a little bit more classy. We were amazed by all of the different things sold here like bacon rashers that are 2 feet long, Vegemite, Coon cheese (???) and the different names they have for things like capsicums, instead of peppers. We’re easily pleased! Paul and Debbie introduced us to Tim Tams which now have become an obsession of ours, they’re kind of like a Penguin bar but 100% more awesome and should always be accompanied with a cup of tea. There are several variations although I can testify that ‘original’ and ‘double coated’ are all you should concern yourself with. I’m hoping to be able to source a supply back in the UK, otherwise I will suggest to Paul that we setup a business shipping the blessed biscuits back to England.
We got to spend a lot of time with little baby Evie who is a really happy little smiley girl. In our whole week there I think she only cried once, the rest of the time she was just being extremely cute. Spending time with Evie did remind me of our lovely little nephew Harry who we miss very much, he must be getting pretty big now.
Paul had very kindly taken a few days off work later in the week so on those days we explored a little further out. On one of those days we visited Cottesloe, their local beach, which plenty of people were still enjoying despite it being a bit chilly. The weather had luckily improved so we could enjoy being outside and feeling some early Spring sunshine. We then headed to Freemantle where we visited the amazing Little Creatures brewhouse. We worked our way through several of their awesome beers whilst enjoying a tasty lunch. We started to realise that these Aussies know a thing or two about beer! Later that afternoon we stopped in a huge pub there called the Sail and Anchor and drank some more amazing beer. I had a Brass Monkey stout, thicker and darker than Guinness, which tasted like I was drinking an espresso, a cup of unsweetened cocoa AND a pint of beer. Emma had a Primus, the tap of which showed the beer being drawn in from the barrel, it was being passed through load of hops before reaching your glass! It was great to get that warm feeling again of being sat around a table in a pub with your mates and enjoying a drink.
With a taste for booze that evening we walked to the local liquor store, as they say, and got ourselves a couple of Australian wines along with two one litre cans of Asahi beer, I’ve never seen a can so huge so we had to get some!
Predictably we all felt a little worse for wear the next morning, except for Debbie who’s off the sauce as she’s feeding Evie of course. We drove into Perth’s CBD for a look around the skyscrapers and shopping streets, we saw the bell tower and London Court, a small lane styled on late Tudor London. After lunch we drove to King’s park which covers a huge area, much of it is pristine untouched bush land right next to the city. Here we met up with another of my old school buddies Peter Clements who had brought his three little ones along with him. We sat out in the sun and had a catch up for a few hours while the kids played on the slides. We could completely understand why Brits like our friends would want to move here now. The sun is out most of the time, the winters are pretty mild, beaches fantastic (despite there being a few Great Whites about) and you’ve got a great outdoor lifestyle. This was the first time that I realised what was making the place look so different, the lack of rubbish. Whether this is due to people’s behavior or the council’s cleaning I don’t know, but I do know I like it. All of the parks have hot plate style BBQs that are free to use along with picnic benches, all are cleaned daily and people really do use them. It’s not uncommon to see Birthday gatherings around them, people enjoy their parks here and are proud of them.
After our catch up with Pete we stopped off in another part of the park where you get an incredible view out over the city and Swan river, quite a sight. That evening we went to the pub and met some of Paul and Debbie’s mates whilst drinking a few Fat Yak beers, one of my favourite beers now.
The next day we went back to Freemantle and visited its famous prison. We joined a tour and were taken around by a very entertaining old boy who sounded like a Brit who’d lived out here for a fair few years. He brought the place to life and told us about the lives of the first English prisoners, POMEs (prisoners of mother England), who’d been worked to build the prison and lots of the city’s infrastructure. I couldn’t imagine how the guys managed it in the heat which can still reach high twenties in Winter. He wouldn’t tell us how he knew so much about life in the place which leads me to believe he was either an officer or one of the prisoners VIP guests. We saw how the standard of cells changed since the 1800’s when it was built, until the 1990’s when it was finally closed. One room which had belonged at one time to a master forgerer still had his paintings on the wall. One was of a huge sail boat in stormy seas which I wondered if it was what he’d been brought over on. Another haunting painting was of a solitary inmate confined in his cell. Finally, we were shown the gallows which had ended 45 lives during their time of commission, a pretty eerie old room!
After the heavy tour, Paul drove us out to a different beach where we laid out and enjoyed a few lazy hours in the sun. Paul even braved a very brief swim in the crystal clear but icy cold water. He put on a brave face but I could tell he was freezing his nuts off. That evening we met up with Peter again and this time his lovely wife Libby too. We enjoyed a few drinks sat outside on a marina whilst the sun was setting and then another few drinks back home with Paul and Debbie’s mate Deano over some fish and chips.
The next day we were up at 5am for something pretty special. We drove north a few hours in Paul’s 4×4 to the sand dunes at Lancelin and like we were in some episode of Top Gear started tearing up and down! Being English its quite hard to understand that anyone can just turn up and cane it legally through the dunes. You just can’t do that back home, we did here though! We were joined by Paul’s boss Dave and his brother Ash, both in separate cars. Dave actively encouraged Paul to try and drive up and down the steepest dunes in his work car, which he did, again this wouldn’t happen in England! Em and I both had a go too, we were grinning like idiots hammering it up and down the mounds of sand and trying not to get the car stuck. Paul couldn’t resist doing a few doughnuts on the flatter sections 🙂
We continued north across some pretty gnarly 4×4 tracks passing the odd kangaroo and emu as we went. We even saw a bobtail lizard by the side of the road chilling out with his blue tongue sticking out. Soon the track joined the beach and we carried on along it for a few kilometres. The sea was crystal clear like I’ve never seen before and the sand white, a really spectacular sight. Em took over beach driving for a little while and after ten minutes managed to get us into some very soft sand. The car ground to a halt and before we knew it we were stuck. The tide was going out but we were pretty close to the water and both of us were having visions of the car getting swept out to sea. After trying to dig us out, the car kept burying deeper into the sand. Luckily Ash’s Toyota Land Cruiser was there to pull us out. He didn’t want to go near the soft sand we were on and so stayed high up the beach, tying a few tow ropes together and after several unsuccessful attempts the car was out. We carried on along the beach, Paul now driving and trying to keep up our speed so we didn’t sink again in some very soft areas on sand. To everyone’s relief we reached the town of Wedge managing to not get stuck again. We met up with a few more of Paul and Debbie’s friends and drove over some more dunes there. These other guys had a Suzuki Vitara which I’d always regarded as a hair dresser’s car, yet it went up everything it was thrown at without any fuss at all. We braved a quick swim in the sea before heading back. After an epic day a cup of tea and Tim Tim or four was in order.
We took our last day easy in Perth going for a walk with little Evie and having a coffee next to the river sat in the spring sunshine and watching the pelicans. That night Paul showed off his culinary skills by cooking an amazing beef Wellington for us. We were extremely grateful as we knew we wouldn’t be getting a dinner again like that for a while. After a lovely week in Perth with our brilliant hosts it was time to say goodbye to our friends, I think Emma wanted to take little Evie with us when we left. Paul drove us to the airport and off we went, bound for tropical Cairns in far north Queensland to start the next stage of our Australian adventure.
Thanks a tonne Paul, Debbie & little Evie for a week of fun, great hospitality and an awesome introduction to Australia.