A whole week without a post ! Western Australia is so remote that cell phone coverage is a scarce modern luxury. So here is a long post, to sum up our quick tour of gigantic South-West Australia.
We arrived in Perth a week ago. This town made a strange impression on us. It sometimes feelt like the people here are still early settlers (the city was founded in 1829). Many young people and backpackers. A lot of asian migrants. There is a “central business district” with tall buildings and a few luxury stores which highly contrast with the rest of the place. Nightlife may be rockin’, but we wouldn’t know going to bed at 9:30 on a late night (the untold joys of parenting)!
We took possession of our motorhome last Wednesday, and headed towards Bunbury, a small seaside town.
We spent our first night on a beach parking lot, met some wild kangaroos at dusk and woke up enjoying a desert beach with a soft pink sky.
The excursion of the day was an encounter with the bottlenose dolphins. The cruise was rather boring and observed the mammals for an hour. Needless to say this did not quite meet our expectations.
We then took the enormous motorhome to another small town by the sea, Busselton. This place is “famous” for its very long jetty (1,7 km, the longest in the southern hemisphere) above shallow water and its marine observatory.
We celebrated Anzac day (a day to comemorate the efforts of Australian and New-Zealander soldiers) in a local campground. We had just been told that free-camping wasn’t allowed in the town or anywhere else in the area. This made us quite unhappy as we had planned to avoid the commercial campgrounds as much as possible. Even though we appreciate the need to preserve nature and support the tourism industry, it was upsetting to be forced to promiscuity in a region where there is nothing but space.
In the morning, we visited the underwater observatory and took the road to visit beaches near Margaret River. The shore was superb, no one on the sand but dozens of surfers on giant waves.
A few beaches later and following the visit of an enormous cave, we felt we had enough and decided to go South, to see the famous Karri trees in the d’Entrecasteaux National Park. After 3 hours on the only highway, we made it to Walpole, near Nornalup. Forest everywhere, red earth, gigantic trees (an average 40 metres high), dusty and bumpy roads (not suitables for 6 berths Motorhomes) leading to wild austral beaches. Once again, we felt lost in the immensity of the Australian territory. We spent the night at the Nornalup campground, next to a gorgeous inlet inhabited by pelicans and kangaroos. A fire kept us all warm and happy and gave the children a chance to feel what a proper camping experience should be.
Unfortunately, at 3 in the morning we woke up at the sound of heavy rain drops on the roof of our mansion on wheels. The rain kept pouring until mid-morning, giving everything a gloomy feel. We went to a treetop walk, then to Mandalay beach, before deciding to take the camper van back to Perth and change our plans.
We had enough of the giant trees, the sun wasn’t showing up and the prospect of spending an evening in the mud tipped the scales. We arrived in Perth late at night, found a hotel and all went to bed in a comfortable and dry environment.
The next morning, the challenge was to find a car wash that could accomodate a 3.4 meter high truck, in order for Ben to clean the incriminating traces of our off-road safari to Mandalay beach. The rental agreement specified that we were not allowed to use the motorhome on any other surface but asphalt (yet the majority of natural parks and pristine beaches in WA are accessible via unpaved roads). As a result, our immaculate white motorhome was covered with a thin layer of red dust – proof if there is any of our off-road excursions. 5 car washes later, the problem was solved.
We took the monster back to its owner and felt much lighter and free with the “tiny” SUV we rented for the rest of our stay.
Our plans for now are to enjoy a little time in Perth (we visited two museums today and the brain food was welcomed after all this time immersed in nature) and to go for day trips in the North and on the coast, before taking our flight to Ayers Rock on Thursday.
This is probable due to the fact that we saw so many natural wonders already but felt the South-Western area did not have much to offer in comparison with what we experienced in Northern Australia or in New Zealand. As for the motorhome, it was more a burden than anything else as we could not immerse ourselves in natural settings as we had hoped.
The National Parks were not as well equiped as the ones we visited in the USA some years ago and were not suitable for this type of vehicule. Also, it felt we were spending far too much time “housekeeping” everytime we wanted to move around. To sum up, if we were to do it again, we would rent a 4WD, with a big trunk and a cooler and would spend the nights in the lodges or motels on the way. But no regrets, as it gave Alvar the opportunity to experiment this mode of transportation he dreamt of for months.
Tomorrow, depending on the mood, we will either go to Pinnacles to see unusual limestone formations in a desert or to Fremantle to visit the only World Heritage building on the West Coast : a prison !