Friday, 6 July 2012

The West Coast of Australia & Darwin

After Melbourne, I took a coach to Wagga Wagga where I was picked up by a complete stranger.  I met Ross on-line and he was going to drive me across the Nullabor Plain for 2-3 days stopping at Adelaide on the way to Perth.

Indeed, I was a crazy lady back then, not really considering my safety. However, I trusted my gut intinct after talking with him online and we had a long road-trip across wild Australia.

My vehicle of transport across the Nullabor Plain to Perth from Wagga Wagga which is on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.

On the way to Perth we stayed for a couple of nights in Adelaide, with distant relatives of my Mum.  A lovely family, and it was really nice to hear the familiar Geordie accent of my Mum's cousin.

Adelaide was a nice enough city, nice beach, nice city area, all rather - nice. I would say Adelaide is a place where families settle down and the older generation go to retire. It may have changed 12 years on but it had the feeling of a safe city. This is not a bad thing just not a place that stood out for me.

After a long road-trip across Australia's Nullabor Plain (vast desert with no hills or trees often called Nullar-boring), staying in a tent cold to the bone, I arrived in Perth. Perth, in my honest opinion, did not shine like Sydney or dazzle like Melbourne. It seemed more a business district on first impression. However, I am open to be challenged on this experience. I spent less time in Perth than any other city. So if anyone wishes to prove me wrong about Perth, feel free to buy me a flight out to Perth, and show me what it has to offer (wide grin).

On our way to Perth we stopped along the road and saw this wonderful sight.
We may see seagulls on lamp-posts in the street in the UK but never a set of Pelicans.

The City Of Perth

When you arrive in Sydney and see the harbour, you're blown away. When you arrive in Melbourne and see the Yarra River, experience the cuisine, the beautiful architecture and art dotted around Melbourne along with the gardens, you feel lit up inside.

Perth felt a bit grey. Perhaps it was because I only spent a short time there compared to Sydney and Melbourne.

My first stop in Perth was settling into my new accommodation. I stayed in a hostel for a few days called the Coolibah Lodge. It was a nice hostel, fairly relaxed and intimate. I met a few of the girls from my room and we had a few drinks out.

After about a week of hostel life, I had the luxurious experience of staying with millionaires. Go me! Yes, an Australian gentlemen I met in the outdoor shop I worked in, in the UK, was telling me I was more than welcome to stay with him and his family when I arrived in Perth. So to go from hostel to luxury was rather pleasant to say the least.

They had a large 3 story home where Dan and his brother had the entire ground floor. I had my own double room and spent some time getting to know the family. It was okay. I got the feeling they did not approve of my life choices. If I had high ambition and was very goal oriented I think the welcome may have been a little warmer but they did bless me with experiences I probably could not have afforded as a traveller. They took me out for lobster,crab,crayfish and seafood dinner in a very expensive restaurant in Perth. Not that I had a clue how to eat lobster back then (and I still don't to be honest as I cannot recall how to crack the shell open - grin). As I was quite shy and self-conscious I felt a bit stupid not being able to do it. I quaffed a lot of wine to over-compensate for my lack of confidence that evening.

Just outside of Perth, one place I did gel with, was Freemantle. It has a really relaxed chilled-out atmosphere and a great weekend market which was an Aladdin's cave for unusual gifts and souvenirs for family and friends. I really enjoyed having lunch outside the market in the sun watching the street entertainers. This market has it all, with 150 stalls full of the unusual and local produces. It is well worth a trip out from Perth to see it. I think I went on a Sunday and it was a great full day out.

However, I kinda cut my luxury lifestyle short when one evening we went out clubbing and I made the mistake of making a move on Dan, big mistake! Don't make a move on your host unless you have major connection vibes going on - grin. Needless to say that did not bode well for the remainder of my stay, so I moved on and spent time visiting the South West Coast of Australia.

The Valley Of The Giants - Me inside its wonderful root system - in heaven! Love trees!

I joined a coach tour lasting about 4 days leaving from Perth. We visited the areas of Albany, the Margaret River region with a travel company called Easy Rider.  I found the tour a bit fast for my liking. I now know that if I ever do tours in future they must last longer and spend more time in each area. Whistle-stop tours are for tourists with not much time.

We were a group of 16 and for the first day I sat at the back of the bus and could not communicate too well with the rather loud backpacker crowd. I often find myself drawn to more mature people so it took a while to settle in. I made some friends who were in their 30's and stuck with them for the rest of the trip (none British - German I believe).

We spent a lot of time on the bus, too much for my liking, but I did get to see some great places. I loved the Valley of the Giants (see above) and enjoyed the tree-top walk. I also got to feed Crimson Rosellas (native birds) from my hand which was a really special experience for me as I love nature.

The Albany Backpackers - 8 bed dorm-room

I also loved the hostel we stayed in which had lots of fun artwork in every room.

One of many outstanding sunsets on route.
On the tour we saw some wonderful sunsets and even quaffed wine to toast the day, very pleasurable.

As part of the tour we went wine tasting at a vineyard.

Before fully moving on from the Perth area I took a short trip over to the island of Rottnest. I spent a couple of nights there and it was so small you could walk around the entire island in one day. A very quiet island back in 2000. The journey over made me slightly sea-sick and I was glad to be on dry land.

Rottnest island is full of the marsupials called Quokkas. They filled the grounds of my hostel at night. I stayed in probably the spookiest hostel I have ever stayed in on Rottnest. It was an old army barracks and when I arrived no other backpackers were staying. I had a very large dorm room (called the Commanders Quarters) all to myself. I think it was haunted, it had the weirdest feeling.

Rottnest had a lovely beach and was a small island. Somewhere for a short visit if you are on your own or longer if you are with friends or family. Plenty of restaurants and things to do. 

There is a great emphasis on conservation on the island as it is an 'A' Class Nature Reserve. It is home to fur seals, secluded beaches and has a colourful history. To get to Rottnest I recommend the Rottnest express service. The journey over is said to be one of the roughest crossings in the southern hemisphere and as someone who can get sea-sick it was the least sick-worthy route across to the Island.

Quokkas - tiny marsupials that were in abundance on Rottnest island

After my visit to Rottnest I returned to Perth and continued my journey up the west coast of Australia. I travelled on to Cataby/Cervantes for a Pinnacles tour. 

The Pinnacles is a desert area where thousands of limestone pillars make up the desert. It is quite a spectacular sight, almost as if you have landed on another planet.

Apologises for the poor quality of this image - This is the Pinnacles -
the place where Billy Connolly streaked naked through.
After an enlightening trip to see the Pinnacles I had a one night stopover in Geraldton youth hostel (one thing about Australia if you are travelling via coach you will need stop-overs as it is days between places to visit - I used the Greyhound coach service).

My hostel in Geraldton had some nice people staying there and as I was only staying one night I gave myself the luxury of a room to myself so I could get some sleep. I did discover that right below my room was a dance studio and young women practised ballet with loud music until 10pm. This did make me laugh after booking a single room for some peace and quiet.

My next stop was Monkey Mia! The Dolphin resort.

I loved Monkey Mia. A beautiful area up the west coast in the heart of Shark Bay. It is a World Heritage Site. I wish I had stayed longer (maybe next time), I stayed 2 nights in a caravan sharing it with a Japanese woman, a Chinese young woman and a German guy. It was a bit cramped but the people were lovely.

The water was a beautiful turquoise colour but we could only paddle as the area further out was rampant with Tiger sharks. Little did I know until I was on a Catamaran tour of the area to see the beautiful Dugongs (mermaids of the ocean), sea snakes and sea turtles, that dangling my legs over the side was not a good thing to do. I was shouted at by the Captain to get my legs inside (oops!).

The resort was right on the beach, surrounded by luscious water.

My lovely temporary house-mates in our Monkey Mia caravan share.

At Monkey Mia they have encouraged dolphins into the bay to be fed (not something I totally agree with but it was nice to see them up close),
fortunately they discourage any touching of the dolphins, thankfully.

A wonderful Pelican on Monkey Mia beach, this fella just stood waiting to be fed I think.

Onwards I travelled, next stop Exmouth.

In Exmouth I stayed in a self-contained chalet with two Japanese women. That evening I enjoyed a lovely Australia tradition of a barbeque where I was able to sample red snapper and chat with two couples.

The best part about Exmouth was getting to know the people on the campsite. Many retired couples in Australia seem to love touring the country in campervans, a lovely way to retire I feel.  And I had my first experience of snorkelling at Exmouth. I was taken out to Turquoise Bay through the Ningaloo reef and I saw a sting ray, turtle, jelly fish and eel, and it was absolutely stunning. I have never seen such a fabulous world, a complete ocean of colour. The instructor was kind enough to hold my hand the entire time as I was a bit nervous (I am not a strong swimmer and have never swum with flippers before). 

Other than snorkelling I had the pleasure of seeing a lot of humpback whales on a boat trip. One of the hump-back whales did a back-flip out of the water close to the boat 3 times!! I was totally overcome with emotion, such a special experience. And afterwards one of the crew members called Waddie (I think he took a bit of a shine to me), invited me out to watch him and his mates surf (I felt like I was in a movie - wide grin), I was a surfer groupie hehe!.

Onwards from Exmouth I travelled to Broome. I was absolutely exhausted upon arrival and discovered the hostel I had booked was a shitty, stinky hostel. I had a wander into the kitchen which was infested with cockroaches and even though I had the dorm to myself my door did not shut so I did not feel safe.

A safety tip for women when travelling, buy yourself a doorstop. It comes in handy when doors don't shut properly or you are in a hotel you are not sure about. You may have door locks but sometimes (on the rare occasion), people may try to access your room. The doorstop gives you additional protection from inside your room. You can get them from a number of travel and outdoor shops so they should be pretty easy to buy.

I stayed in the grubby yucky hostel 2 nights and moved on to a much nicer one in Broome, called the Kimberly Klub. It had a tropical feel and had its own swimming pool, licensed bar/cafe and lots more. It was not like a hostel at all. If you are heading to Broome and want inexpensive accommodation choose the Kimberly Klub. I loved it there. The only downside was the size of the dorm room I stayed in, and at the time I was there the walls did not reach the ceiling so you could peer over the wall to the next dorm room. In addition, I was on the top bunk, of a 3 bed bunk. Not for those that do not want to climb or dislike heights. However, the pictures on their website do not show 3 bed bunks so maybe things have changed since I stayed.

Cable beach is the place to visit when in Broome - a beautiful beach to watch the sun set. I met a friend down there with my hostel friend Sabien. We met my friend Dilene from my last job and her friend for cocktails over-looking the beach. It was a fabulously relaxing night. I settled into Broome and was very relaxed. 

Cocktails with my friend Sabien, Dilene (far right) and her friend, overlooking
Cable beach to watch the sun set.
I stayed in Broome a week and moved on to tropical Darwin. A very long journey broken up along the way. It was September and coming up to the rainy season on the Northern Territory so the humidity was at 100%. The only other place I experienced that type of humidity was in Kuala Lumpur. Darwin was a wonderful city. Even though it was humid I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there.

At night you could see marvellous and beautiful lightning, lighting up the entire sky. No thunder, no rain yet, so it was a powerful experience to witness. 

Photo shared via Creative Commons taken by Stephen Barnett

Indigenous Artist - Mindil Beach Market
Used via Creative Commons photographer Stephen Barnett

What I loved about Darwin was the Mindil Beach Markets, a proper traveller's haven. A community of people and outdoor stalls alongside outdoor entertainment. One tip if you head down to the markets (in fact anywhere in Australia) is if you see a lot of people sitting, eating on the grass and the sun is shining and nobody is sitting next to the large tree in the shade, there is probably a reason for this. My friend and I discovered that reason very rapidly. We sat down and were covered in green biting ants immediately and the other people just sat and watched (cruel! I would have told us first).

The ant experience did not spoil the chilled-out time and we enjoyed dining under the stars and I met a woman who taught Reiki (a hands on healing method) who agreed to attune me to it the next day. I had not much money left so she let me receive this wonderful healing method through giving her a donation of fruit. What a blessing it was.

Her name was Birgit and we met in Darwin's beautiful botanic gardens. If your sceptical about hands-on-healing it's worth a try. I found it a phenomenal life-changing experience. Unlike many Reiki attunements (attunement is when you are opened up to your natural healing ability) I had the privilege of receiving my attunement against a tree in the gardens. It was a very powerful experience. I actually felt myself fall through the earth (no kidding, it was a surreal transformative experience). 

After I exchanged fruit she dropped me at my hostel in Darwin. I slept solidly from the moment I got into my room and did not eat meat or fish or heavy foods for 2 days. My body felt it only wanted fruit after the attunement. I felt lit up inside, as if I had awakened a dormant natural ability we all have access to, and I had.

My hostel was a hip and funky place to stay called Chillis Backpackers. It had a great balcony to just chill out on and watch the world go by. 

Darwin also had some great outdoor events and pub and club scene.

Vibrant Artwork In A Darwin Nightclub

From my base in Darwin I booked one of the favourite tours of my whole trip. I booked through a company called Kakadu Dreams. The tour leader was great, relaxed and made the whole trip fun and enjoyable. They have changed one of the main parts of the tour now as they include a cruise up to Twin Falls but when I went we had to swim down to the falls. It was very 'Indiana Jones' territory and even though it was pretty tiring swimming all that way, I felt this immense deep satisfaction of having accomplished the swim to arrive at this place of beauty.

Twin Falls, I loved it here.

I did the 3 day Kakadu tour. I camped in the bush, ate real bush tucker (kangaroo, crocodile, emu) and enjoyed many of the pleasures of raw Australia. I saw huge termite mounds, hiked to secluded sections of the Barramundi Gorge (called Maguk now) and lived the life of a dreamer. I was totally in my element in the wilds of nature.

Our vehicle of choice with Kakadu Dreams

After approximately 2 weeks in the Northern Territory I took the deep trip into the centre of Australia. I stayed in a hostel in Alice Springs and did a tour to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock to some), The Olgas and Kings Canyon. This tour was super physical and led by someone I re-named in my own head, Calamity Jane. She had red hair in a pony-tail, dressed more like a man and talked with a real strong Aussie accent.

The world famous Uluru - A major spiritual centre and heart of Australia
(Copyright Kelly Martin 2000 - All Rights Reserved).

We hiked for miles on this trip, rising before dawn to see the sun-rise over magnificent Uluru and instead of staying in tents I experienced the real outback by sleeping in a bivvy bag. It was a bit scary but awe-inspiring all the same. I got to sit by roaring campfires, ate Australian bush bread and did not sleep really at all.  But I did have the good fortune of sleeping with the stars as my bed-time companion.

I cannot describe the beauty of this red earth beneath my feet,
there is something quite primal about standing on this red earth for me.

Although the outback is filled with all kinds of creepy-crawlies, snakes and other things, for some reason I hardly experienced anything (for which I was rather relieved). The only creepy-crawly experience I had, was discovering a large stick insect crawling on my shoulder as we sat by the camp-fire and I quite like stick insects.

Our vehicle cruising along the bumpy routes we took in the centre.

Calamity Jane worked us hard. I was not someone who was used to being physically fit (I now hike a lot and my fitness levels are much better), a 6 hour walk through the Olgas was absolutely exhausting. I was always at the back, but I did it, and was very proud of my achievement. 

Our group on the Red Centre tour after our very long hike through The Olgas (I am the plonker wearing bright pink out in nature with a fly net hat - don't ask : I had no style and no idea of outdoor pursuits back then).

Bleary eyed- half asleep none of us fit for a long walk up the Olgas.
This is just before dawn to see the sun rise over Uluru.

On this unique trip I also enjoyed a helicopter ride over Kings Canyon and a Camel race which was a laugh a minute.

My Helicopter ride over Kings Canyon - it was AMAZING!!!

Hilarious fun! Not sure if it's a true Aussie experience but it was a fun one nevertheless.

After Alice Springs I headed over to the east coast via Tennants Creek, through Mount Isa and onto Port Douglas.

Fantastic aboriginal artwork in Tennants Creek

Tennants Creek was a real outback town, its rich history coming from gold mining, and it has a strong Aboriginal culture. A relaxed place, dry and a great stop-over.

And so ends my tour of the west coast right up to the Northern City of Darwin and the red centre. Do I have any preferences over the west coast and the south coast? No, both are very different.

The south coast has some fabulous cities, equally wonderful nature, but the west coast is the raw rugged part of Australia, immense beauty but a more rough, natural environment to it.

Next stop the East Coast and Queensland >>>

*Please note any reviews are based on the year 2000 experiences, accommodation may have changed, or not, please check out tripadvisor for more recent reviews. 

Best Blogger Tips
  • Share On Facebook
  • Digg This Post
  • Stumble This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Save Tis Post To Delicious
  • Float This Post
  • Share On Reddit
  • Bookmark On Technorati
Blog Bookmark Gadgets

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out my blog I look forward to hearing your travelling experiences and any tips you have to share.

Any spam comments will be removed, no SALES advertising of links without permission

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blog Archive