We arrived safe and sound in Adelaide after the two and a half hour flight down from Perth. We’d originally thought about driving down, but the thought of 1,400 miles of nothingness and a couple of extra days behind the wheel soon put paid to that bright idea, Our flight was with Jetstar, which we soon found out is at the cheaper end of the airline spectrum – a bit like Easy Jet but with added courtesy.
The Sebel Playford Hotel in Adelaide was excellent and would have scored a 10/10 rating for comfort and style if only someone had bothered to check the settings on the radio alarm after the last guest left our room – Denise was distinctly unimpressed to be woken up at 4.30am and the Duty Manager now probably feels that its a mistake they won’t want to make again in a hurry!
After a quick swim in the hotel pool followed by a chat with a couple of nice ladies at the South Australia Tourist Information Office we drove the thirty miles down to Victor Harbor, which by chance was the setting for the fourth stage of the Tour Down Undercycle event. We didn’t see anything of the racing but there must have been five thousand followers, all on bikes – the thought of all that lycra makes me feel quite unwell!
The 200 or so mile drive down from the Fleurieu Peninsular through the Coorong National Park to our overnight stop at Robe was wonderful; fabulous scenery, empty roads and pelicans! What more could any man want?
Wednesday morning started badly. Some kind soul obviously misjudged their parking in the hotel car park and left a 40cm scrape down the passenger door of our innocent little hire car. Fortunately we’d had the sense to take out extended insurance with the hire, so we’re only (!) going to be $400 poorer as a result. Never mind!
After breakfast we found our way to the nearby Gloucester Tree, yet another massively high Karri tree with a lookout station at the top. Even Perthy wouldn’t go up this one – but that didn’t stop a group of young people (who I can only assume must have escaped from the local lunatic asylum) who were only too keen to clamber their way up those flimsy steep poles.
A few miles further down the road brought us to Big Brook Dam where we enjoyed a refreshing swim before starting the 150 mile drive back towards Perth. Great scenery – every shade of brown interspersed with lush greens – and virtually empty roads… fantastic.
The end of the day brought us to the Heritage Country Motel at Armadale – not much to look at from the outside, but comfortable and with that most essential of all Western Australian facilities, a pool!
Monday night was spent in Margaret River at the Margaret River Guest House – a pretty B&B within a five minute walk of the centre of this bustling and attractive little town. Converted a number of years from a small (and I do mean small) chapel and convent, its a comfortable little spot and they made us very welcome.
Next morning it was down to the beach down to Gnarabup beach just to the south of Prevelly for a quick dip. Despite it being the middle of the summer holidays the beaches we’ve been on have been pretty empty and of course they’re all well cared for. Heading down the coast we stopped off at Hamelin Bay which it turns out is a top spot for seeing stingrays – well apparently they’re Eagle Rays to be precise. I managed to get some better photos this time – but if only I’d had the polarising filter on the camera!
Turning east we made our way down to Pemberton which is noted for its Karri (a variation on the Eucalyptus) trees which can reach up to 70 metres. Here you see Perthy attempting to climb to the top of the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree – the fact that the public are actually allowed to climb this monster is amazing! We declined to follow Perthy’s lead!
Having realised rather belatedly that our hotel booking in Perth included breakfast we did our best to make up for lost calories before striding off into downtown Perth to pick up our hire car. Why is it that the Japanese can get the big things right (like putting the steering wheel on the correct side), but somehow haven’t understood that the indicator stalk should be on the left hand side of the column? It’s all very well, but so far every time we’ve come to turn a corner we’ve managed to clean the windscreen and at the same time caused total confusion among other drivers.
First stop after leaving Perth was a quick trip down to Fremantle (or Freo as it’s known) and a saunter down the ‘cappuccino strip’ – which lays a justifiable claim to being the most laid back spot in all of Western Australia. Lots of good buskers (one lad making a really good job of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here), nice markets and well-preserved late 19th Century architecture.
A hundred miles or so further south and we hit Dunsborough and Geographe Bay with its fantastic deserted beaches, blue seas and wildlife. Within two minutes of having slipped off our sandals for a paddle we saw two enormous Rays (well, at three feet across they seemed pretty big to us) but as the only photograph I managed to snap looked like a close up of a couple of rocks you’ll just have to take our word for it.
Just south of Dunsborough is Cape Naturaliste; not, as you might imagine, the local refuge for those who like to get their kit off, but a favoured spot for whale watching (in the season) with some even more beautiful beaches and the most annoying and persistent flies known to man.
Perth airport was a balmy 26 degrees last night when we arrived just before midnight local time, but I’m pleased to say that things got a little warmer today with the temperature apparently reaching 39 degrees. Fortunately we had a cooling breeze for much of the day, so with frequent stops for drinks and the occasional dive into air-conditioned buildings it was very bearable.
Our first action this morning was a quick stroll down to the Barrack Street Jetty for a bite of breakfast and then off to the WA Tourist Centre to book up our hotel accommodation for the next few days. We then hopped onto a No 37 bus which took us up to King’s Park and the Botanic Gardens where you get some fantastic views out over the Swan River and downtown Perth.
Perthy is the newest member of the Ewbank entourage – very kindly given to John as his farewell gift from the children of the Dean Close Pre-Preparatory School (The Squirrels). Here he is checking the departures board at Terminal 5 before we jet off on our travels to Australia and New Zealand.