I am staying with a friend of my friend, in a house to the south of Perth City, so apart from a donation towards costs not a big outlay, however, I can tell you that everything in Australia is more expensive than you think, especially if you have come from South East Asia, even the backpackers hostels will set you back between $33 AUD up to $75 AUD depending on where you stay.
FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON $1.50 AUD = 1 UK Pound
There are good road links around the city and a very good rail network that also allows you to use buses in Perth City Centre and the cost of public transport is similar to London.
For the first two nights, my friend Scott, who emigrated to Perth from Chadwell St Mary in Essex, Twelve (12) months ago and my new found, born and bred, Aussie landlady (Lynda) felt it was their duty to introduce me to their friends work colleagues and that favourite of Aussie past times (no,not cricket) at every bar and club in Northgate where 5 am is when you get home, not get up for the early shift.
Very Important things to remember when going out in the evening in Perth
1. Take your passport with you as you will not be allowed into a club / bar without ID that they scan on the door and if you cause any trouble you will be evicted and your photo circulated to other clubs / bars to stop you going in.
2. At the weekend do not wear shorts or flip flops (Thongs) as you will not be allowed in anywhere
3. Take pockets full of money as entry after 9 pm will incur an entry fee and when / if you are lucky enough to get in a beer will cost you anywhere from $15 AUD and as for a short with a mixer ask my bank manager I think I will be paying it off until Christmas
After my initiation, I managed to spend two, half days in the City centre where the shops are, this is probably the size of a Shopping Mall like Lakeside in Britain and again a pair of men shoes $120 AUD - a pair of Jeans $59 AUD - T Shirts $10 AUD.
As far as food is concerned a burger and soft drink at lunchtime will set you back about $8 AUD - $10 AUD whereas the same meal at night in an outlet will be almost double – a steak meal for two with a couple of glasses of cider will set you back $76 AUD (personal experience).
So now that I have made you realise you need more than you thought to come here – still do it – forget the snakes, the spiders that can kill, forget the midges that will bite you everywhere you are not covered at night and the flies in the day that are more annoying than Simon Cowell, the country is beautiful.
The weekend just gone Scott and I headed south from Perth along Highway 2 and drove 400 km to the most South Westerly point in Australia Cape Leeuwin at Augusta in Leeuwin National Park where the two oceans meet.
The journey was so easy, no traffic jams and at some stages not another car in sight and the scenery just kept changing from open fields to forests to beaches and on the coast at the lighthouse where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, the most wild and rugged coastline, amazing.
If you are lucky enough to visit that part of the world, the Margaret River Region is a must as it is home to over 100 caves including Mammoth Cave – Jewel Cave – Lake cave or just wander around and take photos of the Gum Trees in the forests before heading up the coast to visit the wonderful beaches and coves situated between Dunsborough and Busselton on the Geographie Coast.
Between these two towns was where I got my first sighting of Australian Kangaroos – a whole field full – what a sight Fabulous.
Busselton with its Jetty you can walk out on ($7 AUD ) and underwater observatory ($27 AUD) is a favourite beach and local beauty spot and when we were there they were hosting an “Iron Man” event where contestants swim a long way in the sea, then ride a long way on land, then run a long way also on land (where else) but a cautionary note - there are rip tides along this coast that can be very strong and unfortunately two contestants that went in the water did not come out and they were still searching for the bodies on Sunday.
Further up the coast getting nearer to Perth are beaches at Bunbury, Falcon Bay, Rockingham and Mandurah all of which have their own personalities – my favourite though is Mandurah where I shall return before I leave for a Dolphin & Scenic Canal Cruise which I hope will incorporate the Xmas lights put up by residents along the canals.
Closer still to Perth is Fremantle (known locally as FreeO) where we stopped to get a cider at a popular Brewery called "Little Creatures" which is set on the river with a full size Galleon parked on the doorstep, a lively meeting place for all ages.
Fremantle is a great place to spend time there is a lot of cool sites to see including Fremantle Oval cricket Ground. The indoor Market and not forgetting Fremantle Prison and its tours. Some of the Artwork done on the walls by the prisoners are amazing.
To The North of Perth is a wonderful coastline that so far I have travelled up, as far as Hillarys Harbour, a marina that overlooks the sea bustling with activity in the evenings and a great place to hang out. To get there you must travel along the coast through City Beach, Scarborough and Sorrento all of which are pretty places overlooking the sea with Rottnest Island and its lighthouse winking at you as you pass.
Yesterday, I visited a National Park to the north of Perth called Yanchep (who thinks up these names) I arrived at dusk which is the best time to see the Kangaroos that are in abundance in the area and a great time to avoid paying the $11 AUD entrance fee as the rangers had left. I was lucky enough to see loads of them the only problem is I really need to update my old box brownie camera as the pictures came out looking as if I was taking pictures of a black cat, with its eyes closed, in a blackout, on a dark night
I must also mention that there is a park in Perth that is free to enter any time of the day or night called Kings Park, from here you have a panoramic view of Perth and at night which is when I went the sight is quite breathtaking.
The weather can be temperamental and last week I think I must have upset the gods by being too complacent with regards to the Sun as we immediately had three days of Rain and on two of the nights thunder and lightning storms which lit up the sky and were in themselves quite awesome.
Before the storm broke I headed up into the Perth Hills, which is an expensive suburb, with beautiful houses and probably the only place glad of the rains as they are in a tinder box area where fires are a constant threat in the dry summer heat which is rather ironic as the place I was headed was the pumping station at Mundaring Weir, the start of the Water Pipeline that runs from Perth to Kalgoorlie.
The pipeline was constructed to supply water to the gold prospectors in the draught ridden area of the north from Perth where they had an abundance of water by constructing a pipeline that covered over 300 miles using technology that had never been tried in 1894 and it is still going today pumping over 9 millions of gallons of water every day.This is free to visit and set around the reservoir are woodlands to explore and if you have transport a great afternoon or evening out.
By the evening of the next day the rains had stopped enough for a trip to Fremantle which I had visited briefly before and this time was able to take a longer look around but the weather again cut the visit short but not before I found “Sweet Lips” a fish shop down by the beach
which has my vote for best Fish & Chips. The basic Fish & Chip offering is for Hake and is delicious ($10 AUD) but they have a large selection including Shark that my friend Scott had and this was also first rate. I shall return.
The weather forecast had predicted better weather for the weekend and so full of optimism and armed with an umbrella in the back of The Yute ( a van like vehicle with sleeping facility in the rear) my friend Scott and I set off on a road trip to see as much of the south of Western Australia as we could fit in.
From Perth we headed south on State Route 40 and after a few miles the road becomes deserted and you feel you have the whole place to yourself and believe it or not after hours of driving you find yourself waving to other cars coming the other way as if you are sharing a secret world or something or maybe I just had too much sun hey ho. So the first stop we made was about 350 km’s from Perth at a Wave Rock where a photographic competition was won with a picture of the rock that looks like a breaker wave a surfer would ride and is about 45 meters High and 100 meters long and yes I have posted pictures for you to see Ha Ha.
It was here as we were walking through the area to get to the cave called Hippo yawn I had my first up close contact with a female Kangaroo and her Joey sunbathing in the woodland – Brilliant.
We were about 100 km’s from Hyden when we saw a sign on the side of the road near Corrigin which we had to turn back and take a picture of as we were at the site of the start of No 2 The Rabbit Proof fence. Made famous by the film of the same name, back in the early 1900’s the Rabbit Proof Fence was built to stop rabbits, that were a big problem back then, invading the rest of Australia from the East and built over a 4 year stretch and at 2023 miles is the longest fence in the world.
The scenery along the 750 km’s of State 40 is varied and magnificent changing from wetlands, to forests to undulating hills with trees sitting alone in a multi acre field. Animals and bird life are surprisingly sparse for such a big country and consist mainly of a herd of Cows or sheep but you are always on the lookout for something different and you will not always be disappointed. At the end of State 40 you join the State 1 (The South Coast Highway) which after another 200km’s set us down on the coast at our destination the beautiful Esperance.
We arrived pretty late as you can imagine having driven around a 100 Km’s in a day and it was hard to find anywhere to eat but this is a problem I have found in much of Western Australia, unless in a big city, everywhere closes by 10.30 pm. We managed to get a passable meal in a Hotel and went for a walk along the jetty before turning in where we met Sammy the Seal. Sammy is apparently a local celebrity and there he was in the water by the jetty barking up at us as we passed by and we later found out he was waiting for us to throw him some fish which the locals do on a regular basis. Does that seem strange to anyone else out there or am I alone in wondering why one of the best equipped fish hunting creatures alive, living in an ocean, needs man (experts at drowning worms) to feed it - Go for it Sammy.
After a surprisingly good night sleep by the beach in the back of the Yute, we met Sammy again, this time sunning himself on the grass as we headed off for breakfast and wondered if we should ask him if he wanted to come with us clubbing tonight? No, oh well, suit yourself.
The day was spent touring the coast line from Esperance to Albany where you will find a plethora of beaches and coves ranging from small intimate coves where you will be the only ones there to long stretches of white sandy beach and turquoise blue sea and be one of 50 people on the beach. Brandy Creek, Cape Le Grande, Twilight Bay*, Salmon Beach*, 11 mile Beach, Munglinup Beach* and Cheyne Beach* will cater for those wanting to Surf or another for Snorkelling another for fishing and even to just sunbathe and swim I am sure you will have a great time -My favourites marked with *.
At the end of the second day we found ourselves in Albany a scenic town on the coast where we decided to splash out $65 AUD on a twin room at the Albany Hotel – The room was basic and is above a bar but as it closed at 10.30 wasn’t a problem. After a much needed shower we headed out to see what Albany had to offer and found it had adequate bars and eateries and I would recommend a Tapas Restaurant called CBD where I had a meal of Chicken and Prawns covered in a seafood sauce for $26 I could eat every day of the week. Hmmmmm. Afterwards we went next door to the bar which had a Karaoke evening where 2 or 3 of the locals were having a good time and we decided to sit and listen for a while which became a night to till the kids about.
I want you to try and imagine a scene from the 50’s (oh yes you can I know your true age) and then imagine that, set in a town from the film “Deliverance” you know, the one where you ask Billy bob where he met his wife and he says “At a family reunion”!!!! Scott was chatted up by one of the ladies and afterwards I asked him what he thought her best feature was and he said “ Her Tooth” The singing was done all night by a little close nit group of about 7 singers who were obviously used to entertaining this crowd and around the floor the women danced with other women to the sounds of songs long forgotten. The men drank, and they drank and yeah, well, they drank and laughed and tried to sing louder than the Karaoke singers. I bet you are wondering why we stayed until closing time, well there were two reasons – One - there was no way I was getting up and trying to make my way out of there before the crowd cleared and Two - in a masochistic sort of way it was extremely enjoyable.
Sunday found us up bright and early and after a quick photo session around the town we headed off to drive along the last bit of the south coast before heading back to Perth. First stop was Frenchmans Bay where the whaling station, now a museum, is situated and a little way above the town there is a walk of 800 meters along and down the coastline that will bring you to an area high on the cliffs where there are blow holes. The waves below crash down into a cave and the force pushes wind and waves upwards through holes some 80 high where we were standing – unfortunately the sea was not rough enough to send the water up but the experience of the air being expelled put me in the mind of when a dolphin or Orca Whale expels air from the top of its head.
A bit of a disappointment is the so called scenic drive around Torbay and unless you want to see – well, cows, I would give it a miss. The town of Denmark on the other hand just up the coast is a must and on a Sunday morning there was about 50-60 kids being supervised by adults doing surf school from a safe beach and they even give surf lessons and water awareness classes at reasonable cost. If you like to surf or want to learn I would highly recommended heading for here.
Walpole is in the shire of Denmark and it was the last place we visited along the south coast and we had made a special journey to be there in time to do the Tree Tops Walk in The Valley of the Giants.
The Giants in question are the enormous red tingle trees that can be 40 meters round at the base. For $12.50 AUD you get to walk around a 600 meter metal walkway which at the highest point is 40 meters above the ground and experience what it is like high up in the trees whose tops are still way above you and there is no limit to the amount of times you can walk around – Awesome Mate!!!
The drive back covered a stop off at Bunbury, a place that I have covered last week and to Fremantle to my favourite Fish shop “Sweet Lips” where a fabulous sunset topped off a perfect weekend.
I popped into Perth Yesterday to have a look round the shops and I just can’t get my head around the fact it is less than a week away from Christmas Day. Fair do’s, The Aussies try very hard to create an atmosphere even having a snow machine pumping out artificial snow from a shop window. There is a huge artificial Christmas tree in Perth City Centre and there is a nativity play planned for three consecutive nights at the end of the week, in the open. In the City main square, ladies on stilts dressed as elves sing Christmas carols and there are buskers with Santa Claus beards playing electric guitar and the big man himself has even made an appearance in the town centre with a Lady Santa – the only problem is, he is in a white shirt and red and white stripped shorts held up by red bracers and to be honest looks like Santa in his underwear, but he does have a big white fluffy beard – sorry Perth It is still 30 degrees and sunny it just isn’t Christmas for me.
Last night was a return to Yanchep National Park, about 50 km’s north of Perth, where I tried to see the Kangaroos on my last visit but arrived in the dark and failed to get any photos. This time I arrived late afternoon and for $12 AUD entry are able to drive in and walk anywhere in the park.
There is a nature trail around a lake that takes about 45 minutes and other trails through the park that bring you up close to loads of Kangaroos feeding and going about their daily chores in a natural habitat and is great.
I was also lucky enough to see and hear a kookaburra sitting on a branch in front of me and to top the lot a group of Koala Bears were up feeding in tree tops this is a great place to see Aussie nature at its best.
I am coming to the end of my brief visit to Western Australia and next week I am due to fly out on Monday 24th December to spend Christmas Day and New Year on the East Coast in Sydney so until next time.