It was lovely to be met by familiar faces at Perth airport – Tia & Ali, friends who’ve recently moved out there, picked us up and then looked after us for a whole week! It was great to hang out with them and go exploring a little. On the evening of our arrival we had our first home-cooked meal in months – a lovely roast chicken – very much enjoyed!
The things to do in the south west seem to be going to beaches, drinking alcohol and looking at trees. We did a good amount of each, starting with a day around the Swan Valley tasting wine. Tia kindly volunteered to drive and the rest of us tasted about 22 wines over the course of a few hours interspersed with samples of cheese, olives and even honey (they had 4 different flavours of natural honey!).
The next day we went into town, bought the Lonely Planet (which is a third more expensive here than in the UK, despite being an Australian company) and then headed to the beautiful, windy and wavy Scarborough beach for a swim and a slight sandblasting.
The 4 of us then set off on a 3-day road trip to see some of the sights of Australia’s South West. We travelled via Australind to Margaret River (where we sampled some more wine) and then on to Augusta where the Indian & Southern Ocean’s meet and which is Australia’s most South-Westerly point. It also has a locally-famous Chinese restaurant which turned out to be rather average.
The next day was all about BIG trees. We climbed a 68m karri tree using metal spikes that had been driven into it and some ladders near the top. Great view! (I say that ‘we’ did it, when in reality Lizzy decided not to continue at the 25m rest point… I overcame my fear of heights and pressed on up to the top!). Next stop was the Giant Tingle Tree and then on to Walpole for the night.
Our travels back to Perth included a stop at Mandalay Beach, where every 10 years a ship-wreck seems to appear from the sea at very low tide (we weren’t there at the right time it seems), a pause for a chance encounter with a woman who rescues orphaned kangaroos (we got to stroke them and watch them feed), a brief visit to a cidery which made some OK cider and finally at a weird place that I can’t recall the name of. It’s a tiny place with just a general store, some farm buildings and accommodation and a rather large population of semi-wild kangaroos, emus and parrots! You can buy feed from the store and then become like the Pied Piper as all the animals pursue you to get to the food. It sounds cute and friendly, but the emus are pure evil and the kangaroos aren’t much better (OK, slight exaggeration, but I was freaked out by the emus). The emus will peck hard at anything that looks like food – the feed, the bag, your hand, your feet (where someone might just have “accidentally” thrown some food – thanks Ali!) and stare at you with unblinking orange eyes when they’re not busy pecking.
For Australia Day, we headed down to Freemantle (or “Freo”) and learned about some Australian shipwrecks and innovative Australian beer-brewing at Little Creatures. A taste of local fish & chips, a swim in the sea and it was time to head back to Perth to join the celebrations. Australia Day is a national holiday and a chance for everyone here to be proud of being Ozzie (even if you’re not!). We joined tens of thousands in Kings Park (which was just one view point) to watch ‘Skyworks’ – a huge fireworks show with sound track played over the local radio. Wow!
A packed and lovely week – thanks Tia & Ali & everyone who made it so fun for us!