Friday, 19 October 2012

AUSSIELAND - Perth to Adelaide or London to Moscow?

Bunda cliffs in Nullabor plain
Eucla sand dunes
One of Foo´s photographic masterpieces 
So cute and lazy
London to Moscow or Perth to Adelaide? 
Not m we didn’t stop at Adelaide, the last stop was Melbourne.uch difference, distance wise, 2700km. And
The driving distances are mind-boggling, the terrain can be challenging but it is so big and offers such a big variety of things to do and see that you easily forget that your bum hurts after a 800 km drive...One of the countries on my "I would always want to go back" list. So many things you can see or do only here and nowhere else around the world. If i have to describe Australia shortly it would be: drive, drive, drive and WOW, amazing. Drive, drive, drive and again: amazing!

Western Australia (WA). On the 16th we flew to Perth to meet Foo at 10 am on the bridge in Northbridge – Foo’s great planning as always…Of course it didn’t happen - our flight was delayed, we got there too late to make on time, couldn’t let him know cos he didn’t have a mobile…Well, there was a backup plan thanks God, so we met up at a hostel nearby. All set..after filling us in on the hostel situation in Perth (everything was full because of the miner’s invasion due to the tsunami in the north) we started looking for a dorm with 3 available beds which was impossible to find. Fortunately, a guy from CS responded positively and we all headed to Lookbelup, a small town near Fremantle.

 

Somewhere in Perth
Fremantle

We stayed in Coolbelup for 5 days until we bought a car. Buying a car wasn’t as easy as we thought. We checked every single hostel in Perth and Fremantle for ads, also hung our ad looking for a car, made phone calls one after another, put an ad on Gumtrees. Finally we bought one, Luke took us to a car place and we bought this one (2000$), the first car I´ve ever owned!
I had quite an experience in Luke´s house. While I was making breakfast one morning in the kitchen, I saw a box with chocolate chips cookies just lying there. And since I was having my morning coffee and the eggs were still cooking, I automatically took one. Five minutes later Luke came over and said “by the way, these cookies over there are special cookies and they are quite strong, don’t try them unless you wanna get really high”…I told him ok and slowly processed what he just said..hoping that it wouldn't affect me…But Gosh, it affected me big time, fucked up my brain for the whole day. I should have confessed in the first place that I ate one cookie, not a big deal I guess but instead I decided to hide it. And when it hit me I got so paranoid that they would find out that I “stole” one cookie that I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my friends. It was so difficult to fight it, I was trying so hard to look normal that by the end of the day I was destroyed. Unfortunately that was the day - we were determined to buy a car. The whole day we were calling people up, looking at cars and some decisions had to be made…when I was incapable to say anything that make sense. Pesho and Foo didn’t realize it till quite late because Foo thought I was angry at him and Pesho finally asked me “whats wrong with you, are you stoned?” Then I admitted everything, as it was the biggest crime ever. Can’t believe it now, Foo even got upset for not telling him so he could have eaten one as well. Well, I learnt my lesson, not eating cookies with unidentified origin, especially in a house where the weed is used more used than water.

Before we headed south we took a day to go to Nambung National Park, 250 km north of Perth and 17 of Cervantes, where thousands of limestone pillars are scattered across a moon-like landscape – the Pinnacle dessert. It originates from seashells, which compacted with rain and subsequently eroded, formed the pillar, some up to 5 m. An ok gravel loop road runs through the formations so you can stop to walk among them.  



Our Honda in the middle of the pinnacles
Playing with the sand on the windiest beach ever
We went back to Fremantle, or more accurately Coolbelup, spent the night there and in the morning after breakfast, the road trip started. First stop was Margaret River – famous with world class waves and world class wines J. There was a surf competition going on but we didn’t bother seeing it, now writing this from a surf beach in Peru, I wonder why. Stayed in the YHA hostel in town and next morning left direction Denmark and Albany.
One of the coolest things I did in Aussieland was to climb the Gloucester tree, near Pemberton. This Bicentennial tree looks so impressive from the bottom but fucking scary when you try to go up (especially if you have a fear of heights.) I wanted to go down when I made it to the half way platform but the guys were already at the top so I couldn’t leave it there and be the “girl” in the team. Felt really proud when I did it but until I touched the ground couldn’t relax properly. It´s laddered with daunting metal spiral stairwell that winds 60m climb to the top. 

It might look easy but it was scary
The view from the top
 
Tree top walk. Me and Pesho in the distance
Another cool thing to do in the area is the Tree Top Walk (6$). It is in heavily forested Walpole-Nornlup National park, where these majestic forests of giant tingle trees are. A 600m long ramp rises from the floor of the Valley of the Giants and at its highest point the ramp is at 40 m above the ground and the views are stunning. 
 
One of the giants. Eating at least one big carrot a day was a must. Poor Foo really didn´t like that rule. 
We camped at a camp site on the beach near Denmark and next day made it to Albany. There are a few things to see there - the Natural bridge, The gap, Blowholes…
The Natural bridge
 
The Gap near Albany, Western Australia
The blowholes -water coming up between the rocks
I wanted to spend more time on the beach in Albany but we had to leave quite soon because there were 300km ahead of us to reach Katanning. It is a small town in the middle of nowhere but a friend, Foo and I met in the Philippines, was living there and we promised to visit him. One unwritten rule in Australia is “Don´t drive when it´s dark”  cos the kangaroos go crazy when they see the lights and jump straight into it. And they could be pretty big and once hurt, they might destroy the windshield and hurt you as well, plenty of stories there.

In Katanning, Scott and his friends were waiting for us with a crate of beer and BBQ just ready to start. It was nice to catch up with him and meet his flatmates – all Canadians working in nearby mine. They had a week budget for food (paid by the company) and so an immense amount of food in the house, part of which they insisted we take with us. So we left in the morning well stocked with provisions after having a good breakfast.  

Wave Rock. Perfectly shaped like a wave about to break, the 15 m high and 110 m long multicoloured granite Wave Rock is worth the few hours trip (no matter where you are coming from, it is always at least a few hundred kilometers away).
Nearby was Mulka´s cave – we were expecting to see more aboriginal drawings in the cave but they were quite small.
Me on the top


The founder of Kalgorlie
Kalgoorlie-Boulder – the largest producer of gold in Australia. Still feels like the Wild West – workers come straight from the mines to spend their income in the bars, brothels or gambling. We stayed in Kalgoorlie Backpackers for 2 nights and it seemed that it was occupied by long stayed guests, all working in the mines (guessed that from all the boots stocked outside the living room). I guess it´s a good place to find out about work opportunities.
On the way to Gwalia

First day we drove to Gwalia (the ghost town) – deserted goldmine in 1963 after the pit was closed. Foo found this ghost town really impressive – how the whole village was abandoned after the gold was finished. Pesho and I weren’t that impressed, I don´t think it is worth the 230km drive and back.


Brrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuummm



Just off the Goldfields highway you can get to a platform lookout to see the Super Pit, one of the biggest open cut mines in the world.
Tried to do the famous brothel tour but unfortunately, it was full. But at least we went to one of the skimpy bars in town (barmaids in underwear). The guys loved it, we discussed the barmaid´s “features” for a bit and after a while it was just like any other bar.
The Super pit - the biggest gold open pit in the country, large enough to be seen from space

After Kalgoorlie we headed to South Australia on the famous Eyre Highway. The 2700km highway crosses the southern edge of Nullarbor valley. It was pure desert in front of us, the longest distance between fuel stops is 200 km. This is not a good place to run out of petrol and we tried to get a full tank at every possible place despite the price (in the dessert it increases significantly). The first 160 km from Balladonia to Cocklebiddy includes one of the world´s longest stretches of straight road – 145km, the so called Ninety Miles Road. We took turns driving and each one of us drove for 50 kilometers. We entered a new time zone a few times, always with 45 minutes difference and at the end nobody knew what the time actually was (and no one to ask). And on top of that there was a daylight saving time clock change. A few days later, already in Adelaide, we realized that we were 2 hours behind. 

Quite straight, isn't it?

Camped in Eucla (South Australian border), saw the Telegraph station and the sand dunes. Crossing to South Australia we had to get rid of all the fruits and vegetables (well, we kept some carrots and onions under the seat) cos there are food controls at the border, we got stopped and checked but I captivated the guy with lots of questions and he did it very superficially. 


Eucla sand dunes
Eucla sand dunes
"Who´s darker" contest


 


Bunda cliffs in Nullabor plain
Coffin bay National park. After a few days of camping wherever the night caught us, we made it to the park where lots of animals could be found. And on the track we walked, there were quite a few kangaroos and emus, birds and goannas. 
 



Coober Pedy, Opal capital of the world. 850 km north of Adelaide, it´s best known for its unique style of underground living. It gets so hot here that the residents have built their homes underground. There were opal mines everywhere, both sides of the road leading to the town. Looks like that everyone living in Coober Pedy has a mine and they can kill you for digging into their mine. I just don’t know how they distinguish them cos to me all of them look exactly the same – just big piles of soil.  You can try your luck at "noodling" at various spots around town, it´s free to do it and no threat of being killed there. We were told that a backpacker found an opal last year there, worth 20 000$! There were lots of Eastern Europeans working in the opal shops, easy to recognize by the accent. These must be stubborn people because they live in the middle of the desert with hardly any water, seasonal dust storms and considerable summer temperatures.

 
Serbian Undreground church in Coober Pedy
Drove a 70 km loop on a dirt road to Breakaway reserve
Moon plain near Coober Pedy
 

The opal mines on the right..                                     And more opal mines
 

 
Stayed in an underground hostel - Radeka´s Youth Hostel/Backpackers, our room was at 6m under ground. 

The dorm 
Aboriginal rock art
Flinders Ranges National Park. Almost killed an Emu on the way, actually 2 of them, just popped up from nowhere. On the way we went to see some aboriginal rock art in cave and saw yellow footed rock wallabies. Camped there (Wilpena pound), played rummicub with a guy from Melbourne also camping and having dinner at the same kitchen area (the camp site had even hot water). We were visited by a few groups of kangaroos and emus in the camp site which was cool, they werent scared at all. Next day was April´s fool – told Foo that an emu stole my hat while I was waiting for them to come back from Wilpena pound and he believed me. First time in years I managed to trick someone.
 
The yellow footed wallabie



Adelaide
Adelaide – we had a kind of a black period there. Stayed at Ivan´s amazing flat – one of Pesho´s classmates who moved to Australia years ago. Foo decided to go to Kangaroo island by himself because Pesho and I figured that 200$ per person is too much (only for the ferry and petrol) and he took the car and left. Imagine our surprise when he got back by bus, carrying all the backpacks and everything (almost) we had in there. And the only remnant it - the registration plate. The car broke down and he left it on the island (our baby Honda ).
We had to quickly buy a new one - a Ford Falcon (1500 Au$), running on gas, hoping that we can sell it for more before we leave. It was just before Easter's long weekend and we made the mistake not to change the name while in South Australia which brought us lots of problems when we made it to Melbourne (Vic) and wanted to register it.
Taken away on the break down truck :((

Another “great” experience was after Foo’s great planning.  We sat in the car for 8 hours on the way and back to Coorong National park and saw nothing (the access to the beach was only for 4WD) and that was the only place where we could get into the beach.
Stayed for another day in Adelaide, Ivan´s flat was hosting a party before Easter and we decided that we deserve a break after all the hustle with the car breaking down and buying the new one.  It was a cocktail night, I must have tried at least 6 different cocktails, have to admit that not all of them were successful (at least the ones I made), I think I ended up having something as simple as rum and coke.
It was Easter and we painted some eggs following the good old Bulgarian tradition, and even had the egg fight in Foo’s honour – he was really excited to be part of it. Well, he wanted us to get Ostrich eggs for the occasion but the normal ones did the job. Of course we broke one third of them while painting them.
 
The amount of alcohol they had in the house was insane (that´s just a part of it!). And the biggest living room ever!
Leaving Adelaide, we drove to Mildura, crossing the frontier between South Australia and Victoria (had to hide carrots and onions again) with the plan to see the oldest steam boat in Australia. Instead we saw another one and the tour was too expensive so we didn’t go. There was a Farmer´s market near the wharf  so we spent some time there and went to see the sand dunes after that. Someone gave us some cardboard but I couldn´t really slide down on them.
There was a maze in town where we wasted at least an hour trying to find the exit and get out. Some of us (me) couldn’t do it and gave up at the end…had to shamefully leave from the “Give up” exit…which made the boys really happy and they kept rubbing it in for days.

Random watermelon in the middle of the dunes
Conclusion: Card-boards are not sand boards!



Grampians National park, a network of walking tracks throughout the park allows you to explore cascading waterfalls, sandstone mountain ranges and panoramic views from lookouts.got there very late, everything was full because of Easter holidays. Camped in a caravan park which was full as well but they pitied us since they have done their backpacking years ago and gave us a spot to pitch our tents. Cooked a nice dinner in the kitchen and played some rummy before bed as always. Next day we explored the area and did some hikes to see more rock paintings and kangaroos.

Foo and I

  

Great Ocean Road. One of the world's most scenic coastal touring routes with panoramic views as the road winds along cliff tops, up to breathtaking headlands, down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through lush rainforests.  Along the way we saw the rock sculptures of the 12 Apostles – magnificent rock stacks that rise up from the Southern Ocean, the mystical Bay of Islands and the many viewing points along the Great Ocean Road. Every 10 minutes we had to stop to go to another lookout and each one of them was simply amazing.




 
 
London Bridge, Apollo Bay
 
The 12 Apostles
 
Getting closer to Melbourne it was starting to get a bit colder. April 2012
The "Koala" road
I really wanted to see koalas and The great Ocean Road had that too. For anyone who’s never seen koalas in the wild this is a MUST see. The small hamlet of Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road is one of the best places in Australia to see koalas in the wild. Turn into Grey River Road, off the Great Ocean Road, and between one and two kilometres along the road you will be guaranteed to spot koalas in the gum trees. At the beginning they were so far away and I was a bit disappointed but then we saw so many that I could leave content. 



  

Finally we slept in real beds, in a hostel in Port Campbell, all warm and nice (after all the camping) and next day "rumbo a Melbourne".

Melbourne - first night we stayed in YHA hostel in North Melbourne cos we got there quite late. 
For the next days we had a couch with Nick, all three of us, not far from the centre, made the regular moussaka for all the occupants of the house and used the last few days we had left in Oz to explore Melbourne and the area. Melbourne is one of the cities I could see myself living in (but holding a Bulgarian passport I don’t see how that would happen unfortunately L). The city has a good vibe, lots of pubs, nice beaches (a bit cold tho), parks, trams, galleries, graffiti, penguins…all that one needs. 
 
Federation square

In the famous trams

On the way to Philip island. Since we are leaving, Foo has to learn how to refuel (not that I know...)
The only remnants of the first car
 
Last photos of the car before leaving



 
At St Kilda harbour, Melbourne. The littlest penguins in the world
 
In the aboriginal art gallery. I quite liked it not being a big art fan
We took one day to go to Philip island famous with its beautiful beaches, the penguin parade, sea lions...It was a bit too touristic and busy for my taste but still...
 
On the 12th of April, Pesho and I had a flights to New Zealand and the day after to Sandiago (Chile) – the cheapest option (1000€, one way). All three of us drove to the airport cos Foo was staying in OZ with the intention to find a job and eventually sell the car. Had the last Rummy game (after so many nights camping in the middle of nowhere and playing Rummy, we had to show last respect to the game) and said good bye to each other, it was a good ride!
Goodbye Foo
More than 11 000 km from Perth to Melbourne, an epic road trip, lots of cool things done and seen, I think it was worth it!

The cheapest flights in Europe