07.12.2011 - 26.01.2012 30 °C
So in order to get to the other side of a country bigger than Europe we had to fly about 41/2 hours to Perth. One of the most isolated cities in the world far away on the west coast which lots of people rave about..... lets see! We were staying with Nick and Ol at their place in Fremantle which is about 20 minutes south of Perth and right on the coast. Fortunately the temperature had sky rocketed compared to Sydney and the skies were blue. We planned to spend the remaining time in Oz in the area so enough time to explore, stock up on some home comforts and chill out catching up on some stuff.... In fact a lot of time would be spent hanging out at the lovely house with Stimpy and Bullseye the friendly house pooches, cooking, walking, reading and bit of drinking thrown in for fun.
Fremantle or Freo definitely had a colonial feel about it, with the first settlers arriving in the 1820's. One of the oldest buildings being Fremantle prison, funny that seen as they shipped out a load of British convicts who had to build their own prison! At the same time the modern harbourside was heaving with people there for the sailing world championship, the qualifying event for the 2012 Olympics. We watched some of the windsurfers take to the waves but they went too far out to be able to follow what was going on, and there is a limit to watching sail boats heading far out to sea. Freo is also home to some of AC/DC's founding members including Bonn Scott, who's grave in Freo is a major tourist attraction. We visited the nearly old Fremantle Markets which had loads of nice food on offer and lots of touristy nik naks. Talking of nice food, Cappucino strip is home to some seriously nice looking cakes, chocolates and ice creams, no doubt we tried a few places!
Only 20 minutes on the train gets you into Perth city centre, a nice modern city on the banks of the Swan river & who have a district called Welshpool. Just next to the railway station is the district of Northbrigde which is home to loads of restaurants and pubs, so being as it was lunch time when we got there it was a must to see what culinary delights they had on offer. Yet again the good old Asian food hall came up trumps meaning we could have a selection of different food and be able to sit in the same restaurant, genius idea! The rest of our time in the city centre was spent wandering around they even have a mock tudor lane full of tiny shops offering British goods, of course at a premium & even though Meurig is partial to some yorkshire gold he wasn't about to pay £12 for a box of tea bags! Down on the esplanade they have the Perth Big Bell which is a modern bell tower and clock, their catchphrase being 'they have big ben, we have big bells' never knew there was clock/bell envy!!!
After over a week of indulging in home comfort we roll out of Fremantle in our Hyundai Getz rental with some camping gear borrowed from Nick in search of south western delights. First destination Margaret River 4ish hours south, but with a quick stop over in quite sandfly infested Bunbury for lunch, but as we continue south the heavens properly open. Margret River, renowned for its wine is a lush green area between the coast and arid desert, with wineries and mini producers of chocolate to preserves of all kind. After stocking up with provisions we head out to Conto Reserve to set up camp in the coastal forest and cook up our steak wraps on the free BBQ for dinner. Luckily the dark clouds head off north and eventually expose the sun and clear starry night, an amazing sight but a tad colder than we expected. That night Sian gave up on the tent (never one for hard floors) and ended up in the car, but morning soon came and we warmed up quickly with a croissant and te/coffee in the sun.
After a bit of gravel tracking in vain in search of a beach we settle for a view of the rocky coastline before heading further south, eventually arriving at the most South-Westerly point in Australia. Cape Leeuwin & Lighthouse where the Southern Ocean meats the Indian Ocean. It is a rugged coast line scattered with small thin beaches, and apparently home to some “in season” highly venomous snakes, so we stayed clear of the bush and stuck to the paths on the walk round. The rest of the afternoon was spent making the journey via the scenic route over to Pemberton (pitt stop for cider) where we were then headed for the nearby Warren National Park. Our home for the night was Drafty's campground next to the picturesque warren river and they provided you with a camp kitchen and timber for the fire pitt, luxury.
After a much warmer night in the tent, probably due to the fact that we bought a cheap sleeping bag, we went off around the park to explore the ancient karri trees. In the Park there was the Dave Evans bicentennial tree, a tree top lookout for bush fires built at a staggering 68 meters high. The tree was covered in thin-ish metal poles punched into it, then held together with a few strands of chicken wire, easy to climb..... yeah right. They had a lower lookout point at 25 meters and Sian made it to there second time round mostly down to competitive spirit after watching some other people manage it. Meurig on the other hand was determined to make it to the top, nutter. His decent was very careful and slow, but got down in one piece. The views from the top were amazing but Sian will have to make do with the photos. A little interesting fact was that Dave Evans was a Welshman who moved over to Australia in the 1920's with his parents and became a state politician and the tree was adapted to help lookout for bushfire and named after him. After the scary morning the afternoon was far more leisurely with a visit to the valley of giants and a walk along the 40meter swaying suspended walkway, nothing compared to the tree climb! We finished a lovely sunny day at the shady campsite next to a lovely beach and had a buffet supper of what we had left in the esky cooler.
Our final day down south started off well with a treat, a slap up breakfast on the terrace in the coastal town of Albany, an old Georgan whaling settlement before then setting off up the Albany highway on the drive back towards Fremantle. On the way up though wes stopped at Mount Barker at their bakery and made a slight detour off road through the Stirling Ranges, a national reserve full of red dirt tracks, mountains and probably as outback as we were going to get. Again the views from the lookouts of the red rugged landscape against a simpsons-esque sky were great and vast. But eventually after a day on the road we made it back to Fremantle just in time for a Nick speciality, homemade pizzas in his own woodfired pizza oven, delicious.
By sheer coincidence and some help from facebook it turned out that one of Sian's Cardiff Uni couse mates Rachael was living in Perth with her husband Alex. They invited us over to their place for a delicious bbq in Subiaco, close to the subiaco Aussie rules ground. As it turns out Meurig was on the same course as Alex also in Cardiff Uni just a few years apart and we found out that there is a nice little community of Cardiff connected people living in Perth. It's a small world & Perth seems to be where lots of people move to!
The run up to Christmas was a bit different this year, to be honest with sunny +30º days and light till past 8 it was never going to be a normal one, but without the darkness you don’t get the festive lights which break up our winter at home!! Imagine winter without Christmas and NY, dreary....... So with weather for BBQ's, that is what we did. Down at Swan river just off the coast we had some great food cooked on the free park BBQ and let the dogs swim in the crystal clear water whilst having a drink or two. Nick also took us on a bit of a tour through the rather posh north Fremantle and took a wonder through a half build and abandoned multimillion dollar Indian mansion of a bankrupt fraudulent mine owner. The building was ridiculous, dome roofs like the Taj Mahal, high ceilings, too many rooms to count, and all over at least 8 plots, stupendous!!
Christmas eve was shopping day not for presents just for food + drink. We headed down the fish market and picked up a north-western snapper, some squid and picked up some salmon, squid and scallop herb discs... yum!!! We then popped over to the Italian food hall and picked up some veg, massive green olives, coffee, caviare and bits before heading to the bottle shop to stock up with wine and cider. Job done. Christmas day didn’t end up to unusual really, Pancakes with syrup, ice cream and fruit for breakfast, fresh calamari with a Scrambled egg/cream cheese/caviare dip and biscuits for the first course, baked snapper with herbs and steamed veg for mains and then to round it all off, a home made apple/cinnamon strudel with ice cream! Not a turkey in site, 32º + and sunny, lovely!! But no Boxing day slothing for us, time to hit the road again, or the air, and to South America and Santiago De Chile, via Sydney and surprisingly Auckland (again)....