Hello, dear readers. Remember me? That curly-haired girl that used to post excitable rambles about food and travel?
I’ve been rather quiet over here lately, because life got loud. Really loud. Day job madness, MA assignment-mania and the small matter of my first house purchase – the lot. An exciting but intense start to 2015, my capacity to think of anything but my MA, mortgages and strangling my solicitor was compromised, leaving any smidgen of free time reserved for sporadic bursts of sleep – where I dreamed about all of the above, natch.
But there was a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel that kept me going: a three-week, solicitor-free, Western Australia-shaped light. And mid-March, one week after moving into my new house and three days after handing in the penultimate assignment of my MA in Creative Writing, I pressed pause on the craziness for a three-week escape from reality.
Reunited at last
Now, any three-week holiday Down Under is obviously pretty damn fantastic, but this wasn’t just any holiday. This was WA. Four years have passed since I fell in love with WA’s South-West during a six-month trip around the world, and two since I spent a crazy two weeks as a finalist in a competition to become WA’s Taste Master (one of Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs in the World). Although I didn’t win, the competition majorly reignited my WA wanderlust, and I knew I’d find a way to return. I had to. Luckily, our lovely friend and WA resident, Rachel, found a way for us – she got engaged. An April wedding in Fremantle? Rude not to, right?
Our first visit to WA had centred on eating and drinking our way through Margaret River and Fremantle. Repeat visits were a must, especially with a Freo wedding to attend, but this time, I wanted to explore. Read anything about WA, and you’ll quickly notice a theme in the language. Remote. Enormous. Wilderness. Isolation. Three weeks probably wasn’t quite long enough to get lost in WA’s expansive outback, but it was long enough to leave the city behind and follow the coastline North, getting a glimpse of Australia’s so-called ‘final frontier’ for myself.
So, in between catching up with friends and the wedding, we planned a ten-day road trip up Australia’s West coast. We didn’t want the pressure of a tight schedule, so we kept our plans simple: drive from Fremantle to Exmouth and back, via Pinnacles Desert, Shark Bay and Ningaloo Marine Park. No detail, no reservations – just a car, a tent and a pair of open minds. On paper, it sounded like the perfect antidote to a stressful few months; a chance to relax and enjoy whatever unfolded.
But in reality, there was a tiny little flaw that threatened our chances of a completely stress-free road trip. Distance. Because WA is massive. Seriously massive. Australia’s biggest state, it’s about the size of Western Europe, or the equivalent of over ten UKs. Yeah. I *thought* I knew this, but I don’t think I’d actually computed what that kind of distance would mean until we got in our little Micra and started driving. Because our little itinerary? That simple five-point plan? That equated to about 4000km. In ten days. That’s like driving from London to Turkey – and back again.
Cue a lot of driving time. We did at least five 500km journeys, spending up to six hours in the car to get from one destination to the next. And where that kind of distance in the UK would guarantee you some scenic variety, in WA it does not. Five hours generally got you a straight road, fringed with red dirt and low green shrub-land. There were daredevil antics from emus to keep us awake, and the occasional roadtrain or kangaroo bar-clad 4×4 to reassure us that we weren’t the only people in WA, but that was it. You can forget your games of I-Spy or count-the-caravans: they’re of little use here. It’s just you, your travelling partner and a straight road – for many, many hours. Choose your partner wisely…
But it was so worth it.
We snorkelled with parrotfish and snappers in Ningaloo Reef, stood at the edge of a lake the colour of watermelon punch, watched loggerhead turtles swim in fifty shades of blue, and experienced sunsets on secluded beaches so magical that my usual superlatives were rendered futile.
And even those long car journeys were worth it, as we drove down straight stretches of road that seemed to unfurl infinitely. Because how often can you stand in the middle of a ‘motorway’, surrounded by nothing but hundreds of square miles of unspoiled national park?
In between decorating my new home and writing my dissertation (yikes), I hope to be back with more posts about my beloved WA. But in the meantime, here’s just some of the many, MANY highlights of our road trip. Until next time, WA….
Have you been to Western Australia? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments☟☟☟