Harry and I finally made it to Australia. We’ve both been before, but we wanted to work here for a while to see what it’s like to live in a place where earning money doesn’t seem to be an issue (the general minimum you get paid seems to be $23-28/hr for a basic job). Yes, some things are more expensive here, but relatively you can save quite a lot if you play your cards right.
We arrived around 7pm in early September. The sun was already down, it was pouring rain, and it was really cold. This wasn’t what we expected when we landed in Perth! Last time I was here it was 40 degrees and sunny. I didn’t think they had a real winter unless you were in the south.
My cousin Angie picked us up from the airport and brought us to her home in Yanchep. That was where we spent the next couple weeks with her, Todd (husband), Oscar (2 year old son), and the dogs Sierra and Tonka. Within the first week, Angie had already left to go to Canada to visit our family there and bring Oscar to experience snow for the first time, so we spent most of our time with Todd and the doggos.
After being there for a couple of weeks, doing some job and apartment hunting, since we didn’t have anything solid yet we decided to go on a road trip with the truck Harry’s friend had lent us for a month and a half. It’s a giant 2004 Landcruiser with 4×4 and built in camping utilities and a pink octopus painted on the hood. It’s perfect for the outback.
We found some people through Couchsurfing who wanted to join, so along with us was Sofie (French, here being an Au Pair), Jihane (French, here travelling for a few weeks), and Albert (Spain, also travelling). So off we went, travelling down the western coast, fully prepared for camping.
The first day wasn’t too eventful. We checked out a beach or two in Bunbury, and then Busselton, then Meelup National Park. They were all nice, but Esperance blows them all away. I went last time I was here, and it really does have some of the nicest beaches in the world (although they are missing palm trees).
That night, we found a place to park our car and set up our tents for free, and began cooking some dinner. I had cooked for the first two nights and packed it in Tupperware, making it fast an easy when we were hungry. We had a legit fridge in the back of the truck so we could keep things cold when we needed.
The first night I made vegetarian curry on the cooking stove- it was delightful. We all had a beer and then went to bed fairly early, ready to get up not too long after it was light out.
Harry and I slept in the back of the truck with a queen sized blow up mattress. It fit perfectly and was a much cozier option than sleeping in a tent. We had a plug in air pump to blow it up for us in moments- this was proper glamping.
The next day we all made muesli for breakfast and were on our way to our next stop. The weather wasn’t looking too great; dark gloomy clouds were ahead. We weren’t looking forward to sleeping in the rain.
This was the first time we did a bit of off-roading and tested the 4×4. We went through a fairly tame trail to get to a certain beach we wanted to see. The truck performed well, we checked out the beach, and it started to rain.
A few more beaches later (that’s really all Australia is- beaches or red desert), we arrived in Pemberton. We wanted to see some sunset treetop views, but it was raining and there wasn’t much of a view at the time. Sofie was in desperate want of a shower (only day two…not sure why so soon) and we were checking out campsites and hostels to see if she could use one somewhere. We were really dreading setting up camp that night, knowing the forecast, when suddenly Sofie got really excited and said she found a couchsurfing host who could take us all in. It was a 2 hour drive away and it was nearly dark, so that would be a dangerous drive, but we opted it was the better option due to the weather.
So off we went to meet a guy named Shrimpy in Ocean Beach. We were all focused on the road, looking out for kangaroos, as the rain on and off torrential down-poured. We saw one roo by the side of the road, and thankfully only one that tried to cross our path. Harry was quick enough to slow down and not hit it, and it was smart enough to keep jumping along.
It was around 9pm when we finally made it. Shrimpy welcomed us with open arms into his grand home. There were two bedrooms set up for us and a couch; it was perfect. We were finally warm and cozy, so I reheated our next pre-made meal and we had a delightful dinner.
The next morning was slightly clearer. We did some shopping for lunches and our dinner for that night, and then in the afternoon Shrimpy met up with us to take us around the Ocean Beach area. We did an easy hike around one of the parks there, walking from beach to beach, then came back to the car and drove to our next destination. We then got to see the Green Pools and Elephant rocks, which may have been a bit nicer if it was sunny out for the colour of the water, but still nice regardless.
Back at Shrimpy’s I cooked everyone a proper vegetarian dinner while we had an oven to use. After we all shared a glass of wine, compliments of Shrimpy, and had a jam session with his instruments. He had two guitars and two ukuleles, so Harry and Albert took the guitars, I took a uke, and we taught Sofie a bit of uke so she could play along as well.
We said goodbye to Shrimpy that night and thanked him greatly for his hospitality, because we knew we wouldn’t see him the next morning.
The next day we set off for more adventures. We spent most of our day around Albany in Torndirrup national park. It was one of the most impressive places, in my opinion. Along the southeast side of the peninsula, there were stops you could go to and check out the insane waves. One of them has a bride built overtop of where the waves crash, so they’re going wild beneath your feet. Another one, the Blowhole, is really impressive when you walk past the blowhole itself and keep going until you get a good view of the beach below. The waves were super gnarly, going nuts from the storm most likely. We all agreed we wished we had our lunch then so we could have watched the waves roll for hours. It was just as tantalizing as watching a campfire crackle.
Sofie was proud again to have gotten us another host. Off we went to Bremer Bay to meet up with Jarred, a lovely man who again saved us from the nightly rain. He wasn’t really on couchsurfing but saw Sofie’s message in the email he received. He saw how desperate she sounded (she told us the messages were something like “we are very cold and have nowhere else to stay, please help us” :’D ) so he actually looked her up on facebook to try to contact her, since he couldn’t access his couchsurfing account anymore. Good guy Jarred.
Jarred had given us his vacation home to stay in (!!!), which was insanely cozy and warm. He lived just a block or two away and didn’t stay here normally, it was for friends and family who had bought the place together. We all had our own room (Harry and I shared obviously) and had the best sleep ever to recover from…nothing since we hadn’t camped really. We put logs on the fireplace and made pizza that night.
The next morning Jarred took us 4x4ing, he in his new Landcruiser and us in our old one. Two people went with him (they switched turns) on and off and we emptied the heavy load so we didn’t have to push the truck so much every time it did sandy hills. We only got a bit stuck on one sandy hill, but Harry made it out on the third attempt after Jarred gave him some tips. Again, beach to beach to beach was where we went that day, but this time it was spent driving along them.
We spent that night playing the Australian version of Cards Against Humanity and invited Jarred to join. We had a great time, definitely a few laughs, and Jarred went out and bought us all fish, squid, and chips. Good guy Jarred- seriously! I focused on the chips and put my favourite toppings on them- salt and vinegar.
We were off again the next morning and thanked Jarred greatly for his help. We were finally going to see the highlight of the trip, Esperance! It was still a bit of a drive since everything in Australia is far (it’s a surprisingly big country), but we arrived in time for lunch. We parked our car by one of the viewpoints and gazed over the bright blue ocean while we made food. The clouds were still looking a bit moody so we weren’t sure how long we would get to enjoy the views this day.
It started to pour not long after so we found a coffee shop, ordered warm drinks, and dove into some wifi for the first time in days. Sofie informed us we had another host for tonight (she’s good) and we could meet him after 6pm.
We waited about an hour until the rain cleared up a bit, and then off we went to explore a bit more of the coastline. Beach to beach to beach, but this time from above on the side of the highway. It was a bit too wet to make it worth going down to the sand, so we just enjoyed the sights from above.
Sunset was starting, and we made it to the not-so-pink Pink Lake (hasn’t been pink for over 10 years). It was a beautiful sunset with all of the clouds, so we all snapped a few shots. We found another unofficial viewpoint a bit further down, got out, and took a few more pictures. This one was a bit of a hop-skip-and jump over the muddy parts, but with the reflections it was beautiful. Neville (out host) called me, since I had a phone number and non-French/Spanish accent, to instruct us how to get to his place properly. As I was on the phone, I saw everyone very quickly rushing back into the car. While trying to bay attention to Neville, I was also trying to fix my way back through the mud in my flip flops and figure out why they were going so fast, and many moments too late I realized it was due to the hoard of mosquitos. 20 bites later around my ankles and legs, I made it back in the car. I told Neville all sounded good even though I had only half a clue what he had said from being distracted, and off we went according to Google maps. I knew the directions he gave me and had a feeling we should have followed them, but with so many mosquitos in the car we just wanted to get there and get out, so we followed the fastest route.
This whole area was mostly dirt roads and he said we would get there through some muddy ones for sure, so as we turned onto the first exceptionally muddy road, we figured it was right. It didn’t’ seem so bad anyway, just some worn in tire tracks with a bit of slosh.
Maybe five minutes into that road, Harry tried to avoid a puddle of mud he couldn’t see through by going around it. Wrong move. We were suddenly going nowhere.
Neville seemed like this redneck, proper bogan Australian who lived on a farm, and that’s exactly who he was. We called him and told him we got stuck, he nicely gave us a bit of you-know-what for not following his instructions, and said he would do what he could to come help us. It was dark by now so it was hard for us to see through the mud and tall grass, so we tried to wait inside the mosquito ridden car for as long as possible. My shoes were in the trunk, completely inaccessible at that moment, so I was stuck in flip flops.
Ten minutes later, Neville showed up with his four dogs and a big tractor, ready to rescue us. We all had to get out of the car as he manoeuvred around to figure out the best way to do this. He looked at one large bush behind us, decided it wasn’t necessary in it’s place, and hauled it out of there with ease. Then he picked up the truck from underneath and with Harry at the wheel, pushed it backwards to where the bush was. Harry then figure out when he had traction again, and we were saved from the mud.
We thanked Neville and drove back out of that road. He had apparently told me specifically to not go down that road, but I hadn’t heard it at all. We went the route he told us and all was well that way.
When we finally made it to his place, we got what we needed for the night and were greeted by Neville again. There were three rooms for us to use with comfy beds, it was heaven again. We cooked some delicious dinner, shared it with Neville, and called it a day since it was quite late.
The next day, Neville offered to take us through Cape le Grand national park, where you can see the best beaches and cuddle hungry kangaroos. Our truck was having some clutch issues (since a couple weeks before), and they had seemed to be getting worse after 4x4ing. Neville took it for a drive, deemed it “f*cked”, and so that was part of why he offered. Thankfully he had enough seats for all of us.
So off we went to Cape le Grand. We saw Lucky Bay, which is where the kangaroos are, and decided it one of the most beautiful beaches. White sand, super blue water, and spectacular rock formations; it was perfect. The kangaroos were all around the picnic area to feed off of the tourist’s leftovers. We exchanged crackers for photos with one of them, a mom and a little joey in her pouch. She let us pet her and even her baby a bit without any fear.
We also saw the less popular Hellfire Bay and Thistle Cove, both which were also beautiful. The day was mostly sunny (finally) and there weren’t a lot of people around. It was the same when I was there two years ago in March, not too many people seemed to flock here for whatever reason. We also took the short stroll to the top of Frenchman’s Peak, a hill that overlooks all of the coastline.
To get back to Esperance, we took the short-long way. By that, I mean we went 4x4ing again on the beach. We did this after a storm and after Neville had told us people kept getting stuck and one guy even flipped over. Neville was a professional driver back in his day (he’s around 60 now) and used to jump cars and all that fun stuff. He deemed the track doable, so off we went.
Normally you should flatten your tires if you’re in thick sand. We figured we’d go as far as we could until we maybe needed to do this. With the 4×4 on, off we drove, kicking up sand behind us. I will definitely admit there were some dodgy parts when we felt a bit sideways, but Neville always got us through everything, like a pro.
It gave us some comfort to see we weren’t the only ones on the beach at that time. We did encounter a few other drivers sliding along in their vehicles. Most of them seemed to be out to fish.
We made it out safely and back to Neville’s house we went. Three of us cooked dinner while the other two washed Neville’s shiny new truck to get rid of the salt and sand. We had lasagne that night, another epic meal we never thought we’d be making on this “camping” trip.
We were nearing the end of our trip, it was back home to Perth that day. We would have to drive about 8 hours to make it there, with only one major stop at wave rock. Neville had no faith we would make it with the way our clutch was, but we were going to try because Sofie had to be back at work the next day.
We began our most boring journey of the trip. Driving, driving, driving through nothing but desert. After four hours we made it to Wave Rock. We got out, took our pictures, then I went to start cooking since I’d seen it before. By the time everyone was done, the meal was ready with whatever we had left for food (zucchini mixed in rice and two large pieces of lasagne split up).
I took a turn at driving for a while so Harry could rest. About 2.5 hours later, we stopped for gas. We were getting closer and closer to home. Harry took the wheel again. An hour later we needed a pee break, and that was where things started to go really wrong.
When we first got the car, every once in a while when we were in the wrong gear we noticed a burning smell. After we fixed our gear, it went away quickly. But we noticed this smell a lot when we were 4x4ing, and now it started to come back for no reason. We were an hour outside of Perth and found ourselves trying to put up the hills as if they were super steep and we were in a fully packed semi truck. Someone noticed smoke from the hood, and we knew that was it.
We pulled over to the side of the highway and tried to let the car cool and see if we could continue after. Long story short, there was no continuing because the gears would no longer engage. So we were stuck.
Sofie called her Au Pair household, and we were insanely lucky that the mom (Jai) was able to come help us. She put her two kids in the car and started driving from about half hour away.
In the meantime, some kind lady had stopped on the side of the road to see if we were ok. She had actually been going in the opposite direction, but I suppose since she had nothing else going on that evening, wanted to help. She drove four of us and as much stuff as she could take in her SUV to a gas station about fifteen minutes away. Harry stayed behind with the truck. She said she had been coming from York, where we filled up our car, to drop off her grandkids back to their parents, and was just on her way home. When she saw us, she couldn’t help but ask if we needed anything. Such a kind woman!
Jai arrived soon after and picked up Sofie, Jihane, and nearly everything we brought in that nice lady’s SUV. Then Albert and I ended up going back to Harry with that lady because we all couldn’t fit in the car.
With Harry we waited about an hour and a half for Sofie to come in her little car to pick the three of us and the rest of our stuff up. We jammed as much as we could into the car, and off we went. We dropped off Albert to the train station, and Jai was nice enough to offer Harry and I a place for the night. Sofie let us sleep in her bed while she pulled out another bed from beneath her usual one. It was perfect.
The next morning, Sofie dropped us off at some nearby mechanics, about 30km from where we had broken down. We asked a few of them what the cost would be, and they all said about the same. None of them had a towing service and we knew that would be a bill of about $200+ that we didn’t really want, but were willing to pay if we had to. Split between five, it’s not as bad.
We were right next to the highway that went to where our car was, so we pulled out our magic thumbs while holding up a sign that said “Car broke 30km →”. It took about fifteen minutes before an old man in his pickup truck pulled over and took us the whole way.
When we arrived to the truck, we flipped over the sign and it now said “Car broke, please tow 30km → ☺ “ There wasn’t a lot of traffic on this highway, but we were lucky enough that someone in his truck pulled over less than half an hour later. They had actually driven past us and turned around to come back to help. They seemed to be experts at this; they already had a towrope (as many Australian’s do) and a little scarf to tie in the middle so people could see the rope easier. Since the hazard lights on our truck didn’t work (no mechanic seemed to be able to figure this out), we kept our left turn signal on the whole time.
The couple that pulled over for us talked us through the downhills on our radios; when to brake and when not to, since we weren’t exactly experts like them. We had to stay a safe distance away from them while still not braking to put too much pressure on the rope. Harry was driving but we were both super focused on the road.
With a fair amount of ease, we made it to where we had to turn into the side streets for the mechanic. We turned the corner, and that was when the rope snapped. We were only 500 metres from the mechanic at this point.
The guy retied the rope and easily brought us the rest of the way. We thanked the couple for helping us out and offered the rest of our beer to them, but they politely refused, told us best of luck, and off they went.
The mechanic’s wife was nice enough to drive us back to Sofie’s house, where we spent the rest of the day and even that night because the truck wasn’t quite ready (Jai was too kind).
The next day Sofie brought us to the mechanic and all was well. The clutch was perfect and the truck was fully drivable again. After picking it up in the afternoon, Harry and I went off to a well-paid weeding job, and after that we finally made it home to Yanchep with Angie and family. For us, the road trip was finally over.
In the next weeks we moved into our granny flat not too far from Fremantle and have done some proper job hunting. We’ve been doing odd tasks for money so far and I’ve had a couple photography gigs (a solid one for Saturday’s shooting family portraits), but no stable work as of yet. Still we’ve been able to afford our new place so far and hopefully something will come up soon. Fingers crossed!