Saturday, 31 December 2011

Exploring Perth

During our ten days crossing the Nullarbor there were four of us in particular that became become good friends and as well as the usual swapping of e-details we arranged to spend some of our time in Perth together. We arrived on the Friday afternoon and shared drinks with our tour guide and two other girls and this truly was the end of the tour. The following day three of us were off to Rottnest via the Frematle markets. We caught an early train to Fremantle, or Freo as the locals call it and took an early morning walk through the markets stopping at different stalls until we found breakfast in the form of a large rosemary foccacia roll big enough to share. The markets were busy even though it was only 9am when we got there and there was an impressive variety in the types of stalls. As well as breakfast I purchased a small platypus pin for my one ‘proper’ going out dress and had to resist many colourful skirts and dresses. Market well and truly visited we then headed to the quay and our ferry to Rottnest.

The ferry ride was short and we were soon on the beautiful island. We thought we would rent some bikes as we had been informed by many different sources that this was the best way to explore the island. We decided the best deal for us was to rent them for three hours in the afternoon leaving us a couple of hours to walk along the beach. Whilst I did miss my camera I also felt a certain freedom in just enjoying the views without trying to capture them. I especially felt this later in the day once we had our bikes. There was an amazing view that my friends stopped to photograph but I kept going as I was working up momentum to help get me up the hill in front of us. I already knew that I was unfit but there nothing to underscore your unfitness like trying to get a bike up an innocent looking hill! Unfit and camera-less as I was I still greatly enjoyed our ride to the inland lighthouse. The rides up the hills were gruelling but totally worth it for the rides down them. We git our bike back to the hire place in plenty of time and went on to a late lunch of the most enormous portion if fish and chips I have ever had! We were very good and didn’t feed the quokkas but we were much amused at their antics as we rode around the island and by their attempts to get food from us during our lunch. We had a time for a short stroll along the beach between lunch and our ferry leaving. We had decided to get the ferry all the way back to Perth and were rewarded by seeing some dolphins in the river. On arriving in Perth there was just enough time for a quick change at my hostel before I met up with my friends for some cheap and tasty Japanese food at Taka’s.

On Sunday the same group that had met for dinner met again for brunch before it was time to say goodbye to one of our group as she was heading back east that afternoon. The reminder of us walked toward Kings Gardens by probably the most round-a-bout route possible. It was a fun walk though that ended with a climb up the famous Jacobs Ladder steps which though steep were thankfully proper steps and not at all ladder like. We saw a couple of people jogging up and down them which didn’t surprise us as we had been told that they were a popular spot for people to train, though for what I don’t know. From the top of the ‘ladder’ we walked through Kings Park in search of coffee for my caffeine addicted friend and hot chocolate for me. We finished our day together with a tour of the botanic gardens where my friends were very naughty as they did talk in German amongst themselves, mostly about the very annoying Australian woman that had joined our tour and had to add her own opinion to everything the tour guide said and only asked questions she knew the answers to no doubt so she could wow us with her knowledge. My only annoyance at my friends talking german was that I couldn’t join in as she really was very annoying. Still I knew what they were thinking ans there were a few mummrer sin English and meaningful glances when the Australian woman spoke. I have to say our guide was excellent, very knowledgeable and friendly to all of us. She even pointed out where we could get the free bus back in to town, something I was grateful for as I was having dinner with some of Josh’s family that evening. Some of Josh’s mum’s cousins picked me up and took me to their house for pizza and a catch up. It was a lovely evening and a nice end to a fun weekend. My fun with my friends wasn’t over yet though. On the Monday three of us went shopping, stopping for a sushi lunch and taking a stroll down to the bell tower before heading our separate ways. My final destination that night was Duncraig, a northern suburb where I would stay with Josh’s extended family. Before another cousin kindly came to collect me I was able to have dinner with one of my friends in a pub in the Northbridge area. She had promised me a cute glass collector but the pub she took me towas shut so we ended up at the Brass Monkey which though missing said glass collector was still a very nice pub with decent food and Bulmers Pear cider on tap.

Josh’s mum’s cousin had been to the UK in 2007 as her daughter was over staying with the family on gap year from university. Her son had been over more recently so I was looking forward to staying with them and catching up. I had initially thought I would stay in Perth one night before visiting the family for a week then heading off in search of work but I felt so welcome there I soon figured out that I might take a little longer than planned to look for work. My first day with the family was sepnt with two of my friends on Rottnest. One of our group had missed out on the previous trip as she had plans with the friends she was staying with so we headed back with her to enjoy the island once more. This time we headed straight to the bike hire place before stopping by the local grocers for a few snacks then heading to the western point of the island where the next land mass way beyond our sight is Africa. The ride was at times hard work but just as before it was worth it. This time I had a borrowed camera with me so I made sure to capture as much of the island as I could. We were determined to fit in some sunbathing but the weather was against us. Though the wind made riding cooler it also blew up the sand making sunbathing rather difficult. We did venture in to the sea but it was still quite cold what with it only being spring so we didn’t stay there for long. Sunbathing scratched we headed back to the town to return our bikes and go in search of ice-cream.

During our ride round the island the daughter of the family and I had arranged that I would get off the ferry at Fremantle so we could give me a lift home. I was sad  to say goodbye to my friend as once more I don’t know when I will see them again but I was glad for the extra time we had together in Perth after our tour was done. As I left the ferry to meet my Australian not cousin-cousinish friend I allowed the excitement of seeing her again after many years to replace the sadness of saying goodbye to my other friends on the boat. After finding one another we stopped by a local pub so we could have a drink wither work mates before heading back to Duncraig and dinner with a friend of hers. After some reassuringly familiar Chinese food it was back to her house where after conversing with the family about my plans for finding work and coming back next year I realised that what I wanted most was a week off. I hadn’t worked in over two months and my funds were depressingly low but I had been on the move. The chance to catch my breath and catch up with some of my blogs and photos editing was just too tempting, not to mention the long lies that were now possible! All of a sudden I had the perfect plan for the next week and it involved doing precisely nothing. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Thoughts on The Outrageous Truths of Grief: Facts not melodrama

My life is over:

The life you had before is gone forever. You can never live that life again. However that doesn’t mean you cannot make a new life. It may be completely different or quite similar. From the outside it might even look the same but it won’t be. It’s your new life the old life is over.

When he died, I died:

The person you were before is also gone forever just as surely as your loved one. You are irrevocably changed. Like the phoenix from the flames though you can rise again. A new you will emerge, it’s up to you who he will be. In some way you will be the same but in others different, a whole new you.

I’ll never love anyone like that again:

Of course you won’t. Every time we love someone we love them for who and what they are. You are different so you will love differently. They will be different so they will be loved differently. No more, no less, just different.

I would do anything to have them back:

We never get to prove this one as on some level we know they are gone but the madness that comes with grief and the daft/stupid/illogical things we do during the early months especially I think shows that this statement is also true.

I don’t deserve this/It isn’t fair:

Of course you don’t and of course it’s not. No-one does but it happens to us all. LIFE isn’t fair. However knowing this doesn’t mean you can’t say it out loud once and a while, you are after all only human and well, it is not fair.

I can’t go on:

At some stage we all feel like this. Many times as we grieve we all need a time out to gather our defences in preparation for the next attack. Sometimes you might need help with this. Friends and family can help but if they are not enough then counselling and medication can be of use. With help you will usually find that after a short break you can start again and find a different path. I have yet to discover a time limit on this. Almost three years on I still need my time outs occasionally.

I can still feel his presence:

It is said that a person is not dead until they are forgotten. As long as you remember them, as long as you look at the world with their eyes as well as your own they will always be with you.


Cry when you need to. Ask for help when you are strong enough to. Reach out when you are able to. Take it one day at a time, if that’s too much then one hour or one minute at a time. Eventually the time will pass. When all else fails and you are hanging on by only your finger tips remember you are hanging on and be proud.

These are just some of the more obvious thoughts that occurred to me one night in Perth when I couldn't sleep. Grief like all important life lessons is an ongoing class which I am sure still has lesson to teach me. The real truth is you never get over it and I'm not sure we ever really get through it but some how we can learn to live with it. We have to.

Tour Number 2: And now the end is near

Day 9

We were getting used to things not really working out for us so when we got to our morning destination of Mount Franklin and our guide made a point of telling us to take the summit not loop walk we should not have been surprised to discover the summit walk closed when we got up there. Since it was a nice day we decided to take the loop walk and had a pleasant morning walk through the forest. I am sure the views weren’t as good as from the summit but it was a nice walk and I am sure we were all glad for the break from the bus. Once we returned to the bus our guide expressed his disappointment at the lack of signage about the closed walk but we reassured him we were happy enough with our morning so far. It turns out the closed walk was the least of our guides problems. Our bus (which had been serviced recently) had another hissy fit and we were forced to make another unscheduled stop, this time in the small town of Pemberton. Fortunately it’s a nice little town and though we had to wait for our orders at the small cafe on the main street once they arrived our drinks and cakes were all approved of. Thankfully our bus problems turned out to be minor and we were soon on our way again. Since we had missed the Diamond and Fire tree the previous day our guide took us to the Bicentennial tree where a number of our group braved the climb to the top. As it had been raining and we had decided that my accident proneness was in part due to my shoes I declined the opportunity. I am glad I didn’t go up then but I do hope to try climb one in the future..... when I am not going through a phase of falling over and have better shoes.

Our final campsite was to be at a caravan park. Now I know we were on a camping tour but we were all so so happy to have proper showers and both phone and internet reception once more, though mostly the happiness was for the showers. It’s amazing how a few days without a proper shower can make a person appreciated hot running water. As usual the first order of business was to get the tents up but once that task was finished instead of our usual exploring we rested in the common area and I helped prepare dinner as the others took advantage of the plentiful hot running water. Before the sun went down there was one very important task for us to complete. There was an inflatable jumping pillow and we were determined to try and get a photo of us all jumping up from it. That was a lot harder than he envisaged so instead we got many photos of us falling over which were equally if not more entertaining. Mission amusingly failed it was time for our last dinner as a group and for us to mark on our maps all the places we had visited along the way. Then it was my turn to take advantage of the heavenly hot showers before joining the rest of the group around the camp fire for our last evening drinking together.

Day 10

Our last morning on tour and we started the day by airing out our swags and rolling them up as tight as possible. We then had to pack the trailer ensuring that the last people off had their bags at the back and the first people to leave had theirs at the front. Packing accomplished we started to make our way to Perth. We took the coastal road and passed through Yallingup where we stopped at one of the famous local caves. Before exploring the caves an aboriginal man took is on a small bush walk explaining the uses of the surrounding plants. He then showed us how his people traditionally made fire, tools and even music. He gave us all an instrument and whilst he played the didgeridoo we attempted to join in. It was a fun as well as education al morning and ended with our aboriginal guide telling us the story of how the caves were formed. On entering the cave we all rubbed some dirt on our skin before throwing it in to the caves entrance so the spirit would recognise us and then it was time to see the beautiful stalagmite and stalactites’ that had formed in the caves.

We stopped in Bussleton for our usual lunch. This time the weather was not against us but pour guides usual lunch spot was fenced off due to work being carried out along the beachfront. We sound found another spot and quickly made our sandwiches and filled out the questionnaire our guide provided us with. This was not our last stop though as we had one more treat before arriving in Perth. We stopped at Simmo’s ice-cream factory for our last group outing. We didn’t have long there before we were back on the bus and on our way.

By early evening we were all safely deposited at our hostels and well and truly back in civilisation.  Though the tour was over my friends and I were all staying in Perth for a varying amount of days so we knew our adventure wasn’t done yet. A friend and I met up for dinner before heading back to my hostel where we joined our guide and other friends for our first drink in Perth. It was a great end to an interesting tour and a lovely welcome to the WA capital. 

Tour Number 2: There ain’t no stopping us now

Day 6

After a rainy night we woke up to blue skies at 7:30am SA time which was 5am WA time giving us plenty of time to get ourselves up and sorted by the time we left at 7am. Our first stop of the day was the town of Esperance to get our bus fixed and enjoy some civilisation, ok and to top up our alcohol supply! Esperance is by the beach and it was nice to enjoy the sunshine with my fellow tourists but without the flies. We were rewarded for our patience in waiting for the bus with freshly baked rolls which were delicious and most welcome after the store bread we had been eating for the last few days. Even more exciting than fresh bread was the sight awaiting for us at our next campsite. We were to spend the night at Lucky Bay, one of the whitest beaches not just in Australia but in the world. We explored the beach and spotted a number of kangaroos including one with a Joey in its pouch which had obviously dived in headfirst and not bothered to right its self so all we could see was its feet sticking out. We took a walk along the beach enjoying the views until the amazing white sands and clear waters were too tempting and we all braved the cool water to take a dip in the ocean. After our swim we took a quick shower then faced Frenchman’s Hill, the daunting hill we had passed on the way into the campsite. The hill was steep and not an easy climb but it was worth it for the views and the sense of achievement I felt when I finally reached the top. Sadly I celebrated by achievement by dropping my most treasured camera into the hill. I was climbing up the rock at the highest point when it fell out of its case and between the rocks I was climbing on. As soon as I heard it drop I knew it was gone. The lovely people I was with insisted on looking for it but as I suspected it was gone. I won’t lie; I was upset to lose the camera and my photos. I had uploaded most of them on to my laptop on the drive to the abandoned homestead but it was still very annoying. The girls I had made friends with really came through for me though, as well as giving me hugs they reassured me that they would make sure I had copies of all their photos to remember the trip by. It is thanks to these fabulous girls that I shall be able to provide photos with this and the next few blog posts.

Hill more or less conquered we made our way back to camp where we set up our tents once more as the weather was still looking a little unsettled. Our enterprising guide also set up a temporary shelter by securing his tarpaulin between the bus trailer and cook house giving us an undercover eating area which we were once more grateful for as the rain returned as we were cooking dinner. We were pleased that the rain didn’t last and we were hopeful that it would disappear entirely by the next day. As the skies cleared we took a night walk along the beach. Initially we used our torches but we soon realised that with an almost full moon we could see more once we turned them off. We spotted a few stars and constellations through the thinning clouds and it was a peaceful end to a busy day.

Day 7

Out seventh day was scheduled to be spent in the national park which looked beautiful but as the rain had returned and looked set to last we decided to push on and drove to Mount Trio national park. As we left the national park and headed towards Esperance sods law prevailed and the weather improved. We stopped at a few lookouts to admire the passing scenery before finally stopping back in Esperance where we had an hour to entertain ourselves whilst the buses air conditioning was fixed. We checked out a few shops and had a good start to the day by acquiring free sunglasses when we purchased our cider. We then entertained ourselves and passing motorists by having an impromptu aerobics workout by the side of the road. Typically the weather in Esperance stayed fine which was annoying as we would have enjoyed exploring the park more but it was a good sign for the next national park and we tried to be optimistic despite the weather being very changeable throughout the day. We were glad of the sheltered BBQ station our guide found us for our usual lunch and worried that we would have another wet and windy night ahead of us.

Our worries were put to rest on arrival at the park and we were able to put our tents up in the dry and in the shelter of the large kitchen just in case the wind was as bad as it had been the previous night. I don’t think any of us were too upset that we had to spend the day on the bus as the wind had kept a lot of us awake and we all spent much of the day asleep catching up. Bad weather is a risk when camping in the spring even in Australia and whilst I understood this I was grateful that this night we at least had a wind break in the shape of a substantial building. Once our tents were up we had plenty of time to explore the campsite. My new friends were fabulous and I was truly grateful for their kindness when I lost my camera the previous day but I felt the need to have some time to myself. Once our tents were up I took my iPod and went for a walk. I saw some more emus and some kangaroos but mostly I took the time to think about Josh and I swear I felt him with me as I walked amongst the trees. The peace beautiful surroundings and music did the trick leaving me feeling more positive about the rest of the trip and set to enjoy the rest of the day with my friends. On arriving back at the camp I found I had arrived in time to help prepare dinner and get a photo with my friends in our matching sunglasses and the cider that provided them.  Though it remained dry it was definitely colder so we were very grateful that the manager allowed us to have a campfire allowing us to have a relaxing end to our least impressive tour day.

Day 8

We all slept better as the weather behaved itself and I was looking forward to that days walk which was to be up Mount Hassle. It turned out to be one of the more challenging walks of the trip. It didn’t have the steep flat rock of Frenchman’s Hill but it was higher and there were certain parts that required climbing and a little bit of scrambling. With my reputation on the trip as accident prone I was warned by my friends to be very careful! I made it to the top without incident and I am sure usually we would have been rewarded by stunning views similar to those I have become used to seeing but the clouds and poor visibility made them less impressive than I am sure they usually are. Never the less we were still please with ourselves for making it to the top. On the way down I did have a minor slip but there was no damage to me or my property and I made it to the bus in one piece.

We then moved on to the Gap and Natures Bridge. The Gap is exactly that, a gap between some rocks but when the tide is coming in it crashes impressively up the sides of the narrow gap.  Natures bridge is a natural bridge across another larger gap and a fairly entertainingly place to take some silly photos. On the way back to the bus we saw a halo around the sun which one of my friends was able to capture with her camera.

Our lunch stop was in the small town of Denmark before going to see the Elephant rocks. Unknown to us we had been practising for this stop most nights as some of my friends had taken to seeing what animals they could see in the fire in during our evening drinking sessions.  With a bit of imagination and some squinting at the rocks do indeed look like a herd of elephants. Our afternoon activities ended with a tree top walk through an ancient forest. The walk was interesting and I am glad it was part of the tour but our enjoyment mostly came from the silly poses one of our group suggested we make for photos as we walked through the tree tops. After the tree top walk we also took a ground walk through a different part of the forest where we were able to walk through the bases of some of the trees. Our day was meant to end with a climb up one of the tall tree used as fire lookouts in the past but the weather was against us once again and skipped it heading straight to our next campsite, Fernhook Falls.

We got our tents up and even though by now we knew what we were doing it took us some time as the ground was rocky, forcing us to place our pegs where we could. Finally we had stable tents for the evening and we were able to explore. We took a walk through the campsite to the nearby fall which despite its lack of height was still impressive due to the river being high thanks to the higher than average rainfall that year. Dinner that night was prepared exclusively by our guide, he made us a fabulous carbonara and as usual I couldn’t help but go back for seconds. Having an ex-chef as a guide is seriously bad for your waistline.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tour Number 2: Crossing the Nullarbor

Day 3

Our third day was meant to be the most awesome tour day that started with a surf lesson but it wasn’t to be. The company overcame the lack of instructor by providing us with two long time surfers who could guide us only for the surf to be nonexistent the next day. Since we had a morning free our guide took us to Murphy’s Haystacks where we took our own rock surfing photos to make up for the lack of visit to wave rock at the end of the trip. We had fun taking silly photos of one another for a short while amongst the ancient granite rocks before we were on the bus again. The rest of the morning was spent at a nearby lookout where we were able to observe sea lions relaxing and playing whilst our guide provided us with many sea lion facts. Our day improved at lunch time when instead of our usual sandwiches our guide cooked up some chicken burgers before it was time for the highlight of the tour.

Though it cost us extra we all decided to go on the boat trip out to swim with wild sea lions and dolphins and it was totally worth it. Like a lot of our tour our luck wasn’t the best for this either. It was the first warm day of the summer so the sea lions were being lazy and at first we thought they wouldn’t join us in the water but a few of the younger ones were tempted to explore and see what we were up to. They didn’t hang around for long and soon we decided to head to deeper waters to look for the dolphins. We had been told that they had been very friendly in the morning so we were hopeful of more success with them. We spent some time looking and we did find a few and ventured in to the water where they played with us for a short while before swimming off. I was glad that I had invested in one of the underwater disposable cameras so with any luck I have even captured them on camera. We saw a few more but weren’t as lucky as the other group who had been surrounded by them earlier that day. It was still an amazing experience and one I am glad I shoes to take part in. Both the dolphins and sea lions were so close that we could almost touch them and a couple of the dolphins danced right in front of me and it was fabulous to be snorkelling again. The experience was over too soon and it was back to the farm where we took advantage of the electricity to do some washing in preparation for our coming week without not only washing machines but most. After dinner that evening I decided to try out my tripod and take some night photos as the mostly clear sky and fire provided many interesting opportunities before it was time for our last night in a proper bed for the next week.

Day 4

As we left the farm the next day we all stopped by the hostel sign for our first proper group photo before heading for a morning of surprises. Our first was as stop at Streaky Bay where we stopped at a service station and walked into a room only to be greeted by a shark hanging from the ceiling. I had seen the sign on the way in but my friend in front of me hadn’t and jumped impressively. Even though I knew the shark was there I was still startled to have it stare me in the face as I walked through the door. From there it was on to Ceduna to a wombat sanctuary where as well as a cute little Joey and numerous wombats we also met a baby white wombat which we were allowed to hold.

On our way to our campsite for the night we stopped at a cattle grip where we were able to wait underneath until not one but two road trains drove over us which was more exciting than you’d think. We also stopped at the famous wildlife sign and the sign that marks the start of the Nullarbor plain. To break up our journey and get a rest from the bus we stopped to see the Bunda Cliffs at the head of the Great Australian Blight before we finally reached the evening’s campsite: the abandoned Koonalda Homestead.  The homestead was abandoned when the new Eyre highway was built and it was no longer financially viable. The owners just walked off and left everything behind. It’s a sad story but it was amazing to walk around and see the abandoned cars and buildings. We set our swags up under the shelter of the veranda of the cookhouse as we had seen some dark clouds threatening rain earlier in the day. We explored the homestead and I was able to try a few different settings on my camera with all the photo opportunities surrounding us. After our group prepared dinner we spent our night in the usual way and I enjoyed trying to get some more night photos. The weather was getting worse and the clouds meant there weren’t many stars out that night but it was still interesting and fun in between chatting to everyone. At bed time our guide warned us to move our swags out from the wall of the kitchen building so we didn’t have mice run over our heads and to listen out for dingoes during the night. I never thought I would regret being a heavy sleeper and whilst I was glad to miss the scurrying mice I was disappointed not to hear the dingoes in the distance the following morning

Day 5

The halfway point of our tour was a day of driving broken up by various interesting rest stops along the way. We stopped to admire the Great Australian Blight once more before crossing the South Australia/Western Australia border where we all trouped out of the bus to take the obligatory one foot in each state photo (or one on each side in the case of my stuffed companions!) before continuing on in to WA. Our first stop in WA was the buried telegraph station of Eucla. We stopped by the new Eucla on the way before continuing on to the buried telegraph station where we walked over the tops of the ruins and found an abandoned flip-flop which we left on a tree full of flip flops on our way across the plain. When travelling a long straight road anything that isn’t road or a bush becomes interesting including the sign alerting us to the start of the 90 mile straight. Of course with no air conditioning the opportunity to get off the bus could have had something to do with our enthusiasm as well but whatever the reason we all piled out and took photos of the sign and the road beyond it. The lack of air conditioning was definitely responsible for our excitement at the next stop, an atmospheric blowhole which blew some amazingly refreshing cold air that we all wished we could take back on the bus with us. Sadly that was not possible so we were back to being relieved at the numerous stops including the one where we could see 13km of uninterrupted straight road.


 Eventually we made it to our latest camp site where we hurried to set up our tents before the rain that had been threatening all day arrived. As well as setting up our tents we were able to have a look around the bush which felt like it was in the middle of nowhere instead of just a few meters away from the highway. The rain did eventually arrive but it didn’t stop us from enjoying our dinner under the makeshift shelter provided by our guide and before the rain settled in we were rewarded by a rainbow. As well as not spoiling our evening we were able to get a decent night sleep in our tents leaving us refreshed for our first full day in Western Australia.