Days 188-201

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of Australia  ,
Thursday, April 5, 2007

On Friday 23rd of March I had a few beers with Nick (my travel buddy and temp-job co-worker) and Alaina (co-worker at the Dept. of Water) after work. The culture in Oz, it seems, is to have beers immediately after work from the in-house bar. It's nice that so many people go and that the beers are cheap! We took full advantage from 4-7pm and left to go to the "Lucky Shag" bar in Perth - great name eh? Aussies also say "eh" at the end of most statements turning them into questions which you're more obliged to answer. So we stayed in the bar till late and while running for the train Alaina fell and did her ankle in. I didn't see it happen but the bruises were on show the following Monday morning.

Saturday was my birthday so Nick came over from Fremantle to Perth and we got the bus up to Scarborough beach. There were surf life-saving championships and it was a bit of a carnival atmosphere. The sports on the beach were good including cool races where contestants lie in the sand and wait for a whistle before racing to fetch flags placed in the sand 20 metres away. There's always one flag too few so the last minute lunges are the best bit of the race. In the evening I went over to Freo and met a few old faces from the hostel and had a quiet-ish night there.

My last week at the Dept of Water was fairly uneventful. On the last day most of the folk in the office joined us for drinks and me, Alaina and Nick ended up at the same bar into the early evening. I'd met a nice Belfast couple, Keith and Gail, in my dorm room and had a few more laughs with them when I got back to the hostel. They have now found a flat in Perth and I have the address and might get a free roof for the odd night if I come back to Perth.

So Saturday 31st March was the beginning of my Southern Curl tour with the Easyrider bus company. It was an early start and soon we were on the way to Margaret River. Our driver took us to all the good spots along the way including Bunbury (for the dolphins that didn't show themselves), Dunsborough, Meelup beach (we witnessed a wedding happening on the beach), Ngili caves for the great stalactites and stalagmites. Our driver Wes was a good laugh and the other people on the tour were nice company too. We stopped at a nice winery and sampled about 10 wines from a very informative hostess. Then we hit the chocolate factory and gorged on more free treats. Margaret River has a great reputation for producing quality wines and chocolate so we got some of both.

In Margaret River we checked in the hostel and found some dinner. Liverpool were playing Arsenal so a few of us went to the Settler's Tavern bar to watch. One of the English guys on the bus was an Arsenal fan. Liverpool gave Arsenal such a hiding I think he was embarrassed by the end. 4-1 it finished - happy days! Later in the evening the girls from the bus arrived and we had a good fun in the pub. The pub was at capacity thanks to an international surf competition.

I spent two days in Margaret River while Wes took the bus further down the coast. The tour is jump-on jump-off meaning I could resume in a few days time with a different driver giving full flexibility. Two of the girls, Elzien and Sophie stopped too while everybody else continued on. The two days were pretty boring really but I did a good 3 hour forest walk once I'd found out that all the mountain bikes in the town were already hired out.

On Monday night at the hostel a new driver, Pete, arrived with his band of passengers and I got to know them over a pizza in a quiet pub. In the morning we'd carry on the trip that I'd hopped off two days earlier. Pete was another good guy and the first full day with him was the best of the tour. We crammed in much sight seeing and more wine tasting. I climbed "The Gloucester Tree" - a huge tree of 61 metres. It's from the Karri family of trees and is the third highest type of tree in the world. Thankfully it has a winding ladder around it made from steel bolts driving into the wood. It had a practical use for years as a "fire tree" - a look-out point across the forest canopy for bush fires. We drove to the most South Westerly point in Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and also did a tree-top walk among some other huge trees. It was one beautiful scene after another and at Greens Pool we saw a great sunset. I've got all the pictures so be sure to view those. In the evening we had reached Albany and stayed in a great hostel there and found a bring-your-own wine cafe. Earlier in the day we'd visited the Warren winery by chance as all the regular ones on the tour were closed. I had bought a Cabernet Shiraz and enjoyed that with the group as we ate our evening meal.

Tuesday was the last day of the tour. We saw a lot of Albany and the surrounding area. It's a big town by Western Australia standards (not by UK standards) and has long time links with whales that come into the bays there. Previously whaling gave the town's population a living whereas today it is whale tourism giving a much healthier income to the place. We saw Dog Rock - a curious boulder in town that looks more like its supposed creature than any other rock formation anywhere else I've been! We had more wine tasting at Mount Barker's Fox River winery - like Margaret River I was sure I'd heard of the wine before. In the afternoon we drove the long way back to Perth.

On all three days I saw a great deal of wildlife including kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles, emus and parrots. Most of it was pointed out by the drivers who made sure we saw and got photos. Tomorrow morning I'm starting a North-bound trip that will hug the coast of W.A. as far as Exmouth.
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