Friday: 13th of March was His Majesty’s birthday. Fresh bread delivered in the morning, fresh juice, onion omelette and bacon were on breakfast menu. Later on we went for a short river walk at Margaret River (there is actually nothing special about this “hike” but it is a WALK so we must mention since it’s healthy and mature to do so). We then had a spontaneous stop at the canal rocks to look at some unusual rock formations and His Majesty had his fun playing with the crabs hiding around the small rock pools on the shore. The weather was unusually hot and humid since the beginning of the day and became totally overcast from noon time onwards. It was apparently the beginning of a cyclone (tropical storm like hurricane but in southern hemisphere) that started to hit the area slowly (full impact was estimated by Saturday) with eventual drizzle in afternoon and increasing rain in the evening. The rest of the afternoon we spent time visiting 5 (!!!) different shops to replace l.p. gas for our campervan (our rental company was stupid enough to install a bottle system that needs to be refilled instead of easy, swappable bottles that were available on every petrol station). We nearly had to laugh (we did not know to laugh or to cry) after the lady in the camping/fishing store (which finally appeared to do the refill and not sending us to another place) told us they don’t do if it is rainy (yes, this must be Friday the 13th). After spending meaningful two hours in search of camping gas on his birthday, the God of Luck did not give up on us and gave us the very last spot at our preferred campsite in Busselton! We were lucky according to the lady opposite of our bay as the campsite is pretty popular and many of them come back every year for some days/weeks. We also realized that 99% of people camping there were retired seniors (we might have been the only ones not having grey hair other than a baby boy who didn’t have hair at all). The Campsite became so quiet in the evening as grey haired lovely people going to sleep at 8 o’clock. The birthday boy had exceptionally delicious Angus beef (400gr+ steak for himself) with some veggies and wine for dinner. He even received a Swiss Gruyere cheese as birthday present! Yoohooo! In the evening he got an email from Swiss Immigration demanding a list of documents concerning the future wedding which we would not be able to get since we are neither in Malaysia nor Switzerland until July and there goes the good mood. But well yeah, if you are with the right person, every day you feel so lucky like it is your birthday. Everyday! (Yinru wrote this)
What woke us up in the night welcomed us as soon as we opened the curtains of our van on Saturday morning: heavy rain. The cyclone was about to hit the region with its full impact. Pouring rain accompanied by strong winds and grey sky came to us. After having our breakfast inside of our van we went to the next tourism office to get advice on what we could do on this lovely day. It soon became obvious that they didn’t really have a clue since they mainly focus on activities relying on good weather. We stayed half an hour at their office watching the weather. Grey in whichever direction you look at and hard rain. We decided to leave the area and drive north where the cyclone should be weaker as it had passed by the day before already. After a good one hour drive we visited Ferguson valley which was about half way between Busselton and Perth. This area is known for its beautifully managed farmlands and wineries as well as a very unique (and a bit weird) place at the edge of a forest: the emerald city of gnomes. Somehow people from all over Australia and other countries started to set up an open air collection of gnomes. There were thousands of this little fantasy creatures in all shapes and forms organized in many small collections presented at the edge or in the forest. Hopefully these dwarves don’t start to live in the night and plan to overtake the world one day. After this creepy visit we spontaneously decided to drive all the way back to Perth and experienced weird highways with traffic lights and entrances to gas stations by crossing the opposite lanes (sounds unspectacular but imagine: you have to slow down, maybe come to a complete stop, on the inner right lane (Australia drives on the left, so the inner right lane is supposed to be the fastest overtaking lane) of the highway. Then cross the opposite directions highway lanes where cars drive with 120kph towards you. And this all with a stupid camper van with all dishes, pots etc. in the back). Finally arrived in Perth greater area we chose a camping in Freemantle (apparently 9 out of 10 couples at the site were German speaking and thereof 7 Swiss – what a big big world), a city about 30mins from Perth CBD, enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the port followed by a dinner with, supposedly the best rated fish and chips (in our view only the squid rings were worth it!).
We had a lazy start into Sunday since some heavy rain (remnants of the storm) woke us up again during the night. The storm was definitely over by later morning and we could finally use our sunglasses after two days of grey sky. Around noon the driver boy bravely brought us all the way to the city center with our van to meet with one of YinRu’s cousins who is currently working in Perth. We visited a Sunday fresh food market, had some so-so authentic Asian hawker lunch and coffee later on. In the evening we enjoyed some beers at the beach accompanied by sunset and started to pack our stuff and cleaned-out the van since Monday would be drop-off of the car. The late evening was again spectacular (maybe a bit mysterious) and the atmosphere worth mentioning. Due to the proximity of our campsite to Perth there was a strong light smog in the sky. Endless patches of small, orange colored clouds continued to move along the horizon pushed by the constant sea winds.
On Monday morning we had our final campervan cleaning. As we were left with a few hours before dropping the car on 3pm we spent some time on South Perth Esplanade, where, according to the impressive facades of all the apartments, only the richest of the rich could afford to live at. The drop-off with Apollo was faster and easier than expected. The lady came to pick-up the key, read the kilometers we drove and said “that looks awesome” and that’s it. No checking on any damage, scratches, missing cutlery or dishes. Easy, why not, we just hope we will not get billed for any weird stuff a few weeks later. In the evening we met with the cousin from the day before again plus another cousin of YinRu who works for Singapore Airlines and flew in that very day. What a coincidence. A lot of fun, laughter and food on our last night in Western Australia. Our flight would be departing the next morning at 9am to Melbourne.
This was two weeks of Western Australia for us. We drove 2’580km in the past fortnight, saw numerous gorgeous beaches, forests, animals and farms, shared many interesting stories with locals and other tourists and enjoyed a wonderful first chapter of camping holidays (definitely more to come up in New Zealand and America). Tough we cut down costs by cooking our own food (we only ate out twice for dinner) and we travelled well off season (From December to February it’s is very likely to pay up to 50% more on campsites and campervans, if you get one) this two weeks were surprisingly expensive (well, we might be a bit spoilt from Vietnam were we only spent 42USD per person per day) with 95USD per day and person or a total spend of over 2600 USD for the two weeks. Here’s a rough guide on our total expenses and route (note: our 2’500km tour and route shown below only covers the orange highlighted area within Australia. The orange area is bigger than Switzerland):
Campervan 950 USD; Petrol 420 USD;
Accommodation 560 USD; General Expenses 730 USD