Last Stop in Australia: Sydney

We started Tuesday with a lovely (…not!) breakfast provided by the Ibis Hotel for 5 bucks per person before returning our car and taking the flight to Sydney. White toast, butter, jam and a tea or coffee was on the menu. We’re somehow a bit fed up with this white toast bread which seems to be everyone’s favorite here (but yeah, American will not be better we heard…). But for once we had at least a bit of fun with this “classical” Aussie breakfast: the pancake machine. Imagine a machine like those producing coffee or hot water with a press on button but for pancakes – pretty funny (and so-so yummy it was). The drop-off of our VW Jetta at the airport was again unspectacular. After a short 2-minute deal we went checking in for our flight and got airborne 60min later. After a flight time of one hour we landed during some thunderstorm weather in Sydney. We were both amazed by the approach since the airport is very close to the city center and we (or at least the boy who always has the window seat) could enjoy some panorama views of the city center. After a bumpy landing we took the train to the center station and walked to our accommodation for the next four nights. We “enjoyed” a romantic walk through all those packed streets with 30kgs luggage and a light drizzle rain for around 20mins before we finally reached our backpackers. Yes, we chose a backpackers again since hotels in Sydney are really a rip-off in our view (bottom rates at, say 120-150$ a night at least?). Anyway, we will be camping in New Zealand for 5 weeks after this so don’t raise the standard too much ya. The room we got was a private double with shared facilities, maybe 10m2 big. Really nothing fancy, a small bed, a dated and rundown shelf & cupboard and stained carpet on the floor but ya, it suits our needs and it saves money. The rest of the day was unspectacular. Since rain was pouring down the entire afternoon we stayed in our room for afternoon/evening and only went out for a lunch and dinner. We were hapresized_IMG_5396py to know that we will be staying at this place for four nights, not because it’s perfectly nice, but because we got tired of checking in and out every day. It may sound ridiculous but travelling got us a bit tired recently. Especially sight-seeing every day, finding a new place to stay every evening, and packing all our stuff before check out the next morning felt like a constant rush.

On Wednesday we enjoyed the luxury not being required to check out and got up late. We then had a brunch at famous Din Tai Fong (a Taiwanese restaurant particularly famous for its fresh dumplings) which was just around the corner (somehow a bit suspicious that all those Asian restaurants are so close by – wondering why YinRu choose this backpackers to stay at…not a bit intended?hm?). After getting refueled with these lovely dumplings and a fried rice we walked a few kilometers and made our way to the circular quay where Sydney’s most iconic opera house and harbor bridge is located at. But there was a guest who stole these two landmarks’ limelight: the Queen Mary 2, a 350m long transocean cruise boat. We were lucky since the second largest resized_IMG_5254cruise boat in the world only arrived in the morning and would be leaving in a few hours. We had a quick chat later on with the security guys and got to know that this boat features space for up to 3’000 guests, hosts more than 10 restaurants, a theater and casino and many other amenities for those willing to pay a cruise price starting at 20’000$ per person for this 113 days around the world trip. We discussed if a world trip like this would not have been something for us. Maybe in 30-40 years? This time definitely not. We continued to browse around the quay, enjoyed some street artists’ shows and ended up at the Sydney Café for a longer break. Located the 5th floor of the customs house, it offers spectacular views of the harbor front, superb food and service. Definitely recommended (by us) although a bit pricey. After resting for almost two hours at the café we put our feet on the streets again, discovered the CBD area, shopped a bit and went back to the harbor front to say bye to Queen Mary 2. It was a unique moment to witness how the boat navigated through Sydneys’ harbor at sunset and how long the echo of her horns could be heard in the entire area. We had an exceptional late lunch at another Taiwanese restaurant near our backpackers (yes, we mainly eat Asian food now, knowing that we cannot cook all those lovely meals in ouresized_IMG_5489r campervan in New Zealand we want to get as much as possible these days). All in all we might have not see as many things as one would usually in one day in Sydney. We enjoyed slowing down a bit, taking more time and not rushing to hunt one sight after another. The presence of Queen Mary 2 though was a true highlight of this day.

Thursday was again another day waking up as late as we wish! How lovely! To start off the day we went for Dim Sum breakfast at Marigold Restaurant. It was a huge restaurant that could easily cater 2/300 people. Well we went there for weekday brunch so there were not so many people but we could imagine that on weekends this place could be pretty booked. It was a traditional Cantonese style Dim Sum and reasonably priced. After getting some shrimp dumplings, shu mai, char seow bao dancing in our stomachs, we walked to Darling Harbour. We had some detour walking there as we were unaware of the construction sites in the area. The sun in Australia is pretty strong so we always make sure we put on sunscreen before walking in the sun for long time (15mins is long without sunscreen we’d say?). Yinru especially is soaking up the UV quite a bit. Not that she minds it but she would probably be recognized as an Indonesian if she were in Malaysia. We went to Sydney Fish Market from Darling resized_IMG_5424Harbour, as this fish market is known as a must-visit here. We could smell the fish from 100meters away and it reminded us of Roman’s mom, as she is not the biggest fan of seafood. The Fish Market instead seems like a Chinatown to us, only worse. The employees of diverse restaurants were almost all Chinese/Asians (only saw one “white” person there)! Tour buses came in with dozens of Chinese all the time. We have nothing against the Chinese but against wasting food and shouting in public…but well lets not go into details. We also saw how lobsters were prepared: they were cut into pieces ALIVE! An employee would take a huge lobster out of a bag, cut the lobster into half while it was still moving! We were so sad and questioned ourselves how cruel we humans are sometimes. Knowing that it is maybe not the right/best thing to do, we still had a small lunch there (instead of some vegetarian restaurant maybe). We then headed back to Darling Harbour and spent some time just observing people around. We initially planned to visit the Sea Life, like a big zoo but for fish etc but decided that it was too expensive. In the evening we met up with a friend from Sydney who we knew from Taiwan, Pamela who showed us a bit of nice bars and happening places in Sydney. We enjoyed sunset view at harbor front and head back to Chinatown for our dinner. We shared a Laksa at a hawker center run by Malaysians at the Sussex Center. By the way, our biggest highlight of the day: We found out today that there was a free bus running in CBD area! Having walked kilometers yesterday as we did not know about this bus, we did feel like we were not the smartest people when we learnt about the bus (but maybe we’re healthier because of these few kilometers of walking?) 😉

resized_IMG_5479TGIF! It is Friday! Well honestly for us, which day of the week does not play a big role as we are basically on holiday EVERDAY 😀 the difference is that on certain days of the week you notice people start drinking in the afternoon, buses run longer and some people seem happier. So you know, ah, it must be Friday! We talked to some people living here and it seems that Work-Life balance is very important to them. We have seen people started drinking at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon so there must be quite some “balance” there. Maybe they have had early shift behind them which could explain the early afternoon drinks, but you get the picture. So on Friday afternoon we saw bars started to get crowded, more traffic and people in city area etc. In Switzerland maybe getting off at 5pm is considered early enough. But of course compared to countries like Korea and Japan Switzerland is quite humane, and Australia is very humane 😉 We started our day off late, wanting more “travel-life-balance” so we took our time, had more time to dine, just enjoyed sitting in a park watching people and birds. A lot of birds. Sea gulls actually. They can be pretty annoying at times. When someone tries to feed them the whole colony would fly towards you! They could also look quite funny too when they fight for territory and make funny noises. Australia, being a hugeee country, also has weird people sometimes, like everywhere else in the world. In Chinese we say “one type of rice feeds hundred types of people”. We have seen a (weird) guy wearing same clothes, standing at the same spot, at circular quay for third day in a row. Each time we passed by we saw him. We also saw another guy, probably homeless and drunk, sitting in the middle of the road and all the cars had to avoid him. So behind the fabulous and relaxed side of Australia, there are also many other sides of Australia yet to be discovered. Highlight of the day was enjoying the sunset at Mrs Macquaries point which overlooked both the landmarks of Sydney: the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. resized_IMG_5578Roman took some amazing shots there. While the man works hard with the camera, the woman was busy being silly singing to the opera (a new theatre had its premier right at Mrs Macquaries point so we could hear everything). We ended the day with a yummy Japanese dinner! Now that is our work-life balance 😉

After travelling in Australia for one month now, we are contended to see what we have seen and it was indeed a very pleasant experience. We have travelled pretty intensively and have yet only seen a small part of this country. The Aussie experience is great and we thank you for the lovely weather, kind people, diversified food and cute animals (kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras are our favorites)! We will see you again, and till then, CHEERS MATE! Next stop: New Zealand.

Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road

First of all, before we continue the blog, we have implemented a new tool to the blog we would like to inform you about. You can now subscribe to our page by submitting your e-mail adress on the righ hand side bar (just drag your eyes a few centimeter to the right) and you will always receive an e-mail as soon as we updated this site…. and now let’s continue with our trip…

On Tuesday we caught our flight at 9am to Melbourne. We stayed at a lovely place that we found on Airbnb for 100$ a night which is 2km away from the airport. It took us less than 10mins to arrive at the domestic terminal. It was the easiest and fastest house door to airport check in experience ever for us: got up at 7am, departed for airport at 7.45, checked in by 8.15 and flew by 9.05! Why can international flights not be as convenient?

We arrived at Melbourne after a 3.5hours flight and a not very smooth landing (during our descent there was a thunderstorm hitting the area)! Hello Mate! We got onto SkyBus, a bus company which operates the airport-city route, and then changed to a mini bus provided by the same company which brought us to our hostel. As we got nearer to the city area, the skyline suggested a different atmosphere than the other side of Australia we have seen for the past two weeks. More skyscrapers, more vibrant, and more Asians too (well, we were told that Sydney would be even more extreme). We got to our hostel located at the busiest area of the city center. As we were used to sharing bathrooms and “privacy” from our camping experience we decided to stay at backpackers in Melbourne (Which is quite a money saver if you compare the rate of roughly 60$ for the two of us per night compared with hotels starting at at least double) to not raise our standard before getting back to camping New Zealand. We had a young Brit as our resized_IMG_4242roommate in our 3 share room. After putting our things in the room, we were so hungry we did not bother to unpack and went directly for food. Fast food, mainly known chains like McD, KFC, Subway, Nando’s can be found on any corner together with many other small independent stores selling the same unhealthy burger, fries, sandwich stuff. We had some fast food (what a surprise) at a weird time at 4.30pm which we did not know if it was lunch or dinner because of three hours difference between Melbourne and Perth and our last meal eaten in plane around 10am. We went for a walk along the Yarra River and enjoyed the sunset. In the evening we saw manresized_IMG_4710y people wearing green (Roman was, coincidentally wearing a green shirt too) and drinking lots of beer to celebrate St Patrick’s day. As old and wise as we were, we decided to skip the party and went back to hostel to sleep early. Haha yap, but early was still not earlier than around 00:00 as every day). We have to admit, age is catching up…

On Wednesday we woke up later than usual, blame it on the time difference :p We even missed the breakfast provided by the hostel (the offer was apparently making your own pancakes and stuff, so it is okay for us to miss it actually). We had dumplings for brunch, 12 steamed and 6 fried. We felt like we were round as dumplings after eating. We visited the Melbourne visitor center which was packed with tourists. The information center was run by many senior volunteers who were helping the tourists at the center. We took a free city tram ride as suggested by the volunteer at the center, passing by the port and docklands in the city. It was a special old tram which had to be operated resized_IMG_4639manually. We saw the driver changing gears every few seconds (the tram did not have the speed of a high speed train, in fact it was a little faster than cycling maybe). There was actually some explanation on tram through loud speakers, but the Chinese ladies next to us were louder than the loud speakers so we ended up hearing them better than the explanation. We alighted at Melbourne Central Station, passing by the Melbourne University and RMIT. We had a Korean lunch (servings were gigantic) and walked around China Town. After lunch we needed some sports so we walked from CBD to the river again. It was shortly after 5pm and we saw dozens of people from rowing clubs busy at riverside installing themselves resized_IMG_4271for rowing activities. We walked along the river and went to the Royal Botanic Garden. A lot of people were doing sports, some jogging in groups, so we joined them (no, we did not). We then enjoyed a view of sun set at War remnants monument. It was a pretty good walk for two or three hours so to reward ourselves we had our dinner at Belgian beer Bar. Roman had the mussels he dreamt of and Yinru a good bargain steak for aud20 (it was a steak night. You know, like ladies’ night at night clubs. Same same but different). It was quite a long and eventful day with quite some walking resized_IMG_4685indeed! We both felt it in our legs, not because we were not sporty, but because we were stupid enough to wear our sandals! Yes it was all because of the wrong shoes. By the way Roman had been here 7years ago and he had visited some places already. He was just kind enough to visit certain places again just for YinRu… <3 how lovely J

We were having our rental car from Thursday until 24 of March. Yeah! We checked out from hostel and went to meet Yinru’s friends for breakfast. A small world it is, Yinru had not meet these two friends of hers (they are a couple) for some years and now they were going to meet up in Melbourne. After a good catch up with the friends and getting to know that the restaurant owner happened to be Malaysian too, we went to pick up resized_IMG_4854our car. Roman was as happy as a boy who got his present on Christmas Day as he got to drive the sporty car VW Jetta after driving a bulky campervan for two weeks. It is like comparing a big fat man and a sporty young man (probably not the best example ever, but you get what we mean). We hit on the Great Ocean Road with the Jetttaaaaa!! Great Ocean Road would be a very difficult drive for us as we would be probably stopping every few kilometers to take photos. We made it at least to Lorne before sunset the same day. The hostel we chose had a lively, family like atmosphere. Some young guys were staying there for a longer period of time as they worked at a supermarket nearby. One of them was a south German and he found it really funny to hear Yinru speaking German because it is rare resized_IMG_4807that “someone from Malaysia speaks German with a Swiss accent”. We had our emergency laundry done in a small basin in toilet as we realized that Roman did not have any “intimate wear” left…Later we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a pretty good Italian pasta dinner. In the night it was cold in the room and poor Roman had allergies as the backpackers provided only wool blanket (one could still feel the sheep when getting in contact with these blankets).

We continued our journey towards the 12 Apostles on Friday after having a breakfast at a “blanket tree picnic” (that is the name if not mistaken). We bought a wholegrain bread, cucumber, tomato, hummus, some ham and a little bit of cheese to make sandwiches for breakfast and lunch since we missed the opportunity to cook as we had it with the campervan. Having had fastfood for the past few days in Melbourne and on the road, we decided it was time to eat a little bit healthier (in fact we found out that this is nearly the only way of getting healthy diet since not many places offer non-fried-fast food here!). After a healthy breakfast at a cold picnic area we went to visit the Erskine Falls near Lorne. It was a cute little water falls which we thought would be more impressive to look at in winter where there is more rain. Thereafter we went to hunt koalas! There is this place near Kennett River where wild koalas live. It is their natural habitat so they could just be on any tree where you don’t see them. We were lucky enough to spot a few of these little fur balls sleeping on the trees! As you might know, koalas sleep, ehm, quite a lot, say 16-20 hours! So it is very possible that you don’t see an awake one at all. BUT we did see one move from one tree branch to another! Now that must be winning a lottery! Hahaha they were really funny to look at so we had our good time spotting them. Roman spotted tworesized_IMG_4778 and Yin Ru two too (although Roman did not believe with Yinru’s “asian” eyes she could actually see far and clear too) so we were even! After that we drove to Apollo Bay, the next big town along Great Ocean Road. As soon as you get close to the town you would see many tour buses and significantly more traffic. We had our sandwiches (yeah same as breakfast) at a park in town and had fun teasing seagulls with our leftovers. Roman sawresized_IMG_4820 a guy grilling his meat at the free bbq place and he was deeply jealous of him. We continued our journey in the direction of 12 Apostles, making a stop at Cape Otway rainforest. It was a lovely rainforest walk where Yin Ru enjoyed (and annoyed Roman when she was bored) at lot. After that we drove for another hour or so and had a short stop at 12 Apostles, one of the highlights at the Great Ocean Road. As we were there almost at sunset, the stone formations did not appear nice on photos hence we decided to go back there again the next day in the morning. We went to a nearby town called Port Campbell for a night’s stay. We intended to stay at a hostel but since it was the only hostel in town it was crowded and we did not feel like sleeping with 5 other people (7 to a room) so we decided to find another place. After a few tries we finally found our accommodation for the night at a guesthouse. The owner of the guesthouse seemed friendly (and smelled alcoholic…at 6pm) and the place was lovely. We went to town to have dinner and discovered this small run down store located at the gas station which served the best fish and chips ever!! After stuffing ourselves with crispy fish and chips we went back to guesthouse. As it was so quiet we thought the other guests must be sleeping although it was only 8pm so we were talking very softly like we hadn’t for some time. At 10pm-ish the other guests came back (so we could actually talk loud if we knew that) and we had a good chat with John and Rachel from England. They were father and daughter who were travelling together and they were very close to each other. Being British they had tea and coffee before they went to bed. And we had water. Haha!

We woke up on this wonderful double bed (we had not have double bed for some day resized_IMG_4867 resized_IMG_4884as in backpackers you normally get single bunk beds). Rachel and John were already awake and were having their cup of tea. Well ya, they were British. We were supposed to check out at 10am but we were as usual late and checked out at about 10.30am (we sometimes pretend like we don’t know check out is at 10am if nobody told us so, but 10am is usually standard in OZ) as the owner started to clean everything. We went back to 12 Apostles and ponder at its beauty for some time. We found it quite sad that some tourists only went to a place, took a few selfies with their selfie sticks without even looking at the scenery itself, and left again, instead of taking some time to actually look at the scenery, the nature that was right before their eyes. We, on the other hand, resized_IMG_5153made multiple stops at lookout spots that it took us so long to drive a few kilometers. 12 Apostles, London Bridge, the Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands were some of the stops we made. It was stunning to watch these huge waves continuously forming these rock cliffs with such power. We had a take away from the fish and chips place that we discovered yesterday, only ordering fish to have as sandwich for lunch. We had a picnic after a long drive (actually because of all the amazing scenery at lookout points we used 2hours for 15kilometers only). After the Great Ocean Road ended we drove the inland highway in the direction of Melbourne. We had a stop at a lookout point overlooking two volcanic crater lakes in the middle of endless farmlands. The campsite near the lakes was booked out so we ended up staying at a motel instead. It was a resized_IMG_5183pretty old school motel, like one of those where shootings could happen in American movies, smelling/looking weird yet provides everything you need. (Luckily no shooting happened that night or you would not be able to read this now). For dinner our wish to have diet had to be postponed again as we could only find a grill chicken place for dinner at this small town.

On Sunday we left the small town to continue journey in direction of Melbourne, making a detour a through Geelong town and take a ferry from Queenscliff to Mornington Peninsula. We also had a stop at Red Rock, a lookout point overlooking another big MAAR Lake (name for this kind of lakes created by some volcanic activities. pls google for further information on this :p). We had a quick Thai lunch at Geelong and hopped onto a ferry that carried us through the Bay of Phillip to go to Mornington. Unfortunately we didn’t see those dolphins the promised we would see during our boat trip for almost one hour so Yinru was very sad (Roman promised her she would definitely see them before we go home in July). Although we arrived at Mornington Peninsula late on this Sunday afternoon it was still very busy. Apparently this area is one of the main recreational places for Melbournians. The sandy beaches around the Phillip Bay area offer shallow waters to swim, ride boats or just sun bath (Australians really do that resized_IMG_5216although the sun is so aggressive) in front of one of those numerous colorful painted small box houses. We enjoyed some stops to view the bay and totally forgot time. We got into the bigger town, Mornington, pretty late and got stressed by finding accommodation. Since most of the motels were already booked out by 7pm and this area was more like the gold coast offering a playground for the rich people and the Aston Martins, hotels were pretty expensive. In the end we had to check-in at a hotel for a 150 AUD rate per night. We rushed to a drive through to get some food and see the sunset which we missed by a few minutes. A bit upset about our own planning and the stress we had we went back to the hotel after eating a bucket of chicken with fries (which we didn’t enjoy too much). The keys provided for our room didn’t work. After exchanging them we finally got into the room which was not made up. Back to the reception we got moved to another, finally clean room and: WOW, that was big. At least we got some good standard for the money.

On Monday we made our way back to Melbourne city. As it was rainy we decided to stop at a DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) in one of the suburbs to shop some clothes. After two hours spending some money (in fact it was really little – not more than 200 AUD) we met again with Yinru’s friends for lunch. Roman had to drive through the entire Melbourne city and Yinru doing the navigation job. We discovered some very odd traffic rules like the small waiting boxes on road crossings with traffic lights for cars turning right (this is too weird to explain, please refer to the link below to understand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn (gosh there is a wiki article for this)). After a delicious Malay food lunch and good chat we drove all the north to our hotel near the airport to rest one night before returning our Jetta and hopping on the flight to Sydney. The endless suburbs were surprising. What seemed to be a stone’s throw away ended in a one hour drive through endless suburb areas with shops, shops and shops everywhere. The budget hotel was nice, small and clean with a funny toilet/shower fully made of plastic that appeared like being in a caravan unit. All in all we enjoyed our Melbourne trip a lot. The city, the 800km trip with our VW Jetta, the Great Ocean Road, the lakes, the reunion with friends, the hostels/hotels/motels/guesthouses/whatever-you-name it, thank you!

Actual Travel Route Victoria

Birthday, cyclone and end of first camping era

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 resized_IMG_3826Majesty 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 resized_IMG_3809estimated 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 resized_IMG_3853visited 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 resized_IMG_3888this 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, maresized_IMG_3906ybe 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 resized_IMG_3920and 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

Actual Travel Route

Great southern forests and the west coast

On Tuesday we woke up celebrating not being bitten by a snake at Parry Beach Camp (YinRu did imagine snakes to sneak into the campervan through any possible hole so she even stuffed the waste water hole from our sink before she went to bed). We then had a luxury hashbrowns and omelet breakfast just to make sure we have enough energy to enter the area of great southern forest and our task to do the very difficult giant tree top walk. Ehemppp!! Ok maybe it was just a nice excuse to have such a breakfast for campers…We paid a fee of aud15 per person for the valley of the giants tree top walk (a canopy walk reaching a maximum of 60m above ground) which was Canopy walkquite worth the money. We also learnt interesting facts about tingle trees through the guided tour on an ancient empire walk in the very unique tingle tree forest as this kind of trees only grow under very special conditions. Some of the big trees can be up to 400 years old! Big they may be, their roots, however, are not deep but mainly near to earths’ surface. Years ago visitors used to be able to drive their cars around the park and take photos next to the trees. The biggest tree used to have a hole on its bottom as big as a car could park inside. So visitors parked their vehicles next to the tree taking photos and slowly destroying it’s roots. The tree collapsed in 1999 which is truly a loss. The trees have also one special feature: they are almost fire repellant and could have large holes at the base of trees. The trees don’t die out after forest fires and will be able to grow back after a few months. The holes are also “souvenir” created by forest fires as the fires burn the center of the trees. Some trees also have “bumps” on their bodies which look pretty funny at times (caused by fungus, animals or other damages. Just imagine like scars on human, same same but different). Later weGiant tingle tree drove a bit on gravel road and had some difficulties finding the King of all trees, The giant tingle tree. The giant tree at Walpole has such a large hole that more than one car would fit in it (like the one that died a few years ago) or even dozens of people! We then had our food stocks refilled at a small store and visited the Walpole river inlet upon recommendation of the tour guide at the tree top walk (supposedly the most beautiful place on earth). It was beautiful but in our opinion not necessarily the most beautiful place on earth, but well…It has the hardest trail ever: 200m return (we didn’t even know a walk from the roadside to a fishing point taking around 5min could be classified as a trail but apparently its possible). After a day trip with a few stops we finally drove our way to Northcliffe. It was one of the most unforgettable drive for us as we drove kilometers and kilometers in “black” forests burnt from bushfires. What felt like autumn in the beginning started to smell more and more like a Burnt forestbarbeque and ended up in endless dead-men’s land. Still in awe of power of nature we arrived at Northcliffe camping, being told that the fire took place in February 2015 and that very day we were there was also a local fire between Northcliffe and Pemberton (where we are heading tomorrow) and road was closed. We slept in campsite with alpacas, kookaburras around us. How lovely!

Wednesday we woke up to some construction noise in the morning, apparently the campsite owner is doing some maintenance or upgrading work. It was in need of it… the alpacas just looked up once in a while then continued to eat their grass again. After having our breakfast and lunch (our new trick to spare on our own gas, we cook something extra the night before and keep it as lunch so that we only have to reheat it) we drove to Pemberton, a small town nearby where you get to climb on big trees. The street between Northcliffe and Pemberton was reopened again after the bushfire ceased. Pemberton is a more tidy tiny little modern town with some cafes, bakeries etc. The main purpose of coming down here was to visit the giant karri tree…and climb it! There were three trees that were open to public for climbing and we chose the one nearest to town which was only like a few kilometers away. Yinru challenged it first, Roman climbingmade it to the top…not. She went up a few meters high, posed, took a photo and then it was over. Roman did the climb all the way to the top (no joke!) which was 58 to 60 meters above surface. Only 20% of visitors made it to the top – Roman was one of them! Bravo! It was funny watching people who were interested in trying, some made it some did not. An Australian father encouraged the son “come on son! It is nothing! Give it a try!” we heard him saying, and after halfway he decided he would prefer to be on solid ground…Roman told him there was free cold beer on the top awaits him but it did not really help. Haha We then drove to have our lunch at beautiful picnic area at fresh water lake dam, Big Brook Dam. Some school classes and teachers were done with their kayaking or whatever water activities when we arrived. Big brook damHappily we heard the teacher shouting “okay guys we are leaving” hoping that we would enjoy the scenery in peace, but half an hour later they were still there…well who says you should trust a teacher 😉 When the school bus finally left we were done with our picnic and about to leave too. We drove on a bad gravel road which was almost like a maze in forest. After half an hour of one way forestry road drive (it felt like a day for the driver) we made our way to Hamelin Bay, a beautiful beach near Margaret River. We had a short refreshing swim in the ocean for the first time since we arrived and enjoyed beers to beautiful sunset. We used the facility at the campsite and cooked ourselves dinner: rice with minced meat a la Sunset at Hamelin BayChinese. At dinner we also met another young fresh graduate couple from Perth and had a long chat with them, to find out about difficulties lading on a job after graduating these days, the payrolls of graduates that vary vastly, etc etc. It was good to finally talk to some locals in the same age (so far we got to chat a lot – but only with retired people) and have some insights to certain issues rather than “it is all good” kinda superficial answers.

The weather got hotter as we travelled to this side of the coast, probably because it is missing the cold breeze from the southern ocean. We visited another famous feature of HaStingrays at Hamelin Baymelin Bay Thursday morning: stingrays! They were huge and not so shy. So as everyone remembers stingrays actually killed tough tough Australian Crocodile Hunter we were a little worried too. But apparently we just had to watch out for the tail and other than that they are totally fine (in Malaysia we eat them, baked stingrays with chilies are good. hmm). We then drove to the Cape Leeuwin, a special place where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean meets and shake hands, oh, create waves maybe. We paid some entrance fees and were given this stupid audio self guide tour at lighthouse. It was stupid because it even included an Cap Leeuwininterview in the audio guide. Again we saw this “beware snakes!” sign! Yinru behaved so well and walked only on pave way to avoid meeting this creature (as if snakes would distinguish between pave way and bush!). We then had (leftovers) lunch at picnic area at Flinders bay overlooking stunning beaches. Tourists we were, stupid touristy thing we did. We followed the brown signs that were made for tourist attractions or routes. We drove the Caves Road tourist route and made stop at Lake Cave. One can only enter this cave with a tour guide so we took the last tour of the day. It was a pretty informative tour tough. We got to see some amazing formations and the formations are still growing a few centimeters a year as it is regarded as an active cave. There was water in the cave hence the name “Lake Cave”. The formations and its reflections on water were absolutely wonderful. There Suspended tablewas also one unique formation in this cave that cannot be found in any other public cave in the world: a suspended table (A rockformation that once touched the ground and now is no long attached to the ground as it is hanging – or appears to fly). We camped at Prevelley Beach Campsite this night. At the (biggest) store we also had some wine tasting. The lady, an Irish, who was working there has lived in Switzerland had a long chat with us and shared some of her thoughts after living in Australia for two years. She talked about huge cultural differences and her Kurdish neighbours, etc etc. Besides being quite sociable, she was also generous and gave big glasses to taste their local wines! We bought a wine and then went next door to eat out for the first time since we have the campervan. A Hawaiian pizza and chips and a beautiful sunset. How can one not love Aussie!

Great southern forests

From wild wild west back to civilization

Friday was basically a driving day since we had to continue our intended route and get back to the area to the west (Albany, Denmark, Walpo and further). After having our regular breakfast (some breadrolls with either ham or fruit jam and a bowl of cereals with milk) we left Cape le Grand National Park around 9:30 and reached our target of resized_IMG_3058the day Stirling Range National Park (which consist of comparatively “high” mountains (the highest peak is 1’090m) we have never seen in this more or less flatland so far) by 17:00 with two or three photo and a lunch stop in between. For the night we choose Mt Trio bushcamp, which is situated within the premises of a local farmer family. The roads to reach the campsite were unsealed resized_IMG_3079gravel roads for about 20km and other than one retired couple there was no one else on the campground. It felt cozy to rest the night surrounded by farmland, hundreds of sheep and occasionally some kangaroos (please not in the sunset photo). Dinner was grilled potatoes and honey-lemon chicken thighs which were tender. Thumbs up!

Since we drove hours on Friday we felt the urgent need to move. So after a luxury breakfast (YinRu prepared some omelets for us) and inspired by the local farm lady’s recommendation we decided to go for a hike on one of the mountains in the National Park. Our campsite host described the hike as an “easy 45mins walk to the top”. In fact is was a 3hrs return hike with a very steep ascent and 800 meters in height. We were almost grilled by the Australian sun! resized_IMG_3158The lack of the usually relieving cold breeze drove the temperatures well above 30 degrees what we didn’t expect. Under these conditions, only one of us made it to the top to at least save the pride of a Swiss’s heart (how can one not make it to a 900m peak?!). The views from the mountain over endless farmlands tough were stunning and worth it.

In the afternoon, we made it to Albany after a one hour drive. Albany is the third most populous city in Western Australia with around 25’000 inhabitants. After refilling our food-stock at the supermarket we (had to) camp at a five star holiday park site (at least with the concession of our rental company we paid slightly less than 40AUD per night). We couldn’t find a cheaper camp site in the big big city. After one week of camping we were almost left with no clean underwear so we did our laundry. And, what a coincidence, exactly the night we did laundry and left our clothes hanging outside to dry: it rained for the very first time on our trip! How lucky we were.

On Sunday we discovered the surroundings of Albany. We visited the local market which seemed to attract everyone and the whole of town was there. It was a small lovely market with some stalls selling fresh vegetables, meat, fish or bread. The ocean breeze and music from a band who was there to perform turned the market into an interesting and cozy spot to experience a bit of local life. Thereafter we hopped on and resized_IMG_3455off some nearby sights like the lookout points at Windpark. It offered stunning views over the coastline and yes, strong winds. The windpark could generate enough power for up to 80% of Albany’s power usage. Next stop was Salmon Holes, where there were a lot of holes for salmon to hide (ok it is not true – but they apparently mate there). We are not sure of the origin of the name but sure it is name that will not be forgotten. After a few stops it was time for lunch again, yeayy!! We had a BBQ lunch at Frenchman Bay pic nic area with beautiful ocean view. After lunch we drove to cosy corner, a name that was much mentioned by other travelers for its beauty, and its a FREE campsite. Instead of “cosy corner”, we would prefer to name it “Hippie Place” actually. We were almost the weird ones there as we did not have long, uncombed hair. There was almost no one with short hair. We were wondering why there were so many children there since it is not school holidaresized_IMG_3480y in Australia at the moment (Maybe a hippie child needs to learn how to fish and sing rather than write and read? We don’t know). There was no shower nor water or electricity. It was rainy and windy the whole night. We find it, so to say, reasonable to be free, cos we probably would not be happy to pay a lot for this place…

On Monday we did a short drive to Denmark and around it (not the Denmark in Europe, duh), did the “scenic drive” in the city which was pretty nice but not so special. It would probably be nicer if we had stopped and tried all the cheese and wines, but well, we thought we could do that in Margaret River so we will wait for it. Greens pool was our next stop, an unusual rock formation between sandy beaches. We had higher expectation of this place after seeing its photo on tourism booklet’s cover. Again we did not have much luck with weather this day as it was cloudy. Roman concluded that the photo on the booklet cover was a fake as he could not find a spot to make exactly the same photo. LOL. So much so for the crappy weather we decided we will have an easy day today and we drove to Parry beach camp after a short lunch. This campsite offers more facilities (showers, toilets) resized_IMG_3111and only costs aud10 per night as it is managed by the shire of Denmark. Yinru was very happy about the site until she saw the sign which read “deadly poisonous sneaks in site”. !!!! So in order to keep snakes away from us and our campervan, we had a campfire. It was the first time we were allowed to have a campfire so we lit one. We had our rice, steaks and veggies cooked on wooden fire tonight and we must say, that was superb dinner with lovely steaks and peaceful atmosphere sitting in the forest near to the beach hearing the waves and being warmed by our own fire underneath of thousands of stars shining on us. Tomorrow we will try to watch out for snakes and head to our next spot: the tree top walk among giant tingle trees.

From Perth to Esperance

G’day Mate!

How we love the australian accent! Though sometimes we don’t understand them completely, we do love the friendliness and sincerity of Aussie mates. We spent the first few hours after getting our campervan dropping by every bookstore, fuel station just to get our south western australian map replaced. We somehow lost our map, don’t ask why, cos we have not figured that out either. It was not easy as it was public holiday here. After getting a not-so-bad western australian map we hit road and drove resized_IMG_1605eastwards. After driving for some 300km (and surviving some 40-mins drive by Yinru) we put up our first night at a camp site at Corrigin. A night at such a campsite cost 30AUS (this time two beers inclusive). Yinru was excited as it was her first campervan experience! Minnced beef with pasta and carrots was on the menu tonight, with some must-have barbeque sauce.

On second day we continued journey and drove another two hours to arrive at Wave Rock. Before visiting the rock formation we went to visit the wildlife park nearby. We saw numerous beautiful birds, koala(!), kangaroos(!!), white kangaroo (!!!) and other animals. Thereafter we prepared and ate our lunch at a picnic site in the area. Having enough energy now we visiteresized_IMG_1532d the Wave Rock and walked 20km around (ok maybe 2km). The huge wave (about 18m in height) was impressive with beautiful colors when hit by the sunlight. After having another walk around on a short track through local wilderness spotting some beautiful birds we drove furter south-east. As dusk was approaching and we havent found a camp we wanted to stay at we decided to do bush camping for the night. We simply parked our vehicle a few dozen meters away from a main road shelterned by trees, had dinner in our van and spent the night.

On Wednesday morning we hit the road early and drove another 300km south-east and arrived in Esperance after three to four hours of endless straight roads surrounded by dry farmlands and small forests. We did some food shopping to refill our stocks (we usually try to buy stocks of fresh veggies, meat, fish etc. for 2-3 days) and then dined at Red Rooster her request, as she has not tried it before. It is something like KFC, just that it is with roasted chicken and not fried chicken. After our stop at Esperance we continued our journey to Cape le Grand National Park, some 60km to the East of town. This National Park is the main reason why we decided to drive the extra 300km eastwards (which we ll have to drive back again to continue our loop). There are two campgrounds at this Park, both at first come first served. On the way we saw signboards written “campsites full” and we were already kinda anxious that there would not be any vacant camp site left for us. We were lucky enough to have the last spot at resized_IMG_2587Lucky Bay Campground with direct view on turquoise water and white sandy beach from our spot. A camping bay cost 20AUD each night (30AUS is usually the norm here). The first evening we did not do a lot as we arrived in late afternoon, had a fried rice with vegetables and some prawns for dinner, a beer and enjoyed the beautiful sunset with a pinkish painted sky. Something worth mentioning: the peacefulness of these campgrounds after 8pm. There were only two caravans with lights on at 9.30pm! Living in the nature you tend to sleep in early and get up early voluntarily, without the need of alarm. Those who know us wouldn’t believe it, but were getting up around 8am without specific schedule these days.

Thursday was filled with one “Wow” after another “Wow”, as we were fascinated by the resized_IMG_2573beauty of the beaches here. We had a hike from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove in the morning, and drove to Frenchman’s Peak and Hellfire Beach in the afternoon. Hellfire beach was absolutely stunning with its white fine sand and clear blue water perfectly remote. It is almost too difficult to use our limited English to describe its beauty. We also walked around at Lucky bay for an hour or two, embracing the fine white sands, which almost felt like powder sugar or flour. Though the crystal clear waters were so tempting to just jump into it we didn’t make it to swim in the ocean the second day either. The strong chilling breeze from the open ocean together with the lower air temperature of around 23degrees and the cold water from the southern ocean were somehow not very inviting in the end. We also fooled around with the local kangaroos (they tend to be everywhere here. Sometimes resized_IMG_1646just a couple of them jumps through the campground when you’re having dinner, others are sleeping aside the walkways or searching for food at the beach). According to an Australian couple we met (they have been travelling for 16months in their own country) these kangaroos are some of the friendliest they have ever seen. Dinner was a classic: Huge Aussie beef steaks from the BBQ with some grilled onions chunks, chips and veggie.

After spending two days at breathtakingly beautiful beaches perfectly remote in nature with no electricity and hand phone reception there is some driving westwards towards Albany ahead of us with hopefully a powered campsite and a gas station to fuel up our batteries/tank (…and finally one step closer to some of Australia’s finest wineries!). After a few days we feel very comfortable in our mobile home. Need to be said that the modern standard of a campervan like this offers nearly everything you need to live: from a fridge and microwave (the latter we never used so far) to a freshwatertank with a small tap, two stove kitchen, LED lights for the night or a comfortable double bed we got everything we need on our wheels.

 

Welcome to Western Australia

We booked another flight with Malaysia Airlines departing Kuala Lumpur at 9 o’clock in the morning. Since we didnt want to wake up and leave Melaka around 4 or 5 o’clock in the night we decided to stay in a cheap hotel (<25$ a night for a room) near the airport in Sepang. If you ever gonna fly from KLIA International Terminal M be prepared for inefficiency (We have never queued for ~1hour for a baggage drop-off). After a convenient 5:30 hrs flight with MAS (this time unfortunately quite booked) we arrived in Perth.

Customs are somewhat different in Australia. After filling out three forms and answering numerous questions at passport control we finally got our luggage which was checked again for any kind of seeds, fruits, plants, foods, soils (…and everything you’d imagine) by dogs. the dog was so adorable! we both wondered if the dog liked his job actually..imagine sniffing luggages all day long. hmm…. After completing all the formalities and finally being free to move in Australia we took a cab to our hotel for the first two nights in Perth before picking up our Campervan for the next two weeks (45$ for a 30mins cab ride!! damn we have to get used to non-asian prices).

Australia was conventient fromresized_IMG_0658 the very first minute we arrived (once you made it thorugh the customs!): conventient 30 degrees with a constant refreshing breeze, plenty of sunshine, free buse rides within the city of Perth, no language barriers, whatever goods you need to buy are available and there are hippies and weird people to watch everywhere. We got a bit suprised that supermarkets and businesses all close around 5pm (6 or 7 is really the expection) and resized_IMG_0671also by the fact that theres such a big proportion of asians here (maybe 30 to 50%? we dont know). We spent the first evening    wandering around the city center and the esplanade fooling around at their open fitness in the park with Perth city in background. After a few hours of exercise we were exhausted (okay maybe not that long).

In search for Yin Ru’s first kangaroos we walked around Heirisson island for about 2hrs and yet failed to spot one. However we were compensated with a beautiful sunset over Perth, viewed from the Kings Park. Theresized_IMG_1428 rest of the time we spent buying some necessities like a local SIM-card with data plan (otherwise we wouldnt be able to post this blog from bush in the middle of nowhere), some roadmaps and enjoying some good food. Korean, Indian, Chinese, name any asian cuisine you could think of, and you’d probably get it in Perth, no problemo.

On Monday we went to pick-up our campervan, our “moving home” for the next two weeks to discover South Western Australia more idependently on our own wheels. We prebooked a Hitop Campervan with Apollo (a midrange-priced rental with a more modern fleet). Apollos camper rental station is located about 20km out of the city center- really out of nowhere. It claims to be “near” the airport but is still a 8km walk from the terminal. We finally found a bus from the city center bringing us as close as 1km (yes, that means you only need to walk 1km by foot, with backpacks. haha ). Once we arrived we were told we were number 3 or 4 in line to pick-up our car. The entire process took about an hour so we sat there a while together with 3 or 4 other Swiss families/couples waiting for their vehicle. Thank you, our very strong Swiss Francs. We got a very new Apollo campervan. The guy told us Swiss tend to get better cars as they take better care of cars. Hah! First stop with campervan: supermarket. After getting food and groceries, off we go, our South West Australia Adventure! Endless roads, nature and discoveries to be made. Stay tuned!resized_IMG_1455