One of the wonderful things about not planning things is the adventure you can have with unexpected new friends.
I was sharing a room in Kalbarri with a girl from Belgium, and having mentioned that I hadn’t planned my trip back to Perth, she suggested I join her, driving back as she was going back the same time. Perfect.
Myself, the Belgium girl and another guy from the hostel, loaded into her little hire car on Friday morning. Me with a sore head from a spontaneous drinking game the night before and also with a heavy heart – not quite ready to return to Perth and say goodbye to the residents of Kalbarri Backpackers.
We ambled our way down the highway towards Perth, stopping in various places of interest along the way, to maximise the opportunity of having the freedom of a car.
The first stop was Cervantes. A town with a Spanish name, and Spanish named streets. There is not much going on in Cervantes to be honest and for that reason we had the hostel to ourselves, bar the two resident cleaners from Taiwan. The hostel was spotless with plenty of homely touches – books, magazines, herbs and spices, toilettries.
What Cervantes is known for is its proximity to the Pinnacles Desert. This is an eerie place, which we visited at sunset, and if I were a more talented photographer, perhaps I could have captured better its science fiction-like atmosphere. Strange stones rise out of the desert making you feel as if you have walked onto a Star Wars set and you should be carrying a light saber!
Driving through yet another national park as we made our way down the coast, we stopped at Hangover Bay – wonderfully named place with a beautiful beach. I would LOVE to cure a hangover there!
Next stop was Lancelin – because my big brother told me to go there, so we dropped in for a photo op and a toilet stop.
Nearer to Perth, and the departure of our other passenger was Yanchep National Park – where koalas were sitting in trees, wallabies were nibbling the grass and Kookaburras were singing up above.
Jogging for biscuits
Before I came out to the bush the vision I had of myself was riding horses regularly, spending plenty of time outdoors, eating prime cuts of meat and fabulous home cooking and just watching my muscles build and the weight fall off.
That is not the case of course. My day involves walking the 12 or so steps from my bedroom door to the classroom and then an additional 12 steps to the house, and I never walk back out of there without having eaten something.
Then there is the food: the volumes of it, which I readily accepted so not to be impolite on first arrival. The Smoko (cakes/biscuits/pikelets/tea/coffee etc) at 10am, and then again at 4pm, (more of the same) and dinner is a mountain of food very often followed by a dessert. Lunch is starchy and meaty unless I make it myself.
So to summarise: I have grown. I am not the svelte shape I hoped I would be, but a larger, much less fitter version of the one I was aiming for.
In my first two weeks I was in the kitchen readily baking for eager mouths, loving the novelty of having people to bake for, but I soon started to notice an ugly pattern. The two bushies decided to get me jogging one day, which was absolute hell. I pounded along a dirt track, one behind me hitting my bottom and the other in front encouraging me on like an old cow going in for milking.
We coined the term “jogging for biscuits” which became my incentive and much fun for them as they turned my plodding efforts into biscuit rewards!
Now, some weeks on, having had many many relapses, I am now going for a stiff walk, and breaking occasionally into a jog or a shuffle, as we call it, every day! Since almost two weeks ago, I have not missed a day despite the pain and undesirable state it leaves me in.
We agreed that at 5pm every day we will go for a walk. We put on trainers (yes I have been lent a pair!), enlist a few Labradors, I don my leggings (because if I feel sporty, that’s half the task done!) and off we go into the late afternoon sun. Sometimes it’s just me and the bushies, sometimes me and their mum, sometimes me and my new pig-hunting-dog friend, but it’s always me!
We walk/jog/shuffle up the hill, down the track, around the paddock: It doesn’t matter where. I know if I break a sweat (not hard!) and get my breath going (equally easy) I have earned at least half a biscuit. Sometimes I can manage a whole 100 metres of jogging, which those of you who know I can barely run for a bus will understand is no mean feat!
One day I even walked the LONG way to the mailbox and back, which was over 10km. Some days I have longer energy spurts, some days a pain appears from nowhere and makes me wince, but every day (since two weeks ago!) I go.
I jog for biscuits in the late afternoon sun of the Australian Outback.
Life in the bush – 3 weeks in…
I have been here for almost three weeks, and already it feels like an eternity. Not in a bad way, it’s just that despite some fairly surprising elements to life here in the bush, it was relatively easy to slot in.
I now know to flush to loo before I use it, as the frogs tend to tuck themselves under the rim of the toilet, and slip out when it’s flushed. That saves me fishing them out when I’ve done what I needed to do…
I also now shake my hand towel before drying my hands or face after a lizard dropped out of its folds onto the floor the other day.
My washing machine seems to need to be asked to work about 4 times before it reluctantly shunts into gear and has a go at washing my clothes. It does a fairly good job and I have got over the fact that my clothes can never be worn more than once without washing because a dog has jumped up to say hello, I’ve done the burning or gone for a muddy walk. The burning is done everyday. All food scraps go to the chooks (who since I arrived have doubled their daily egg contribution to 10 and upwards every day!) and everything other than glass and metal is burnt. This bothered me at first, but then I wondered who was going to travel out here to collect rubbish or recycling.
My afternoon walks don’t seem to be accompanied by my two legged bushes anymore, but a group of my four-legged friends instead. The Chocolate Labradors are not working dogs, so always around the in the afternoon, and the pregnant Collie is on maternity leave from mustering duties (more about her later) so they have accompanied my on my afternoon stroll and we’ve become a good team. Maggie, Missy, Milo and Kelly came along with me once they smelled the sandwich in my bag.
Kelly, the pregnant Collie was due to be shot last week for being a lazy dog. Did you gasp? Yes, me too. But farm life is ruthless and animals cost money, so if they’re not pulling their weight, or perhaps in her case, pulling too much, they are done away with. We looked at her and M said “Oh, look at Kelly, that’s a puppy tummy! I’ll tell D not to shoot her.” I hadn’t realised she was due for extermination and helped plead her case. She seems to have taken a shine to me, and likewise I have to her. She visits me at least once a day for cuddles, maybe she notes my own motherhood desires…
My regular meetings with ‘roos are always fun. The other day on a solo walk I met a kangaroo and instead of bouncing away from me he bounced closer. We sat and looked at each other for what seemed like ages. He bounced to the left and right a few times, but didn’t seem scared. We just relaxed in each other’s presence. I kicked myself for not taking my camera but enjoyed taking a good look at this absolutely marvellous creature that I’d waited 7 months to meet and now see daily.
Bush life is not bad. Not bad at all. If fresh air, wildlife and isolation are what you want or need, I can’t think of a better place to be right now.
Emerald Airport: smaller than Bournemouth used to be. It had one check-in gate, one departure gate, one luggage belt and weirdly about 6 flights a day to and from Brisbane.
The “short drive” to Trelawney was over 3 hours and half of it was along a dirt track. We passed a few wallabies, kangaroo rats, echidnas and a great deal of cattle. “You don’t get car sick do you?” I was asked. “No,” I replied relieved, as this would be a horrendous journey if that were the case: 1 3/4 hrs drive mostly along a dirt track to the nearest town. I then got a nose bleed, which I tried to make out was no big deal, but wondered if I had burst a blood vessels on the rough terrain.
I arrived at the farm and was shown to my “room”. A shipping container. I thought she was joking when she told me on the way, but she wasn’t. I live in a metal box that has one window. It also has a kitchenette, fridge-freezer, table and chairs, tv and very uncomfortable bed. My “bathroom” is another outbuilding and I have camped in places that have more inviting washing facilities.
The toilet, I was warned, could be shared with a few frogs, as they seemed to like it, and sure enough the following day I peed on one! I will now always check the toilet bowl, because scooping a very pissed off frog out of the bog after I had flushed was not a fun way to start the day!
Day one on the farm and in the classroom I am assured was not a normal one. At about 9am a chopper arrived carrying passengers who had come to have detailed talks about the building of a railway that will cut through the farm land to assist the mining communities around here.
After “school”, I was taken for a bush walk by the two children. We did about a two hour round trip across the land, sadly camera-less rain was descending on departure. My two bare-footed “bushies” tramped along without a care in the world for Brown snakes or cow shit and found it funny when I repeatedly asked them if it was SAFE to step off the path. The first kangaroo I saw made me squeal with joy and the following regular appearances of wallabies where just as fun to spot. Camera will be taken next time without doubt.
Important facts learnt so far:
- I am 135km west, along a dirt track from the nearest town, which has an occupancy of about 800 people
- If it rains, we simply cannot go there, as the track is too dangerous
- There is such a creature as a Wallaroo: a cross between and roo and wallaby
- There are about 7000 cattle here, of about 4 breeds
- This is a cattle station, not a farm!
- There are 9 dogs, 3 cats and about 20 horses in residence
- It’s not very hot. At all.
- Brown Snakes and Red Back Spiders live here. Possibly the most deadly of both animal
- Nearest coast is about 600km
- Osicones are the knobs on top of a giraffes head
Dinner tonight was a prime cut of home-grown beef, which I know I would have paid a fortune for in Melbourne. This is going to be a fulfilling time in more ways than one!
This is about a month overdue, but too much of a fun weekend not to share!
Down in the very south of Victoria, some 4 hours from Melbourne, the clue is in the name as to what this place has on offer. It is indeed the entrance to a network of lakes and home to a medley of hotels, motels and souvenir shops. In the off season is it is almost dead, which meant myself and my cosmopolitan group of travellers, this time the Colombian numbers were higher than before – standing at 5:4 Thai: Colombian and one English of course.
This was an overnight excursion and at sunset the beach was dowsed in the most incredible array or colours: pinks, violets, reds, deep oranges. We played volleyball until the light failed us and it was time to check into our highly recommended YHA hostel cabin.
The following morning a stroll along another beach before a 3 hour boat cruise complete with afternoon tea and excellent commentary. The cruise took us deep into the lakes’ system and offered us kangaroos, giant pelicans, a huge number of different species of birds, a dolphin, and a seal who joined us to play in the surf at the lakes opening.
That’s all for my commentary, enjoy the photos!