I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.
The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com
On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.
Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.
Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.
The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…
Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.
I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.
4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.
I had a week off during the school holidays back in July and a little bit of birthday money to play with so I went on a little adventure for some sunshine, soul searching and to do what I came to Australia to do: Live loving and love living. In other words – live in the moment and smile.
My destination was Kalbarri – a small township on the coast about 7.5 hours north of Perth.
Having searched fruitlessly for a cheap way up the coast: looking for ride-shares and even couchsurfing options, I went back to what I know best – long distance buses and youth hostels.
Throwing some caution to the wind I booked a one-way bus trip from Perth to Kalbarri and one night in the only hostel there hoping the rest would fall into place, which – as is nearly always the case – it did.
But there is no such trip that Grace can make without a bit of sweat and stress (read up on my Slovakia stories for more of this) and a little bit of sweat and stress was what I had the morning of my departure.There have been a number of times when my last minute nature is entirely responsible for any mishaps I may have had, but having learnt from that I find that sometimes in my world – things are simply just not simple!
Getting from where I live in Carine (a northern suburb of Perth) to the bus station in East Perth would normally have been a fairly easy transition of a bus from my house to the train station, a train to the city, a train to East Perth and then a short walk to the bus station.
However, the good people of Transperth wish to improve their frankly-not-very-convenient public transport system and chose to do this by shutting the central stations and disrupting normal service during the school holidays.
Leaving my house at 06:40am for an 08:30am bus should have been ample time and would generously have allowed time for breakfast and coffee at the station cafe before my 8 hour bus trip. Not for me. Of course.
My weekend bag and handbag pissed me off on the lengthy transits I had to do on three occasions. The length of the footbridge overpass at Leederville, platform at McIver station and overpass at East Perth were far too long for heavy bags.
I was quietly impressed with how well organised and smoothly the transition to replacement transport went at Leederville, as well as surprised by the number of staff they apparently needed to orchestrate it all. These staff members would have been much more useful on the next leg of my journey as the location of the free transit bus had changed and information of its whereabouts or timetable were non-existent.
About 50 of us grunted and squeezed into it as it arrived after 20 minutes (not 8 as promised) and trundled 600 metres to the next train station – much to the bewilderment of many of the passengers who dismounted. Since everyone seemed to be going to or coming to McIver station, the 1.5m path of its entrance became almost impassable with the surge of commuters. Trains were then waiting at platforms they weren’t normally on and I burst onto the train moments before its door beeped shut – with looks of sympathy from my carriage mates. “This is bloody ridiculous!” I panted to which the “friendly” commuters either nodded or busied themselves looking at what was in their hands or on the wall of the train. I am pretty sure in the UK this is the rare occasion when people DO converse and unite on the opportunity to have a good old moan.
On arriving at East Perth my shoulders ached once I saw the length of the passenger bridge and I almost walked in the wrong direction once of it by mistaking a coach for the not-very-obvious coach station.
On arrival, although desperate for a coffee, as it was 08:17 I immediately checked in and then ran to the cafe only to realise I couldn’t get anything for less than $10 paying by card, nor could I withdraw cash without forfeiting the $2 charge. And when every cent of your trip counts – coffee has to wait.
I should have blogged this ages ago! I am so far behind!
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in June I was getting itchy feet, so a friend and I decided to hire a car and take it to Margaret River. It’s a small town about 3.5 hours south of Perth synonymous with good food, wonderful wine and great surf breaks. Travelling on a budget doesn’t always get you those things – but I never travel anywhere without making great memories, laughing hard, breathing deeply and taking it all in. So this is how I did it:
I hired a car from Europcar which was a bus ride, a train ride and another bus ride away from us. I managed to get the only manual car in the depot, as for some reason Australians tend to favour autos. Driving without using a gear stick is not driving in my opinion.
Then I got a friend to jump on board.
Then I found two backpackers who also wanted to go to Margies (how the locals call it) on Gumtree. Pick up the car, pick up the backpackers and all pile into the TINY car whose suspension and tiny engine are now being tested.
We hit the road and as we get closer to Margaret River the clouds get heavier and heavier and it starts to rain. Not before I spot Gracetown – which just HAS to be visited and photographed.
Then we try and check into your hostel but reception is closed for a few hours… Check in done, rain sets in and we race to the coast in hope of catching a sunset in a rain break. We get totally drenched, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t matter right?
Going out involves THE only pub in town where I spend more than I want to on beer and the following day’s hangover inhibits me greatly.
Sunday afternoon arrives and it’s time to make my way back to Perth even though it feels like I have been here 5 minutes. So I take one of the backpackers who wants to go back, and we amble our way back up the coast stopping here and there to admire the view, do a cartwheel on the beach, shelter from the rain and drink a crap coffee to keep me awake on the drive back top Perth.
On arrival back in Perth I drop my backpacker off at his new hostel, then my friend and arrive home waking the dog as I park “my” car outside the house and go inside. Exhausted, happy and nostalgic from another weekend well spent in Australia.
Then nearly two months later I get round to blogging about it, having forgotten the details that make people laugh but hoping my photos make up for it!
Back in March, when I was working for a different family, I was “invited” to go on holiday with them. Delighted at the opportunity to go somewhere new in WA and be part of the family I jumped at it. I sooner realised that I was not really on holiday – I was just doing my job in a different location. My hosts has no intention of showing me the place they had raved about, nor were they really willing to share it with me. So on my day off, and my free moments I did what I could to explore the area and see what it had to offer.
Dunsborough is quite a sleepy town on a very calm piece of water. It appeared to me to be one of those places that people leave in the winter and flood in the summer.
Here’s a selection of my images.
Not too far away I had the opportunity to visit Busselton too. “Grace, D is driving to Bussleton this afternoon – he can drop you off there, and you can get a bus back if you want”. Never one to turn down a little adventure I went for it. And took a walk along the famous Bussleton Jetty, which is the longest in the southern hemisphere at just shy of 2km. You have to pay for the privilege of doing so, or you can pay even more to take a rickety old train up and down it. But not interested in spending money, I wanted to use my legs, so took a stroll! Here’s what I saw:
Tired of calm water, I was keen to get to Yallingup and see some surf. I paid a ridiculous $15 for a return bus journey to take me just 8km each way, giving me just less than 3 hours to get some (expensive) lunch and enjoy the scene. It was worth it though, and when I got to the beach, I was so taken with it I had to get in the sea. Not planned to do so, so for the first time since I was about 9 years old – I went in in my undies! This is what you do when you are me, and you are on your own and you want to make the most of every situation. Just do it!
“What has happened to your blog?” My mum asked me a while ago.
“I logged onto your blog, but you don’t seem to have written in it for some time” wrote
my aunt this morning.
What HAS happened to my blog? I am asking myself whilst sitting in my little cabin in the garden on a chilly Perth evening. It’s certainly not as though I have nothing to write about – I have a number of blog posts circulating in my head continuously but they never make through my fingers to my keyboard. I even took a notebook to work today, hoping to find a moment to scribe my thoughts, but alas it didn’t happen.
It seems the last time I wrote I was enjoying reflecting on life in Australia – opportunities and obstatunities that were presented to me throughout the year – this was MONTHS ago! Back then I was living in the tranquility of a farm in northern New South Wales and desperately looking for work to ease my finances, but secretly wanting to not work very much at all and soak up everything Australia has to offer on the final stretch of my visa.
So that’s how I find myself in Perth, where I currently live in “donga” in the garden of the family whose children I care for. I am now a Nanny, or an Au Pair, or Mary Poppins? I think I like that one best. Is it easy? Sometimes. Can anyone do it? No way. Why am I doing it? Because why not?
I escaped another cyclone warning in NSW to get to Perth for a full time nanny position back in February. That job may well have been the reason I had writer’s block for so long. I think I was physically, emotionally and most importantly, creatively drained working for a family who wanted a service, not me. I gave 100 %, which wasn’t enough and although I couldn’t admit it at the time I was incredibly unhappy. After one too many unkind words, I started to look elsewhere, in search of a family who wanted Grace and not just someone who was great with their kids, could cook and didn’t mind cleaning. I now look back on that experience and only wish I had swallowed my pride sooner and not wasted some two months feeling trapped and not enjoying what Perth had to offer me.
Long story short, I am now working for as family whose ideals are closer to mine, who don’t have me as an accessory, and whose children’s challenges and warm smiles make everyday a wonderful day.
So I live in a self-contained container in the garden. Having my own space, I now realise, is paramount to my sanity and enjoyment. I was spending every moment I wasn’t working out of the house: throwing away money I didn’t have in order to avoid being there or I was locked away in my room hiding from awkward, uncomfortable conversations.
I now work half the hours I used to and earn almost the same. I have freedom, trust and no checklists. I have never been told off, nor checked up on. Not been giving rules or written instructions or lists to sign. I’ve never had to detail where I take the car, nor justify how I spent my cleaning day. It’s wonderful!
Every day is different – some more challenging than others – as anyone who has ever spent time around young children will understand. I enjoy picnics and adventures in the park, stories in the garden, football in the playground, baking in the kitchen, trips to the beach, swims in the pool, crafts, trips to the library, road trips in the car and everything I thought I would enjoy about being an Au Pair. At the end of the day, I bid my farewell, walk over to my little house and enjoy doing whatever I please until the next morning. No questions asked. I can teach and entertain in my own space whilst enjoying comfort in the proximity of my neighbours, yet gratitude for the space between our two buildings.
I now realise how much more I have to write and show as I get to know a new part of Australia and live in perhaps its most expensive city on the lowest wage I have had since arriving here.
Watch this space for hopefully some more regular thoughts…