West Coast Wonders

(May-June 2009)

Having spent the majority of my time in Perth working, I’d just about saved enough money to pay for a trip up the West Coast – the only draw-back being that once I booked the trip, I would effectively be penniless again and so would likely have to head straight home afterwards. It was a difficult decision to make but after six months travelling, at least I would be leaving on a high.

So towards the end of May- half apprehensive, half excited – I headed into one of the backpacker travel agents in Perth City and booked an organised tour up the West Coast with WesternXposure.

After chatting through various options with the travel consultant, I finally settled on the Perth to Exmouth five day adventure. After which I would stay in Exmouth to complete my PADI diving certificate and then head onto Broome for two weeks of sun before flying back to Sydney to say my final goodbyes. (Well, that was the plan anyway!)

Perth – Kalbarri – Shark Bay – Coral Bay – Exmouth

Unfortunately, Callum hadn’t managed to find work during the month and a half we’d spent in Perth and so his plan was to claim some tax back from his previous jobs and head up the West Coast a few weeks later where we would meet in Broome.

So I waved goodbye to yet another friend and set off alone once more…

The first morning on the tour bus was a little sedate, the early start meant that everyone on board was feeling rather sleepy and with the majority of the backpackers on board travelling alone, it took us all a while to establish friendships. I couldn’t help wishing that Callum and the gang had come along but I soon made friends with a Canadian couple, a French guy and a South African guy. With the East Coast dominated by English and Irish travellers, it was actually quite a novelty to be the only English person on the bus!

The tour group provided food for all of us to cook – sandwiches and wraps for lunch, with pastas and stir-fry’s for dinner, anything that could be easily transported in a cool box for a few days. It wasn’t the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted but the process of everyone pitching in to cook, made the experience all the more fun. Every evening the tour guide would stop off at a bottle shop so that we could stock up on drinks, then we’d head to a hostel or campsite to cook and sit around for the evening chatting and playing cards..or occasionally heading for a midnight swim…

Hidden treasures

I didn’t know much about the West Coast of Australia before I started my trip – we’ve all heard of Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef, but the natural wonders of the West Coast are mentioned little and so each new discovery was all the more appreciated…

The breath-taking scenery of Kalbarri National Park was incredible; here we took the time to discover Nature’s Window, The Loop and take an exhilarating 150 metre descent into the heart of the Z-Bend Gorge.

Next up was Monkey Mia. Initially it seemed like just another beach but when we were told to get up early one morning and head straight to the shore, we knew we were in for a treat and we certainly weren’t disappointed. At a particular point along the beach several backpackers had gathered along the side of the water eagerly looking out to sea and it was then that I saw the first flock of dolphins. Now I’ve seen dolphins in the wild before, but never this close – they swam right in to the shore, almost within touching distance.

When we reached Coral Bay, I thought nothing could have topped seeing the dolphins but then we headed out to the Ningaloo Reef where we wasted away the afternoon snorkelling and taking in the unspoilt beauty of the coral bed and exotic marine life.

Exmouth & Scuba Diving

When we finally reached Exmouth at the end of the short tour, most of the group decided to stay on for the week and make the most of a hostel/campsite we had discovered – Exmouth Cape Holiday Park – along with its pool and close proximity to the beach.

Almost straight away I began my dive course. Being back in the classroom felt strange at first, especially considering that it was meant to be a birthday treat, and I couldn’t wait to get in the pool to try out the equipment for real. Having always been a bit of a water baby growing up, I was expecting to find diving exhilarating but to be honest, I just felt weighed down and restricted by all of the equipment and was dying to just kick it all off and swim as freely as one of the dolphins we’d seen earlier on the tour.

When it came time to head out into the ocean to try out the diving for real, I was more excited but as the boat bobbed along the choppy waters, my stomach bobbed along with it and by the time we were ready to head to the bottom, I was feeling more than a little seasick and had to head out for a swim instead. Not one to be deterred easily, I headed to the dive centre the next day ready to try again but unfortunately there was an issue with the boat and so, they couldn’t head out again for another few days.

My bus to Broome was due to depart the next day and as the next one wasn’t due for another week, I was keen to head away from Exmouth for somewhere with a bit more life! It had been my 23rdbirthday that week and so I called Louis to let him know my plans to head back to Sydney for what would be our final goodbye. I was almost wishing the next two weeks away so that I could see him but I still had Broome to enjoy first.

Broome Time

Jane – another friend from Bondi, had been doing a trip through the centre of Australia at the same time as my West Coast trip and so we had planned to meet up in Broome. As I waited for her arrival, I checked into the Kimberley Beach Club – possibly the second best hostel in Australia (a close second to the YHA in Bondi), and spent my mornings lazing by the pool with two girls I met – Laura and Valerie. The hostel provided a daily mini bus to Cable Beach and so after lunch we would roll off our sunbeds and onto a beach towel instead.

Before arriving, I had read about Broome’s famous Staircase to the Moon’ which is a natural occurrence every full moon where the light from the moon falls onto the sea in such a way that it appears as if a staircase. So one afternoon, Laura and I set off to find our perfect spot for taking in this spectacular sight (the photo’s really don’t do it justice!)

Jane arrived a few days later and joined us in our lazy sunbathing routine but by now we needed a little entertainment also. One evening we headed out to the Sun Cinema – the World’s oldest picture garden – to watch a traditional chick flick! Another evening we headed to Oasis – Broome’s only night club, along with Laura, Valerie and some of my friends from the West Coast Tour.

Then a week later; Callum, Lauren et al arrived, as did Jo & Will – some friends from Bondi who had been fruit picking on the West Coast. Finally, the party had arrived!

Yet, after a few days getting reacquainted, it was time for more goodbyes. Callum was heading back home to Liverpool, Jane had some more travelling to do, as did Jo and Will, and it was time for me to head back to my beloved Bondi.

Read about my return to Bondi in the next post…

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