With exams a mere week away, I decided that the best course of action would be to go on a road trip down south to take my mind off revising (or rather, the lack thereof). And what can I say, it worked a charm. Three days of wine tasting, languishing on deserted beaches and climbing mountains certainly drove the thought of exams straight out of my head. But now I have my first exam in two days and I’m certainly none the wiser. Behaviourism? Functionalism? God help me.
We set off at the hideously early hour of 9am, in car that came to be known as the “car of the future”. With leather seats, tortoiseshell inlay and a special sunglasses compartment in the roof, it did really seem like a James Bond car. It was so fancy, in fact, that I was too terrified to drive it, especially given my driving “skills”! However, the lack of driving meant that I was free to curl up in the back in a heap of pillows and duvets and snooze my way down south. It was truly glorious. I think I managed to get more sleep in those three days than I usually get in a week.
Our first stop was a rather fancy vineyard which had won various awards I’ve forgotten the names of. We were the first customers of the day (it was around 11am), and we eagerly sampled several of their wines. I hate wine, so this was an interesting experience for me… but it turns out that I actually like sparkling wine which is a nice surprise! A few free tasters later, we headed back to the car, sufficiently tipsy, and headed to Busselton.
The most interesting thing about this small town is its 1.8km long jetty which was built in 1865, and is the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. But the fact that it’s ‘heritage’ listed also means you have to pay $4 just to walk on it, which is frankly a complete rip off! We paid though, like the tourists we are, and began the long walk out. Unfazed by the looming clouds and imminent rain, my friend and I decided it would be a good idea to jump off the jetty into the less than inviting water around 15 feet below. We stripped off before we could change our minds, and after a few doubtful seconds I made the leap. Surprisingly, the water was deliciously warm (well, compared to the North Sea at least), but I still scrambled out pretty quickly cause, y’know, sharks.
Alcopops and beer tasting
Feeling refreshed, we had lunch by the water, before making our way to Bush Shack Brewery. The place is aptly named- it’s literally in the middle of the bush- but we still managed to find the place without any ordeal (pretty rare- maybe it’s cause I wasn’t driving). We did more tasting, but I cheated and ordered some ‘beers’ which were basically alcopops. This was probably a mistake, as they were way too sweet and rather vile! I did try one proper beer though- chocolate beer, which was…interesting, to say the least.
Feeling buzzed from the six 100ml tasters, we made our way to Cheeky Monkey Brewery, situated in the middle of undulating fields and vineyards, overlooking a lake. It was so picturesque I felt the sudden need to Instagram it (I made the mistake of getting Instagram the other day and I’m now addicted). Aside from the pesky flies it was a lush green haven, a welcome contrast to the harsh landscapes of the north. I tried a couple of ciders there, before we made our way to canal rocks. I managed to snap some photos there I’m vaguely pleased with, and we also spotted a huge crayfish that a fisherman had thrown back!
The campsite felt weirdly like Europe, as we were surrounded
Our gigantic tent
by actual topography (!). There were sloping hills packed withdense forests, and mountains formed a blue haze in the distance. This was so utterly dissimilar to the Northern plains of nothingness (broken up occasionally by a kangaroo or two) that it seemed difficult to believe we were in the same country. Although, I guess I must remember that Australia is actually a continent- and a bloody huge one at that! (Western Australia alone is thirty-one times the size of the UK). We pitched our ridiculously large tent (it was a ten man tent and there were only three of us), and burst into hysterics at the sheer size of it. I swear it was about as big as my room in college! We then met a girl who mentioned that our friends (the road trip that I bailed on) had been camping in this exact spot the night before- what a coincidence. We then chatted around the campfire, and were offered a glass of wine five times by the same jolly man.
I then put on about six layers of clothing and climbed into my sleeping bag and swag, and fell into a disrupted sleep. At about 5am, we were awoken by the most insolent and raucous crow I’ve ever heard. The bloody thing wouldn’t shut up for about half an hour. Nightmare! But despite this rude early morning awakening, I slept pretty well.
We arose at eight, had a delicious breakfast of fried eggs and toast, and hit the road. The next stop was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Fringed by smooth granite rocks and wild flowers, with bright azure water, it was a miracle that there was only one person there when we arrived. We jumped straight into the raging waves, getting dragged under and bowled over. My friend had brought a body board, so we wrestled with the sea and the board and made our way out to the dauntingly large waves. I managed to catch a few, and the feeling was truly exhilarating. Sea, sun, sand and a surfboard (sort of). What else did I honestly need?
In Pemberton, we stopped to climb a famous tree known as the Gloucester Tree (after finding it difficult to actually locate
Photos don’t do it justice
the bloody tree- there were trees everywhere!). It was initially pegged by Jack Watson in 1947, to be used as a fire lookout. The Karri tree stands 61m tall, the second tallest lookout tree in the world, and as a result the climb was rather exhausting (I’m hideously unfit). Soon, we were above the canopy, and looking out over the forest to the sea. Truly spectacular. Photos don’t do it any justice at all. We ended up waiting around at the top for a fair while as some people had begun climbing it so we couldn’t get down (the selfish bastards!). I would’ve happily stayed up there for hours, maybe even the night! I spent the rest of the day fantasising about building my own tree house, like the twelve year old boy I am.
Sunset on the estuary
The only other interesting events of the day were stopping in Denmark, which we expected to be a large town. However, like most towns in Western Australia, you can drive through it in less than a minute. We also arrived at 6 o’clock, so everything was closed! Great timing. With nothing to do, we headed to our free campsite, getting hideously lost (it was well overdue). By the time we arrived the sun was setting, and we got a brief glimpse of the river in the fading twilight, before the mosquitos came out in their hundreds and bit me to death (through my trousers, somehow. Sneaky bastards). Getting the humongous tent up in the dark proved rather difficult, and several curses later, we realised we’d got all the poles in the wrong holes. Back to square one.
Blowholes failing to blow
The next day we were awoken by the dawn chorus (dawn squawkus more like), and left bright and early. We headed to the blowholes just outside Albany, but sadly there wasn’t much of a swell so the holes weren’t doing much blowing. It was still utterly stunning though. I contemplated jumping off the cliff, as the water looked inviting, but decided I might be sucked into
a blowhole and there were better ways to go. We then stopped off at the Brig Amity, the boat which delivered the people who set up the first colony in Western Australia in 1826, under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer. Considering the boat had carried various types of livestock, and around sixty men, it was pretty damn tiny.
Our final stop was at the Stirling Range, about an hour’s drive from Albany. We then proceeded to scale Western Australia’s tallest mountain. Sounds impressive, right? That’s what I was aiming for. However, I discovered yesterday (with bitter disappointment, may I add) that this is a myth! The tallest mountain is actually in Karijini. That’ll be my next road trip then, thank you. The climb was tiring and we’d chosen the hottest part of the day- typical English. My legs were already aching from climbing the Gloucester Tree (embarrassing) and they’re still killing now, five days later! Maybe I should hit the gym sometime soon…
Bluff Knoll from the carpark
An hour and a half later, we were at the top. The views were predictably breathtaking, but the flies were unbearable! For some reason I thought they’d be better at the top, but I was so wrong. We’d planned to stay at the top for a while and take in the view, but we fled as fast as our fatigued legs would carry us as soon as we’d snapped some cliched photos. On the way down we bumped into some locals mapping and surveying the mountain, carrying 50L rucksacks and wearing far too many clothes! I don’t know how they did it. We then stopped to drink from the stream (I’m still alive, don’t worry), before collapsing into the car of the future.
Top of Bluff Knoll
The journey back was spent listening to the mellow tones of Simon and Garfunkel and trying not to hit kangaroos. Classic Australia.