Three months is a long period and frankly, it did scare me a little. There were times when I was highly aware my desire to explore was bigger than my budget, and there were times when I almost changed my mind for a second. I was informed that I was going to the land of the most poisonous snakes, the hungriest white sharks, the deadliest jellyfishes, and the sneakiest river crocodiles; and as “lucky” as I might be I could still end up dead. On a positive note, Australia boasts the cutest collection of animals – koalas, kangaroos, quokkas, and wombats – and because of them, I was sold. Without further thought I bought an airplane ticket and decided to go with the flow and ride this crazy wave.
Western Australia was first on the list, and the moment I landed in Perth I realized basically everything in Australia is big. Big roads, big cars, big houses, big ice creams, and even their dogs, which are huge! Staying in the suburbs of a 3.2 million population city for the first week was a whole new experience for me, and the biggest challenge appeared when I had to sit on the (in my opinion) wrong side of the car. Everything that was clear to me before was suddenly the other way around. Buttons for windshield wipers on the left, indicators on the right. The biggest threat to myself was I, being on the road.
When deciding on where to go first, I was advised to meet the people who live in the sparsely-populated north, a five hour drive from Perth, so I ended up in an overgrown village called Geraldton. At arrival, my phone signal was lost, I could only dream of wireless Internet, and consequently I was able to drown my sorrow in the one and only bar in the whole town; with a not really efficient air-conditioner and 39 degrees Celsius outside. My drink was served by a one-toothed, bearded man and accompanied by numerous crazy stories I couldn’t stop laughing at.
Since the beach was only a five minute walk away, I spent most of my days there on an empty, sandy beach facing Jurien Bay’s crystal waters, enjoying a steady wind for kiting. In the meantime I was advised to go see the Pinnacles, a rocky orange land that could work perfectly as the setting for the new Planet Mars movie and go surfing on the dunes of a white desert nearby. The world really stops there, and it is hard to be aware how quickly time is passing when you are not doing anything.
A week north of Perth was enough for me, and I knew I would regret missing out on the glass city itself, with all its skyscrapers. Perth’s tall buildings make you feel really, really small; but the city’s cozy parks with their amazing views help you to find yourself again. I almost missed out on a nearby small city, with a bit of hippie atmosphere, called Fremantle, which is about half an hour drive south of Perth. Being the important port where immigrants from all over Europe entered The Land Of Down Under, it still embodies a special vibe of freedom. With cafes that are filled with different nationalities, Fremantle gives you something each traveler is looking for: the feeling of belonging.
Australians on the West Coast are special creatures who are in love with their boats. Besides two cars, parked on the driveway, each family also owns a small boat, appropriate for short weekend trips. Being in Australia, you can’t avoid a weekend of fishing and crabbing, throwing nets into the ocean and ending up with a big lobster catch. They are best eaten fresh, and this is something you cannot say no to. Instead of fishing you might go to Penguin Island, where little penguins walk along the shore with their mates, or visit Rottnest Island, with its cuddliest inhabitants, called quokkas. Being used to human presence, quokkas joined me on the walk around the island, begging me for a leaf of green salad and a pat on their head.
I proceeded on my way to the south with a few days in Mandurah, a city built on river channels, and ended up in the town of Margaret River. This beautiful place has everything a person could wish for: enormous vineyards with renowned vine cellars, a spectacular kari forest with trees up to sixty meters high, and plenty of small bays with waves big enough to surf. Margaret River is also the place where some of the best surfing contests happen, and I was wishing I could be able to enjoy watching one of them. Instead, I rented myself a surfboard and went for my first surfing lesson.
To the people who are saying surfing seems easy I must offer in response that they are wrong. The swear words I used when trying to make my first successful stand on a surfboard were numerous. It is true that Australians make this sport look easy, and I have to confess that I deeply envy them.
With Margaret River and my last days in Perth, I ended my West Coast adventure, worth every single minute. If you are an animal lover you shouldn’t miss out on the nature preserves along the coast, which give you the opportunity to get close to kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, kookaburras and other native animals. In a positive manner I still claim that the biggest animals of them all are native Australians, who are positively crazy and very relaxed in their everyday living. They will welcome you with open arms, offer you a place to stay, show you some amazing places, and take you on the wildest adventures of your life.