I am writing this on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne, the children snacking on a cured sausage I forgot that I bought at the farmers market yesterday, lapping up the free Ipad time. Being forgetful has its perks.
Wave Rock was where I last left you, wasn’t it?
We arrived at the caravan park having driven for 5 hours through the Great Wheat Belt. Farmland, but on a huge scale… miles upon miles of wheat fields, enormous silos dotted around the landscape and Gum Trees lining the roads. The trunks of the trees were weathered to a silver colour whilst their leaves shimmered in chartreuse. I tried hundreds of times to take a picture of these ethereal trees, but none ever look very good so I won’t bother posting one here.
The caravan park was helpfully next door to the Rock and we were meeting the Murdochs there. Mike had wanted to go to visit this place his whole life, and I could see why- it was colourful and stripey and, well… in the shape of a wave… The view from the top was probably more impressive though.
We posed for our obligatory surfing pictures and climbed up onto the top.
The view was amazing. You could see for miles- and despite the red, parched earth there was an abundance of lakes surrounding it making the vastness of the Wheat Belt immense.
The place had a wildlife park across the road, which was a bit questionable. I felt sorry for the animals, but the woman who ran the park gave sanctuary to these ‘roadkill’ eagles who had broken wings, it seemed to make a bit more sense even if they did look really sad.
In the evening, we headed out for a night time adventure. We whipped the kids up into a frenzy and headed up on to the rock to take advantage of the huge expanse of sky. Armed with glow sticks and torches, we all sat on top of the rock and waited… for Pegasus and Orion’s belt to take shape.
In theory this would have been amazing and magical! In reality, the children freaked out that we were miles from anwhere in the pitch black and it was a long way down… We tried to give them the hard sell- but every rustle in the bushes could have been a snake, and it was dark up there…
The next day we headed south to Esperence and waved goodbye to the Murdochs for the last time. Stupidly we went straight to the town, not really thinking about the fact that a) the weather was grey and cold and b) the best beaches are ALWAYs at the National Parks not in the towns.
We stayed a night in Bathers Paradise caravan park which was expensive considering the lack of facilities… It had a friendly crowd and well stocked camp kitchen. Invaluable when your stove doesn’t work in the wind and you want to eat somewhere that isn’t your bed or outside in the rain.
We spent our time on the site getting annoyed with the small space and bickering amongst ourselves at whose fault it was that our van was so small. Not really, but you get the gist.
We woke up nice and early to get a spot at Lucky Bay as it was 1 in 1 out and had been voted the best beach on Australia 10 years running.
It was so famous- the picture on the front of our Lonely Planet book was of the kangaroos on the beach. We were born to stay on this beach
Arriving on a cloudy, blustery morning we were lucky to get a pitch, overlooking the bay and literally with kangaroos hopping around the camp. It was pure heaven, and for just $26 per night it was a steal.
The beach had pure white sand that was as soft and as squeaky as cornflour. If you stood still on the wet sand and wiggled your feet, you sunk. The sand even behaved like cornflour and felt solid when you tapped it- but melted through your fingers (if you haven’t tried that before please do- especially if you have young children. Water + cornflour = fun)
We sat and dug a massive sandcastle and made friends with kangaroos on the beach they were so tame and friendly. The boys had no trouble stroking them and sitting next to them- it was surreal and amazing. They were so SOFT!
We retired to the van to have dinner (sausages, again) and the kangaroos hopped all around us. It got windy at night so as usual, we went to bed with an audio book- kids getting annoyed with having to climb up the precarious ladder to get into bed on the roof. It took an increasing amount of negotiation as each day went by.
The next morning, somewhere between packing up the van up and strapping the kids in I accidentally agreed to do the 6 hour drive to Emu Point, totally bypassing most of Esperance.
Somehow, (and I can’t think how..?) a debate ensued which ended with Mike stopping the car and storming off. It was clear that he meant it too, definitely, especially with no water or phone and miles since the last town. Luckily though, in the Bush there is no-one to hear a good debate- apart from the children who were safely still strapped into the van wondering what on earth was going on. I had to drive for a a few hours as Mike was on strike- which was great (*sarcasm*) because it made our 6 hour journey more like 8 as I was too scared of the wind/ roadtrains/ kangaroos to go too fast.
Perhaps the van was getting a bit small? Perhaps the daily packing up of the van, relentless wind and tired children were getting a bit much? I’m not complaining- god forbid. I mean, you’re not allowed to complain when you are lucky enough to do a trip like this, right?
I remember when I first had a baby and old ladies would stop me in the shops to tell me how precious the time is and how I must make the most of every moment. Yes, on reflection I can see how I might say that to a new mother too, but the reality was cracked nipples sleep deprivation that was verging on psychosis.
Travel sometimes feels a bit like this, minus the cracked nipples of course. Ok and the sleep deprivation- but what I’m getting at is the ups are amazing, the downs are really crap. It’s still worth doing and you still LOVE it but it’s not all plain sailing. Like a baby.
Emu point was ok- a caravan park that had private ensuite toilets- a bit of luxury for the weather-beaten Team Wheeler who managed to smooth out their differences over a bottle of wine whilst the kids played at the park.
Then, we explored Albany town and loved it. Colonial buildings, farmers markets, and the best regional Museum we had found yet.
The boys explored Brig Amity and went to the museum which had a ‘health at sea’ exhibition which was GRUESOME and they loved. Across the road was another part of the museum which displayed a history from the perspective of Aborigines.
Our whole way around WA I have been surprised at how little narrative has been provided for the history of the early settlers and their impact on the indigenous folk. Believe me, we’ve been to a LOT of museums and it is usually brushed over, lipservice given to the owners of the land… Here at last was some information being brought to life in a way the boys could understand. Photos of young aborigines being put to work as domestic staff and builders, their children removed and culture quoshed and an account of how Smallpox wiped them out. All of them treated so harshly at the hands of the white man.
Thankfully it was disturbing enough to give weight but still appropriate for a young audience. Thank you Albany Museum for being brave and progressive enough to provide us with this history.
We moved upwards to Mandurah and then Joondalup to stay with our friends who had intermittently put us up/ lent us stuff/ fed us for the last time. We have been given so much hospitality, it’s blown me away and we were sad to say goodbye.
We weren’t sad to give the van back, though. It’s served its purpose but good riddance, I say. An added bonus was that the hire company didn’t notice the dent on the back bumper. Yay!
Next stop: Sydney. We are totally ready for you.
Where we stayed:
Wave rock caravan Park- Hyden, 25 GBP per night including a pool.
Bathers Paradise Caravan Park, Esperance
Lucky Bay Campground, Cape Le Grand National Park. 14 GBP per night right on the beach, kangaroos hopping around. Incredible.
Emu Beach Holiday Park, 30 GBP per night with 'ensuite' (private) bathroom.
Blue Wren Travellers Rest YHA hostel. 63 GBP per night and felt like being in a real home. So comfortable and lovely! Perfect antidote to rainy WA.