Ready to say goodbye to so-so weather, we left the east coast of Australia and flew west to Perth, a city that is so remote from the majority of inhabited Australia that many Aussies never make it here! It’s a land full of sun and sandy beaches, a stop on the World Surfing League, and home to an amazing wine region!
Day 43 – Our last day in Sydney. Brayden and Tess left for work and we had a slow morning working out some logistics for our trip. It was a beautiful sunny day and our last in Sydney so we took advantage by going on another run. Jess ran back along Manly Beach and afterward sat and enjoyed the view for a little bit as Malcolm continued on for a longer run. We ended up meeting at Roosenberry Cafe for a delicious lunch and cold brew coffees. After lunch we went back to their place showered, packed, and said goodbye to Brayden as he had just gotten home from work. They tried offering us a ride to the airport but we had to insist we take public transit as it was rush hour and they would have been stuck in traffic for hours. If you can believe it, Sydney may have worse traffic than Seattle, though that would be an endless, pointless debate. We caught our 5 hour flight to Perth without issue and were able to get some blog work done on the plane. Jess wrote and Malcolm worked on editing pictures from our time out on the reef. One bummer is every plane we’ve been on so far has had no WiFi, or power outlets for that matter, so we are not able to get as much done as we’d like. After arriving we went to grab our rental car for the next 5 days and we’re pleasantly surprised with a free upgrade, a Holden Commodore SV6 Black Edition, fancy sounding eh? It was definitely the nicest car we’d had in a long time and much nicer than the Hyundai i20 we were supposed to get.
Day 44 – The night before, just as we were leaving for Perth we made a last minute decision to re-book our Airbnb to check out on Sunday instead of Monday so that we could make a quick trip to Margaret River. With that change, Jess having already scheduled a morning surfing lesson for Friday, and Malcolm finding someone to run with on Saturday (via Strava), it left Thursday as our only free full day and the only day that made sense to make the trip out to Rottnest Island, a recommendation from several people. Too tired to figure out the best plan for Rottnest after our flight from Sydney, we went to bed with alarms set early to figure everything out in the morning. After a good deal of searching Malcolm found a Thursday-only special through Rottnest Fast Ferries that gave us round-trip tickets plus bike rentals for $10 less per ticket than the Rottnest Express ferry-only ticket. The only downside was the Fast Ferries service (they’re both fast) left from a pier on the far side of Perth from where we were staying. And it left within 1hr of us finding it. And their online reservation system was down. While on the phone trying to securing our spot we scrambled to get everything together and out the door as quickly as possible. We were the second to last people on the boat, but we made it, bikes loaded and hired snorkeling gear in hand. The trip to Rottnest was a pleasant 40min ride with fast WiFi – what’s the deal with ferries having some of the best internet connections? – that allowed us to get some planning done for how to best spend our day exploring the island, en-route. We planned out a solid bike path that would lead us to all of the main sights and best bays for snorkeling as it appeared we might have a hard time finding calm enough water and would need several options. Having rushed out of our Airbnb with no time for breakfast, stop #1 was the small “town center” with several cafes, a grocery store, and of course a Subway. We grabbed some breakfast pies, a traditional Aussie meal, and a couple baguette ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch later that day along with some chips and apples from the store. Ready to go we set off heading counter-clockwise around the island. We passed several beautiful bays with sailboats parked in the shallow waters before we cut across the middle of the island to continue heading south. As we were passing between two marshes that make up the central island area we were stopped by some local islanders looking for food. We had missed reading about the rat like creatures that the first explorers named the island after and were frankly a little frightened when they approached us. Quokkas look like a mix between a large rat and a small kangaroo and they are not at all shy, despite the conservationists best attempts to keep humans from interfering with them in their natural habitat. They hopped right up next to us as soon as we stopped our bikes to stare in awe at us odd looking mammals. Afraid they might have rabies or something else we rode off as they quickly got too close for comfort. Our first main stop was the original Wadjemup Lighthouse in the center of the island, completed in 1849. After a quick visit we continued on to the far western end of the island in search for a decent spot to go snorkeling. As the day drew on the wind picked up, increasing the size of the waves while bringing the ambient air temperature down. While this made for pretty views of the cliffy western end of the island, it also made for less than desirable snorkeling conditions so we continued on. After wrapping back around a bit we settled down on a nice quiet, secluded beach to eat lunch (while being watched by large lizards) and play in the waves. We headed back toward the north side of the island hoping the conditions might be a bit better and found a fairly calm beach for snorkeling, though Jess was the only one that went in – it was still too cold for Malcolm! After a quick dip we made our way back to the ferry terminal to catch our ride back to Perth. On the way back to our Airbnb we stopped by the store to grab some groceries for dinner: chicken tortilla soup!
Day 45 – We woke up early and ate a quick breakfast before heading to the beach for our first surfing lessons of the trip (or ever for that matter!) – something Jess had been looking forward to ever since we arrived in Australia. Finally the conditions were just right. After meeting our instructor and fellow classmates we practiced the basic technique and jumped right in to start catching some waves. Jess picked it up like a natural, catching several waves and impressing everyone in the class. Malcolm had more trouble and blamed in part his inflexibility for not being able to quickly get up on the board! But boy it was tiring battling the waves, attempt after attempt. Thoroughly exhausted, but still pretty stoked to have been out there, we headed back to our place for a quick nap. Later that night we met up with Nathan, a friend of a friend (Tom’s friend Andy) of a friend (our friend Tom), for a bite and some drinks at Little Creatures, a brewery in a Ballard-esque part of town.
Day 46 – Comrades prep day – Malcolm had found a local runner to join him as he attempted to run a training marathon as part of his prep for Comrades in early June. We say attempted as he only, and only barely, made it to 13.1 at which point exhaustion and the heat got to him, suggesting he stop instead of making anything worse. Meanwhile, Jess was back out catching waves after signing up for another surfing class after enjoying it so much the day before. She had a much better time and continued to improve! After getting back and showered we headed to the Fremantle Market for some perusing through the stalls. We both got delicious herbal iced teas – perhaps the best tasting tea we have had – it definitely got us thinking we need to drink more tea when we got back! After the market we headed to Runamuck Hot Dogs, a place Jess’ sister Chelsea had found for us to check out. They offer a variety of funky, gourmet hot dogs and it definitely hit the spot after our long mornings. After devouring our lunch we drove to downtown Perth which is a bit reminiscent of Seattle before Amazon, small enough to have character and charm yet big enough to still feel like a city. It also happened to be one of the last nights of the Night Noodle Market, a large hawker style market featuring a bunch of different restaurants and food trucks serving up traditional and modern takes on a variety of Asian dishes. We devoured several different delicious dishes, the perfect way to end the long day.
Day 47 – We loaded up the car and drove south toward Margaret River, Western Australia’s premier wine region and home to a stage on the World Surf League calendar. It’s a relatively easy drive though quite boring and not much to see. The most exciting part of the drive was keeping our eyes peeled for any signs of Kangaroos, which we still had yet to see. Unfortunately there were non to be seen this time, likely enjoying the protection of some shade to keep cool from the blaring sun and +90F heat. Shortly after arriving at the Ramada Resort Dunsborough, a Worldmark/Wyndham resort (thanks mom and dad!), we were picked by Margies Big Day Out Beer & Wine Tour and off to explore yet another wine region. It was a great tour with a good group of people, mostly Aussies and Kiwis, and included cheese, chocolate, and beer tastings in addition to lunch, all for a very fair price. By the end of the day we had made a couple of new friends and made plans to meet up for dinner in town later that evening. It was nice to sit down and talk with some other Aussies our age and hear their stories and share ours.
Day 48 – We slept in a bit and enjoyed the resort before driving south to the town of Margaret River (we were staying a little north of town) and walked around a bit. It’s a very laid back small town with a laid back surfer vibe. We grabbed a bite to eat at The Brew House before heading to the beach where they were supposed to be underway with another day of the Margaret River Pro, a leg of the World Surfing League competitions. Unfortunately, due to subprime conditions they had to call the day off as they waited for better waves. Nonetheless it was neat to see the stage and imagine what it would have been like had the conditions been right. By this point we had to begin heading back north as we were flying out of Perth later that night on a redeye to Bangkok and still had one more stop planned. On our way out we decided to take a slightly different road in hopes we might find some ‘roos in the bush and sure enough, Jess spotted a big group of smallish Kangaroos in a field so we quickly pulled over and snapped what pics we could! Our last stop in Australia was a small food truck gathering on the outskirts of Perth. It sounded a lot bigger than it turned out to be, but we still enjoyed the choices from the 5 trucks gathered along the river edge. After enjoying our dinner we made our way to the airport, excited to be on to a new continent and the challenge of a real language barrier and vastly different cultures in SE Asia. Despite Jetstar’s best efforts to keep anyone from boarding the plane due to their complete incompetence at check-in, we all made it and were on our way!
Day 49 – After a full night of flying, with a layover in Singapore, we landed safely at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. We eventually deciphered the confusing directions for getting our Visa on Arrival, which turned out to be a lot more simple than we had anticipated and the signage would indicate, and we were in, both of our first visits to SE Asia! This is also where we break away from this style of blogging/recounting our trip as it has become far too time consuming and would take us forever to get through the remaining 258 days. Not to mention we doubt any of you would stick around that long to read that much! (If you haven’t already lost interest!)