Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Welcome to the real Australia", The Australian Outback: Road tripping through the Wild West Coast

Over Anzac weekend my two best friends and I decided to road trip throughout Western Australia. Our original plans changed a lot, but I feel satisfied with all that we accomplished over such a short amount of time. We drove a total of 3,500 kilometers (2,100 miles) from Perth to Coral Bay and then all the way back to Perth, stopping along the way to see everything we possibly could. Here is my journey through Western Australia.
We arrived in Perth on Wednesday the 24th of April to pick up our rental car. There were some issues with actual renting it because in Australia you must be 21 and our 21 year-olds card wasn’t working, but we eventually got it all figured out and hope was redeemed. The car turned out to be the same exact model I have at home, a Toyota color sport, even down to the color. We named her ‘White Lightning’ and headed off for a week of adventure!
Our first stop was the pinnacles, which are these large limestone sand structures encompassing several miles in the middle of the desert. It’s quite majestic and somewhat overwhelming to be in the presence of. We walked along the orange-red sands and through the desert for a bit and then continued on the road. We saw some dead kangaroos on the side of the road very frequently. I couldn’t help but feel like this was the “real” Australia. We drove through the night and had a bit of a gas scare. There are no fill-up gas stations after about 8pm and we were in the  middle of nowhere. I was prepared to get out and push the car, but luckily we made it. We slept that night in the car by Shark Bay in the quaint town of Denham. I got some advice on whether to continue, but the locals thought it would be safe to stay there and wait for the gas station to open up in the morning. They said, “Welcome to the real Australia!” My friend and I sat by the bay and I realized this was my first time at an ocean other than the Pacific. I stood up and stepped into the Indian Ocean. We talked about all the travels we wanted to do and how much we wanted to see the world. Coming here I have found people just like me, we all have the commonality of a love and deep desire for travel, the wanderlust infection.

After a night not so comfortably straddling the wheel to sleep, we woke up and got gas and breakfast. I saw the sunrise over the bay and walked the sand among white shells and boats sprawled on the shore and anchored closely. Our destination for the day was to reach Monkey Mia. We got there at 8AM to see the dolphins just in time. Monkey Mia is the only place on Earth that dolphins come into shore so closely that you can take two steps out and feed them. We watched the dolphins swim by and then headed out to Coral Bay, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way. We got a room at a backpackers and I concluded the night with a swim in Coral Bay.

I woke up to the day that was the whole purpose of the trip, swimming with whale sharks. Whale sharks are gentle giants; they don’t eat people, just plankton. They are the biggest fish in the sea and I could finally check off swimming with sharks from my bucket list. They are only in Australia from mid-April to June so it was necessary to do. My friends opted out because of the cost, but it was a once in a lifetime experience that I just had to do. The boat took off at 8am. We started out with a quick test dive. I saw a sea turtle and 3 reef sharks, so it was a great start. The sharks even posed vertically over a cabbage reef for a casual teeth cleaning. We hoped back on the boat and spotted a sea snake in the waters. It zipped across the top of the waters. Then it was time for my first dive with the whale sharks!! The waters were gorgeous and it was a glorious day. Planes hunted down the sharks for us from overhead to give us the coordinates. We sat off the back of the boat waiting for a signal from our guide. I sprinted off towards her and was the first one there. I saw the whale shark and swam alongside it for a bit. Some people didn’t see it; this is where 15 years of competitive swimming came in handy. In between swims a whale shark came right up to the boat, putting its head up to investigate. They are like curious little puppies, so playful and sweet. They like bubbles and will follow them out of curiosity. My next swim I got to swim alongside the whale shark for a good 2 minutes. It was so peaceful and I was in awe staring at its grace and beauty. They have white spots all over them in unique patterns. They dive up and down as they filter plankton and search for food. After those blissful 2 minutes, I watched it dive down into the blue abyss. My third swim with them I jumped off the back and it was right there, a foot away. I was in shock for a bit and then I realized how big they actually are. I was the size of its tail. The day was complete with one last snorkel on Ningaloo Reef and a yummy feast. I made friends with a couple who were both teachers and we talked about the difference between education in America and Australia and I asked them about all their travel. I love how friendly Australians are! The cruise was completed with some crabs and then a finale of a pod of dolphins to see swim alongside the boat. What a perfect day! I finished off the day with a walk on the beach collecting shells and watching the sunset. It was beautiful to see my first sunset from the west coast of Australia. The sky turned into a yellow, pink, and purple haze and then faded into darkness. The clouds were a bright pink color all across the sky; it was perfect, coral clouds in Coral Bay!

We started the return trip back early and I saw the sunrise once again. The first stop on the trip was Stromatolites. They are the world’s oldest living fossil and are the reason oxygen was created o Earth. The water was so clear as we viewed the peculiar rocks from the boardwalk. It was so beautiful.  Then we walked Eagle Bluff Boardwalk and stood on top of the cliffs edge. We got beautiful views of a bay below and Eagle Island just off the coast. Then we turned back and saw the road we were driving on amongst the Australian outback. It put everything into perspective. The next stop was Shell Beach. The entire shoreline of the beach consists of tiny, white shells, no sand. We soaked up some sun and laid out on the shells. I hadn’t brought my swimsuit down to I hopped in with my bra and undies, hey I’m only here once so I had to! It easily slipped into my heart and became my favorite beach. We eventually arrived in Monkey Mia and spent the night there. We got dinner and watched the sunset playing around on the beach. We then danced the night away in the Monkey Bar and met a 10-year-old Boy, Elvin, how we played pool and foosball with. He was quite the character. Once it was night we ventured back to the beach and looked up at the stars. We shared a chat and some laughs to conclude the night. I fell asleep to the wondrous sound of a fan, I miss falling asleep every night with one at home so this was a luxury.

We woke up the next morning to walk a trail to a red sand dune in the desert. I saw the sunrise from the top of the red sand dune and caught a glimpse of kangaroos hopping in the distance. We walked along the beach for one more chance to see the Monkey Mia dolphins before beginning the trip back to Perth. We made it to Perth and checked into our hostel while conquering the obstacles of emus jumping out in front of us on the way and lots of gas station fill ups. There was a dance party at our backpackers so naturally we had to participate in the festivities. My friend and I definitely owned the dance floor. Some locals confessed to me that Australians aren’t that good of dancers, which I definitely sadly agreed with. They were all just standing around and swaying a bit. We flipped our hair, jumped around and definitely put the most effort into our dancing of anyone there. One thing I love about Australian dancing is that people give you space and don’t creepily try to get on you, so that’s a plus!
The next day was all about soaking in as much of the city of Perth as possible. We started out with breakfast and coffee at the Cappuccino Strip on South Terrace St. of Fremantle. It was a delicious start to the day. Then we headed off to the Bell Tower, home of the Swan Bells and one of the world’s largest musical instruments. We heard them ring and looked around and then moved on to King’s Park. The park overlooked downtown Perth and we got great views of the skyline and the city. We walked Lotterywest Federation Walkway through the treetops surrounded by beautiful gardens and water gardens. We concluded the park with the War memorial. We headed off to hit the beach and arrived at Scarborough Beach. I walked the shore to Trigg Beach as well. It was a lovely walk. The sky was filled with white clouds and the water was clear. The sky and sea merged together into an infinite shade of blue and merged to place one in a trance. We then took a quick side to trip to Hillary’s Harbour, because that just had to happen. By then it was time for a late lunch at the best fish & chips place in Western Australia ay Cicerellos. We drove to Fremantle just for the grub and it was well worth it. It was served in newspaper to keep it warm and absolutely scrumptious. We also were right on the harbor as we ate and took in the sunset as the sky became orange and burned with fire. We then headed back to Perth and spotted some kangaroo statues to pose with. For a rand farewell to Perth we took in the skyline from the Swan River, seeing all the lights of the city glimmer in the distance.

I’m glad I got to experience the real Australia, a place that encompasses 50% of the landmass and only 11% of the population.  From then on it has been all about school and planning what else I want to do before this all comes to an end. It is crazy to think about, but I do leave so soon! Only about 60 more days and there is still plenty I want to do and see. I just want to take a moment to recognize a couple of awesome people. I’m so grateful to my parents for being so supportive of me throughout this journey, I know it is one of the most expensive countries and I am not making it any better with all the activities I want to do. It wouldn’t be possible without them letting me go on this journey. I love them both so much and am grateful to have them as parents and have the opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime. Love you guys! Big hugs will happen when I return!


  1. “...our original plans changed a lot, but I feel satisfied with all that we accomplished over such a short amount of time.” – I could say the same for myself! I’m not a big fan of plans, especially when we are talking about road trip. I would just pack my bags, hire a campervan, and hit the road. I love the thrill of just going with the flow! - Katelyn

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