The last week or so has seen us continuing our time visiting Western Australia, well at least a small part of it. We finished our time off in Perth and then moved a couple of hundred miles South to Busselton and the Margaret River region, right in the bottom left hand corner of Australia. This region is an amazing area. We both love it here and discovered it quite by accident when Steve came to do an Ironman race here a few years ago. There are a few small towns interspersed among the acres of vineyards and the area is framed by a fabulous coastline littered with amazing beaches of white sand and turquoise waters. Once you add into that the endless blue skies and a bunch of really friendly Aussies it’s no wonder this ranks as one of our favourite places in the World, and for Sarah maybe even her number one!
We haven’t really done that much, just relaxed and soaked up the whole atmosphere of the place. Steve has been out cycling each morning and Sarah drives to one of the local towns to have a browse and meet him there for a coffee and a spot of people watching. We stopped in one small town called Cowaramup. “Difficult to say but easy to stay” is the town motto. The main road is scattered with life-size models of friesian cows!! We discovered that this has nothing to do with the town name which has a reliance on dairy farming for employment, but the town is actually named after the Cowara bird which is a brightly colored parrot you see everywhere.
Whilst in one of the towns and waiting for Steve, Sarah found herself in a clothes shop and decided to try on a pair of trousers. (Steve can never really understand this, why look to buy some trousers when you already have a pair?) Anyway, Sarah went into the changing room to try them on, pulled the curtain across and came face to face with a huge spider!! She said the thing was as big as her palm, all hairy and with an evil look in it’s eye. She told the shop assistant, who calmly said that they can give a nasty bite, and she would get rid of it. When she was relaying the story to Steve he said, “I take it you didn’t hang around to try the trousers on then”. “Didn’t need to” was Sarah’s reply “I finished trying them on before I told the assistant”.
After our stop for coffee we make our way to one of the beaches. Yallingup, Meelup and Bunkers are our favourites. They are never very busy at all, even at weekends. They have very few, if any, facilities other than toilets and showers but they are amazing. We spend a few hours in the sun relaxing, in the shade having a picnic, in the water cooling off and sometimes we treat ourselves to a little snooze…. life is hard! As the afternoon comes to an end we make our way back home and Steve goes for a run while Sarah prepares dinner. We then cook together and settle down with a beer to watch tv or read a book. I think we could both stay here forever.
There is also a very active outdoor lifestyle here and the local town hosts numerous races including triathlons, a half marathon and an annual long distance swim. The swim happened to be on while we were here so Steve considered entering, until he discovered all 3000 places sold out within 3 hours of registration opening almost a year ago! Instead we went to watch. It was quite a spectacle. The route was out to the end of the Jetty and back. Not that far, until you realise it is the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere at over 1.8km in length, so the out and back distance of 3.6km (2.25 miles) makes for a decent swim. Past and probably future Olympians take part and the race was won in a sprint finish, up the beach, as a 17 year old Aussie beat a Dutch guy to the line. Apparently the winner’s father had a bet on his son winning and collected a small fortune!
Probably our main topic of conversation this week has been “what are we going to do now our planned trip to China has been derailed?”.
When we first started to plan this trip the challenge was to fly to Australia, spend a few days here in and then make our way back to the UK without flying. Our first obstacle was how to get from Australia to Asia. We managed to find a container ship that took paying passengers from Fremantle to Singapore on a nine day non-stop sailing. We booked ourselves into one of the two cabins on a routing in January and started to plan the route from Singapore onwards. Then things started to unravel. The already high cost started to increase when we were informed we needed not one but two medical assessments, to be completed 90 and 15 days before the sailing. These medicals included psychiatric questions and obviously a local GP wouldn’t touch it. We then had to obtain extra insurances (on top of our already comprehensive annual insurance) including “Rescue at Sea insurance”. The whole thing was spiralling out of control. We went back to the drawing board and looked for other ways to make the crossing. A ferry from Darwin to Indonesia?….doesn’t exist. Crewing a yacht to Indonesia….possible but unlikely and we could be waiting in Darwin for weeks. Then Steve saw a cruise advertised from Fremantle to Singapore for 12 days with five stops in Geraldton, Broome, Bali, Lombok and Java. With a price at almost half that of the container ship we jumped in and booked. The only ‘problem’ was the cruise ship was due to depart over three weeks after the container ship, and with our flights already booked, this is why we have been hanging around in this terrible place for the last few weeks!!
So, now the question is “what do we do when we arrive in Singapore? Travelling overland through China is now not possible. Going south of China through Myanmar, Bangladesh (been there before don’t really want to go again) then across Northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan is not that appealing. So our overland trip is off….for this year. So now what? After many hours of discussion and looking at options we have decided to come home…….oh no sorry, we have decided NOT to come home. We wanted to do something that was still a bit of a challenge and also enjoyable. So after we get to Singapore and spend a few days with our friends, Craig and Sal, we are going to fly back to Perth and pick up a campervan to drive across Australia from West to East, Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean. Then, after we reach Sydney we are going to turn left and drive to Cairns, almost all the way, bottom to top. We reckon it should take us a comfortable six weeks to do it. We will then take a week or two to make our way to Kazakhstan by doing a number of short flights and then pick up our original plan from there, into Uzbekistan, Russia, through Scandinavia, Germany, The Netherlands and home.
Right here, right now, we have nothing booked at all after the cruise, not even a place to stay in Singapore! It seems that some countries are now advising against travel to Singapore and so we are having to remain really flexible. To be honest, we are both finding it a little exciting as we are getting on a cruise ship in 36 hours and then who knows??
One thing for sure, that fish market in Wuhan is definitely stirring things up a little!!