Distance driven: 5,421 km
Total number of days on the road: 18
A couple of months ago, as I was sitting in the back of the car clutching some bathroom tile samples during an excursion on my workaway placement (see previous chatterings), I was struck by a sudden and overwhelming urge to return to Western Australia. Perhaps it was the feel of cold slate beneath my hands that made me think of the sea, or more likely it was my constant nostalgia for the best few months of my life spent in that state that got the better of me…
Either way, I turned to Sesjena (pronounced Sesh-enna, it took a week to get to grips with the Dutchness of it myself) and declared brazenly: “I want to drive Mr Purple back to Perth”.
She looked at me, and without any hesitation whatsoever, replied: “Ok, yeah, sounds good, can I come with you?”
I responded coolly and nonchalantly: “Sure.”
Just kidding, in reality I leapt at her suggestion, “YES, YES, YES!” I practically shouted in her face, as excitement made me feel like I was about to burst with joy. The company of a tea-loving, pancake-loving, fun-loving Dutch girl? Excellent. (I am currently writing this post in a blissful post-pancake and tea haze, she’s got to me.)
Thus, our fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it, was sealed, and in what must have been less than 30 seconds we impulsively decided to take my little $800 Diahatsu Charade across the country (the long way, via. Esperance and the South-West coast) to paradise. Think with your heart, not with your head (I say). I also say that I am young and foolish and therefore I need, nay, I am obliged to make these terrible decisions and drag innocents down with me (sorry Sesjena). The distance is the European equivalent of driving from the bottom of Turkey across to Greece and then carrying on through Italy, around the underbelly of France into Spain, up the coast towards Portugal, and then some. This is a car that I bought 6 months ago, fully expecting it to cop it after a couple of weeks. On the contrary, it seems my little motor is a trooper, some might even say it’s the Toyota of the Daihatsu world.(…)
Our plans were greeted across the board with total disbelief, concern, and words along the lines of: “You’re sure you want to drive all that way, in that?.” Unfortunately, or fortunately, such disparagement of our intended plans and of my beloved car, only spurred us on, making us evermore determined to prove that we can make possible what seemed impossible, all be it with a bucket load of highly likely impending disasters. We primed Mr Purple for the adventure ahead, by which I mean we gave him a lick of paint just to touch up his already pristine bodywork (Yes, pristine), and Bob’s your uncle, we were ready to go.
After a brief sojourn in Melbourne I headed down to Apollo Bay following the Great Ocean Road (it’s pretty good, but in all honesty the Great Australian Bight and South-West Coast is better) to pick up Sesjena, and in a manic whirlwind of laughter and our bellies full of pre-trip pancakes (there’s a theme here), we were off!
We rattled towards the Victorian/South Australian border at a dazzling, life and petrol-saving, traffic inducing – 80 kmph. Full of first-day optimism we sang our way along the roads waving at every one we passed: no worries, all was going well. Nothing could go wrong. Sesjena did leave the petrol cap on the roof at a fuel stop we made 50 km in, and we didn’t notice until approximately 400 km after… so that’s that for the petrol cap, but hopefully it has gone to a good home and I don’t think that really counts as a mechanical glitch on the behalf of Mr Purple. Any old how, as I said nothing was going to get us down, and with petrol sloshing all over the place (not really thank the Lord, we can’t afford such wastage) we cried “onwards and upwards” and dove headfirst back into our travels and loud singing practice. All the while aggressively waving at everyone and anyone we saw for the entire trip. If Sesjena could have hung out of the window to wave at the poor unsuspecting drivers, she would have. By the by, truckers are the friendliest and most enthusiastic of them all, who indulged us lowly backpackers with a hand raise in response, quite literally making our day (tragic, I know).
What is more, as if the world were re-enforcing our steely determination to go ahead with the trip, along the way we were greeted by clear signs that we were doing the right thing. For example, at our very first campsite, I glanced at the floor, and there, lo and behold, was a small, grimy, but nevertheless still absorbent, sponge (again see previous blog). You can’t ignore such clear indications that this adventure was meant-to-be.
Maybe it was because we were laden down with all forms of lucky charms: 2 Ellyphants, a handful of feathers, a Lucky Buddha snow globe (which I smashed *erk*) and a kangaroo paw (nah not really, that’d be odd), but we successfully, I repeat successfully, without even a hiccough from Mr P, made it. We crossed three states, The Nullarbor desert, the Great Australian Bight, cruised down to and around the coast, through some mountains, national parks, bushland and various forests.
Texts of encouragement were flying in from our respective father’s who were both avidly following our progress. My Dad in particular took to studiously following me on our ‘friend locator’ app, some might say stalking, avidly reliving his youth and sending motivational messages such as “go-go!” and travel tips. Thanks Robert, after four days driving straight, and I mean straight (the road was about as bendy as a piece of steel) through the outback we needed a pick-me-up, and like cheering on marathoners who were nearing a finishing line you propelled us ever faster towards our first major stop and primary goal: Esperance. Esperance is beautiful, and arriving there after the monotony of driving for 6 days was a dream come true. Everyone says visit Esperance, and I agree: VISIT ESPERANCE. Likewise our next stop after Albany, Denmark, is also stunning, with clear turquoise lagoons and hot rocks to lie on. Both places give you a suspicious feeling that you’ve just walked into a Google search for ‘paradise’. Those perfect beaches and blue seas exist, and as cliché as it sounds I can’t believe how lucky I was to actually be standing on a beach I probably googled a few years ago when I was meant to be studying.
Despite a pre-Christmas blip, where both Sesjena and I weren’t exactly ratty so much as filled with dread and anxiety for around 5 days leading up to the big day, we got through the trip fairly positively and most of all we are still friends at the end (I think?). We survived the weird hot Australian Christmas with some customary tea and pancakes and gatecrashed ‘Carols by the Beach’, where we put our well-practiced voices to use; cheerfully out singing everyone present, and as Sesjena happily sang her own version loudly and proudly to a fair few of the classics, we made our mark. For better or for worse…
And so back to where I started in Cottesloe, to finish off a manic year. There’s nothing like living on the road, totally free to go and do what you want, when you want. Yes, you are perpetually hungry and fatigued right to your bones, but our little blue K-Mart tent became home, and sharing it with a 5 ft 8” woman instead of a 6 ft 3” man (throwback to my first blog, this is a ploy to make you read them all by the way) is a lot more spacious and forgiving… The excitement of seeing a supermarket and fulfilling your chicken craving is like no other, and catching your reflection in the mirror after your first shower in a few days reminds you that there is a human under the dirt.
And free Wikicamps that had a table!? Luxury. Give me a table over a toilet any day.
Side note: I think this will be the last blog for a little while, unless I end up wrestling a Great White… Hey, you never know. See you in New Zealand folks!
Second side note: Anyone looking for a car?