Welcome once again to the trip report that never ends. Well, until this one gets finished, then that’ll be about it.
So, we’re into the last four days of my trip – the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of April 2016. Let’s do them in order.
Welcome back to the Ozblogs (as I’ve started internally referring to them) as we get into the final stretch of my trip down under, and the bulk of my exploration of Perth itself.
I can’t really think of a good way to make this into a continuous narrative flow, so we’ll just go day by day and describe the stuff I did and whatnot, mmkay?
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I finally did it. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages and I finally got my head around Ableton Live enough to pull it off.
Like this? Feel free to check out my original solo music at http://neilmcdougall.bandcamp.com/ and the debut EP by my band Afterline at http://afterline.bandcamp.com/.
Follow me on Twitter @NeiloMac.
So, when last we spoke, I’d just got back from Sydney, with blistered feet, a scuff on my head and a sore back. By this point, I was about halfway through my time in Australia, and even though I was ostensibly based in Perth for the trip, I’d hardly spent any time there, between Sydney and the jaunt to Kalbarri.
That was about to change, though.
And so, after two jam-packed days, my time in the Sydney CBD was effectively over. Well, apart from one more afternoon/evening a couple of days later, but we’ll get to that…
So, we got back to the house from Kalbarri in the late afternoon of the 30th of March, but Gordon and I didn’t have a great deal of time to sit about and bask in the post-glamping afterglow, as we were off to Sydney on the red-eye out of Perth on the evening of the 31st. The evening after we got back from Kalbarri, we did go out with two friends of Gordon and Nancy, JR and Jeanette, to the Cambridge Forum, a food court with lots of different types of cuisine on offer, mostly Asian. I had a Thai green curry. It was nice.
Right, let’s get on with this. The last time we spoke we were at the end of Day 3 in Kalbarri. We rejoin the action at the start of Day 4 – Easter Sunday, the 27th of March 2016.
Easter Sunday was a decent day. More lovely weather (there had been intermittent rain here and there, but it never lasted long, and the general temperatures were so nice that everything dried out super-quick) and a fairly busy day ahead. After breakfast, Gordon, Nancy and I jumped in the Land Rover and set off to visit the Murchison River gorges up close and personal, after having seen them the day before by air, as detailed in my last entry. It was a decent wee drive out to the gorges, and we listened to an AFL game on the radio on the way there.
I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the ins and outs of Aussie Rules by this point, and wouldn’t until a good bit later in the trip. Looking back at the fixtures, we were probably listening to Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle. Fremantle took a pasting, which didn’t sit well with Peter Stroud, who is an avid Dockers fan.
Viewing the gorges on land was an entirely different feeling to seeing them from 4,000ft up – the scale of some of the things I was seeing was pretty mind-boggling. I’ve seen some nice scenery in my time – I live in Scotland, after all – but this was a totally different proposition. Looking down into the gorge that Nature’s Window was in and seeing tiny people moving around at the bottom was wild. I’d never really seen things like this in real life before.
We visited a few of the gorges – the aforementioned Nature’s Window, the Z Bend, the Little Z Bend, I took a bunch of photos (including what might be my favourite shot of the entire trip, the ‘tree portrait’), and I sweated my arse off. Good thing I took water with me. Pics of the gorges up close and personal are attached to this post, as per.
After traipsing around the spectacular scenery of Kalbarri National Park, we headed back to the Holiday Park. That evening, we were booked to have dinner at the Pelican Cafe, but before that we sat about at the campsite and nibbled cheese, olives, crackers and other such nibbles, which was a fairly typical mid afternoon thing at the campsite for us.
By this point, the camp site was choc-a-bloc, what with it being Easter weekend, and the campsite’s wi-fi hadn’t been working for me during this entire time, which was actually a good thing, in hindsight. It was nice to just totally disconnect for once in this always-online world we live in nowadays. I don’t think the Wifi started working properly until maybe a day or two before we left, after all the main Easter holiday crowd left.
After a bit of snacking and general afternoon laziness, a few of us set off for the Kalbarri Motor Hotel for a few beers and to catch some of the West Coast Eagles game before we headed to the Pelican for dinner. The pub was pretty busy, the footy was on, the weather was nice, the company was good and the beers were cold. Just the ticket.
The food at the Pelican was nice too, incidentally. Nice fresh produce, good friendly service. I had quite possibly one of the nicest examples of chicken enchiladas I’ve had anywhere when I was there. My mouth is literally watering right now remembering it. After the Pelican we went back to the camp for more chin wagging and a few glasses of wine before bed.
The next two days were quiet ones. I don’t recall doing a great deal during the day on the Monday, and the only pictures I have are around the campsite (including a shot or two of my sunburnt feet). I think we might’ve went into the main part of the town to get supplies for the beach BBQ we had planned for that night and for some of the guys to get some bits & bobs for their fishing trip early the next day (of all the men on the trip, only Peter and I didn’t go on the fishing trip – I can’t swim). That night, we all went down to the shore for a barbecue, using the BBQ facilities that were there for public use (a fairly common thing in Australia. Try setting that up here in Scotland and a) they’d barely get used and b) they’d end up vandalised). I managed to get some really nice sunset photos. Some of the guys had tried to do a bit of fishing off the wharf, but hadn’t had any luck, so it was burgers and snags for all. Not that that was a bad thing.
The next day was an even lazier one for me, all told. A good chunk of the morning I was pretty much by myself. Most of the guys bar myself and Peter were off braving the Indian Ocean in a quest to bring home dinner, the girls all headed off to do other stuff, so I just took it as an opportunity to just chill and do nothing. By this point, though, the campsite wi-fi was working again, so I caught up on happenings on the interwebs and took it easy. At least until Peter suggested we go to the pub, so we did.
A couple of shandies at the Kalbarri Motor Hotel later, we swaggered back up the road just around the time that the fishing expedition came back to base camp, with a bountiful catch. Cobia, Red Snapper, and a nice big Crayfish, who I immediately made friends with (see pictures). I think there might’ve been a couple of other types of fish caught as well, but I can’t remember exactly what. We ate well that night – the Cobia was prepared in a few different ways, and the crayfish was butterflyed, grilled and done with a bit of garlic butter. Immense. After that, more drinking and bevvying, but not a heavy night, as we were leaving the next morning, and we had a long drive ahead of us again.
The next day? We packed up the campsite, loaded up the trailers and set off for another 6 hour trek back to Perth. Couple of pit stops on the way home, I snoozed listening to podcasts, and after we got home it was just a chilled out evening.
And thus ended our trek to Kalbarri. It was absolutely lovely. Good times, a nice vibe, some good experiences, made some new pals (shout out to Chris the mechanic and his family, who was a bit of a fixture a few sites over from us and would often come over for a blether. Good dude.), ate some awesome food and generally relaxed. In hindsight, it was exactly what I was needing – to just unplug from almost everything and relax.
In the next entry, I’ll cover my visit to the Swan Valley wineries and the first half of my trip across Australia to its signature city – Sydney.
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to Part 4 of my ongoing series of blogs recapping my holiday to Australia during March and April this year.
When last we spoke, I had ended my second full day in Australia with a belly full of Chinese food and the prospect of an early start the next day, as this holday had another holiday within it – we were heading 6 hours’ drive north to the holiday town of Kalbarri, and we had an early start.
The holiday wasn’t just myself, Gordon, Nancy and Rachael, in case you were wondering. For one thing, Rachael wasn’t coming. She was busy with her work and uni prep. Additionally, the three of us were just one portion of the crew that was going to Kalbarri – the whole party was 15 people – Me, Gordon and Nancy, the Strouds (Peter and Martina), the McGuinnesses (Joe and Caroline, Joe and Caroline’s son Calum, Calum’s partner Ellie and their daughter Ayla) and the D’Cruzes (Clive and Liz, their kids Phoebe and Alex and Phoebe’s friend Renee). A full team.
Naturally, this amount of folk needed a bit more gear than a couple of cheap tents and a disposable BBQ – we were definitely glamping rather than camping. We had to tow a big trailer behind my uncle’s Land Rover (a Discovery, very comfy and powerful – just the ticket for a 6+ hour trek in the Aussie sun) which contained all manner of equipment – gas BBQ stove things, three (!!) fridges, a microwave, pergolas, some camping chairs, tables, an espresso machine (!!!!!), water dispenser bottle things, cutlery, plates, basically all the comforts of home. Like I said, we definitely weren’t roughing it.
So, we were all up for about 5:30 AM, showered, coffee’d and a light breakfast, and we huckled the fully-loaded trailer out of my uncle’s garage (and this was a big trailer – you probably could’ve fit a small car in it, easily), hooked it up to the back of the Disco and set off just as the sun was beginning to peek out from the horizon.
The drive up was pretty hassle free – we met up with a couple of other members of the convoy north of Perth, and we were meeting Peter and Martina there, as they were driving six hours south from Exmouth, where Peter was doing his podiatrist thing as he does every so often up in that neck of the woods (his main practice is in Fremantle – http://www.fccpodiatry.com.au/ if you need your feet seen to in Freo). We made a pit stop in Jurien Bay for bacon rolls and coffee, then another one a few hours later in Northampton, one of the oldest settlements in Western Australia.
Soon enough, we were rolling into the Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park. There was a bit of a kerfuffle about what campsite pitches we had we were supposed to have all of the pitches that were booked in one contiguous set, but due to it being the Easter holiday weekend, I guess things got a bit mixed up with how busy it was, and eventually a compromise was reached – the main multi-pergola setup where all the eating, drinking, entertaining and the majority of the tents would go would be one set of campsites, and Gordon, Nancy and I would have our tents on another pitch across the road from the main area, in a pitch that had a seperate private toilet/shower block. You can see a panoramic photo of the main ‘glamping’ bit in the photos below.
After a fair amount of work, we got the campsites set up and settled in for the first evening of merriment with a feast of curry. Apparently this is a bit of a tradition on these camping trips – every family group makes a curry in advance and it’s the first night’s meal to save a lot of prep after the graft involved in setting up the campsite. It, like all the food we had in Kalbarri, was lovely. Sitting in the warm Australian evening, munching a curry with family and a bunch of new friends, getting progressively drunker and talking all sorts of nonsense. Great way to kick things off.
The next day was a pretty lazy one – we visited Chinaman’s Beach, drove into the bush to attempt to find some fishing spot that some of the lads had heard about, but abandoned our search (but not before coming across a bit of a ‘shanty town’ type of arrangement, and getting directions off a woman driving a pink quad bike, with a small dog in a front basket and ‘COUGAR’ reg plates, I shit you not) and headed back to the campsite to indulge in more food and alcohol for the remainder of the evening.
The next day saw me do something that I’d had no plans to do, but I’m exceedingly glad I did it – I went on an aerial tour of the Murchison River Gorges and the Coastal Cliffs. Six of us, including the pilot, piled into a small Cessna single-prop aircraft and we set off into the air above the magnificent landscape of Kalbarri National Park. Well, we almost didn’t set off – during the takeoff roll, a bird flew into the path of the plane, but thankfully, the Kalbarri airfield has a runway capable of dealing with much larger aircraft, so after a dab of brakes, the bird cleared off out of the way, the pilot throttled up again and we were up with no further hassle. Naturally, I brought my camera with me, and some of my favourite pictures of the aerial tour accompany this post.
After this it was back to the campsite for more food, beer, wine and banter. This was the standard MO most nights.
This post is getting long, so I’ll cut it off here. Join me again soon, when I’ll wrap up my time in Kalbarri.
Welcome once again, dear friends, to another instalment of my trip report of my month Down Under.
When last we left our hero, that being me, I’d hit the sack at my uncle’s house in Yokine, North Perth for the first time. The 20+ hours of travel combined with a few James Squires definitively knocked me out that evening, and I slept like the proverbial log, even in the late-Aussie-summer evening warmth.
The next morning I woke up pretty early, got myself a coffee and a banana and sat outside in the back garden of the house, next to the pool, soaking up the morning sunshine and enjoying the warmth after a pretty grotty Scottish winter. It was a moment of peace before all the activity of the next month – taking it all in, soaking in the fact that I was on the other side of the world, sitting in a place I’d only seen in photographs from trips taken by other members of my family. After all the times my uncle and aunt had said ‘when’s Neil coming down?’, I was finally there, sat by the pool, sipping a coffee and letting my feet cool on the dew covered Astroturf lawn.
After breakfast and properly unpacking my bags, my aunt Nancy and I headed off to King’s Park to take in my first bit of Perth tourism. We walked around some of the walking trails, visited the ANZAC war memorial, I took a bunch of photos (including a couple of nice ones of the Perth skyline – see below for photos) – it was cool. The first spate of touristyness of the trip.
After King’s Park, we headed to a mall in Innaloo to pick up a few bits & bobs I needed – some proper toothpaste and toothbrushes (the cheap ‘travel’ stuff I bought for the trip was really bad. You get what you pay for), a SIM card and data for my phone, stuff like that. Nothing majorly sexy.
The SIM card was a bit of a FAIL though – I thought my phone would’ve been able to run the Optus SIM I bought, and I couldn’t get the phone unlocked, so I was stuck to Wifi for data, as there was no way I was going to pay O2’s exorbitant roaming rates. I really should’ve switched to Three when I got my 6S+. A solution to the problem would eventually present itself, but not for a couple of weeks, but we’ll get to that later.
That night, we sat out under the pergola in the garden’s BBQ area and ate dinner, along with my aunt & uncle’s friends Phil, Donna and their daughters. The scran was great, the chat was good, the company was nice. All in all, a nice way to wind up the first day in Australia.
The next day, I indulged in some more blatant touristyness by visiting Hillarys Boat Harbour and the Aquarium of Western Australia, or AQWA, with my younger cousin Rachael. I took my camera with me (a Sony RX100 Mark I for those wondering – amazing travel camera, although I would’ve stumped up for the Mark III if I was more flush with cash) and got some pretty good shots, some of which are below. The one with the schoolkids pointing up at the massive ray is one of my favourite photos of the whole trip. After AQWA, Rachael and I ambled around the nearby mall waiting for Nancy, who was doing….something in a shop in the mall – I can’t remember what, exactly, and I suppose it’s not really important. After the three of us reconvened we went to Dome for a drink, where I made a bit of a whoopsie.
I had ordered an iced coffee, thinking it’d be like the iced coffee we get here, made with crushed ice, blended, all that sort of stuff. What I didn’t count on was the blob of ice cream, so when I stuck my spoon in to give it a stir, there was a bit of spillage. Not the whole thing, but enough to make a bit of a splashy mess. facepalm
After we left Hilary’s, we headed to Kosmic, a music shop in Osborne Park, to buy strings for a guitar I was borrowing. I didn’t fancy spending an entire month without picking up some sort of instrument, so a wee bit of acoustic janglyness was the perfect thing to keep me from getting guitar-homesick, and would be coming with me to Kalbarri, where we were headed the next day. But we’ll talk more about Kalbarri in the next part…
That evening we went to Northbridge for dinner, meeting my Uncle’s pal Adam and his wife and daughter, Arlene and Erica. We ate at the Good Fortune Roast Duck House, one of the many Asian eateries in Northbridge, and the food here was excellent. It’s always a good sign if a Chinese restaurant has a load of Chinese folk eating at it, and this one did, and it had a good reputation – currently sitting as the #51 rated restaurant in Perth on Tripadvisor. I can attest to the quality of the grub – it was fantastic, especially the Salt & Pepper Squid (first time ever trying squid – yet another first for me on this trip, and it wouldn’t be the last first either). We had a bit of everything – duck, chicken, pork, the squid. Best o’ gear, as we say in my neck of the woods. Two thumbs up for the Good Fortune. If/when I’m back in Perth in a few years’ time, I’ll definitely fancy hitting it again.
We got back and turned in early, because we had to be up at about 5:00AM the next day, to ready ourselves for the six-hour drive north, to the first of my two holdays within this holiday – six days of camping in Kalbarri.
But we’ll save that for the next episode.
Hello again! Time for part two of the tale of my trip down under.
So, when last we left each other, I was shuffling aboard the 787 from Edinburgh to Doha. I was sat in 17K, a window seat looking out onto the starboard wing, and had a free seat between myself and the passenger in the aisle seat. I have no recall of who my seatmate was on this flight. I think it was a dude. Obviously not that memorable, unlike my seatmate flying back to Perth from Sydney, but I’m getting ahead of myself….