Road Trip—Perth to Byron Bay
For sixteen days, from the end of November to the middle of December, I traveled
in a van from the west coast of Australia to the east—Perth to Byron Bay—with a lovely lady named Sian.
You can have a look at my whereabouts prior to that time in my last post Australia—Coast to Coast,
whilst I recap our day-to-day adventure across the southern half of Australia here.
@rockmeetssoil and @gypsybob
Concluding our friends' music tour of Western Australia, we dropped the boys off at the airport in Perth on Monday night, ending our roll as the 'roadies'. It was late—their plane didn't leave until 11pm—so we didn't drive too far after dropping them off. We made it to Bunbury, south of Perth, and stayed off the highway close to a lake. That was the 27th of November, and it was technically day one. Here's the day-by-day breakdown of the rest of our journey.
tuesday 28 nov
We spent most of the day driving from Bunbury to Albany. Our first stop was in Bridgetown where we pulled over to pee, have a snack and check out...a bridge. The next stop was when we reached the water again in Walpole. This area of WA is known for its large Tingle Trees. We took a short walk through the forest to check them out and stretch our legs. Stop number three was Bartholomew's Meadery to taste test five different kinds of meade and an unmentionable number of flavored honeys, walking away with a bottle of Spiced Metheglin and some cinnamon honey ice cream. The fourth and final stop of the day were the Green Pools where we almost got blown away. We found a neat spot to park Auri for the night on top of a hill overlooking the town and surrounding bays.
wednesday 29 nov
The "hill" we were parked on top of was actually a massive monolith of a rock with incredible views, prompting us to get up early and take a walk around to see the sleepy town from above. We spent the morning exploring a few geological features on the water in Torndirrup National Park. First up was The Gap, a 24-metre chasm in the rock that you could view by walking out onto a platform directly above the raging water below. A short walk away was a natural bridge that the ocean waves were slowly eroding from underneath. And a hop and skip from there were the blowholes, which I stood over and coaxed until one scared the shit out of me and made Sian's day. We spent the afternoon in the town visiting a free history museum, walking up and down the main street and grabbing tea and Wi-Fi at a cafe. At about three we hit the road and got as far as Betty's Beach, an old salmon fisherman's camp in a beautiful little bay.
thursday 30 nov
I had been told that Esperance was a necessary stop for its beautiful beaches. This wasn't hard to figure out when we rolled up to Twilight Beach, named one of the world's most beautiful beaches. With a gentle, half-moon arc of a tide rolling in, and the most cerulean blue water I've ever seen in my life, it really was incredibly beautiful. This water color is a common theme in WA, but Esperance in particular. After hitting a few other beaches to be sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me, we ended up in Lucky Bay for the night. Unfortunately the weather was a bit shit to go swimming and the sharks are common in those areas so to make up for it we drove Auri onto the beach in the morning to make breakfast.
friday 1 dec
After eggs and coffee on the beach we drove about ten minutes up the road to Frenchman's Peak to get a quick barefoot hike in up to the caves on top and some epic views of the multiple bays below. From there we drove another ten to Hellfire Bay, hoping to catch a glimpse of a shark in the water. We were mildly disappointed, although there was a seal in its place looking for lunch. After we had some lunch ourselves we continued driving toward Norseman and the infamous Nullarbor that I had heard so much about. The Nullarbor Plain is a 1,000+ kilometer stretch of flat desert across the south-central coast of Aus that many consider extremely boring, but that's all just a matter of perspective. I was looking forward to it, and we technically began that part of the drive that evening, though just going slightly past Norseman to camp at a pulloff.
saturday 2 dec
Drove all day with some random stops to break things up. Not far into the day we hit the western end of the 90 Mile Straight, the longest straight road in Australia. In the afternoon we pulled off to make coffee and have a snack. We saw a cave on the map and figured we'd stretch our legs walking around trying to find it and chasing kangaroos. Shortly after Pannikin Cave was found we came across a variety of trees that travelers have shed unused or broken items onto giving them such names as the "Underwear Tree," the "Teacup Tree," the "Bottle Tree," the "Shoe Tree," and the "Bra Tree." Nearing the end of the day we crossed the border from Western Australia into South Australia and found a beautiful spot to park for the night on top of the massive cliffs that begin the Great Australian Bight.
sunday 3 dec
Woke up early to get a head start on driving and drove through most of the day and all of the Treeless Plain, finishing the Nullarbor in two days. A late lunch found us cruising down a dirt road toward Cactus, a National Surfing Reserve, where we unintentionally found a pink lake. The day ended just before Streaky Bay where we watched a full moon rise and made our own version of Minestrone soup, van style.
monday 4 dec
We left Streaky Bay and drove south toward Port Lincoln, stopping in Elliston to make tea and scope out the cliffs, and Coffin Bay to stretch our legs and walk around the harbour. We swooped down and around the Eyre Peninsula, and back up to Port Augusta. In a small town that I can't remember the name of we got a great photo of Auri in front of some painted silos. Just before Adelaide we found a huge, beautiful forest and turned off the road and drove right into it for the night.
tuesday 5 dec
We drove into Adelaide and spent the morning walking around the city. Neither of us are city-folk so we lasted about four hours before we hit China Town for lunch and jumped back in the van, continuing on toward Mount Gambier.
wednesday 6 dec
Began the day exploring Mount Gambier. First up was Blue Lake, a volcanic crater whose waters change a vibrant, royal blue color from November to May. Next we visited the Umpherston Sinkhole that has been turned into a beautiful sunken garden. This is where I made friends with a brushtail possum and almost didn't leave South Australia. After lunch in the park we continued on the road, crossing into New South Wales not far from Mount Gambier. This put us back on the coast where we stopped to see The Crags before landing in Port Fairy for the night.
thursday 7 dec
With coffee still in our cups we stopped at the Cheese Factory leaving Port Fairy because we have no self control; we did make it out with only buying a smoked salmon dip though after trying every cheese and spread sample they offered. Soon we were on the Great Ocean Road where we stopped to see all of the neat geological features. Photo opportunities included The Grotto, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder Cave, and of course the Twelve Apostles. The final stretch of the GOR was a rainy bit and we popped out after Anglesea into Torquay where I spent time with the boys the previous month. We went to visit them at the Bells Beach house and all of us went to a local Christmas Market.
friday 8 dec
Did a load of wash at the boys' house and got some computer work done before kidnapping one of the guys for a night of city dancing in Melbourne. We went to St. Kilda Beach where a friend of Sian's has a condo and played cards and drank beer on the roof before changing clothes and hopping into an Uber. Had a great time out dancing at a few different places in downtown Melbourne with a random bunch of people.
saturday 9 dec
Saturday found us all feeling a bit hungover so we just drove a few hours inland north and found a nice spot in the woods to camp for the night. Made some lamb stew and watched a movie.
sunday 10 dec
Drove up to Kiama and picked up Sian's son, Jake for the night. Went to Jamberoo to camp and play frisbee and drink hot chocolate.
monday 11 dec
Had a real shower in a house in the morning before taking off for Sydney to meet my good friends Dustin and Noami who had just arrived in the country. We met them north of the city in Mooney Mooney on the water, made some lunch and continued on with them behind us to Lake Macquarie for the night. It was great to catch up with them and cook up a big meal together.
tuesday 12 dec
Missing the heat of WA after going through some cooler weather in South Australia and Victoria, Sian and I booked it up to Hat Head to jump in the ocean and lay on the beach for a few hours. We found a nice place to park, set up the hammock and nap the afternoon away.
wednesday 13 dec
Sixteen days later and we had arrived at our destination: Byron Bay, for the Vanlife Diaries last gathering of the year. We had wanted to arrive early to spend time with close friends before the weekend ensued. Per usual, Sian and I went immediately to the beach to swim and lay in the sand for a bit before heading into town to see Jonny play at a cafe called Mokha. It was serendipitous to see him there on our last day of our big drive when the journey had begun by dropping him off at the airport on the other side of the country. After his gig we followed him up to his family farm in Kingscliff for the night.
And there you have it. From one side of Australia to the other via a big yellow van named Auri. Looking back on this time, my heart burns with envy for myself a month ago. These were some of the best days of my life, so far, and I am extremely blessed and fortunate to have had this experience, and with this person in particular. Sian, my traveling companion soul sister, you are one amazing woman, and you and our month together have a first class suite in my heart forever. Chupa Chup my love, I miss you.
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