When I left my job last November, I thought I would end up doing quite a bit of travelling by myself. It turns out, so far, I have done most of my trips with friends and family. I was expecting to go to Western Australia alone. But just as I was about to book the trip a few weeks before, one of my closest friends, Steph, asked if she could come along. I jumped at the chance to spend three weeks with her. She is totally gorgeous, both inside and out. We met in a bar in Austin in Texas two years ago. I was with a work colleague and he started chatting up a group of girls on a Hen Do. He introduced me to the girls; one of whom happened to be Steph. We bonded over our oil and gas-related city jobs and swapped details. A year later, when I moved to Sydney, I got in touch with her. I knew it was the start of a great friendship when our first catch-up involved swimming in rock pools, acai bowls and exploring secluded cliff top spots in Coogee. We joked to people in Western Australia that it’s like a love story!
Our first adventure in Western Australia was driving from Perth to Kalbarri in a campervan. Living in a campervan is something I had wanted to do for a long long time. I am quite minimalist and loved the thought of the freedom that living in a van offers. We did book campground sites for each night we were in the van because: (a) we thought because we were two girls, it would be a good idea safety-wise and (b) we could then use the campsite facilities (our van was essentially two seats in the front and a bed in the back). The campground sites weren’t super expensive, so we thought we could always just not turn up if we wanted to stay in a place for a longer/shorter amount of time than planned.
Van life was a totally different way of living to what we were used to and felt surreal at first. You can drive wherever, whenever and not have to think about packing a day bag or going back to a base. The sunroof of the van became jammed open on our first day, but we’d already driven quite a distance from the place that we’d rented it from, so we just left it half open for the rest of the week and hoped for the best. Fortunately, for both us and our belongings, it barely rained all week. Unexpectedly, I got the best sleep that I can remember in the campervan. A lot of the places we visited around Perth weren’t the kind of places that you go to for the nightlife and we had limited power, which meant few distractions, so we usually went to bed super early. Sometimes even 6pm or 7pm! You are probably reading this thinking, ‘wow, sounds like a riot’, but we were loving life! We were reading The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu in tandem and discovered that The Dalai Lama also goes to bed at 7pm. Take what you will from that, but we branded ourselves Dalai Lamas in the making.
We usually got up at around 5:30am and would drive to some remote place to watch the sunrise while eating breakfast out of the back of the van. One of the best things about Western Australia is that it’s so quiet. You don’t get the swarms of tourists that you get on the East Coast. Many of the beaches that we stopped at had only a handful of people on, and often we were the only ones. We followed a general route that we had planned before, but we did a lot of unplanned stops along the way. Our broader itinerary was: Perth to Cervantes (to see The Pinnacles), Cervantes to Kalbarri (to see Kalbarri National Park), Kalbarri to Port Gregory (to see the pink lake) and then back to Perth from Port Gregory (to go to Rottnest Island).
Our first stop was in Cervantes. Steph went to sleep before me and I went to watch the sunset/take photos at the beach. Around five minutes after sitting down, a pod of dolphins came to the shore. I jumped in the sea with them (slightly warily due to all the shark stories I’d heard about Western Australia) and joined them as they swam up and down the beach for half an hour until they headed off into the horizon. That was just the start of what Steph and I described as being in a real life nature documentary. There are animals EVERYWHERE in Australia. Some cute and some not so cute. In Cervantes we spent a few sunrises and sunsets at The Pinnacles, which are hundreds of limestone rock spires in the sand dunes of Numbing National Park. Being there felt totally surreal. Like being on Mars.
Our next stop was Kalbarri National Park, where we did The Loop Walk, which is a 9km circular walk. It feels more like being in Utah or Arizona than Western Australia due to the abundant red rock. The Loop Walk takes you past Nature’s Window, which seems to be the most visited site in Kalbarri. One piece of advice I wish we had known for The Loop Walk is to take a fly net for your head. There were sooooo many flies. There would sometimes be more than 30 flies on each of our backpacks and hats at one time and we just gave up trying to brush them off. We also did a short walk along the coast and had a great lunch at The Gorges Cafe.
After Kalbarri, we headed to Port Gregory to see the famous pink lake, known as Hutt Lagoon. I wondered whether it would be as pink it looks in photos. It was! I would definitely recommend going to see it at sunrise if you can. We went early one morning and were genuinely speechless at how amazing it looked, particularly with the mixture of the pink water, the purple sky and the salt ridges breaking up the sky’s reflection in the water (see photo below).
We had a six-hour drive back to Perth from Port Gregory, during which Steph and I talked about anything and everything. We stayed in Perth for a few days, still living in the campervan. The city itself is quite quiet. I personally prefer Sydney although I did like Fremantle. It had a great food scene and we had two very good breakfasts at Little Lefroy’s and Freo. A must-do in Perth is to visit Rottnest Island. We did a day trip and booked bicycles with our ferry ticket. I didn’t realised that you could stay on the island, but I definitely would have done so if I’d realised it was an option. We just cycled around from beach to beach, stopping to say hi to the local quokkas, which are very cute animals that are only found on Rottnest Island.
Living in a van was a fun experience, and one week was the perfect amount of time to spend in it for us. By the end of the week we both felt ready to be in an actual room again. However, our van was particularly small e.g. two people lying down sleeping took up the whole of the back area and we were practically sleeping on our suitcases, so I think if it was bigger we could have happily spent longer in it.