We take the ferry to Rottnest Island where despite having only ridden a bike once, I’m convinced I’ll be fine, that is, until I fall off face-first into a fence in front of the restaurant. Ouch! The best thing about the island is its adorable little inhabitants, Quokkas, which look like half beaver/half kanga, and look like they’re smiling. On the boat home, we gave up our seats for a girl who fell off her bike and the brake entered her thigh (urgh), encountered the Aussie football league’s aboriginal players, and I got given a free ginger beer (and discover how delicious it is!)
We camp in the RV-friendly town of Boddington where Peb manages to park us under a sprinkler. Then we drive south to Albany, an adorable fishing town on the side of a hill that looks like a film set. We pay for camping for the first time at Parryville where two kangas, a mom and a joey, bounce down the road with us. Nick is super excited as he sees a mildly dangerous snake when he is out refilling the water. In the morning, the owner takes us to feed her camels and alpacas their breakfast and gives us free eggs from her “chooks” and lemons straight off the tree. We visit the “Valley of the Giants” – a treetop walk on a swaying bridge 40m above the forest floor among 70m Tingle trees, scary but impressive.
We come across a beautiful town appropriately called Bridgetown with an epic wooden bridge over the river. Peb finds a rope swing and goes splashing into the river (29 going on 9!). We visit Preston beach (amazingly turquoise sea) and Yalgorup National Park to see the Thrombolites, little things that look like rocks but are actually living organisms that produced the first oxygen on earth.
We stop in the Venice-like Port Mandurah and use one of the beach-side free BBQs, then camp at Avalon beach. In the morning, Peb spots some dark shapes near the fisherman by the shore so we go to investigate and are told they’re eagle rays (a mellow type of stingray) so we stand in the ocean with them; they’re so graceful. A local recommends we head up to where the Harvey estuary meets the sea to spot dolphins, and there we see a pod of them jumping – incredible, and all before midday! We drop off the campervan and head into east Perth for our first airbnb experience, a beautiful apartment with a swimming pool we take advantage of.
We catch the Indian-Pacific sleeper train to Adelaide, a 3-day train across the outback. Before the train has departed, a mentally ill man threatening to shoot everyone (who is of course sitting next to us) is removed by the police. We travel the longest stretch of straight rail track in the world (about 400km) and the Nullaboor plain (double the size of the U.K. of literally nothing). We stop in Kalgoolie at 11pm – nothing happening there and a little scary.
The following day, we stop in Cook (population. 4), an abandoned town in the middle of the outback where a litre of water costs the same as a litre of petrol. It looks like the set of Con Air, a swimming pool that is grown over with weeds, a basketball court rusted over, mangled cars, and his and hers outdoor hot-box jail cells. There’s no station or platform at Cook, and we fail to hear the siren telling us to get back on. Realising everyone around us has vanished, we run the length of the train to get back on! Cook is not a place you want to get left in. The train is not the most comfortable form of travel if you can’t afford Gold class, but it’s certainly an experience.