You meet people when you travel. Often you know it’s once and never again, sometimes it’s different though. I met Anja in Karinjini National Park. I knew she’d found herself a spot in Margaret River so when I finally got there we spent a few days together doing things I don’t often do. Belly dancing for example. We decided to take a trip up to Perth for the ’City Muster’. A country music gathering with names like John Williamson, Kasey Chambers, Becky Cole and Lee Kernaghan. The same line-up as at the Darwin City Muster where I was eight months ago.
Only difference – I knew half the lyrics by now thanks to some cd’s lying about in my tractor. It was almost more fun watching the audience as it was seeing the bands, but I have converted another soul to country, haven’t I Anja…? 😉
Organised as we are we never planned where to sleep. But on this Saturday night, around midnight, we found a perfect spot in the dunes right at the city beach. No signs, or people, telling us we couldn’t camp here. And a refreshing swim in the morning is all you need to wake up. Don (you might remember from Nepal, Thailand, Darwin…) happened to be in Perth too. After meeting for a coffee we took his Enfield for a ride. I wasn’t quiet dressed for the occasion, but after borrowing his jacket, helmet & boots I was good to ride around a little. I still like motorcycles.
Apparently there is six degrees of separation right? … I reckon there’s only two in Western Australia. Everywhere I’ve gone and just about everyone I’ve talked to knows a person I have met before. Up north I met Chicky, he lives in Margaret River and happened to know Anja as well. I stayed over at his place where I had the most comfy bed you can imagine; A swag on a trampoline 🙂
Jippa, one of the other guys I met in the same place took me for a mountain bike ride. Brilliant fun, and a lot less pushing then I do with my own bicycle… Especially the cold beer afterwards was extremely enjoyable.
A great thing about meeting up with people you’ve met before is that it feels like meeting up with old friends. It was no different here. I enjoyed the luxury of having a home and a family for a few days. Complete with BBQ’s and beaches and a dog.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s not (just) the places you visit but the people you meet that make it all worthwhile. I had a good time riding down to Augusta through lovely cool forest. But that is where the road ended. The most South-West corner of Australia. It was either cycle back up or try to get across the water. It didn’t take long at all to find a lift to the other side where I promptly got invited by a lady named Margaret. At the jetty she was waiting for her friends to come over to go fishing, swimming and watch the stingrays. I joined them and ended up catching my first fish ever. Had it on my plate that same evening 🙂 Life is great (well, not for that particular fish… obviously)
I do not like sand very much. Australia has been trying real hard to convince me and has given me red sand, yellow sand, white- and even black sand. But nothing helps, I still don’t like pushing through sand. I do like the places it usually gets me though. Like along the track east of Augusta. I planned to camp and called into a farm-house to top up on water. Chatting to the farm-lady I found out I’m the first cyclist she’s seen passing her house in the last seven years. She does see a few, but usually on the main road, just 10km further north… About to go and milk cows she wondered if I’d care to have a look.
Now I have a sister living on a dairy farm I thought it might be interesting to see how things work here. There were 900 cows. All of them need milking twice daily. I have never been shat and peed on by a cow before. I can tell you it’s not the greatest thing I’ve done and I’d recommend everyone to step back when it happens. It smells bad. Two days and many cows later I thought it be time to move a little further east. That’s when I got back into the forest where the trees grew bigger and the flies too. March flies. I thought I had experienced them, but never as bad as on this stretch of road. As soon as you go below 20 km/h they come and drive you mad. Only on a long downhill run you get rid of them a little while before they come zooming around your head again. I found waving a branch around a very effective way to stop them from biting. It’s a bit of a hassle though, to cycle with one hand and wave that branch around with the other. I got to Pemberton where I met some others cycling and even a hiker. Main conversation topic was those flies. And what to do about them. Apparently mixing baby oil with dettol works well. Haven’t tried it yet but will do so when the need arises.
Another topic was Sunderland. And how, apparently, they are the best… (you’re welcome Chris…) On my map I’d seen a road that looked interesting to me. Through D’Entrecasteaux National Park. It’s remote and rugged and combines pristine beaches and tall tree forest in a wild and spectacular landscape… That is what it says in the leaflet anyway. The road was rather rough but the March-flies weren’t too bad. It surprised me to find a whole lot of abandoned beach shacks at the end of a road to an Inlet. Great spot to camp, and no shortage of water. It’s been real nice to just cruise around and stay in places a little longer since (as I keep telling myself) I’m in no particular hurry. I’m not actually going anywhere, just making a bit of a loop around the South-West.
So when I ran into a guy on a motorbike and started talking and drinking coffee after only 30km of cycling I wasn’t too bothered about staying right there for the night and have him cook up a feast on the BBQ while enjoying a glass of wine and listening to music. Yes, it’s a hard life indeed. I made my way slowly to the valley of the Giants. Big trees. Actually Huge Big trees. A kind of Eucalyptus grows here to heights up to 80 meter. Impressive to cycle in between, even more impressive to walk through the tops. That’s exactly what you can do at the ’tree-top-walk’ the name kindda gives that away) I spend hours wandering around with Tommy and Nicole who are driving around and helped me out in a few different ways (nog bedankt he!)
In the small town of Denmark I fell off my bike. A silly thing to do in the middle of a busy town. Slightly embarrassing as well. It wasn’t my fault though! A little screw came undone so I couldn’t get my shoe loose from my pedal. Not even after I fell over. So I sat on the road, took off my shoe, got my bike back up and hopped on one sock to the nearest coffee shop while my ankle nearly snapped and ordered a coffee like it is all perfectly normal. The coffee was excellent, so I ordered another one… and then an orange juice…
I got talking to a bunch of Dutchmen one of whom happened to own a sport shop and promised to send me a pair of bike shorts! Yay! How lucky was that? Cycling away along the coast against the wind I wondered why I even bothered leaving Denmark that day.
While looking around for a camp spot a van pulled up beside me: “Are you the Dutch girl..?” was the question. “We are the Buff-people!”
Eight months ago in Katherine I lost my ‘Buff’. I love this little piece of material so sent an email to the company asking where I could get one.
We camped together that night at gorgeous Shelley Beach. I’ve seen lots and lots of motorbikes on the road the last few days. The Ulysses-club is Australia’s biggest motorcycle club where all members have at least one thing in common. They are all over 50. Their motto is; ‘Grow old disgracefully’… Sounds alright to me. So I went, had a look and stayed. The full week.
I hung around the Buff-stand for a bit and checked out all those people on motorbikes, a very varied crowd indeed. About 3500 people came to Albany from all over Australia and set up camp at the oval.
There was a huge tent with bands playing, I had a look once but felt a little out-of-place. It felt slightly ridiculous being in my tent trying to sleep at 9pm while all them ‘old people’ were out there dancing the night away.
It was a good chance to look around town, meet up with some old friends from near Mullewa and see another side of Australia…
And I did indeed meet some interesting people I’m sure to catch up with along the way.
The idea had been to leave Albany after a day or three and cycle up the Stirling ranges.
When I got out of the van in Kojonup a lady came up and started talking to me. She told me she lived just 15km down the road and if I would like to come and stay… On the farm it was sheep-shearing-time. A great opportunity to have a look around and see how that goes. I even had a go myself! I think I’ll stick to cycling, but good to have a look around.
In her beautiful farmhouse I discovered this lady’s sister is married to Shirley’s brother. Shirley is, together with Isabel and Gerry, one of my ‘Three Aussie Grannies’ whom I met three years ago in the hostel in Ireland. When they heard about my plans they told me to come and see them when I got there…
They have followed my journey from the start, exactly three years ago today. Shirley prints out all my stories so the ladies who are not on internet can read them too. So Katanning, their hometown, has been a place on my map I knew I would get to at some stage. When I arrived in town and walked into a random shop to ask if they happen to know Shirley I was surprised when the reply came as; “Yes, she is my mum.”
Out of 3500 people I picked her son to ask. It’s been the warmest welcome I’ve ever had. I have stayed with all three of my ‘grannies’ and they introduced me to just about every single person in town and even put me in the newspaper!
They took me down to the largest sheep-sale-yards in Western Australia. I have visited two primary schools so must have talked to nearly ALL the children in Katanning (there is three primary schools) We had a great time at the all-ages-playground and got all dressed up and ready to party on St Patrick day when we found out we were the only ones in the pub… But we made our own party 🙂 From here I will slowly make my way back towards Perth were, at the end of this month, I will welcome Mum & Dad to Australia!