Tag Archives: Gap Year

The best way to travel solo from Perth to Exmouth

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After considering hitchiking, the Greyhound bus, sharing a trip with randoms from the hostel noticeboard, renting a campervan or buying a car and driving myself, I settled on the often least favourite option of the solo traveller to make the trip from Perth to Exmouth – the group tour. Turns out it was the best decision I made down under….

The west coast of Western Australia has an incredible mixture of stunning natural phenomena, world beating wildlife and bleak red dusty roads, which stretch for miles. There is so much to see, but with seriously long periods of nothingness in between. And, without someone to warn you off the often dangerous flora and fauna, a driver which knows the right turns to take to get you to a premium lookout point and a guide that gives you the full low down on gas stations and safe watering holes it’s easy to miss scenic hotspots, waste hours and find yourself in the blistering heat, 600km from the nearest petrol station.

So for value for money, expert guidance and a jam packed itinerary that even includes a trip to another country, I cannot recommend the Red Earth Safari eight day return tour from Perth to Exmouth highly enough.

By far the most reasonably priced package on offer after trawling through countless trips available (and trust me, in Australia bang for your buck is hard to come by) the Red Earth Safari minibus starts early o’clock on day one from the central bus station, picks up at a range of hostels along the way and takes you on an incredible journey through the most westerly points of Australia’s wild west coast.

Tour leader, driver, chef and host for the week, Terry (the Legend), makes sure you are fed and watered throughout – food and accommodation is included (except for bus snackage, ice creams and dinner to cover his one night off).  Although not great for the waistline, the range of hearty meals give you all the energy any explorer needs.

If its animal antics you’re after then you’ll be blown away by the chance to cuddle Kangaroos, coo over Koala’s, face up to your fears with slippery snakes and feed a host of four legged friends at the Grenough wildlife sanctuary. Plus at Coral Bay and Monkey Mia there are a range of options to get close to marine life, feeding dolphins, snorkelling with Manta Rays and even produce “turtle porn” – but that’s a whole different story!

Shell Bay, the Pinnacles, Nature’s Window and Z Bend Gorge are just awe inspiring and a true insight into the power of nature. Not to mention the Hamelin Pool Stromatalites in the world heritage Shark Bay area – boasting claim to the longest living natural creation on the planet.

For those more interested in the quirkiness of folk, a visit to the Principality of the Hutt River Province and an audience with Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley is not to be missed. Neither is a trip to the westerly most pub in Australia at Denham, where remoteness doesn’t hinder the progress of karaoke or a good old knees up – but beware a few stares.

Spectacular sunrises and sunsets, snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef, immaculate and deserted sandy beaches, crossing the equator, cooking fish and playing the didgeridoo with “Capes” on the beach under the moonlight, countless games of “who am I?” for bus entertainment, meeting royalty, sleeping under the stars at an outback sheep station, swimming in gorges, staying at a convent and, above all, making some fantastic friends – what a way to spend a week!

From bumping into a few (and very few) solo travellers who did the trip via the options I mentioned above, it seemed a long and lonely haul in sometimes often deserted digs. So a huge thank you to everyone who kept me company; Petra, Rebecca, Tommy, Fiona, Lee, Madoka, Ellen, David, Julie, Deb, Sam, Dunja, Judith and “Bush Tucker” Terry (did I mention he is a LEGEND!) for an unforgettable trip and one of the highlights of my year away.


A pedestrian in Perth

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The most isolated city in Australia, as well as possibly the most laid back, Perth is beautiful (or I should say “buuuudiful” like a real Western Australian). And, as I happened to arrive just after the Queen’s visit, it looked even more immaculate – beaches combed, lawns coiffured and flowers in full bloom.

It is an interesting city – more a large town really. Everyone’s friendly and welcoming, the pristine beaches beckon you to the ocean, the shopping malls pulsate with urbanites going about their business and Swan River, which runs through its heart, is a watersports playground.

Whether you are in Northbridge’s backpacker and cultural hub with its vintage boutiques and eclectic cuisine or you have bagged yourself a bed with an old friend in the ‘burbs (a million thank yous Anna), there is plenty to see and do (depending on your budget).

Getting around within the city is free (literally) and easy with a network of CAT buses and there are good transport links to the main destinations – however getting to them initially from outside the city is a bit of a mission on foot. And, if you do walk, don’t expect to see a single other soul and for those driving past you to look at you like you are crazy!

Despite the Government’s best public transportation intentions, outer Perth is a network of suburbs and sprawling retail parks built for the car owner. To escape the 40degree C daytime temperatures in the summer people do not walk outside, they go from air conditioned car to air conditioned shopping mall to air conditioned office and this behaviour carries on throughout the year.

Fortunately I had a phenomenal friend who ferried me around, fed and watered me and helped me find the best things to see and do – including a great day out at the micro-breweries and wineries of Swan Valley, the uber trendy tapas of Andaluz, finding cheap backpacker tour operators and the fresh and funky suburbs of Leederville and Beaufort Street in Embleton.

In the city (or CBD) there’s King’s Park, with stunning views over the Swan River, shopping galore including London Court (if you’re a little homesick from Dick van Dyke’s mockney London town!), the Bell Tower, Perth Mint (where I happen to be worth AUS$41,614,725 – my weight in gold!), the Zoo and so much more.

Along the coast there’s a whole host of stunning beaches with white sands and clear blue waters – Cottesloe and Scarborough among my favourites. Then there’s the quaint chilled vibe of Freemantle. The port city boasts an historic prison, great local markets, enviable harbour side eateries, including Little Creatures Micro Brewery – a must visit for pizza and a pint!

So, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a few weeks, especially if you take a trip to the Perth Hills, spend a night on Rottnest Island with the quokkas, visit the wineries of Margaret River or head even further south to Esperance. The only negative is the price, thanks to the resource boom in mining, Perth is one incredibly expensive place to play!

No going back now!

Well at first it starts with a burning desire and then it snowballs into something that might just, only just, become a possibility. Then you start to dream….you could leave the stressful 9 to 5 (ish), you could never have to deal with that tricky client call ever again, you could visit all the places on your “do before you die list” and have the time of your life!

Where to go, what to do, how to pay for it, what to pack, how will you manage by yourself? What do actually do when you “go travelling?” For many months beforehand all these questions seem a distance distraction and you can get excited about that beach in Thailand or walking along the Great Wall of China.

Inspired after purchasing a copy of  travellers bibles The Practical Nomad and The Rough Guide’s First Time Round the World (as bit of light reading!)…you begin to work hard, start saving, mention it to friends and family, meet with a travel agent, spend hours vaguely surfing the virtual world and start signing up to random international newsletters.

A few months pass and you bore all those close to you talking about it. It’s a great pub conversation, gives you “an edge” and you really start to believe that it could actually happen.

Then one idle Saturday afternoon, you go and book it! Where would you like to start? Oooh always fancied Russia and read in a book somewhere about the Trans Siberian Railway – that always pricked my interest. Oh and the Great Wall of China is a must. Yes, Mongolia, of course  – how cool would it be to actually go to “Outer Mongolia” rather than just using it as a euphemism for getting completely lost! And, I have mates in Australia, but don’t want to fly straight there, so why not have a mooch around South East Asia for a few months…maybe a spot of volunteering and why not fit in a TEFL qualification to boot (at least I’ll have something in the bank to get work as a new age hippy pensioner!).

So then you start telling everyone again – and in the words of Peter Kay booked it, packed it and ****ing off in Feb 2011. The parents take it badly (understandably), some pension-secure, married family types find it incomprehensible, close friends start getting closer, the times you have with the people you love become more cherished and you wonder if you’ve done the right thing.

You move out of the city pad and into a rented  room of a mate’s brother’s house in the less salubrious part of town. Saving money, getting gee’d up by the prospect of a bright new future by a new found friend and very jealous housemate…all guns blazing!

Then after a couple of months of tactical consideration, you are obliged to give in your notice at the great job which drives you to distraction, has taken over your life for longer than it should and was a deal breaker in “should I stay or should I go”. And what happens…you break down in floods of tears! Go figure!

In case you were wondering, I quit my job today to go travelling round the world this year. The sense of excitement, adventure, fear, elation, loneliness, more excitement and the reality of it all has caught up with me and proper knocked the wind right out of my sails!  Don’t get me wrong, I can count on fingers and toes how many people think they would like to trade places with me right now and after a good night’s sleep and one more pay cheque in the bank I’ll get right back on it and be able to blog with some answers to the questions above. But, for today, packing all your belongings into your shiny new kit bag and leaving all your troubles behind you is one hell of a scary ride!