A Travellerspoint blog


Back to Aussie Land for a Visit

Perth to Geraldton - Geraldton to Perth - Perth to.....DUBLIN! 4 jam packed days on the west coast of Australia.

sunny 30 °C

With 15 hours of travel time in the bag, we finally landed back in Perth Australia just after midnight. It was the wee hours of Friday morning and this meant that we were walking into a pretty empty airport. Tired eyes scattered the airport all around us, which included ours and we only had one goal in mind - get to our hostel and find our beds as quickly as possible so we could grab some long overdue shut eye. We booked one nights accommodation at Perth City YHA. It only took us about 25 minutes to get there from the airport and the night guard had no problems checking us in. The building itself is pretty massive and it looks like it could have been some sort of university residence way back when. There would be no lake front/mountain views waiting for us when we rolled out of bed in the morning but that was alright by us, as sleep was the only item that topped our list of things to do at YHA. The late night hostel entry routine was becoming just that for Sherry and I, routine. We went our separate ways to find washrooms and then regrouped, trying to make as quiet of an entry as possible. We had a shared room for four people and, as was expected, the top bunks were left for us. Well, there is really no quiet way to sneak into a top bunk when you are an adult. The bed is creaking, you're trying not to hit your head off of the roof and you just hope when you barrel role over the rail that the whole thing doesn't come crashing down on the unsuspecting person who has likely just nicely gotten to sleep on the bottom bunk. All went well on this "covert ops" entry and after finding some ear plugs to stifle the snoring of our new roommates, we both were counting sheep before long. Morning brought with it an open agenda until about 4:00 pm when we had to be back at the hostel to catch our ride to Geraldton with Damian. Damian is best friends with Angel and Joe and, we are now happy to call him a friend of ours as well. Damian used to teach at the same school as Joe, Angel, Jess and Nigel, but he had recently made the jump to Perth to continue teaching and luckily for us, he was ready to go back to Geraldton to see all his old friends.

After checking our bags into storage at the hostel for the day, we headed out to find breakfast, which was followed by a walk along the Swan river and around the harbour before finally setting out some towels under a park tree where we both opened up our books and just chilled under the shade. The swan river waterfront near Bell Tower is a great place to tour around and it also has ferry transportation to Fremantle if anyone is interested in heading out that way. We just didn't have time in our day to take that all in and so we just chilled. I picked up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath" when were flying to Australia and I hadn't had too much time to get into it, so this down time was a welcome chance to dive into it. I won't get into the details of the book but I will go as far as recommending reading it to those that haven't - it is certainly worth looking up. I have enjoyed everyone of Gladwell's books that I have read and this one didn't disappoint. I am admittedly not a big reader, but when I happen to find a book I really like it doesn't usually take me too long to knock it off. The day was perfect for just chilling outdoors and the time passed accordingly. Before we knew it, we had to pack up to meet our ride. Since we got back to the hostel a bit early I had time to sit in the lobby area and watch the cricket match that was on, while Sherry kept watch for Damian (Damo) outside. Damo arrived in style as he popped his pickup truck up over the curb, skimmed past Sherry's feet and then brought it to a graceful resting place in a spot that absolutely in no way resembled a parking spot - that was classic Damo. With no parking on our side of the street he just did what he had to do and made it work. After piling into the truck, we all did our best to ignore the fact that we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, and the best way to do that was to just start chatting. Damo is a top notch conversationalist, so there was no issue with getting things rolling. We covered a lot of ground in the 4 hours we had together and at no time did we ever enter into that awkward silence as the topics were free flowing from one to the next. There were plenty of laughs had which made the drive pass by even faster. Between funny text messages to our friends waiting in Geraldton, to ridiculous stories from Damo's teaching days, there was no end to the laughter. The part that made this drive even more interesting was that we had only met Damo for 30 minutes a few weeks earlier, prior to this drive, yet you would have thought we knew each other for years. That is a true testament to Damo as a person because he is one of those people that you just gravitate to because of this zest for life and endless knowledge of just about any topic. When we finally rolled back into Geraldton, it was after 9:30 at night but that didn't stop everyone from hanging out until after midnight carrying on with even more stories and even more laughs. Sherry did her best to try and sneak off to bed early, but that good old fear of missing out kept her hanging out on the patio with the rest of us well past the time she planned on staying up until.

Saturday, was a really laid back day as everyone just kind of chilled out and rested in preparation for Damian's night out planned at a local watering hole called the Provincial. Joe had a soccer game that evening and I decided I would head up and check that out before meeting up with everyone down at the bar. Li Fiamma soccer club is where Joe plays his soccer and I had been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the guys he played with when we went on the stag trip a few weeks back. They have a hell of a good bunch of guys on the team, who seemingly come from all over the world. I am happy to say the boys pulled off the preseason win, which they really needed after a couple of rough starts prior to that. The crowd for the game was not massive but, there were those few local fans who had been following the team for years and years and who could be heard doing their best sideline coaching from start to finish. A few quick beers to celebrate the win followed the game, then it was off to join the rest of the crew down at The Provincial. The night only got better from there and in typical fashion, we finished off with some good old MacDonald's burgers and fries. Taking a step back into our time at the provincial I would be remise if I didn't mention the live music we got treated to. A young man, who was tall and slightly awkward looking (no it wasn't me....), took the small stage out on the patio and then proceeded to absolutely blow our minds with his incredible talents. He had an infectious smile and perfectly timed mannerisms about him, along with talents on the guitar and the trumpet which he seamlessly juggled back and forth between as his audience was afraid to blink on the chance that they might miss something. Toss in some beatboxing and the fact that he worked his shy, younger brother into the show and he had us all eating out of the palm of his hand. What was supposed to be a slightly earlier night, did't stand a chance once this guy took the stage!

Our last day in Geraldton was filled with lots of laughs, some goodbye tears and then another conversation filled drive back to Perth with Damo. We made a brief stop to see the Pinnacles (http://www.visitpinnaclescountry.com.au) on our way back to Perth. The Pinnacles are limestone formations which are found in the Cervantes desert and which come with a few differing opinions as to what actually created them. If you are heading along the coast on the Northside of Perth, I would recommend making a stop here. It won't be a long one and you can drive right through instead of getting out to walk around - making stops for photos as you want to. Moving on to Perth we arrived at our hotel for a good nights sleep before catching our flight on over to Dublin. Our accommodations that night were a welcome surprise for Sherry as she thought we were staying in the YHA hostel again, but as an early birthday surprise I thought she might appreciate a tub to soak in and a comfy bed for a good nights rest in, rather then dipping and diving into a hostel for a questionable sleep. We stayed at a place called the Fraser Suits. The prices were reasonably with respect to what you could be paying in most places in Perth and the accommodations were just what the doctor ordered.

It was hard to believe that our time in Australia had come to a close. Western Australia has many great experiences to offer people and many which we didn't even get a chance to take in. If you choose to go North of Geraldton you will not be disappointed and I have tossed in a link to help people who want to look into it a little bit more (http://www.australia.com/en/itineraries/wa-indian-ocean-drive.html) as we certainly didn't get a chance to do everything that was available to us (guess we'll have to go back!). There is snorkelling that apparently tops that of the Great Barrier Reef in all ways at Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. WA often gets passed over for the heavily promoted Gold Coast (which is amazing as well) but if you have time in your travels I would definitely take a peak at what adventures you could find in the West. With old friendships caught up, news ones formed, and hundreds of great memories, it is impossible to look back on our time in Australia as anything but amazing. It was hard to leave it all behind us, but we had an exciting new chapter waiting for us in Ireland. This is where our planning had really come to a stand still as beyond getting to Dublin and staying at an AirBnB for the first week, we hadn't decided on much after that. This was somewhat by design as we wanted to leave some parts of our journey to chance as you never know what opportunities may come knocking once you get to a place. A blank slate was waiting for us and we both waited with nervous anticipation to see what we would start filling it up with!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

From the West Coast to the East Coast of Australia

Melbourne, you so fine!

sunny 17 °C

When I left off last Sherry and I had just finished up a weekend in Geraldton WA and we were about to make our way to Perth to catch a flight all the way over to the East Coast where we would spend a few days in Melbourne. To get to Perth we purchased bus tickets in Geraldton, which were just another reminder of just how expensive things are in Australia, as it cost us about $165 in total to get us both to Perth. Back in Thailand we could have got 3 plane tickets for this price! But, as the blog is titled...it is, what it is, and we needed to get to Perth and this was how it had to be. I will talk more about the cost of living in Austrlaia in a later post and so for now, I will just say that you need to be prepared for some sticker shock if you are travelling from North America. Our bus left around 8:30 am on Monday March 9th and we arrived in Perth around 2:30 in the afternoon. Unlike our bus travels in south east Asia this trip was pretty uneventful. Don't get me wrong, I was quite alright with that being the case. This drive took us along the in-land route to Perth, so the scenary was pretty uneventful, with the only breaks in the flat dessert looking landscape, being our short stops at gas stations for food or to pick up other passengers. Through our travels back and forth to Perth we got to know the routine pretty well. Along the way you would always stop at a gas station where you could grab some deep fried goodness that was waiting under a heat lamp for you or in some cases there would be fresh homemade meat pies waiting for you to devour and stave off hunger. These stops were not so great for my gluten intolerant companion, but sherry made sure to pack some snacks, as she is usually prepared to do that no matter where we go until she figures out the local appetite for gluten free options. There are restaurants attached to some of the gas stations but when you are making the drive to or from Perth, all you want to do is get it over with, so it is almost always just a grab and go stop. After a short taxi ride to the airport (couldn't find a cheaper or more timely way to get there at that time) we checked in with plenty of time to spare before boarding our Virgin Australia flight at 5:30. Our flight would be around 3.5 hours but due to crossing over time zones we would be getting into Melbourne at right around midnight. For those people wondering about finding the cheapest or best flights, my only recommendation right now would be to shop around. I know, I know, thanks for blowing our minds with that insightful travel tip Shayne! The truth is we have tried all sorts of websites and apps to book our flights, and hotels for that matter, and we haven't been dissappointed with any particular one yet. Some of the most user friendly ones are Trip Advisor (app or website) and Kayak (app). These sites give you a look at all the different offers out there, whether it be from Expedia, Booking.com, Agooda, CheapOAir, Tripsta or one of the many other online offerings that are out there. You will find that prices can tend to escalate from the price you see on the initial search when you go into the booking so make sure you read the fine print and know what costs you are adding on and if you really need them. Some sites may look cheaper then others based on the initial search but it will be the added costs once the booking starts that bring them back to par with the rest. Expedia has been one that we have been particularly happy with in terms of the price being the same in the initial search as it is when finally hitting "ok" to make your booking.

Before getting right into the details of our time in Melbourne I will touch on briefly why it was that we decided on going there and not Sydney or one of the other highlight city's along the Gold Coast. Sydney is always the front and center choice for travellers when they go to Australia and I am sure as many people are reading this they are under the mindset that Sydney is the capital of Australia due to how much press and marketing it gets globally. Well, it is actually not the capaital, Canberra is and as I was told by some of our teacher friends back in Geraldton, even some students still believe that Sydney is the capital! We talked with many different people along our travels to date, trying to gauge what places might peak our interest on the Gold Coast, and Melbourne was the overwhelming number one. People kept telling us that Sysney was very busy and congested with tourists and that we wouldn't find very many tried and true Aussies there. We just were not in the mood at that time for a crazy busy city and being in the monotony of hopping around from tourist attraction to tourist attraction just to say we were there. Please don't get me wrong, Sydney is definitely on our list of things to do, but given our short time frame and our desire for a more relaxed experience, we landed on Melbourne. Queensland is another beautiful place we hope to be fortunate to travel to some day.

Our flight to Melbourne was right on time as we landed just after midnight. With no customs to clear, we buzzed through the airport and were in a taxi before 12:30. Since we arrived too late in the night, taxi was the best option to get us to our destination in a timely fashion. It cost us about $50 to get right to our hostel in the centre of Melbourne, which seems like a lot, but again based on the speed at which we got to our place it was definitely the best option. We stayed at the Space Hotel, which despite the name, is in fact a hostel. It was around $32 a night to stay in a 6 person dorm room. This may again seem somewhat expensive to seasoned hostel goers, but this place had great ammenities and I would highly recommend it. Everything was clean, comfortable and well taken care off, which are all things that can go a long way to helping you maintain a positive outlook on your travels. We did our best to sneak into our dorm room without disturbing our roommates but thankfully they had just landed in from a night out drinking so we fired up some drunken banter with them, sharing a few good laughs before finally putting head to pillow. The next morning I was awake pretty early as I am a fairly light sleeper and a couple of our roommates were up and on the way out to their next destinations quite early. I was totally fine with being awake, and I felt pretty good for having limited sleep, so I grabbed a shower and toured around the hostel to see what all we had available to us, while Sherry grabbed a few more zzz's. We had no real definitive plan for our time in Melbourne so the first day we grabbed a map and just started walking around. Our plan was to make our way down to the harbour and beach area, then just go with the flow from there. As we were further south in Australia now we noticed a change up in temps as the highs of 32 degrees Celsius were exchanged for average temps around 16-18 degrees Celsius. As a point of reference I will just remind everyone that it was mid March which was the beginning of their fall or autumn season, so all and all that is pretty good in my mind. I located a walking path that would take us all the way down to the harbour and it was only a few blocks from our hostel that we were able to connect up with that. The pathway follows along the Yarra River which we found out makes for a beautiful and relaxing walk. The path was paved the entire way and well marked for bikers, walkers and runners. It become very evident to us that Melbourne is a fitness forward city as we encountered bikers, joggers and walkers of all ages along our journey. The city has made the fitness lifestyle very accessible to its citizens by creating the infrastructure they need to partake in and enjoy being fit. The pathway's are so well designed for bikers, which seemly must cut back on the amount of traffic on the roads. It appears that many people were using bikes to get to and from work instead of driving their car or using public transport. There was even a rock climbing wall under one of the over passes that people were stoping at to literally and figuratively hang out. After a few directional mix ups, we finally made it to the harbour area around lunch time, so we figured the only proper thing to do at that time was to eat! We made our way out along St. Kilda pier, passing fisherman, tourists and locals along the way. The sun was out and there was a slight breeze which made the walk quite comfortable and enjoyable. About 2/3 of the way down the pier there is a restaurant called "Little Blue Restaurant" which has both indoor and patio seating and this was where we decided to take a rest to have some lunch. We sat out on the patio overlooking the harbour and back towards Melbourne which made for an excellent backdrop during our meal. We took some photos of our stop here which I will have up and posted soon! We both really enjoyed our lunch here and would recommend making a stop in if you find yourself wondering around the St. Kilda pier and your stomach starts to growl at you. I was in total relax mode after this stop, partially because we had done a wack load of walking already and partially because the environment around us was so calm and beautiful that it was pretty hard not to be. With nothing else planned on our agenda we walked back down the pier to St. Kilda park and then eventually started making our way back to the city center. Along the way we passed many of the same city sites we saw along our way to the harbour but because of the time of day the activity in and around the Yarra River had increased considerably. The work day was over, school was out and people were all over the place. Bikers, runners, joggers, walkers, and rowers all made up a very vibrant pulse around this waterway. Sherry and I stopped and watched the rowers for awhile to give our aching feet and legs a rest. One, two, four and eight person boats made their way up and down the river with their coaches shouting instructions through a megaphone as they kept pace biking along shore. There were young and old alike taking part, with some boats just being out there for exercise and enjoyment while others were clearly there for competition training. Having never been exposed to live rowing in my life, but being a fan of sport in general, this was a really cool and unplanned stop along the way. That night we were both pretty played out from all the walking we had done, so we grabbed some dinner and made plans for the next day and tucked in for a somewhat early night.

The next morning Sherry got up early and was successful in getting us booked on a tour that would take us out of the city and out to Phillip Island where we would get exposed to more of the beautiful countryside and some of Australia's awesome local wildlife. I will give a quick shout out to our tour company "Go West" (http://www.gowest.com.au/our-tours/penguin-parade-day-tour/) as we had a great day and were entertained the whole time by our fantastic tour guide Dennis. The tour we selected would take us to Phillip Island which is south east of Melbourne and takes about 1.5 hours to get to by bus. The island itself is now connected by road way and has a permanent population of around 9500. During the summer months the population explodes to around 40,000 due to all the seasonal guests with cottages and summer homes. Our tour group was nice and small with only about 20 or so people which allowed us to easily get to know everyone throughout the day. We departed our hotel around 11:00 am, making our way to our first stop which was at Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm. Here we started with a great lunch, which included fresh fried rainbow trout for me and a gluten free option for Sherry which was a salad with grilled fish. There were two other options which we had time to choose from while we made the drive out from Melbourne. The meal was a great start to our day and was another opportunity to meet more of the people on our tour. All fuelled up, we headed out to walk around the property, receiving a lesson in bush tucker along the way. Bush Tucker is essentially a collection of wild growing plants and trees that are edible and which have been used for centuries by the local tribes. Our guide was quite knowledgable and kept things entertaining all along the way. Back on the bus, I sat with my new friend from Tokyo who was over on holiday visiting her boyfriend who lived and worked in Sydney. She had spent time going to school in the United States and as such she spoke English quite well. She was very friendly and inquisitive which lead to some great conversations about just about everything. These interactions, for me, are what travel is all about. Getting to informally learn about the greater world around you through the experiences of other people. The next stop for us would be the much anticipated Koala Conservation Center. During this part of the tour we would be guided around through the centre, getting the chance to snap photos of the Koalas in a very natural environment. Now, I have to say, these little buggers may be cute, but dammit they are lazy! As you will see from pictures, they are sleeping almost all the time and are tucked away in the branches of the trees. As I said to the tour guide, it pretty much seemed like these guys were dealing with a permanent hangover! Regardless of their static nature, it was still really cool to see them. During the tour we also came across some wallabies which are described as small or midsized macropods, that look quite similar to kangaroos, but as the description suggests, they are smaller. All and all we spent about an hour at the center before jumping back in the bus and arriving at our wine tasting session out in the beautiful countryside of Phillip Island. With expansive views of the small vineyard, the surrounding farmland and the ocean, this place had curb appeal that could not likely be matched - it was stunning. It's not very often you hear about wine tasting experiences going bad, and I am not about to start! We had a great time with our host Karen who presented us with three white and three red wines to try out. Of course the wine was accompanied by a selection of fresh local cheeses as well. I can safely say that I did learn a bit about wine during this expeience but mostly I just caught a buzz as Sherry passed her unfinished glasses over to me to finish, so she could get topped up with the next wine, which would inevitably be passed over to me as well. It was a vicous cycle, but I prevailed, managing to resist the temptation to go all "John Belushi in Animal House" up in there. Before loading up on the bus, most people made the change to some warmer clothes as the sun was starting to go down and the air temperature was doing the same. After a short stop in the small town of Cows for a snack, it was off down the coast to the "Knobbies" where we would get to tour around the giant coastline and take picutures of little penguins as they snuggled up in the wooden huts along the cliff side. These little fellas would also be the main attraction that night at the Penguin Parade, but since it would be night time during that show, we would not be able to take photos due to the flash of the camera disorientating them as they made their way up the beach. The coastal views at the Knobbies were incredible and it got me even more excited to get over to Ireland where I knew I would be encountering even more of this great natural beauty. Finally, at just before 8:00 pm we arrived at the site where we would watch the worlds smallest penguins, who had been out at sea for many weeks, come bouncing out of the ocean and make their return to their babies and their homes which are scattered all over the coastal area. This occurrence happens daily. It is almost like clockwork, with the penguins starting to waddle up the shore at or right around 8:30. The way things are set up, you literally have these fellas walking right beside you as they call out to their families and eventually start doling out food to their young ones. There are tons of people around, so you do need to be patient, but it's certainly an experience that is well worth it - just remember to dress warm and all will be well. With the penguin parade all wrapped up, our day on Phillip Island had come to an end. Back on the bus our driver turned off lights and it was nap time for most people, but as we had been doing all day, my friend from Tokyo and I started to chat again, and we did do for the entire 1.5 hour drive back to Melbourne. What a great day that was and I am sure it goes without saying, but I highly recommend taking in this adventurous day. Between the amazing sites, comical tour guide and the great people we got to meet, it was well worth the price of admission. Back in Melbourne, it was straight to bed for Sherry and I as we had to be up for a 10:00 am flight to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Melbourne was a wonderful experience for both Sherry and I. It is an absolutley beautiful city that seems to offer a little bit of everything. It certainly has a passion for the arts with plays and exhibitions readily available, while also offering many outdoors activities for its residents and visitors. We definitely would like to make a trip back to Melbourne some day when we can take even more time to experience all the hidden gems tucked within it's city walls. Well, it is off to New Zealand!


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 10:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australian Hospitality

A chance to spend time with old friends and to make some new ones.

sunny 32 °C

As I am writing this post it is around 6:00 am in Dublin, Ireland. No I am not still up from partying the night before, rather I am up early after sleeping off the jet leg which was induced by 20 hours of flying from Perth, Australia! As they say,' I may not know whether I am coming or going' just yet, but what I do know for sure is that our time spent over the last month in Australia and New Zealand was well worth it! There is a lot to cover off, so sit back, relax, maybe grab a beer or a glass of wine and here we go....

We arrived in Perth in the wee hours of the morning on February 21st after connecting flights from Bangkok to Phuket and then onto Perth. As usual, travel itself sometimes creates some interesting times and our connecting flight in Phuket was one of those times. We were almost 40 minutes delayed getting out of Bangkok and with only a short layover in Phuket, where we would join the sun and booze soaked Aussies headed back home, we would be under the gun to make our connecting flight. We had a game plan when we got off the plane which involved running as fast as we could to our next flight, I would get our bags and Sherry would go to the check-in counter...pretty rough plan I will admit that, but it was a plan nonetheless. This all got tossed out the window when instead of being dropped directly at our terminal, we jumped off the plane to see a series of buses waiting for us which would transport us to our gate. More time was spent waiting on the bus and the quick math I was doing in my head told me it was going to be near impossible to make it to our flight. Luckily when we excited the bus and entered the airport we noticed a man holding an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper with the word "Perth" sloppily written in light blue highlighter on it, so we stopped to see if this was for us. As luck would have it this guy was waiting for us and after making sure we were the people he had spent so much time making the sign for, he asked if we could run. It was game on and as we passed through the airport (seemingly breaking rules all over the place) he let us know the check in counter closed in 5 minutes and did his best to get a description of our luggage so they could deliver it for check in. Now, thankfully we had fairly distinct luggage, with red straps circling our bags and "Canada" written on them, as I have no idea how else they would have been able to distinguish our bags from what I am sure are hundreds of similar looking peices of luggage. We were wisked into the check in line, where our luggage followed shortly after and the crisis was averted. As it turned out we ended up with time to spare, which allowed us to spend some quality time with the depressed Aussie vacationers who were heading back home from their vacations in the islands of Thailand. The Thai islands are the equivalent of a Cuba, Mexico or Dominican Republic vacation for most North Americans. Sandy beaches, plus cheap booze and accomodation's - returning to work was the last thing these people wanted to do and the looks on their faces said it all. Sherry and I couldn't help but laugh to ourselves a bit as we enjoyed our fortune of not being in the same boat as these folks. Sherry would later bring up an interesting personal observation she had while we sat in the airport in Phuket and I will share it with you now as I think it is quite interesting and relevant. For Sherry and I, we had spent the last month walking through South East Asia in anonymity it would seem. We did not really care what we looked like, the cloths we wore could be repetitive from day to day and we felt comfortable with who we were amongst the people, not being challenged to meet some uncomfortable standard of the society around us. As Sherry put it, once she became surrounded by people who were more culturally similar to us, she felt the "care-freeness" about her image being challenged. I have to admit at first when she was explaining this I struggled to understand where she was going with it but it came up in a few conversations over the coming weeks, and each time my appreciation for her feelings grew. It really reinforced for me how we assess or compare ourselves locally, rather then globally and just how quickly our self image can be challenged. Now, Sherry was not saying that all of a sudden she felt poorly about herself or who she was, but rather she was making an observation of how quickly that feeling can creep up on you. I think we are all subject to these feelings throughout our lives, with many of us falling victim to them by uncomfortably changing who we are in order to fit in with our surroundings which is based on what we think others think of us. Whether it be at work, out in a social context such as a bar or restaurant, or just visiting with friends, we all face these personal challenges and to me, that is life, and I don't think that will ever change. The part that we control though is our response to these feelings and simply recognizing them when they arise is a huge start to it. Don't worry, I am not going to go on and wax philosophically about the human ego and all the intimitley detailed stuff that has been studied and published over the years, but I do feel that it is important to raise the observation for people's consideration and as a reminder that even though we may be seen to be living this incredible dream journey (which we are), that we are still human and as such we will continue to face the same personal challenges that everyone else does regardless of status in life. Okay, wow, I did not see that coming when I started wrttting this post, let's get back to trip!

As we exited the Perth airport around 7:00 am we were greeted by the familliar faces of our friends Joe and Angel Italiano who where there to pick us up and take us back to their home in Geraldton (4 hours North of Perth) where we would be setting up camp for the next couple weeks. Joe grew up in Australia, while Angela was born and raised in Paisley, Ontario before meeting up with her husband to be and moving to Australia 5 years ago. Unfortunately we were not able to make their 2013 wedding in Italy, so we were long over due in getting to spend some time with them. Even though we were crazy tired from the over night flight, we both got our second winds as we hung in there for some breakfast before making our way out of the city. When Joe pulled into a cemetery as we left the city I questioned just what he had planned for us, but he just grinned and laughed when he realized I recognized that we where making this questionable detour. It all made sense when Joe pointed out to the right side of the vehicle and we saw mobs of Kangaroos hanging out all over the place. With a loaf a bread in hand we jumped out and before long we had wild kangaroos eating right from our hands! Not a bad little start to the Australian leg of our travels. Joe took us down the coastal route to Geraldton which provided some great views on the ocean and the beautiful coastal landscape. By all rights we both should have been out cold sleeping, but there was no way that was going to happen. Between soaking up the scenery and catching up with our friends, there wasn't much room for sleep to happen. I kid you not when I tell you that Sherry and Angel where talking for the entire 4 hours of the drive!

We arrived in the west coast town of Geraldton, which has a population approximately 36,000, around mid afternoon. The town itself is supported largely by the shipping industry as it contains a major seaport. There are also several schools throughout the town which offer employment for many folks just like our friends Joe and Angel who both work at Nagle Catholic College. Angel also works in Joe's sisters shop called "You Little Beauty" where she has massage clients on Thursdays. Nagle is a large catholic school which takes in many students from outside of Geraldton and as such they have a boarding house to accommodate them. The boarding house would be where Sherry and I set up shop for the next few weeks as that is where Joe and Angel have their apartment. After getting settled into our new residence it was time for the couch! Joe tossed on some cricket, which was pretty bizarre for me as I didn't know any of the rules, but it wasn't long before I had the basic premise figured out and was able to follow along. Soccer, cricket, rugby, and Footie would become my new sports diet! As I sit here today and am writing this, Austrlaia is playing New Zealand in the World Cup final and I am cheering for the Aussies to bring home a 5th championship. I was quite surprised how into the sport I got during our short time in Australia but like in many other countries, sport is a bonding agent that can bring common ground to just about any relationship regardless of nationality. I would find myself popping my head into bars as we walked around Perth in the later weeks to check the scores of the Aussie games and make sure the boys were doing well hahaha. So, what was our plan for the next month or so? Of course I wasn't just going to sit around and watch cricket for a month straight - here is a little run down of the fun we got up to in our first couple weeks.

Joe and Angel were both working during the days, so Sherry and I had time to ourselves to go out and explore the town on our own and to catch up on some R &R. As with every other new place, we spent time just touring around the town on foot and seeing what new experiences were at our finger tips. The first week was really laid back and lazy for both of us during the days but we did get the chance to get out and meet some of Joe and Angel's friends and family. First on the docket were Jess and Nigel, who's home we visited for some pizza and drinks on Jess's birthday. Jess and Nigel are both teachers as well, with Jess teaching at Nagle alongside Joe and Angel, and Nigel teaching physics at a different high school. Sherry and I both felt extremely comfortable and welcomed by Jess and Nigel and over the coming weeks we would spend more time with them and I think it is safe to say that a friendship developed with them - I say that with confidence as when we were leaving Geraldton the last we saw of them was Jess running down the road, pulling out a wedding invite from her purse and giving it to Sherry hahaha. It was amazingly hilarious and as if Sherry didn't have enough tears in her eyes at the time, this act of kindness sent her over the top! As mentioned, we also had the chance to meet some family as both Joes sister and his parents live in Geraldton. It was Joe's nieces birthday and we were invited to tag along for a birthday BBQ. It was a beautiful evening as we enjoyed the company of Joe's parents and his sister in-laws parents while chowing down on some good old steaks, salads and hot dogs. As Joe's last name suggests (Italiano) he comes from an Italian family. I know, I know, an Italian, with the last name Italiano! It seems like it is likely to be a fake name hahaha. Joe's parents have been in Australia for 40 years now but they all still hold true to their Itlaian heritage as family is absolutely everything to them. They have a lovely family and it was a pleasure to get to meet them.

When Friday rolled around it was time to do what I had been looking forward to for some time now and that was to get my skinny, pale-ass frame up on a surf board and ride the waves of the ocean. Friday was the beginning of a long weekend for Joe and Angel so we had a beach day planned out. We loaded up the surf boards and it was off to the beach to catch some waves. Like a kid in a candy store I ran to the ocean, doing my best David Hasselhoff impression for his baywatch days and then smashed into the ocean with the grace of a dog learning how to swim for the first time - thankfully there were no on lookers as the beach was deserted and we had it all to ourselves. A few waves in I somehow managed to stand up and get a short ride in and with that, my confidence was through the roof. I figured I had this sport mastered and that maybe it was just as easy as it looked on T.V. . It would be hours before I stood up again, as my body got rag dolled around in the ocean. Reality paid me a visit and made sure I knew just how out of shape I was as the waves pushed me around and held me back from getting back out to where I needed to be to if I was going to catch another one. After a couple of hours of sun, sand and yes, even some surf, we pulled up stakes and headed back into town. I was content with my effort and happy that I got to give surfing a go. On the plus side of it all, I didn't get eaten by a shark and no jellyfish stings either. Funny enough these were things that I didn't consider much before entering the water hahaha. We finished our Friday evening off by having dinner out with Joe, Nigel, Angel and Jess at a place called the provincial which was full of great food and drink, but it was also the place where the somewhat harsh reality of my sunburn started to check in! Caught up in my desire to surf, I failed to slap on the SPF early enough to prevent a wee bit of a burn. The next day it was off to Perth with Joe and Angel to take part in a celebration that is quite famialiar to both Sherry and I - it was time for a "Stag" and "Staggette" weekend or as they call it in Australia "Bucks and Hens" night/weekend. Both party organizers were gracious enough to let us tag along, which gave Sherry and I both some time to meet new people and to have some time apart after almost one and half months spending every day together. Some girl time and some guy time was just what the doctor ordered. The highlight of the weekend for me was getting to attend a professional soccer match between the Perth Glory and the Brisbane Roar. The match ended in a tie...no surprise there, but the experience as a whole was pretty cool. I always knew that soccer fans were wild, but the seats we had which where located in the area known as "The Shed" gave me an up close and personal view of all the craziness. Beer would fly through the air when goals were scored or if an opposition fan was spotted in the mix. Cheers and chants were a constant, with referees being jeered for making a bad call against the home team or the opposition goalie being psyched out as he attempted to move the ball up the field. It was all good fun, especially being there with all the fellas in the stag trip, and I will no doubt always remember my first taste of live professional soccer. Something else I was introduced to while in Perth was the "Sunday Session". On the surface this just seemed like going out and drinking on a Sunday at a nice hotel bar, which fundamentally is what takes place, but the roots of this activity come from further back in time. There was a time when the hours in which bars could sell alcohol were very restrictive and many hotels started setting up illegal drinking sessions on Sunday afternoons. This sounds somewhat similar to the adaption of "speakeasy" bars during prohibition. Eventually the laws loosened up and now many hotels and bars open their doors early in the day to serve up great food, booze and entertainment. The places where these "Sunday Sessions" are being held are fairly classy joints so don't roll out of bed in your joggers and a t-shirt thinking you are grabbing a greasy spoon breakfast like you would be back in Canada. In fact, depending on the place there are some well enforced dress codes. Sherry's highlight would be enjoying proper high tea with the girls and of course lots of dancing with the girls as the toured from bar to bar.

The Monday that we rolled back into Geraldton was again a holiday and we took full advantage of it by vegging out on the couch, periodically falling asleep and waking up to wonder if anyone else had noticed. The rest of the week was filled with touring around the town and enjoying the beach. We also made a stop at the HMAS Sydney Memorial which is a focal point for Geraldton sitting at the peak of the town looking out over the ocean. Here is a link if you would like to read more about this beautiful memorial http://hmassydneymemorial.com.au/. We were lucky enough to have a vehicle to use while staying with Joe and Angel, so we would load up the standup paddleboard (SUP) and head down to the beach for most of the days. Sherry caught on to the paddleboard pretty quickly and was cruising around the harbour area like she owned it. On a few occasions while paddling around I noticed some small stingrays swimming underneath me and I would have some fun chasing them around, until I lost my balance and fell in right on top of them. Thankfully they were more scared of me! The beach we went to got some pretty good waves and we would bust out the boogy boards to mess around in them which was a lot of fun (I left my surfboard at home or else I would have definitely been up shredding those waves......). When the weekend rolled around we made plans to go out for dinner with Jess, Nigel and Angel at an Indian restaurant. Joe was away on a camp trip with the school so Angel had us all to herself....well most importantly she had Sherry, I am pretty sure I was just background noise hahaha. Dinner was great and this was the first BYOB restaurant I had ever been in so I can check that experience off my list. Angel and I took full advantage of the BYOB, not as much as the guys who had a 40 of rye and 2 bottles of coke beside us, but we did good enough that driving was out of the equation, which put Sherry behind the wheel for us. Driving on the opposite side of the road to home was no problem for her and she got us home safely. She had a bit of practice one night before that when we did a little touring around after going to the movies and she handled it all pretty well. Once we got back to the boarding house I decided to bust out a dance party for the girls getting them fired up with hits from the 90's. It all started with a little Ghetto Superstar, which progressed into everything from Boyz II Men, Montel Jordan, The Fugees, Smashing Pumpkins and so many more....there was even some Wilson Phillips splashed in there for Sherry. It was a hilarious walk down memory lane which hopefully didn't cause the neighbours too much pain as the girls belted out there best karaoke voices while dancing like nobody was watching. It is kind of funny looking back on it now - all the new experiences are absolutely amazing but sometimes taking time to relive the old ones brings you just as much enjoyment.

The next morning we loaded up the vehicle with the SUP and headed North for a place called Kalbarri National Park. Of course we had Jess and Nigel on board with us for this adventure as well. Along the way we stopped at one of Western Australia's pink lakes, which gets its name...wait for it....because the water is Pink! It kind of looks like if pepto bismol were to come naturally from the earth, this would be the place. Scientist's apparently still don't know exactly what causes this, but believe it has something to do with the bacteria in the salt crusts. Being as i don't have my monthly subscription to World of Science right beside me, I am going to have to go with that for now. After a few photo's we were back on the road again and before long we were doing some off-roading as we made our way through Kalbarri National Park. What we arrived to I think can be best described as Grand Canyon like scenery. Red and rocky mountain sides, spilt by large, deep waterways were all around us. The views where breathtaking and the pesky flies, well they where annoying as hell, but it wasn't enough to detract from this amazing natural landscape. I will have lots of photos posted of our time at the park but in case you are keen for some more info I have attached a link http://www.kalbarri.org.au/. The big ticket item at the park is Natures Window which is a rock formation that, as its name aptly describes, is in the shape of a window....a large window. Through the window is an amazingly beautiful view which has been the backdrop to millions and millions of tourist photos over the years. After several photos we hiked our way back to the car park (I am learning to be more literal in my descriptions through my Aussie interactions) and made our way back along the shore making a few stops along the coastline to enjoy the incredible views out over the Indian Ocean. Nigel was driving by this time and with possible rain creeping in around us we made a B-line for the beach to get a swim and SUP in before the weather turned. We tossed the truck into four wheel drive and headed down the beach pulling up wherever we wanted as we had the place all to ourselves. After a couple hours of relaxing on the beach we loaded up and started our trek back home, but not before a quick stop at a road side heritage site which was Port Gregory Convict Hiring Station back in the 1850's. This is where criminals from Britain would be deported to, housed and then if they were not too dangerous, they would be assigned farming jobs around WA. If they didn't make the cut for the work world, they were sent down the coast to Fremantle where they would be imprisoned. It was pretty cool to walk around this piece of history, taking time to appreciate a very impactful piece of Australia's history.

The following day (Sunday) would be our last day in Geraldton for a little bit as we made plans to head to Melbourne and then onto Queenstown, New Zealand. We made the most of our day though starting out our morning with some beach time and then heading out to a small animal rescue centre called Greenough Wildlife Park. Here we got to get up close with many of Australias native animals for just $10 each. Dingo's, emus, ostriches, crocodiles, birds, snakes, camels and of course kangaroos - they had it all. There was even an albino Kangaroo hanging out at this place. You even get to feed the animals, which was a lot of fun when we got to the Kangoroos who would prop themselves up on the fence like a parent watching their kid at a baseball game and then would jostle around getting into position for the feeding. This became known as kangaroo selfie time for Angel and Sherry. On the way back to town we made the traditional tourist stop at the leaning tree for a photo, then it was back to the boarding house to pack. You will see photos of the leaning tree coming soon and I will describe it better there. But the short and sweet if it is the the winds of off of the west coast apparently blow so hard that they force the trees to grow low and to the ground in the same direction as the wind is going - this is not entirely true as there is some more science to it the that but I will explain that later in the pictures.

Alright, that seemed like a lot and hopefully I didn't lose too many readers along the way. This won't be the last you will hear of Gerladton but it is time to move onto our travels to the east which where filled with lots more fun and craziness. Thanks for hanging in there and please don't hesitate to email me at sshewfel@msn.com if you ever have questions about our travels and are looking for more info. It is so hard to pack it all in and I know I have left lots out.


Shayne and Sherry

Posted by Shewy 05:10 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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