Our plan was to explore Western Australia before heading East to Melbourne. With the South covered in our last road trip and the Indian Ocean lying to our West there was only one more place to go…. North!
As Western Australia is vast the options were limited. A proper vehicle would be expensive and with at least 60 hours of driving ahead of us to see what we wanted it was not appealing. That left us with the only option of taking an organised tour. Not what we normally go for.
We booked with a company called Aussie Wanderer, on their 5 day trip from Perth to Exmouth.
By only going one way we could stay a few more days in Exmouth and fly back at a cheaper price than the boring return leg to Perth. It was all coming together..
We would leave on Friday. With no pickup available in Fremantle we opted to wait outside the Hyatt Hotel in Perth for our 8am pickup. Hopefully everyone else on the bus would not think we were snobs! We arrived at the hotel and eagerly awaited our pickup. Unfortunately Perth’s one way system kicked in again and it wasn’t until 80 minutes later that a gingerly young tour guide, decked out in bush ranger gear walked up to us. This was Tom and he would prove to be an amazing guide and new friend over the next few days.
Thinking back now, we must have looked like a pair of jakies, hanging outside the Hyatt eating yoghurts and sitting on our backpacks.
So onto the tour. We had a few more pickups to go before the full ensemble was gathered together. Our tour had a mixture of 12 people, 10 different nationalities in fact, and luckily there were no real pains on the tour. That helps massively and was a huge relief. See our post on Halong Bay to see what we mean!
We had a long drive ahead of us to our first stop… The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park.
The Pinnacles are a group large limestone formations, situated near the town of Cervantes about 162km north of Perth. Much debate exists as to their formation. The main theory is that they used to be submerged trees that calcified over time to leave these limestone trunks when the groundwater dried up.
To really get into the Pinnacles you need to drive through what can only be described as a level in Mario Kart – a winding narrow track through the desert sands. The Nissan Micra wouldn’t have stood a chance!
Our guide Tom was great and helped us with picking out the best photos as well as bringing the van to a screeching halt every time he spotted a creature. A few times he carried out a show and tell session.
The Pinnacles were quite different to what we had seen so far – pretty unique and felt like an alien world. Immediately the trip was paying dividends.
In 1995, the Big Yin (aka Billy Connolly) danced naked around them while chanting an Aboriginal song as part of his World Tour of Australia. Karen declined politely, to replicate the performance of her fellow Scot.
We would like to show you Billy in action there but this is a PG-13 blog so luckily they are also featured in the music video for “Standing On The Shore” by Aussie electronic act Empire of the Sun, so we can show you that instead.
After the Pinnacles it was time for a lunch stop at the nearby, hilariously named, Hangover Bay. Another beautiful beach – WA is full of them.Here we tucked into some barbecued Hot Dogs and got a chance to size up the cooking abilities of the other group members. At this point we also started to get to know our new travel companions.
After lunch it was a helluva drive north to the Kalbarri Ranch, where we would be staying that night. On the way we got up close and personal with our first Thorny Devil. Well John did anyways!
That evening the battle lines were drawn between the group members who could cook and the other two groups.. Can’t Cook and Won’t Cook. Being gluten free, Karen put herself at the forefront of the cooking over this trip to ensure she wasn’t poisoned by gluten or missed out. With 13 mouths to feed and a single wok to use the dinner choice that first night would need to be good – stir fry – disaster!
John managed to commandeer a second wok and working in batches our crack team of chefs (Karen, Sandra and Tomohiko) managed to create a half decent stir-fry. The Japanese girl, Tomohiko, took over the rice cooking duties. Nothing like local knowledge as HSBC would say 🙂
It would be an early start the next morning and a full day’s activities starting in the nearby Kalbarri National Park.