Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Well, we did it. The Great Aussie Roadie is over. We made it to Perth in one piece.

Twenty-two thousand two hundred and  thirty two kilometres, four months and two and a half thousand litres of petrol after leaving our front door in Bronte, Sydney, we pulled up outside Katie's brother's house in Perth  yesterday afternoon.

After the magnificence of Shark Bay and our discovery of The Beach I doubted we'd have another highlight on our way south to Perth, but we did have one more good discovery.

Sandy Cape Recreation Reserve, on Indian Ocean Drive, was pretty cool. Only about 300km north of Perth, it's a beautiful spot, with a wild coastline, pristine white sand beaches, some good 4WD tracks for a bit of a play in the sand, and camp sites by the beach for $15 a night for two people.

Sandy Cape Recreation Reserve

There aren't any facilities besides a bush loo, but once again the 6km dirt road in puts a lot of people off so it's not too crowded even during school holidays.

We spent a couple of nights there just lazing around really, not wanting to leave as we knew it signaled the end of the Roadie. We visited the Pinnacles Desert in the nearby national park, which was interesting enough but we agreed we were pleased we had a national parks pass and hadn't had to pay the $11 entry fee.

The problem with seeing so many incredible things over the last four months is that you become extremely hard to impress.

The Pinnacles Desert

We found that in Kalbarri National Park, some 600km up the road from Perth. It's full of river gorges and wildflowers and while it's very pretty, it's frankly not a patch on Karijini National Park 1000km further north, or Litchfield back in the Northern Territory.

After Kalbarri we had a night free camping in some sand dunes we found a little south of the town before heading to Sandy Cape. Then it was time for a final night before hitting Perth, and we chose Guilderton, a lovely little seaside town just 90km north of the big smoke.

The coastline around Kalbarri National Park

The campground was heaving with families and it we had to pay $29 but we didn't mind. We wanted to be near a fish and chip shop and a bottle-o so we could have a final beer and watch the sun set on our great adventure.

Nature's Window, Kalbarri National Park
So here we are in Perth. Although to be honest we haven't actually seen it yet. We've spent the past 24 hours luxuriating in the novelty of being indoors. There's no wind. You don't have to go outside to go to the bathroom. Toasters. Electric jugs. A bed.

In the days to come though I suspect we might need a re-integration programme of some sort. Being on the road becomes addictive after a while. You fall into a rhythm; get up, make a coffee, eat breakfast, pack up the tent, drive, find a good spot, put up the tent, have a swim/walk, cook some dinner, read your book, go to bed.

Then get up in the morning and do it all over again.

Celebrating the end of our adventure with a beer and fish and chips, Guilderton

There are people who never manage to give it up, of course. Some travelers just keep on going, round and round. This country is so big you can spend years behind the wheel without ever driving down the same road. We stuck mostly to the coast and still managed to travel more than 20,000km. And that was only as far as Perth.

If you ventured more inland, onto the hundreds of Outback roads that run ruler-straight for thousands of kilometres across this brick-red land you'd reach six figures in no time at all.

The road goes on forever, and the highway never ends.

Smoke gives the appearance of storm clouds over the road to Kirijini National Park

PS I'll do a final, best-of post in a few days time, so stay tuned.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Everyone has a version of The Beach in their mind’s eye.

You know. The picture postcard-perfect white sand, blue-green sea, sun shining from a cloudless sky, lounging around with a good book, and best of all, no-one else around.

Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia

The days would be warm, but not too hot. The nights would be cool, but  not so cool you couldn’t sleep. The water would be refreshing and, although probably shark-infested, croc-free.

Not only that, but in this perfect scenario the beach would be in a national park – so no idiots on jet skis – with camping permitted for a few dollars a night.

And the beach would be down a long, very sandy 4WD only track, wiping out 99 percent of potential visitors at a single stroke.

It’s a funny thing about 4WD roads in this country. Almost everyone has a hulking great gleaming hunk of metal with enormous tires and enough chrome to plate a ship. Outside of Sydney, it’s considered almost un-Australian not to own a 4WD vehicle.

But here’s the thing. Most people don’t take them off-road.

Sitting back and taking it: Camping on The Beach

I’ve been staggered by the lack of adventurous spirit shown by many 4WD owners in Australia. Either they don’t want to get their pride and joy dirty or they lack the nerve. Or maybe they only bought one because their neighbours did. I don’t know.

But I’ve heard all the excuses. The wife and kids wouldn’t like it. I’ve just had my CV joints replaced. My CV joints are shot. I need new tires. I’m towing.

Well, old Chuckie’s CV joints are shot and the tires are worn smooth from over 20,000km of mostly off-road driving. But we’ll still give most things a go. Usually it’s OK. And if not, there’s always a spade and help close at hand.

Take the other day for example. I was trying to do a three-point turn in very soft sand, which isn’t easy. I gave it just a bit too much throttle and Chuckie shot backwards and next thing I knew I’d driven half-way up one of those bollards they erect to stop you driving on the sand dunes.

The car was basically impaled by the bumper, and no amount of acceleration would drive it off.

So swallowing my pride, I approached the only other two guys within a 20km radius, who were enjoying a beer and a spot of fishing, and asked for a hand.

Once they had stopped laughing (and this took quite a few minutes) they lifted one end of the bumper while I floored it, and this gave me just enough traction to drive Chuckie off. We were on our way again, although I must admit the bumper is now a little askew.

Sunset from The Beach

Anyway, I digress.

We’d been searching for the perfect beach for the past four months as we’ve driven around Australia. And, just 800km north of Perth and a week away from the end of our journey, I reckon we’ve finally found it.

We’ve been here for three days now, watching the shags swoop and dive over the ocean, the sun coming up and going down, the rhythm of the tides, going for swims and beach walks and the odd adventure drive.

Although it’s the middle of the school holidays, there are just three other groups here, plus a smattering of day-trippers. The nearby town, only half an hour’s drive away, is crawling with families.

I’d always been on the look-out for such a place on our travels, but to be honest I’d almost given up hope of finding it.

We’ve been to many places of spectacular beauty over the past 14 weeks. Gorgeous beaches, stunning lakes, amazing rivers, awesome gorges, breath-taking vistas.

But there was always something that stopped it from being The Place. You couldn’t swim. It was too cold. It was too hot. It was raining. It was too busy. Or too expensive. Or you couldn’t camp there. Or you could camp there, but only in a Hi-Di-Hi holiday park.

Yet we persevered. And we found it. The absolute ultimate beachside slice of paradise. Great swimming, amazing sunsets, cheap-as-chips camping, and almost no-one to bother us. The thought of having to leave pains us greatly. In fact, I’d consider living here if I wasn’t about to run out of money to buy beer.

So where is it, you ask, reaching for the phone to book your air ticket to Perth and your 4WD rental.  
Where can I find The Beach?

Ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it. Didn’t you read the book? If I tell you, you’ll tell everyone else, and the next thing I know someone will be blathering about it all over the internet and in five years’ time 
there’ll be condos and a sealed road in here.

So I could tell you. But then I’d have to kill you.

View near The Beach

PS If you really want to know, email me at But just don’t tell everyone, OK?