WA! The Red North

The Red North
After South West Australia, I didn't know what to expect of the wild wilde north west, and that's exactly why I fell so much in love with it. It is so wild, so wide, so preserved and genuine - and so are the people there, that it was impossible for me not to.
The Red North

Aah, Kalbarri... I spent such an amazing time there that it's the only place I came back to. I met wonderful people, the weather was so nice, and there are so many things to do! Kayaking, sunset cruising, walking the trail of the National Park... And of course, horseback riding. I write "of course", because I actually worked for a couple of weeks at the Big River Ranch during the school holidays, guiding the rides along the Murchinson River, and it was just great... Living for a while a life I often dreamed of is truly priceless. 
The town is at the mouth of the Murchinson river, allowing a lot of water activities and there are great surfing spots and ocean cliffs around. My description might seem poor, but I really recommend experiencing the tranquil charm of this beautiful place. In their "winter", the temperature is still around 30°C, while in summer, the heat in the National Park can go up to 50°C!

Just like Kalbarri, Exmouth is a small country town, but unlike Kalbarri, there's not much to do apart from water activities around the Ningaloo Reef. Exmouth lies on the East side of the peninsula, where the coast is unremarkable, meaning you need a car to enjoy Cape Range National Park, the Ningaloo Reef and the sunset, which are a good 50 km on the West side. I spent 3 weeks there, and I really enjoyed the low pace and the calm of the YHA.
Three important things to experience in Exmouth, from the least to the most:
- snorkelling at Oyster Stacks on a high tide, it is simply amazingly rich with underwater life. People usually stop at Turquoise Bay, because the beach is pristine, but you definitely should go on 5 more km to Oyster Stacks and enjoy the life there...
Turquoise Bay honors its name...
- swim with whalesharks. It is very expensive, around 380 $ for a full day including one snorkelling and swimming with the whaleshark. For the good of this wonderful fish, it is very regulated, that is to say one boat can only stay one hour with one whaleshark, and you cannot dive with them, just swim on the surface. But if you're lucky, you can spot more than one shark, and at the end of May, people were lucky enough to spot some Manta Rays and Humpbacks as well. So on the whole, it is a great experience.
- Dive in the Navy Pier. It is said to be one of the Top 10 dives in the world, and frankly, it lives up to this reputation. The setting is so amazing, and the waters are so rich with life that you simply cannot believe your eyes. My favorite moment: when a nurse shark came circling around us for a good 5 minutes. And it is cleary the best safety stop I've ever done in my life!

Risking to cross some people's opinions, I didn't like Broome, that's why I didn't stay long. The weather is rather hot during the dry season (fyi, there is no wet season in Exmouth, it only rains 30 days a year), and the town itself is cut in half by the airport, so wherever you are, you can always hear planes landing or taking off. 
But first I need to tell you how to get there. There is one overnight bus, on Wednesdays and Fridays, costing 200 $ and lasting 16h to go across the 1300 km separating Exmouth from Broome. I always thought people were exaggerating when they were scared of overnight bus drivers not driving straight. I mean, those drivers are obviously well trained professionals, and if there were any risks of accidents, we would have heard of them, and the company would have become bankrupt, right? At least, that's what I always thought, and why I always blindly trusted my life in their hands.
But let me tell you how Integrity Coach line works: There are two drivers, and they depart Perth the day before (so Tuesdays and Thursdays), and arrive in Broome on the morning of Thursdays and Saturdays. They have one day to rest, and go back the same way on the evening of Thursdays and Saturdays. Just to tell you how tired or superhuman they should be, and the roads in Western Australia are notoriously long, straight and boring... Let's just say that the uncomfortable position in which to sleep became the uncomfortable position allowing me the least harm in case of a crash, as the driver kept driving in zigzags during the night.
Anyway, I came out of this ordeal alive, and I really didn't like the atmosphere of the town. The YHA was full of young backpackers working and partying, some parts of the town are 100% aboriginal, and despite the roadsigns stating "no alcohol", they were still drunk and aggressive.
It was actually the first place in Australia I didn't feel safe walking at night.
Besides, honestly, Cable Beach is not that great a beach. Of course, I missed the Staircase to the Moon, but I wasn't feeling like staying 2 weeks there, so I just took a walk around the japanese cemetry and Chinatown - including Matso's Brewery serving amazing ginger beer and mango beer.

So on the whole, I really enjoyed Western Australia, especially with the warm weather up north., and when I come back in Australia, I will definitely prioritize this part of the country, and this time, with a 4WD van!

Next: the roadtrip to Monkey Mia


Reading List

When you travel, you have a lot of time to read, between the buses, the planes, the connexions... And if you're lucky enough to have a kindle or any other kind of electronic reading device, you have enough books at your disposal for 300 lives.

As you can see on the right of this blog, my reading list is getting longer and longer, but today I want to talk about Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coelho.

I love Paulo Coelho, I've loved all his books, except maybe The Winner stands alone, but only because I found it hard to get into the main character, but nevertheless, it was a good "exercice de style", as we say in French. So when he posted on his blog extracts from his latest book, I knew I would love it. And that I did.

I mean, I'm not even half way through, and I felt compelled to write about it, isn't that proof enough?

This book is the kind of book you think is written especially for you. It talks about hardships, love, defeat, beauty, solitude, adventures on the path of Life and so on, and even though God's presence is often there, it also inspire non-believers like me. It is exactly the kind of book I would recommend anyone who has taken a step forward, out of their comfort zone, to live the dream, whichever dream that may be. It's like every sentence could be used as an inspirational quote for Zenpencils.

So, seriously, read it. And don't hesitate to leave your impressions of the book in the Comment section!

NB: even the man's blog is inspirational, he really is like a role model for me. He is the Copt.



Western Australia is all kinds of frustrating. I mean, it is so big, you just can't see everything. And it's particularly true if you don't have a car. Every day, I felt the frustration of not having a car, but I simply don't have the budget, and I just have to trust how far my feet can lead me. Once again, one of the things that put me off is... everything I planned. It may sound contradictory, but if I hadn't planned anything, I would probably have been more efficient in my travels.

As I already told you, Australians don't bother with the complicated things. After having cut the East in 3 states and one territory, they cut the center in two, and finally left the west as a whole state. So on this big chunk of the continent, I concentrated my travels between the south coast and the north coast.

Green South
My vision of the Green South Western Australia is reduced to the triangle formed by Perth, Esperance and Margaret River. As the title suggests, the paddocks are actually green, and not a dry yellow like in South Australia.

Esperance is not a city you pass by or go to by chance. You must really want to go there to see it. There are regular buses from Perth, but not daily, and the plane via Skywest is quite expensive. And as far as I know, it's as far East in WA as you can go if you don't have a car.
Also, if you don't have a car, you can't go to Cape Legrand NP, as it is some 50 kms away from the city, and if the pictures don't lie and the coast is as beautiful as it was near Esperance, it's really worth it, you should really do it. I didn't, because renting a car wasn't on the budget, and I am not fit enough to try to go there by bike. So I just did what was available by foot.
The Pink Lake is about 12 kms from the YHA, and you have to have a clear day to really see it pink, and even then, it depends on the alga's mood at the time whether you will see it at its "pinkest". I didn't.
you can see the reflection is colored, but it's not as pink as it could be...
But I was glad I walked the extra mile on the side of the road, because it was still worth seeing.
After that, I walked back in the city, and followed one the "10 000 steps" walks that Esperance suggests to its inhabitants to stay fit and be active, which led me to West Beach.
one of the many perfect beaches in WA
I didn't stay much in Albany, because the weather wasn't very nice at that time, but compared to Esperance, it is a bit livelier, and the city is proud of its "First Settlement" origins. Also, there is a bit more to see, as the city is caught between the coast and the mountains. Fun fact, from Albany on, I mostly met backpackers at the end of their first WHV, waiting on their second one, as if Western Australia was left for the end of the trip.

Margaret River
The road from Albany to Margaret River (via Bunburry) was beautiful. Once again, Highway 1 didn't disappoint, and you drive along impressive Karri forests. And once in Margaret River, well, you quickly realize there is so much to do here! Surfing (of course), skate boarding, horse riding, rock climbing, abseiling, caving, trekking... And for WHV holders, it is also well organized for work in vineyards.

I personally chose a full day tour with rock climbing and abseiling around the Tourist Drive 250 and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. First we went climbing on the Wilyabrup cliffs, right in the middle of the Cape to Cape trail, with a beautiful coastal landscape.

We then had lunch at Cowaramup Bay, in Gracetown, a good spot for surfing - and spotting dolphins very close to the shore!
In the afternoon, we went abseiling in one of the 290 caves in the Leeuwin Naturaliste NP, a cave called Bride Cave only accessible via abseiling, and it was gorgeous, like an untouched patch of Earth full of history... Even though the Fossil Cave in Naracoorte was more glamourous, this experience is one of the best I had of the Green South.

Fremantle is a pretty suburban harbor south of Perth, accessible via TransPerth train (11$ return) or via the river ferry (much more expensive, but apparently worthwhile). The city is charming, but should not take more than a day trip from Perth. The real attraction (to me, anyway) was the Little Creatures brewery, which offers visits of the brewery (at 1, 2 and 3 PM), and a good Beer and Food experience at the edge of the harbor.

I must say that I didn't enjoy Perth as much as I should have.
On my first stop there, I went to an orchestra performed by the Western Australia Orchestra, which was quite good.
On my second stop, one of the friends I made earlier took me to the Hillarys and woodvale, with a great atmosphere.
On my third stop, I decided to try an indoor climbing structure called Hangout in Bayswater, a nice and quiet neighborhood.
Just like Melbourne, I think Perth is a city you really discover when you actually live in it. I only saw a bit of it, but I found it very promising.

Next is: The Red North