The boy’s face was pale and his cheeks were slightly hollow – showing versus telling

Stairwell

Bran took his car keys from the ignition and flipped through the file he got from the children’s court. Both parents were still in the picture, that was something at least. Mum had psychological difficulties, but the most acute problems came from dad’s alcohol abuse and his loose hands.
 Their 15-year-old son Mark had had a couple of incidents with the police. Nothing too serious so far, but it hadn’t done the relationship with his father any good. A recent collision between the two had resulted in a couple of firm smacks for Mark. A visit to the first aid had been inevitable, and a red flag had been raised at youth care.
 Bran put the file in his bag and got out of the car. The fierce wind brushed against his neck. For a moment, he hesitated as he looked up at the big grey apartment building. Then he walked on, searching for the right entrance. Most of the nameplates had disappeared and some of the doorbells were plastered with chewing gum. Welcome to the north of Amsterdam.
 Bran only had to ring once before the buzzer sounded. He pushed the door open and stepped into the stairwell. Between the garbage and the old bikes, he worked his way up. The front door was ajar.
 ‘Hello? It’s Branimir Ulak, your family guardian.’ He pushed the door open and glanced into the hallway. Voices were coming from the room at the end. He walked in and peeked around the first door. From the bed, two eyes glared in his direction. The boy’s face was pale and his cheeks were slightly hollow, but his dark eyebrows and piercing eyes undoubtedly made him popular with the girls. His hands played with a pocket knife.
 ‘You must be Mark,’ Bran said while putting a smile on his face.

*****

Another interesting assignment from my writing course asked us to experiment with the old saying “show, don’t tell”. The first part of the scene had to tell us something about a new character, while the second part had to show an interaction between my original character (Bran) and the new character (max 350 words).

To avoid a summary of facts that would look very unnatural, I decided to introduce a court file for the telling part of the scene. 🙂

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^

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‘There’s someone at the door’

Boy at window

There was no time to brace himself. The air pressure blew him down the stairs and his head hit the floor. The last thing he saw, was a cloud of gravel and stones which swallowed Niko’s outstretched hand. A scream got lost in his throat.
 Panting, Bran shot upright. His hair stuck to his forehead and his cheeks were glowing. Breathe in, breathe out. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The cold shot through his feet and the haze disappeared. Next to him, a sigh escaped from his wife’s mouth. Her arm was lying protectively on her big belly.
 Bran got up, walked to the dresser in the corner and opened one of the drawers. His fingers found the gemstone effortlessly, and he felt the smooth surface. He closed his eyes and saw how his childhood friend proudly handed him the reddish-brown present. Fascinated, they had stared at the golden glittering, as if they now owned a piece of starry sky forever. It was the day before the blow.
 In the hallway, a floorboard cracked, followed by a hesitant squeak of Petar’s door. Bran’s eyes shot open and his heart rate accelerated. Suddenly he realised he hadn’t woken up because of his nightmare, it was the bang of a door that had helped him escape Sarajevo.
 Quietly, he pushed down the door handle. The hall seemed deceptively calm. Within three steps, he had reached his son’s bedroom, but he was sure he hadn’t left the door open that far. Holding his breath, he peeked around the corner. Even in the dark, he could see a tall figure next to Petar’s crib, his hands leaning on the wooden edge.
 Bran ran into the room and grabbed the intruder by the shoulder.
 ‘Sami!’ he called out in shock when the boy turned his face towards him. ‘What are you doing here?’
 His Syrian upstairs neighbour seemed anything but surprised to see Bran.
 ‘There’s someone at the door.’

*****

Another scene I wrote about my character Bran (I introduced him in my previous post). This time, the assignment for the Writers Academy (Schrijversacademie) was to write an opening scene that showed my character’s emotional state.

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^

‘If I remove the batteries, it will always stay today’

Goldstone

Bran rolled the gemstone between his fingers. He didn’t know where Niko got his facts from, but his friend had told him quite convincingly that the goldstone would give him positive energy and resourcefulness.
 A yawn escaped his mouth. He could definitely use those additional powers coming period. He put the stone under his pillow, lifted the blanket and stretched his legs. The urge to put his cold feet towards Lana was an easy one to resist today; she already had enough broken nights now that her belly was getting bigger.
 Bran glanced at the travel alarm on his bedside table. The red second-hand was ticking with conviction as always, but that wasn’t what got his attention. The big pointer wobbled slightly back and forth, but it did not come off 8:11 a.m. Exactly the time of the explosion.

Niko had once shown him a similar clock. It hadn’t been anything special, but for the two boys, it had felt as if they were sharing a big secret.
 ‘Look,’ Niko had said, ‘if I remove the batteries, it will always stay today.’
 It had been a day without any bombs. A breather of which they never knew how long it would last. A few hours later, Bran’s mum had called him down for dinner, but standing at the door, his eyes had eagerly rested at the frozen time at Niko’s desk.
 The clock probably hadn’t survived the attack.

Would he see Niko again? He hadn’t forgotten the fear of the first night, but his curiosity gained ground. For over twenty years, he had done everything to leave the past behind. To live for two. So why did he get drawn back to Sarajevo now?

*****

I wrote this scene as an assignment for the Writers Academy (Schrijversacademie) to experiment with flashbacks. The instructions were: your character goes to sleep and s/he remembers something > flashback > back to the present – max 350 words, inspired by a song.

The song that inspired me was Lifehouse – Broken:


I’ll tell you more about my character Branimir (Bran) in a later post.

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^

Nature’s emotions

Lamppost

The living room door opened and Emily turned around. Her eyes widened when she saw James coming in.
 ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go,’ she mumbled to Rose. Before she could reply, Emily walked passed James, into the hallway, out of the front door and across the driveway. The gravel protested under her feet, a brutal disturbance of a street at rest. Emily started to regret she still went to see them this late at night.
 She sprinted around the corner towards her bike, where she got swallowed by darkness. Startled, she looked up, but none of the street lights were on. It felt as if they had mutually agreed that whatever would happen down here wasn’t meant for anyone else’s eyes.
 Emily groped for the keys in her bag. She anxiously looked up at the house, but the darkness obstructed her view. She finally found her key chain and her shaking hands tried to insert the right key into the lock.
 The moment the lock jumped open, she heard a door. Once more, the crushing of the grey-white pebbles and footsteps rushing closer. The lack of lights seemed to enlarge every sound.
 Emily swung her leg over the saddle and pushed with all her strength. Her bike started moving: she bounced off the sidewalk, onto the road and into the dark street. Centimetres turned into metres, and in the distance, she saw one lamppost, a bright spot in the darkness.
 With a shock, her bike halted, Emily’s foot slipped from the pedal and her chest bumped into her handlebar. The light of the lamppost flickered one more time before it went out as well.

*****

I wrote this scene as an assignment for the Writers Academy (Schrijversacademie). It was a great way to find out how choosing the right landscape/decor can reflect your character’s emotions (max 300 words).

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^

 

Mini & Maxi – style experiment

Mini & Maxi

Minimalists versus maximalists – character is walking down the street – 3x 150 words

First (spontaneous) variant:
The September sun was almost out of sight when Emily left the police station. She regretted she hadn’t been able to find out anything about Lisa and her dad. Why did he suddenly appear?
 Preoccupied, she walked along the gravel path towards her bike, but even before she reached it, she noticed the flat tire. Another great thing to add to the list. She sighed and continued her journey towards the train station. Oh well, maybe she should see it as a bit of time for herself. How often did she have any of those lately?
 She looked around with renewed interest. Most people seemed to be heading home as quickly as possible. Only a few noticed what Emily saw: how the chestnuts were provocatively swinging above their heads. A little tuck from the wind would be enough for a surprise attack from Mother Nature.

Minimalistic variant:
Emily left the police station. She hadn’t been able to find out anything about Lisa and her dad today. She walked towards her bike, but it had a flat tire. Emily sighed and walked along in the direction of the train station.
She looked around at her fellow pedestrians. They all seemed to be heading home as quickly as possible. She was one of the few who noticed the chestnuts hanging on the trees above them. They could fall down any minute.

Tall story to tell in a bar:
Yesterday I finally finished work around 7pm, so I’m leaving the police station. What do you think? My bike has a flat tire!  Obviously, that sucked. It’s only a ten-minute walk to the train station, but still.
 So I walk along the Rijnburgersingel and I see a young lad with a couple of friends. They were playing around with a football, so they didn’t really pay attention where they were going.
 At some point, one of those boys kicked the ball real hard and it bounced off that big chestnut tree that’s standing there in the corner. Tick tick tick tick! The chestnuts come rushing down, right on top of the lad’s head! He didn’t know what hit him. Well, next time he’ll think twice before picking a fight with Mother Nature.

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^
 

Sense & Sensibility: the Wonderful World of Writing Assignments

As some of you know, I joined a writing course at the Writers Academy (Schrijversacademie) last January. So far, it’s been lots of fun and very inspiring. I just love experimenting with different perspectives, flashbacks, characters, etc. From spying on people at the train station, to making up entire lives for classmates I haven’t seen since I left primary school; every week we’re getting different tasks to challenge ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder how I can keep coming up with something original every time, but in the end, the assignments are set up in such a way, I generally end up at a part of my brain which spits out something useful. 😉

Anyhow, I decided to start sharing some (translations) of my writings, beginning with the first module “Develop your own style”. During this module, we practiced how landscapes/decors and objects can contribute to your character’s story, how you get totally different scenes when you change the tell tone, and how to use associations based on your senses.

Sense & Sensibility

Sharpen your senses – table scene, sensory details – 300 words

Emily turned over in her bed. The pillow got stuck to her neck and the blanket pressed against her restless body. She sighed, rose and threw her legs over the edge.
 It had been two hours, but she hadn’t had any sleep yet. She quietly slipped across the hallway and down the stairs. The steps squeaked slightly, but no reaction came from Lisa’s or Jesse’s bedroom.
 Hopeful she opened the fridge, looking for something to eat. The light blinded her and she closed the door quickly. Suddenly she heard the floor crack behind her. Her heart missed a beat and she turned around. She recognised Lucas’ silhouette immediately.
 ‘Sorry,’ he whispered, ‘I didn’t mean to scare you.’ He took a few steps towards her and she smelled the familiar blend of his sweet body scent and aftershave.
 At the same speed with which he had appeared, Emily’s body had woken up. Her heart pounded in her throat and her palms were sweating. She wanted to run away, but even more, she wanted to disappear into his arms.
 Somewhat dazed, she sat down at the table. Fortunately, he couldn’t see how red her cheeks were in the dark. She heard how he opened the fridge behind her and how he busied himself with some food. When he finally sat next to her, he put a cheese sandwich in front of her. The bread was cut into eight perfectly symmetrical, cut-out cubes.
 The tension fell off her and Emily shook her head, smiling. The everydayness of his gesture… as if he was used to doing it for her on a regular basis. She looked at him and saw the sparkle in his eyes she had missed so much.

Please feel free to comment on my brain pains. ^^
 

Exmouth to Broome: Alive & Climbing

One of the best parts of my trip so far has no doubt been the 4-day Aussie Wanderer tour from Exmouth to Broome. Or to be more specific: the stunning gorges of Karijini National Park. Even though it’s over 600 kilometres inland from the coast of Exmouth, I can promise you the full-day drive is totally worth it. That is, if you don’t mind conquering the hot plains above to descend into a much cooler place, surrounded by steep rock walls, climbing and swimming to get from one side to the other, to suddenly be rewarded with a beautifully clear pool.
 
 
The 4 musketeers: Hancock, Weano, Joffre and Dales
You can admire a number of gorges at Karijini, but our first day at the national park started with a hike down Hancock Gorge, to be followed by the equally impressive Weano Gorge. A picture is worth a thousand words, but unfortunately I couldn’t bring my camera since we had to swim our way through the gorge. Luckily some of us had waterproof equipment, so I’m gratefully sharing some of their shots.
 
So what made me feel so alive while being down at these gorges? Was it the thrill of climbing along slippery rocks, having to be careful where to place our feet and hands, not grabbing any snakes or spiders along the way? Or was it the refreshing water which cooled down our very overheated bodies? Whatever it was, the brochure’s description of a class 5 trail (which we survived 3 of) wasn’t very encouraging: “Expect to encounter natural hazards including large boulders; pools of water; slippery, wet rocks; and narrow, high ledges.”
 
 
Our third track, Joffre Gorge, definitely met its class 5 expectations of “steep sections with vertical drops”. Luckily, we had our very own knight in shining armour (or self-appointed “boyfriend material”), our guide Damien aka Damo, who kindly told us where we could safely place our feet. This was especially useful at spots where we couldn’t really see where we were going since the descend was too steep.
 
At our second day at Karijini, we got rewarded for our first day’s dangerous efforts by the friendly Dales Gorge. The steps of this welcoming class 4 trail brought us all the way down to Fern Pool, where we enjoyed our last refreshing dip before spending the rest of the day in our van heading to Port Hedland.
 
Spider Walk and Handrail Pool
One thing I know, is that the Spider Walk in Hancock Gorge and the Handrail Pool in Weano Gorge made me appreciate the peaceful pools at the end of the climbs even more. Don’t worry, the Spider Walk didn’t mean we had to fight our way through a nest of Harry Potter Aragogs. The name only suggested how to climb down the gorge, with your arms and legs pushing against the rock walls (- see top left picture of the first collage).
 
Handrail Pool, however, did mean we had to overcome our fear of turning a steep corner while holding on to a handrail. Slipping and letting go of the rail would result into falling quite a few metres down a steep wall and crashing onto the rocks. If you’d survive this fall at all, you’d definitely have a couple of broken bones. On top of that, you’d have to wait several hours for a helicopter to come and rescue you. Fortunately, we all had our happy ending by making it back alive.
 
 
Glamping versus swagging
Being a backpacker, you try not to get your hopes up as far as accommodation is concerned. Squeaky beds, dark and smelly rooms; hostels are not the right fit for everyone. That said, sleeping at Karijini Eco Retreat was a whole different level of backpacking. Our dorm tents did have the usual bunkbeds, but the warm northern temperatures made it possible to create see-through walls. In other words: I could see the sunrise from my bunkbed!
 
I wouldn’t call it glamping in the traditional sense though, since it normally doesn’t include frogs in the toilet and shower, and snakes and spiders at night. As soon as the sun set, we had to wear proper shoes and carry around a torch, in case those little critters decided to cross the road at the same time as us. My tour mate Ali and I actually ran into 2 snakes and a reasonably sized spider on our very short walk from reception to the camp site.
 
 
You might wonder why we would risk our lives by taking a nightly stroll. The answer is, we signed up for a yoga class which would take place at 6.20 the next morning. For me, this was the first time I ever joined an official yoga session (- not taking into account my fruitless efforts on the Wii Fit Plus balance board), but I have to say I couldn’t have picked a better spot. Looking at the beautiful fields of Karijini made it a peaceful experience despite our bodies being bend into impossible ways. Even though the scenery won’t be as nice, I might look for a beginner’s yoga class when I’m back in Haarlem. 🙂
 
Having spent 2 nights in the luxurious Eco Retreat, switching to sleeping-bag-type-swags was a bit of an adjustment. On top of that, we had to wake up at 5, which made it a very short night, but somehow falling asleep looking at the stars always eases the pain.
 
Broome: sunsets and camels
After 4 unforgettable days and a lot of driving, we finally arrived in Broome. Hot and humid are the best words to describe this town up north. The aircon in my dorm at Beaches of Broome was a bless, even though it meant having to get used to the extreme temperatures every time I left the room.
 
Still, we conquered the heat to watch some crocs eating chicken at Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park, and I even rented a bike one day. To be honest, cycling felt way better than walking, and it was much cheaper than using Broome’s pricy taxis. An upside to the warm temperature was that the weather was perfect to go to the world’s oldest operating picture gardens. In the Netherlands, you have to be lucky it is not raining, but in Broome, Ali and I could safely watch Bridget Jones’s Baby outdoors.
 
The best thing about this town were the sunsets. I went to Cable Beach almost every night to see the sun drop into the ocean. The colour of the sky before and after, it was simply magnificent. What made it even more special, were the camels passing by, their shadows reflecting on the wet sand…
 
 
So, next time you’re looking for a holiday destination, I hope you’ll consider Western Australia. I know for sure I won’t be forgetting Karijini National Park, Hellfire Bay, Rottnest Island, or any of the other places I visited anytime soon.
 

Perth to Exmouth: from water world to Aussie salute

Although I’ve bombarded you with quite a few pictures over the last month, it’s already been a while since my last post. So much has happened since I left Perth; I hardly know where to start.

In the last 5 weeks alone, I’ve joined 4 very different but all so worth it guided tours (Perth to Exmouth, Exmouth to Broome, Alice Springs to Adelaide, and Kangaroo Island), so I’ll tell you a little bit about all of them in the next few days.

Perth to Exmouth: 1,800+ km in 5 days

During my trip to Esperance, I already got a first glimpse of the beautiful things the west coast has to offer. How diverse the scenery is, hit me even more when I travelled up to Exmouth (and later Broome) with Aussie Wanderer. Our 6 all-girls tour group – love you, ladies! – hardly left Perth when the temperature started rising and we felt the famous Western Australian heat.

First stop were The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park, a yellow desert full of odd limestone formations. For me, even more impressive was our destination at the end of the day: Kalbarri National Park with its massive red and white gorge, and well-known Nature’s Window. (I even went abseiling from a 25-meter-high rock wall the next day!)

Since I returned to Australia, I realise how much I love morning hikes. Getting up earlier than I would normally prefer, these walks are a perfect way to grasp nature waking up. Call me sentimental, but there’s just something about the first rays of sunlight touching the earth. Some newlyweds must have thought the same thing because they were doing a photoshoot, all dressed up in their wedding outfits, overlooking Kalbarri’s gorge. Either that, or they were just two models working on a fashion shoot. 🙂

Water sport heaven

The main attractions of trips up to Exmouth, however, are Indian Ocean related. If snorkelling or diving are your thing, it’s not only the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast that can please you; the west coast has just as many beautiful fish and coral. Add some whale watching, swimming with manta rays or whale sharks, and of course the wild dolphin experience at Monkey Mia, and every water sports addict will be drooling.

Unfortunately, nature will always be unpredictable so both our trips to swim with manta rays in Coral Bay and spot whales in Exmouth were cancelled due to risky winds at sea. Luckily, I stayed in Exmouth a few more days before moving on to Broome, which meant I could do the whale watching tour on another day. I felt really sorry for the other girls who had been looking forward to these water excursions so much because they were returning to Perth the next day.

Whale watching on a big catamaran was a great experience. A bit scared if I would conquer my seasickness after taking only one travel sickness pill, I sailed off into a very friendly sea together with two Germans, two Dutch grey nomads and the Aussie captain. At first, it seemed we wouldn’t see that many whales, but the closer we got to sunset, the more whales kept popping up. Some were really close, others further away, never to be spotted again after their first sighting.

The highlight of the afternoon was a whale mum who decided she needed some rest on her travels down south. While she was sleeping, she stayed above the water the entire time and her calf kept swimming around her; she obviously didn’t think we were a threat. On our way back to shore, they were still there. Magnificent creatures!

Snorkelling for dummies

To be honest, I’m not much of a snorkeler. The last time I voluntarily put my head underwater with a snorkel in my mouth must have been at the Whitsundays during my Australia holiday 7 years ago. It just doesn’t feel natural. The whole breathing through your mouth, eyes open, and not having to squeeze your nose to prevent water from coming in… I’m not a fan.

So the first time we rented snorkels at Coral Bay and water kept coming into my mouth every 5 seconds, I thought it was me. That I somehow didn’t hold my head in the right position or I was biting on my snorkel too firmly which might have created little holes in it or something. While the other girls swam further into the ocean to look at some nice coral, some sweet green fish with yellow tails and blue fins kept me company by swimming around my legs in the less deep water. I slowly got used to the wonderful world of snorkelling, albeit I had to continuously empty my snorkel.

How much more fun was my experience the day after, while snorkelling at the heavenly blue Turquoise Bay! Without getting water into my snorkel, I finally understood what everyone was so enthusiastic about. Though I still didn’t swim too far from the coast, it was truly a great adventure to see all the different fish and coral. (And I’m sort of glad I didn’t see the small shark the others bumped into while snorkelling further away.)

Aussie salute

One of the things I don’t recall from my trip to Oz in 2009, is the number of flies. I’m not sure if there just weren’t that many of them that year, or if I blocked them from my memory, but they are definitely here now. You might think Aussies just like to wave at you (which is actually also true – drivers still make friendly hand gestures while passing each other on the highway), but this is in fact the so-called ‘Aussie salute’.

You know when flies are trying to sit on your eye balls, lips, nose, ears, etc. and you wave your hand in front of your face to scare them off? That’s it. If you visit Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory, you better start practising. Or buy a fly net, it’s up to you. Although they did annoy me from time to time, I must say the flies didn’t influence my feelings for this country too much. Even without a fly net, I was able to breathe in and appreciate the beauty around me (…while shallowing 1 or 2 flies along the way).

In a nutshell…

A trip from Perth to Exmouth means hotness, dusty red earth, green bushes, hundreds of flies, but above all: stunning white beaches and a magical world right there to admire in the clear blue ocean. Or as my lovely tour mate Becca would say: lots of peak happiness!

Rottnest Island: bike heaven covered in banana peel

It’s almost been 3 weeks since I visited Rottnest (known as Wadjemup to the local Noongar people), but the island made a long-lasting impression on me. This beauty is located only 18 kilometres west of Fremantle (which is a short train ride from Perth), but for someone who gets seasick easily, it’s always exciting to see if I can make it to the other shore without throwing up. Luckily I took some travel sickness pills with me and on the way to Rotto, a couple of whales even came by to say hello and distract me from the waves.
 
You’ve got this!
Once you set foot on the island, the rolling ocean has been forgiven and forgotten. The friendly Rottnest Express lady hands you your bike and helmet, and off you go. The biggest challenge I had to face was not cycling itself but remembering I had to ride on the wrong (left) side. Though the roads were so quiet, most of the time I could just stay in the middle.
 
Because that’s the great thing about Rottnest: there are hardly any cars! Occasionally, you see the bus service or an island ranger passing by, but that’s it; you are the king/queen of the road! Being a Dutchie, it’s not difficult to imagine how amazing I felt cruising those hills. The sky was slowly turning blue and the ocean was even bluer. But just in case you didn’t feel very confident yet after those first kilometres, someone left you some encouraging words on the road: you’ve got this!
 

Attack of the Quokkas
Obviously there is one thing Rottnest is famous for: their quokkas. Rotto actually has to thank some Dutch guys for its name, because they were under the impression the island was inhabited by giant rats (rott – nest). They didn’t know these cat sized animals were actually the always smiling quokkas. Two things I learned from my day among these cute creatures is that they are not afraid of people (on the contrary: they like to climb on humans and bikes), and it’s impossible to eat a banana while they are around.
 
Basically, the moment the quokkas had me in their vision, they decided it was a good idea to check out what I was carrying in my bag by sticking their heads inside it. My banana also had their immediate attention, meaning they were jumping against my legs and climbing me to get closer. Since quokka selfies are a big thing at the moment, I couldn’t resist to give it a try, especially since it was obvious they weren’t camera shy. The result: a lot of close-ups of quokka claws and noses, and my camera covered in banana peel. But hey, how could I not forgive them?
 

Private beach
Luckily Rottnest is also the perfect place to recover from all this quokka violence. Just keep cycling until you find a private beach and enjoy the peace and quiet. Just be careful not to swim too far from the shore since shark attacks are not uncommon.
 
I have to say I wasn’t sure if I should go to Rottnest Island since the ferry plus bike hire was fairly expensive (about $100) and the weather predictions were not that great, but I am sooo glad I decided to do it! Rottnest has definitely won my heart and if I ever return to Perth, bike heaven is right there at the top of my list. One of the best days I’ve had since I arrived in Australia, even despite my sunburned bike hands. ^^
 

 

Secrets of Esperance: wild flowers, chicken roulade and the bluest of blues

When was the last time you fell asleep listening to the ocean?

When was the last time you fell asleep listening to the ocean while wearing a capri under your long joggers, combined with a tank top, T-shirt, Provisionerd hoodie, vest, socks and hat? Inside a sleeping bag, inside a swag? ^^

If the answer is never, you still have about 6 days to quit your job and book a plane ticket to Australia, because sleeping in a swag under the stars is something you should experience at least once in your life.

Admittedly, it was a tiny bit cold, but who cares when you can wear the entire contents of your backpack? The award at the end of your suffering is a sky so full of stars, you want to switch careers to become an astronaut. Or a chicken roulade. One of those two.

Highlights of the Southwest

It’s already been 2.5 weeks since I started exploring the southwest coast of Australia, but it was so worth it that I have to tell you a bit more about it. Obviously, I don’t want to bore you with endless chitchat, so here are a couple of highlights you should definitely try to see if you ever decide to visit this region:

  • Wild flower season is totally worth adjusting your trip dates for
  • 360-degree view from Frenchman Peak in Cape Le Grand NP
  • Walking/climbing from Thistle Cove to Hellfire Bay – “it’s just an easy coastal walk”, “the worst is behind us”, “I’m sure we’re halfway there”
  • Kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay
  • Massive trees at Valley of the Giants
  • Crossing a fairy-tale forest on your way to the Granite Skywalk of Porongurup NP
  • Climbing the super scary former firemen’s Diamond Tree Lookout
  • Crazy blue ocean colours at Frenchman Bay, Greens Pool and many, many more beaches and bays
  • Oh yeah, and free chocolate at the Margaret River Chocolate Co.
 

Tour guide wisdom

Funnily enough, trips like this also teach you a bit more about the other gender. Firstly, surf dudes are not as tough as you’d think. I can safely say this because we didn’t see a single surf dude during those 6 days we were cruising the region. Apparently, their excuse was that the wind wasn’t right. Pfft.

Secondly, guided tours are mostly booked by girls. Somehow guys prefer to just buy a car and drive around themselves so they can enjoy their freedom. Which is fair enough, but it fascinates me, because I’ve always loved guided tours. In addition to being driven across the country while either enjoying the view or catching up on some sleep, you’re also bombarded with random facts and stories. About Australia’s complicated history with the Aboriginals and Europeans, the Rabbit Proof Fence (which we passed), salt lake beds, special plants and trees, naming conventions, scary shark stories; basically, anything you can think of.

That’s how I got my hands on some very crucial information about punching a shark in the face if it attacks you. Since that’s what saved one of our guides’ friends when he was bitten in the butt.

Another random fact is that Australia’s (unofficially recognised) national animal and national bird are the red kangaroo and the emu. The romanticised story is that neither of these animals can move backward, only forward; a symbol for progress. Unfortunately, I googled it and it turns out they can actually move backward as well, although only infrequently.

I also learned that “up” at the end of all those names for villages, national parks, flowers etc. (like Porongurup) actually means “place of” in Aboriginal language. Place of many trees, children, summer flies or wild turkeys. I’m not kidding, apparently “Mullalyup” means “place where the young men had their noses pierced”. 😀

Let’s leave it at that.