The Perks of Perth

It’s only been a few days, but Perth has already treated me to a bunch of firsts: the first kookaburra of my trip (spotted ‘in the wild’), the first heavy showers (followed by more heavy showers), and the first Germans (wouldn’t be able to live without them! ;)).

Bunkbed buddies
After two smooth 6.5 and 10.5-hour flights (transferring in Abu Dhabi), I arrived at my hostel in Perth on Wednesday afternoon. As an introvert, a hostel is the perfect place to step out of my comfort zone. All those strangers invading my personal space, sharing the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen; it’s something that needs some getting used to. Luckily everyone here is really laid back, and since it’s a pretty small hostel, it feels a bit like a student house. (Not that I ever lived in one since I very happily avoided that way of living while I was at university.)

Only three days in, I already have a special place in my heart for my 23-year-old Italian bunkbed buddy. Every time we’re trying to have a conversation in English, he’s looking at me with these big, scared Bambi eyes. It didn’t take long before we started using our hands, feet and Google Images to make sure we were actually talking about the same topic.

The biggest group of Europeans here, however, are ‘ze Germans’. I’m not sure yet if they were arranged by my dear ex-colleagues so I wouldn’t miss them too much, but if so, I appreciate the effort. Add a couple of Dutchies and a handful of French(wo)men, and you get a nice mixture of roommates.

Kings Park and Botanic Garden
So what have I seen so far? On Thursday, I had a stroll to the harbour which ended a bit sooner than expected since I didn’t even reach the bridge before it started pouring with rain. Even for someone who lives in the Netherlands, these were some impressive showers! After enjoying the view for about twenty minutes, it still didn’t get much better, so I went back to the shopping area by racing from one shed to the other.

I even considered going back to the hostel but in the end, I was really glad I didn’t, because by the time I reached Kings Park and Botanic Garden, the sun came out and the sky turned blue. The rest of the afternoon I spent walking around this beautiful park with over 3,000 species of flora. The sweet scent of some of the trees and flowers just woke up my holiday senses. Another plus is that Kings Park is located on a hill, which results in a great view of Perth’s skyline.

Freo Friday
On Friday, I hopped on a train to Fremantle, a smaller city with a hippy feeling, about 30 minutes from Perth. It was almost a shame that I don’t drink coffee because they even have a Cappuccino Strip to try some world famous black gold. Or so they say. ;)More interesting to me was Fremantle Markets, a typical indoor bazaar with little shops that sell mostly food and souvenirs. The Aboriginal relics reminded me of Hugh Grant walking down Portobello market in Notting Hill: “Thousands of people buy millions of antiques; some genuine… and some not so genuine”.

Secrets of Esperance
After a few days without having to set an alarm, I’m actually excited to say I’ll be picked up at a hostel down the road at 7 am tomorrow morning. My first 6-day guided tour from Lost in Australia is starting, and I’m thrilled to finally see some natural wonders of Western Australia. I’m especially looking forward to visiting the Valley of the Giants where we’ll be admiring some massive trees (and probably enjoy some tree hugging). Other highlights will be the white beaches of Esperance (including the odd sunbathing kangaroo), Wave Rock and last but not least: sleeping in swags under the stars.

Lost in Australia - Secrets of Esperance

Route Prepping

Part of the fun of travelling for 2.5 months is having the luxury of not planning everything in detail. If your holiday only lasts a week or two, you have no time to lose, so deciding where to go when is the smart thing to do. On the other hand, if time is on your side, there’s always the risk of “wasting” it. I decided my happy medium would be to prepare my route to a certain extent. Especially since I want to combine the west coast (where I haven’t been yet) with some highlights from the centre AND east where I’ve already been back in 2009.

The result? A route that covers all aspects of Australia’s beauty: white beaches, red outback, ancient forests, and cute wildlife. Not bad, I’d say. 😀 I haven’t booked any hostels yet, except for the first few nights in Perth, so I’m flexible in that respect. But I did book a bunch of tours already, mostly because some of them only leave once a week, and well… I’m Dutch and this way I could get a discount. 😉
Getting curious? Just take a closer look at the Google map below or read my itinerary:
> Perth
> Esperance (6-day tour via Wave Rock, Valley of the Giants and more)
> Perth
> Rottnest Island
> Perth
> Exmouth (5-day tour via the Pinnacles, Kalbarri NP and Coral Bay)
> Broome (4-day tour via Karijini NP)
> Alice Springs (flying via Perth)
> Uluru, King’s Canyon & Coober Pedy (6-day tour through the red centre)
> Adelaide
> Kangaroo Island (2-day tour)
> Adelaide
> Great Ocean Road (3-day tour)
> Melbourne
> Philip Island
> Melbourne
> flying to Tasmania (6-day tour)
> flying to Sydney
> flying to Brisbane
> Fraser Island (5-day tour including 2 days there and back by bus)
> Brisbane
> flying back home with a few hours of leg-stretching in Abu Dhabi!

Onwards and Downwards

Once upon a time… I was dreaming of going back to Australia.
Now my flight is booked and my last day at ReachLocal is getting closer. For almost 5 years, this silly office in Amsterdam Zuid was my second home. The place I spent most of my waking hours, a job where I grew up, laughed and cried, but most of all: where I had the pleasure of meeting the most wonderful people. Sticking around longer than the average soul didn’t only mean I got to know most of the mood swings of our platforms, it also meant I had to say goodbye a lot more often than I would have liked. Sometimes people spread their wings to expand their horizon, other times they were forced to leave due to financial setbacks.
Whatever the reason was, one thing I kept hearing afterwards was that their new job was great and they had learned so much new stuff, but they definitely missed our people. When the phrase “ReachLocal family” was used, it always sounded so American (no offence!), but it was true. We honestly cared about each other. Each leaver left a little hole in my heart. Just like every one of them made me think if I should be next. If I should start looking around for something new as well, since that seemed to be the normal thing to do. But I wasn’t ready yet. It felt like I wasn’t done. Why would I quit while I still enjoyed going to work every morning?
In the end, the answer was surprisingly simple: Australia. For someone who’s older, it probably sounds trivial, but in a few months time, I’ll be turning 32. 32! When I was little, I thought people in their thirties are all grown up, married and with children. Grown up, OK, but children? Not yet, please! But I can’t deny my age is influencing my decisions. I’m almost sure I will want to have children in a couple of years time. Which means this is my time, THE time to still enjoy travelling by myself and explore different cultures far, far away.
And there’s another reason… I feel a bit embarrassed to admit it because it has to do with a cat. Just like going back to Australia, getting a cat has been pretty high on my wishlist for a long time (- her name is going to be Noodles, just so you know). The problem is, I live on 50 square meters, on the 5th floor of an apartment building. Locking up a cat in my home and leaving her alone all day with hardly any space to move around would be too cruel. So I need a bigger house. Preferably one with a south facing garden so I can enjoy the last bit of sun after a hard day of work. Where on the weekends, I can peacefully read a good book while I sip my green tea and the grass tickles my bare feet. (You get the picture. ;))
However, my very annoying, deeply rooted urge to revisit Oz is standing in the way of my garden and my Noodles. Once I spent all my money on a brand-new house, and I’m sitting on the couch, cuddling my cat, how can I still go travelling for 2.5 months? Exactly, I can’t. So I’m afraid the only solution is to make that life-changing trip first, because I know I will regret it if I don’t. Does that sound like a good enough excuse to you? 😀
Onwards and downwards, I’d say; I’m off to Australia!