Our next instalment starts in Singapore on Monday 11th November when we got up at 5.30am and used the Mass Transport System train (MRT) to get to Changi airport. As we were passing through security to get to our gate we noticed a mass of around thirty 10-12 year old screaming children in uniform who appeared from nowhere and started heading to our departure gate. We held our breath and luckily they headed to the gate opposite ours, we flew to Perth and they flew to Hong Kong.
Nigel, determined to get rid of the last few Singaporean dollars bought some bottled water and a large bar of Cadbury's chocolate (a was a bit weird - it had gummy bits in) and we boarded the flight that was nearly full. We had to sit either side of an isle. We started to fill in the multi question landing card for Australia and one question stumped us. Had we been on a farm or in a wilderness location in the last 30 days? We decided to air on the side of caution and mark the "yes" box as we had been trekking over the Vietnamese paddy fields. We had visions of immigration officers examining our clothes for seeds and dirt. We had prepared for this eventuality having scrubbed our boots and washed all our clothes and on questioning sailed through customs and immigration while other passengers were subjected to sniffer dogs and bag searches. A short cab journey into central Perth delivered us to our first hostel of the trip. A very clean and well equipped Youth Hostel. (Photo).
Our room was unfortunately very close to a railway line. (Photo) We had a stroll around the streets and a bit of retail therapy. Helen popped into the Apple store and fell in love with the IPad mini this was partly due to Nigel having become addicted to the game 'candy crush saga' (currently on level 70). Helen had been unable to use the Ipad when Nigel was awake. Nigel located a shop that could mend the screen of our damaged one. We located some equipment for our camping section and we purchased a few T shirts to support our limited wardrobe. During our perambulations we noticed that there was little or no jaywalking and most people would wait for the little green man indicator before crossing the road. What was unusual is that the "don't walk" sign also had a bleeping noise similar to a heart monitor or sonar bleep and when it came to cross the road the bleeping changed to a noise similar to a demented woodpecker. After crossing a few roads we have embraced this noise. We stopped for a very nice pint of ale but at £6.25 a pint we decided just to have the one as we could have had 26 pints of draught beer in Hanoi for the price of these two pints.
We searched the local restaurants for something we were craving and settled for pizza for dinner before retiring to the hostel weary from our early start. So ended our first evening in Australia.
We woke with Helen experiencing a new and worrying feeling, an eagerness to shop. Armed with the bank and credit cards we headed for the shops but Nigel insisted on breakfast before the maelstrom that is the Apple store.
Sustained by a quick savoury Danish and a coffee we struck forth and entered the bear pit. Nigel took the bull by the horns and approached one of the numerous staff clad in blue T shirts only to be told that they "don't serve customers only fix things" so we were entered on a computerised waiting list and played with the IPod mini's until our turn came. Nigel then left Helen in the company of a geek while he struck forth on his own errand to get the screen of the Ipad2 replaced. About an hour later Helen was the proud owner of an very handy, shiny new toy (Simon, if your reading this - Apple rules!)
As Helen was feeling in the mood for shopping Nigel took advantage and we purchased some cooking equipment for our next section, the driving and camping tour of South Western Australia.
In the afternoon we hired bikes and rode to the nearby Kings park which was a welcome bit of exercise and Nigel encountered some wildlife (photo) .This large park also gave several good views of Perth city (photo).
Having experienced some trouble with our bank cards Nigel rang Barclays and had a frank discussion with the fraud department. He discovered he was talking to the a very nice man who worked in India and he ensured us that we would have no more problems (we'll see!)
Having learnt from our beer experience we decided to try the locals approach and purchase a bottle of wine and went to a "bring your own" Indian restaurant and so ended day 2 in Perth.
Wednesday saw us taking a trip to Fremantle, we caught the local train and went to the tourist information centre where we confirmed our plans would have us visiting the best spots. We headed to the Fremantle prison where we arrived just in time to join a guided trip around the site. (Photo) The guide doubled up as a stand up comedian and had us entertained with some real life stories about the prisoners (both convicts from Britain in the 1800's and then local criminals since 1900's) , quite surprisingly the prison only closed in 1991. We decided to have some of the famous fish and chips and a regular portion involved two battered fillets of Hake with a mound of chips. After lunch we visited the Round house which was the original prison for the settlers , it is the oldest building in Western Australia.This building had suffered some damage when the site was identified for redevelopment and they started to knock it down. I wonder who signed off on the planning permission?
We finished our visit with the a visit to the Ship Wreck Museum which was very entertaining.
On our return we joined " Happy Wednesday" at the hostel bar to drink pints of fizzy lager at reduced prices.
On Thursday we hired a car for the first time during our trip.
It is a small but well proportioned Suzuki car of supermini size and all our kit just about fits inside.
We did a small amount of food shopping and then with the car loaded up we headed to Albany on the South coast of Western Australia. It was a long, straight, quite boring road, we shared the driving and arrived at a very well equipped campsite at Emu Point in the late afternoon.
At last we got to pitch the tent that we have carried around with us for the last seven weeks (Photo).
We decided to stay at the Emu Point campsite another night and we explored Albany and the surrounding area. We took a short drive to a look out point where the sand was white and the sea was an amazing turquoise - although quite 'breezy'. With Helen as navigator (!?!) the tour around Albany was interesting and we visited a number of places that most people don't bother to see and we didn't intend to. We eventually arrived at Clarence Hill where we were greeted by a man who was amazed we had arrived to see the museum (rather than having made a navigational error). After we had bought tickets and calmed him down we had a great time. This fortification is famous as it has only ever fired one shot in anger and on that occasion the gunners missed! The museum had displays about the troops that had been stationed there since the 1800's and most notably when the bay was the staging point for Aussie troops in the 1st WW heading for Gallipoli and also to its decommissioning shortly after WWII.
Nigel particularly enjoyed playing on the guns and cannons which were still in semi working order and we both had fun on an anti aircraft gun.(Photo). The views from this raised point were amazing. We then headed off onto the peninsular to visit a number of natural sites such as the blow holes (unfortunately not blowing) and some sheer rock formations that made Helen's head spin.(Photo)
Saturday we left Albany and drove along the coast to a very small town called Denmark. We bought some rolls from an "award winning" bakery that were very good indeed. As it was only approaching midday we decided to continue further along to an even smaller town called Walpole.
On the way we took a slight detour to visit a suspended high canopy walk in the Tingle forest's which was well worth the detour. (Photo) We arrived at our second campsite which was within the national park and amongst the trees. Although very shady, the fly situation was a bit much. We pitched the tent and then retreated inside the car to escape the buzzing and biting menace. We've given up counting the number of bites we have and just try and stay covered up and remind each other to "stop scratching". We took a short drive into town where a waitress who seemed quite knowledgable about the fly situation assured us it was due to the Ibis's eating all the Dung Beatles and the flies as a result having extra food and hence the explosion of them during the dry summer months. She was also happy that one hadn't gone up her nose today!
We really felt sorry for the locals and had an early night in the refuge of our tent.
On Sunday we woke early and both decided it was time to depart this rustic campsite in Walpole. We had a quick breakfast and packed everything away. We had done a little research during the evening and decided to do a fairly long drive to a town called Augusta which was on the coast and would hopefully be fly free. We drove via an interesting hamlet called Pemberton where most of the residents seemed to be playing bowls or in cycling gear. We filled the car up, grabbed a coffee and a bread roll. The filling in the rolls was falling out all over the place and had so many ingredients it looked as through someone had made it in the dark, but it tasted great. We continued our quest for a fly free campsite finishing at the second campsite we found in Augusta where a stiff breeze reduced the fly situation. We celebrated by taking a short stroll along a delightful riverside path which had masses of Pelicans and then did some more laundry.
Today (Monday 18/11)
We have headed to Margaret River the most touristy town on our driving tour of Australia's South West so that we could get an Internet connection and check everything is OK.
We're both fine and well, just a few bites which are a little irritating.
Were having trouble finding internet connections in the rural areas so our next instalment should be in about a week when we will be coming to the end of the driving tour and approaching Perth.