Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Travelling the Southwest

Maria and I have now been traveling for a week and a half and we've stopped off in a nice town called Margaret River on the west coast about 2 hours south of Perth. It's a surfing town with lots of beautiful beaches and nice shops and places to eat. We arrived here on Friday afternoon and since then we've mostly just been relaxing.

Our second day in Denmark, we went out to Ocean Beach and spent the afternoon exploring the beach and enjoying the sunshine. The water is unbelievably blue and the sand is so white!
Ocean Beach
 We were planning on taking the bus from Denmark to Walpole the next day but we met a lady named Judy in our hostel who had a car and was headed the same way so we decided to get a lift with her so we could stop and see more along the way. It turns out she is a world traveler and has been to all but probably 5 or 6 countries in the world! She's even been to Antarctica! Along the way to Walpole we stopped to see two of the iconic spots along the coast, Greens Pool and the Elephant Rocks, and did the famous tree-top walk in the Valley of the Giants (a forest of giant trees known as Red Tingle trees).
Greens Pool

Elephant Rocks
Tree-top Walk
One of the Giants

We stayed the night in Walpole and then set off the next morning. Judy was only going as far as Augusta but we wanted to continue on so we took the bus to Margaret River in the afternoon.

Our first day here we just explored the town and then hung out with the other people in the hostel. There's a pretty good group of people here and I almost wish I was staying in the area longer because it seems like a great place to be. Saturday we went into town in the morning and had an excellent cup of coffee at a place called the Urban Bean. We wandered around town for a good part of the day and then went back to the hostel to relax for a while before heading back into town and going for a few drinks at the Settlers Tavern.

Sunday we went to Prevelly Beach and the Riverfront Beach. The beaches here are absolutely stunning and relatively quiet. The waves are huge and it seems like a great place to surf. If I come back to this area I'll definitely have to take up surfing!

The Margaret River Bakery
Yesterday was a quiet day spent mostly drinking coffee. We went back to the Urban Bean, wandered around town a bit, and then went to a cute little bakery called the Margaret River Bakery where they have delicious, fresh food and good coffee. How I've missed good coffee! Later in the afternoon I decided to go out for a much needed run and explore the area and I discovered a system of beautiful trails through the woods. The main trail is track left from the old railroad but there are lots of other small trails branching off of it. There are lots of pretty bridges and the forest is so green and lush with big, beautiful trees. The weather was perfect for running and I felt like I could've run forever! I only planned on doing a short run but it was so nice I ended up running for more than and hour!

We're off to a late start again today but I think we'll go back into town for more coffee and then maybe go out for $5 tacos tonight. It's a hard life being a traveler...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

From Coast to Coast

Although it's been ages since I left the East Coast and arrived in Western Australia, I actually wrote a blog post right after I arrived in Kulin but never posted it because I haven't had decent internet access in months. I’ve put it in here since it’s easier to just copy and paste it rather than trying to recap everything:

My last Tuesday in Sydney was mostly a travel day. We slept in a little and then took a shuttle to the airport to catch our flight back to Sydney at 11:00am. Once back in Sydney we walked to Circular Quay to see the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House one last time. We tried to watch the sunset from the front of the Opera House but the weather was cold and rainy and the sunset was nearly non-existent except for a few pinkish clouds. Afterwards, we walked back towards the city center and got dinner at a burger place where we had Indian-style veggie burgers in a purple bun! Weird looking but so delicious!

Our last day in Sydney (Wednesday) was nice and relaxed. We left the hostel around 8:30 and went to breakfast at our favorite little café where the lady at the counter knows our orders because we went there almost every day we were in Sydney. Then I went to the bank and cell phone company to finish up some last-minute stuff before leaving the city and then we walked to a part of Sydney known as Darling Harbour, which is a cute little harbor-side area with lots of shopping and food places and some pretty fountains, a man-made river and an awesome playground (of course we played on the playground for a bit). We were both eager to get to the airport and ready to leave Syndey so even though our flights didn't leave until after 7:00pm, we took the train to the airport around noon. Since Katherine was flying internationally and I was flying domestic, we had to check-in at different parts of the airport, so even though we would've liked to hang out until the very end, we said goodbye and went our separate ways - Katherine to Hawaii and home and me to Perth, Western Australia.
Darling Harbor

My flight left Sydney at 7:15pm Sydney time and arrived in Perth around 9:45pm Perth time. Just a couple days before I left Sydney I found a place to stay with a family outside of Perth and they agreed to pick me up from the airport which was so great. The family saw that I was looking for a place to stay through a site called HelpX which an absolutely wonderful resource for backpackers because it connects travelers who are looking for a place to stay with locals who are looking for help around their house or farm. In exchange for working for a few hours a day, the backpackers get free food and accommodation. The family I'm staying with at the moment has a 100-acre farm about 40 minutes out of Perth in a place called Gidgegannup. Their farm is absolutely beautiful and they have 30 horses which they play polo with during the summer. I help them out by helping exercise the horses in the morning. It's easy work because they have an automatic horse walker so all we have to do is put the horses in and out of the walker. It usually takes a few hours every morning to work the 13 that are currently in work and the afternoons are free. A few times they've taken me to the train station and then I took the train to Perth or Midland (the closest "big" town) and other days I just relaxed or explored the farm/local area. 
The view from my bedroom door at the farm - they have a pet kangaroo!

Wild emus on the farm!

I left the farm this past Tuesday (August 19th) and got on a bus to a small town called Kulin, three and a half hours southeast of Perth. Since then I’ve been working at the Kulin hotel, which is a country pub, restaurant, and hotel that looks like it’s been here since Kulin was settled in 1910. I work at the bar in the evenings and clean in the morning. Kulin is a small, quiet but pleasant town surrounded by farmland and the people who visit the hotel reflect that. Wednesday and Thursday were fairly busy days but other days only a handful of people come in, but all the people that do come in are friendly and nice and most of them are farmers.  

I've just finished two and a half months of working at a country pub/hotel (the Kulin Hotel) in a small country town called Kulin in the wheat belt of Western Australia. It is located about 3 1/2 hours southeast of Perth, WA and is basically in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first arrived in Kulin but it was really a great place to be for a few months. I spent most of my time working at the hotel, the local IGA, a café, and a daycare center but I did make friends with some of the locals and fellow backpackers and we did have some pretty good times. When I wasn't working I spent my time going for runs, going for bike rides, and enjoying the great social atmosphere in Kulin. :)

On an epic 18 km bike ride across the Australian Outback
The Kulin Hotel
All the lovely photos above were taken by my friend Maria Strong
Kulin's biggest - and really the only - event of the year is the Bush Races. It's a couple days of horse races and other events that people come from all over to be a part of. I was lucky enough to be in town for the weekend of the races and see Kulin become a bustling tourist hub rather than the quiet farming town it usually is. Because I was working I didn't get to see the actual races but I did make it out for the band at night and it was good to get out for a bit.

Kulin also boasts a few tourist attractions... It is the location of the largest water slide in Western Australia (unfortunately, it wasn't open while I was there) and the Tin Horse Highway, which is a collection of horses made by locals from scraps of tin and other materials, and it is an hour's drive from an interesting-looking wave-like rock called... Wave Rock.
One of the tin horses

The famous slide

Hippo's Yawn

As exciting as Kulin was, I was ready to leave and quite happy when the day finally came. I left early Saturday morning and headed south with a few of friends who have also been working in Kulin. We spent the weekend in Albany, the oldest town in WA, which is a beautiful port town on Western Australia's southern coast. We arrived just in time for ANZAC Albany which was a series of events commemorating the day 100 years ago when the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand soldiers left Albany to fight in the First World War. We missed the main event - the parade - but it was a busy weekend with a lot going on anyway. It was quite a change from quiet Kulin!
Sunset in Albany

A few friends had to go back to Kulin after the weekend and now Maria (one of the girls I worked with) and I are continuing to travel along the coast. Today, we took the bus from Albany to a pretty little town called Denmark about 40 minutes west. We spent the day cycling around the lush, green farmland, checking out the local wineries, and exploring a bit of the coast. Minus the hundreds of annoying flies that are constantly swarming you, it is a paradisaical place! We'll spend another day here tomorrow and hopefully explore some of the famous beaches before setting off for our next destination.

Sorry for the long post!

Til next time,