Day 3 – Perth to Albany, WA – 17 September 2017

Not too many hotels in Australia seem to offer breakfast as part of their room charge, like they do in America, but a lot of them offer kitchenettes, so we were able to make some coffee and have something to eat in our apartment before setting off for Albany. It is a fairly long, but fairly easy, drive of about 4.5 hours to Albany with straight roads and little traffic. The scenery was fairly interesting though same-ish and for the first couple of hours a lot greener than I expected. The bush cleared after a couple of hundred kilometres to become farmland, with very little to break up the journey. The few names of towns that I saw on the map turned out to be literally just a filling station with a diner, and in a few cases long shut down – I have to be honest and say I didn’t expect so little of interest on the route! Towns are even smaller and further apart than in the Karoo! At Williams we made a quick pit stop for a cup of coffee and a pie (for me) at The Williams Woolshed before carrying on again.

The trip was fairly boring and the scenery didn’t change too much after Williams, until we got to Albany, which is quite a big, spread out town. With not much in it! Lots of large shopping malls and car dealerships but not much in the way of bars and restaurants – though it has to be said we arrived on a Sunday afternoon so that may be why everything seemed to dead. We found the hotel and set out again straight away as there was quite a lot we wanted to have a look at around Albany. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was starting to get very windy and gusty, but we pushed on, starting at Middleton Beach which is ok as a beach I suppose, but the highlight was some odd grey and pink birds that Brian immediately dubbed ‘Flamigeons’.

We took the scenic Marina Drive back to Albany, and from there carried on towards Frenchman Bay, which was very pretty, and then making our way around all the other beaches and lookouts on the peninsula. It was all very scenic but bloody windy and we didn’t hang around for too long at any specific sight. The Blowholes were a bit of a disappointment though the Natural Bridge and The Gap were quite good. I found the wildflowers fascinating as some are so similar to what we see in South Africa, whereas others are completely different. We got back to the hotel around 17:00 and had a quick catch up on emails and news before heading out looking for something to eat and drink.

We found Six Degrees just round the corner from our hotel where they had some live music on and decided to eat there as the rest of town looked pretty dead when we drove through. Brian had a burger, which despite his best endeavours, came with mayonnaise and BBQ sauce, which wasn’t great at all! I had a beef burrito which also wasn’t particularly nice, but we were both hungry and the beer and wine was good so it was all ok in the end. Just as well we stuck around as 2Maia took to the stage sometime after we got there and they were a really good band, with great musicians, doing a selection of covers and originals. They also seemed to have their whole extended families in and everyone had a great time dancing around and enjoying the band. Albany was an interesting experience and throughout the evening a lot of different and varied characters came into the bar (LOTS of tattoos and interesting hairstyles spotted). It would have been interesting to see if the town will be much different on a Friday or Saturday night, but of course we don’t have time to stick around and find out!

Day 1 & 2 – Cape Town to Perth via Dubai – 15 & 16 September 2017

After spending almost 36 hours in transit we made it to Perth intact, picked up a SIM card and a car at the airport, and found our hotel without any issues. Arriving at the hotel at 2:30 in the morning wasn’t a problem as the Adina Apartment Hotel have 24hr reception, but I was quite surprised at the amount of drunk people stumbling around the streets at that time in the morning, including a very inebriated young woman sitting in front of our hotel, who wasn’t sure whether she was at the right hotel as her swipe card wouldn’t let her in! It’s fair to say my first impression of Perth wasn’t that great!
Though we were both dreading the long trip it wasn’t too bad in the end, although by the end of the 36 hours I was well fed up with airplane and airport food and spending that much time strapped into a seat trying to keep myself entertained. Brian packed pretty much a whole loaf worth of sandwiches to keep him fed all the way to Australia, while I depended on plane food and wine. I’m glad to report that the almost complete lack of WiFi meant that I managed to watch quite a few movies with a lot more attention than I normally manage! We spent about 9 hours on Dubai Airport, which was a long wait, but the time passed fairly quickly and we found some chairs to lounge about in and watch the never ending mad dash of people to get to their gates or do some last minute shopping – Dubai airport never sleeps!
The planes were quiet-ish on both legs of our journey, with spare seats all round. On the flight from Dubai to Perth the guy behind us got taken ill and had to receive treatment. I have no idea what actually happened as I picked the moment it all kicked off to be in the loo, and by the time I got back to my seat (after swiping some wine off a trolley in the process) it was all over and the guy was stretched out on the floor getting oxygen. We were a bit concerned that the plane may have to make an unscheduled stop, but in the end the guy seemed ok, and the paramedics were first on the plane in Perth to give him treatment.
On the plane to Perth I noticed a bit of a trend for hats – I spotted a lot of beanies and baseball caps on heads, even though it was neither cold nor sunny in the plane! I’m not sure yet if it is an Australian thing, but I’m planning on keeping an eye on it and will report back! I also learned that I need a lot less sleep than previously assumed as I slept very little on the way, with the longest stretch a couple of hour on the Perth leg of the trip after enough small bottles of NZ Sauvignon Blanc to knock out an elephant. Once we arrived to our hotel it didn’t take too long to settle into the apartment, which was nice and big with separate bedroom, well equipped kitchen and even a small patio for Brian to smoke on and we managed a few hours’ sleep before hitting the sights of Perth the next morning.

We made our way straight down Barrack Street to the Bell Tower, which seemed impressive enough from the top of our street, though we ended up not going up it as it is much less impressive from close by. It was a very pleasant Saturday morning with lots or Perthians(?) out and about next to the waterfront having breakfast and cycling on the multitude of cycling paths. We made our way towards King’s Park along the waterfront, and I was very disappointed to not spot any Koalas, Emus, Kangaroos or even any deadly spiders or snakes (though a few plants looked quite prickly)! Just chubby blokes in lycra everywhere!

King’s Park was a very good call and full of spring colours all around, and judging from the amount of people out and about, either walking or picnicking, everyone else thought so too! The views from the hill are amazing and from there you can get a much better idea of the size of Perth and surrounds. After spending some time in King’s Park walking around we made our way back to the CBD via Jacob’s Ladder – which I’m very glad we didn’t decide to take to get up to King’s Park as it consists of many, many steps! Some clearly mad people were using it for training, running up and down it and I saw a very impressive six-pack on one of the mad exercise fanatics!

We got back to the hotel around 3pm after doing a spot of shopping at Woolworths for some foodstuffs and lounged about for a bit before heading out for the evening. As it was Saturday night I expected Perth to be quite busy and we headed into Northbridge for a few drinks. We first stopped by The Dominion League which was a very nice and cosy spot with great lighting and a couple of really good beers (I’m much more aware of lighting since reading ‘The Little Book of Hygge’). We then went on to the next spot I had earmarked, Frisk Small Bar, which has a huge selection of Gins from all over the world (though none from South Africa?!), where we had another couple of drinks. The streets were getting busier with families out to dinner and it was interesting to see all the different options for dinner and drinking, with lots of Chinese, Japanese and Korean options. The whole area of Northbridge seems very lively and arty with art installations and paintings on walls everywhere. Our final port of call for the night was The Mechanics Institute, which is hidden away in an alleyway, so not very easy to find. We were very glad we found it though as it is a very cool bar with outside seating on multiple levels and a good menu of cocktails, wine and beer, and some interesting people – well worth the visit! We stayed there for a few drinks just taking in the atmosphere and watching the locals, trying to get a feel for Australia. The vibe in all the bars was very laid back and relaxed, which is hopefully the way all bars will be in Australia! The only downside of course is paying in the region or R100 for a beer, where we’ve been spoiled in South Africa to pay around R25-30/beer!