We hopped on a plane last Friday for an uneventful trip to Perth – the most remote capital city in the world. We’ve driven this before, on my first trip to Australia in 1998, and were very happy to NOT have to do it again. The Eyre Highway across the Nullabor Desert and the Great Australian Bight were interesting, but the drive doesn’t warrant repeating. Three days of desert, dead kangaroos, and road trains (huge transport trucks with triple trailers), with an occasional diversion to look over the edge of the world. And bush flies….. (surely the most persistent and annoying flies in all the world).
I must say that Australian airports seem very civilized, compared to some. Look what I found in Adelaide airport, as we were waiting for our flight:
Bringing music to the masses - chopsticks, anyone?
Where is Ricky Tims, when you need him?
We arrived in Perth a few hours later, having gained 2 1/2 hours in the time change. As soon as the door to the plane opened, we realized we were in a very different climate. When we left Adelaide, it was showery and about 16 C. Perth hasn’t had the benefit of all the rain back east, and it was 36C and bone dry. Out came the shorts, off came the fleece jacket, on came the aircon.
Our gig was in Dongara, a 3 1/2 hour drive north, just south of Geraldton, if you’re following us on the map. You will be forgiven if you don’t know it – we’ve been asked by lots of eastern Australians who have never heard of the place. It is on the Indian Ocean, and is populated by retirees and crayfishermen. The retirees largely come from parts north, from mining and agricultural properties. Some of them live in magnificent new houses overlooking the beach, and the lifestyle is definitely relaxed. There is a big crayfish at the entrance to town to welcome you.
Welcome to Dongara!
Our hosts for this concert were Sue and Joe, and they also housed us at their former B&B near the edge of town. We had a lovely evening with them, and went to bed early (it being 2 1/2 hours later for us). The concert was the next day at 2pm. Sue said she had almost sold out all the tickets, which was wonderful, and had ladies from Geraldton and parts east driving in for it. People drive more out here, just like us!
The day was very eventful, starting with breakfast. Sue collapsed while making breakfast, having suffered a mild stroke and had to be taken to hospital! It was very worrisome, and we tried to be as helpful as we could. We kept up to date with the news as the day progressed, and were extremely happy to see her back at home by the evening, looking and feeling much better. But she was so disappointed to have missed the concert that she had done so much work to make happen!
Our audience at Dongara
We were well taken care of by the rest of the committee, and had a lovely afternoon, including afternoon tea (which, here in Australia, always includes yummy desserts). Everyone was so welcoming, and I “reckoned” I could live in Dongara, after that! Afterwards, we changed and were treated to a tour of town by Loris, and a “barbie” at her house later. Other guests were Ros and Rob, who entertained us with many hilarious stories of running a property in the north (read: outback). The properties (ranches) here are huge – there is very little rain, and you need large parcels of land to keep enough cattle to make it worth while. The logistics of such a feat are beyond me, but there are many still keeping the tradition going. It sounds like there are some real characters up there!
The next morning we were invited to go with some of the gals to swim on the beach. Well, not exactly “swimming”, because there were some big waves coming in from the open ocean. I learned which ones to jump over, which ones to duck under, and which ones to just stand there and let the bubbles give me a massage. They do this every morning for most of the year. The water was warm, and the companionship wonderful. No pictures – my camera doesn’t like water!
The South Beach at Port Denison
Then breakfast at the cafe on the beach, a short concert back at the house for Sue, who had missed everything the day before, and we hit the road to return to Perth.
I have a lot of wonderful memories from our first trip to Australia, and one of them is the entire drive north from Perth to Darwin. Every day we would drive a long way, but every day there was something wonderful – a rock formation, a beach with shells and dolphins, a camel ride, a helicopter ride. On our way up to Dongara we passed the cutoff to The Pinnacles, at Nambung National Park. We camped near here in 1998, and I was keen to return for some more pictures.
Overlook at the Pinnacles
If we were further north in Australia, these limestone pinnacles would remind me of anthills. But here, they are a mystery. They might be calcified tree roots, or actual trees from eons ago, and now the sand has eroded to reveal them. No one knows. They are wonderful, though, nestled in an ochre sand the consistency of cornmeal. They cover a very large area – we drove through them for about 20 minutes. You could take a million photographs of them, at various times of the day, and they would all be wonderful.
John in the hire car driving through
We hugged the coast after that, on our way back to Perth. Dinner with friends last night in town. We have three more days here to catch up with friends before we fly to Darwin.
It’s been a VERY full two days! We continue to send our thoughts to Sue, who will be recovering from her stroke for a while. She’s in good shape, though, all things considered. We hope there are no more similar events on this tour.