I’ll not be having a holiday this year. That’s absolutely fine, I’m not feeling hard-done-by.
I’m going to be away for a couple of days later in the month, volunteering for the National Trust at CountryFile Live, Castle Howard. I’ll be camping there overnight – so almost a holiday!! We get our mileage paid, and the camping is free – and it sounds like the whole weekend is going to be immense fun.
Let’s call it a short working holiday. That sounds good.
And I have to mention one of my lovely Followers, who happens to run an AirBnB on the West Coast of Ireland (http://bit.ly/2KfTUtG) and who offered me free accommodation if I wanted a bit of a break. If I hadn’t landed the Explainer job, I would have taken her up on the offer. And just knowing that someone who didn’t even know me would do that for me meant so much, it really did.
But this time last year, we were in Perth, Australia, for three weeks. Perth is on the west coast of Western Australia, the Sunset Coast.
My step-daughter lives there, and this was our third visit. Visit #1 was in November 2015, and while we were there my step-daughter and her man got engaged. Visit #2 was December 2016 – for the wedding. And visit #3 was in August 2018 following the birth of baby. Not to be confused with the birth of the latest Grandbaby, which I wrote about in Put the Kettle On
After three visits, we know the area pretty well. Seashells is an apartment complex close to the beach, and also handy for the supermarket, the bottle shop, bars and restaurants, and not far from where my step-daughter lives. We’d looked at it on previous visits, and said, ‘Next time…’
We left the UK during one of our hottest summers on record and arrived in Australia during one of their coldest winters on record.
The first week was dreadful – wind, rain, even hail. The squalls were coming in across the Indian Ocean, and the first thing they hit was our apartment window. It was cold. In the same way that our UK houses aren’t built for hot weather, Australian houses aren’t built for cold weather. No central heating.
The second week, we headed north (which in the Southern Hemisphere means warmer). During the Australian summer it’s just too hot for Poms up north, so we thought we’d grab our chance while we were there during the winter. We’d planned a trip to Monkey Mia, on Shark Bay – which has nothing to do with monkeys, or even sharks, and a lot to do with dolphins.
I spent some time planning the journey before we left home. Distances in Australia are huge. It was a round trip of 1050 miles. I drove all the way, which I have to say I’m quite proud of.
Day One – Scarborough Beach to Jurien Bay, via The Pinnacles (one of my favourite places on Earth). The thing to do in Jurien Bay is eat crayfish, so that was lunch sorted. Then Jurien Bay to Geraldton, which is a surprisingly big town – lots of choice of places to stay and places to eat.
Day Two – Geraldton to Monkey Mia. I’d looked at the map, and there was nothing there. Nothing. To quote Google maps – ‘Sorry, your search appears to be outside our current coverage area for driving.’
My step-daughter’s husband’s step-father said, ‘You have to stop at the Billabong Roadhouse’. I thought he meant ‘have to’ as in, ‘You have to see St Paul’s if you visit London’ – but no, it was more in the sense of, ‘There are no other options’.
The Billabong Roadhouse is, quite literally, the only thing on that stretch of road. It’s two hours north of Geraldton and it was signposted the whole distance – because there was Nothing Else. That’s like Watford Gap Services being signposted from Leeds.
As you can imagine, it’s a bit of an institution – http://www.billabongroadhouseonline.com.au/
From the Roadhouse, it was another two hour drive to Monkey Mia.
Day Three – we arrived bright and early so as to be there for the first feeding session. They feed the dolphins, but in a very eco-friendly way. They don’t feed every dolphin every day, and even the ones they feed are only given five fish each, which is a tiny fraction of their nutritional need. This means that they don’t get lazy and stop hunting – but it does mean they come and allow themselves to be seen, which of course brings visitors and much-needed money into the area. They came in really close, within touching distance. It was hard to know if we were looking at them or if they were looking at us.
Day Four – back to Geraldton, via the Billabong Roadhouse (we felt like regulars now!!). Coffee, pie, loo, fill the car up, get sweets for the journey, buy a souvenir T-shirt. All of life’s essentials.
Day Five – back to Perth.
That was the end of our second week, and now the weather was starting to warm up just a bit. Not hot by Australian standards, but perfectly pleasant for Brits from the North of England. Much more conducive to getting out and about – Kings Park, Fremantle, wineries, breweries, walks down on the beach, watching the sunset from the apartment.
We’d had a pleasant time. We’d loved seeing the baby (and his Mum and Dad), we’d visited some new places, done a road trip, explored some favourite spots. We’d enjoyed drinking Long Blacks and eating smashed avocado.
But by the time we were heading for home, I had a sense that our marriage might be nearly over. I also had a sense that, if it was, I probably wouldn’t mind too much. It wasn’t dark yet, but the sun was setting.
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