Roadtripping Western Australia – Part 1 – Perth to Wave Rock

You are probably more familiar with literature on road trips that detail journeys across the USA.  
Who hasn’t heard of the iconic Route 66?  It wouldn’t be iconic if nobody had heard of it.  
And if like me you enjoy Beat literature, you will no doubt have followed Jack Kerouac’s
Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they travel west, along Route 66, to California.  
The same route the Joads took in Steinbeck’s timeless classic, Grapes of Wrath.  
Don’t get me wrong, the States, and particularly up the coast from California, on Route 101,
has some amazing roads to travel on.  
 
Bessie
But, if you ask me, not that you did, I think the country just made for road tripping is Australia.  Great distances between places.  Vast tracts of nothingness in between, bar the obligatory roadhouse, for refuelling both your vehicle, and your passengers, with decidedly dodgy meat pies.  And towns that you will struggle to pronounce, such as Jerdacuttup, Munglinup, and Coomalbidgup.  All these towns house at least one obscure museum.  What is it with small Australian towns and their museums?

 

Hyden (or specifically Wave Rock), which turned out to be our first overnight stop in Bessie,
had the “Memories of Yesteryear” museum, where you could step back in time and “see an
Austin car, a bottle collection, and so much more”.  My italics.   At only $4 entrance fee, try
and stop me!!  Once I had done that I could spend all of 5 minutes visiting the “Lace Place”,
and marvel at the “magnificent world renowned lace collection”.  World renowned people.  
No italics needed. The fact it is world renowned may explain why it was more expensive
than the “Yesteryear” museum, at $5 to get in.

 

It wasn’t just Hyden.  Every small town we drove through had at least one museum advertised.  
If we didn’t have somewhere to be maybe we would have stopped.  At least once.  Just maybe.

 

 

So it was, this December saw us doing our second Aussie road trip, after driving the East coast a
couple of years ago.  In the same size campervan, Bessie, we were this year going to drive through
South West Australia.  This was after we first had a few great days enjoying Perth, which as it always
does, looked after me very well.  It is a great, compact city, that seems to grow more on me each time
I visit.  The food and drink options were the best I can remember, and apart from an erroneous
visit to Durty Nellie’s Irish bar, for which I blame a fellow expat from Halifax, we got to
experience some of them.  

 

The highlights included an excellent Indian curry at Sauma in Northbridge, an amazing old school
cheese toastie, at Toastface Grillah, and at Petition on Barrack Street in the CBD, probably the
best bacon, egg, and black pudding butty I have ever had.  In the evening Petition becomes a very
good bar, where we managed to escape the unseasonably cold, wet weather, and sampled a few of
the hoppy ales on offer with some friends from Sydney.  Guys, we need a catch up back home, if
only to return the cardigan 🙂

 

Perth CBD and the Swan river as seen from Kings Park
Kings Park remains a beautiful oasis just on the edge of the city.  Swan River seems to get more beautiful each time I visit.  And Elizabeth Quay just keeps expanding, which is fine with me, as long as they continue to fill the space with outlets like Gusto Gelato.  Am I back in Italy?  Beautiful.  And for novelty value, for my English friends, I can’t leave Perth without mentioning that we had a great afternoon, catching up with family, and new friends, at the Lucky Shag.  It is a shame that by the end of the year it will be completely overshadowed, literally, by the completion of the development next door of the Hilton DoubleTree.

 

Lowlights of the city break?  Well, none really, but watching England “play” in the Ashes, the last
one at the WACA, was debatable enjoyment.  The least said about this summer’s ignominious
Ashes series the better.
 
 

But, faster than we would have liked, I was saying goodbye to Michael Atherton, who was also staying at the Alex Hotel, as the city side of our trip drew to a close, and it was time for us to hit the open road in Bessie.

Unlike the previous few days, Tuesday dawned with weather that immediately put a smile on my face. After two days of heavy rain and winds, the sun had come out to play. Taking an Uber ride with our driver Sujan, out past the airport, we started the day at Apollo motorhome hire where the smile soon disappeared. We had a long frustrating wait. Not even the sunshine could keep the smile on my face.

We waited so long I thought I would just need to drive a lap of the building when I finally got the keys, and drop them straight off back at the office, as it felt my 2 weeks were already up. Watching plane after plane come in to land next door at the airport I was full of the frustration of the stranded traveller. Bags packed, yet going nowhere.

When we finally hit the road we decided a cheeky wine might help our moods, so we took the very short drive north to the Swan Valley wine region, where we stopped for lunch, and a tasting at Ugly Duckling winery.  Despite having had several trips to Perth over the years, and wine tasting being one of my favourite things in the world,  I had never made it to the Swan Valley.  This despite it being so very close to the city.  The long wait to pick up Bessie in the morning did mean that we needed to start heading south relatively soon, but we did sneak in one more winery, the fabulous Sandalford. We proceeded to have a quick tasting, make a purchase, and then were off.  Next stop Wave Rock.
 
Yup, that is Wave Rock
“Why on earth are you going to Wave Rock?” people asked.  Well, let’s be clear, Wave Rock is not, and never has been, on our bucket list.  But, we did need somewhere to sleep, and break up the journey to Esperance.  And Hyden was conveniently about half way.  And it had a very big rock as a tourist attraction.  How could we not stop?  Situated some 336kms (208 miles) from Swan Valley, the little town of Hyden, population 400, home to both Wave Rock and a roadhouse selling the aforementioned dodgy pies, would do for the night.  Regarding the pie, I lost count of the lumps of gristle I had to separate from the meagre chunks (pieces?) of meat.  Arriving in Wave Rock past 7.30pm is not advisable if you are hungry.  I was.  The shop, yes, only one, had closed for the evening.  With the roadhouse being the only thing open, my dinner options were said pie, a dry muffin, or a bag of crisps.  Strewth.  

 



Another reason to break up your journey south is to stop yourself dying from boredom en route.  
The landscape is like being in a gallery for hours, staring at the same picture.
A picture made up of every shade of beige and green, only punctuated by the vivid red dirt, and
numerous roadkill, which were also colourful in their own way, lining both sides of the asphalt.
The only thing to keep you awake is the concentration required every time a road train comes
thundering past on the opposite side of the road, almost sucking you into their path.  The road trains
are the enormous lorries, dragging three, or four trailers in their wake.  Trust me, you don’t want to
mess with them.  As you motor on, hoovering up the kilometres, the small towns pass you in the
blink of any eye. Corrigin.  Kondinin.  Small towns of small populations. But one thing in common.

 

Oh look, another bloody museum.

 

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