June 16 – 27, 2016
The three-and-a-half-hour knee-hugging budget flight from Bali, Indonesia was uneventful. We landed in Perth, Australia to a beautiful Alberta-like vibrant blue sky and refreshingly crisp 18C winter day. There are horror stories all over the web regarding rental car companies in Australia charging people for questionable damages. This had us spending a good half-an-hour imitating the paparazzi and taking ‘before’ photos and video of our light grey Toyota Corolla rental from roof top to undercarriage.
Looking over at the Audi rentals in the lot Mark sarcastically thinks, “oh this Corolla is way cooler than any Audi”.
Mark gets in behind the wheel (Australia charges for an extra driver and when it comes to a choice, this team works best with Christine navigating and Mark driving) and we head off knowing that Mark has not driven a vehicle since 2015. Worse still, in Australia the steering wheel is on the right side… something Mark has not driven since 1999 in Scotland. Look out Western Australia (WA), here we come!
WA is holy smokes expensive! We ate every single meal in our hotel room as restaurant prices bordered on pure silliness. Hotel accommodations, for a ridiculous amount of money, were nothing to write home about either and with a bonus of zero wi-fi! “Really?” we thought. Places like Cambodia and Vietnam had excellent, free wi-fi everywhere and we cannot get it in our $90 hotel room in WA (the absolute cheapest room we could find without hourly rental options)? Strange indeed.
Perth is a beautiful small city (2 million). Very beautiful. Immediately we noticed the perfect cleanliness of the city. Not a piece of garbage anywhere. Roadways and bridges are built around and over waterways that reminded us a bit of gorgeous Stockholm, Sweden.
However, a very interesting phenomenon took over quickly upon arrival. Christine was unaffected but Mark had to question himself seriously about the effects of the developed world on his psyche. The second coolest wagon on the road drove by… a 2015 Volvo Polestar V60 in a limited run of Polestar blue color. Mark’s heart began to race, and thoughts of cruising down the road in that cool car, wind blowing through his hair and Justin Bieber cranked on the 12 speaker 650 watt Harman Kardon audio system removed all rationale thoughts of retiring early, traveling often and living a simple life style. A curse of living in a developed nation where cool cars, Frappuccino’s, North Face, Tag Heuer and Tom Ford clothing make any purchase decision irrelevant to what is truly necessary; Mark knows we have been just fine living out of a backpack for the past six months. It is not even a question for Christine.
Yet that blue wagon/avant (aka ultimate sports activity vehicle) is soooo cool. “I want one” he says.
While dreaming, we walk to the Indonesian Embassy and apply for our Bali travel visa. The man behind the “buzz for entry” locked gate and then the “we can barely see you tinted glass” tells us that he needs to see our airline ticket leaving Bali in the future before he can process our visa application. Doh. We have never been able to make travel decisions two months in advance, so hesitantly we leave our passports at the the embassy with a promise to commit.
We used a few days in Perth to knock off some necessary Western-style errands. Having worn down the soles of our walking shoes, new hikers were a must. We picked up our favorite creams, SPF, vitamins, ice cube trays for our place in Bali (hey simple pleasures), new socks (what a treat and a true luxury item) and even had a skin assessment at one of the local highly rated skin check medical clinics.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. They are light years ahead of anyone else with their technology to assess and diagnose skin cancer. They state that if you can count seven moles on your right arm, then you likely have over 50 moles on your body, which puts you at higher risk for a skin cancer diagnosis. We spent 20 minutes each with the physician. His high resolution dermoscopy micro-diagnosis system can detect skin cancer as small as 2mm in diameter and the accompanying 40” HD flat screen projected every little skin bleb on our body into a frightful, vibrant, colorful image on the screen. Any moles of concern had their photo recorded and ready for comparison in a 6 month check up. In case you are wondering, they fully endorse France’s LaRoche Posay SPF stating their product is advanced beyond anything else on the market. We are given a clean bill of health.
A day of running around and then shopping for footwear with Christine deserves a treat and we knew what that treat was going to be. Excited to approach the coffee shop serving our most missed treat, we ordered two large hot Chai Tea Latte’s and two muffins. The barista asked for $22 Australian dollars (AUD)!
The muffins were $5 AUD each! (…and we were at a mall, not a restaurant.) We have never had a $5 muffin before. A first for everything. We sipped and savoured every hard earned penny out of that gourmet meal.
Perth has a central downtown that reminded us of Edmonton, AB, Canada because it becomes a sleepy downtown after everyone leaves the office. A few tall buildings, nothing extreme, the setting is what makes it unique. The Indian Ocean lapping its shores, it strikes us as an outdoor lovers paradise. Walking, running and biking trails are common and water was visible from everywhere we went. “Tree trunks” (aka young, handsome, hairy, muscular, bearded, smiley Aussie men) roam the streets everywhere and Mark develops a serious “man bun” envy. A suburb known as Freemantle located on the ocean is their tourism and tourist shopping district. Toyota Land Cruisers equipped with snorkels roam the streets getting people to the office or out for an adventure in the outback. Surf boards mounted to roof racks sit on everything from shiny Subaru STI’s to rusting, old jalopies. And this was in their winter!
There were so many options for exploration but with only 12 days in WA, we chose to take the advice of some Aussie’s we met in Bali and head south three hours to the wine region of Margaret River. Wow, did it knock our socks off. We know the Okanagan, BC is beautiful and unique (it truly is), but the Margaret River wine region is a gem! We loved it more than wine regions in France, California or Niagara Falls.
Margaret River is a place where you can visit beautiful wineries in gorgeous settings. Visit a local chocolate making factory. Stop at a local jam shop. Watch and learn about silk worms while shopping for very nice silk clothing. Eat homemade nougat while sampling wine. Watch furniture makers. Eat at delicious mom and pop style cafes. Clank beer steins at local breweries, drive the beautiful coast and then go surfing or watch a sunset fifteen minutes later.
We can still taste the drinking chocolate at Gabriel Chocolate. We can hear the fire crackling at the gorgeous South African inspired Voyageur Estates (with Canadian workers from Ontario, Canmore and Kelowna). The drive into Leeuwin Estates with their amazing European castle-like entranceway through roaming hills, huge trees and water features was reminiscent of driving into a Hollywood movie set. Further, they have a beautiful, huge park area to accommodate concert venues. There was the fascinating Cullen Wines and their biodynamic viticulture style of growing grapes that produced absolutely delicious organic wine. The crème de la crème was Gralyn Estate with their multi award winning chocolate port! It is to a chocolate lover what Twitter is to Trump (i.e. can’t live without it). Sadly, they do not ship to Bali or Canada. The bonus, tastings were all free!
Gorgeous, narrow, twisty roads through unique looking trees and shrubs transported us to lush fields of green, kangaroos grazing by the road and through the majestic Karri forest. Consisting of the tallest Eucalyptus hardwoods in the world. We were so amazed driving through the forest that Mark hit the brakes at a turn off, did a U-turn to drive through the forest again and then stopped halfway through to go for a walk in the forest. WA is one of the world’s plant wonders with some of the most threatened plants and animal life on earth. There are approximately 13,000 species of plants in WA and 3,000 have yet to be named! We were never, ever bored!
An ear infection, a first for Mark, five days before having to jump on a plane had the roaming two team searching for a doctor urgently. An $85 AUD visit and $55 AUD worth of medication and Mark was able to pull out the “be nice to me, I’m sick” card. It brought a smile to Christine and a little reprieve from the daily chores of washing clothes by hand and cooking, but it was short lived and Christine had Mark back at it 24 hours later.
Not sure if it was eating McDonalds, drinking wine, sitting and driving, chai tea latte’s, an ear infection or $5.00 muffins. Mark never felt stressed on the trip but his resting heart rate went from 46 beats per minute in Bali to 57 in Australia! An interesting observation and a great reason to jump on a plane and return to Bali.
Anticipating our life back in Bali and thinking about renting a scooter, we enrolled in scooter lessons on our last day back in Perth. Lessons were a blast. Early on, Christine accidentally accelerated while squeezing the brake at the same time (same hand!). Any self-respecting, decent husband would have been very concerned watching his wife slowly tipping over while accelerating but needing to brake. But the truth is, the scene was like a spoof from the Laurel and Hardy show and it had Mark chuckling while Christine sweated through it!
Equipped with the confidence of knowing now how to ride a scooter, we drove to the airport. We dropped off our rental car, only to find out there are four terminals at the Perth airport with each pair of terminals a few kilometres apart. We rushed back to the rental car with our bags, jumped in the car, hit the freeway and made it to the correct terminal with time to spare.
We said goodbye to Canada-like-living and Macca’s (Australian for McDonalds) wishing to be able to stay a whole bunch longer. Costs will prevent that from happening… at least for now.
…Mark and Christine
Sample Expenses for Perth and Margaret River, Australia
(1 Australian dollar = $0.98 Canadian)
- $9.20 AUD ($8.82 Cdn) Subway foot long tuna sandwich
- $8.90 AUD ($8.45 Cdn) McDonalds 2 cheeseburgers, 1 small fry and 1 small pop
- $14.20 AUD ($13.29 Cdn) Healthy avocado, tomato sandwich and half price small mango smoothie
- $15.00 AUD ($14.38 Cdn) Margaret River organic Chenin Blanc bottle at liquor store
- $16.99 AUD ($16.29 Cdn) Vegetarian lasagna ($10) and salad ($7) from IGA grocery store
- $3.85 AUD bag of Muesili
- $4.98 AUD 4 bananas
- $4.50 AUD large yogurt (on sale)
- $7.90 AUD roast chicken at grocery store
- $3.90 AUD 8 apples
- $12.50 AUD Ben & Jerry’s pint (500ml) of ice cream – we did not buy
- $9.15 AUD Sensodyne 110g toothpaste – thank goodness we bought in Bali
- $30.00 AUD Thorlo Experia hiking socks – we could not believe the price, we only bought after we came across a sports store clearing them out at 3 pairs for $50.00 AUD
- $90 AUD ($86.30 Cdn) Baileys Hotel, Perth (motel style with kitchen)
- $88 AUD ($84.38 Cdn) Margaret River Tourist Park (kitchen and electric blanket on bed – it was sooo chilly)
- $75 AUD ($73.66 Cdn) Restawile Hotel, Busselton (far from being a hotel – it was bordering on gross)
- $738.29 AUD ($707.91 Cdn) Thrifty rental car for 12 days
- $1.24/L AUD for regular fuel
- $6.70 AUD for 2 hours parking
- $20 AUD ($19.64 Cdn) each for Australian entry visa
- $25 AUD ($23.97 Cdn) Australian SIM card with 500 MB/day and unlimited local talk and text for 12 days