A Roo'd Encounter

Sunset at Cottesloe Beach near Perth


17-June 2006 to 22-June 2006: After being passed by another driver and with the sun finally uncovering the veil of the winter darkness, I decided that perhaps we were getting close enough to Perth that I could go a little faster than the 20-below-the-speed-limit rate we were going. While my thoughts were on the task ahead as we had planned to see at least three waterfalls around the city's suburbs, I increased the cruise control to 100km/h, which was still less than the 110km/h. Suddenly...






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Day 1: FIRST A DEER NOW A KANGAROO
Julie and I expected to get much accomplished before settling in to Perth today. We figured we were going to come back to Perth for a whole day of exploration on the very last day of the trip. So this first go around was to see Serpentine Falls, Lesmurdie Falls as well as the pair of waterfalls in the John Forrest National Park.

So we checked out and left the Cervantes Pinnacles Motel at 6am. Still wary of kangaroos, we took our time driving east towards the main highway (the Brand Highway or Hwy 1).

Even though we still had about two hours to go before arriving at the city of Perth, I was anticipating a break from constantly worrying about them running in front of the car. Even though we had seen many of them hop around the rounds throughout the Outback regions of Western Australia, I actually looked forward to seeing the city for once.

By 6:45am, we had arrived onto the Brand Highway and headed south for Perth. I maintained my pace of going 90km/h in a 110km/h zone, but I was getting passed several times by cars and trucks on the two-lane highway.

After being passed by another driver and with the sun finally uncovering the veil of the winter darkness, I decided that perhaps we were getting close enough to Perth that I could go a little faster than the 20-below-the-speed-limit rate we were going.

While my thoughts were on the task ahead as we had planned to see at least three waterfalls around the city's suburbs, I increased the cruise control to 100km/h, which was still less than the 110km/h.

Suddenly, a kangaroo hopped right in front of the car...

"There it is!" I said instinctually as I slammed on the brakes. I had this sickening sense of deja vu (after all, I had hit a deer three years prior to this) as if I knew somehow this was destined to happen.

Julie looked up from her laptop and gasped.

And before I finally put my foot on the brakes, the car had already hit the kangaroo.

The kangaroo rolled in front of the car before it finally went underneath it. I immediately pulled over to the next available shoulder.

"F**k!" I screamed.

So with a pause as I tried to get over the shock and the recurrence of my bad luck, both Julie and I got out of the car to survey the damage. Clearly the kangaroo didn't make it as it lay slumped on the road.

The front of the car had some denting to it and the hood (bonnet) was slightly propped open from the deformation of the front body. Julie and I weren't sure what to do at this point so we eventually decided to keep driving and hope that the car would make it to Perth.

And to our amazement, the temperature gauge remained steady and the engine seemed to be fine. Still, I proceeded to drive slowly and even big rigs were starting to tail me.

We were still about a little over an hour from Perth. Eventually, we would make it into the city by 8:30am. But seeing that the car was still able to run, we decided to try to salvage the day by visiting at least Serpentine Falls and Lesmurdie Falls before returning to the Perth Domestic Airport to turn in the hire car.

Julie and I continued driving south along Hwy 30 and then Hwy 20. We were trying to follow the Memory Map Navigator as the laptop was hooked up to my GPS. But apparently, Julie followed the map to a tee (not realizing there may be some offset errors) and had me go up a rough unsealed road that climbed steeply from the highway. It was unsigned and I already had a sense that it wasn't the right way.

Still, she insisted that the map was correct and I continued driving. Eventually, the road started going away from the falls and we knew it wasn't it. So we headed back down to the highway and went towards the Jarrahdale Rd since it looked big and headed to some reservoir area.

But as we drove the road, there was nothing that said Serpentine Falls. So we ended up spending another hour driving on a mix of unsealed roads and empty forest roads futilely searching for the falls. I was dumbfounded as to how this waterfall could be so difficult to find.

Finally, we pulled out the Perth City Road Atlas that was in the car complements of the Thrifty Rent-a-Car. And upon examining this book, we quickly realized that the falls were at the end of a short and easy spur road. Had we continued going south on the main highway for another minute, we would've seen the Serpentine Falls Road!

Given this snafu, I had this sense that it was going to be another one of those frustrating days.

A kangaroo grazing at the Serpentine Falls car park Anyways, we got to the well-signed turnoff and consequently the reserve by 10:45am. Startling me was that we saw a kangaroo grazing in the grass at the car park and picnic area here.

Given our kangaroo incident earlier in the morning, I had now developed a bit of a fear of kangaroos. Part of me wondered if this kangaroo was going to jump out in front of our car when we pull out after visiting the falls.

Fear of kangaroos, indeed!

Serpentine Falls in low flow Serpentine Falls in low flow Serpentine Falls in low flow

So after paying the day use fee, we arrived at the falls at 10:50am.

Serpentine Falls in low flow The falls itself wasn't flowing particularly well but it still kept its rather serpentine shape as the name of the falls suggested. There also appeared to be a gate before the falls as if they didn't want people swimming here. Anyways, we took our photos and left.

We saw some picnickers feeding a pair of tiny kangaroos in the park. But both Julie and I were now fearful of them and wasted no time heading back north towards Lesmurdie Falls.

As we confronted the increased traffic of the Perth suburbs, we had trouble figuring out exactly where we were supposed to stop the car for the falls. At first, we stopped at an unassuming car park area with graffiti on some building facing us. We weren't sure if this was it and we thought there was a better way to the falls so we followed the Hwy 35 up a hill and eventually through some residential streets before arriving at the other car park for the falls at 12:30pm.

The panorama seen from the top of Lesmurdie Falls Looking over the top of Lesmurdie Falls in low flow Looking over the top of Lesmurdie Falls in low flow

But after we walked around for a few minutes, we ended up at the top of the falls. It wasn't the place to photograph the falls, which was trickling and not particularly doing well, but we did get nice panoramic views towards the city.

Side view of what's left of Lesmurdie Falls from near its top Lesmurdie Falls in low flow Lesmurdie Falls in low flow

Still, we were unsatisfied with the view of the falls from here and we knew there was another way towards the base of the falls - and it was probably that spot we had originally stopped at in the first place. So we walked back to the car park and headed back down towards the original car park with the graffiti on the adjacent building.

Lesmurdie Falls in low flow Lesmurdie Falls in low flow Last look at the panorama towards Perth from the top of Lesmurdie Falls

By now, it was 1pm. After a few minutes of flat walking along the calm stream and ignoring the lewd graffiti on a bench along the route, we finally made it to the base of Lesmurdie Falls.

At least the view from here was better, but clearly this waterfall had seen better days. I guess the winter had been dry up to this point. It was probably not unlike the dry winters we had received in Southern California that made its local waterfalls dry even in the winter!

Damage to the hire car And with that, we returned to the damaged hire car. We actually took a few photos of the car just in case the Master Rental Insurance (which we were going to rely upon since we waived the Collision Damage Waiver through Thrifty) wanted to see them.

The damage liability given our kangaroo incident Then, we drove off for the Perth Domestic Airport and eventually got to the Thrifty Lot at 1:50pm. Now it was time to face the music...

After parking the damaged car in one of the empty spots at the Thrifty Lot, both Julie and I took the time to clear out the car and essentially repack everything. We left the repacked luggage in the trunk so we wouldn't have to carry everything to the Thrifty kiosk.

With that, we walked to the nearest terminal and walked up to the Thrifty counter. Unfortunately, no one was there. So we picked up the phone on the counter and followed the instructions to call if no one was around.

To our relief, a lady on the other side picked up and instructed us to go to another terminal where she was at.

And as we finally got to the other terminal, there were a pair of women behind the Thrifty counter. One of them, named Natasha, greeted us as she was the person I spoke on the phone with.

After telling her what happened, we had to fill out some paperwork. Once that was done, she handed me another set of keys for a different rental car. Then, she told us to meet some other guy who was already at the car park waiting. We also asked if we could keep the old keys since we still have our stuff in the trunk. She obliged.

After thanking Natasha, she told us, "No worries!" It was a commonly used phrase we heard everywhere we went in Australia. Julie thought it was getting played out, and I wasn't so sure I could stop worrying as we both knew it wasn't going to be pleasant dealing with the insurance company and trying to stomach the impact to my wallet.

So Julie and I left the Thrifty counter and headed out towards the car park where a well-built guy with a Scottish accent was waiting.

"Are you the one who hit the 'roo?" he said.

"Yep," said I.

"Can you show me which car it is?" he inquired.

And so we walked over to the car and showed him the frontal damage.

"Aww yeah, that's definitely a kangaroo. I had never seen it in person before but you sure did hit it good." He then leaned closer to the damaged grill, took a whiff and smiled at us. "It sure smells like some of it got cooked in there."

It wasn't exactly a pleasing thought, but we were amazed that this was the first time this guy had seen a kangaroo accident. We must've been either really unlucky or something.

"It was a good thing he rolled under the car," he went on.

"Why was that?" I replied.

"Because they've been known to keep kicking through windshield until the driver eventually dies."

"Really?!?" both Julie and I said together. So I guess maybe we were lucky after all. It depends on how you look at it, I reckon.

Anyways, we got our stuff out of the trunk of the damaged car and put the stuff into the replacement car. I surrendered the old keys to the employee and said our good-byes. We then proceeded to East Perth where we were supposed to spend the night at the Comfort Hotel Perth City.

The Bell Tower The Royal Mint in CBD Perth A Cantonese place in Perth An attractive narrow arcade in the Perth CBD

Finally at 3:30pm, we got to the Comfort Hotel and spent the remaining daylight hours walking around the city. It took a few blocks of walking westward before we made it into Central Business District (or CBD).

Some building in the Perth CBD Some other attractive buildings in the Perth CBD More attractive buildings in the Perth CBD

At first, we took some photos of an interesting glass building called the Bell Tower. Later, we headed towards some busy-looking promenade area. There were heaps of shops lined along the pedestrian-only street as well as upstairs and downstairs shops in the buildings. If you're a shop-a-holic, you could easily spend days here.

A charming little arcade in the Perth CBD An attractive arcade in the Perth CBD Looking towards an attractive building with an arcade beneath its gate An attractive arcade in the Perth CBD in twilight

But the shops started closing their doors around dinner time. Geez they close early, we thought.

Walking about in the Perth CBD So Julie and I struggled to find a decent spot here to eat. And after not being able to settle on a decent sit down spot, we walked back to our accommodation and settled on having some Chinese-Indonesian food in a hole-in-the-wall place.

And after the meal, we returned to the Comfort Hotel, got cleaned up, and slept. Hopefully, the rest of the trip wouldn't be as traumatic and dramatic as this day...



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Day 2: FEAR OF KANGAROOS
Given the lesson learned from yesterday morning, we opted to sleep in and wake up only after 6pm. Forget the pre-dawn wake-ups that we had gotten away with multiple times during this trip. That one kangaroo incident was all I needed to put a stop to trying to getting the most out of every possible daylight hour during the shortest days of the year in this part of the world.

So it wasn't until about 7:40am when we checked out of the Comfort Hotel Perth City and left Perth. By then, the sun was well up on the horizon. Of course, we didn't have to fear too much about roos in the freeways of the city, plus it was Sunday so the traffic was light. But once we got out of the city limits, then the fear of kangaroos started to creep in again.

So far so good. However, both of our hearts jumped when we noticed yet another dead kangaroo on the side of the road - once again reminding us that they're still there. And with that in mind, I made sure I was able to follow someone so I wouldn't be the first to react if another 'roo jumped in front of the car. But our fear of kangaroos subsided as the day wore on and the skies got brighter. Fortunately, the long drive was mostly uneventful. We were getting good reception on the car stereo so Triple J was on no problem. And once again, that helped to lessen the pain of driving the long distances in Australia.

Passing by the group of Dukes of Hazard cars There was one moment where a large group of cars that were all like the Dukes of Hazzard cars in different colors had been driving in a huge line. I was guessing that they were part of a car club or something. In any case, we passed by them since they were going slow, but I was guessing that the intent was to draw attention to them in the first place.

Something else that got our attention was that the place names seen on the highway signs throughout the far southwest part of Australia (also known as the Margaret River Region) had "-up" in their names. For example, there was the town of Yallingup, Cowaramup, Yalyalup, Dalyellup, etc. We weren't sure what was up with the "-up"s, but it seemed to be a quirk of this part of the country.

Following the guide into the entrance to the Ngilgi Cave Eventually at 10:45am, we reached the car park for the Ngilgi Cave. Up until this point of the trip, we had seen waterfalls, coastal views, natural arches, escarpments, forests, billabongs, and more. But one thing we hadn't seen was a cave.

The cave tour itself wasn't long and the cave wasn't very big. But it did feature pretty densely stalactites and stalagmites in its wide chambers. It was a little tricky to take photos from within the cave because they prohibited tripods, but it was interesting nonetheless thanks to the artificial lighting to ensure that we wouldn't be looking into pitch darkness.

Inside the Ngilgi Cave Inside the Ngilgi Cave Inside the Ngilgi Cave

Indeed, this tour was a nice change of pace. Plus, it was kind of independent of the weather since the skies were threatening rain. But we wouldn't know any better once we were in the subterranean depths.

Inside the Ngilgi Cave By around 12pm, we had left the Ngilgi Cave and we continued to go further south in search of the Quinninup Falls. We had read from our Explore Australia book that the last bit of road was prone to big ruts and might require high clearance.

Looking up the beach along the Cape-to-Cape Track near Moses Rock So instead, we went down a different road towards the Moses Rock, which had a more tame car park despite the road to get there being unsealed. We ended up getting there at around 12:30pm.

Julie on the Cape-to-Cape Track under threatening skies The skies looked pretty threatening and there were some winds blowing as well. But now that we were by the ocean, we immediately saw that we had to hike part of the Cape-to-Cape Track in order to make our way north to the Quinninup Falls.

The hike was pretty smooth going until the obvious trail somewhat gave way to more sandy dunes. At that point, the trail got a bit more strenuous as we were hiking on steep hills where each step on the sand caused us to retread downhill given the loose footing.

Julie going down a steep sandy section of the trail Approaching the struggling Quinninup Falls View of the ocean as we were leaving Quinninup Falls

Eventually, we summited a hill then went steeply downhill into some kind of "valley." It was at the base of this slope that we noticed there was some kind of rock formation with green algae growing on it. We weren't sure if we were indeed at the Quinninup Falls, but from the pre-trip notes I had, it did indeed seem like we were in the right place.

When Julie arrived, she smirked, "There's your waterfall."

"I guess they've been having a dry winter. The thing is hardly flowing," I said.

Closeup look at Quinninup Falls Indeed, the falls wasn't flowing very well as it was merely trickling. So the somewhat moderate hike we embarked on was a little bit of a disappointment. After having seen how Serpentine Falls, Lesmurdie Falls, and now Quinninup Falls weren't doing so well, we wondered if our timing to this part of the country was off.

Contextual look at the Quinninup Falls with neighboring rocks Even though it was supposed to be Winter in these parts, it was the start of Winter. I guess the rains hadn't really come to these parts to the point that the waterfalls would be flowing well. Yet, when we went to the far north of Australia, those waterfalls might not be doing well had we waited longer into the Winter. I guess it was one of those cases where we couldn't have our cake and eat it too.

Anyways, we hiked back out the way we came at 1:30pm. As anticipated, the climb up the dunes was pretty brutal. We huffed and puffed and gasped for air as we trudged up the slope fighting the tendency to slide down the sand. A pair of women who were going down the slope saw us struggling and said to us, "Good exercise, huh?"

But once we got past this, then we could continue on the 2km trail to get back to the car park.

The sun momentarily coming out against the ominous skies just off the coast Julie way up ahead of me on the Cape-to-Cape Track Almost back at the overlook and car park near Moses Rock

This time, we were checking out the beautiful coastal scenery that was out here, but it would be under threatening skies. We could see the menacing clouds out in the distance and it sprinkled a few times here and there. However, the storm didn't really deliveer the whole time we were on the Cape-to-Cape Trail.

A signpost for the Cape-to-Cape Track We were back at the car park at 1:45pm. Julie and I were famished as we hadn't had our lunch yet. We had read that the Margaret River had good wine, and we figured they must also have good food since generally they go together. After all, where there would be good wine, they have to have good food with it right?

So with something to look forward to, we left the car park and headed further south.

At 2pm, we arrived in the Margaret River township. After we filled up some much-needed petrol, we walked around town looking for a decent place to eat. Unfortunately, all the places we had read about in Lonely Planet were either closed or nonexistent. And since beggars can't be choosers, we settled for this placed called Dome, which seemed like the only place open this time. With our stomachs filled, we left Margaret River at 3:15pm. And after some long driving between some giant karri trees and a mix of wet and dry roads from the intermittent rain, we finally arrived in the township of Pemberton at 5:15pm.

After we filled up petrol, we went looking around for the Comfort Inn Karri Forest. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it as it wasn't on the main street. Finally, we realized that there was a road that wasn't on the main road but branched off of it and headed east towards a junction with another residential street. Going up the hill on the residential street ultimately yielded the motel we sought.

By 5:30pm, we checked in and got cleaned up. We thought we could go into town and look for something to eat. We opted not to try the restaurant in the Comfort Inn this night. And eventually Julie and I settled for the restaurant that sat in the Best Western Hotel on the main street near the petrol station.

The restaurant itself was pretty busy. But when we started eating the food, we wondered why. It was probably the worst restaurant next to the one in the Tom Price Motel and the buffet in Uluru that we had been to on this trip. Based on this experience, we were determined to eat at the restaurant in our motel tomorrow night.

And with that, Julie and I slept comfortably. Yet we were still thinking about that kangaroo and how much money it was going to cost me once we get back home.



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Day 3: OUR FIRST RAINY DAY OF THE TRIP
Julie and I got up at 7am. Once again, we were going to have a late start since we still wanted to avoid another kangaroo incident. And so we brought things we would need for the day and slowly drove south towards Northcliffe by 8:15am.

Driving on the wooded roads towards Northcliffe from Pemberton We got to Northcliffe by 8:45am. The visitor center was still closed, but it didn't matter. We roughly had an idea of how to get to the Lane-Poole Falls.

Driving on the wooded roads towards Northcliffe from Pemberton The unsealed road to get to the waterfall's trailhead was pretty straight forward and smooth. We got to the car park at around 9:30am. Sitting smack in the middle of the car park was this giant tree called the Boolara Tree. We didn't really expect to see this, but it was certainly a big bonus.

We had to stand back away from the tree in order to take photos of it in one frame. Anyways, it was quite a bit thinner than the sequoia trees that we were used to seeing back in California, but trees this tall were interesting nonetheless. They even seemed to have a bit of a bulbous bottom.

The Boolara Tree at the trailhead for Lane-Poole Falls More distant look at the Boolara Tree Julie on the Lane-Poole Falls Track Julie towered over by tall karri trees while on the Lane-Poole Falls Track

The tree was a nice diversion, but after a few minutes of taking photos, we then proceeded onto the hike to the Lane-Poole Falls.

Julie checking out the Lane-Poole Falls The trail was mostly flat and easy to follow. The nice thing about the hike was that it was lined with karri trees and interpretive signs about various aspects of the ecosystem. Julie and I relaxed as we took our time walking the trail and remarking about various things we had experienced on the trip so far. At 10am, we got to a part where the trail became narrower and more primitive. It then got steeper as it descended 200m towards the falls along a wet handrail. The skies looked like they were darkening with threatening storm clouds, so that kind of hastened Julie and I to get to the falls. Lane-Poole Falls By 10:15am, we had reached the end of the trail which terminated at a hexagonal platform right in front of the falls. The falls, however, looked nothing like the photo I saw during my research when it had heavy flow and spanned the length of the watercourse. The state it was in currently had a far narrower flow. The falls itself seemed like it couldn't have been more than 10m tall though the width of the bare underlying wall suggested the falls had the potential to be more impressive in full flow despite its height. Lane-Poole Falls At 10:25am, Julie and I left the falls as we started to feel droplets of water coming down from the sky. Still, it didn't rain though the droplets hinted at what was to come. By 11:15am, we returned to the car park. We took a few more photos of that Boolara Tree before we got back in the car and headed back towards Pemberton and ultimately the Gloucester Ridge Winery since we had read it was a highly recommended spot and it seemed to be the only decent place in town. And with that, we drove off amidst heavy rain. Too little, too late for witnessing the rain giving Lane-Poole Falls more vigor, I thought.

As we were driving back north through Northcliffe and towards the Gloucester Vineyard area, there was actually another tall tree over there, but we were more drawn towards the idea of having a decent lunch at a wine place since we were kind of denied that while touring the Margaret River Region yesterday.

So it wasn't until about 12:15pm when we arrived at the Gloucester Vineyard Cafe in pouring rain.

Anyways, Julie and I beat a hasty retreat from the car into the restaurant. The drops were thick and frequent. Despite our best efforts to avoid the rain, we got wet anyways.

Inside the refuge of the Gloucester Ridge, the room was warm and the lady at the counter invited us to try out some of the wines. After tasting some of their wines, the lady showed us to our table.

The room had a calming and elegant decor. It certainly relaxed us considering we were still recovering from the kangaroo incident two days ago. Julie shopped around their boutique for souvenirs. Eventually, she would join me and we just soaked in the atmosphere while looking at their menu for something good.

The rain was pouring hard as Julie and I watched from the comfort of the Gloucester Ridge Restaurant. We knew we would be back out there after our lunch. But this was the first significant rain we had seen the entire trip and perhaps it might give some life to the otherwise lifeless waterfalls we had seen in the southern part of Western Australia.

We ended up eating a very satisfying meal of a couple of their local fish along with other side dishes. We figured we couldn't go wrong with their seafood. But this restaurant certainly proved our theory that good wine tends to accompany good food, and we were glad we finally got at least one good taste of the Wine Country's boutique of wineries - even if Pemberton was some two hours east of Margaret River itself.

We also talked briefly with the lady who was working the place and she told us that we could walk to the nearby Gloucester Tree so we wouldn't have to pay an admission fee, which was for vehicular traffic.

So when we were done with the lunch, Julie and I got our rain ponchos out of the car and proceeded to walk to the tree. It only took a few minutes and the lady was right.

Looking up at the Gloucester Tree in the rain Julie and I quickly got to the Gloucester Tree and took some photos. We didn't bother entertaining any notion of climbing the tree especially given the wet weather. There were also a few sporadic booms heard on the forest floor as some of the branches fell from the towering trees in the pouring rain. This was obviously a normal process, but it was unnerving knowing that things could get serious if one of these things were to land on us.

At 2pm, Julie and I walked back to the car and headed over to Beedelup Falls. After about 20 minutes of driving west of Pemberton, we followed the short unsealed road to the large car park. No one except maybe another car or two was there.

Beedelup Falls Beedelup Falls Beedelup Falls from the suspension bridge

There was a self-pay kiosk with a fee of $9 AUS. There were quite a few cars already here undeterred by the rain. But when we walked the well-developed trails here, it seemed like there was no one else around.

More contextual look at the Beedelup Falls from the suspension bridge So we took the easy 15-minute walk and eventually made it to a swing bridge that provided a direct view of the falls. Despite the rain we had been receiving, the falls looked like it got replenished from this rain, but its flow had seen much better days than this. Nonetheless, we took our photos, enjoyed the calm scenery, and then continued the loop walk back to the car park.

Perhaps the falls was best seen head on from the 800m suspension bridge. Yet I wondered how much more this waterfall would've been struggling if not for the rains that were coming down today.

At 2:55pm, we were back at the car.

By 3:15pm, we returned to Pemberton. Even though there was lots of daylight left in the day, we opted to shut down our sightseeing activities for the day and use their internet service in the town library.

There was some kind of academic test going on in the library so we had to be quiet during our time there. And so we got caught up on our emails and we even got confirmation from our travel agent at Pacific Destination Center that we would get refunded for our cancelled Lord's Kakadu Safari tour (which resulted from the closure of the Jim Jim Falls Road).

Afterwards, we walked around Pemberton and even indulged in a little grocery shopping. The weather had taken a break from the rain, which made things a bit easier on us to walk around. When dinner finally came around, we dined at the Comfort Inn Karri Forest restaurant as anticipated, which was infinitely better than last night's experience.

We even engaged in a long conversation with another motel guest who educated us on what life was like as well as the state of affairs in Western Australia. We even told him about our kangaroo incident and he told us that he never ran into one though he did see a dead one between Pemberton and Northcliffe. Sometimes I wonder if we just have bad luck as this was the second local who told us they never really encountered such an accident.

When we were about to finish our desserts, we mentioned to him that we were headed to Albany tomorrow. He went on to tell us to watch out for high winds - not realizing that he would be prophetically spot on with his comments.



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Day 4: ON THE TREE TOP
It was about 6am when we awoke. Given the long drive ahead of us towards Albany, this was an hour later than what we would've normally done earlier on in the trip. Still, the fear of kangaroos was strong and we had to do whatever we could to avoid hitting another one.

It was 7am when Julie and I checked out of the Comfort Inn Karri Forest at Pemberton and made our drive towards Albany. Always conscientious of kangaroos this time of day, we took our time driving well below the speed limit, especially given the trees around the road providing plenty of hiding spots for the potentially road-bound creatures.

As we headed south on Hwy 1, we took an unsealed turnoff towards Fernhook Falls. I hoped that the rains we were getting since yesterday might have helped out the flow of this waterfall.

Even with the threatening rains and the rainbow we saw in the early morning, the unsealed road wasn't bad (usually I would've feared muddy conditions if it was raining). And by 8:15am, after having driven 6km on the unsealed road, we arrived at the car park for Fernhook Falls.

Fernhook Falls Fernhook Falls Fernhook Falls

We were hoping for the nice full Fernhook Falls we saw in the photo on our Explore Australia atlas, but when we got to the falls, it still had disappointing flow as only a small section of stream was left of the wide watercourse that would normally span the width of the long bridge just above it.

What's left of Fernhook Falls I guess the rains came too little too late for our waterfall hunting. Still, I couldn't help but wonder how this waterfall would've been like had there been more decent flow and the winter wasn't so dry. It would need a lot more rain to produce the kind of volume that we saw in that book.

The unsealed road to Fernhook Falls with rainbow We wondered if this falls might be better later in the year (as if we happened to show up too early in the season) or if this just happened to be a dry year. We couldn't tell, and we weren't sure when we'd be back in this part of the WA.

So we didn't linger here for too long. We left Fernhook Falls at 8:35am and continued our drive.

Eventually, we'd make it to the southern shores of this part of Southwest Australia along Hwy 1. At 10:15am, we eventually passed Walpole and not much further on, we ended up at the Tree Top Walk. Again, this wasn't a planned part of the visit, but we figured that we mind as well check out this place since we were already here, and it might be a nice change of pace since we hadn't done something like this before.

On the Tree Top Walk Unusual perspective of the impressive trees on the Tree Top Walk Suddenly, the sun came out while we were doing the Tree Top Walk

Indeed, the name of this place was aptly named as we went onto suspended metal walkways that allowed us to walk amongst the treetops. It felt strange to be consistently this high up at tree level, and it was quite the unique experience as expected. Even the sun started coming out.

Julie on the metallic walk amongst the tree tops Tree Top Walk with the sun momentarily coming out The Tree Top Walk with the sun a little more intense

When we were done with the walk, we then did a short trail amongst the base of the forest called the Empire Walk. Julie and I continued on a boardwalk path that passed through the forest floor beneath more of these tingle trees. It was reminiscent of some of the walks amongst the giant redwood trees in Sequoia National Park in California. We even got to walk through some of the tingle trees.

Still on the Tree Top Walk More of the Tree Top Walk Just as soon as the sun came out, so did the rain on the Tree Top Walk

We also ran into an elder Australian guy who asked us how we could have voted for Bush. Of course I had to set the record straight and say we didn't vote for him. Still, it was yet another indication of what the world thinks of us even though we totally disagree with our government and those who support it with excuses or an unwillingness to see the connection between our actions and the world around us. The guy didn't seem like he wanted to let go of the issue.

Brief heavy rain as we were on the Tree Top Walk Walking amongst the giant karri trees after having finished the Tree Top Walk One of the karri trees that had a tunnel through it

I just shrugged my shoulders and told him that I pretty much agreed with everything he said. I guess he just needed to vent. I recalled we had to apologize to people when we were on our New Zealand honeymoon trip back in 2004. It was totally out of our control. Anyways, the wife of that husband pushed him along sensing that he was ready for a confrontation.

Getting close to one of the hollowed out karri trees Julie approaching the karri tree with a tunnel through it The boardwalk going alongside a fallen karri tree

Eventually at 10:45am, we finished with this part of the excursion. Again, a pleasant surprise and a unique experience, with a little bit of politics interjected (that was not expected, clearly).

The aptly named Green Pool near Denmark Contextual view of the walk leading to the Green Pool The Southern Ocean with waves breaking and leading to some pools by the Elephant Rocks

Then, we stopped by a pair of coastal attractions at the Greens Pool and the Elephant Rocks an hour later as we got closer to the town of Denmark (nope, not the country). It was our first glimpse of the south coast of the WA and it was wild and beautiful. However, the winds were blowing hard as dark rain clouds threatened to come in.

Looking towards the Elephant Rocks Given the weather, we donned our rain ponchos, but we had to ensure they wouldn't behave like a kite and blow us away.

When the sun was out, the Green's Pool looked to be aptly named. However, given the churning Southern Ocean, there'd be no way we'd even think about getting close to the water (especially given how cold it was). The Elephant Rocks I think pertained to the rounded rocks that were all around the area.

Looking at a rainbow above the town of Denmark When we had our fill of this attraction, we left at 12pm and then headed to the town of Denmark, eventually making it there at 12:20pm.

After the brief lunch stop in Denmark, we eventually made it to Albany at 1:30pm.

The Gap And after checking in our motel at the Comfort Inn Albany and dropping off our baggage, we spent the remainder of the day checking out Torndirrup National Park, leaving Albany at 2:30pm.

We'd ultimately reach the car park for Torndirrup National Park at the Natural Bridge and the Gap at around 2:55pm. However, the winds were blowing hard and it was quite cold given the wind chill. To our surprise, sea spray was coming up above the sea cliffs and blowing onto the car park. The howling winds were obviously the culprits.

The Natural Bridge at Torndirrup National Park Looking towards the late afternoon sun between some storm clouds at Torndirrup National Park Looking towards some sea spray being blown back up over the chasm and onto the cliffs above

First up was the Gap. The short walk way led to a small railing area that looked down into a chasm that would fill with the giant crashing waves. The forceful winds made walking to this overlook a bit scary as we could easily see how easy it was to get pushed into the Gap by the wind. So we didn't linger here for long after taking a couple of photos.

Then, we headed over to the Natural Bridge. At least this overlook was a bit less exposed, but it was still unnerving to be standing amongst the howling winds looking down at the intriguing arch as the crashing waves sent spray that would blow through it and spray our faces. There was also a sign discussing a dramatic rescue that took place after a boy fell into the turbulent oceans here.

Looking out in the distance as we were walking down towards the blowhole Partial rainbow in the clouds as I was walking closer to the blowhole at Torndirrup Looking towards the blowholes at Torndirrup

By 3:30pm, Julie and I left the chaotic scene here. We stopped at another viewing spot with a lighthouse and nice views of the coastline before reaching the car park for a blowhole.

The walk to the blowhole was probably some 30-minutes each way but the winds were still blowing hard. By 4pm, we arrived at the blowhole, which behaved more like the seething nostrils of a dragon than a spouting geyser. It was difficult to photograph and we dared not venture any closer to the holes given the winds and the steepness of the terrain once you leave the trail.

A historical relic of Albany's convict past And so we left Torndirrup National Park and ended up back in Albany at a little after 5pm. From there, we went looking for restaurants as we walked around town under a full arcing rainbow.

One of the historical-looking buildings in Albany, WA Apparently, Albany was one of the first Australian settlements said to be settled in 1827. We could see relics (especially of the prison variety) thereby upholding that joke or reputation that the first Aussies were convicts.

The Lonely Planet book we had was pretty much outdated as just about all of the recommended dinner spots were closed or out of business. We finally settled in on this place called the CBD Central Cafe, which sat in some hotel on York St. And the food and dining experience was quite pleasing.

Big rainbow over the town of Albany Another historical looking building in Albany A fireplace keeping us warm while we were having dinner in Albany, WA

We returned to the Comfort Inn Albany Motel at around 9pm and showered to wash off the salt from all the sea spray blown upwards by the howling winds in Torndirrup. Then, we slept without trouble after watching some interesting news special about automobiles in China - no doubt one of the big contributors (outside our own way of life in the States) to the energy crisis and global warming.



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Day 5: RIDING THE WAVE
Julie and I checked out of the Comfort Inn and left Albany at 8:15am. It was still later than I would've liked considering the amount of driving we had to do this day, but it was our fear of kangaroos that kept us from leaving earlier than we did.

Today, the plan was to get to Hyden near Wave Rock, which sat 4 hours to the north and slightly to the east of Albany. It was also 4 hours east of Perth. So obviously we knew there wasn't going to be much going on over there.

Leaving the Comfort Inn in Albany Driving through the Stirling Ranges towards Hyden and the Wave Rock The accommodation we were supposed to be staying at in Hyden

Pacific Destination Center, who booked our accommodations, recommended that we not drive all the way to Perth on this day. So they booked us for a night's stay at the Wave Rock Motel in Hyden.

But after a long and uneventful drive from the Stirling Ranges and then through much agricultural lands, we were already at Wave Rock at 12pm. And our hunches were correct. There really wasn't nothing out here and we wanted a whole day to spend in Perth tomorrow rather than worrying another day about kangaroos hopping in front of the car.

The Wave Rock at last! Anyways after paying the $7 vehicle fee, we spent some time having fun posing in front of the strange yet interesting rock formation that looks just like a breaking wave (making use of an ironing board left there to act as a surf board). However, what was strange was the presence of what appeared to be retaining walls above the Wave Rock. I bet they put them there to ensure the rock doesn't get further eroded, but still it made the attraction seem artificial.

Surfing the ironing board at Wave Rock On our way out of Wave Rock, we found a pay phone right in front of the Wave Rock Visitor Center. Julie decided to act upon our intent to spend the night in Perth so she made the call to see if the Comfort Hotel Perth City (which we stayed at that same day we hit the kangaroo) had vacancies.

And sure enough, they did.

Looking in the other direction at the Wave Rock So with that, Julie made the booking even though we had already been booked for the Wave Rock Motel in Hyden. We did something similar in New Zealand where we wasted money booking two nights in an Ohakune Motel and replaced it with a stay at the Chateau Tongariro. So we figure we mind as well take advantage of the moment regardless of the monetary inefficiencies.

Still, we checked in anyways and took a look at the motel room. Julie took the complementary cookies and milk and left the keys in the room. And with that, we headed for Perth at 1pm.

Again, the drive was long and featureless. The roads out of Hyden were weird in that the paved part of the road was narrow and straddled the center line. But the sides of the roads were unsealed. I guess the intent for having the roads this way was to drive in the middle of the road until there was oncoming traffic. Then, both sides would drive on the unsealed part of the road before resuming on the paved part.

I guess it was kind of ingenious when we thought about it because there was less pavement to utilize. Still, it took some getting used to since we had never seen anything like this back in the States.

Looking at the flat and mostly dry Hovea Falls It wasn't until 4:40pm when we finally got to the John Forrest National Park, but daylight was fading fast as it was the day after the winter solstice (for the Southern Hemisphere). So we acted quickly to walk to Hovea Falls.

Sideways view of the mostly dry Hovea Falls But when we finally persisted past the tressel bridge and walked a little further towards the falls, we were disappointed by its flow. Even despite the rain of the past few days, apparently it was still too little too late for our visit to see the falls flowing well. All it was doing in front of us was just trickle and wet the bedrock.

What's left of the Hovea Falls When we got back to the car park junction at 5:20pm, Julie went back to the car and let me hunt down National Park Falls. After about 10 minutes of trail running and walking fast, I got to the falls. But this one was even more disappointing than Hovea Falls because it was completely dry!

Anyways, I took a few long exposure photos to combat the twilight and trail ran back to the car. By that time, it was 5:45pm and night had fallen upon us. But at least we were now on our way back to the downtown area of East Perth so we could spend the very last full day of our trip in the charming city.

The dry National Park Falls The dry National Park Falls The dry National Park Falls

We'd eventually get to Perth at 7pm. Julie and I had ourselves a quickie southeastern Asian Chinese food, which was pretty much cheap comfort food. I guess Julie got a little tired of Western food and decided to go Asian on this night.

With all the long driving that we had done, we had no more energy left to do any night touring. So we pretty much retreated back to our room. Then, we used some of the evening to do some packing to ensure that our luggages would be ready for the long haul flights back home the day after tomorrow.

Besides, we earned our full day of touring Perth tomorrow. For once, there'd be no more fear of kangaroos. It'd just be the city finale tomorrow. And with that, we had ourselves a pretty relaxed evening as we dozed off...



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Day 6: THE FINALE IN PERTH
Julie and I slept in as expected. And it wasn't until well after 10am when we finally went out on the town. Personally, I thought we were losing precious sightseeing time with such a late start to the day, but it was what it was.

Looking at some important-looking building in the Perth CBD Looking towards some kind of fancy church in Perth Another historical-looking building in Perth

We pretty much aimlessly meandered about the city kind of following the walking tour suggested by Lonely Planet. However, at some point, we pretty much walked in circles around the CBD area and then had ourselves a little bite.

Looking towards some kind of attractive church in Perth Walking about in the shopping arcade of the Perth CBD Another historical-looking building in Perth

We took plenty of pictures but there wasn't a whole lot we remembered about our sightseeing other than we had popped in and out of shopping centers as the CBD seemed like it was meant for shopping and less so for sightseeing.

Checking out the Perth Skyline The Indian Tea House at Cottesloe Beach Looking back at the Indian Tea House at Cottesloe Beach

Our downtown Perth touring ended some time around 3pm. At that point, we decided to do spend the rest of the afternoon over at Cottesloe Beach. We were attracted to this place after seeing some pretty cool photos in our Explore Australia Road Atlas that we had brought with us.

Contextual look at the Perth Skyline And so by 4pm, we managed to find some street parking before we walked about on the beach itself while making our way towards and around the Indian Tea House that seemed to be the centerpiece building of this beach.

With the setting sun and the warm glow of the waning afternoon, the buildings and the sand at this beach were also painted that warm orange color, which made our photos pretty attractive out here.

We stuck around the beach to watch the sunset from beneath the Indian Tea House, and like the other sunsets we had seen earlier on in this trip, this final night in WA was also just as beautiful. I couldn't think of a better way to cap off our sightseeing during daylight hours.

Looking back towards the Indian Tea House with the warm late afternoon sunlight Looking past the Indian Tea House Setting sun beneath the Indian Tea House at Cottesloe Beach

Next, we went back into the beach town of Cottesloe where we had ourselves one last dinner.

Looking towards the setting sun at Cottesloe Beach Cottesloe Beach Setting sun at Cottesloe Beach

The food was delicious and it was like a last night's splurge. However, I didn't recall what exactly we ate. I also didn't recall if this place had our favorite sticky date pudding, which was something Julie and I now always looked forward to whenever we'd have dinner in Australia.

The Perth Skyline across the Swan River When the dinner was done, we then drove back to Perth. However, we were now looking for a place across the Swan River to take night photos of the city's skyline. With my tripod in hand, we took some time meandering about the city park with the gorgeous skyline view.

Then, we meandered about the local cafes and shops nearby this park as we indulged in a little sweet tooth action going for some ice cream (even though we had already had dinner and dessert in Cottesloe).

Eventually, we had our fill of the night photos of Perth. And then, the time to get back in the car and return it to the Perth Airport was near as we were trying to savor as much of the Perth experience as we could before we had to catch our red-eye flight back to Los Angeles by way of Sydney.

Thus, our three-week trip to the Northern Territory and Weatern Australia ended. It was time to get back to life, back to reality. Except with this being our third year in a row of taking long overseas trips, Julie and I knew that we could keep doing this. Indeed, the travel bug had hit us, and we kept wanting more...




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