Dreams of down under – VIC – Bells to Kennet River

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Turn turn turn turn turn turn, straight, turn turn turn turn

After the surf at Bells Beach we had two options, either stay around Torquay and spend another generator fueled night at the Equestrian Farm or start traveling along the Great Ocean Road to find our next destination. Our curiosity got the better of us and we decided to hit the road.

Just after 10 minutes of driving west from Torquay the Great Ocean Road starts hugging the coast. In contrast to our trip on the west coast where we were driving straight for days, this became the drive of turns. I think you’ll struggle to find a windier road anywhere in the world, haha. But boy, it sure was spectacular. Driving next to the ocean amongst giant cliffs and dense patches of forest it felt like every turn would grant you another spectacular view overlooking the coastline. The windy road makes it pretty hard for the driver to look at anything other than the next turn ahead, but thankfully the road is littered with scenic lookouts, so it’s easy to take in the views even from the drivers seat. During our drive there was quite a big swell in the water, and it felt like there was a surfable wave around every other corner .

Since we left in the afternoon from Torquay we looked for camp sites fairly close by and we decided to head to Kennet River Holiday Park for three major reasons. One was the location, just one and a half hours from Bells Beach, the second was a 24/7 power outlet to battle the cold at night with our little heater running in the van, and third and most importantly, Koalas! Apparently there are residential Koalas that live amongst the Eucalyptus trees inside and outside the campground and to have the chance to live this close to them was an opportunity too good to miss.

We arrived in our normal fashion, just before sunrise, so we quickly parked our van and went for a walk looking up at the nearby trees and within a couple of minutes we saw our first little furry bundle of joy, a Koala sleeping high up amongst the branches. The sound from the forest was absolutely mesmerizing at this time of the day. There were lots of parrots sharing the tree-tops with the Koalas and seeing them together as the sun was setting felt very exotic.

The following morning we took another walk around the campgrounds to say good morning to the Koalas and after we had checked out we decided to do a little walk along the nearby Kennet River. At the start of our Great Ocean Road trip we decided to go a bit slower than we had done on our west coast road trip, and give ourselves a but more time to explore the local areas around the campsites  so a morning stroll would fit the bill perfectly.

The walk started right next to the rivers outlet which was next to the road and it followed the river ca 1.5 km straight into dense forest. The track was all natural and we felt really small amongst the giant trees, mostly eucalyptus, and massive ferns. After about 20 minutes we arrived in a small open meadow with a single tree in the middle of and it that felt like a small haven. The track got smaller and smaller the further into the forest we went and when we had to walk through bushes to get to the next part of the track we decided it was time to head back. We had done very little research on the local wild life and walking through bushes in Australia can definitely hold some surprises so it felt like the smart thing not to gamble too much.

Around mid-day we decided it was time to move on, this seemed like a popular stop for tour buses and it started to fill up with groups of tourists looking for Koalas. Since we already had our fill of furry cuteness it felt good to fill up the coffee cups and head to our next destination, not that we really knew where that would be, but onwards we went, haha.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Melbourne to Bells

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Bells and furry friends

Having such a terrific time it was with mixed emotions we travelled north towards Melbourne to get our camper van again. It was such a pleasure to stay in Jacqui and Kims house, also being in one place for a couple of days, settling in a bit and not being on the road was very comfortable. There’s so much to see down here and I think we started to feel that we might have saturated our need for exploration for a time.

But we’re on a very long journey, on a scale that’s very rare to have, so while driving up to get our camper van the excitement of new roads and adventures was winning over the settling in feelings, and our next destination being the Great Ocean Road was definitely something to get the motivation to explore in to high gear. Once we got our camper it was a bit like coming home as we got the same model as we used on the west coast ( WA ), and we immediately settled in to our mobile home.

We had already scouted out the nearest shopping centre to get our food and supplies for the coming week and it was surprisingly easy to plan what to get and to make it very cost effective as we had some more experience this time from our first camping trip in WA.

Melbourne is just one hour north of one of the most famous surf breaks in the world, Bells Beach close to Torquay, which was our first stop on our drive towards the Great Ocean Road. The Rip Curl Pro is held at this break which is the oldest continuously running surf competition in the world and the wave is one of the most iconic breaks in the world. It’s a wave that’s pretty much on every surfers bucket list to try out but Linus thought he was going to skip it. The wave being that legendary it’s prone to huge crowds which sometimes means hassling, bad vibes and just a chaotic surf experience that he rather give a miss for a less known wave and some more peaceful surfing. Also it’s just fun to watch some really good locals surf a wave to it’s maximum potential.

We arrived in Torquay in the afternoon and spent a few hours browsing the different surf outlets in search for a wetsuit for Linus which turned out to be easier said than done. But after looking at all the options we eventually had a short list of a few options and we decided to sleep on it.

With our experiences from bigger camp sites in WA we decided we wanted to find something a little bit off the beating track. With the help of our new favourite app WikiCamps we found Whinbury Hill Equestrian Centre that offered powered campsites and remembering the great time we had at the ranch in Margaret River we didn’t hesitate to spend more time around animals, it’s such an added bonus to have furry friends around you.

We planned on being there a couple of hours before the sun set so we could hang out a bit at the site before dark, the weather was rather chilly as well so we wanted to get everything in order while the sun was still giving us some heat. Unfortunately our car battery had other plans. We had forgotten to turn the lights off for a bit while being parked in surf city looking for the wetsuit, and the car wouldn’t start after that. Thankfully Travellers Autobarn gave us quick road assistance but it took an hour and a bit to get it sorted which meant we missed our planned arrival before dark at the camp site.

The girl we spoke to at the camp site was very friendly and met us as we pulled in to the site. It turned out that we were the only ones there and she showed us how everything worked. One of the reasons for booking this site, except for the bonus of horses and stuff, was that they had power. This time around we had booked a heater for our camper van as the temperature was going to drop to 2 degrees during the night so we badly needed power. It turned out though that they got the electricity from a diesel generator that didn’t want to start. After some 10-15 minutes of nervousness and looking forward to a very cold night it finally started and we could breath out a sigh of relief. We were hoping it could stay on all night but apparently the girl running the site went over and shut it off at 1 AM, and we woke up with icy noses very early in the morning.

It was a beautiful morning though with light flowing through the trees, parrots squawking, birds singing and horses and goats slowly trotting out in the misty surrounding fields and we could soon feel the warmth coming back to us. We went over and patted some of them as they came and said hello when we approached. Such a nice morning to have before heading off to new adventures – checking out the famous Bells Beach.

As we arrived the conditions were good, 3-5ft high surf, not epic in these parts, but there was almost no wind and the lines we saw forming at Bells and the nearby break Winkipop looked so much fun. At the time there was only 10-15 people out per spot, less than we expected, so Linus decided he would have a go anyway and we hurriedly went to get a surf board from the nearby surf city Torquay.

It took us about an hour to head to Torquay, get a board, and then back again. Unfortunately some cross shore wind had come in during this time and kind of funked up the waves a bit, they were still peeling but there was some chops and hops in the water which can make the surfing a bit more challenging. There was a silver lining in the deteriorating conditions though, now there were 5-10 people at Winkipop and only 3 guys out at Bells! Linus got in his wetsuit faster than you can say cowabunga and was skipping down towards Bells, so happy to be able to try out this legendary wave without being in the way of the local crowd or being dropped in on by random visitors.

Linus about the session at Bells:

I’ve surfed mostly in Sweden and Thailand with just a few trips to more powerful breaks around the world. I have a massive respect for the power of the ocean down here, so to get out to the break I took the looong way around to get to the outside rather than trying the short cut through the white water. Not only to make it safer for me but nullifying the risk of getting in the way of the surfers out there. There’s nothing worse than struggling against breaking waves and finding yourself in the path of someone who’s catching a good wave and you’re the person forcing them to bail on what could have been an epic ride.

After 10-20 minutes in the water the other guys had enough of the light wind that was messing with the water and I was amazed to find myself alone in the lineup at Bells Beach which is extremely rare and I couldn’t even fathom what was happening. And yes, the surf was far from perfect, but being alone and just figuring out the lineup by myself, getting a few waves, catching some of the bigger outside sets on the head, was such an unforgettable experience and one of the pinnacles of my surfing life to date. It took a few waves to find my feet, especially surfing in a 4/3 wetsuit again after months in board shorts took some getting used to, but once I got a good one it felt surreal dropping in, making it around sections, trying to do long “raily” cutbacks and channeling my inner Mick Fanning, didn’t know he was there but the session at Bells definitely brought him out, haha.

After about 2 hours one other guy came out and by that time the tide had got so high the peeling waves were far and long between and since I had been pretty stationary the last couple of weeks, mostly driving and diving, I could feel that my arms were not up for a marathon session. But then I struck gold, caught my best wave of the session which gave me energy for another half hour in the water, which mostly resulted in wipe outs and close outs, before heading up with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. I had just surfed a wave that I thought was untouchable for a Swedish 30-something surfer and had just had a ball.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Melbourne

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Dragons are real and they live in Australia

Friday the 31st of August was one of our only scheduled days during our trip down under, and the day we would fly to Melbourne to visit our new friends Jacqui and Kim. They’re diving friends of friends whom Linus met briefly during his time working for Liquid Adventures in Thailand and we got the pleasure to spend more time with them at Keith and Alex wedding in Khao Lak in April.

Arriving in Melbourne we rented a car and trying to save some Aussie dollars we set our GPS to avoid toll roads and it sent us on a route that, for our sleep deprived zombie brains, turned out to be a bit of a mission. The GPS took us pretty much straight through the city of Melbourne and with a population of 5 million city driving here was a very different experience to the lonesome roads of WA. But about 2 hours, a few gasping moments and ca 84 turns later we arrived on the other side of the city and were happily closing in on Dromana, a south eastern suburb, and the home of our friends.

We arrived mid day, and like most people Jacqui and Kim were still at work, but being stellar hosts they had left a key out for us so we could make ourselves at home and crash in bed after the long trip from Perth. After a few hours of shut eye Jacqui came home and right from the start she made us feel really welcome and over a cup of coffee we chatted and admired the stunning view from their house. It sits on a hill at the south east part of the massive Port Philips Bay and the almost 180° view of the bay with the city skyline in the middle is just ridiculous and absolutely breath taking. After another couple of hours Kim came home as well and we spent the evening on their balcony getting to know each other in front of a, to Jacqui’s horror, somewhat smokey fire partaking of some delicious food and drinks.

Jacqui and Kim are both keen mountain bikers and the next day they had a little bicycle adventure in store for us and took us on an excursion to Portsea and the Point Nepean National park at the end of the bay. After a short ride in the car we parked in the national park and got our bicycles that would take us to the tip of the bay and Fort Nepean. Fortunately for us this wasn’t any extreme biking but a very cruisy ride along the coast and up towards a spectacular view at the Fort. The Fort was used as a defensive station during the wars, and apparently had shot the first shot of both World Wars (Maybe the Melbournians are a bit more trigger happy). The weather was forecasted to be unstable the whole day but we got lucky and had sun for the most part and it felt really nice to move our bodies a bit after sitting and driving for so many days back in WA.

Our excursion lasted a couple of hours and on our way back we got a taste of a new Aussie treat for us, Potato Cakes, which are deep fried thinly sliced potatoes. They are slightly thicker than a crisp which makes them a bit gooey inside the crispy outer shell. Very naughty but utterly delicious food. We came back to their home, sun kissed and wind swept, pretty knackered, and had another evening out on their balcony, seeping in the view, company, food and bevvies again and ending a magical day in Melbourne.

Waking up the next morning Jacqui and Kim had organised the high light of our stay, to go diving together and hopefully find some Weedy Sea Dragons among the kelp along the shores and piers of their nearby waters. We had a quick breakfast and got our gear together before setting off towards Port Sea which was our planned dive site for the day. We had been there the previous day and the conditions had looked really good, but as we rocked up a big swell had crept inside the bay and was pushing through under the pier. The visibility looked good though so undeterred we suited up in the nearby dive shop and walked down to the pier. The water temperature was 12-13° so we needed 7mm wetsuits for the dive, which obviously felt a bit more cumbersome than the tropical diving we’ve got used to, but it does somehow feel more special to enter the water with the extra gear on as in the feeling of entering an alien world is greater the more gear you need.

We all descended without any hiccups and under the pier we immediately felt the rocking and rolling from the swell above our heads. Luckily we’re all experienced divers and after just a couple of minutes getting used to our equipment it was really comfortable to dive in the shallow waters. The trick with diving in surge is just to go with the flow, accepting that you can’t fight the power of the ocean and timing your movements with the motion of the ocean. Then it’s something that becomes fun and enjoyable instead of something that you have to struggle against. It does however limit the possibilities for looking for the really small stuff as you can’t really stay in exactly the same spot for long before the ocean decides to move you along again as the next wave rolls over your head.

The scenery under water was spectacular, we had about 5-10m visibility, and the light coming through the beams of the pier looked magical. We were struck by the different sponges and kelp giving colour to the pier and the bottom seemed to boast quite a lot of life even though we found a lot of old fishing lures stuck in the vegetation. About 15 minutes in to the dive Jacquie spotted the star of the show and Linus got to see his first Weedy Sea Dragon swaying among the kelp a few inches above the bottom. Linus squealed as Jacqui pointed it out to him and the rest of dive Linus was in a state of utter bliss as seeing one of these mythical creatures has been a wish of his for a very long time. During the dive we encountered 3 or 4 more of these guys, ranging from about 20-30 cm in length, and thanks to the surge we got some amazing footage of them with the GoPro. Normally the lens of these cameras, a fish eye, is terrible for trying to shoot the smaller creatures, but the Sea Dragons were big enough and surged close enough to give us some good frames.

Malin did spot an absolutely massive ray and tried her best to signal the rest of the dive crew, but Linus looked up just as it swam off and just caught a glimpse of the tail. After about 45 minutes we started to feel rather chilly and made our way back to the ladder on the pier to end our dive. As we came out of the water we noticed the swell had picked up and getting out in the swell turned out to be a but of a mission for Malin who’s cold muscles simply didn’t cooperate as gravity hit and she tried to climb out of the water. Eventually she managed to crawl out though and soon afterwards energy returned and her body was functioning again. It is such a strange feeling when your body doesn’t respond.

As we all got out of the water we noticed that the waves were now actually breaking on the beach which highlighted one of the manmade environmental issues of this area. A few years ago the local government dredged for a shipping lane in the bay which altered the coast line and the water movement in the area. The Portsea beach never had any swell at all before, and now 1-3 ft waves were crashing here, taking away the sand and removing the habitat for it’s coastline species. Sandbags have been placed to save the houses next to the shoreline, and now they’re planning on installing a break wall to try to stop the ocean from eating up more of the shore which obviously will have further implications on the nearby environment.

It just goes to show that we’re far away from understanding the consequences of our actions, and that any decision to alter our environment should be considered extremely carefully as the butterfly effect of changing one thing can have devastating effects further down the line for years to come and might destroy habitats forever. It is very inspiring to meet people like Jacqui and Kim who live and breath conservation and fight on a daily basis to protect their local community. That Jacqui educates kids on a daily basis with lectures and excursions is just another amazing thing she does to make sure this planet will stay amazing for generations to come.

After the dives we stopped for the now mandatory potato cakes and on our way home we drove all the we way up the hill and stopped at the different viewpoints that offer beautiful views of the bay. That night we got a private viewing of a very unique video of our old friends in Thailand that we’ll never forget and for certain reasons can’t give away any details of.

We can’t thank Kim and Jacqui enough for this unforgettable weekend in Melbourne and their hospitality, it felt like we had a reunion with old friends, but new, so new-old friends whom we now just adore and hope we get to see soon again. <3

Dreams of down under – WA – Margaret River to Perth

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Bye bye Western Australia, Victoria here we come

We woke up after another wet and chilly night at the Big Valley Ranch. This was our last day in WA before heading off to Melbourne and we wanted to have a final look at the might of the ocean on this side of the world so we went up bright and early and head off to the Margaret River surf break.

We’d hoped that the surf would have cleaned up as the wind had dropped some but when we arrived it was a mighty mess at sea and no one was surfing out at the main peak which was still around 15ft and pretty choppy.
We parked our camper so we got a view of the ocean as we packed our gear and had breakfast before we started the drive towards Perth to return our beloved van.

To save some money we booked the late flight from Perth to Melbourne, leaving at 1AM, which meant we had quite a few hours to kill between returning our car and catching the flight so we seized the opportunity to head into Perth to see the city for a bit and feast on a meal that wasn’t cooked in our van. The thought of dragging around our 36 kilo luggage wasn’t very inviting so before heading into town we went to the airport to leave our bags in a locker.

We took a taxi from the rental place and the ride to the airport was only 10 minutes, but it became a bit more exiting than planned as our car got hit by another car from behind at an intersection. As far as traffic accidents go we were lucky it was very mild but we got quite surprised as our car was standing still at the time and the other just drove into our car from behind, probably looking at something else rather than the traffic. Our taxi driver sorted the matter fairly quicker but obviously wasn’t in the best of mood for the rest of the ride to the airport and spent the rest of the journey explaining how useless Aussie drivers are. We tried to comfort him than the traffic in Thailand is even more crazy and accident prone but he wouldn’t buy into that conception and was determined that Australians can’t drive, especially with other vehicles on the road.

We took a bus from the airport to the city which took us about 40 minutes and then we went for a walk around. It felt really strange to be in a big city again after so many days spent out in nature, and we definitely felt more at home in the wild than in a big city. When we returned our camper van we got a tip from the guy working at the rental place that we should check out Yagan Square which has a little mecca of eateries so we headed there. After some deliberating we found it too hard to choose from all the options there and we headed to the Belgian Beer Cafe instead, which was just a 5 minute walk away. So far we’ve always had good experiences with Belgian beer pubs and this was no different. Super cozy atmosphere, delicious brew, they even had our favourite Qwak beer and tasty hearty meals. Ok, so city life isn’t all bad, it was pretty sweet to be in a pub again and just feel the warmth of being indoors and someone else making your meal.

We did arrive in the city centre after dark so unfortunately we couldn’t get a real feel of the city so after our tasty meal we took another short walk and headed back to the airport.

One thing that struck us at the airport was the 4 dollars it cost to get a trolley for our big bags. This was totally new for us and something we’ve never encountered anywhere else in the world. It feels like a pretty greedy way to make money at the airport and kind of left us a bit cranky having to pay for something that we expected to be free. Shortly after though Linus found a surf magazine in the news stand which included a free beanie so then at least he felt like he was winning again, haha.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the airport, especially the domestic terminal we where in. Not much going on there, and we had both been going to bed around 9-10pm every night while camping so waiting up for our night flight turned us both into zombies. Finally our plane took off and we waved good bye to Western Australia which has become a very precious place in our hearts. Next stop Melbourne!

Dreams of down under – WA – Kalbarri to Margaret River

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Stormy weather and microwave wine

The morning after our visit to Natures Window we had a look at the epic surf break Jakes Left in Kalbarri and after breakfasting on tasty toasties made in our camper van we went for a walk along the dramatic coastline. The cliffs were very similar to the rocks we had seen around Natures Window, and the vast ocean created a nice contrast against the red layered rock.

We had a long drive ahead of us and remembering the straight, straight, straight roads we had driven on on the way up we were slightly apprehensive to start the drive. But with the help of our audio book (The Way of Kings) it all went very smoothly.

We stopped in Geraldton again to stock up and head in to the store where Linus bought a pair of track suit pants on our way up to Exmouth. The guy at the counter forgot to remove the ink alarm from them and Linus was very happy to finally get rid of it and stop looking like he was walking around in stolen goods. 🙂

We made another visit to Piper Lane, the lovely café we visited on our way up, and with our coffees topped up we started our drive to Moore River, a surprisingly cosy rest stop a few hours south of Geraldton and where we would spend the night.

We went up really early the following day to start our final stretch to Margaret River and as we turned off the highway in search of a petrol station we saw a sign for Yanchep National Park and after reading that the park holds a Koala population it was an obvious choice to make a stop in the park after sorting out our petrol shortage. Koalas are not native to WA, but this population has been given a haven here and you can easily spot them along the boardwalk in the park. They are such adorable creatures and probably the most drowsy animals we’ve ever seen and every small movement was followed by a massive yawn, a slow scratch and then back to sleep again. The park also holds a big mob of kangaroos and we saw plenty of them as we walked around the park before continuing our drive.

Driving through Perth was a slight shock after driving on the quiet roads up north, but we soon forgot about that as we approached Margaret River and the rolling hills and vineyards started to appear. Tyler had given us a tip to check out Cave Road that runs north to south through the area, a windy road through dense forest that is littered with vineyards. It was a stark contrast to the open fields of north WA and absolutely beautiful.

We had managed to time our visit with what apparently was the worst storm they’ve had all winter and with the ocean promising massive stormy swells we headed towards the Margaret River main break, a special moment for Linus as this is a spot on the World Surf Tour that holds some of the biggest swells on the tour. The main break was kind of working in the big and stormy conditions but the only surfers we saw in the water were a bit further down the coast towards the river mouth. At first it looked like the waves were smaller and a bit more manageable there, but when we saw the surfers compared to the waves we realised that the wave faces were 3-4m and conditions still super heavy even in this sheltered spot. So we were pretty happy just watching the spectacle and it felt really special to see the raw power of the ocean as the storm that travelled from Antarctic waters hit the coast.

Attempting to get to our camp site a bit earlier than we usually do, that is to say not arriving just in time to hurriedly grab a drink and watch the last moments of the sunset, we set off towards our campsite for the night, a sheep farm called Big Valley. We stopped at a bottle shop on the way and got a clean skin wine for a few dollars. These bargain wines are usually high quality but for different reasons sold unbranded and only display what grape the wine is made from. We arrived at our campsite only to realize that we had no cheese!! – a completely unacceptable situation considering that we were in gourmet country, so we set off towards the town again and arrived at the campsite cheese in hand as usual – just in time for sunset. 🙂

The storm got worse the next day and with 80km/hour winds in our camper van sails we started our drive towards Augusta. As we were driving we could feel the wind rocking our camper van which made us a bit nervous and before heading out the coast we double checked what wind strength it could take but luckily it could take almost double so reassured we continued out the coast. As we visited the Cape Leuwin lighthouse in Augusta and revisited the surf break at Margaret River we went to the day before we were almost blown away and it was powerful to watch the 20ft (7m) waves that crashed on to the shore line. Very few times have we felt sucha raw power in nature, the storm around us, giant surf and the fact the area is known for its Great White Shark population we felt pretty small in this untamed corner of the world. As the wind was accompanied by on and off heavy showers we spent most of the day in the camper van driving around in the area which was beautiful despite the somewhat gloomy weather.

We had decided to camp at Big Valley for another night and the second night turned out to be much colder. Our camper van had pretty much 0 insulation which means if its 5 degrees outside, it’s going to be 5 degrees inside. It felt like living in a refrigerator and we had to heat our Brie cheese over the pasta water for it to soften and Malin put her wine in the microwave to bring out the flavors – probably a massive no no, but it worked! 😀

Dreams of down under – WA – Exmouth to Kalbarri

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Blowholes, cliffs and a reptile

The day had come for us to leave Exmouth. We started with heading off to Froth Craft Brewery to meet up with Tyler who gave us some delicious coffee for our ride and some fresh Froth swag. Before leaving we did our civil duty and prepared our votes for the coming election in Sweden. It felt really surreal to sit there in a closed bar in Exmouth and think about politics, but it also felt satisfactory to be able to take part even though we are at the other side of the world.

After saying our good byes our first stop was a revisit to Coral Bay in the south part of Ningaloo as we wanted to do some more snorkelling on this amazing reef. The coral garden starts only a few meters away from shore and stretches out several hundreds of meters. We snorkelled for almost 2 hours and were once again blown away by the density and health of the corals which grow packed in layers, sometimes a few meters thick. We’ve never seen a reef this mature and healthy, right off the beach! We came out of the water somewhat chilly but very happy and before we started our 1390km drive to Margaret River we visited another favourite, the Coral Bay Bakery for some more delicious pie.

Our goal for the day was to reach the blow holes close to Quobba station which is about a 3 hour drive from Coral bay. The blow holes are natural rock formations that shoot water up into the sky as the waves crashes on the shore line and on the day we were there the swell was quite big and the water shot up 5-7 meters. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks sounded like the earth was taking a big breath, and the big blow out sounded very similar to the Humpback Whales we heard and saw in Exmouth. After a 100 pictures and watching the ocean for a while we headed for the camping ground just south of the Blow Holes. The campsites were spread out along a gravel and sand road that ran along the coast and we found a nice and quiet spot after Linus, undeterred, navigated through the somewhat sandy patches of the road.

This camping spot was one of our best on the whole WA coast as it was very quiet with an ocean view and right next to the beach. It felt very untouched and in the night it felt like any kind of wild life would just suddenly pop up outside our camper van. As we had a pretty tight schedule we couldn’t stay more than one night but for our next trip down here we’re already planning to stay longer in the area around Quobba as it felt like there was tons more to explore. Apparently there was some nice snorkelling right next to the camping but the big waves put a stop to those plans.

We set off from our campsite just before sunrise and started our drive to Kalbarri and Natures Window, a cliff with a carved out hole which perfectly frames the rocky canyon behind it. We arrived an hour before sunset which was much later than we had originally planned but this turned out to be an exceptionally great move as we were alone in this magical place which is normally very busy. The view was spectacular and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Extremely dramatic cliff formations, stunning view over the river and valley and wild life in form of hawks and kangaroos hanging out in the valley below. After spending half an hour taking in the view another guy turned up and we decided it was time for us to start heading for our campsite.

A short while after we left the national park Linus gasped, swerved and stood on the breaks which almost gave Malin a heart attack. He had spotted one of his top of the list Australian animals crawling over the road – a thorny devil. This little bugger totally looks like a mini-dinosaur, one of those armour plated ones, “Ankylosaurus” which was one of Linus favourites as a kid. When we spotted it it pretended to be dead or petrified as we photographed it in the middle of the road keeping our ears tuned in for any approaching traffic. Luckily no cars came and we continued our drive towards the campsite, happy to have met this freaky-looking reptile.

Dreams of down under – WA – Exmouth

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Marine life explosion, coral gardens, whales, waves, delicious beer and friendship

After our first epic day in Exmouth the second day offered us a delicious feast as Froth Craft Brewery was putting on a beergastation – 6 delicious courses paired with 6 different beers. All the courses were delicious and we got to enjoy ceviche, kangaroo, ginger beer sorbet, delicious snapper, strawberry caviar and stout beer ice cream all paired with just as delicious beer brewed by our friend Tyler.

Our time in Exmouth has really opened our eyes to what an amazing place it is. The Cape Range National Park is about a 30 minute drive from the city center, and once there you have a choice of awesome beaches that gives access to the Ningaloo Reef.

Some of the beaches offers some great surf breaks and at Dunes Linus enjoyed several sessions and the ocean treated him to a barrel and many awesome waves. Many of the surfers we saw at the beach had their dogs with them and from time to time they kept Malin company and one of the dogs even went surfing with its owner which was really funny.

The beaches also offer great snorkeling with really healthy coral gardens and on every snorkeling session we’ve done we’ve come across lots of turtles (some massive ones), octopus, trevallies, loads of other fish and a shark or two that has hurriedly swam away as we’ve approached.

Having seen the amazing snorkeling beaches, we also wanted to explore the depths a bit more and we decided to do two dives out on the Ningaloo Reef. The night before our diving trip we camped in the national park in a place called Mesa which had big sand dunes that ran down into the ocean and we watched the sunset from one of the close by dunes.

We set off just before sunrise and the ride to the lighthouse where we were planning to have our breakfast turned out to be quite a safari ride and we saw lots of kangaroos and emus along the way and we had to drive slowly. After a somewhat chaotic breakfast at the lighthouse we arrived at the boat ramp to head out for our dives. The dive sites where quite shallow and apparently we were lucky with the visibility which was around 12m. The dives were great (though somewhat chilly :D) and we saw turtles, huge stingrays, wobbegong sharks, reef sharks, an unidentified massive shark, catfish, octopus and loads of fish.

After seeing all the wildlife in the morning followed by two excellent dives we were very happy with what the day had given us, but it truly was a day of wildlife experiences, and the late afternoon gave us an absolutely magic experience as we head out in Tyler and MJ’s boat. The ocean was nice and calm as we head out from the marina and shortly after heading out onto the gulf we saw two whales breaking the surface. It turned out to be two young males and as we approached and turned the engine off they turned and swam towards us, swam under our boat and then circled us several times. In true Murphy’s law fashion our Go Pro was out of battery and we couldn’t get the awesome footage of the whales under our boat but it is an image that will stick in our minds for a very long time.

After a while the whales left us but it didn’t take long before we spotted another whale and this one treated us to an amazing aireal display as it breeched over and over again. The sun was setting to the grand finale where two whales were breeching into the golden sea. It was such a breathtaking experience and being able to watch these gentle giants this close and in their natural habitat is one of the things that makes Exmouth such an extraordinary place.

It has also been really wonderful to stay with Tyler and MJ and their little boy Koa and of course their beautiful dogs who have greeted us with licks and love every morning. During our time here they moved house and we were really happy to be able to help them with the move and to see there awesome new place. The cosy evenings we had together by the fire in their new garden partaking of some delicious food are some of the great memories we will bring with us.

Spending time in Exmouth has been truly amazing and we both feel very strongly that this will be the first of many visits to this awesome place.

Dreams of down under – WA – Lyndon River to Exmouth

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A couple of Roos, tons of coral and a reunion

Our campsite in the barren landscape at Lyndon River had one of the most spectacular starry skies we’ve ever seen, and waking up there the sunrise was just as spectacular. We set off around 7am to head for Coral Bay, to check the place out and maybe have our first dip in the big blue.

The journey was just 40 minutes and we arrived in a town, that was a lot smaller than we expected. Our friend Tyler had gives us a tip of a bakery there so we headed there for some delicious pies for brekkie.

With our bellies filled we asked the information centre for a good place to jump in to snorkel, and just a few hundred meters walk from the beach parking lot was the point of entry for a little drift snorkel along the coast.

The temperature of the water definitely chilled us to start with but just a few meters from the shore healthy, colourful corals grew, and the further we swam out the better they got. It felt really emotional to see a reef in such a perfect and strong state which such a diversity of species growing everywhere. Some of the standouts was the cabbage coral and the thickest stag horn coral we’ve ever seen.

We lasted just under an hour in the water before our fingers and toes started to get numb from the cold and it was time to head back to land again. It felt so amazing to be in the ocean again and that we finally got to see a part of Ningaloo Reef.

With everything packed up it was time for the last stretch up to Exmouth, and it really felt like being on the final lap in a long race travelling those last kilometers after 4 days on the road.

When we finally arrived we headed straight for Froth Craft Brewery where Linus old friend Tyler is part owner and the master brewer. It felt amazing to meet up with Tyler, and even though it was 11 years they met it felt like yesterday and we picked up right were we left of. He treated us to some of the delicious pub food and of course a frothy, cold, brew that was fantastic!

Later in the afternoon we headed back to his place to meet the whole family, MJ and their little boy Koa. After a short hello it was time to head out in his boat from the harbour a couple of minutes away. Apparently it is Humpback Whale season at the moment in Exmouth, and we headed out in hopes of seeing one. It took us like 2 minutes and we saw our first big black lump breaching the water and we spent 1 hour being surrounded by Humpback showing off their iconic tails and flippers in a stunning sunset. We still can’t believe that just happened!

We got back to their place, had some delicious food, more catching up and some playtime with Koa and their 2 dogs, Sitka and Taj. So stoked to be here, and can’t wait for what tomorrow brings!

Dreams of down under – WA – Cliff Head to Monkey Mia

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Day 2 on the road

Waking up at our desolated campsite, Cliff Head North, we noticed two things. First that the sun was rising, coloring the sky and sea in a spectacular gradient and secondly that Australia can be pretty cold in the morning hours of winter. Linus even managed to blow smoke out of his mouth, inside our camper. Apparently it was around 7 degrees but felt like 3. Quite a huge difference from the tropical climate we both have acclimatized to the last couple of months.

We set off after a quick breakfast, next stop Geraldton to get some warmer clothes and some supplies. Geraldton is one of the bigger towns in WA, in no means huge but still sizable and a good place to stock up. The small part we saw seemed quaint and it had some nice shops and most importantly, fantastic coffee at the hipster café Pilot Lane.

Sipping our delicious brew, and with newly acquired warm and fuzzy clothing we drove on towards Monkey Mia, an almost 5 hour drive north. Shortly after Geraldton we were surprised to see the scenery change to a souped up version of England, with fields of “Raps” as far as the eye could see among green rolling hills. We thought the landscape was just going to get browner and browner the further north we got, and considering we already visited a desert yesterday we definitely didn’t expect lush fields.

The green landscape lasted about an hour and then the savanna and desert feel started again with bushland, wild flowers and sand ranging from beige, brown to deep red.

Our destination Monkey Mia is situated on quite a large peninsula, larger than we expected. From the main highway it takes about 2 hours to get out there, and the roads had some of the longest straight parts so far which can be quite mind-numbing. Luckily the sea took over more and more the further out we got and in the afternoon sun the scenery was breathtaking.

We arrived at the campsite just in time to enjoy a cold brew and a spectacular sunset and we happily noticed that the temperature had risen a bit up here.

Tomorrow dolphins awaits!

Dreams of down under – WA – Monkey Mia to Lyndon River

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Dolphins and driving straight…  straight…  straight…  straight… straight… straight… CURVE 😀 straight… straight… straight…  straight… straight… straight… TURN 😀 straight… straight…

We had set the alarm for 6:30m to get up in time for the dolphin feeding. We woke up to a spectacular pink cloud formation in the sky and started to make our way down towards the area of the beach where the dolphin experience was to be. These dolphins are wild “resident” dolphins and every morning they tend to come in to say hello and get some fish.

It was really nice to see this type of tourism done in a very conscious way. We were only allowed into ankle high water to observe the dolphins as they swam by hunting small fish and checking us out. The rangers walked in the water along the line of people and some of the dolphins were behaving very dog-like and swam right next to the rangers probably knowing that food was coming.

After a 20 minute conservation talk/“dolphin walk” 3 volunteers entered the water to let a few chosen visitors give the dolphins some fish. They only feed 5 adult dolphins, they sometimes have 20 dolphins come in, and each dolphin gets a maximum of 4 fish to make sure that the feeding doesn’t disrupt their natural behaviour.

Apparently this experience has changed a lot since it started and before there was much more interaction with the dolphins and they were feeding them much more which had changed the dolphins behaviour and many calves had died as the mothers didn’t go out hunting as much. Luckily they realised this and it was great to see the consideration and respect they were giving these beautiful animals today making this experience sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.

After the dolphin experience we went back to the camper van for some breakfast before starting our journey for the day, a six hour drive up to Lyndon River. Soon after leaving Monkey Mia rainclouds appeared and we started our drive in a gentle drizzle and after a short coffee break in Denham we drove back over the peninsula and the rain and fog rendered the landscape very different from the day before.

As we drove to Monkey Mia Linus had seen a road sign that read “Whale Bones” which had spiked his curiosity and we decided to check it out. About 200 meters in however way decided that the dirt road we travelled on really was not ment for our camper van and we turned around. Half way over the peninsula we stopped at a very bizarre place called Shell Beach. From a distance it looks like a normal white sand beach, but as the name suggests the “sand” is made entirely of sea shells. As the rain was getting more intense here we only made a short stop but it was a very intriguing place.

Driving in Australia, we’ve noticed, takes you along many VERY straight roads and today was the first day Linus felt the roads getting a bit monotonous and we took a couple of extra leg stretchers to maintain focus while driving. It’s easy to underestimate how tiring it is going straight, and then straight and so on for a few hours. The vastness of the landscape is really spectacular though and it is also so much greener than we expected and along the road we’ve seen lots of meadows full of flowers in yellow, white and purple which looks amazing against the red sand and thorny bushes.

As we stopped for toilet break in the late afternoon Linus found a Red Back spider in the sand which was actually quite beautiful, but nice to watch from a distance.

Every now and again a “watch out for kangaroo’s”-sign has popped up next to the road and we have kept our eyes peeled for these iconic creatures hoping to see them and as the sun was setting it finally happened. Two kangaroo’s jumped across the road – luckily at a safe distance from our car.

We pulled up in Lyndon River West Rest camp site just after the sun had set and after dinner we stood outside for a while just taking in the breathtaking star lit sky.

Tomorrow we start our final stretch to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef. Now time to sleep. 🙂