Tues 29th March
Up at 7am, in time for a shower and to pack my bag for Stage 2 of my adventures in Western Australia. I use the term "adventures" loosely as I must admit it hasn't been seat-gripping stuff so far (I am just remembering my South African experiences from last year).
Dave was ready for me as Brad dropped me off at the Witches Hat hostel where Dave is staying. I left my bag there and Dave and myself walked into Perth to collect the rental car. Then it was back to the hostel for our bags and we were northwards bound. "Which way" asked Dave and full of confidence I said " follow the Freeway North, it's easy". Of course I should have looked at a real map instead of the red line drawn in a travel brochure. The freeway took us to a dead end, just about, and so we had to get the map out (provided with the car) and promptly head south and then east until we reached the Great Northern Highway ( a clue in itself). That setback overcome we were soon heading jauntily north. Jauntily because we had come prepared with CDs this time and didn't have to listen to the trash they call radio. On and on we went watching the kilometers build up. Suddenly the sign for Cervantes and the Pinnacles was upon us so we headed due west. When I say due west I mean due west for the road ran as straight as an arrow for miles and miles and miles (I for one are keeping to the British way of measuring things). The road seemed endless. I had to smile to myself as there would be no space for any Asian corner shops on this road! We had no idea how long the road went on for as the map that came with the car didn't cover this far north, and we were a bit worried as our petrol was well below half full. There's nothing like being prepared for a journey into the outback and we were nothing like prepared. We still had our mobile phones though, until we realised we couldn't get a signal.
Luckily a sign informed us we were nearly there so first stop petrol then next stop grub. I had been up since 7 and had nothing to eat and it was now 12.30. Luckily the petrol station was a cafe as well so we killed two birds with one stone. It did take a while to get served though as there were three cars there and I don't think the attendant was used to being that busy. A shop full of Chinese ordering takeaway food (now that must be a first!) didn't help either.
Suitably refuelled (man and machine) we set off for the Pinnacles, a set of limestone pillars of all shapes and sizes rising vertically from the desert. The only place in Oz where this phenomenon occurs apparently! It was quite awesome and is supposed to be even better at sunrise and sunset but we decided to forego that pleasure and head up north after taking a reasonable amount of photos.
And so we arrrived at Geraldton, population 19,845 the sign proudly displayed. What a dump. It was like a ghost town. We managed to secure our night's accomodation at the Freemasons Hotel. A grand sounding name for a flea pit. But it has a bar and twin beds and is also en-suite so it is better than nothing (just). We wandered about in search of sustenance and found 3 restaurants open (it was after 6pm after all, what did we expect!). We decided to go Italian and to be fair my Spicy prawns with Penne pasta was quite tasty although £8 was a bit steep for the paltry amount. But it was well presented in a clean and pleasant environment so all in all good value I suppose (just call me Egon Ronay from now on).
At half eight we decided to see what the bar was like downstairs. First impressions were not good. A rundown bar with few people in it. Tuesday night in a dump like this. I could be doing the quiz at the Willow! (I wonder if the jackpot has gone yet). But suddenly there it was. Appearing like a shining star in the darkness. Guinness on offer at $5.50 a pint (£2.20). Things were going to be alright after all. The first pint barely touched the sides. Nectar. The second one went down well also. "How long is this offer on?" I asked the barmaid. "Til the end of March" she told me. Which means if we stop off back here on Thursday on our way back to Perth we would get it at the same price.
About 10pm, and a few pints later, we were asked to go into the back room as they wanted to close up the main bar. Ten o'clock, I ask you. Just goes to show what a one horse town this is. In fact most of Western Australia is made up of one horse towns (although in the case of Pemberton it was more like a one donkey town). Never mind, they were still serving and there were a few people in there so in we went. Oops what a bad move. It turned out there were a couple of female backpackers in there who we got chatting to. One was Swiss called Laure and the other was Dutch but I couldn't catch her name so I called her Fraulein. How apt. She was full of herself. She didn't enamour herself to us when she got on about footy and said that Ruud was wasted at Man Utd and that he would soon be joining Robben at Chelsea. Bad move Fraulein! It was made worse when an Aussie joined us who claimed to be Danish and went on about how Denmark had conquered the English but how they couldn't beat the Dutch and that Denmark hadn't been invaded at all.The Fraulein merrily joined in this "dissing" of England. I said who could blame people for not wanting to invade Denmark. It was a crap country whose only contribution to life was Lurpak (not even sure if that is right). Dave also chipped in saying we musn't forget Legoland. We were on a roll now and told the Fraulein how quickly the British were forgotten. We may not have invaded her country but the Germans had and we had to save them. "Perhaps it would have been better if we had just left Hitler to get on with it" I said which seemed to shock her. Anyway the beer flowed, Dave retired early(ish) and then at 11pm I asked for another pint but the manager said he had turned the beer off. "But I am staying here" I protested. "Surely I can have another beer". He apologised saying he didn't realise I was staying at the hotel and he would turn the beer back on if I really wanted another. I spoke two words to him and went to my room where I crashed out. It seemed like I had had enough anyway.