Sunday, January 1, 2012

Best of Western Australia

It seems like a long time ago that Collin first got the confirmation that there was a teacher exchange match for him in Harvey, Western Australia.  Our first reaction was - where's that?  After about 5 minutes of online research  we quickly decided that the southwest part of Western Australia would be an exciting place to be for a year.  Reflecting back, we were probably sold once we read that we would be living 20 km from the beach.  Yes, the centrally located rural community was ideal.  Harvey is only 40 km from the regional city Bunbury, several National Parks are within a couple hours drive, capital city Perth is 140 km north and Margaret River is 140 km south.  We knew that we would be exploring WA every weekend and Harvey was proven to be an awesome launch pad.

So, what are our highlights?  What will the Walker's remember the most?  Or miss the most?  It is hard to prioritize or make a countdown list.  A few weeks before we left Australia several people including parents, students, colleagues, and neighbours began asking us what was our favourite place or most interesting part of the exchange. Both Collin and Becky stumbled around the answer and never clearly committed to one particular destination or experience.  It was all worth it!  But alas we do want to give some reasons why Western Australia is a great place to visit.  Read below...

The People
Like anywhere its the people that draw you back to a place.  We had wonderful neighbours.  Made long lasting friendships with quite a few Harvey families and of course Caleb and Jackson will miss their little mates at school.  Notable mentions - Lemke family, Wheat-Jones family, Newton family, Bonner family, Parker family, Martella family, Tindale family and although we only met face to face in the Edmonton airport, our exchange partners - the Spraggs.

The Beaches
Both Collin and Becky agree, we have never been to any better beaches than Western Australia.   We lost count after 20 beaches, but it would be a realistic estimate that we went to double that or more.  Every state capital city in Australia is located on the coast and all boast their own major beaches.  Yes, they are famous and from the amount of people on them, popular.  But, the feeling of being on a beach and as far as the eye can see you are the only ones on  it, can not be beat!  True solitude.  Many, many times during our year we went to the beach and there was less than ten people.  And several times our family was alone to play in the sand, walk the coast, pick seashells, dig, swim, snorkel, body board, float, play in the waves, watch for dolphins, or have a picnic.
The Southwest
According to Lonely Planet Travel Guides, the southwest of Western Australia was one of the top ten destinations worldwide to visit in 2010.  We just happen to do it a year later (after most of the tourists left).  The distance to get to Western Australia is daunting, but truly worth it.  If anything, the remoteness has kept it as Australia's best kept secret.

Fruit & Veg
In Canada, we have such a short growing season and it can be said we usually only have one.  Where we lived in Australia was orchard country and we were blessed that every two months or so a new fruit or veg would come in season.  Just when the feast of one type was over a new flavour would begin to ripen.  When we arrived in summer the stone fruit was out (apricots, peaches, plums) plus figs, avocados and passion fruit were all so delicious.  Next was Autumn and we ate our fill of table grapes.  During the southern hemisphere winter, June to August, brought out the tastiest citrus fruit (grapefruit, mandarins, lemons, limes, oranges).  Spring was time to harvest garden veggies, strawberries, and watermelons.  The fruit we will miss the most would be fresh from the vine passion fruit - wow the smell and taste sure packed a punch.  All locally grown.  Many people in town had a small garden and orchard in their yards.  And if you know where to go, local farmers will sell cheap, freshly picked produce from their garden to you.
Aussie Animals
We had no clue that Australia had so many unique and unusual and sometimes very rare fauna.    We came across numerous marsupials that we never heard of before our exchange year.  Many are nocturnal and most live only in a small geographic region of the country, let alone not being found anywhere else on the planet. There are too many examples to include photos of all of them, so we encourage you do to a google image search on your own.  In the wild we have seen... an echidna, quokkas, bandicoot, skinks, blue-tongue lizards, a few snakes, goanna, 100's of western grey kangaroos, and a couple euro.  In nature reserves, zoos and animal farms we have seen koalas, a cassowary, crocodiles, wallabies, numbats, wombats, dingoes, a bilby, boodies, possums and Tasmanian devils.  Along the coast, we caught glimpses of humpback whales, sea lions, Indo-Pacific dolphins, bottle-nosed dolphins, dugongs, green sea turtles, a reef shark and numerous schools of fish. 

Aussie Birds
We also seen in Australia two flightless birds - the tall gangly emu and the water loving fairy penguin.  Noisy birds woke us up early every morning like the screechy black cockatoos and white cockies, loud pink and grey galahs, magpies and crows, but we will never get tired of the laugh of the kookaburra. Bobook owl, black swans and the extremely large Australian pelicans will also be remembered.

Gum Trees
Eucalyptus trees, a.k.a. gum trees are something we learned a lot more about during our year.  We never knew that there was such a variety of euclypts.  Here is a list of some of the unique tree we saw: red gums, blue gums, white gums, river gums, salmon gums, lemon gums, peppermint gums, sheoaks, paperbarks, marri, karri, tingle, jarrah, wandoo, and jacarandas.  Again too many for pictures, but an interesting collection to google and this was just a tiny list created off the top of Collin's head.  The smell is unique.  Becky will miss the wonderful aromas of eucalyptus trees after a rain or when trees were trimmed and freshly cut.

Top Destinations We Recommend to Visit in Western Australia
No particular order of preference.  Check out earlier blogs for pictures and descriptions.
* King's Park in Perth - fantastic play areas, beautiful gardens, great places for a bbq or picnic, lots of nature to explore.

* Fremantle - Perth's more cultural twin, plenty of eclectic and ethnic places to check out, older architecture, cappuccino strip, fishing boat harbour.

* Margaret River - 90+ wineries, top surf beaches, caves, plenty of touristy things, forests.

* Albany - beautiful small city of the south, rugged coast lines, fish and chips, whales.

* Southern Forests - Tree Top Walk, giant 90 m tall tingle trees, quaint towns of Denmark and Pemberton, climbing fire lookout trees.

* Wave Rock - a giant surf wave carved out of hard rock in the middle of the nowhere,  big distance to get to this monolith, but the kids loved it, so it's truly worth it.

* Esperance - beaches, beaches, beaches and then there is the National Parks and not many people to spoil them.

* Dryandra Woodland - any nature reserve in WA was a great to camp, but we especially loved this park because of the quietness, the night sky, the wildlife, the nature trails and remoteness.

* Shark Bay - the world heritage listed park was a big drive to get to, but again worth it.  We would of loved to have got out onto the water to explore it more.

* Ningaloo Reef - Three days in Exmouth was not enough.  We would of loved to had another day or two under the waves to see more fish and marine life.

* Karijini National Park - The deep gorges, red earth, white gums, cool water, hot temperatures, 4x4 trails and rough roads, emptiness.

* Great Northern Highway - True emptiness, sheep and cattle stations, road houses, in a word Australia.

No comments:

Post a Comment