25. God Put A Smile On Your Face

We awoke in a groggy, cold and hungover haze from our night out with a Geordie. I felt awful. Someone must have spiked one of my 14 pints.

Unfortunately the nightmare of our hostel persisted to be a cruel reality and we swiftly exited once our heads lightened enough to lift off the pillow. Today was supposed to be Katie’s day of wine tasting, but her 5 pints of cider hangover was proving a slight impediment to this. When I say slight impediment, she could barely keep her eyes open or utter words. Lightweight.

At 11am I pressed on like a British First World War general – futile, relentless, with virtually no hope of success. Their mission; to rid their ally France of an aggressive invader. Mine; get my girlfriend a bit tipsy on good wine. The similarities are obvious.

We marched (well, we drove) to our first destination of Watershed Premium Wines. On entering it looked very picturesque and we headed to the desk confident after a full day of wine tasting the day before.

To briefly explain why I say we were confident – it’s quite common for us to be looked at a bit like we’re urchins in a Charles Dickens novel when we enter wineries. This is mostly due to our youthful age, also our year old clothes and possibly my lack of look of class and elegance. Basically, they think we won’t be buying any wines. To be clear, they’re absoloutely right, but it’s still not fair.

Either way, we had been pleasantly surprised in Margaret River that people in wineries were more than happy to talk to us and didn’t judge us too much. This had been part of the reason the day before had been so enjoyable.

We should have realised that any place with the word ‘Premium’ would be the total antithesis of this concept. As they asked us for a tasting fee we had our suspicions, when they refused to give us the restaurant menu because it was ‘more upmarket’ we quickly realised. We would have said goodbye, only I’m not sure they would have heard, mainly due to their heads being up their own –

My grandparents read this. So I’ll leave it at that.

As we left, bouyed by the fact their car park was empty and therefore hopefully they would soon be out of jobs, Katie turned to me and delivered expected but still crushing news; she couldn’t go on.

With resignation that I had failed my mission, the rest of the day became one big hungover lie down, only punctuated by going to the Chocolate Company for some much needed cocoa based sustenance. Dissapointing, but faced with the choice of going hard or going home, we chose the third path of lying down and eating our feelings. Noble.

Our final day in Margaret River dawned. An emotional goodbye with our roommates completed (the emotion being mutual disdain), we zipped through a couple more wineries. We followed this with an actual emotional goodbye with Carly, before heading back to Perth.

Our next stop was Rottnest Island of the coast of Perth. Originally named Rottnest due to the infestation of what explorers assumed to be rats (Rat’s Nest you see), this is an island about 45 minutes ferry ride from Perth. There’s no cars allowed on the island, meaning the only way to get around is by bike – making it a clean and quiet paradise for almost everyone, with the exception of my thighs which were screaming at me halfway up the first hill. Rottnest is no longer infested with rats because it never was – what the explorers thought were rats were actually the cutest damn animal in the world, the quokka.

A seasickness inducing ride to Rotto was our first task, which we just about completed. The last time I was seasick was on a channel ferry when I was a baby. I was lay in my pram, facing the ceiling when the inevitable happened. Up it went, and straight back down it came. This time would be different for sure. I wouldn’t be in a pram and I’d have bladder control, if nothing else.

Luckily my stomach held and we reached Rottnest. We spent the first day cycling down lots of hills and walking our bikes up a lot more, all made worthwhile by the brilliant views as we cycled around.

We had a nights stay on Rottnest in what was supposed to be backpackers accommodation. In a rare example of luck playing in our favour, there were only 5 backpackers on the island meaning we were put into a lovely cottage with a TV, fully equipped kitchen and fire. Our new roommates were Dave and Lauren from Northampton and a lovely fisherman from Singapore who caught nothing but wasn’t for stopping trying. A night of garlic bread and David Attenborough documentaries later, we all felt closer than family.

The next day we had another days cycling, in which I wondered how the Tour de France riders have any buttocks left after their stints. However, it was all made worth it when we stumbled upon two friendly quokkas near the lighthouse. We’d seen loads around the island but we had the undivided attention of these two and it produced one of my favourite photos of the whole trip. This photo shows truly the best bit about quokkas – they look permanently elated to be alive. Look! 

I told you so. They’re this happy always, so I can only assume life must be perfect on Rottnest. It seemed it too and we were sad to be leaving.

We battled back to Perth on the ferry, however, with our quokka encounter sticking smiles on our faces that not even the bumpy, claustrophobic ride home could affect.

Our time in Perth was drawing to a close and we would be sad to leave the city which had provided such a respite from the chaos of Sydney, and also our supremely hospitable hosts Tracy and Gavin.

Our final item on the Perth list was a trip to Fremantle, the major port and generally funky place serving Perth. We went with little expectation, but on stepping out of the train station the vibe around the place was both exciting and insatiable. It was market day and the whole town felt alive, wth every café and bar full and every market stall attracting a crowd. After wandering around the market and finding too many things we wanted to buy, but couldn’t transport home, we headed for lunch at Holy Smokes. We picked it at random off a map, but it turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. A barbecue style restaurant, it provided insanely tasty meats and sliders with good beer in a great atmosphere. Basically, imagine a bottle of Jack Daniels Whisky opened a restaurant and you’re pretty much there.

With lunch dispatched we headed to Fremantle Prison. We hadn’t done anything wrong by the way, we just wanted a tour. Luckily we avoided incarceration and made it out alive filled with interesting facts. We also left with a stark realisation that many prison facilities had been nicer than hostels we were staying in. I wish I was joking.

And with that, and a goodbye to Tracy, Gavin, Ollie and Ella our time in Western Australia was virtually complete. It had been a fantastic start to our travels, providing us with an Outback experience, dolphins, turtle encounters, insane beaches, vibrant greenery, wine, chocolate and a hatful of memories. A bittersweet goodbye ensued with disappointment at leaving but excitement for the next stage of the adventure. Adelaide beckoned, like a mermaid luring sailors and we were helpless to go.

I say all this like it was some cringeworthy travel impulse. To be honest we’d booked flights, so we had to go. I just wanted to romanticise it. On that note, goodbye WA. You truly were Windy Always, and pretty bloody good too.

Alex Odlin only wishes all his readers will one day be as happy as Quokkas always are.


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