We just got back from motoring around Western Australia in a campervan for 12 days and had a wonderful time.  The theme of the trip was National Parks, Beaches, Breweries, and Wineries.

We flew the red-eye into Perth, and I will skip over the not so pleasant details of me not realizing we need to change airports in KL with a one hour layover, or that we needed a visa to get into Australia, or the joys of taking a 10 month old on a red eye.  We made it, picked up our van, and stocked up with food (with $30 burgers, this was not going to be a culinary adventure – we were self catered 90% of the way).

In Perth, we headed to Kings Park where we napped/lounged on the grass and listened to the Pretenders sound check for their show in the park later that night.  We hit up our first brewery, The Old Brewery, located at historic site of the Old Swan Brewery, and enjoyed the $30 burger.

The next day, we stopped off in Mundaring Weir along the Bibbulman Track, a 1000km walk that goes from Perth to Albany, in the Central South Coast.  We were impressed with how well the track was maintained, it spoke of how important the outdoors is in the Australian culture. We made a quick stop at the gorgeous Lawnbrook Winery in the Darling Range Bickley Valley area before making our big drive diagonally across the southwest corner of WA to the isolated mountain range region.

The weather to this point had been perfect: warm with cool breezes, dry and sunny.  As we drove across the state, it was hot, arid and desert like.  When we stepped out of the car in the Porongurups we were hit with a blast of frigid (to us Malaysian-thinned blooded ones) air.  The next days we were glad for the last minute additions to our suitcase of jackets, long sleeves, socks and a stocking cap for Miles.  Other visitors around us were stuck in their shorts and flip flops.  We learned later the abnormal weather was caused by the remnants of a cyclone that had dipped into the southern ocean.  At least the gale force winds kept the blow flies at bay!

Our mountain time was split between Porongurups National Park and the Stirling Range NP.  These sites are divided by only 40 kilometers, but have totally different geologic makeups.  (Bear with me, its interesting).  The Porongurups are suspected to be the oldest mountains in the world and are granite monoliths that form bald domes surrounded by super tall karri forest.  The Stirling Range is mainly limestone and shale and are much younger, formed by an ancient river bed, and is covered by short scrub much like you would find in West Texas.  Each supports a completely independent and biodiverse group of species, many of which are found no where else in the world.  It was wildflower season and we truly enjoyed our hikes through both parks.  Between our hiking, I got to run along some backroads shortly after dawn and see hundreds of kangaroos having breakfast in the hay fields.  We visited Ironwood Winery, where the owner recognized my MI accent right away – he was from the UP and had migrated to Australia in the 70s!  After 5 minutes talking to me, his adopted G’day Mate accent faded and was replaced by his native midwestern twang.  I might have even gotten a “youse guys” out of him.

We headed south next, through Albany for a quick stop at Tanglehead Brewery, through Denmark with an unexpected stop at Denmark Brew & Ales (Brew with a View) and on to Peaceful Bay in the Walpole region.  Peaceful Bay was not too peaceful (see note above about cyclone).  But by the next morning, we ventured down to the water and saw a gorgeous sunrise.  The winds had died down, and then came the flies.  I have never experienced flies like this.  I likened it to water torture.  They were incessant.  But the locals had a good attitude about it, some wearing a head net to keep their sanity at the sacrifice of hipness.

We spent the morning checking out the region.  At Conspicuous Cliffs we found the ocean – wild, fierce, and gorgeous, with the freshness of a toothpaste ad.  It was too wild (and way too cold) to go in, but after battling the flies to get to the beach, we got to enjoy the hypnotic waves.  We did a treetop walk on a suspended walkway through the Tingle forest of Walpole NP, had a picnic lunch with a giant pelican(and lots of flies) at Coalmine Beach,  then headed away from the coast for a few relaxing days in the small town of Pemberton.

As soon as we pulled into our campsite along the creek and were shown the pathway to Pemberton’s natural spring fed swimming pool (Barton Springs!), we knew we had found a great spot.  The weather stayed hot enough for us to enjoy the Big Brook Dam and nearby Hidden River Winery then cooled down to drive away flies and give us hours of reading and watching Miles fall in love with bright green parakeets (lots of waving to the birds).  We had some great camp meals here and were reluctant to move on.

Next we made our way up through Margaret River region, stopping at the Wine & Truffle Company for some amazing samples.  We spent the next few days in Yallingup, hitting up Bootleg and Bush Shack Breweries, running the trails of Cape Naturaliste NP, and chasing sea gulls at Yallingup Beach.  It was cold again, and Miles was on day 6 of his one long sleeved tee shirt.  Having enough of being in Australia without an ocean swim, Tim braved it for just a few minutes.  Luckily we had bought some hot chocolate mix by this point.

Reluctant to leave (again! this is a good spot to be in) we drove north towards Perth for our final WA stop in Fremantle.  Tim likened this city to Boulder – old hippie town, beautiful people, idyllic setting, local craft brews ( Sail & Anchor, Mathlida Bay, Little Creatures) and businesses, and somewhere we agreed we could definitely see ourselves living.  We spent two days at Cottesloe Beach, swimming (it was finally warm enough!), sunning, and just hanging out.  In town we had our only real restaurant meal of the trip to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.  Our final meal consisted of some gourmet cheeses and antipasti we had picked up at the bulk foods store.  We got up super early (2am!) and made it through the flights back to Penang, getting home around 6:30pm.

So, where was Miles in this trip?  In between us, riding b*#$% in the van…getting his 3rd continent stamp in his passport…sleeping in his crib in the van while we took the tent…rolling around in the sand and dirt at various beaches and campsites…playing in a sand pit at a brewery with all the other big kids…napping anywhere except in his crib – Ergo, stroller, carseat, beach blanket, tent…eating lots of new stuff: blueberries, strawberries, fish, “potatoes” (french fries!), popsicles and even truffles!…smiling and waving hi to the birds…taking his FIRST STEPS! on our anniversary while we played with his Penang-friend Ed at his place in Cottesloe…in the tent after he woke (with the sun & the birds and probably all the campers around us) at 4:30 every morning…with a rock or mulch chip in his mouth, seems he got over grass, leaves and flowers for the time being…teething out his top two chompers, only to have them suck back in before we got home so we could go through the wonderful teething process all over again…making lots of memories for us – our first family camping trip!