I was up super early because I saw blue sky out of the tent and got excited. It was only 6am when I snuck around the back of the public kitchen area to have a sneaky shower with my water bottle. Sheldan was still in the tent when I got back to camp and made myself breakfast. Only when I was done with my cereal did he emerge ready for the day.
We left camp a bit before 8am and hit the road for Esperance. This was to be the climax of our trip. We’d heard of the blue waters and the white sands, it was here we expected to find the best beaches in Australia. Anticipation was high, especially with the clear skies overhead. For the next two hours we drove on pretty straightforward roads with nothing much to excite the imagination except for the endless bouts of roadworks every 20-30km.
The closer we got to Esperance, the darker the clouds in front of us looked, we knew we weren’t going to get sun and sand. When we finally rolled into town, it was blowing a howling gale and raining on and off. At the visitor’s information centre, the guy there presented us with a pre-made brochure for rainy-day activities in Esperance. It was things like the cinema and the museum which didn’t interest us so we decided we’d just have to persist with the normal sunny-day like activities and grit our teeth.
To give ourselves a break from the car, we wandered down to the foreshore and walked to the Whale’s Tail, the town’s artistic centerpiece. The glass panels in the huge tail were beautiful and made for a great feature. Despite the weather, there was a kid’s swimming class going on in the shallows of the foreshore beach and when we managed to take our jackets off as we walked back to the car we thought maybe the day would turn out alright after all!
Seeing some public barbeques we decided to take the opportunity to cook up some sausages. It was only 10am but both of us were hungry for an early lunch/late second breakfast so we retrieved the car to get our goods. By the time we’d carried everything over to the picnic tables, it was raining sideways with an insulting wind. Still, the kid’s swimming class carried on. We cooked up some sausages and onions, letting them get seasoned by the fresh water and both of us called our Mums to give updates as they sizzled.
Fed and fed up with the weather, we were keen to see what there was to see in Esperance and start heading home. We’d had enough time out of the car now to be interested in doing the 40km Great Ocean trail that winds around the peninsula of Esperance taking in all of the beaches. As soon as we left town and went over a rise to see an expanse of bright blue water in front of us, we understood what was so special about this place. We stopped at the first pullout just in time for the sun to come out so we could admire West Beach.
When the clouds hid the sun again, which didn’t take long, we moved on. Next was Fourth Beach and more incredible blue and so the theme continued.
Twilight Beach was voted Australia’s best beach a while ago and it had been Mum and Joan’s favourite swimming spot on their visit here. Unlike the crowds they would have seen, there was hardly a soul in sight thanks to the foul weather. I’d said to Sheldan I was going swimming here no matter what but when I got out of the car to be almost blown away by the wind I changed my mind. We walked down the sandy trail towards the beach but I only made it halfway before my determination returned and I went back to the car to change into my swimmers. This was Twilight Beach and I wanted to know what it was like to swim in waters as blue as this. I wanted to swim out to the “rock with a hole in it”.
Thanks to the chilling wind, the water actually felt a few degrees warmer than ambient temperature but I was still shocked by the cold hitting me when I dove under. Through my blurred underwater eyes, all I could see was a deep, clear blue. I swam against the rough waves ducking in and out of the water watching as the big rock infront of me grew bigger. I was keen to get up on top of it and stand inside the hole. When I got to within a few dozen meters though, it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen the way the waves were crashing against its base. No matter, I started swimming back. Thanks to the onshore wind, I swallowed much more water on my way back in.
I met Sheldan on the sand and we took photos for another couple that had braved the water and they did the same for us. This was a gorgeous place and again, the sun had come out in a tiny spurt just for us. Our photo shoot done, I rushed back to the car and took some dry clothes to the bathroom to get changed out of the wailing wind.
We carried on along the Great Ocean Trail but we’d already experienced the highlights. We popped in at the local glass art gallery, which wasn’t really up our alley, then head out of town towards Cape Le Grande National Park, another must see as recommended to me by my mother. As we drove out there I was a little disappointed at how far out of the way it was but we were rewarded for our drive. Miraculously, we were once again blessed with blue skies as we passed by Frenchman’s Peak en route to Lucky Bay.
We had intended to climb up Frenchman’s Peak but with the wind’s enthusiasm dampened our enthusiasm. Instead, after we got over the wow moment of seeing yet bluer water in Lucky Bay, we thought we’d walk along the beach and clamber over some of the rocks that enclosed the bay.
As we walked down towards the squeaky white sand, I commented on how kangaroos were supposed to frequent this beach and, right on queue, I almost stepped on one grazing right at the base of the walkway. Him and his mate seemed completely nonplussed by our presence, or the presence of another guy and his daughter who actually bent over and patted one of them! We settled with a few photos then left them in peace, not wanting to cop a kick in the shins.
We saw a few more kangaroos dotted around near the bush as we walked the firm sand but our attention was mostly turned towards the blue water to our opposite side.
Once on the rocks surrounding the bay, we could really see just how clear the water was and stood in admiration. We would have been envious of the people camped in the caravan park right by the water if it wasn’t packed and exposed to the weather.
After a bit of clambering through the brush over the rocks, our exploration of the Great South West was officially over, it was now time to head home.
Sheldan took the driver’s seat and we drove back into Esperance for a Maccas pit stop for a celebratory ice cream. As we ate, I remembered I had been tasked with finding some super-fine sandpaper for some final Moke paint work and so we drove over to the local Bunnings. I was in and out within a minute but when Sheldan made to start the car, we were shocked to find the battery dead. After all day driving around without issue, we couldn’t believe it! Before we even got a chance to get the jumper cables out, a nice man came up to us and offered us a jumpstart. We graciously accepted and he parked by us and got us going. Now our next stop was Supercheap to get a battery test done and possibly a new battery.
The battery test showed the eight year old battery was at half of its cell life so a new battery in order. $225 later we were right to go again. Lucky that this time we’d been in the Bunnings carpark instead of an isolated National Park!
Our goal now was mileage since we wanted to get home by tomorrow to spend as much time with Mum and Dad before our time in the West came to an end. I pegged a couple of potential camps along our way and Sheldan motored through the drive. We listened to music as we went back through the roadworks in reverse until we got to Ravensthorpe. Here we turned north towards Hyden and counted the clicks until we were past Lake King and near Varley.
The Varley free camp I’d found on WikiCamps had the most stunning reviews I’d ever seen and they were all correct. We rolled in just before sunset and had the place to ourselves. The local boys at the council complex across the road provided the soundtrack to our camp setup with some raging after-work thump-thump music. Not only was there a nice patch of astroturf to pitch the tent on, there was a picnic shelter complete with a gas bbq, fairy lights and electricity, the area also had very clean bathrooms and a (cold) shower. All for free, all they asked for was a donation.
We made separate dinners since we had different levels of hunger and when the fluoro light in the shelter started attracting bugs we resorted to the fairy lights which gave off just the right amount of light and ambience. We watched a Bourne film as we ate dinner and by the time it was finished we were both ready for bed. A big day but a good one, with my tent flap open I could see the stars.