The second leg of my trip was spent in Western Australia. For those unfamiliar with Australian geography, WA is twice the size of Alaska, more than three times the size of Texas, more than ten times the size of the UK. And it is home to less than two and a half million people. If there is one thing WA has, it is SPACE. Now, granted, most of that space is desert. But either way, it is full of wide open spaces.
Both of my sisters live in WA, along with some dear friends from China. I hired a car for my ten days over there which, although more expensive than other options, was SO worth it! I really enjoyed it. When I got to the carpark the attendant told me the car I was supposed to be given wasn’t in the lot yet, and gave me a brand new car instead. There was maybe 10km on the clock! By the time I was done with the car it was closer to 1400 km…
My first night I had dinner and drinks with Carla and her boyfriend. It was a fun (and delicious!) night, although I piked a bit early cos I was pretty tired and had to drive home still. Dinner was burgers at a great chain place. SO GOOD! Carla had an interesting drink – basically a mojito with fresh chili. I’d never seen anything like it.
I stayed with Jo and Bruce and their two boys (the youngest of whom wasn’t born until after my last visit). They live on a bible college campus very near the beach, so we drove down to Hillarys Harbour one morning, enjoying the sun and laidback feel and delicious icecream. I went back to the beach on my last morning to soak it up. Jo is Australian, but I met her in China; Bruce is Chinese. Hanging out with them is so nice because none of us has to think about what language we’re speaking – all three of us are bilingual. It’s so relaxing!
Their elder son is 2 and a half and speaking, and there is definitely a bilingual influence there. For example, I never heard him say the word “milk” – he only ever says “nai” (even, apparently, to his non-Chinese speaking grandparents!) At one point I was out with Jo and the boys (Bruce was at work) and realised it might look strange to outsiders to see two white girls speaking Chinese to the boys! One day a friend of theirs dropped by – he’s Chinese (I think) and was speaking English til Jo pointed out that I live in Beijing and speak Chinese, and then we switched to Mandarin and didn’t switch back :)
I met Carla in town another day – we shopped (she bought me jeans for my birthday, which was very lovely) and then she took me to the Aviary for a fantastic lunch and yummy cider. It was open air a few stories up, and the sky was SO beautifully blue, with pretty cloud patterns, that I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of it. I really enjoyed hanging out with her!! It doesn’t happen often.
I drove from Perth to Kalgoorlie (where Natasha and Dante live) by myself. It’s a drive of nearly 600km (370 miles) along the Great Eastern Highway, and takes about 6 hours. I really enjoyed the trip! It’s rare for me to have so many hours truly by myself. The car came with a USB input for the stereo, so I plugged my iPod in and listened to audiobooks and music all the way across.
Some highlights from the drive there (and back):
- spying an emu amid a flock of grazing sheep
- adrenaline rush the first few times I overtook road trains
- flat tyre in the middle of nowhere (no mobile reception) and couldn’t find the jack!! a lovely man stopped and was similarly stumped, but he eventually found the hideyhole behind the taillights then insisted on changing in for me :)
- following The Pipeline most of the way – 60,000 76cm steel pipes connect to pump water 530km (330 miles) inland
- watching the soil get redder and sandier the further inland I drove
- big flocks of black cockatoos swooping around low to the ground
Kalgoorlie is a mining town, founded in the late 1800s goldrushes. It is home to about 30,000 people, making it the 5th largest town in all of WA. My youngest sister, Natasha, and her husband, Dante, moved there two years ago because Dante got a job there as a native title lawyer (in short, as I understand, he works with local indigenous people to prepare claims and protect land rights until claims are ruled on). Natasha just started teaching high school maths at a local public school with students in grades 8-10. I got to meet a few of the people she works with, which was fun.
My first night in Kal, Carla flew up and the three sisters were together again for the first time since Natasha’s wedding (in Nov 2009!) Chaos and hilarity and all round loudness ensued. Carla works for the Disability Services’ autism group. She is one of several people who provide assessment and support for autistic kids and their schools/families in rural WA. She spends a lot of time doing meetings via skype . Her area of responsibility happens to include Kalgoorlie, so she’s been able to visit Natasha and Dante several times while there on work. She had 5 or more visits all over town on Friday, but on Thursday night it was sisterfun time! Presents, home made pizzas, a game of samba, and lots of silly self portraits :)
It was my first time to visit Natasha and Dante’s house – they bought it at the end of last year. It was also my first time to meet their two cats, Jasper and Pepper, who are SO cute. They are brothers (same litter) but don’t look at all alike. They are very sweet kitties :)
The other thing I did in WA was visit Esperance! Natasha and Dante took me down for the weekend and it was really fun. The trip is about 400km (250 miles) and was a 4 hour drive. On the way back it was daylight and I got to see lots of salt lakes.
My flatmate in Beijing (Bec) is from Esperance and her family live there. I was able to visit her parents for a chinwag. I’d met her Mum twice before in Beijing but not her Dad (unless you count skype). We drove the tourist drive and swam at two different beaches (picnic cove and twilight beach).
Esperance is famous for its incredibly beautiful beaches – clear water in various shades of blue and aqua and turquoise, crashing waves, and soft sandy beaches. LONG beaches. (Seriously, check out these photos!) I’ve heard about it and seen pictures and it was wonderful to go in person and actually SEE it! The weather was overcast and rainy on Saturday, but I got to see the brilliant blue colours on Sunday morning!