February brought the completion of my level 2, 300 hour yoga teacher training, then a three week holiday to follow, and so I took my opportunity to explore this wonderful country more. When I first arrived in Australia, I spent three week travelling down the top half of the east coast down to Brisbane. After that, I lived in Sydney for four months, followed by Ballina for three and now Byron for six (and counting). During my year and a half in Australia I’ve definitely had a good go at exploring the popular east, however I thought it was time to take the lesser travelled path over to the west, and what a great decision that was.
As some of you may know, I am 22 years old and wow do I love it! I have no responsibilities, no ties and I only answer to myself. If you are in a similar boat, take advantage! I can’t recommend travel enough and although doing it with friends can be so much fun, travelling alone is something so incredibly special. Why? Don’t you get bored? No! I love time on my own so much and learn a huge amount about myself, nevertheless I think people misunderstand solo travel as being secluded time from start to finish but in all my travels I actually have to fend for this alone time. You meet SO many people and being on your own opens you right up to each and every one of them. There are so many interesting people on the road and the simple fact that they have this same thirst for adventure already puts you on a similar page in a sense, you have some common ground and it’s likely that you have similarities, as well as lots you can learn from one another.
As soon as I got back from Woodford festival this year I kicked my butt into gear, requested time of work (don’t ask, don’t get), booked my flight and arranged my wicked camper all in preparation for my adventure.
First of all, I will point out that I’m very lucky in that one of my close friends here in Byron is actually from Margaret River, one of the most well known, sought after spots on the west coast, and he wrote me out a guide of his tips, along with some contacts. This is actually an important point to make, once you of start travelling, you start to accumulate contacts all over the world and it makes distant places far more accessible. Exploring a new place with the locals is always the best way to do it, otherwise you can get stuck in the tourist spots and that really isn’t a true reflection.
Before I got the car I spent a couple of days in Perth staying with a gorgeous friend from uni back in Manchester. We explored Rottnest Island by bike and also did a torchlit tour of the prison in Fremantle where the convicts were sent to in the past (but really not that long ago!).
For the first two days on the road I didn’t sleep in my car as planned; instead, I met some beautiful people who had me stay in their spare bed out the bush, in between Dunsborough and Yallingup, two beautiful coastal towns with both famous beaches and plenty of secluded little bays. I met their friends and went to a house party with them all. I got to feel the vibe of the Dunsborough area including its inhabitants and realise that they’re similar to the enchanting Byronites.
I continued south to Margaret River which is known for its relaxed vibe and wholesome sense of community. I arrived on the day of the farmers markets which was the perfect start then while checking out some of the popular surfing beaches I met a lovely girl Larissa and we just hit it off straight away. That afternoon we went along with her boyfriend and friends back up to Gracetown for a sunset surf, where I’d been hoping to visit but had beelined for the markets that morning. In the dark I followed her back to her property and wow that really was out in the bush, in towards Witchcliffe. We drove down what I guess you could maybe call dirt roads in between the huge trees. Eventually we arrived at her caravan and while I was thinking how brave she is to stay here alone every night, her and her boyfriend got straight to lighting the gas stove and cooking dinner with no electricity, running water nor, of course, reception. Here we were on the west coast of Australia, so far from the rest of the world, and right now I was away from all the people, just us and nature; it was so beautiful. I looked up and what I saw was magical; the stars looked so close and bright and were all out to kiss us goodnight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many.
I continued onto the Karri Forest, still in the Margaret River region but further south than the town and beaches. It was so amazing to be so alone. I’d been told by a worker at the information centre to find myself a stick because of course, the bush is where the snakes live and there were many venomous ones around. I asked, “so what am I supposed to do with a stick if a snake comes?”, and she said to just wag it around and hit it to the floor to make noise which will keep them at bay. So, I drove down beautiful Boranup Drive and on my first stop for a walk, within seconds, the perfect stick was lying in front of me as if the forest was offering it up. Off I went exploring through the huge trees with beautiful bark peeling down the sides. That night I slept in the forest and when I woke up, I rolled out my yoga mat and had a deep, slow yoga practice, breathing in that quality oxygenated air, flowing with the leaves on the trees.
Onward and upward (or actually downward) from the forest, I drove to Walpole for the tree top walk and then on to Denmark, a beautiful southern western aussie town with a real sense of community. Here I checked into an actual campsite by Parry Beach. It cost me 15 dollars a night which I was. at first, rather horrified about but then realised it was totally worth it. As I’d gone further down the coast it was getting cooler. As I had come from boiling Byron, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to bring a jumper or trousers for sleeping in and had been getting by borrowing. Denmark was actually cold and a little rainy but I really didn’t want to spend money on a jumper to wear for just two nights. At the campsite, the little old women that volunteer gave me two quilted blankets and showed me to my campsite, backing right onto the beach. Not only that but there were showers! Oh the joy. I bought myself those exfoliating gloves to commemorate this special moment where I wasn’t having to sneak my bar of soap into the beach showers on the sly. I was showering and proud! Afterwards I lathered my whole body in my roship oil and got snug as a bug in a rug. Then followed my best sleep of the whole trip.
I really liked Denmark straight away regardless of cooler climate which wouldn’t have been my choice. The shops are all locally owned and the people working their really care about what it is they’re producing and sharing. There were posters up in all the whole food cafes for things like massage, eco projects and community yoga. After living in Byron for six months, I’m so used to this amazing sense of community and I’m really very aware of it now. Denmark had no chains, just locals supporting each other an growing together. On top of this, Greens Pool and Elephant Rock area was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been!!
Afterward I made the six hour drive back up to Perth and spent my last day in Freantle after a jog at North Beach. Fremantle is wonderful. I explored the markets that are on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday all day and loved perusing the shops where so many goods are handmade by local artists, making beautiful unique pieces which show talent and care. There was a huge second hand bookstore I’d have loved to spend longer in and would actually have loved more time there in general, exploring the antique buildings. After Fremantle, I went to return my car which I’d become so attached to: my transport, my home and my travel companion in everywhere I went. It was amazing to have everything I needed in that one space and here’s some advice for if you’d like to do a similar trip.
My ‘vanlife’ essentials:
Yoga mat (amazing to have the freedom to do yoga wherever whenever. I yogi’d on next to the ocean, in the forest, on grass, on sand etc etc and it was all beautiful.)
Stainless steel water bottle (even in stinking hot weather you can still drink cool water – precious)
Glass jar to mix oats
A jumper (something I didn’t have and wished I did, I borrowed the whole way)
A bar of soap in a container
A bar of shampoo
A microfibre towel (Travel essential)
Phone charger (& phone which hardly needs mentioning for most but I’m quite technically challenged and was so impressed with the maps on my phone!)
In terms of food, I absolutely loved what I ate. Pretty much everything was organic and I spent so little. I would buy little bits here and there and just stocked up once on the Saturday when I went to the Margaret River farmers market which was so lovely. It’s just important to remember that you have no fridge and so things may not last quite as long. If you’re wanting to buy for days ahead, it needs to be sturdy: dry goods or at least a thick skin. I kept all my food goods in a canvas shopping bag underneath my ‘bed’ so it got no direct sunlight and could stay fairly cool even in super hot weather.
My food essentials:
Himalayan pink salt: The key to everything!
Sweet potatoes: Bake these in an oven for 50 mins – 1 hour then wrap up and they’ll last a few days.
Oats or Quinoa Flakes: How on earth could I go two weeks without?
Peruvian Protein Powder: I get this from where I work, Bare Blends. I genuinely love this powder so so much. I work at the smoothie bar in Byron but their product can be bought online and shipped all over the world.
Chia seeds: These help to add bulk and essential nutrients to my oaty, mushy goodness.
Almond (/rice/oat) Milk: Lasts outside the fridge.
Avocados: My favourite!!!
Rice Cakes: Find the best quality you can by looking for organic with the least amount of ingredients. It should still be super cheap!
Cucumbers: They hold up well outside of the fridge and are so refreshing.
Fruit: Buy mangos, apples, plums, whatever is in season where you are travelling.
Fresh Bread: This isn’t a necessity but I picked up a fresh fruit loaf from a beautiful farmers market and it made me oh so happy.
Peanut Butter: I bought a jar when I first arrived in Perth then when it was finished (it doesn’t take me long), that’s the jar I used to mix my oats in – so easy to transport, mix, eat from and rinse.
For example, a day may look something like this:
Breakfast: Oats, chia, almond milk, peruvian powder (if not this try some cacao or carob powder)
Lunch: Avo on rice cakes with salt and perhaps some tomatoes or cucumber / Baked sweet potato
Dinner: Sweet potato / more oats / more avo on bread or rice cakes
Snacks: Fruit / more oats / more avo
Can you tell I love chocolatey oats and avocado? They’re just delicious! It’s so wonderful to get back to simple eating sometimes. At home, my cupboard is full of herbs and spices and I’m huge on condiments. This isn’t a bad thing but tastebuds can become accustomed to certain flavouring and then you need to add more and more to get the usual kick you once got. Therefore, it was great for me to go back to basics and enjoy the simple pleasures.
Nevertheless, although this list made up the majority of my food, I was sure to try out some local treats too. One example is Gabriels Chocolate; it’s in Yallingup and Fremantle and is not to be missed! Here you can do chocolate tastings where the workers explain all about the origins and history. Beans come from Uganda, Ecuador, all over the world, and are made into very dark, dark, milk and sweet milk variations. My favourite though is the ice cream. No it’s not dairy or sugar free but my is it nourishing for the soul. The chocolatiers make the ice cream themselves and you can really tell how passionate they are about it. When that much love goes into a food, it’s doing something good for you. I had it when I was in Yallingup and then before my flight back home I made sure to make a trip to the shop in Fremantle!