Taking a road trip has become something of a Christmas/New Year in Perth tradition for me. Never anything too ambitious, just get together with friends, pick a spot a few hours away where we can stay cheaply, pack a car, and get out of town for a couple of days.
I think the low-key expectations are important here. It’s easy to imagine some kind of movie scene, with the open road, perfect weather, background music exactly matched to the emotional tone of our conversations. Of course, the actual experience is more like mad traffic on the freeway, stonking hot weather and a broken car stereo.
Or, in the case of 2013’s trip, a 5-hour BONUS PICNIC STOP when we broke down 10 km from the nearest town and about 150 km from the nearest tow-truck operator open December 30th. Fortunately, we had a shady spot to wait on the side of the road, an esky full of food, and the people in the house up the hill brought us cool drinks and made sure we were ok. Unfortunately, there was some kind of decomposing animal in the gully just behind us and every time the wind came from the north, we got a good whiff of it. Also, by the 2 hour mark we’d exhausted most of the possibilities of “I spy” and couldn’t think of any other games. (“I spy” only made it to the 2 hour mark because “star picket” took a very long time, since there was only one of them visible in the whole area and it was halfway behind a tree.)
Turns out cars need functioning head gaskets to go anywhere.
This year, between “I’ve been there twice in the past 6 months” considerations, “I don’t want to drive that far” considerations and “I don’t want to camp but we need to stay cheap” considerations and the general unavailability of places that met those contraints, we wound up staying in a cottage on a property not far from where last year’s breakdown happened. Fortunately, Donnybrook is much nicer if you’re staying there deliberately.
Our digs. 5000% better than sitting on the side of the road.
In fact, we seemed to avoid mishaps entirely. The biggest problem we encountered was that at our designated leaving time I was still at the bank trying to sort out access to my money. My card had been reissued 6 months prior and because I’d never used the new PIN, I’d forgotten it. And then they wouldn’t let me change the PIN in person, I had to get them to mail a new one to me. Which they did, except to my Italian address. Let’s just say my bank genuinely tries to have good customer service and I would recommend them to anyone based in Australia, but they are not set up for expats.
In the end I borrowed some money from my parents (want to feel decades younger? hit up your parents for cash) and we were off. And the late start gave us an excuse to stop for lunch in Mandurah, which has an unreasonably nice foreshore. (Am I allowed to say that if I’m from Perth?)
Too bad no-one can afford to buy property here any more.
Once we arrived, a lot of our time was spent hanging around playing cards and admiring the local wildlife. By which I mean my friend A. — who is very much a city person — valiantly survived her fears about the numerous spiders, moths, large ants and small lizards to be found in rural Australia. We did also see a kangaroo. This did not make up for the other animals.
But a road trip isn’t a road trip without some oddball attractions, so the next day we went out for lunch (and some post-lunch cider tasting) and then wound up in the Bridgetown Jigsaw Puzzle Museum.
Worth it for the carpet alone.
Those pictures on the walls? Are all jigsaw puzzles.
One of the less intricate ones.
Look, I’m not saying you should travel all the way to Australia to visit the Bridgetown Jigsaw Puzzle Museum, but I am going to point out that it’s entry by donation and it kept us occupied for far longer than you’d expect. Which is more or less the opposite of most world-famous museums, where you pony up 15 euro and get bored after 20 minutes. Just saying.
On our drive back to Perth the next day we detoured to the coast at Busselton, a town with an amazing beach and an amazing lack of a good route into/out of town. Well, it’s probably fine most days, but none of the roads are designed to take a lot of traffic and on New Year’s Eve it seemed everyone in the south west wanted to be in Busso. We got stuck in the only traffic jam of our trip, complete with people driving on the footpath to get into the turning lane (WHO EVEN DOES THAT?), but it was worth it for this:
Look I know there’s only, like, 5 people on this entire beach but there really was a traffic jam to get there. Australian beaches are just magically empty.
Practical info for future reference: We stayed here and would definitely recommend it as a quiet getaway spot. (Power comes from solar only, so be prepared to go low-tech!) Beds were comfy and the kitchen was well-equipped. Also, a road trip tip from my sister: if your car has a cd player, whenever you’re at an opshop (thrift store/charity shop), keep an eye out for 90’s hits going super cheap. No road trip can’t be improved by Backstreet Boys.