Back in 2000, after my first couple of extended travel trips to Australia, I was still living and working in the UK, and was seriously considering the possibility of moving down under to live. I had a map of Australia on the wall with the two previous trips highlighted on it.
One evening I was discussing travels with my friend Richard who had been to Australia many times, and had lived and worked in Perth for some time. “If you have liked what you have seen so far, you will love Perth, you should try there first,” he advised.
We continued to study the map, and he pointed out some nice places to visit to the south of Perth. We spotted a small place on the map, to the east of Esperance, quite remote and alone at the end of a long road along the southern coast. “I never went there,” he said. “That’s a long way from anywhere.”
“I might go one day and see what’s there,” I said. And seven years later, when it came to writing out my list of 100 goals, I decided that I still wanted to go and see what was there. I had no idea. So with a few days to spare this week, I decided it was time to go and find out.
My initial plan was to borrow my friend Chris’s camper van and spend a couple of days to drive down to Esperance, and then along the coast from there, but on Sunday evening Mel pointed out to me that the map showed the track to Israelite Bay as suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles only! Oh dear, it looked like a bit more planning than I had originally anticipated would be in order.
I had to set off on Monday if I was going to go, and I was still a little undecided, as I needed to be back in Perth for Thursday evening, and it might be a bit of a rush. But I rang a couple of vehicle hire places in Esperance to see if I could rent a 4WD for the trip to Israelite Bay. The first couple of responses were discouraging, to say the least. “We wouldn’t rent anything to go out there, it’s pretty rugged going!” Hmmm.
Finally I found a place that would rent me an older Toyota Land Cruiser for the journey, and rang my friend Andrew to see if he would be interested in accompanying me on the journey. Despite the short notice he decided he would like to come along, and we abandoned the camper van idea, choosing to go in his car instead, taking a couple of tents with us.
We drove for about four hours on the Monday afternoon, and camped overnight in a bush rest stop, and headed on in the morning towards Esperance, taking a detour on the way to see the very picturesque Hopetoun on the south coast.
In Esperance we got ourselves organised for the 4WD trip the next day, and went fishing from the jetty, with a reasonable amount of success, catching our supper of squid, herring and yellowtail. There are a couple of friendly sealions that live under the jetty, and Andrew bravely hand-fed a fish to one of them. When he did so without getting bitten, I thought I would have a go too. I am not sure who was the most nervous, but the sealion got another fresh snack, and then just stared at me, hoping I might have more.
We spent another night at a bush camp near the town, and in the morning went to pick up our 4WD vehicle. There had been some sort of a mixup, and the Toyota was nowhere to be seen, and instead we were given an immaculate new Nissan Patrol, with dire warnings about how we should treat it. I was a bit disappointed, as I would have much preferred an older vehicle that we did not have to worry about too much.
We drove eastwards out of Esperance, and travelled about 100km on a good sealed road, followed by another good gravel track for a further 50km. We were making great time. but then the road ended, and a tiny sandy track lead off into the bush. We were still over 50km from our destination, and the going was about to get a bit rougher.
Within the first kilometre we were getting bogged in deep sand, but once we put the Nissan into four wheel drive and locked the front hubs, we had no further issues. At one point we got a bit over-confident, and I got us bogged in a deep muddy hole, but we soon managed to reverse out of trouble.
It took us just over two hours to complete the last 50km, and it was great fun. At Israelite Bay we had a look around the ruins of an old telegraph station there, and drove to the beach where we had lunch. Goal achieved!
We only had the Nissan for the day, as it was hideously expensive to hire, and we soon had to set off back, as it was going to take another three hours for the return journey.
We also had a bit of a detour planned on the way back. “Don’t take it on the beach!” the hire company rep told us! Riiiiiight….
After a much needed visit to the car wash, which included picking out some seaweed from under the chassis, we dropped the Nissan off, and put in a couple of hours in the car in the direction of home. The next morning we continued northwards, taking a slightly different route back, stopping off at Hyden to visit the very impressive Wave Rock, another West Australian attraction I have always wanted to see.
We finally arrived back in Perth late Thursday afternoon, and the first order of business when I got back was a shower, much needed after four days in the bush!
The whole trip was a lot more challenging than I had ever expected it to be, and I learned quite a few lessons from the journey. Firstly, a bit more research is always a valuable thing, as if I had simply set off, assuming that all was going to be easy, then I imagine at best I would have turned back defeated, at worst my friend’s camper van would be completely bogged in deep sand miles from anywhere!
Secondly though, I thought a lot about other peoples attitudes and advice, and decided that it is often wise just to ignore them. Quite a few times, when we told people where we were going, and what we planned to do, we got responses such as, “That’s a long way to go in one day!” or “It’s pretty rugged out there!” or “Why go all the way out there, there’s nothing to see!”
Ignoring all this, we set off regardless, and had an incredible day out there, and for me, the goal was a much greater adventure, and much greater achievement than I ever expected it to be.
Many thanks to Andrew for his company and assistance on a fantastic few days!