Planning this trip, we made some … miscalculations. Not many, just a few. Our stupidity both hindered and helped us.

Lisa in Perth

We were too stupid, for example, to realize that two months wasn’t enough time to see even a tenth of Australia; but we were also so stupid we didn’t realize how expensive two months in Australia – let alone the six we needed – would be. If we’d stayed much longer we would have gone broke, but fast.

It was somewhere in New Zealand that we started planning for Australia, and some logistical problems immediately became evident. Driving in New Zealand gave us a dim concept of how long it took to get anywhere; though in hindsight, driving in Melba was not a good indicator of much, besides the durability, reliability and stench of the 1989 Mitsubishi campervan. At any rate we were faced with a choice of what to see Down Under, or to be more exact, what to miss.

Tasmania was the first casualty. I will regret that decision, I think, for a long time: but at the time we thought it was both too costly to take the ferry and too time-consuming to see the whole island properly. Then, out of time and cost considerations, and some raw calculations of the cost of a hospital stay for heat stroke, we cut the Outback, including the “musts” of Uluru, the Olgas, and the Kimberley.

Marc in PerthBy this time we agreed it was necessary, somewhere down the road, to return to Australia and see what we’d missed. That trip will have to take a backburner to the Japan-China-Mongolia-Siberia odyssey already forming in our travel-enfeebled minds.

But we didn’t sacrifice everything. We did the entire East Coast, including the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree rainforest, Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. We did the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains, and several other parks and beaches besides. We saw the big plaster Banana, Prawn, Mango and Merino. We did miss the Big Clam, for which I will never forgive myself.

And, after cutting all that other good stuff we were able to dedicate the last three weeks to the West Coast, where we saw The Great Michael Franti and a bunch of other bands and got to know Perth – a terrific city – and about 1,000 kilometers of coastline.

One thing we didn’t see: clouds. Of the 22 days we spent out west we had one (1) cloudy day. Thus we broke the pattern of rain that followed us from New Zealand across the South Pacific and all over eastern Oz.

Except for that one day, which will be described.

Incidentally, the West Coast apparently does not see many Americans. We ran into approximately two in 22 days. Which was OK by us because Americans are big bores. Ha! Just kidding. But they are.

Kangaroo and EmuAnyway Perth is a great town. Except for the hostels. This tale demands telling.

In three separate stays in the jewel of the west we stayed in three different places, and all were either ripoffs or foul dens of iniquity. Or both. I will mention them here to warn other travelers.

First there was Hotel Bambu, which lied in its advertising and turned out to be little more than a party pad for the owner’s friends. We treated ourselves to en suite rooms very infrequently on this trip, because of the cost (on average $20-$30 more than rooms without a bathroom), so when we relented and booked a room with a toilet and shower it was kind of a big deal, the sort of thing we looked forward to, the sort of thing that made our day. Unfortunately, after we showed up, the “bathroom” was a locked door that turned out to be a storage closet. We got a discount, but little sleep, as the place is also trying to be a club.

After returning from the Southbound Festival in Busselton we were a little tired and looking forward to some rest before picking up our car and heading north. We were to be denied that rest once again. 1201 East Backpackers was a slum, plain and simple. Somebody turned an office building into a hostel and didn’t bother evicting the cockroaches (Metaphor? You be the judge). And some snotty French guy at the desk robbed me of an hour’s Internet time.

Perth streetAfter our Great Northern Adventure, which will be the subject of the next two posts (the last concerning Australia, we have moved on to SE Asia), we returned to Perth convinced we didn’t have bad enough luck to strike out a third time. Fools!

At first we seemed to have found the tonic for our accommodation woes. Governor Robinson’s was a tidy out-of-the-way place with cheap rooms, only $55 a night: high ceilings and darkwood floors: a cozy common room and brick courtyard. We booked three nights so as to have space in which to prepare to leave the country – packing, unpacking, re-packing, and the all-important purge of heavy, useless items: that fifth water bottle, one or two of the seven books I was reading at the time.

It wasn’t until leaving that Gov. Robinson’s gave us a sour taste, by charging $70 per night out of the blue, and by refusing to acknowledge that the room was advertised online for less. And by the owner – I assume the rude schmuck at the desk was the owner – smarmily dismissing our complaints.

Perth was a really nice town, clean and less expensive than elsewhere in Australia, and Fremantle (just to the south) had a bustling, diverse weekend market and a beautiful colonial downtown. Both had great restaurants and bars. Too bad about the hostels.