Before I left Perth, I wanted to take a boat to Rottnest Island where the quokkas live because they are pretty much only found there. During my first footy game, the men told me about the island. Quokkas are marsupials (small wallabies) about the size of a cat. The men informed me that the thing to do was to get a selfie with one because they always look like they’re smiling.
I signed up for a boat ride that also provided bikes to rent. I read that the best way to explore the small island is by bike. The medium-sized boat on the trip over was much smaller than a ferry. It should have taken 45 minutes to get there, but the waves were so powerful, it took us an hour and 15 minutes.
I sat outside on the back deck, which was covered by an overhang. I found a storage-type box that was against the back wall of the boat and sat on it. I get motion sickness, but for some reason, I thought I wouldn’t need any medicine because it was a quick boat ride. Usually, larger boats don’t make me too sick. Unfortunately, this was a smaller boat, and the waves were insane!
I sat in the back, feeling more and more nauseous while watching one person after another come outside for some fresh air. A young couple stood next to me as the girl leaned towards the ocean in case she threw up, while her boyfriend rubbed her back. Suddenly, it was like everyone came outside for fresh air. The crew came over and handed people barf bags, which were quickly used. I tried to block out the sounds and smells and focused on not throwing up.
A middle-aged man came rushing outside and laid down a few feet from me. He was holding his head in agony. His wife comforted him while a crew member assisted. He was extremely seasick, so they brought him an ice pack for his head while he curled up in the fetal position.
I counted down the time until we arrived at the island, where I dreamed of solid ground. The crew decided to pick up trash or a net of some sort floating in the ocean, which added about ten minutes, making me want to scream.
As we continued, I looked out to try and find the horizon, but the waves were so huge that the background completely disappeared as we were thrown around. Another boat the same size as ours was just behind us to the left. The waves were thrashing it around like it was a toy. I looked to my right, and another similar boat was dipping up and down with each wave. I thought that must be how we look. The waves appeared to swallow us as we bobbed up and down with such force and height, I feared we wouldn’t make it. I held on tight and took deep breaths.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. We should have been to the island by now, and I was angry and getting sicker by the minute. I ran to the restroom, but when I opened the door to the tiny bathroom, there was throw-up all over the seat. Nope. I stood there for a minute, wondering what I should do. I couldn’t imagine throwing up in there, and I couldn’t find someone with a baggie. I held on and took more deep breaths.
Within a few minutes, we were on the island! I have never felt so happy to be on land. They handed me a bike as I exited the boat, and I walked towards the restroom. I was surprised that within a few minutes, I felt much better! I didn’t throw up, and I was ready to ride my bike.
The island only has 300 permanent residents, but they receive half a million visitors a year. It’s a sandy island, and there aren’t many cars around, so biking is the best mode of transportation. The Dutch arrived in the 17th century, and the island was uninhabited. They thought the quokkas looked like rats, so they named the island Rats’ Nest Island. That wasn’t very appealing, so it changed to Rottnest Island. In 1829, British colonizers used the island for military installations, a penal colony, and internment camps. Most of the buildings on the island are now used for holiday stays.
I rode my bike around the island and followed the paved road. There was a lot of sand around the island, and I made a few stops at look-out points. Within ten minutes, I saw a handful of young people trying to take selfies with a couple of quokkas. I pulled over and tried to get a selfie, but it is a lot harder than it looks. I sat on the ground, leaned over, and my selfie came out awkward. The quokkas were really cute, and I was surprised at how familiar they were with humans.
I continued on my bike and ended up riding over 20 kilometers (12 miles). It was cloudy outside with a cool breeze. As I rounded the island, I saw incredible beaches! I pulled over at several to take pictures and take in the beautiful sights. The water was clear as it hit the beach, but turquoise in the distance.
There were large boulders in the ocean, and the waves crashed into them. They reminded me of the beaches that I saw near Esperance. Some of the beaches were a quick walk, while others had a wooden staircase. I came for the quokkas, but the beaches and bike ride were terrific!
After a couple of hours, I stopped at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I brought. All of a sudden, a quokka walked over to me because he wanted my food. The signs instruct people not to feed the quokkas, so I kept my sandwich away from the little guy.
I sat on the ground and had the plastic bag with crumbs in my hand. The quokka kept trying to get my zip-lock, so I pulled it away. He climbed on top of my lap and sat like a cat! He was the cutest animal I’ve ever seen! His little paws were folded in front of him while he peaked his nose towards me.
Two girls were riding their bikes and stopped to take a selfie with my quokka. We were all sitting on the ground, trying our best to get a picture without disturbing the little guy. He was super playful with me, cementing my reputation as the “animal whisperer.”
The girls left, and I continued to play with the quokka. The wind kept blowing my hair, making it difficult to get a picture. The little guy sat on my lap again, and we had a photo-shoot. I ended getting some great pics!
It was time to keep riding my bike, so I said goodbye to my new friend. The white sand was so pure and beautiful. Patches of grass peaked out along the coastline.
I ended up back at the port, where there are a few small shops and restaurants. I went into the market and found some motion-sickness medicine near the counter. The guy at the register asked, “Was it rough coming over?” I laughed, “Oh yeah! People were throwing up into little baggies all over the place. One man was lying on the deck, curled in a ball of pain.”
I took two tablets, and within 20 minutes, it was time to board the boat. The medicine made me extremely drowsy – the main reason I try not to take it. I kept nodding off in my seat, but at least I didn’t want to throw up.
I went back to my Airbnb to rest and recover. That evening, I had plans to meet a girl and a guy from a Facebook backpacker travel group to see if we wanted to ride up the coast together. I knew it was a popular thing – people meet in these groups or at a hostel. One person has a car, and they take two to three people with them to split the fuel costs. Many vehicles also caravan with other cars. It’s not uncommon to see a group of three to four vehicles caravaning together. They usually take advantage of the free camping in Western Australia or the cheap hostels along the way.
I was a little hesitant about having people join me, but I had a friend that was a few weeks ahead of me, and he joined a group up the coast into the outback, and he was having a blast. I also just transferred a lot of money to the U.S. to buy a house, so the thought of sharing fuel costs enticed me.
I arrived at the restaurant and met Teresa from Germany. We sat at a tall table outside on the patio. I ordered a beer, and she ordered a soda. I also ordered a pizza because I needed dinner. Teresa was short, had blonde hair pulled back, and was in her mid-20s. She carried herself like she was a librarian in her 40s.
It was quickly apparent to me that Teresa was a “Debbie downer.” She told me about how she had a working holiday visa and spent six weeks working on the coast near Cairns. I asked her, “Oh, was it farm work?” because Europeans have to complete three months of farm work during their 12-month visa. She replied, “No, I don’t do farm work.” Instead, she worked at the front desk of a massage parlor and “had issues with the manager” and quit. This was right after they spent weeks training her.
I used to be an operations manager and a recruiting manager, and this girl had red flags all over her. She complained about almost everything – including the drink she ordered. Teresa had just arrived in Perth that evening and was staying at a hostel in Fremantle. She complained about the 45-minute bus ride to get to the restaurant. I tried to give Teresa the benefit of the doubt because maybe she was tired from a long travel day, but she was insufferable. She didn’t smile once.
Teresa was heading to Broome, where she’d meet a friend there. After spending a week there, she planned on bailing on Australia and heading to Indonesia. Teresa wanted to see the outback before leaving. I kept trying to tell myself that she would be ok and I needed the gas money, but I just couldn’t imagine spending two weeks with her. I knew my “out” would be money.
I told Teresa that I planned to camp some of the time, but I also planned to stay at some hotels along the way because it was cold in the south, and I already experienced cold nights camping in my car, which were not fun. I explained that the hotels driving across the Nullarbor were around $140 a night. Teresa’s eye widened, “Oh, I can’t afford that. I planned on free camping for the entire two weeks. Maybe a hostel for a night or two.”
We realize that maybe this wasn’t the best fit for us. I was also worried that Teresa wouldn’t actually have the gas money since she kept complaining about the cost of things. Shortly after our discussion, Timo showed up. He had arrived in Perth the night before and was also in his mid-20s and from Germany. The three of us talked about our travel plans.
That day, Timo had started to research his options for getting around the outback. He was leaning towards buying a converted van so he wouldn’t have to set up a tent each night. I told him all about the research I did when I bought my car. Timo was friendly and seemed like a partier. The thought of having both Timo and Teresa on the trip seemed like a nightmare. They were polar opposites.
After telling Timo about all of his options and sort of led him towards getting a van, we all left and said we’d stay in touch if we decided to travel together. I had been messaging another guy to buy some of his camping gear from a buying and selling Facebook page, so I headed to his hostel.
It was already around 10:00 pm, but he was still awake. I messaged Levi when I was in the parking lot, and he came outside. Levi was in his late 20s and was from Wales. He had a working holiday visa and had spent several months working on a farm outside of Perth. Then he bought the truck and caravaned across Western Australia for the last three months. Levi was going back home, so he needed to sell his equipment.
We went to his car, and he opened the back of his truck. He had a Toyota Prado, the most common vehicle for the outback. It was dark outside and hard to see things, so he used his flashlight. I bought several items from him – a cooler, a plastic tote with a pan, pot, and utensils. Levi was really friendly and gave me both of his twin-sized blow-up mattresses with patches. I checked out his plastic folding table, which was in rough shape, but it would do. I ended up getting most of my camping items (including a tent) from Levi for about $95.
Levi and I talked about the outback, and he gave me tips. I explained that I just met with two people about riding together, but I didn’t get a good feeling about them. Levi enthusiastically told me about his experience that came with some warnings.
Levi had driven a few different people around and caravaned with another two vehicles. Each car had three to four people. Some people rode with him for two weeks, and others longer. Levi agreed to have two 18-year-old Germans ride with him, which ended up being a colossal mistake. They were always getting into some sort of trouble. After repeatedly asking to drive, Levi let one drive his car for a bit. The guy was flying down the rough, gravel, corrugated roads. A rock hit his windshield and cracked it.
As soon as they got to a town, Levi dropped them off. Two weeks was enough. Shortly after that, he heard about a backpacker who had overturned their vehicle in the outback, and there were two young Germans with the owner. Levi said, “I know it was those guys!” He recommended that I not ride with people that young because they were immature. He said, “people our age” would be better companions. I laughed in my head because I was about ten years older than Levi.
The other people that Levi caravaned with were great. He said it can really help with fuel costs and to create a fun environment. Since he was caravaning with a few vehicles, they took turns cooking dinner for the group. Levi cautioned me about picking the wrong mates and advised that I take more time to find the right people. I told him that I was trying to leave in a day, so that would be difficult.
Levi and I ended up talking until 12:30 am! His advice was invaluable, and the camping gear that he gave me was beneficial. He convinced me that I should not travel with Teresa and Timo. I didn’t want to wait around to find someone else, and in the end, I didn’t want my outback experience ruined by having a bad travel companion. I decided I’d go it alone, something I was used to anyway.
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