Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ROADTRIP to Exmouth, WA: home of the beautiful Ningaloo Reef.

I only had 5 days to rest, recover, and wallow in my depression post- airport goodbye before I headed off on another adventure. It's a tough life, I know. 

We had two weeks of school holiday in April, and every year the Pieyre's go on a road trip up north to Exmouth. And as usual, the au pair was invited along. And since everybody I've talked to in Australia raves about how untouched and stunning the Ningaloo Reef is, I wasn't about to pass up this golden opportunity.

It's about a 14 hour drive through pure Aussie outback, with the occasional kangaroo and emu sighting. I haven't seen much of either in the wild since living here, so a surprise animal in the distance is always pretty exciting. We (and by we, I mean Ben) drove through the night, while I popped a few sleeping pills and hoped I wouldn't have to beg for a potty break every hour. And just as soon as I dozed in oblivion, we were there.

Julie and I set up camp, while our cripple with a broken hip (Ben) sat in a chair and laughed at and lectured us about how god awful we were at setting up tents, boats, BBQ's and just about everything else for that matter. But we did it. And this is what we managed.

Not too shabby eh? I'm in the white and blue tent, and out of pure laziness and hopefulness for good weather, I opted out of putting the cover on. Putting pegs into that god awful ground? Virtually impossible. Let's just put it this way, my arms are still hurting a month later....

But, I'll follow up on this later. Moving on. 

We spent the majority of our days snorkeling by morning, and fishing in the afternoon. Of course there were the days where we sat by the pool, laid on the beach, or enjoyed some cocktails by the water when the holiday became too strenuous for all of us ;).

One of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE snorkel spots in Exmouth was Turquoise Bay. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, The Ningaloo Reef is within swimming distance from shore, which was a huge relief considering the seasickness I encountered during my previous trip to an Australian reef... 

It was a tough swim against the current, but doable, especially since my tour guide was some injured guy who knows the reef inside and out. Broken hip Ben, despite all injuries, was desperate to snorkel and show me the reef, and I'm so incredibly thankful he did. During my very first snorkel, I saw HEAPS of parrot fish, nemos, stingrays, and (finallyyyyy) SEA TURTLES. I'd been waiting for this moment since I moved here, and it finally happened! 

feeding kangaroos- check
holding a koala- check
swimming with sea turtles - check, check, check!! 

I can officially die happy.

Other days, when the visibility was especially clear, we took the boat out so we could fish and snorkel simultaneously. Ben had all the good spots mapped out already, and we'd do a quick check of the water and decide whether or not to stay. We saw about 3 sharks in the open water that day, and while he swam back to the boat unfazed by any shark encounters, I sat on the boat happily avoiding any deadly creatures who were in my direct line of sight. I was ok with waiting for the all clear, before attempting to risk my life in the open water. But it's true, y'all. They're everywhere. dun. dun. dun. 

To give you an idea of the seriously unreal visibility, this is what my shitty 'ol iphone captured from my seat on the boat. This was an especially perfect day, and we made very good use of it. Swim, snorkel, fish. Swim, snorkel, fish. repeat. repeat. repeat. 

And on this trip, I learned that nothing makes me happier than doing this very thing. Swimming among the sea creatures is a truly humbling and irreplaceably, breathtaking experience.  

And on the one day that the water was a little choppy, and a bit unclear, I spent my morning doing a solo hike at Yardie Creek for this view. And as much as I love being in the water, I love my days exploring the land just as much. 

And because we needed the occasional break from camp life, we came here to have some fancy drinks and dinner one night with friends. The pool, the palm trees, and the ocean were incredible. And the martinis were the icing on the cake. And this is where I learned that my new 26 year old no hangover limit is approximately 3 or less drinks. Duly noted. 

And after 10 days of nonstop happiness, we headed home, but not without a stop at this super cool (or dorky) sign on the way home. #tourist. 

And as we continued driving, I couldn't help but laugh and think about how lucky we were to spend 10 days in paradise with exceptional weather, only to be struck with this dark and dreary day on the drive home. It kind of fit with the post-holiday mood we were all in. After all, it's hard to want to leave a beautiful and sunny Exmouth knowing that we were heading into rainy season back in Perth.

And so, I guess it was an ok decision to leave my tent coverless, as the weather gods worked entirely in our favor while we were there. But the day we left? Exmouth got flooded and our entire campground had to be evacuated that very day. One day my luck will run out, but not on that day, I guess. 

Overall, this trip was just the clarity I needed to get over my surprising bout of debilitating homesickness. I was seriously second guessing my decision to move directly to New Zealand, and now I was finally sure that I made the right decision. 

All I needed was a little beach, a little beer, and nights under the stars to bring me back to my happy place. The reality is that beauty, adventure, and traveling IS what I want. Living abroad will always come at a price, but for now, it's one that I'm willing to pay. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Week TWO: Family reunion in Oz! Rottnest Island.

Where do I begin?

We accomplished a lot in week two, but it mostly involved more sunsets, more food, and of course more beer. So to spare you the painfully boring recap, I'll just skip to the good stuff.

I began the week by finally booking my one way ticket to New Zealand for August 3rd!! And while I'm so incredibly excited to begin this new chapter in my life, it also wasn't easy putting an official end date to my time in Perth. But how can I be a true nomad, if I continue to stay in one place? I CAN'T. And so, I will roam. 

And when we headed to Hillary's Boat Harbour a few days later, I found Auckland staring at me in the face. I'll take that as a good sign (hehe) of the things to come. 

We spent an evening at Cottesloe Beach hopping from various pubs and enjoying pints of whatever pale ale they happened to have on tap. Drinking with this view... what could be better?

And of course capped the night off with another one of my favorite things: ocean sunsets

And as much as I thoroughly enjoyed the week, I looked forward to nothing more than our trip to Rottnest Island. It's about 11 miles off the coast of WA, and is a little slice of heaven, in my opinion.  

We arrived by Ferry which took a pretty standard 25 minutes from Fremantle. We arrived, checked in, and then headed off by bike in search of our accommodation for the weekend. Seems easy enough, right? Well it wasn't. In typical Peterson fashion, we got lost a few times, but eventually found our way. An extra work out is never a bad thing though, I guess. 

And when we arrived, I was sure glad we spent the extra money for the ocean view. A beer on the balcony is always a good reward after shamelessly wandering around like a lost puppy all afternoon. I promise I do other cool things besides drink beer and stare at water, by the way. 

The sunset on our way to dinner was a nice little reward, too.

And the next day, like good little tourists, we headed out early so we could see the island in it's entirety. I feel like we stopped every 5 minutes, somewhat due to exhaustion, but mostly due to the scenery. Not a bad capture, for a silly 'ol iphone. 

Anyone else in love with water this beautiful? 

We stopped numerous places to swim and snorkel, which was much needed after half sweating to death in the Australian heat. This was one of my favorite stops. Can you see why?

And while completely exhausted by the end of the day, of course I had to stop and see the lighthouse. At the end of the day, it literally is a house... with a light. And truly, I don't know where this obsession came from, but I kind of dig it. I'm weird and I don't care, ok?

Oh, and for those of you who don't know, Rottnest Island is home of the famous Quokka. It's one of the only places in the world where these cuties are found. During the day, they are somewhat hard to find. But at night, you better bet your ass they'll be scurrying across your feet at dinner time hoping to eat your scraps. It happened to us more than we'd ever like to discuss again. No one else on the entire island seemed to be fazed by the whole charade, but it's not everyday us good 'ol Wisconsin folk have rodents snuggling up to us at the dinner table. I didn't think they were so cute after that... 

And with that, we headed home from Rottnest after some beautiful pale ale pints by the water. (Bet you didn't see that one coming). We spent our last day in the city and having a good ol Aussie BBQ with all of my favorite people in one place. 

And after an amazing two weeks with my family, I said goodbye, and was left with an overwhelming sense of sadness once again. In fact, I had my first ever serious bout of homesickness since I arrived 9 months ago. Not knowing when I'll see them again is a pretty harsh reality, but one of the many sacrifices I've brought upon myself by choosing to be here. 

I spent about 2 days in bed depressed and wondering whether I was really cut out for this. Were these feelings normal? Am I ready to face another year without the people I love the most? I didn't know what or how to feel. I didn't know if I was being brave, realistic, or unbelievably stupid for choosing another year abroad. I didn't know if seeing them after so long made it easier or harder for me to stay. And frankly, I didn't know if I had made the right decision at all in making the choice to move directly to New Zealand. 

Then again, I didn't have much time to think about it. When I finally got my sorry ass out of bed, it was time to get packing. I was headed off on another adventure, and soon my head would be clear again. The holiday brought me so much clarity, and couldn't have come at a better time. Now now, I know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes. I do work. Sometimes. 

Stay tuned for my adventures in Exmouth. The best beaches and snorkeling in WA, I reckon! Oi! Oi! Oi!