The phone’s ring dragged me from blissful slumber, and I hadn’t even accepted the call when my stomach leapt into my mouth and wrenched me in to full consciousness. I was still bumbling through apologies as I stepped into the shower. From unconsciousness to rolling was the tale of less than seven minutes, but the damage had been done.
I spent the 20-minute drive agonising about how I was going to justify sleeping through an alarm on day one of a trip and arrived to pick up my companions ready to cop whatever flak I would most certainly have dished out had the situation been reversed, but my horrified expression and the speed at which I leapt to action must have counted for something. Had I known that this would be the first impression I’d make on my future partner, I’m not sure how I’d have reacted. As it was, we quickly moved past my faux pas and on to the Tetris-like task of fitting five travellers’ gear into a car barely designed to seat four.
Before long we were on the road and heading south. The morning’s driving saw us all become properly acquainted – a process highlighted by the establishing of lasting nicknames (within an hour Kane had become D6) and the identification of dominant seating patterns. I was the driver which was accepted by default as the car provider. D6 took shotgun as the other male (wise considering I was an unknown quantity to the rest of the passengers. Henny and Linh shared the back seat and the final spot stayed empty as we would collect Christine later in the trip.
The highlights of the day were stops in Busselton for a walk along the Jetty and a scramble across the rocks at Canal Rocks. Over the course of the day, I tried to find out from D6 the general makeup of the group without much headway. Regardless, by the time we’d reached Yallingup, I was certain that I was keen on Linh, and that She and I were a thing that I was going to make happen. By the time we reached Augusta for sunset and a few homebrews by the Southern Ocean, I was already looking for excuses to have solo time. Linh on the other hand (as I found out much later) was oblivious to my designs. We took an evening walk where Linh and I spent a few minutes talking together and I was certain that our course was set.
Day two (you can follow the itinerary for this trip minus the romantic overtones by clicking on the itineraries tab above) took us from Augusta to Albany by way of the dale Evans Bicentennial tree (where I learned that Max Trax (4X4 traction accessories) are not safe, even when securely tied to the roof), Walpole Treetop Walk and Elephant Rocks. On my last journey (a week earlier) I’d explored Elephant Rocks for the first time, and this time approached the location as a seasoned expert! We reached the beach at Green’s Pool and the others were ready to stay there, despite my insistence on the treasures that lay just over the rocks. Eventually I walked on ahead, impatient of the selfies and group photos that slowed progress. Once we reached the sheltered cove just past Green’s Pool, Linh, D6 and Henny all agreed that it was a pretty special spot. I took the opportunity to show my innate (week-old) knowledge of the spot by running a tour of the swim-throughs and jumping spots hidden around the rocks (I’d be lying if I said that part of me wasn’t hoping that expert travel guide status would be a way to impress Linh). Showing travellers around a spot is one of my favourite travelling experiences as it provides an opportunity to rediscover the wonder of exploration!
We spent the night at 1849 Backpackers (for the second time in a fortnight), so again, I was the expert guide returning to a location where the staff still remembered me – this time I’d organised to play some music on the newly opened stage, and had a plan to make a night ascent of Bluff Knoll, which will eventually be the focus of its very own post (if night ascents is your thing, check this one out in the meanwhile).
We spent a few days in and around Albany and became more a group of friends than travelling companions. By the time we moved on to Esperance, I was comfortable that we would continue our friendship after the trip was done. It was around this time that I confided in D6, my interest in Linh and realised that Henny was totally on to me (which meant that Linh was certainly in the know too). Undaunted and committed, we found ourselves in Esperance with the New Year upon us. On December 30 we arrived and were herded into overflow camping at the showgrounds. This felt like an anti-climax, so we agreed that a maverick solution was required. We packed up a few blankets and a single tent and headed off to find a beach where we could all squat for the night.
It was in the dunes between Salmon Beach and Twilight Beach where we pitched our tent and it was here where I made my move. Early on the morning of December 31, Linh and I found ourselves away from the others on the rocks above the Southern Ocean on the South Coast of Western Australia. I made clear to her my interest, and waited anxiously for her response… It was not what I had hoped. Clear indecision is never my favourite thing, but in this case it was particularly crushing. I felt that I recovered well (particularly since this moment was certain to be analysed between fits of laughter by Linh and Henny at a later time) and said that I would invite her to the movies at the end of the trip. Again I was told “We will see”. We visited Western Australia’s Stonehenge (really!), and Lucky Bay (where I took Linh and Henny surfing, resulting in a broken fin) before heading north to Kalgoorlie and Hyden and turning for home. We’d barely parted company when I made good on my promise and raised the idea of a movie date. Linh (begrudgingly) agreed, but showed much more interest in the prospects of another trip with Henny up the North Coast. It was on the eve of this trip that Linh finally decided that I was a risk worth taking. Three and a half years later we are still travelling together and we have no plans of stopping!