|RELATED ARTICLES …|
|• Safari Tours|
|• Theme Parks|
|• More related articles …|
A seven o’clock start outside the Perth central train station saw most of us surprisingly active and alert for that time of the morning. Our energy came from the excitement and prospect of hanging ten, hitting the sets and lots of other phrases that ended in ‘dude’ which we’d heard before but never really understood. Yes, we were the city surfers, the beginners, about to hit the swell and find out what our Rip-Curl shorts were really made for.
On boarding the ‘Party Bus’ it was a delight to find it was exactly as described in the brochure. TV, DVD, fridge, PlayStation 2, lounge room and of course the chandelier! A pack of cards, a selection of surfing magazines, a tennis ball, a guitar and a didgeridoo were also thrown in for good measure. The cards were chosen as the group-bonding tool for the first part of the journey down to Albany.
Our first stop was the town of Williams for lunch. Conversations revolved around surfing – ‘would we be able to go pro by the end of the 4 day tour?’, ‘Whom should we sign with for the sponsorships?’
Once lunch was digested we were back on the road. Wiped out by the unnaturally early start we all snuggled back into our luxury chairs and slept soundly to the dulcet tones of the Verve.
Next stop was a winery. Suffice to say none of us knew much about wines (except that it can get you drunk). However, having sampled the length and breadth of their selection we all felt a little more educated (and tipsy) and could accurately, for at least one wine, verbalize the nature of the taste –‘I’m feeling summer mornings…yes bouquets of…. no, I’m feeling strawberries, defiantly strawberries with a smattering of exoticism…. mmmmm, yes exotic strawberries.’ The wines appealed to us so much we each bought one for the evening. Except our Welsh companion who to the horror of the sales assistant bought two saying, ‘This one tastes nice and this one is nice too. I think I’ll mix ‘em together.’
Our next stop was a tour of the sandalwood factory. With a fascinating talk on the history of sandalwood use in Australia that ended with group inhalations of the essential oil. The vapours seemed to kick in as we boarded the bus resulting in another group nap before we finally arrived at Albany.
Before hitting the campsite we stopped in the town to pick up alcoholic supplies to go with the wine. It was here we saw the British contingent made a schoolboy error. After 10 whole minutes of calculating the cost in cents per millilitre the group triumphantly purchased the cheapest beer in the store. The thrill of the thrifty find was soon dispelled when on re-boarding the bus the driver enquired as to why we had bought light beer. As the Welshman pointed out ‘that stuffs weaker than milk!’ Ah, four weeks backpacking around and still so much to learn! Fortunately the shop assistant allowed us to exchange it.
At the campsite our tents were thrown up in lightening speed, the moment we’d been waiting for all day was imminent. ‘Surf’s up’ and the beach was only a 30 second walk from the campsite.
Up on the beach I began to run for the surf with my extra-long-pink-soft-foam board under arm. This beginner was not really sure what she would do once she hit the water however I just knew instinctively (probably from some Coke or Pepsi ad) that once you hit sand if you’re holding a surfboard you just gotta run towards the sea.
Unfortunately, or probably fortunately in terms of the cost of a sea rescue, I was stopped abruptly by the instructor, who called us over for the lesson. He began with a safety talk including diagrams in the sand to explain rips to us. For the first time in my life I actually understood how and why they occur. I instantly felt safer with the prospect of entering the water. I felt even more comfortable when he explained there was no need to panic if you got into one since it wasn’t going to rip you across to South Africa probably only a kilometre or so out.
He also taught us how to read the waves, catch the waves, ‘paddle-paddle-paddle’, and get up on the board all while we were still beached on the sand. He then took us through some stretching moves. I chose to follow half-heartedly since I didn’t expect to do much with the board that first afternoon except lie on it. Oh, how I would regret that choice tomorrow morning.
And then we were in. The water surprisingly warm, the surfboard surprisingly easy to climb onto.
‘I’m not singling you out, I’m going to do the same to the others’ the instructor said grabbing my board as I lay on it.
‘Do what?’ I worried.
Before I could ask I had been rearranged with the surf behind me, had ‘paddle-paddle-paddle!’ shouted at me and was pulled into my first wave. There was a momentary rush where I was on the wave gliding freely towards the sparkle of the beach. This was it, I was hooked on surfing for life. Then there was a lull as I slid off the back and the next wave cuffed my head.
The instructor came over and said ‘You didn’t paddle.’
‘I know,’ I replied!
‘You were holding my board!’.
With a little more instruction I improved substantially over the course of the afternoon. All of us became proficient at ‘paddle-paddle-paddling’ and catching the wave. A few of us even rode waves on two feet. We were the dangerous ones. We had gained confidence and were eager for a challenge. The card games may have bonded us but it’s in the water that true friendships are sealed. We two-feeters formed an alliance and hatched a plan to sneak across the break to towards the bigger, faster waves. But the instructor was onto our scam, with eyes everywhere, he knowingly called us back at every attempt. And who could blame him, here were 5 crazy foreigners armed with pink weapons of mass destruction.
As the afternoon drew to a close one of us made a run for it. Seeing a break in the waves he paddled his little heart out, avoided the first then second wave and yes, he made it past the break. We all stood in the shallow water in awe of him, the master beginner, out there. He could see we were envious and gave us a two fisted arms-in-the-air champion salute. And then it came…his wave. Well technically the next one was probably his as this one broke a little too soon. He ‘paddle-paddle-paddled’ semi caught the wave, slipped off the front, lost contact with the board, was dragged seven metres or so on his back, nosed dived, went under the wave for 4 seconds during which we only had sight of this board bobbin’ in the wave. He then resurfaced triumphantly with a grin as long as his board was wide. As he said himself in a 9- minute speech he gave us about the four glorious seconds we had not been privilege to witness he had been spun by Neptune himself. We all made a vow there and then to be dumped by a big wave at least once this trip.
Three hours of surfing seemed to be our lot although the water was still warm we were losing daylight so we retreated back to the campsite for a well-deserved shower.
The meaty evening feast was prepared almost instantaneously, and well appreciated by the ravenous ‘surfers’. The whinging poms all had their individual complaints ranging from aching muscles to requests for kneepads but they also each had a tale of ‘that wave’ they’d caught and rode right to the beach be it on their feet, knees, elbows or face. We were all champion surfers in our own rights but the king of the evening around the campfire and later that night at the pub was the master beginner who got out to the break point, went through the spin cycle and returned to tell the tale.
Awoken by the laughing kookaburra alarm clock we quickly packed the camp away, despite our aching surf muscles, and drove off to our next surfing spot - Denmark. Out on the beach our hangovers were so bad that few of us could muster the energy to push into the surf stance during our pre-surf lesson. However, as soon as our toes tipped the water we remembered ‘that wave’ from yesterday and sprinted into the ocean in search of it again. Our experiences from day one were our driving force on day two and by the end of the morning all of us were up on two feet up riding the waves.
Our well-used legs appreciated the extra leg room in the party bus as it sped us down to Walpole for lunch and with Austin Powers on the big screen and long expanses of native bush out the windows we really did feel we were travelling in luxury.
After lunch we stretched our legs along the treetop walk and took the opportunity for a photo shoot with these magnificent giant plants. This forest meander was only really the warm up for the main event - the Dave Evans Bicentennial tree fire lookout point.
On arriving at the tree I was astounded at the primitive nature of the runged ladder that worked its way up the bark. There was no safety net, no harnesses just you, the rungs and the tree. I began climbing excitedly. I felt both at one with nature and conquering her at the same time. At the top, 50 metres up, the tree house provided stunning views of the ……………………….national park. I looked down through the rungs I had climbed up. I panicked and kicked myself for the lack of forethought. ‘How the hell would I climb back down to earth without freezing on the way.’ Just the sight of the descent from the platform was making me catatonic. Somehow I managed to descend by feel without once looking down. I got a round of applause from those that had not dared to climb it and a sense of achievement from within myself.
When we arrived at the campsite that night, in Margaret River, there were kangaroos sitting out in the field. Some of us chased off after them to snatch a photo while others tried their hands at chopping wood for the fire. The evening passed with conversations of surfing, snake encounters, and songs from the H2Overland sound systems, which consisted of 1 guitar and six singers.
Our third surf and we were all still making progress. The waves were the biggest we’d encountered so far but with the instructor watching over us from the shallows and encouraging our every attempt the environment seemed optimal for learning. A few of us slipped out past the break and needless to say they got the speed rush and dumping they had been searching for.
Being our last full day in the region it was defiantly a busy one. We started with a tour of a surfboard factory were we witnessed the art firsthand. There were no big conveyor belts churning out row upon row of boards just small psychedelically painted rooms with muscular guys clad in overalls specialising in shaping, sanding, glassing and, of course, spray painting.
After a pub lunch in Margaret River we drove to the Candy Cows for a fudge sampling dessert. The flavours were original to say the least - Turkish delight fudge, macadamia and lavender oil fudge and my personal favourite chilli and ginger fudge! The taste explosion continued with cheese and yoghurt sampling at the Margaret River Cheese Factory, truffles at the Chocolate Factory and arguably the finest wine in the Margaret River area at the Vasse Felix winery. Taste buds numbed we made our way to the Surfing World champions qualifying heats to get a few pointers!!! With a glass of complimentary champagne in hand and fellow beginners all around we watched the experts carve and cut the 4m waves. Tomorrow, we promised, that would be us.
Home time beckoned as light fell once more. Arriving at base camp our kangaroos were out in the field to welcome us home and there was wood to be chopped for the evening fire. The weaker ones left the chopping to the experts and undertook a game of night cricket as the chef prepared the evening meal. Our last night saw the fuzzy bunny game rearing its head, each of the group members performing a solo on the didge and an abundance of smores toasted on the campfire.
The next morning at 6.30am I was woken by the smell of burning. I ran to the cook area and was relieved to find it was just the campfire and there were pancakes ready to eat. Grabbing my share and mumbling ‘there’s nothing like breakfast in bed’ I retreated to my sleeping bag, scoffed the lot and dozed back off.
An unbelievable 45 minutes later and we were back on the beach in a lesson. Today’s lesson - ‘consistency’. We were each to ride the waves into the beach consistently. And so we did. Towards the end of the morning I felt brave and thought since it was our last day I had better get out there and ride me one of those big waves.
I paddled straight out over wash after wash with white water crashing around me and then I reached a point that was silent and still. ‘Was I here? Was I past the break? What do I do now?’ I thought. I spun the board round to face the beach. ‘I must be here I thought’ And I was. I glanced behind me to find a mass of water rolling towards me that was bigger than any I seen before.
Yes, officially it was my biggest wave yet. I began to panic ‘I’m not in the right place. Its going to crash on top of me and drag me to the shore.’ I suddenly thought about all I’d accomplished out here in the last 3 days. I had ridden waves, dammit, I’d even carved a little. This was not happening to me. I was not ready for Neptune to collect his dues for all I’d accomplished. I looked straight ahead and began to ‘paddle-paddle-paddle’ and then I ‘paddle-paddle-paddled’ again, and then again this time a little faster, then again a little stronger, and then again a little deeper and then finally it took me.
The monstrous body of water lifted me up, pushed me forwards and drove me towards the shore. My eyes streamed and the g-force flattened my cheeks. Now I am not going to kid you that I stood up and rode that tiger, because I didn’t. I stayed flat on the board and gripped the sides so tight with my hands that even today the extra-long-pink-soft-foam board I was riding can be identified by the two thumbholes in it. But what I will tell you is that I surfed her right to the beach, I loved every second and that 2 weeks later I’m still getting an adrenalin rush from the thought of ‘that wave’.
Thanks to H2Overland I’m not hooked on surfing – I AM ADDICTED!