Finally in the land of Oz

Finally after 8 months in Asia, it was time to move on. In the horizon was the land of Oz. I had wanted to visit Australia all my life, but for some reason, now that my dream was hours away of becoming true, I wasn’t so eager any more. Leaving the continent that had given us so much was proving to be a bit harder than what we expected. We didn’t want to say goodbye to the rich cultures, to the lovely warm weather, to the incredible food… but as tempting as it was staying in Asia forever, we had an itinerary to follow and our plane took off from Singapore on route to Perth.

Our arrival to Perth came with a bit of a shock. Why? The answer is cold and cost. Australia cold? Yes, it’s winter here and Perth welcomed with a glorious sun but with a mere 6ºC. And if you are thinking that that’s not that bad, I can tell you that after more than half a year living with temperatures above 25ºC it felt freezing cold! And expensive? Probably in comparison with European prices Ozland is not that expensive, but in comparison with the prices we were used to pay in Asia it was crazy expensive. I guess it’s normal that having to pay 5$ for just a small cup of coffee to warm up feels rather expensive, when we were used to pay no more than 5€ for a meal for two including the coffee. Plus we came to know that the Euro – Australian Dollar exchange rate is the worse it’s been in the last 10 years. It came clear that we had to reset our mindset and start getting used to it!

Our budget constraints meant that we couldn’t afford sleeping in hotels and that we had to go for hostels instead, which wasn’t really a problem. We have both stayed in hostels many times and always enjoyed it (aside the casual sleepless night thanks to roaring snores of neighbours). Hostels are usually great places to meet other travelers with whom you can share stories and adventures, but here it is a different history. In our first night we learnt that most Oz hostels are full of workers and students permanently living in them, what completely changes the atmosphere and doesn’t make them very inviting. We really felt like outsiders invading someone else’s home! As you see our first day in Perth wasn’t that pretty… but enough of negativity! It’s time for me to start sharing with you how lovely Perth is!

The city is situated on the banks of Swan river, and it’s very close to the coast. The many parks and the good weather makes it a perfect city to enjoy all kind of outdoors activities… a stroll with the bicycle, sailing on the Swan river, running at one of huge the parks, a picnic at the botanic gardens, jet skying… It reminded me a little bit to Seattle with all the green areas and lakes surrounding the city. As a curiosity, Perth it’s said to be the most remote capital city on earth, locals say it’s almost closer to London than to Melbourne!

With the excuse of buying a sim card for our phone we headed to the city’s CBD (central business district) on our first morning in Perth. We were wearing all our warm clothes: jeans, fleece, jackets, hats… I was even wearing gloves to combat the chilly weather but the locals couldn’t be bothered. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, their all year-round uniform is shorts and flip flops. At least a few of them were wearing their only winter accessory: a hoody! brrrrrrrrr! Relaxed ambiance and very enjoyable were our first impressions of the small city centre. The CBD is no more than a couple of streets where all the shops and most restaurants are. I have to say that being the compact city that it is one tend to forget that it’s the capital of Western Australia. Outside the CBD, the city spreads out widely throughout very American like residential areas. With most people living in the suburbs, the city centre gets really quiet every day after 6pm (I guess that’s even more noticeable in winter). Walking back to the hostel after dinner was somehow scary, like walking through a ghost town: dark, cold and with nobody on the streets.

On Sunday we did like many Perthians and took the train to Fremantle, a lively Perth suburb right on the coast. On the train we saw the first couple of surfers, an indisputable sign indicating that we were finally in Australia. Freo, as it is called by the locals, is the place to be on weekends, either enjoying a sunny brunch with a cup of coffee at Capuccino Strip, or pottering the market in search of a souvenir and fresh products, or eating the local speciality: fish and chips. The smell coming from the many stalls selling fresh fish lightly battered and crispy fried chips was so intense that we succumbed to the temptation, bringing back good memories from Ireland. A walk through the harbour, busy with people enjoying a few drinks (some of them from their boats), and a dip of my feet into the freezing Indian ocean ended our evening in Freo.

Our travel plans brought us twice to Perth, and we didn’t want to miss our second chance to join the locals and enjoy a bit of the al fresco life. So we planned a visit to Perth’s botanical gardens and a picnic at Kings Park where we had the chance to soak up the sun and read a little bit our Aussie themed books. Leaving aside the cranky start, by the time we had to say goodbye to the city we had both felt a little bit in love with its outdoors way of living and had seen ourselves living here.

Visit our flickr gallery for more pictures!

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Accommodation

1201 East Backpackers – We stayed at this hostel only for one night. The hostel is well located but the facilities and the atmosphere are what let it down. We stayed at a double room, which wasn’t bad, it was clean and spacious. The toilets are not too bad either, clean and enough hot showers. The hostel is full of workers permanently living there, and you feel like an outsider as soon as you get in. The kitchen is quite filthy and old. Breakfast was just ok. We paid 70 AUD.

Witch’s Hat Backpackers Hostel – We moved to this hostel after our first disappointing night at 1201 East Backpackers, and we came back to this hostel on our second stop over in Perth. Although it is a tiny bit further from the city centre, it is much nicer. The hostel is very homely and the facilities are in much better condition. Kitchen is well equipped and is big enough. We stayed in a twin room. They have a cosy tv room with a huge plasma screen were we saw the Eurocup final at 3am with an Irish fellow. We also paid 70 AUD per night.

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