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The Big Lap - Esperance to Augusta

“You wanna get yourself a growler mate, check out the brewery, you’ll get a growler there”

Beaches and breweries, that is all we need. We arrived in Esperance after clocking a whopping 813km on the final day of the Nullarbor crossing. In isolation that might have been okay, but after days driving my head was swimming as if I just landed home from a stag. Thankfully Esperance provides the ultimate hangover cure. A run on the promenade, a surf on Twilight beach and a day trip to Lucky Bay had us energised again. This is what we came for.

Cape Le Grand Beach and Lucky Bay

What is a growler? The neighbour copped the look on my face and clarified, a cannister of beer from the brewery. For whatever reason I pretended I already knew that. He moved the conversation along, offering some tips about travelling Australia and pointing out a number of ways we could kill ourselves. There is a culture of warning people of the local dangers that is both helpful and deflating at the same time. It’s helpful to hear of dangers that can be avoided with simple actions. It’s deflating to hear of dangers that you cannot avoid, unless you cancel your trip or live like a hermit. You could replace some of the warnings here with signs that read “Be afraid!” to the same effect. Being afraid is not what we came for.

“The snakes are mostly near the toilet block and bins, where you are camped, but they are friendly”

One man not afraid of anything was Rheinhart, the resident camper at Quagi beach. We travelled west of Esperance and I was making small talk with a jolly looking neighbour. This German fellow had been travelling Australia for 23 years listening to BBC radio and drinking wine. Somehow, we watched the sunset over a glass of wine and a beer for me. He was rambling about how being a citizen didn’t make him Australian, and from there came his theory that the Aussie government wouldn’t collect its citizens from a Coronavirus stricken Asian cruise ship because the people on board would be Asian Australian, and not real Aussies. Pretty controversial for an isolated fellow. Blast the BBC!

We left Quagi and hit Hopetoun (nothing to report) and Bremer Bay for a whale watching day out, a splurge. A literal pit stop in Albany, where the car was serviced, was followed by a couple of days in Denmark where my teeth were serviced. An expensive Mon-Fri that made me say “it’s fine” about 18 times. Denmark has kept our spirits high though. A charming village with a nice sense of community that made us feel at home and happy. There are number of stunning surf beaches, chilled cafes, a meadery, a big bold brewery (of course), toffee and cheese factories, wineries, tennis & golf club, friendly dentist. What more could you want? We want to live here now.

On the flip side I saw two snakes in one day. The first encounter was during Roa’s morning walk at Parry Beach. I was bleary eyed ambling down the middle of our busy campground dirt track, surrounded by campers, RVs, camper trailers and everything in between. Roa pulled on the lead to the right and no more than another dog lead away was a metre long tiger snake working on his tan. I pulled Roa away and it headed the other direction. I don’t know the appropriate reaction to snakes yet so I looked at it from a distance and then carried on as if it was nothing. When I looked back a young couple with eyes glued to their phones were marching right at Roa’s new friend so I was compelled to call out to them, not wanting a death on my conscience. Campers began to gather around the snake, discussing the breed and deadly nature. Birds came and pecked at it and it slithered into the bushes. Not half an hour later, driving out to the main road we saw another snake crossing, I relayed my new found knowledge to Lucy, as if I knew my shit about snakes. That only lead to more questions I couldn’t answer.

Southwest Australia has been spectacular due to its countless stunning beaches and natural parks that stretch inland and roll into each other. Giant trees stretch towards the sky either side of winding roads that are a joy to drive on. One particular tree has been modified to allow brave people to scale it to the top. Simply follow the metal pegs that are stuck into the trunk until you reach the sky. A great experience as long as you don’t lose your grip and slip through the large gaps to certain death. I made it halfway before the mental demons got to me and I climbed down. Somewhat safer options include the mammoth walking trails winding for thousands of kilometres, both inland and coastal, originally made by the aboriginal people and now walked mostly by the white man.

I suppose it’s not surprising that campgrounds are packed with adventure junkies sporting rugged off road vehicles and off road caravans. Luxury here is not a fancy hotel, but an upgraded camping stove or new 4x4 wheels for your epic caravan. Despite being rubbish with my hands, couldn’t screw in a lightbulb, I’m sold on that lifestyle.

On to Margaret River!

Two Peoples Bay

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