One moment we were saying hello and helping them carry their luggage to the apartment, the next we were hugging and saying good-bye. It all happened so fast…
My sister Kira and her best friend Bianca came to visit! Ever since we started planning this trip we have been trying to get people to come visit. It was proving to be mission impossible, until my sister decided to make it happen.
She made the decision months ago, so it has been on our calendar for a while, but I had no idea how much of a blessing it would be to have them out. For one, my sister and I have not seen each other much in the past few years. When I was last living in California, she was in college in Colorado. We saw each other once a year at Christmas and maybe during the summer. When she moved back to California, I had moved to Washington. Which means if we saw each other at all, it was when I came home for Christmas. Then she went to Missouri for grad school. Then I left the country all together. Which means we probably haven’t seen each other in nearly two years.
Needless to say, we were just as excited to see her and have guests as she was to see us and have an adventure in OZ. We were a bit nervous of course, largely because we are new to Perth and WA in general yet we had to act as tour guides and make sure we showed them as good a time as possible. As far as I can tell, we did a great job. We all had a great time!
The night they arrived our roommates were throwing a tapas party, so they got to eat and drink and be merry with folks from all over the world. It may have been a bit much for the first night, especially since Kira had just come from two years of basically living in a bio lab, but it did seem to get us all in the proper mood. Part of me would like to say we gave them the next day to relax and re-energize after the excitement of traveling and the party, but that wasn’t the case.
They arrived on a Wednesday night. Thursday morning we went out to Rockingham and went sky diving. It was my graduation present to her, and of course we all went. It is the second time we both have gone, and it was just as amazing as the first time. If you have never gone, go now. I have never had an experience that quite matches jumping out of an airplane. It is even more wonderful when you get to share the experience with people you love.
After that, we went over to freemantle and had a beer and lunch at Little Creatures, which is a delicious craft brewery and restaurant. We relaxed, ate some tasty food, enjoyed a delicious beer, and talked about our wonderful experience from earlier and all the things we had planned for the next week and a half. After that, we went home and hung out for the rest of the day. Naps were in order.
Friday we went north and visited some of the amazing nature WA has to offer. We walked through the weird and wonderful pinnacles. We watched fishermen pull their boats behind their tractors on the beach in Cervantes. We got a ride around the dunes near Geraldton with a friendly South African transplant we met randomly. We hiked along the cliffs south of the town of Kalbari. We experienced the breathtaking beauty of the gorges and swam in the Murchison River in the inland section of the park. The layered reds and whites of the rock formations are amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed the climb through the canyons down to the river. We happened to be there at the beginning of wildflower season so every thing was starting to bloom. Yellow puff balls and red bottle brushes sprouted from the trees. Purple and pink flowers opened on shrubs and bushes. The whole trail was lined with color and smell. It made an already wonderful journey magical.
After two nights in Kalbari and some wonderful hikes, we did the six hour trip back to Perth. The next day dawned a rainy and nasty Tuesday, but we were not to be deterred. We headed out to Caversham wildlife park in the north end of Perth. The girls both wanted to get a taste of Australian wildlife while they were here, and we could think of no better way to do it. The park was just what the doctor ordered. It was quiet because of the unpleasant weather, so we almost had the place to ourselves. We watched the farm show and they got to pet the lambs and milk a cow. After that we were introduced to the wombat and friends where we got to learn about and touch a wombat and a possum and many other native creatures. The girls were loving it, and you could see it on their faces. The best part about the park is they have a section were you can feed and pet the kangaroos. The girls were like kids in a candy store, and we ended up spending at least an hour walking around and petting the roos. It was an experience I doubt they will forget, and though it was not on our original plan list, I am very glad we went and did it. Seeing their faces light up was deeply satisfying.
The next day we headed south to the Margret River wine region for some wine tasting, beer, and chocolate (what more could a girl ask for?). We visited the old cheddar cheese factory, where we once again bought some absolutely delicious cheese. We stopped at multiple wineries and sampled their tastiest offerings, went to boot leg brewery for a beer taster and some giant jenga, then finished the evening off with a tasty meal at the Margret River Tavern. We stayed at the Wrenwood Chalets near Augusta, which we found on air b&b. The accommodations were gorgeous. They were individual yurt like structure with a fireplace, kitchen, wonderful beds, and a beautiful bathroom located in the heart of the great southern forest. The owner, Dave, was a gracious host and we spent a warm evening playing cards and enjoying each others company.
We picked this particular spot because it was close to Jewel Cave. Courtney and I had enjoyed it so much on our previous visit we decided to take the girls. We made it for the first tour, and they got lucky again. No one else showed up so they got a private tour, lucky buggers. We spent the rest of the day slowly moving north again. We went to Blackwood meadery again because we loved it and the owners are such a wonderful old couple we couldn’t say no. After that it was mostly breweries, because we all just love beer so much more then we do wine. Sadly, Duckstein was closed both days so we did not get to enjoy their offerings, I personally was looking forward to this place more then any of the others, but we did get sample some other wonderful offerings. The beer at colonial brewery is top notch. Cheeky Monkey has some good stuff, nothing special on the beer front, but their food was mind blowing. We had one of the best lunches I have had in a long while there. We also stopped at the Chocolate Factory in Margret River, where we binged on free chocolate and enjoyed perusing their selection. We also checked out the nougat company and another place that specialized in jams and sauces, which I believe is actually attached to the chocolate factory (I am a terrible journalist I know). All of them are places I would recommend visiting.
By the time we got back, we were all fat and happy. We had eaten great food and drank great wine and beer, sky dived, hiked, pet animals, and swam in rivers. We were all a bit beat. We spent the remaining two days of their visit hanging out and enjoying some of what Perth has to offer. We went to the botanic gardens to enjoy some of the natural splendor on display. We went shopping for souvenirs in the CBD. We went out for a fancy meal at the Trustee, then for drinks at a swanky rooftop bar called the Aviary. We played charades and made more good food, and drank the wine we had bought. Most importantly, we laughed and spent some quality time together.
And then, just like that, we were saying good-bye. It is amazing how fast a week and a half went by. We had so much fun. It was wonderful to have some one to show around and give us another reason to get out and try new things and see new places. Essentially, having them here on vacation, put us in the vacation mindset as well. We have been traveling for over nine months, and after working, dealing with the car, worrying about money, getting the apartment, and starting to look for jobs again, Courtney and I could both feel ourselves drifting back into the same sort of daily routine that we had chosen to leave behind. We are already starting to fall into the mindset of looking forward to the next leg of our trip, which often makes on loose focus on the here and now. Having the girls here was a great catalyst for us to get out and live in the now again. We were able to really be tourists and see the sights and enjoy the experience for a little while.
More important than the great time we had, I got to actually see my sister. I mentioned it earlier, but we haven’t seen much of each other in the past 5 years. Our family has always been close, but we are very independent people, and we have both chosen paths that have taken us away from home and away from those we love. I am sad to say that I have not made visiting her a priority. In the four years she was in college, I only visited her for graduation. I never realized until we began this journey how caught up in the cycle of working and paying bills and doing that kind of stuff I was until we made the decision to drop it all and travel. It’s so easy to get trapped in that cycle, but I am still a bit ashamed when I realize all the things I had sacrificed in the name of “I gotta work.” It still stings when I look back at where my priorities were, and some of things I pushed aside as a result. It doesn’t help that our family is notoriously bad at strong emotions.
It was wonderful beyond my ability to express to have her here and to get to spend so much quality time together. I felt like we had a chance to get to know one another once again. It was a very happy time. Hopefully it is a trend we will be able to continue in the future. Of course, the trip we have planned means we will likely be out of the country for at least another year, if not more. When ever we do go back we have no idea where we will end up. And with her looking to start a career, who knows when we will see each other again. To me, that makes the time we spent together even more precious.