Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Final Chapter, Australia

Wow I have been busy since I have been back trying to find a job and doing van work ready for our Irish and Euro road trip! So we now have shiny blue van shelves and a swivel seat, a few more additions to come soon too, and a photo when its finished! I have also found myself a job for 3 weeks, in a food tasting place! I deliver lots of samples round so people can compare them, everything from ready meals to steak! I never realised you could get paid as a taster!

So Australia, what a trip!

After Esperance we made the long drive back to Geraldton for 3 days forecast. Unfortunately the waves weren't quite as good as expected, but I got 3 days sailing in before the end of the trip, and luckily two water shoots from Col Leonhardt! I have never done a proper water shoot so it was really fun to keep trying moves right next to Col with whatever wind and waves happened to be there. It was really tricky, especially the second day when I was underpowered, but fun with Ben and Justyna also being photographed. Here are the results, thanks Col!

After that, to top off our trip, Col arranged for us to have ANOTHER heli ride over Perth, we felt so privileged! It was amazing and such a great end to our trip, hopefully the photos do it some justice!

We came home last Wednesday after a lot of hassle with the flights. It turned out that Stef got banned from his own flight as Qatar found out about his injury through the travel insurance trying to upgrade him, and then he didn't have their approved 'fit to fly' documents. A long story short, we couldn't fly with the re-arranged Air Malaysia flight due to our kit, the travel insurance wouldn't pay for Emirates, so we ended up sneaking on to our original booked flight in economy, Stef being very sad to give up the offer of business due to our kit! He pulled off a very good walk! Ha ha!

A few facts about our trip:

We drove around 7000km, that's about 70 hours with an average of 100km/h. Here are the main places:

We spent about £650 on fuel for 6 weeks, not bad for the amount of driving! Good job fuel was cheap...

We stayed in 4 different campsites, for about 6-7 nights total. The rest we stayed in lay-bys, carparks, rest areas etc. We got to know the bush well!

I windsurfed at Lancelin, Sunsets (in Geraldton), Coronation and Margaret River and Boatramps. Unfortunately Gnarloo and Esperance didn't work while I was there.

Meals on our 1 hob cooker was pasta and sauce or eggs on bread, pretty budget and simple! I was looking forward to the aeroplane food on the way home!

I saw scorpions, massive ants, bees and wasps. Nothing else dangerous at all, no sharks or jelly fish!

I would love to return to Australia, if not just to see Esperance in the sun and sail there, and also score Gnaraloo. Coronation was probably one of the most fun places I have sailed when there are waves, it is an un-punishing playground of ramps upon ramps to launch off and ride and the best place I have ever sailed to improve my jumping. I was surprised how weak the waves were at Lancelin and Coronation, in that they were pretty crumbly, so I didn't get a whole lot of really good riding in Australia compared to Chile. (But I went to improve my jumping mainly anyway). Margaret River was better but the way the wave breaks wasn't my favorite kind of riding. I think Esperance and Gnaraloo would have been fun if they had worked, hence wanting to go back, especially when Stef can sail too! I was also amazed how spread out the windsurfing was and how much you would have to drive to find wave spots if you worked in Perth. A 10 hour round trip isn't uncommon for a weekend during working!

I have 3 weeks now to work as much as possible before Maui on the 18th March. Lots of 12 hour shifts...

Friday, 14 February 2014

Esperance, beautiful but a little wind-less

After the Margaret River event, Graham, Stef and I decided to drive to Esperance on what was a slightly dodgy forecast, hopeful for three days windsurfing. It was forecast cloudy with a little rain, then to be sunny and windy. We drove via Albany and Denmark and via the Tree Top Walk which was cool:
We also went past green pool, having a cool swim. I'm not sure what Stef is looking in the bush for?!
Our lay-by camping spot turned out to be a scorpion and ant breeding ground, so we had to be pretty careful about stuff on the floor and check everything! The scorpions were small, the nice poisonous kind, and I have never seen so many ants, some up to an inch long! Graham enjoyed tramping round in the morning trying to find us a bull ants nest! (We found one later on at Esperance)
Then we got to Esperance, 8 hours later! It was overcast for pretty much the whole 3 days we were there which was a shame as we didn't get to see the turquoise water shining in the sunlight. It was still beautiful though, but much colder than the North!
We entered the Cape Le Grand National Park, which was amazing, and stayed a night at Lucky Beach, where the kangaroos seemed to have got used to the humans and enjoyed our apples!
The next morning we climbed Frenchman's peak (even Stef too to his pain!). It used to be submerged in water when the sea level was 250m higher, so a cave was formed at the top. Really amazing to see and a great (cloudy) view from the top!
Not the Wave Rock at Hyden, but another 'Shipstern's Bluff' like rock...
After checking the beach one last time and realising again it was an annoying 10-12 knot onshore wind, we cut our losses and decided to drive all the way back to Geraldton for a windy last 3 days of the trip. Another nice 12 hour drive. When we stopped for the night Felix from Esperance said the wind came in a little when we left and he had a nice sail, damn! We had a windscreen chip on the way from a rock from a lorry so had to get that fixed on the way up, but made it back to Geraldton. Long roads...funny how you get used to driving here!
Finally, a few more pictures from the Margaret river event, from Phil Cutter and Neng at forum. You can see the keyhole which you launch through, and I unfortunately lost a fin to on my way out for the woman's heat. (I pushed it back in for the heat but it was badly damaged).

Monday, 10 February 2014

Helicopters and 1st Place Margaret River Event!

Wow, what a good weekend, and a lot of news! I have been meaning to put a blog up for a while but lacked internet and laptop battery! So here it is, a mega post. I'll start with the most exciting bit, I came first in the Margaret River wave event, had a heli shoot and a ride in a helicopter!

The Margaret River event was great, well organised, and had good conditions. I sailed the day before and had a really good session, getting to know the wave much better than last time. For my heat in the morning, the conditions were pretty difficult. The ladies were first up and the wind hadn't really filled in, so it was a 10 minute wobble and ride heat to try and get two waves and one jump. There wasn't really enough time to wait for set waves and sail back up due to the wind, so the heat was a little disappointing. I still had some waves though and secured first place in the ladies. I then had the chance to sail in the Open men's, by which point the wind had come in nicely and I got a couple of set waves, getting the best wave score of the heat, but failing to get a jump so I didn't go through.

Col Leonhardt from Windsurf Australia had arranged for a few of us to have a heli shoot, which was amazing! I've never done anything like that before, so we dashed to boat ramps and I had about 15 minutes to get my best waves while the heli flew overhead. I was grinning like a loon!! I then dashed back in, packed up all my sandy gear and drove straight to the airfield to meet the heli and go for a ride. It was an open sided 4 seat small heli, nice and exciting! I think I had a calm ride compared to Stef in the back getting buffeted by the wind! It was a great experience having studied helicopters in my degree and never been in one.

Here are a few photos Stef took from the beach and from the helicopter:
Before Margaret River, we had a great few days at Corros, nice and windy and wavey! My backloop attempts are getting better, but I haven't landed one yet. My forwards are good and table tops (or donkey kicks) improving slowly... Corros is a fantastic training spot for jumping and if I had more time there I am sure I would improve hugely. There were a couple of hot days before we left (about 40 degrees), which means the wind doesn't fill in properly, but I had two sessions at Sunsets, a cross-off riding reef, with photos from one from Col at Windsurf Australia below (the better quality ones!)-thanks!
Here are a couple of pictures of Coronation (one from Col again). On the way down to Margaret River for the competition, we stopped in Perth to get Stef's stitches out-yay! In a couple of days he can swim! Ha ha!
On the way through Perth we went to the zoo! Through Yanchep park, the zoo and a campsite near Geraldton I have now seen lots of kangaroos.
The koalas were soooo cute:
And the rest of the animals interesting to see and read about, especially the laughing kookaburra which we hear pretty often camping! Elephants are actually pretty intelligent and the zoo keepers keep them active and teach them tricks.
We are now driving about 8 hours to Esperance via Albany and Denmark, fingers crossed the conditions look good!