65. PERTH & A MEGA SURPRISE...or two

I planned to write this blog post on our 2 1/2 hour train journey from Darlington to Kings Cross, London. What!? Yes L and I were back in the U.K! How did this happen?… Read on to find out. Unfortunately my blog writing plans were cast aside when L and I ended up sat at a table opposite a very chatty Indian couple who for the first time had been holidaying in the UK. More specifically, in the sleepy Yorkshire dales village of… Grinton! If you don’t know the area you perhaps won’t understand how hilarious this is but Grinton, all be it very nice, is the last place you'd expect two people travelling all the way from Mumbai to be visiting and especially without hiring a car to get there! Apparently there is a more than a once weekly bus service to Grinton and when we enquired as to why they’d specifically chosen Grinton, we got this hilarious response: “We looked online for nationwide youth hostel availability and Grinton had space, there was the least amount of information about the place online, so we booked it.” The four of us chatted for the entirety of our journey to Kings Cross, their sense of humour was brilliant.

Rewind a couple of weeks to our Workaway in Geraldton and this was when I received some sad news from back home which resulted in L and I booking last minute return flights from Perth to the U.K. 

After we finished up at our Geraldton Workaway, we had spent a few days meandering down the coast line to Perth, ducking into beaches, coves and small towns along the way. When L and I parked up overlooking the sea at Ledge Point, the surf was perfect for the body boards so L, unable to resist went for a dip. After only fifteen minutes he was back shivering at the van. In this small amount of time L had been completely wiped out by a rogue wave which I took delight in watching (it was a first-rate fail) and myself and the Crampervan had experienced our first case of mistaken identity, when a chap had walked over wanting to order a coffee. I should have agreed and charged $5.

Nambung National Park otherwise known as the Pinnacles had been a key stop on our way to Perth. This iconic desert like landscape with thousands of petrified tree stumps looks arid and remote but in reality this place is barley a stones throw from the coast and the metropolis, Perth. At 8am we were the only vehicle in the national park. This was great for us, it meant we got some awesome footage driving through the national park on what has to be the most manicured dirt track in the whole of Australia.
Check out the video : https://www.facebook.com/FoxOnALead/videos/2139798112926035/

20 hours after leaving Perth we touched down in the UK aching from being fixed in a seated position for so long. Neither of us were relishing the thought of a further 2 1/2 hours of sitting on the drive up from Manchester to Richmond. After a somber couple of days we lightened our spirits with a couple of ‘surprise classics’. With only a short amount of time in the UK before our return flight back to Perth, we made it our mission to see as many family members on both sides, as possible. We also managed to squeeze in a few friends (guys most of you wouldn’t have known we were back because we just didn’t have the time or transport to see you all, we love you and we’ll see you properly when we’ve finished adventuring, we promise!) Having not even mentioned anything to L’s parents about our brief return, we found ourselves presented with the perfect surprise opportunity. Blissfully unaware and expecting a video call ‘from Perth’ later that evening, L’s parents received the shock of their lives when they answered the knock at their front door to find the two of us stood there with our suitcases. (Zero heart attacks, total surprise success.)

Following this L and I accepted that we had both gained a thirst for surprising people. Coincidently a few specials were having a share 30th birthday party in London the night before our return flight back to Perth. Unable to resist a gatecrash, we changed our return flight to leave from London instead of Newcastle and this was how we ended up sat opposite the most talkative couple on the 10:57 East Coast mainline service to Kings Cross, London.

We found ourselves travelling back to Australia with more than double the baggage we had left with. This made for a slightly embarrassing entrance to the train carriage. You know those people, the ones still standing when the train leaves the station because they’re overloaded with bags still trying to cram them into various places on the overhead shelf whilst accidentally banging into other seated passages, well that was us. Dragging our many bags across London afterwards wasn’t the best of experiences either, especially when L and his bags somehow managed to get trapped in the ticket barrier and needed to be freed by a member of staff. Due to our forward planning we were travelling back to Australia with a hefty amount of ‘gear’ needed for our post Oz adventures (far too soon to reveal). Despite all this, crossing London wasn’t half as stressful this time as it was when we made the same journey 14 months ago with Tandy (our tandem bicycle) during rush hour. (If you want a laugh check out blog post #7 www.foxonalead.com).

We’d thought a lot about how to best surprise our friends and ultimately we decided that entering the room wearing their faces would be most effective. A covert effort with the wives of these friends helped with the logistics of the surprise which actually happened not at the party, but before hand. Needless to say there was a few dramas in the hours leading up to the surprise, mainly being when we almost bumped into one of our targets at London Bridge train station! Luckily he failed to recognise either of us despite having briefly looking us right in the face from barely five metres away. Coincidently we'd been about to catch the same train to our friend's flat. Neither L or myself felt covert enough to board the same train so we waited and caught the next one allowing them to get ahead. There are some places where you don’t want to be found acting suspicious, a London train station is one of these places. Recognising someone you don’t want to bump into, doing an immediate about turn and marching off in the opposite direction towards the no entry barriers until you’re able to slip away to one side and hide behind a pillar, must have looked quite suspicious. We managed to make it to our friend's flat undetected. Wearing our friends faces, L and I went on to pull off an hilarious surprise, you’re going to need to watch the video to see what happened:

L’s ex-work mate J and his partner A, who happened to be living 10 minutes from Perth airport, had done us a huge favour in looking after the van whilst we popped back to the UK. A day before our return to Perth, J’s parents had arrived at J & A’s place for long holiday. Understandably the spare room was now in use and so L and I found ourselves back to living within the comforts of the Crampervan. Only this time we were sleeping in the cramper within J&A’s double garage. This hilarious scenario had a slight Maggie Smith “The lady in the van” feel… perhaps we’d decide to never leave. Actually we ended up staying 6 days with J, A and J’s parents, doing our own thing during the day and spending the evenings with everyone. We played cards, won $50 at the pub quiz, had a Penguin vs TimTam blind taste test (to which A correctly identified the TimTams by scent before she’d even tasted them!), and we partook in the most ruthless game of monopoly I’ve ever played in my life. 

Whilst in Perth we also took a walk around King’s Park botanical gardens which had a pretty amazing wild flower display. We went to the beach at Scarborough** to watch the set set whilst tucking into some fish and chips and we checked out Fremantle or ‘Freo’ as it’s known which is an ‘old’ and quirky place. A good example for showing how historically the British Empire never had a shortage of money for building prisons, churches and lunatic asylums! The old prison had been on our hit list, annoyingly you can’t just walk around the place yourself so we booked onto a tour for a look around and to hear about the many elaborate escape attempts. Freo was giving both L and I an old architectural fix but someone authoritative imbecile had approved the notion to deface the town centre buildings with random wavy yellow lines. I’m not sure this would have been given the go-ahead in the UK. We spent a while wondering what the point of it was, some sort of strange ‘art’ piece perhaps and it wasn’t until we’d climbed the steps up to a vantage point that the random yellow swirls became a lot less random.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POST - To the wild west town of York and up into the Avon Valley National Park for a Workaway I'm sure will be one to remember!…