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The Leaving Journal

Finding the Way

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | Views [626]

"Margaret River is really pretty. You could use that as a base to explore wineries and beach towns along the coast. "

The third time I'd consulted a local in Perth about how to spend our week in the west and the third time I'd gotten this answer, despite every attempt to clarify that our rag-tag bunch - bug-bitten Lizzy, scruffy-bearded Blodge and my unshowered self - aren't the wine-sipping, window-shopping type.

At this point I'm going into full-throttle control freak mode. I was going to find the beardiest, saltiest, most hard-core outdoorsman in the city if it was the last thing I did and he was going to give me some advice, dammit.

Lizzy and I marched (well, I marched, she walked) into Mountain design and I smacked our map down on the counter. I glanced at the name tag of the disappointingly clean-shaven clerk.

"Hi Tom, I'm Emma," I said, flashing him my best help-me-or-die smile. "I need some advice. Do you hike or backpack?"

"Uh, I backpack," he said tentatively.

Excellent! I thought. He's so confident that he wants to clarify he isn't just a day hiker.

"Cool! We are backpackers too. We are looking for some pretty wilderness around here. We have a car, 7 days, we're completely self sufficient and relatively fit. We do not want to go to wineries, wander around cute coastal towns or sit on the beach for a week. Got any advice?"

We stared at him, eager and expectant.  He glanced down at the map and said, "Have you heard of Margaret River?"

Further conversation clarified that he meant backpacker as in, "I-stay-in-hostels-and-have-a-year-work-visa-in-Oz," completely unrelated to the actual definition of the word "backpack."

A brief stop in Dan Murphy's liquor store, which truthfully boasted "the cheapest prices in town - guaranteed" lifted our spirits with four dollar bottles of Australian wine and we strolled over to the Rays Outdoors. The beard behind the counter was short but well-trimmed and gave me a glimmer of hope. I asked the beard his name, read him my spiel and waited to hear the words "Margaret River." His finger drew an arc down the coastline from Perth to that fateful riverside town. My heart sank.

"This is all tourist country," he said. "If you don't want flat coastline and wineries don't bother. Blaze straight down to Albany and try to head east. There's some great hiking in the Sterling Range but I'm not sure about overnights."

The Angels sang and I wanted to kiss him. Honest, concise information on which we could begin our trip. And that's just what we did. Save a brief stop at Preston Beach to dip our toes in the Indian Ocean, we drove straight to the tiny town of Manjimup, where a helpful gas station attendant directed us to the nearby Diamond Tree for free camping. The Diamond Tree is 50 meter tall Karri tree with a steel ladder to the top, where there is a fire watch cabin in viewing platform.

"And we can camp there?" I exclaimed. "For free?!"

"Well, there's no signs anywhere sayin' ya cant," he said.

After 30 minutes of dirt road searching in the dark, we found the Diamond Tree, along with a myriad of tent symbols slashed through with a red line. We took them to mean "no tents" and laid our bags on the ground beneath the Goliath trees and slept in the moonlit forest and complete solitude.

Tags: advice, australia, road trips

 

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