The French meaning of this little town is hope, but after six hours of driving on a long, straight, dirt road, I started relating Esperance to the hopelessly lost City of Atlantis.
Esperance, Mordor, Bikini Bottom, Emerald City, Atlantis… they are all just one big blur of fancily-named cities I will never visit at this rate. I blinked a few times to make sure that my eyes still worked. Yep, they are working… and the car is moving… we’re just not changing scenery!
Things were going just a little too smoothly on our way to Hyden, the small blimp on a map that houses one of the great geological wonders of our world known as Wave Rock. We arrived at our hotel – pretty much the only hotel – with virtually no issues. The only mistake we made was almost driving our car into the “Keep Out: Chemical Pit” located just outside of our hotel room.
Ahh, nothing like the smell of fresh air and radioactive cancer gamma waves to wake up to in the morning.
Despite the chemical pit, I still brushed my teeth using unfiltered sink water. If I die within the next few weeks, please refer to this post. Blame that, or my addiction to GMO fruits/Monsanto.
Birgit, Helmie, Moritz, and I pulled out of our hotel and made a few short pit stops before venturing on the long, dusty road to Esperance, with Wave Rock being our main highlight. The huge concave slab of granite formed over millions of years and now resembles a gargantuan wave.
A short dirt road drive later, we came upon Madura’s cave. This hollow rock formation was most likely an Aborigine meeting place, but is named after the Aboriginal legend of Madura. Madura was a giant man who was shunned in his community and lived in this cave, making handprint-art to mark his territory. Rumor has it that at night, he would sneak out from his cave to eat rogue children who strayed from their families.
Perhaps this legend was made to scare children into staying close to the fire at night… or, perhaps it is truth. I obviously agree with the more logistical explanation and therefore believe in the latter.
With our navigation system being out of service, and without the common sense to check a map, we brainlessly drove in the general direction that a bus driver with a devilish smile pointed to for the next six hours.
Our only other highlight being this fence, built in 1907 to keep rabbits from infesting all of Australia. The history is actually quite interesting. In the 1800s, an overly confident group of hunters set 24 rabbits free. Being the bad hunters that they were, not all vermin were hunted and were thus able to live their little bunny lives doing what bunnies do best. The rabbits quickly reproduced, invading Australia as a pest by the masses. A fence spanning 1,832 km long was erected to help curb the bunny takeover.
Birgit was willing to drive 60 km out of the way to see this fence, but luckily we ran into it in our lost journey anyways.
With Helmi and Moritz snoring in the background, I snapped out of my trancelike driver’s state. Where were we? A quick glance at the map told us we were taking the extremely long way to Esperance. As in – five or so hours out of the way.
But, FINALLY!!! We made it to the city of hope located inconveniently at the end of an endless dirt road!
And it was completely worth it.
Pure white sand beaches greeted us with brisk ocean water. We kicked off our arrival with a victory lap around the Great Ocean Road. Spectacular views and deserted swimming spots awaited all of us, and we were happy to finally enjoy peace.
That is, until Moritz felt compelled to ruin our peace with his discovery of the hashtag: #dontbegentleitsarental.
He spotted a pit of deep sand and decided it would be a perfect track to launch our freshly rented Toyota 4WD onto the beach. It was a little stuck – and this should have been the warning sign, taken into consideration when there was time to still turn back.
Helmie got out of the car and decided to take off on a solo solely-pedestrian journey. Helmie is wise and knew that Moritz + Rental Car + Sand would lead to nothing but disaster.
At least one of us knows when to walk away.
Moritz gunned the #notgentlerental down a questionable hill while Birgit and I sat in the car gripping the handles. Birgit kept muttering “this is such a bad idea…” along with German expletives as the car skidded along the narrow path.
We parked the car on the beach after realizing that while the car was indeed a 4WD, it wasn’t exactly beach sand driving material. It’s a bit anticlimactic to slide a car down a steep hill in order to drive on the beach without being actually able to drive on the beach.
All the while, sage Helmie was exploring the water and nearby shoreline.
Helmie’s dramatic moment: getting his wallet wet.
Our dramatic moment: getting our car bogged down in the sand.
No matter what Moritz did, how he drove, or from which angle he came from, he couldn’t get the car up the steep and windy sand hill. We all chimed in with suggestions: “Go faster!” “Go slower” “Maybe I should let some air out of the tires?” “Maybe we should reverse up the hill” “let’s lay out our $1,000 kites and maybe they will provide enough traction to plow over!”
Luckily, a local Australian bloke wearing nothing but an outback hat, Crocs, a T-shirt, and ratty tighty-whiteys let some of the air out of our tires, giving us the right amount of grip to trek back up the sandy incline.
“Thank you!!!” Birgit and I shouted as the man held up his undies with one hand while waving to us with the other. They say heroes come in many forms… some as more clothed Casanovas than others.
In the evening, we ventured into the National Park to scope out the more lush terrain and made our last stop Lucky Bay, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches that attracts humans and kangaroos alike.
After an adrenaline-filled first day, our second day was devoted to some much needed rest and relaxation. Moritz and I swam out to the island located just offshore of Twilight Beach, while his parents lounged by the seaside. We scoped the entire island, and whenever there was a large rock to scale, Moritz was sure to climb it faster than Mowgli up a tree, leaving me and my stumpy extremities to fend for ourselves.
Before heading back to Perth, Moritz went for a kitesurf session at one of the desolate bays near the town center.
Unfortunately, I was landlocked due to a tangled mess that even Moroccan Oil can’t help. No kiting for me until this chaos gets sorted.
We were smart enough this time to park our car on the hard-packed sand and smirked at the rookies who bogged their car on the beach access road. It seems to be one of Western Australia’s ways of saying welcome to tourists, though some might call it hazing. The girl in the car gave us an embarrassed shrug.
If only she knew!
We put the key in the ignition and started the journey back home. At this point, one of the side mirrors was duct-taped onto the rental car and there were legitimate sand castles built around the sides of the car. The key was duct-taped together as well. Still, we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that on our way back we’d be extra careful to take the correct way home.
Oh, our naivety. Little did we know that by some fate of the navigation-gods, going home would take twice as long as the way to Esperance.
But at least Helmie’s wallet was dry.