When Lee (USA) booked his 22-day Darwin to Perth trip with Adventure Tours, he had no idea that on this trip, he would abseil right into the arms of his future wife, Sanne (The Netherlands). This is their Aussie adventure.
Our trip from Darwin to Perth Australia could be viewed as the most epic first date ever. Twenty two days rambling through the Top End and the Kimberley. Not only did we fall in love with Western Australia, we fell in love with each other too.
The trip begins
It all started on a very early Saturday morning, 19 April 2014, to be exact. A 6:50am pick-up meant that some of our group were still slightly zombified, clutching our coffees and quietly trying to get a measure of the other travellers. One of those travellers was Danny – cheerful and with an infectious smile, she got people talking in no time. Some of these guys became friends for life. In our case, me and Lee, Danny, Michael (Germany) and Rebecca (Sanne’s cousin from the Netherlands) would eventually become inseparable. By the time the truck arrived, we had done most of the introductions and were ready for the adventure to begin.
Our awesome first guide, Travis, made sure we stayed as cool as possible on our first walk through Nitmiluk (Katherine) National Park.
The hike to Leliyn (Edith) Falls, was hot, but a cool dip at Sweetwater Pool ensured we were ready for the trek to the Upper Pool, a natural billabong basin with spectacular views over the surrounding scrub. Walk–swim–walk would be come the pattern we lived by for the next few days. The walks were interesting (Travis was a great storyteller) and exciting (scrambling over rocks and crossing streams with each other’s help), and if the heat was extreme, the promise of a waterhole at the end would sustain us.
Waking in the bush
Whenever we’d ask Travis what time we had to get up in the morning, he’d say “Ah, with the birds…” and left it at that. On that first night, we were a bit confused and a little insecure. “With the birds”? What does that even mean? What time did we have to set our alarms? Would we get up in time or would we be that person who would oversleep and keep the entire group waiting? We needn’t have worried.
Together with the light of the sunrise, the native birds woke us better than any alarm clock ever could. First, softly, in the distance, the birds would start singing, and then the cacophony would come closer and closer with the rising sun, like a tidal wave washing over you. The approaching light and increasing volume of the feathered choir turned even the most staunch morning hater into a morning person.
Sleeping in mozzie domes or in a swag under the countless stars, with shooting stars and satellites drifting past, and waking up to birdsong – we never got tired of it. It was one of the great experiences of the trip. In fact it made such an impression on both of us that Australian birds even made it to our wedding. Well…a recording of the birds. “Here comes the bride”, eat your heart out, you’ve got nothing on Kookaburra and Co.
The adventure of a lifetime
From wonderful sunrises to drop dead gorgeous sunsets (the one from the middle of Lake Argyle was ridiculous), the days in between were filled with excitement and wonder, moments of deep contemplation and inner peace. Once the excitement and the obligatory “Kodak moments” were over, even the camera addicts would lower their lenses and just sit down and take in places like Cathedral Gorge in Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) NP.
After the serenity of Cathedral Gorge, it was time for some adrenaline: a helicopter flight over the Bungles! And who needs doors on a helicopter; they’ll only ruin your photos, right? Totally pumped and with hair like Tina Turner, we returned after a 42-minute flight over the entire Bungle range. It was unreal.
The following days were incredible: every time when we saw or did something, we thought “there’s no way anything can top this”, and time and time again, Australia proved us wrong. Gorgeous waterholes and waterfalls, natural hot springs, stunning vistas, the seemingly endless Gibb River Road, it was a humbling experience. Mother Nature at her finest, vast and untamed.
Friendships that will last a lifetime were formed while gathering our own firewood and cooking our own meals, sitting around the campfire, chatting on the long drives, enjoying each other’s music and company.
It’s almost impossible to choose a highlight of this trip, but if we must, our personal one would be the Knox Gorge canyoning trip. This is where our love story truly began. On the first part of the trip (Darwin to Broome), we didn’t talk much, but on the drive from Broome to Perth, some travellers left the group, which brought us closer In Broome, we were also joined by some new people and a new guide, Sean, who was a born entertainer (very welcome on the long drives).
Lee, who isn’t quite comfortable with heights, had been strong-armed into going on this canyoning trip by me, Rebecca, and Michael. I’d had been made “safety officer”, which meant I would be lowered into the restricted Knox Gorge area first, and guide the others, unclip their ropes, and send them down the natural waterslide.
When Lee was lowered, he didn’t look happy, to put it mildly, and kept glancing over his shoulder to the waterslide. I was definitely feeling guilty now for pressuring Lee into going. I to reassure him. Then out of nowhere, Lee said “thank you’, and, emboldened by adrenaline, stepped forward, kissed me and before I realized what had happened, he was already down the waterslide.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, including this 22-day ripper of a trip. Saying goodbye to Australia and each other was heartbreaking. However, Lee and I stayed in touch and one thing led to another. In July 2016, we got married in the presence of Michael, Danny and Rebecca.
You’ll never guess our honeymoon destination…Australia! We fell hard and fast for this country, and we will be back, Lee for his fourth trip and me for my third – but this time as husband and wife.We would like to thank everyone at ATA, especially our guides, Travis and Sean, and Pete and Freddie from West Oz Active. You’ve taken us to some breathtaking places, and taught us many things. You’ve given us the opportunity to learn that not all Americans are megalomaniacs (most of the time), some Germans do have a sense of humour, and – okay, admittedly, I confirmed the Dutch stereotype about stinginess… Travel indeed broadens the mind.
Images c/o Lee and Sanne. Feature image c/o Damien Raggatt.