As my previous blog post told you, our next move was to travel four hours south to Margaret River, a huge grape growing and winery region, to find harvest jobs for the next few months. Well, all did not go to plan.
Whilst in Rockingham, we decided to take our beloved Speedy to the garage for a routine service, seeing as the previous owner hadn’t provided us with any service history (I know, I know – alarm bells – but Rob had test driven her and checked the obvious things, and there were seemingly no problems) and we wanted to make sure she was fighting fit for the road trip ahead. We took her to the Auto Masters garage, as it was highly rated online and also part of a chain of stores across Australia, which made us feel safer as neither of us had particularly extensive car knowledge.
Speedy was looked over by the team and her diagnostics came back. We’d expected to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get everything sorted, but, to our dismay, the repairs to get her to a safe standard came to $2,000 (about £1,200). She needed a whole new timing belt kit, water flushing and a new water pump, engine degreasing, rear cylinders replacing, oil leaks looking at… the list went on. We checked with my dad who said for all the things wrong with her, it seemed a fair price. We decided to just bite the bullet and go for it. We loved Speedy, she was our home for at least the next year and we wanted to be safe. Plus, we’d have proof of all repairs so this would benefit us when we sold her on.
Whilst Speedy was in the van hospital, we amused ourselves by taking a short ferry over to Penguin Island. It’s a beautiful little nature reserve that is home to the smallest breed of penguins in the world, and you can snorkel, swim and picnic there. We only saw one penguin as they are mainly out feeding in the day, however the island itself is gorgeous so it was an afternoon well spent.
The repair work had taken all day, but was finished in time for the day’s end so we could drive Speedy away and park by the coast to sleep. She was driving like a dream! We enjoyed a leisurely evening and, the next morning, woke up and swam in the ocean. We didn’t foresee any more issues (apart from the issue of me losing my purse earlier that day – great). However, when I tried to start the engine, Speedy wasn’t doing a thing. CRAP. We thought we’d run out of petrol – never mind, we were across the road from a petrol station! A kind man called Jim helped us push Speedy over the busy road so we could fill her up. She still wouldn’t start. Ha! It must be a flat battery from charging my phone overnight. We attempted jump starting Speedy with the help of a sweet young couple. There was no response from our beautiful van. By this point, I had tears in my eyes and Rob was raking his hands through his hair, looking stressed. We felt helpless, like Speedy was nothing but a money pit and buying her was a big mistake. We had to be towed back to Auto Masters so they could have another look at her.
Craig, the owner of the Rockingham Auto Masters branch, is one of those genuine diamonds you rarely meet in life, but when you do, you feel very lucky to have done so. Whilst at work, he’s very matter of fact and extremely busy, there’s never a dull moment at the shop. Rob and I felt that the front desk should be filmed fly-on-the-wall style and made into a sitcom. He and front-of-house lady Rosemary are always griping at each other hilariously but keep the busy days ticking over with fine precision. Some days, you’ll even look over the counter and see his gorgeous little dog, Fraser, lying serenely on his bed, just happy to be with Craig. At the end of the day, Rob and I went back there to hear the damage. Craig looked a little white in the face as he told us the new timing belt kit they’d fitted the previous day had failed, and this in turn had damaged Speedy’s cylinder heads so these would all need to be replaced. He said there was more chance of us winning the lottery than a brand new part like that failing – so I suppose we were just unfortunate. It was no one’s fault, it was the part. He was very nice, saying it would all be paid for through the company’s insurance and the damage would be rectified, but we couldn’t help wondering what would happen to us in the meantime without our little travelling home?
Craig seemed to see this in our worried expressions, so off the cuff he offered for us to stay at his family-owned luxury hotel just outside of Rockingham, ‘Peel Manor’, for the night until we could make a new plan, as he felt responsible for the situation. This amazing offer was gratefully accepted, so we quickly packed our bags with what we thought we’d need and jumped into Craig’s 4×4! Peel Manor did not disappoint. A beautiful stone house set in rolling green grounds, immaculately kept, including a lake with ducks and its own ancient rock garden, similar to The Pinnacles mentioned in my last post. It’s mainly used as as wedding venue and you can definitely see why. Craig’s elderly mother lives there and keeps the place ticking along, and we had a lovely evening having food and drinks and meeting her as well as Craig’s 14 year old son, Callum.
We had a glorious night’s sleep in a big comfy bed, and got an Uber back to Craig’s shop in the morning. Craig said after speaking to the mechanics, they expected the work to take a full week or more. He said he trusted us and liked our company, so we were welcome to stay at his house in Perth for a few days if we wanted to! Believe me when I say, he’s nothing but a kind-hearted soul. Rob and I spent a wonderful time at his house, enjoying the swimming pool, going out for drinks and dinner, chilling out with Callum (and Fraser the dog of course), watching movies, meeting his friends (big love to Ana-Maria), going to the beach, visiting wineries and breweries for wine and beer tasting – making a friend for life and memories we will cherish forever! There are some people in life you just connect with, and Craig quickly became like family. He did a lot for us and we will always be grateful. As some of you may or may not know, my sister has an illustration business – Arthouse Illustrations – and is insanely talented. She does bespoke drawings and we commissioned her to do a drawing for Craig as a thank you gift, which he loved!
We didn’t want to get on Craig’s nerves or outstay our welcome, so after a few days we headed back to the Witch’s Hat hostel. Auto Masters’ insurance would cover the costs so we would get the money back. People were certainly surprised to see us back so soon, after our “bye guys, we’re gonna miss you, we’re off to start our road trip down south now!!” goodbyes from last time. In total, we’d made it 50km south of Perth… We spent time perfecting our CVs and hanging around, trying not to spend too much money.
Rob is a bit of a golf fanatic and our friend Preston from the hostel worked at a golf pro shop in Perth. Rob was dying to venture onto the course with him but didn’t want to impose. One day, Victoria (his girlfriend and also our good friend) just said “Preston, why don’t you play golf with the poor guy?!” so we, naturally, went to buy some booze and caught the bus to the course. We had so much fun – the boys playing whilst sharing a bottle of red, and me and Victoria thrashing the golf buggy around the course, our driving becoming more erratic with every sip of cider.
Something we wanted to do which we’d missed last time we were in Perth was visit Rottnest Island, so we booked tickets for a ferry there from Fremantle. We went for the ‘ferry and bike hire’ combination so we could cycle around the island. We made the error of only carrying 500ml of water each, assuming there would be water fill up stations around the island. It’s hot…people are cycling…it makes sense, right? Alas, there were none. We cycled 23km on 500ml of water each, stopping briefly to eat lunch and strip all our clothes off to dive into the sea and cool down. That said, the cycle was lots of fun, the beaches around the island were stunning, and we made friends with Quentin the Quokka, who I suspect wanted my fries more than my friendship.
The day finally came (20th January) when we could pick up Speedy again! We checked out of the hostel (thanks for another great stay everyone) and got the train to Rockingham. I went to the bus depot first as my previously lost purse had been found on a bus and handed in! We were so excited to have our independence again. Free of steep hostel bills and free of public transport… however it was sad knowing we would soon be leaving Craig behind as we’d struck up such a great friendship. That night we met Craig after work and drove to Peel Manor as we were staying there and going out for food and drinks with his friends Peter and Theresa. We had a lovely night and some great conversation. Theresa was from Africa so it was very interesting learning about her upbringing and culture, and it turned out Peter was from Portsmouth of all places (the same city Rob is from for those of you who don’t know)! It really is a small world.
This post is titled “Every cloud has a silver lining” because one of the main lessons travelling has taught me is that there’s always a light if you’re willing to look for it. Speedy’s costly issues, not being able to get on the road to Margaret River as soon as we would have liked, the initial repairs failing, these all seem like negative things. However, if these hadn’t have happened we wouldn’t have met Craig or his family and friends, spent time at Peel Manor, or visited parts of Perth we had previously missed. I wouldn’t have discovered that I actually do enjoy some wines (something that shocked me more than anyone else), and we wouldn’t have spent a fabulous afternoon playing golf with our friends when we went back to the hostel. We made some of our best memories of Perth that week! If you keep a positive mental attitude and your mind and heart open, even the bad things can lead to good.
A huge thank you to Craig for welcoming us into his life! We had a fantastic time. See you again when we’re back in Perth.
Until next time…