Why not to travel Greyhound

With a few trips under my belt I can say pretty strongly that I hate travelling with Greyhound. The first 6 hour trip from Perth to Geraldton felt long and maybe a bit uncomfortable – but then I wasn’t trying to sleep so I wasn’t too worried about getting bedded down in my seat – but it was a walk in the park compared to travelling through the night and trying every combination of sleeping across two seats: facing forwards or backwards and having your head or your feet sticking out into the aisle.

The trip from Exmouth to Broome was a good example of almost everything that can be annoying in a Greyhound journey happening, apart from the bus starting or finishing the trip in the early hours of the morning. First, the bus was late and the driver definitely wasn’t in too much of a hurry to get everyone on, which surely would be a good idea since we’d be travelling to the Minilya turn-off in complete darkness so the slower we could go to avoid roos the better. Then there was a guy who, when he first swaggered off the bus, I thought was some random drunk but proclaimed himself to be the ‘Greyhound Area Supervisor’. Once the journey started – this was at about 9.30pm so everyone was just wanting to get some sleep on the relatively empty bus as the journey ahead was set to last 21 hours – he made a point of jibbering on about how the bus was old but comfy because it was the only one with air suspension. After a while of giving him as little in the way of responses as I could without blatently ignoring him he eventually sat down and left us alone but since a daughter of the driver, and her friend, were freeloading a ride, we didn’t get any peace for a few more hours due to them singing and getting the radio turned up, oh and screaming when we hit a kangaroo.

At the Minilya roadhouse, we would normally swap on to the main route bus that runs from Perth to Broome but tonight the old bus that runs the Exmouth-Minilya route was going to carry on to Broome and Darwin as it had a crack that ran the entire height of the windscreen due to hitting what were told was a massive kangaroo a few nights before. Luckily, the area supervisor and the cohort of annoying girls were not accompanying us so things were looking up. As soon as the new driver tried to pull off, though, we knew were possibly going to be in for a slightly longer trip as, after grinding the gears for about a minute and finally getting the bus to move, we rolled along the highway for, what seemed like, over a minute as the driver tried in vain to find 2nd gear. Eventually, after giving up on ever finding the 3rd or 4th gears, the driver had us going at a more suitable pace, but for the rest of the trip I wondered how the last driver could effortlessly control the bus while this one drove with the finess of a learner who’d been navigating the haudigan roundabout for the first time.

The night was cold and, even after being asked a few times, the driver never bothered to turn down the flow of cold air but as soon as the sun rose we were cooking and told that the air conditioning didn’t work. This was understandable, as the bus seemed to have taken quite a beating in recent times and wasn’t exactly new anyway, so we made do with having the sunroofs open, sucking in a constant draught of hot air which was a bit better than sitting in a sauna on wheels with no air flow. It was only at midday, when we switched drivers, that we found out that the air-con ‘didn’t work’ because someone had switched on the heating instead. Better late than never, I suppose, as it did save us having to endure the high-noon sun with no air-con.

After that, things went pretty smoothly, apart from spending most of the day feeling really stupid cause I couldn’t find my phone – after checking all the seats I was sure I’d lost it when I nipped out at Coral Bay the night before but later on a kid found it. The new driver, already having earned significant browny points for knowing how to drive a bus and use air-con, was nice enough to drive us round to the Kimberley Klub hostel after the bus stopped in Broome town centre.


Thanks to a lift from Emma and Rachel – who’d I’d been bumping into since Geraldton – I was in Exmouth at 11pm instead of the Greyhound time of 4am. After having to show the bar staff at the YHA Potshot Resort that one of their duties was to act as an after-hours reception (luckily mentioned in the YHA hostels guide) I got a 7 bed dorm all to myself.

I wasn’t really sure what I was actually doing up in Exmouth as, much like some of my previous destinations, I’d done little reading up on what went on in the place. The first thing I did notice the next day was a distinct change in climate – a tad warmer and muggy-er due to it not getting a direct breeze off the Indian Ocean. This meant that the plan to hire a bike and see how far up to the Cape I could get went out the window and the only bit of exploration I actually did was to go round to the shopping centre. The Potshot was the first place that I found had computers that you didn’t have to pay to use, that doesn’t mean the internet was free, but that’s still so much better than having to pay $8 for an hour just to copy your photos from a memory card to a hard disk. So, taking full advantage of that I made a bit more of an effort to get my blog up to date – I’d written one entry on my phone and that was pretty painful and limited how much I had to say. Now I’m in Kununurra and obviously still not up to date, but at least I’m getting somewhere without bruising my thumbs or clearing my pockets of change.

Staying, cooking and generally living in so many dorms and kitchens in hostels soon meant I’d met so many people, some for a bit longer or who had made a bit more of an impression than others. Cooking my pasta for tea on Saturday evening I got talking to a guy who, by the way him and his girlfriend spoke to me, had obviously met me before. After wrongly guessing him as a Liverpudlian I remarked that it was funny that I’d guessed him wrong cause I’d spoken to a guy from Newcastle back in Denham; after a few seconds the memory which sparked my remark cleared up a little and I realised that guy was this guy – oops. I’ve met Martin quite a few times since then so at least I’ve had a few chances not to make the same mistake again.

Saturday night was pretty busy at the hostel, as the backpacker accommodation is only one part of the resort which also has a bar – one of two in Exmouth I think. I met a few folks who were travelling in the same direction as me so it was nice to know there’d probably be a few more familiar faces when I got to Broome.

Sunday was spent doing not much, I still couldn’t get over how dibilitating the extra heat and humidty was. Due to a fairly strong feeling that the money that I’d transferred from home into my ozzy bank account was pretty much all spent by now I was starting to think a bit more seriously about finding some work, but a call to the Harvest Trail wasn’t overly helpful. Apparently, due to mining workers losing their jobs, there wasn’t so much harvest work available in WA and I was told to phone back when I got to Darwin. Darwin is quite a long way from Exmouth so I was hoping I’d be able to come across something else myself before then.

I did eventually make it out for a walk to the town beach – on the grand scale of ozzy beaches it’s pretty uninspiring, especially after the waters of Coral Bay. Still, it was a nice spot to chill out for a while and there were loads of interesting little rocks that were imprinted with marks from even smaller shells.

After an unfortunate encounter with a cockroach – unfortunate for it as it was crawling on my bag and, after a swift contact with my foot was probably having its first and last experience of flying – I was getting on the Greyhound again for what, hopefully, will have been my most annoying trip in Australia. But that’s for another time…

Coral Bay

19/9/09 – 24/9/09

Due to the timing of the West Australian Greyhound service, this was the second place I arrived at in darkness and, much like my first morning in Denham, waking up and realising that I was in a tropical paradise was pretty cool. Coral Bay seemed to be a better Denham in most ways – even more idyllic, beautiful and warm, the water appeared clearer and that was after I’d gawked at the brilliant sweep of beach that opened up in front of me as I walked down from the Ningaloo Club. Unavoidably, this meant there were quite a few more people kicking about, but it wasn’t crazy busy, just not the peaceful, sleepy village that Denham was.

After a quiet first day, the Germans, Dutch and Japanese that I kept bumping into since Kalbarri arrived on the Easyrider and got me in on a $10 pizza deal, thanks partly to the friendliness of the Dutch bus driver. As much as I quite like cooking and feel good after I’ve cooked something wholesome and nutritious and all that, I’m not going to pass off on cheap pizza, especially a meat-feast with a bbq base. There’s a sheltered supermarket block in Coral Bay and, after an evening of circumventing the strictly no B.Y.O. policy at the hostel, there were always folks hanging around there, sometimes for long enough to sample the baker’s freshest produce next morning.

I only spent 2 nights at the Ningaloo Club, it’s not the cheapest hostel (although if you’re willing to do a couple of hours cleaning each day they’ll give you a bed for free) and my uncle’s friend from Walpole, Dave, happened to be up in the village for a fortnight’s holiday and had a spare bed. The next few days saw me trying snorkelling for the first time – it took quite a while for me to actually get my head under the water for more than a few seconds as, for those first few ducks under the surface, every instinct in me was expecting water to rush into my lungs if I dared breath in. After that though, I was hooked, even though I’m neither a strong, nor confident swimmer.

Although Coral Bay is an extremely popular for beach-goers, it has – at least when I was there – enough beach to let you have your own patch all to yourself, especially if you head round from the main beach towards Paradise Beach. Just at the point where the two beaches meet, below the lookout, there are some cliffs which loom over the sand and offer shelter from the wind and or the sun, depending on your preference. Sheltering from the wind but in full view of the sun meant we didn’t fall foul of burning without noticing.

Later on in the week, after the Easyrider crew had left for Karijini (which I was more than a little bit envious of, since my Greyhound ticket gave me virtually no chance at getting near, what I’ve heard is, the highlight of the West coast from Perth to Broome) I was spending a bit more time getting used to snorkelling and met an Aussie couple who let me have a go of their kayak, so now I’m hooked on kayaking and snorkelling.

What makes Coral Bay great is that the reef is so accessible, with outcrops lying literally a few meters off the shore in the sheltered waters of the main bay, allowing people to wade in and have a look around at some interesting sea stuff then jump back out and lie on the beach, all in a couple of minutes. The reef extends about a mile off-shore, its border with the high seas clearly marked by the swell that it kicks up – the waves are pretty big and, from the shore, look quite strange as there is nothing to be seen that should cause them to break so far out. It’s out at that point that the reef is a lot more diverse; talking to a few people has led me to believe that the reef beside the shore has suffered somewhat, possibly due to the amount of people that come into contact with it and, sure enough, it does look quite grey and lifeless.

So, on my last day, thanks mainly to being signed up for it by Rachel and Emma, I embarked on a 2 hour kayak and snorkelling trip from the beach to the outer reaches of the reef. A few days before I’d had never dreamt of doing this and even on the day I was very much out of my comfort zone – I was, after all, about to sail well out of (my) swimming distance from the shore on a little plastic boat and was then going to jump out of it into deep (once again, by my standards) water and swim around with the fish for an hour. It turned out to be a totally brilliant experience, giving me at least some confidence in my ability to float in open water and a whole new appreciation for the amount of life in the sea. During the swim we saw a couple of turtles, a wedge-tailed ray, flute-fish, reef sharks and a whole load of colourful fish that had virtually no concern for how close they got to us.

In other news, I got turned into a mer-man for about an hour – it was mid-thirties in the searing sun, but under all that wet sand, I was not far from hypothermic.