God I love Esperance. So I muttered to myself on several occasions: driving along the spectacular coastal road; lounging on the white sands with a book; strolling with the sound of the Southern Ocean and lowering sun projecting against archipelago islands. God I love Esperance. Grabbing a good coffee by the foreshore; picking up a cake from the bakery; ambling in sandals and passing children on scooters waving to me like I am a long lost uncle.
Surrounded by such natural beauty the town itself is no pristine haven, but I like it like that. There is no false shiny veneer, little pretentious opulence, few signs of excess Noosafication or Byronessence. There is industry and shipping and an inevitable strip of furniture stores and warehouses and garages lining the entryways to town. Most of the houses look a little jaded, a touch, well, daggy. But I like it like that.
It’s a long way from anywhere else, a complete and fully-functioning oasis at the far end of the habitable coast, an embarrassment of riches before the Nullarbor. Such is the distance I had a stopover from Perth on the way. It was a place called Wave Rock, where there is a rather large rock springing up from baked wheat fields and dry lakes. Part of the rock has eroded into the shape of a wave. I rather liked it.
Here it was a return to my home…a return to my swag. I slept pretty dreadfully, but then a non-daylight saving sunrise of 4:30am doesn’t help. Stupid WA! Still, it was nice to be among gum trees and galahs again, to wander around and on top of this big rock, to view the endless horizons and big blue skies.
There was a familiarity at rejoining past roads travelled at Ravensthorpe, and a reminder of the bitterness that is country coffee. Still, the road was slightly different this time, now lined increasingly with bright orange bursts of colour known as WA Christmas Trees. Tis the season I suppose.
Should one be dreaming of a white Christmas then Esperance is not such a bad place to come. Indeed, one set of officials who measure such things have declared Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park to have the whitest sand in Australia (and yes, another set must have proclaimed Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay the same). I was content, on a few occasions, with some time at Twilight Beach, which appeared perfectly white enough to me.
However, arguably the most God I love Esperance moments came further along the coast at Observatory Beach, a more rugged and sweeping bay which on two evenings I had just to myself. I would say this is probably the best evening walk beach in the country, with fairly white sand (but no world record). I love the waves and dunes, the rocks and islands, and the sun filtering in and out of clouds as it sinks to the west.
Now, one of the considerations for making an assessment over the liveability of various places in Australia is the availability of good coffee. Esperance easily passes the test, whether from the mobile Coffee Cat or the scattering of small, chilled out cafes in the small, chilled out town centre. There are, in addition, decent cake options, some of which I have not tested so it may mean I need to come back. But Esperance is such a long way from anywhere just to visit like that. It makes it hard to leave.
With this in mind, I did see a sign advertised in the petrol station for someone to do four night shifts per week, between 10pm – 6am. How hard could that be? The sign was stuck in the counter window next to the hot sausage rolls. I was seriously tempted.
But I am heading on and the next decent coffee will probably arrive thousands of kilometres away in Adelaide. There is still a huge chunk of Western Australia to re-traverse, but, for me, Western Australia essentially ends here. It has been wonderful, surprising, insightful and colossal. And finishing it here in Esperance, with a final coffee beside the white sands and topaz seas, and the sound of an Australian wicket falling, it is a fairytale ending.