On Saturday Dana and I go to the market. We sit in the sun and drink fresh juice. We have been friends for seven years but apart from one brunch last year, this is the only one-on-one time we’ve ever spent together. That brunch was the first time we’d seen each other in years. Maybe it should be weird that after barely seeing each other for years, we’re going on a week-long road trip. Maybe that should be weird. But it isn’t. In the evening we have dinner with Katie. We eat Japanese and then go to a late night cake café, it’s celling covered in lanterns like so many moons.
On Sunday we drive to Albany. Dana makes pancakes. We pick Katie up and she sits in the back of the car eating pancakes out of a takeaway container and muttering about how much she loves us. We stop for pies at the Bannister Roadhouse because apparently it’s compulsory but otherwise we drive non-stop. We arrive at the Sandalwood Factory on the outskirts of Albany just in time for the Sunday afternoon gong. At the back of the factory is a small metal tent. We lie in the galvanised geometric room, and meditate for an hour while a woman plays gongs. Afterwards Dana tells us she went on a journey. Katie says she cried. I battled my own mind for an hour in the way long meditations make me do. We all agree the gong is good.
On Monday we do Albany. Albany is Katie’s favourite place in the whole world. We do a whirlwind tour of Albany’s abundant natural wonders. Standing over “The Gap”, I watch the ocean pound into the cliffs, churning into a pale blue froth. I find the raw power of the ocean comforting somehow, standing over this terrifying precipice. Albany is beautiful. We go to the wind farm and it isn’t natural, of course, but somehow it doesn’t feel man made either. The turbines are like trees, sprouting directly out of the scrub. They are beautiful, stretching in a line along the coast, between the land and the water and the sky.
On Tuesday we drive to Denmark. We go to Greens Pool which is actually a very blue section of ocean. I stand on a huge rock over this stunning stretch of water and it almost takes my breath away. I want to go swimming but it’s cold, probably too cold. We take a lot of photos. All week we take photos – ridiculous posed ones, with our limbs out at strange angles. Katie balances on benches and across walkways. We take photos of each other and the landscape and each other. On the drive home that evening we play music so loudly the car reverberates with it and sing at the top of our lungs.
On Wednesday we drive again, this time to Bunbury. We stop at the Valley of the Giants to see it’s grove of extremely ancient trees. That morning I cried (again) about the postal vote and the huge, strange feelings got tangled in my chest. But then I go and stand inside a huge old tree. And the tree was in this spot for hundreds of years before I existed and it will be here for a long time after I’m gone. Nature carries on without us. I feel a little less sad, somehow, after looking at the trees. We drive to the ocean and sit on the beach and watch the sun set. I don’t think I have ever seen the sun set over the ocean. It’s beautiful. It’s strange that something that happens every day in this part of the world is happening to me for the first time.
On Thursday we go to Busselton. We walk along the jetty in the sunshine and the jetty goes out so far that by the time you get to the end, you can almost forget you’re still connected to the land. There are whales. Just splashing around in the water, metres away. We sit in the sun and eat pastries and watch the whales and it’s beautiful. We decide to go down a cave, just to get a break from the perfect sunshine. But the cave, of course, is beautiful too. The air is thin. The paths wind and twist through towers of rock, veering dramatically up and down steep inclines. We lie on the ground at the bottom of the largest chamber and stare at the stalactites overhead. My lungs feel tired and my head is spinning. People used to come into these caves on their honeymoon, back when they were lit only by candlelight. When we emerge back into the sunlight I gasp for air, not realising how desperately I was craving it.
On Friday we go to the Margaret River with Dana’s friend Bonny. On the way, we stop in at Gnomesvile to drop off the gnome I bought from Victoria. There are more gnomes than you can imagine. The others think it is creepy. I think it is extremely good. We go to some wineries and a berry farm and drink wine and eat scones. We go to a winery that is being sued by the country of Peru. Quickly we are trying pisco (the drink they are being sued for) and making friends with the woman behind the counter. We leave some time later, very tipsy and deeply invested in the court case with Peru. We arrive at a cheese factory just as the pisco is really hitting us and as a result buy far too much cheese. We go to one more winery. It’s the end of the day and the women behind the counter pours herself a glass of wine and asks if we’d like to try everything. We make friends with her as well.
On Saturday we drive back to Perth. We stop in Freemantle and eat lunch at the markets, a little at a time. We take turns winding through the crowd to bring back bao, paella, hot jam doughnuts, a tiny crème brulee. We end up down near the water, at the Ferris Wheel. It’s not a big Ferris Wheel but you can see the ocean and the city and the sky. We take more photos. Suddenly I’m very tired. I’m ready to go home. But I’m not ready for this week to be over. It feels like I see Dana and Katie all the time. But I don’t. There’s almost a whole country between us, most of the time.
The night before, over cups of tea, we’d reflected on the week. We each have too many things. Our reflections are rambling and messy. I struggle to articulate mine, the thoughts not fully formed. It feels like ridiculous road trips are something you have to earn. As though they are a reward you can cash in after you’ve gained enough friendship points, points you traditionally have to gain in person. You go on a trip like this because you already know someone inside out, not because you want to know them better. But why can’t you take all that time you’d invest in brunches and wines and catch-ups – if geography allowed – and pour it all into one week. I don’t see why we can’t binge friendship. “I’m beginning to realise,” I say eventually, “That friendship doesn’t actually have a lot of rules.”