Australia 2001 (Part 4)
Perth. Love it! I arrived late on Sunday night after a long day’s travel from Alice Springs. My voice was completely gone that day and I was not in a good mood. I made it to my hotel. If you really want to call it that. It’s more like a B&B I stayed in when I was in Ireland. It’s basically a pub with some rooms above it. And while it was very spartan, at least it was clean. I was so tired and sick that I just basically went to sleep right away.
The next day I got up and walked about town a bit. The good thing about my accommodations was that they were across the street from the cultural center and a three minute walk to the train station and CBD. So after wandering a bit around the city and grabbing a bite to eat, I headed for the museums. Now after the Alice Springs/Ayer's Rock, I’m really into the Aboriginal art and the Western Australia Museum was supposed to have a good collection. So that’s my first destination. Of course, I mis-read the guidebook. The WA Gallery has the art. But I’m in the museum looking around and come upon an exhibit about the aboriginals and think there must be artwork with it. Wrong. Terribly wrong. I’ve stumbled into this exhibit about how badly the European colonists/early Australians treated the natives. The title of the exhibition is “The Lost Generation”. It refers to a time period when the early Australian policy was to integrate the aboriginals into “white” society by taking the children away from their families and raising them in orphanages and homes. Reading the notes and the letters from the grief stricken parents to the local officials pleading for the return of their children was just heart wrenching. Aboriginal culture is very family oriented so this was just devastating to them. Then a lot of the children were abused or ill treated in the government run orphanages and homes. This went on for a very long time and was just absolutely horrific. And the children who were raised in these homes were never told where their parents were, where they came from, and had the hardest time adapting to “white” culture. Apparently the UN Commission on Human Rights has made a formal declaration against Australia for the way they treated them. According to the UN definition, removing a culture’s children is a form of genocide. So I’m feeling pretty up now and really need to find some art. So I finally make my way to the art gallery. The aboriginal art is a bit different in WA than in the center of the country. Good, but different. And I’m still happy with the art purchases I made, so that’s a good thing. On the lower level of this museum is an exhibition by Colin McCahon, a modern art type. Okay, I like art, but there is a lot of the modern art stuff I just don’t get. A room whose floor is partially covered with little boats made of newspaper. Sure it looks cool on the floor, but the point is????? And then there are all of these wall hangings with “M&B369” stenciled on them. They were everywhere. I sort of assumed that it was the name of the exhibition. Wrong. It was the name of the drug that cures gonorrhea. Wow. Good to know. But why?????? Anyways, I was art-ed out by that point and just bailed. I walked around the CBD a bit and looked at the shops a bit. Then because my bag is HUGE, I picked up a load of clothes I don’t need anymore and some gifts and went to the post office to mail them off. The load of clothes is all long sleeve stuff that I don’t need since it’s so hot here. Famous last words by the way. More on that later.
The next day I headed south to Freemantle. Perth, contrary to what most people think, me included, is not on the coast. It’s on the Swan River. Freemantle is its port and is perched on the mouth of the Swan River where it joins the Indian Ocean. It’s a quick easy train ride south from Perth to Freemantle. The historic district of Freemantle is very charming and is filled with historic old brick, sandstone, and limestone buildings. I wandered the streets a bit and then caught one of those historical tram rides to get an over view of the city. Freemantle, as Perth’s main port, has always been a lively and busy city. Originally supposed to be a free city, the founders decided that they needed additional labor help, so they petitioned the British government to send them some convicts to help build the city. So there is a really cool and very old gaol (jail) in Freemantle where the convicts were housed when they weren’t working. I did find some more aboriginal art galleries and checked them out as well. WA is famous for the pearls it harvests up in the northwest corner of Australia. But these south sea pearls are not cheap, even with the great exchange rate. After lunch, I took a river cruise back to Perth. The Swan River is pretty wide and the cruise was nice. I was sitting up front with my shoes off just soaking up the sun and kicking back. After you leave the port area of Freemantle, you pass through a series of suburbs on either side of the Swan River. And as you would expect, the homes on the water are not modest at all. There were some HUGE houses, waterfalls, swimming pools, private boathouses, you name it. Really nice stuff. The cruise I was on actually performs some ferry services as well. We stopped at one pier to pick up some kids after school and then dropped them off on the other side of the river. After Freemantle, there isn’t another bridge till Perth, so the ferries are how you get from one side to the other. Pretty neat. Now, the tour book says that Perth is like a shiny bright coin and I really thought I was going to hurl when I read that. But as we rounded the final bend in the river and slowly made our approach to Perth, I had to admit it was pretty close. The tall metallic and glass buildings shine brightly in the sun while towering over lush green parks along the edge of the river, while bracketed against a deep blue sky. It was just amazingly pretty. After an early dinner, I called it a night as I had big plans for the next day
Wednesday was my sea-kayaking trip. I’m really getting into this sea kayaking stuff. It’s fun and a great workout. The tour book recommended a trip run by a company called Rivergods. I called them up and booked a trip. I got picked up at my hotel and then we drove south past Freemantle to a place called Rockingham. There were a total of ten of us including two guides. I ended up paddling with a guy from Holland named Abrahm. We offloaded the kayaks from the trailer, got our gear ready and then hauled the kayaks down to the beach. This trip had a different twist to it. We were going to paddle out to an island in a marine reserve and then jump out of our boats and go snorkeling. Plus this time we didn’t have to wear the life jackets, just have them nearby, so that was a good thing also. The weather was perfect by the way. A little bit warm, no breeze at this point, and the water was just calm. We paddled out to the first island called Seal Island. Where of course we saw sea lions. There were a couple just lying up on the beach and one sitting on a rock in the water. We anchored our kayaks and then slipped over the side to swim. The water was very clear and the swimming was excellent. As we were swimming, one of the sea lions decided to go for a swim. We followed it for a while as it did lazy rolls in the water and occasionally going down to the rock or coral to scratch his back. It was pretty cool. I had bought one of those underwater cameras and I think I got some good shots of it. I think I got within about 10 feet of it. And while they are very clumsy on the land, they are just so graceful in the water. The island is a limestone island and the wind and rain have eroded parts of it forming the most interesting crags and rock formations. Tons of birds were there as well. After our swim with the sea lion, we paddled around Penguin Island. The wind was picking up now and so was the
surf, so the paddle around the island was a little bit tough. But we made it and then beached out kayaks on the leeward side of the island. Then, while the guides prepared lunch, we went into this Penguin Reserve Center. The center takes care of penguins that have been injured or hurt or for some reason can’t be released back into the wild again. The penguins were pretty cute and it was feeding time and boy can they suck down the fish. There was a big water tank in the center as well and a couple of the penguins were swimming around going amazingly fast in the water. After the center, we headed out to our picnic lunch that was quite good. We hung out
on the island for a bit, walking around the island. On the beach we found another sea lion that was just covered in sand on the beach. The guide says it unusual for them to come ashore on Penguin Island, but it just looked like it was so tired. After the walk, we tied all of the kayaks together and then we raised a square sail and sailed back to the mainland. The wind had picked up a lot and I was responsible for holding the line for the sail. Let me tell you, my arm was getting the work out. We were just racing across the water and the wind was pushing that sail hard and I was fighting with it the whole time. I think we made it from Penguin Island to the shore in less than 10 minutes. It had taken us an hour to paddle to Seal Island and it was much closer than Penguin Island. Once we got back on the beach it was time to stow the kayaks and then drive back to Perth. I was beat by the time I got back and only went out to grab some take away before going back to my room to read and sleep.
On Thursday, I ended up going to one of the beaches north of Perth, Scarborough. Very nice. A wide strip of beach with lovely little beachfront homes and a nice little row of restaurants and shops. It was pretty much a down day for me. Just me, the sun, the SPF 30, and my book. I was still feeling a bit sick at this point, but definitely better. I did swim a bit and then headed back. The “hotel” had laundry facilities so I did that Thursday afternoon and then since I was feeling a little bit better I went out to a club. It was okay, but all the smoke is not helping my throat or voice. I still sound sort of weird. But I’m getting better.
Next, I’ve got a long flight to Melbourne!