A Travellerspoint blog

October 2015

Rottnest - premier holiday destination with a dark past

18 kms off the coast of Fremantle lies Rottnest Island so named because the first European explorers to discover it believed it was infested with huge rats. In fact these cat sized marsupials are called Quokkas 593355FBAFBBC2585F5264707D0B1F91.jpeg and they are predominantly found in the islands off the Western Australian coast and specifically in Rottnest. The island has an area of 19sq kms (7.3 sq miles) a permanent population of 100 and an annual visitor population of around 500,000. 5930E0D203D4C844E037A8AB16E31315.png
I had a bit of a moral dilemma about visiting this island because I was aware, from watching a documentary when I first arrived in Australia, that it has a shameful history in terms of the Aboriginal people and that full reconciliation has not yet taken place. Eventually I decided that I should experience the place for myself so I took the Rottnest Express Ferry for the thirty minute ride from Fremantle.
There is no unnecessary motorised transport on the island so most of it's visitors explore it by bike hired from the ferry company and picked up at the quay on arrival. The ferry company also operate a guided bus tour, there is a regular bus service, the Island Explorer, that runs in a circuit around the island and which you can get on and off at various stops and a minibus shuttle service operates for the use of resident guests on the island.
I bought a ticket for the Island Explorer and while I was waiting for it to arrive visited the tiny museum. To be fair there is a lot of information about the history of Rottnest which started it's post European inhabited history as a prison specifically for Aboriginal prisoners. These men and boys (some as young as 8) were shackled to each other with neck chains, sometimes for as long as three years, and lived in the most brutal of conditions. 360 Aboriginal prisoners, ten per cent of it's historical prison population, died on this island, their graves are unmarked and the land under which most of them are buried is used as a shortcut to the beach. 59D0F185FD5C72D7BB10085AF808F020.jpeg59D203FBF27C5AD490C400A2DA35E871.jpeg59D2D108A4E76285312524573DD273D9.jpeg59D95DC6C75EC3AEFCBC7D649FEDEF8E.jpeg Rottnest Island has the largest unmarked burial site in Australia.
The island is now an 'A' class reserve meaning that it has been given the highest level possible for the protection of it's natural environment but it is also an extremely popular tourist attraction with it's stunningly beautiful beaches and sparkling Indian Ocean water. There is large and diverse range of accommodation with prices for all pockets, it's waters are perfect for diving and snorkelling and you can take boat tours including seal and whale watching. 5A2572A1E375D8E082D177A7C06C6E8A.jpeg5A2CF449F8D58225B5D93936E70C92D4.jpeg5A33D52FB5C2903A374EB51C54B1B415.jpeg5A3643399EE1D45620540B3AEBFE0E3A.jpeg5A3C7B51B9083D1286E61B9158FDBD7A.jpeg
The 38.7 metre (127 ft) Wadjemup Lighthouse stands inland and climbing it's 155 steps (only with a tour guide) will reward you with 360 degree views over the whole island. Most of the island is covered in dense shrub and there are several salt lakes whose shores have now been deemed important bird area. 5A68A328A5D222F95978D99126F8FF8A.jpeg5A6FD95B035AEF9A74275F98DD8CB092.jpeg5A777947CF54239E6D6D875B32E2DE19.jpeg 5B2A24C1A5F45855415F9AEB7DFC7FEA.jpeg
At the end of the bus ride I took a walk around the main settlement at Thompson Bay where there is a 'picture house', a church, an impressive general store, and several other shops, cafes and bars discretely laid out. Most of the accommodation is constructed to look like the original heritage buildings and the old Governers residence is now the Hotel Rottnest.
I can certainly see the attraction of the island as a holiday destination but personally I would't want to stay there and especially not in the Rottnest Lodge which was the infamous 'Quod' and 'housed' the prisoners in such abject and dehumanising conditions. 5B487864B397226C39C103371838F3CF.png5A94A84ECD8F7383263E64FCF83EB76F.jpeg

Posted by busyboots 23:43 Comments (0)

I should have passed on Perth!

Oh dear, so often during this trip I have struggled to find adequate superlatives to describe the places I have visited, sadly, for me, Perth is not one of those places.
Captain Cook Cruises runs three ferries a day from Fremantle to Perth and the one and a half hour trip up the Swan River offers delightful views and the first inkling of just how small Perth CBD is. F301C1AFD69594E612E2CB047E3CE045.jpegF3091B04D77FCCFA3D3EFB7D5DEC3B55.jpegF310936AAF085770E781DAF7D8B1D527.jpeg Arriving at Barrack Street Jetty you also get your first inkling of just how much re-development is going on within the city. There are construction vehicles everywhere and getting on one of the free buses that service four routes around the CBD is almost a waste of time because you can walk faster. The Central and Cultural areas of the city cover only about four square blocks so you can very quickly explore all points of interest and frankly there aren't many of them south of the train station. The jewel in the rather tarnished crown of this city is Kings Park and although one of the bus routes goes to this area I decided to walk around the bottom of Mount Eliza and climb the 242 steps of 'Jacobs Ladder' to get to it. Kings Park, at 4.06 sq km (1,003 sq acres) is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and with 2/3 of it being conserved as native bushland it also incorporates botanical gardens and grassed parkland. F3E322CBD36A705F309EE219EB036B78.jpegF3EBA30EE5C3A5D231D9E55C4EFEED54.jpegF3F31B22EBB064D788E796B46E38C662.jpeg F3E55A67CEC8DC7BEA609D0EA1FED339.jpeg The panoramic views of the city and Swan River are spectacular F3A8C2DFA4A6283A8CBFC0B1223F6A1E.jpegF3B0624FE36787AEF78C3A0E6B1EEE52.jpeg F3B4324A00B5080AF6785349E2521566.jpeg and there is a treetop walkway that raises these, quite literally, to another level. F40913F00C2E7F17AB9502E74A0D4125.jpegF410A06098B9F2E51052179836766E5D.jpeg I spent the entire afternoon immersing myself in as much of this fabulous nature as my feet would allow and then made my way down into the city to catch the train back to Fremantle.
A couple of days later I went back into the city to visit the Cultural Area and specifically the WA Museum and the Art Gallery of WA. In terms of the museum it was another great disappointment. There was an interactive area for children, a temporary exhibition on 'The Secret Life of Suitcases' a small gallery with information about the marine environment and three galleries full of stuffed animals, birds and butterflies (well the butterflies weren't stuffed but you know what I mean). If you are a fan of taxidermy you might appreciate all this but personally I think there are far better ways of learning about extinct animal life. To be fair the museum is also undergoing a major re-development programme at a cost of $428 million with planned spaces 'informed by public consultation' and a 'delivery' date of 2020 so perhaps it will be worth going to after that. On the upside there is a small but quite good museum shop (outside and around the corner) and a cafe called 'The Muse' that has a pretty little 'secret garden' type outdoor seating area which is perfect on a hot day. F4279B7DA31C7CD21F0E20517D817A8A.jpeg
The art gallery is an unattractive cubist structure but it's internal spaces are light and bright and there are some very realistic and thought provoking exhibits. F44320540B2AA5B381FD9D8B64DF4697.jpegF44531EA08363D0BD5B01135FA532C24.jpegF446386894770900B0CC51F30C98B2CB.jpeg F47BB0F9F0400C0EABCFD3330862B1DD.jpeg There are also many examples of purely beautiful artwork and I certainly had a few 'wow' moments. The building incorporates the old police courts and it's basement area contains a couple of cells and the courtroom just as it was when in use. F4917AD9A4C5375D70171DE535943523.jpegF48A4D0BCEA3E2ADF54F7F73A919A5A4.jpegF4828F04995EBB349485CC81474D4167.jpeg
As the schools have been on holiday for the last two weeks the outside spaces of the Cultural Area were playing host to 'Awesome' an international arts festival designed for children from 0-12 and their families and I can imagine that this colourful event has been well attended and appreciated. F4D2F7C1F6206F47C1C3E2D2E12639F8.jpegF4C9D829E1EEA479D49BF7E964B05BA3.jpeg
So, those were my two days in Perth City, and I don't feel the need to spend any more time there. There is a huge amount of wealth in this area (with some land values along the river currently at $2,000 per sq metre and one home having been sold in 2009 for $57.5 million) but it is hard to know where the wealthy spend their leisure time. There are some very high end designer shops in the city centre but no obviously exclusive eating or partying venues and even a search of google didn't turn up anything. Perhaps the entertaining goes on within the privacy of homes or aboard yachts. There are, according to our ferry guide, 69,000 registered motor boats in Perth and who knows how many sail boats and I suppose that if you can afford to pay for this kind of apartment F59F482AC37EEA083179113C260EB4E4.jpeg you might want to show off the views to as many of your friends as possible.
Visiting Perth has ticked another travel box for me but would I recommend it? No. At least not until re-development is finished. The media gallery of the 'getthebigpicture.wa.gov.au' features some pretty impressive images for the various re-development areas and I'm sure that once these are completed Perth will look, and feel, like a very different city. Walking around Perth at the moment it is hard to believe that some of the completion time frames will be met and until they are, as far as I am concerned, it is not worth visiting this 'most isolated capital city in the world'.

Posted by busyboots 01:17 Comments (0)

Fremantle, Western Australia

I had a very special month in Cronulla and then, on 26th September, flew to Perth to start my three week house sit in South Fremantle. You really begin to get an idea of the vastness of this country when it takes you five hours to fly from one side of it to the other. I am looking after two dogs here,9DF4FC960F1D0F870796EF09012C23F2.jpeg Max (the Whippet) and Lenny, and staying in a very comfortable and well appointed home. It is a ten minute walk to the beach and to a cycle path that heads South for 3.5 kms to the derelict Coogee power station and this is the route the dogs and I take for our morning walk. 9C7A231099063B09B499D0264CC89A85.jpegThere are various tracks that lead off the path to the beach areas but also signs letting you know that it is not a good idea to wander among the sand dunes. 9C7641FAE9CD79D55905FD84B38E2206.jpegI have been told about a woman who got bitten by a snake in the dunes about a month before I arrived, instead of staying immobile and calling for help, as recommended in this situation, she walked 2kms to her home. Her husband immediately took her to the hospital but the poison, which of course had been well circulated in her system by then, proved fatal. Fortunately in all my walks in Australia so far I have not even seen a snake but I did manage to shake a very bloated leech out of my sock when T, B and I got back from our last bush walk. It had clearly been feasting on my ankle and must have wriggled up my shoe and through my sock but I didn't feel a thing.
Heading North on the cycle path for 2kms brings me to the Boat Harbour with its boardwalk and dozen or so cafes and bars all claiming to have been voted the 'No. 1 for fish and chips'. 9CB7245CE3EE5D813C3646ADF7176AE9.jpegI tried one of them yesterday and spent a pleasant hour sitting out in the sunshine doing my best to consume a portion size that would have fed two hungry people and watching the gulls swoop en masse to each newly vacated table. The fish was yummy but the chips were completely tasteless and a real let down.
Opposite the Boat Harbour a five minute walk through a park 9E4D382B0BA5D4C7EC067A4379866DA9.jpegtakes you into Fremantle (or Freo as it is commonly known) town centre with it's 'Cappuccino Strip' and many other restaurants and small, independent shops. As in many other cities here public buildings such as tiolets and bus stops are used as a canvas for some truly stunning artwork. 9CEFE86094F5D9182F38BB8E83243306.jpeg 9E80AF3295456A5342B201EEB951E980.jpegThere are two indoor markets which are open at weekends and on public holidays and, while I wasn't very impressed with the Emarkets by the ferry port, the market in the centre of town is probably the best I have ever been to. It is not huge but besides the usual fresh produce end it has many stands selling organically produced clothing in support of Fair Trade co-operatives in various countries, and hand made items produced in Australia.
Fremantle station, with it's frequent trains into Perth, sits on the edge of the town, there is a tram service 9D251343AB37BD5BEBFFAA889BF13D4F.jpegand two free bus services that circuit the town and immediate surrounds so public transport couldn't be easier.
South Fremantle is very laid back, quirky and bohemian.9ED06B5BF2A1329A0C3FAF4109923B73.jpeg Dogs are universally loved and there are several 'dog beaches' and in the evenings and weekends when families are out having their picnics dogs are running loose all over the place enjoying their own socialising. There are a lot of people who look, and dress, as 'though they are still living in the sixties and many gardens full of wildflowers and wind chimes, baskets and budhas. The cafes are always full of people enjoying breakfast or coffee together (many with their dogs) and it is obvious that they are meeting places, on a regular basis, for the locals. Everybody is friendly and I am beginning to recognise several faces on our morning walks so that I'm almost beginning to feel like a local myself.
Fremantle, originally called the Swan River Colony, was originally a settled colony but as it grew there was not enough labour to construct the infrastructure needed. The British Government were called upon to start sending convicts to provide that labour and it was these convicts, housed for their first five years in a warehouse that is now a five star hotel, who built not only their own prison but most of the town's buildings. 9D506710F0DF4B549414B0F4F6159D71.jpeg9D577077041B73C75C37F5E6A36A35A3.jpeg9D5E9F519247AA592C884B9252179283.jpegFremantle Prison was well worth the visit and provided a real insight into the history of the colony and life under the penal system. Conditions in the prison were brutal, the original cells measured only 7' x 4', and it was in use for 136 years only being decomissioned as a maximum security prison in 1991. Some of the art work created by the prisoners in the latter stages of its history are pretty amazing. There was a womens prison segregated on the same site and half of this has become the Fremantle Prison YHA.9D7504A0D11CB57048E74EB9BA217DB4.jpeg9D9466D2CB99504A1B8EC048A6E4434F.jpeg9D761F73CA4E7C3449D3328A62928633.jpeg9D7C130F978C56A882E4014A77062072.jpeg9D82F740CD7B368EC6AB61A2CAB384F9.jpeg
The Fremantle Arts Centre was originally the lunatic asylum and it has many small galleries on the ground floor and classrooms on the upper floors. I did spend some time looking around the galleries but found them disappointing. By contrast the Maritime Museum had a very good exhibition on pearl fishing (which at one time was as big for this part of Australia as gold mining) and some other really interesting exhibits.
So, all in all it has been a busy first week with lots to see and do. Unfortunately the whole area is almost completely flat so there is nothing in the way of challenging walking. I had begun to think that there was no walking at all except for the cycle path but then today I popped into the main Anglican church in the centre of town to check out the interior, beautiful, and got chatting to the priest. He was an eatraordinarily gentle man from County Durham and gave me some top tips about local walking routes one of which I followed this afternoon and was rewarded with views and bush tracks.9DBFC4DCB22D8AEE736813F47FBFC981.jpeg9DB8724CF1100B4E1ADFC426FC762331.jpeg
Tomorrow I am going into Perth for the first time so more on that later.
Meanwhile I was amused by this car repair shop advertising and thought that it was exactly the kind of place I would take my car 9F07F2F9F45FC56024174FED4FDBD47C.jpegand here is an excerpt from the menu of a local, and apparently very good, Indian restaurant. 9F06D1B3FD03F8C4DE252F63D8EB3F5A.jpegAnyone for kangaroo vindaloo?

Posted by busyboots 09:29 Comments (0)

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