A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: busyboots

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)

Eastwood done and dusted - r and r until Perth!

Well, my house sit for Viv and Cris was as relaxing as I expected it to be and Josie the gentle giant was as lovely as ever. AAC45332B0E58A803165DA48462032DA.jpg Unfortunately she had pulled a muscle in one of her front legs so she was only able to do three short walks each day but I managed to get out by myself for a 5 miler each morning so I kept the fitness level up.
I arrived back in Cronulla just in time to say goodbye to Beccy who has gone to Europe to visit family and friends and to go sailing with her parents and sister. Tom does not have as much leave as her and is also very busy at work so I have him to myself for three weeks and as much as I love that gorgeous girl it is lovely to have some quality time with son number one. We spent the weekend sourcing new furniture for their flat, drinking wine and discussing life, the universe and everything (literally) with one of their scientist friends, and a good walk followed by brunch on Sunday at a great little vegetarian restaurant. Our furniture hunt included Ikea, which is usually hell and to be avoided at all costs, but which we both agreed was the least painful experience either of us had ever had in that retail outlet. We still had to navigate 'the aisle that never ends' but at least it was not mobbed with people.
I also invested in a 'Fitbit Charge' (a wristband watch/exercise/lifestyle monitor) that has amazing functionality and has given me the incentive to push myself to ever higher levels of activity. This morning I walked 8.8 km (about 5.5miles) by 9.30am and I am now only using the stairs to access their 8th floor flat. I'm clearly getting hooked on those endorphins!
I have joined the local library as a visitor member and I'm currently on book two of the Robert Goddard 'Wide World' trilogy. I have always liked the author and this particular series is a tale of espionage and derring-do that starts with the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and moves through London, Orkney (the German fleet in Scapa Flow) more Paris and finally Japan.
On Monday Tom and I were invited for drinks with T&B's landlord, an economist who has travelled extensively, spent years living in Paris and Geneva and currently in Jordan where his wife is the Phillipines ambassador. That was a very interesting evening! Last night Tom and I went out for a delicious Thai meal pre 'Ricki and the Flash' at the cinema (is there no end to Meryl Streep's talent?) and tomorrow we are going into the city to have dinner with some more of T&B's friends. If I have been missing a social life recently it is certainly hotting up now and I am making the most of it before I head off to Perth on the 26th for a three week house sit.
P.S It was the first day of Spring here on Tuesday and clothes are coming off everywhere I look!!!

Posted by busyboots 19:57 Comments (0)

Return to Aus ...again.

Nelson was fantastic, I lost weight, got fit and made new friends and I shall return for a few days visit later in the year but meanwhile the homeowner returned on 4th August and I flew up to Auckland to spend a week visiting old friends. It was good to see them and to catch up with all their news but it was COLD and I was glad to get back to Cronulla on the 12th.
Yesterday I took the train into the city and then a ferry out to Birkenhead Point, an old factory building that has been redeveloped into a designer outlet centre whose floors offer tremendous views. CF2C35C7B9A8CA574CF3E7A625F96E67.jpgCF2DC9C3B2D4396F445EA0BE5B39928A.jpg It was a perfect day to be on the water and, as always, a great opportunity to get different views of the City. CF2F378D92517E418029A43C2634ACCA.jpgCF3100FFD43DCDA96921A15382868D3D.jpg
After NOT spending too much money (hooray) I caught a bus back to the CBD and paid a visit to the iconic Queen Victoria Building (known affectionately by Sydneysiders as the QVB) and was stunned by it's beautiful architecture. Designed as a marketplace and built as a monument to that famous lady it was erected at a time when Sydney was in the throes of severe austerity and the aim of such an ornate building was partly to provide work for an unemployed labour force of artisans. CF332E67082E68973D095602CADAD339.jpgCF34B7F8E74A8C0BD18EEBF298879693.jpgThe building fills an entire city block and provides four floors of truly opulent shopping. Almost every exclusive designer you could think of has an outlet here and although the price tags might be off the scale for many of us it's ground floor leads straight into a labyrinth of other (more financially accessible) malls in which it would be easy to get lost.
The train journey back to Cronulla was eventful as half way here we all had to disembark due to a power cut that took out a large area. Apparently a truck had crashed into a pylon at around 10am and the power was not restored until mid afternoon. The trains out of the city were not stopped and passengers were not advised that their journey would be curtailed so the result was that hundreds of us were standing around outside Sutherland Station waiting for promised buses that did not arrive. Eventually we were advised that the trains were running again and the first one out was rammed. Hey ho, if I had been at home, as originally planned, I would have been without power for six hours so at least I got to drink some coffee.
T&B are off to spend a weekend of mountain biking and caving so I will be walking Cronulla and preparing for tomorrow when I go back to Eastwood for a ten day house sit. It will be good to see Viv and Cris again and to have the company of the lovely Josie while they are away and I expect to have plenty of relaxation and nothing more taxing than 'which book should I read next'.

Posted by busyboots 16:01 Comments (0)

Five weeks later and still loving Nelson

Well, I can't believe how quickly the time is going here. I am into my sixth week at this house sit and thoroughly enjoying the rhythm of life in this area. The walking is absolutely wonderful and I am doing at least three hours every day and feeling great. Forget sculpting and toning machines, I've dropped a jeans size, my bum has lifted and my thighs are like metal rods and all this for free! Am I low maintenance or what?
The weather has been incredibly changeable going from minus to double figures in a matter of hours so that I have sometimes gone out in several layers only to have to peel them off to a short sleeved t-shirt before I got back. There have been some big snow dumps in both the North and South Islands and some of the peaks have been closed for periods due to the risk of avalanche but, although we have had our days of heavy rain, we do seem to enjoy a bit of a micro climate in this area. On the whole it has been less cold than I had expected for winter in NZ but there have been times when I have been extremely grateful for the loan of an electric blanket and when getting out of bed for the loo in the night has been painful.
One of the well known walks in the area is the Boulder Bank Scenic Reserve that separates Nelson Haven from the Tasman Sea. It is a 13km long natural land form created by the process of longshore drift and is very real exercise for the ankles because it is exactly what it says it is.327DD649BA6FE4185FD2592E1F62045D.jpgThe views back across the Haven to Atawhai (where I am staying) and Nelson make it worth the effort but I wouldn't want to do it twice.
I drove out to Cable Bay, a small community 18kms North East of Nelson, which was so named because this was the place where the first cable came ashore from Sydney connecting NZ to the rest of the world. There is a causeway to Pepin Island, privately owned and opened for one day a year to walkers to raise funds for the Hira Volunteer Rural Fire Force, and spectacular views up the Wakapuaka Estuary.337A6A7CEFCBA1F37B485FE7D31E9019.jpg337BBEB8F185FFE1A18229461929FCCC.jpg337D50E1DEC8CE5C16C34F37A8763135.jpg
37kms South West of Nelson is Mapua with a thriving wharf area and offering a sheltered bay between it and Rabbit Island.33D4C1CD05635AFAE8CF7E8CC4485FDA.jpg In the 20th century Mapua was one of the most contaminated sites in NZ due to pesticide residues in the soil from a, now defunct, factory. In 2001 the local government authorised a massive clean up operation and in 2007 the company responsible for doing this finally handed it back to the local authority. Apparently in 2012 several cases of ill health were reported in workers occupied in this clean up and I don't know the consequences of this but the area is clear now and it's wharf and recreational areas attract a lot of visitors. Rabbit Island apparently has a beautiful beach and many picnic areas and cycle tracks but dogs are prohibited so I have not actually visited it.
Almost outside the door is the Titoki Reserve with a path that winds uphill to offer magnificent views of Nelson33D31E92FE374661A4F98FFB9AE0E09B.jpg and from the centre of the city it is possible to follow the Maitai River for miles along its gloriously picturesque bank.334DDF34AF82EE9501D878C0661E7233.jpg
I have enjoyed the walk up to the centre of NZ several more times and usually managed to find a different route down so taking in even more of the scenery. 2 kms away is the Wakapuaka Reserve an ornithologists dream come true and home to many species of water birds and a flock of beautiful black swans.33D1682202C6F743859A56A849248562.jpg I think this entire area is possibly the most perfect that I have ever been to.
As well as countryside walking the dogs and I spend a lot of time on the fabulous 'dog beach' where they can really 'socialise' and I can saunter along searching for shells and curiously shaped pieces of driftwood.33D615A1D31B74BE65BCE2FE6B547F84.jpg33D7C06AD6A71B016F1702BBDB494D94.jpg The animals at this house sit have been lovely to look after they are very obedient and affectionate and a lot of fun. We had a bit of a drama with Drake who managed to find a piece of wire (who knows where or how?) that gave him a pretty big skin tear on his leg. A visit to the vet, 8 stitches and a $400+ bill later put paid to our beach visits for the last two weeks but he was an amazing patient and didn't mess with it at all so it has healed really well and we should be able to restart our beach romps on Monday.
The day following this I 'lost' Lilli from the garden and just when I thought I was going to have to tramp the neighbourhood I saw her on the lawn with a big black hairy thing at her feet. It turned out to be a dead guinea pig! I don't know whether she found it in that condition or despatched it herself but it was not a pleasant task to get rid of it. Thankfully I haven't heard any of the neighbours children calling out for their lost pet.
I paid a visit to 'Founders Heritage Park' an outdoor museum with both original and historical replica buildings from the area and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around there. It has a particularly good Maritime Museum with hundreds of skilfully constructed models and ships in bottles.33A5FD990AA4FDDD85C6DC2085E7A239.jpg33A7A23BF9CD6CCFB9A3EB566F5E6218.jpg33A96C32D6C1070892D849EE8CE16C6E.jpg33AB1A31AFF13FB72C597D05B4AA417C.jpg33ACAFC804A80CE04B7E6273AC37E4BD.jpg
Apart from all the walking my friend Mandy and I have been to blues and jazz evenings at a local venue and shared several meals together and I have become friendly with one of my neighbours Ruth. Ruth is an English woman who has been here for fifteen years but keeps her house in Petworth "just in case". She took me to a fundraising quiz night in aid of the ARK (dogs charity) and introduced me to some of her friends and we have continued to socialise together. Mandy and I will be enjoying supper and scrabble at Ruth's house on Monday evening.
I visit the library frequently and make good use of both their books and DVD rentals and I've knitted three beanies, a five foot long snood and a jumper so far.
Simple pleasures, perfect days. What more can I say?

Posted by busyboots 18:47 Comments (0)

A return to NZ - Christchurch, Kaikoura, Renwick and Nelson

937E6B52E387C386420258176B38CA4A.jpgAfter spending a lovely couple of weeks with T+B in Cronulla I flew back to NZ on 23rd May for a few days of exploring before my two and a half month house sit in Nelson. I arrived in Christchurch at 11pm and managed to get the last bus into the city for a one night stay in the YHA hostel before heading northwards towards Nelson. I wanted to see how much Christchurch had changed since my visit last year and although the rubble has mostly been cleared and construction is going on the whole atmosphere of the city felt very 'flat' to me. I spoke at length to a couple of residents who had the same message, they were very appreciative of how fortunate the city had been by comparison with other earthquake hit zones around the world, but four years on there is a feeling of despondency and frustration with the speed of re-generation. Of course it must have taken a very long time to inspect, clear and make safe and to repair the basics of infrastructure but nonetheless many residents are still living in leaky damaged homes. The container mall has grown and everywhere small fast food cabins offering international cuisine have sprung up and murals and plantings definitely enhance the CBD.936D0368B01F5F17A03267A28190E51D.jpg937ACE200410D621FA64F2DAC37C0FFA.jpg936BAB14987AEAB76D051648D41EF7FC.jpg936A7446A50492D347B162609E2A8F08.jpg93657037996DB6ED8D478429D76049F0.jpg The historic Regent Street is as lovely as ever and gave me my first contact with a 'Steam Punk'9368F8BB0E7BB8FCE3F12C31314D1851.jpg9367ECF893E72977F2551DA80F9B5C93.jpg but overall the optimism and determination that I experienced last year was missing. There is major row going on about the cathedral between those who would like to 'graft' a sympathetic new design onto what is left of the historic building and those who insist that it should be rebuilt in it's original form. Meanwhile the ruin of this iconic building sits sadly in the centre of what was called 'The Garden City' although there is not much evidence of this beauty now. 93BA85189CA6EB6BEFE4C390572362AA.jpg Most predictions are that it will take another ten years to get this city back into shape and meanwhile the alcoholism and depression rates of residents continue to rise. I had felt inspired by the possibilities for the future of Christchurch during my visit last February but I was glad to leave it behind this time.9366D5400C950AE6CB5EB71E8CCA067D.jpg
I caught the late afternoon Intercity bus to Kaikoura, which is famous for whale watching, and arrived at 6.30pm in the dark and with rain lashing down so I was not able to see the view from the YHA hostel until the next morning. When I did I amazed. The, very good, hostel is located at one end of the bay and has views across to the snow capped mountains beyond.93E721EB0EBC36EEBC585AB174775FE8.jpg93E905EECE75812314E7F724929364AC.jpg93E80C8ED6147F5B6A596A17FDBB18D7.jpg I made the most of my one day in this spectacularly beautiful place with a walk along the coast into the small town itself in the morning and then a three hour walk around the peninsula in the afternoon. The peninsula walk passes two seal colonies and these beautiful marine mammals are obviously used to plenty of human company because they bask in the sun right alongside the walkway and even on the boardwalk itself.93EA7FF6B3F82FCB23114E4FEBB11A3D.jpg93ED6F7BBC2E1ADE0BC9B10AA8237ABB.jpg93EBBE0CC04CA96FCD689B64BCED2E97.jpg93EEA508E8E7033D81364744E0D421FF.jpg93EFCCC30A1D9ED75788275D0E5E7431.jpg The cliff top views along the walk around to South Bay are stunning and then a half hour walk across the headland takes you back into Kaikoura town. I caught up with three other women on this last stretch and we made our way into the town together and spent a pleasant hour exchanging travel stories over delicious fish and chips.
I had two nights in Kaikoura (and could certainly have spent longer there) then caught the morning Intercity bus to Renwick in the centre of the Marlborough wine growing region. My accommodation there turned out to be a real bonus. I had booked to share a dorm room in the only backpackers lodge in the tiny town but when I arrived there were only four residents, including me, in the eight bedroomed place so I was given a double room with a king sized bed, crisp white sheets, fluffy white towels and a tv. All this at no extra cost so, for the equivalent of £15 per night, this was probably the best bargain of my travels so far this year. Watsons Bay Backpackers deserves every one of its excellent reviews and the owners, Paul and Pat were so welcoming and friendly. It is such a pity because they really feel the need to retire and the place is on the market but so far there have been no takers. If it closes as a backpackers it will be a great loss to travellers and probably to the local community. I had intended to hire a bike from the hostel to do a wine tour but because it is so centrally located and there are lots of small wineries right next door to each other I was able to visit them on foot. After a few hours walking and complimentary tastings at seven wineries I was very pleased not to be in charge of any vehicle!
Arriving in Nelson on 28th May I had one night with the homeowners before they headed off to Germany and I have now settled into a comfortable routine with the animals, two dogs and a cat. The dogs, lab/mastin cross (Drake) and Jack Russell (Lily) are very obedient and affectionate and we are having a lot of fun together and Tommy the cat stays mostly outside so he is no problem at all.94483F629306FE6889A30BE6AEA8FB88.jpgUnfortunately Drake has arthritic hips so cannot do the long walks I was hoping for although I'm sure that Lily would keep going all day. They get two half hour walks plus an afternoon run on the beach each day and are used to being left in their kennel/run for a few hours at a time so I am able to get some serious walking and exploring in by myself. 94474AA8E490EEEDF3F0A01302E24DC8.jpgThe house is very comfortable and although there is no heating except in the living room there is a big wood burning stove and a woodshed full of lovely logs. Once I get this going it is possible to keep all the areas that I am using warm and it is so cosy to curl up on the sofa with a good book especially when it is raining. Although the weather has been very changeable it is also very mild considering it is winter here and some days I am walking in just a t-shirt. The homeowner left me the use of her library card, her bike and her car so I am perfectly comfortable and occupied. Nelson town itself is 5kms away and there is a cycle path right into it from outside the front door. I haven't used the bike yet but have walked it several times. The 'dog beach' is not safe for swimming so it is literally like a dogs playground and a great place for them to be off lead and 'socialise' although it is 10km away so I have to drive them there. We have Wakapuaka Cemetery a half hour walk along the cycle path and many dog owners use this as the paths wind their way up a hillside covered in trees that are full of birdsong. It is a beautifully serene place to meander through and at each turn of the loop there are brilliant views of Nelson Haven.944643C00AF300936901262C754BB2BE.jpg
On Sunday I did a three hour walk which took me uphill to 'The Centre of New Zealand' 94497A5A910DE37F778539B2B938D304.jpg944A98EBE13199D637C92737E2C8CC32.jpg944C5D1DFE5ED2D6674A0192145C324F.jpgand then back down via the small but pretty Queen Elizabeth Gardens944E22210F713038BC7034A94E2E9AC1.jpg into the almost deserted town (not many shops open on Sundays). I had time for a beer at the totally deserted 'Freehouse' pub944F411BEBEE1488D4027EDF4F77C8AB.jpg before heading back in a big loop to the house and a trip to the beach with the dogs.
Before I arrived here I joined a group called 'Active Nelson' which has 230+ members any of whom can register an activity on the website so there are plenty of things going on each week. They held their monthly meeting in 'The Freehouse' last Thursday and there were about 20 people there in a truly international gathering. I exchanged 'phone no.s with another English woman who has lived in NZ for 6 years but only just arrived in Nelson and lives about 15mins walk from where I am staying. She runs a mobile hairdressing service and came here on Monday to give me a cut and colour. We shared a bottle of wine and good company and tonight I am visiting her for dinner. It might be safer to walk!
I spent about three nights in Nelson last year and remember writing in this blog 'this is a town I could live in'. My stay here so far has completely re-iterated that thought and I am not surprised that so many people have come here for six moths and ended up staying for life. I am so glad I have another two months here.

Posted by busyboots 21:26 Comments (1)

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