Perth (Yanchep/Two Rocks)

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
Trip End Oct 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Peter and Mary's
What I did
Gravity Discovery Centre
Freemantle Prison
Perth Mint
Farmyard fun

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, September 19, 2011

Once again we're off the map – the map in the car’s GPS that is. We’re travelling down the new Indian Ocean drive which connects Cervantes and the Jurien Bay areas directly to the northern suburbs of Perth, and Chris didn’t update the data in the GPS before we left.  In our direction the highway leads directly to Yanchep/Two Rocks where Peter and Mary have their home and where we’ve planned to stay for a few days.  In the other direction it takes endless carloads of tourists to the Jurien Bay area, but unfortunately, this financial influx is also off the map of the local businesses.  They just haven’t realised that they need to lift their game.  Hopefully they’ll figure it out soon otherwise folk will pass them by…

Before we got to Yanchep, we drove through the barrages of sand dunes advancing east from the coastline across the Lancelin Defence Training Area and once again we were the highest object off the ground other than the few stray emus strutting their stuff up and down the ice white dune-sides.

In only 150km the sandscape changes to treescape as extensive forests of pine trees line the road.  Nestled in them are large countryside bush-blocks sporting a variety of homes and hobby farms – not large enough to be a going concern, but large enough to have space to enjoy the environment without falling over your neighbour’s washing line.

Peter and Mary were next door neighbours to Megan’s parents in Adelaide for five years and we know them from living in the area at the same time.  We’d planned to simply ask if we might be able to plug into their power for a few days, but Mary had other ideas and had generously made up beds in the spare rooms for us all.  Luxury!

So we had a base to recharge, reorganise and even do a little exploring.  Most of all, we had space to move and the kids had jobs around the place rather then just the 4x3 area that we’d called home for the past 10 weeks.

Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him, Peter had booked a couple of weeks in Bali and was flying out on the evening of the day that we arrived.  Nevertheless, we managed to catch up with him before Mary whisked him away to the airport.  It’s a strange world where it’s cheaper to have a 2 week holiday in Bali rather than spend a week away in Australia.

So, with a base, we pitched in.  Matthew made himself busy helping with feeding the ducks, chickens and sheep.  Caitlyn collected the eggs – but was a bit confounded the first time she did it because for her, eggs come from the supermarket!  Shame that Garry and Judy don’t still have their property…  We did confuse the poor girl by asking her where on the chicken, they put the laser barcode printer that marks the eggs. 

The back lawn got a good work out with the kids playing ball games, chasing games and animal chasing games.  Matthew now realises that gates keep animals in!  The result was that we spent an interesting hour herding chickens and ducks which is slightly easier than herding cats – but not much.

All three kids (we include Mary here!) had a great day building a new chook roosting box.  We left them to it and after a number of hours of sawing, screwing and banging, they emerged with their new chipboard creation complete with straw ready for more eggs.  We’ve yet to break the news that we’re not having chickens at home…

The closest town to our location is Two Rocks – it’s most famous (or infamous) for the start that Alan Bond made on making it a harbour for his attempts on the Americas Cup. The cornerstone of the project was an outrageous proposal to develop nearly 20,000 acres of the windswept Indian Ocean foreshore next to Yanchep National Park into a satellite city for Perth: Sun City.  Bondie reckoned that 200,000 people would move to the 60,000 blocks of land he was going to create after he’d lobbed $250M into the affair.  They stated building in the early 70’s and had the marina and surrounds done by ’74 ready to host the Cup in 1977, but then the whole lot fell flat: Nothing sold, the ’77 Americas Cup was held in Newport and Bond had to sell out to the Tokyo Corporation because of the 70’s credit crunch.

The result today is a beautiful marina and facilities surrounded by a sleepy village of holiday homes, a post office, the IGA, a couple of specialty shops and a real estate agent (somebody’s got to clean up after Bond).  Two Rocks is perfect as a nearby local stop for Peter and Mary (especially with the bigger facilities 30km down the road at Joondalup), but it’s not the holiday and yachting mecca that Bond planned.

The leaning tower of – not Pisa

As something totally different from gorges, beaches and wild flowers, we went to the Gravity Discovery Centre that was a 15 minute drive away in Gingin.  The GDC is part of the Australian International Gravitational Observatory (the PR part) and its main feature is the leaning tower, a steel gantry that shoots 45m into the sky at an angle of 15 degrees – that’s nearly 3 times the angle of the (more famous) leaning tower of Pisa.  It was built so that everyone could recreate the experiments of Galileo by dropping items of different weights from the top of the tower into the sand pit below and prove that light objects fall at the same rate as heavy objects.  OK – let’s try it!

We went through the various other experiments and exhibits relatively quickly – the kids enjoyed floating the polystyrene balls in the jet of air; and seeing how long they could get the tennis balls to spiral round the giant black hole model from the second storey.  Chris: 8 seconds, Matthew: 7.75, and Caitlyn – well we didn’t manage to start the stopwatch before she threw the tennis ball straight down its throat.  We’ll give her 0.5s and remember never to put her in charge of the USS Palomino.  (Google it…)

And then up the tower.  It wasn’t a windy day – in fact at ground level it was dead calm – but the breeze was sure as heck blowing when we got to the top and whistling through the railings.  While we’re sure that the tower wasn’t swaying but to Chris it felt like it.  Not for the kids who belted to the top with their balloons full of different amounts of water ready and poised to release them through the tubes onto the target below.  And they would have been dispatched immediately if they’d not been told to wait so that they could be timed/videoed.

3-2-1-go and they were gone.  Splat and they both arrived on the sand at the same time – give or take the experimental error of Caitlyn letting go when we said "go".  Darn – Galileo was right.  We looked out at the view from the tower: Endless tree tops.  Galileo had a better view!

Tip: If you want 20% off the entry pass, don’t use the expired (doh) voucher on the GDC’s website, grab a copy of the Perth Visitors Guide (copies are available in the GDC foyer) and there’s a current voucher inside.  Voila!

Fremantle Prison

Since Yanchep is about 65km north of Perth, we decided to do a day trip down to Fremantle and then into the CBD and round up all the things we wanted to do in a single big day rather than separate treks to town.  Both of us have been to Perth before and the children would rather be messing around on a farm, so this was a compromise that would let us all tour the Fremantle Prison, the Perth Mint and Kings Park.  By that time, we figured they’d want to get back to check on the eggs!

Ignoring the faithful John Cleese until we were nearly there (we followed the coast road not the freeway that the GPS wanted to send us down) we parked right outside the prison and walked in 2 minutes before the 11am “Doing Time” tour.  Our tour guide Colin was a ruddy and dry character who (deliberately) barked his orders out for all the group’s members to sit down on the bench just inside the 'new arrivals’ hall.  He was dressed in a stockman’s coat with Akubra hat and a ring of keys jangling from a long chain.  Our jailer!  He wasn’t kidding with his instructions though and it took a few moments for some of the folk to sit down and do as they were told.  The door was slammed behind the last person and a couple of late arrivals for the tour were admonished with a scathing volley of sarcasm.  If this was the way the whole tour was going to be run, it was going to be interesting to see how folk would handle it – and it was an interesting tour!

The prison was only closed down in 1992 and it’s a stark and austere place.  Hewn out of a rocky hill, the cut stone was used to build the place – which explains the myriad of tunnels into the rock.  (The tunnel tour is a different excursion that we couldn’t go on because both kids were too young).  We went through the different cell blocks – juveniles (yes, they had kids in there: “Remember that” said Colin, glaring at some of the children, while sneaking a sly grin to their parents), short, medium and long term blocks; the kitchens, exercise yards and the solitary cells.  The A-Frame where prisoners were flogged with a cat-o-nine tails still stands in the yard outside solitary and as Colin was telling us about it, two of the (other) children on the tour started speaking over him.  Big mistake!  Colin let go with a barking of orders for the kids to be quiet or he’d have them flogged – all in jest of course, but one little girl was almost in tears and spent the rest of the tour firmly welded to her Dad’s leg.  We’re not quite sure what the parents thought.  Our two remained well behaved – as always.  Nearly always…

Finally we went into the execution chamber, a harsh and functional room next to solitary that boasted a single chair, a jarrah beam with rope and noose (not the originals – those were in the museum) over a pair of massive jarrah doors in the floor that opened onto a 10ft drop.  We held the kids as Colin described in graphic and gory detail how an execution took place: On Monday, at 8am as the first chime of the clock struck: Ker-clunk.  It was all over by 8:15 – just in time for breakfast…

There certainly was no luxury or indeed comfort afforded the prisoners – they were there to do their punishment, and the prison, by design, is a functional place, but the flip side is that the buildings are a magnificent piece of history that deserves preserving.

Sidenote: Turns out that Colin’s wife was from England, Abingdon in fact – and lived only a couple of streets from where Mum & Dad lived.  What was that about six degrees of freedom?  Small world!

The Mint – keeping the dosh in WA

We lunched in an Asian eatery that boasted everything from no-legs to lots-of-legs cooked in a myriad of different ways with different sauces (we had curry and chinese) before heading into the Perth Mint.  Megan and Chris had been before, but they hadn’t twigged that the mint was a WA State organisation, not a Federal establishment, so all the profits go to the state.  Greedy buggers!  They don’t produce regular legal tender as does the federal mint in Canberra, but a range of commemorative and bullion coins for collectors.  The bullion coins are legal tender, but we doubt that the local IGA would be happy giving you change!

One of the highlights of the visit (in addition to the guided tour) was the pouring of a gold bar ($340,000 worth don’t you mind): After heating the crucible to a mere 1300C, the bar gets poured in less than 10 seconds, dunked into a vat of water and then tossed out as an ingot in less than a minute.  Then you find out that it’s the same piece of gold that they’ve been melting and casting for the past 10+ years.  Clearly not much gets lost in the process – which is also why you don’t get to hold it – but it’s an impressive show.

If you want to hold a bar, then there’s one under lock and Perspex that you can try and lift.  Matthew couldn’t with one hand, so he tried with two, but nearly got both arms stuck in the small opening.  Chris managed to lift it, but it was darn heavy.  Of course, it would become a lot lighter if it had been able to be taken away!

We got some nice gifts from the shop (contributing more to the WA economy) and then zipped up to Kings Park to look back over the CBD and Swan River.  It’s certainly changed and grown since we were here last – the resources boom has really injected some money into the economy – but we thought that the city had lost some of its charm to the chains of big business – and the gridlocked traffic: If that’s a measure of prosperity then it’s all theirs!  We have to admit though, that given the opportunity to invest in transportation infrastructure, the WA government did the right thing at the right time and built rail networks and roads that have enabled the expansion (Adelaide could have learnt a lesson or three in that department) – it’s just that Perth is so different to the vast nothingness of the remainder of the state.

The serene rolling green lawns of Kings Park are a beautiful contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city below, and the kids made the most of the grassy slopes by rolling down them in an attempt to get dizzy.  We stopped to look at the maze of freeways linking north to south knowing full well that we’d be on them when we went south – then we launched ourselves into the gridlock to get back to Yanchep and the sanctuary of Mary and Peter’s house.

Before leaving Perth, we called into Kylie and Lee’s home.  Kylie is Mary’s daughter and they have a lovely little home about 20km away.  Lee works up north in the Pilbara on a 8 day-on-6-off arrangement that suits them and their two children better than the old 3 weeks away at a time that Lee had been working.  They were in the middle of finalising a block of land purchase in the neighbouring estate that will give them as much space as Peter and Mary and get them out of living in their neighbour’s pockets.  It was great to see Kylie and meet Lee as we’d known Kylie when she lived in Adelaide at the same time as her Mum.  And the kids had a ball playing together as well.

The night before we left, Mary came home with their mini quad bike that she’d had fixed.  While she claimed that she needed to get it done for Lachlan (Kylie & Lee’s son) to ride, it also meant that Matthew could have a go – something that he’d been hanging out to do since the day we got there.  Nothing was safe!  In his first solo round the paddock after Mary rode round on the back to ensure he knew what to do (brave lady!), he managed to drive into the boundary fence.  Next time round, he was teaching Caitlyn how to ride (now that he was so experienced) and she just about went over the handle bars.  Luckily it got dark before there was too much damage done – and before he tormented the dog next door to distraction.

And that’s it

Then it was time to go.  Farwell nice tiled shower, bedroom with real floors and walls, kitchen and convenient mod-cons.  Hello 6x4 caravan, push out beds and all-together-this-fine-weather living again.

Thanks to Mary and Peter’s generosity, we had a great wind-down week, now time to start on the homeward bound leg of the trip – and see some more of WA.

Oh, and Westpac finally paid up to replace Chris’s phone.  No thanks to the amount of messing around he spent trying to get them to ship him the same model in time before we left Perth and had a stable address.  In the end, he phoned them up, told them that he just wanted the cash and be done with all the bother.  They did just that and we picked up (probably the last one in the state) at the local Tandy 20km down the road – thanks to the nice lady there who put it aside for Chris after he explained the issues.  Sometimes things do work out.

We’re now both back on line for the remainder of the trip – assuming Chris doesn’t drop his device in the drink again…
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shaz on

On the home leg guys. You are makong me get iychy feet mmm where shall I go,

sparksfamily on

Hi Guys,
Great read. It brings back some distant memories. We had a big day cleaning today. The Queanbeyn River is now running red from all the dirt we washed down the drain. After a while I had to put my sun-glasses on as the van turned out to be a bright white colour - we had forgotten. Safe traveling and make the most of the time you have left.
All the best, Neil

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