Trip Start Jun 05, 2006
Trip End May 03, 2007

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Monday, April 2, 2007

It was nice to get back to the hostel in Perth for a night and see some familiar faces.  I stayed in a dorm room with Teresa and Kelly from the South West WA trip and went to knock for my old room-mates.  Elisabeth, she of Norway, had actually checked out of the hostel and was still floating around the common areas waiting for a flight to Queensland in two days' time.  She was kind of winging it by sleeping on people's floors...I had to laugh at her audacity!

I caught up on my emails (one of the great pleasures of coming out of the wilderness) and hit the sack pretty early.  The next morning I was due to go and maroon myself on Rottnest Island for two days.  I couldn't wait.  I probably should have planned exactly how I was going to get out there though.  Me being me, I thought there'd be loads of boats going out to Rottnest from Fremantle  each day.  Not quite.  I took the train from Perth to Fremantle nice and early and then found I had to wait three hours for a ferry.

The pace of life on the island, as I found when booking up the hostel there, is significantly slower than the rest of the world.  Back in Sydney I was left on hold for 26 minutes while I organised accommodation there.  The Rottnest Island Authority is pretty much like the on-island Mafia. Everything is overseen by them. You have to pay $5 extra just to hire a friggin' pillowcase at the youth hostel.  I felt sure I would wake up on my first morning on the island to find a horse's head next to me.

The ride over to Rottnest was pretty choppy, but I had Kelly and Teresa (my Essex girls!) on the boat to distract me.  The two of them were going over to the island for the day so it was nice to have some company.  I'm telling you, stepping onto that island was like stepping back a few decades.  It was pretty reminiscent of Magnetic Island over in Queensland.  It's just a really good, wholesome family friendly place with no cars and just one fast food outlet.  Big up to Red Rooster for bribing the Mafia into getting a branch onto the island.

I next went to check in at the central reservations point.  I was staying in the only hostel on the island and it just happened to be converted from a load of old Army barracks.  The pretty cool system actually involved all your bags being delivered from the boat to the accommodation, which was really cushdy.

So I was free to have a big old island adventure with Teresa and Kelly, who literally had three hours before they caught the last boat home.  We didn't do that much, just a small loop of the east side of the island followed by a lovely stint on a white sandy beach.  It left the pair of them absolutely devastated that they weren't staying longer.  The only town on the island is the bit at Thomson Bay.  Here, there's a selection of holiday cottages and some shops and cafes that lead onto looping cycle paths that will take you all round the island.  I was salivating at the prospect of exploring the following day. 

Another enchanting aspect of Rottnest is the little quokkas that run riot all over the island.  When Rottnest was discovered, those well learned explorers believed the little creatures to be rats.  Hence the name 'Rottnest'.  Hardly trying to make it a marketable tourist destination were they?  It seems as though they failed to consider the sandy white beaches and turquoise blue ocean when naming the place.  They probably wanted to keep it to themselves and make everyone believe they'd catch  some sort of a plague if they visited.  Bastards.  Anyway the quokkas are absolutely lovely.  They're probably my favourites among the bizarre Australian creatures I've encountered in all this time.  To call them tame doesn't even do them justice.  I imagine they'd crawl into your lap and happily be petted if you  had a crumb of food about your person.  But you're not supposed to feed them, because the furry little critters are getting too fat.

I said goodbye to Teresa and Kelly as they boarded the last ferry back.  And I headed off to the island's only pub on my own.  I was truly shipwrecked in paradise.  The pub had one of those great beer garden atmospheres with 'musical entertainment' (some old crazy strumming away on a guitar) and children and dogs and people just enjoying themselves.  I had some food there and caught the free bus over to the hostel. 

It was rather odd when I arrived there as the reception office was shut and I had no idea where my bag had been dumped. But the fact that it was dark may have had something to do with it. The Kingstown Barracks were kind of spooky too.  But I bit the bullet and headed across the deserted courtyard (where the wind had picked up to a screaming roar) to find myself some sheets and pillowcase on a deserted chamber maid's trolley and my backpack dropped under a sign that was clearly labelled 'Bag Drop Point'.  Doh!    The dorm I was staying in was huge with about 12 beds, but everyone was really nice.  I got talking to an Aussie girl who was staying with her mum and was having a break from a study she was doing on Aboriginal culture.  I then made for the outdoor shower block, which really wasn't that bad, except that the water barely reached tepid, let alone luke warm.  (We were in the Army after all.)  I had a conversation about this with the Brit who was in the next cubicle.  Another one who thought I was an Aussie.  Enough already!

I didn't get up to much that evening, just coffee and TV in the common room.  In there I caught a few minutes of one of my favourite Aussie TV shows - Bondi Rescue.  It's basically a docusoap about Bondi Beach and the lifeguards who work there.  And every week, without fail, these tousle haired, golden-tanned lifeguards end up wading into the water to pull out flabby, pale Brits who get caught in rip tides.  I love the way in which the narrator at the beginning goes 'And another Englishman calls upon the team for help', during which you see footage of a fast sinking, tattooed Brit reflecting the glare of the sun off his semi-immersed chest because it's so white.  I just wonder how long it takes them to edit out the narrator's convulsions of laughter each week.

The next day I was up and about early and ready to saddle up.  I caught the bus back to Thomson Bay and read The Australian with a nice coffee and a Danish while looking out to sea. Then I queued up at the bike hire place and received my beautiful chariot of steel upon which I would be exploring the island that day.  I was issued with a map that even I could follow. The entire island is only 9km wide and I was going to go all the way round.  Given that my last cycling 'adventure' prior to this had been in Queensland on an extremely ill-fitting bike, I probably shouldn't have been so confident.  But this time I was measured up properly and was even given a man's bike because my inside leg was too long for all the ladies bikes. 

And once I was out on the open road I loved every minute of it.  I stopped off to look at little bays that I'd pass where there'd be no-one around, there was just all this space.  And no cars!  It was amazing.  I spent the best part of the morning going along the coastal road all the way to the western tip of Rottnest.  I stopped at the lighthouse on the way and then came along the north of the island to go for a quick dip and eat my lunch.  At last I had one of my fantasies fulfilled!  Swimming off a deserted beach.  I will never forget that. 

After spending a day meandering around all the little trails over the island, I came back to the settlement for coffee.  I went for another swim at the Thomson Bay settlement and watched all the day trippers leaving the island.  I had one last night on Rottnest before leaving the following morning.  I had some dinner then cycled round to an empty little beach close to my hostel.  The sky had turned this wonderful purple colour and I took some pics of a great sunset.  I was absolutely gutted I couldn't spend the next day doing exactly the same thing. I had hardly spoken to anyone all day or had done anything particularly significant, but it really was the most relaxing day I could have spent before flying back to Sydney.

I handed my bike back in the next morning with a heavy heart and got ready to board the boat for Fremantle.  It all turned out to be a bit of a rush in the end to make my flight, which was at 1pm, because I had to get the train from Fremantle to Perth and then a bus from the CBD to the airport.  I made it though and surprise, surprise the flight was delayed!  Never mind though.  Easter was just approaching and those lovely Baker's Delight people were giving out free chocolate hot cross buns for us to try.  A fattening fusion of chocolate and religion.  Now you can't go wrong with that, can you?  That was really the first time I'd thought about the impending Easter holidays, which would pass while I spent my last two weeks in Sydney.  Time had really flown between Christmas and Easter.  I'd spent practically a third of the year going from place to place rarely staying in one place for more than three nights.  I'd been in Oz for a long time.  It would soon be time to say my final farewell to Sydney and Australia before leaving the country for good on 16 April.  Exactly how I was going to prepare myself for that, I had no idea.
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