Western Australia 2005
Perth to Freo
15 Sep 2005
So the start of the 'month of travels' began this morning with a whopping five-hour internal flight across to the other side of Australia. Now if you're American or Russian, flying that long and still being in the same country isn't new - but to me it certainly is. I was trying to think of how many countries I could get to within 5hrs of Edinburgh, but gave up when I was well into double figures. They don't call Perth the 'most isolated capital city on Earth' for nothing. It's closer to Singapore than Sydney. I got a ramshackle bus into the city and found where I was staying fairly easily - Perth is very small. Although maybe I've been in the spectacularly sprawling mass of Sydney for too long to appreciate the smaller cities.
After wandering around Perth for a couple of hours I realised I'd pretty much done it. So I changed tactics and took a train out of the city and visited the neighbouring port city of Fremantle. 'Freo' as the locals call it, is about 20mins from Perth, and is a proper working port, with massive container ships loading up right near the centre. The buildings have that old warehouse feel to them, and the ornate plasterwork everywhere reminded me of the restored docks in Hull. That's about it for that comparison though, as it was gloriously sunny and the air didn't have a fishy tang to it. I wandered around for a bit, admiring all the porty-goings on. Both Perth and Fremantle have one major bonus for tourists (and pensioners and students too, come to think of it) in that every bus that crosses the city centre is free. So you can hop on and off as much as you like - provided you know where you're going, of course.
I consulted the famed LP guidebook, and it led me to the 'stunning' and 'fascinating' Maritime Museum of Western Australia. It could quite easily have been both of these things, but unfortunately it was also 'half-closed' for 'renovation', so I'd whizzed around it in about 20 minutes. Still, that meant I went next door into the Fremantle Motor Museum - and that was much better. I'm no petrol-head (still have never got round to driving), but the cars there were great - including some old Formula 1 classics, which really got me interested. The entire collection is owned by one man (presumably a very rich man) - and he was there in overalls tinkering with one of the displays, doing some renovating of his own.
I know I said in an old post that I'm a museum junkie - but I outdid myself in Freo. In the afternoon I went to the Museum of Shipwrecks, and that was the best of the lot. They had all kinds of exhibits - apparently Western Australia is littered with wrecked ships from the hapless Dutch traders who ploughed into the rocky shores whilst trying to work their way up the coast to the then Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The museum gave the impression that the Dutch were practically hurling their ships onto the hostile shores - particularly the Alhobros Islands (the name means 'look out'). If you're ever in Fremantle I urge you to go - it was fantastic, and I learned all kinds of things I'll be looking out for when I go up the coast on Saturday. But tomorrow - I'm off to look for giant rats...
Locations Visited: Perth , Fremantle