Sunday, October 20th, 2019 – Perth, WA
Distance travelled 0 kilometres ! (we did walk well over 20 kilometres though)
The morning initially looked like a change for the worse weather wise. The sky was very grey and forbidding. On the premise that we would probably only be in Perth once in our lives, I had wanted to begin exploring as soon as I woke up at 6 a.m. Lucie, though, insisted on eating a leisurely breakfast and, by the time we were ready to go outside, the sun had come out and it had become warm and clear. The forecast was that it would not peak as high as the day before and that it would “only” reach 25 ° C.
Perth lies on the meanders of the river Swan and the sea is about 10 km from the city centre. Like Sydney had been, it was also a great city for walking. Australians are an outdoor people and this is reflected in the urban planning. If there needs to be a motorway, fair enough, but the required bridges and underpasses for cyclists and pedestrians are guaranteed to be there and are “designed in” to the concept rather than clumsily added as afterthoughts. There is a pleasing “wholeness” to everything. There are parks and car parks, right next to the urban expressways, but cleverly arranged so that one can easily get from point A to point B and usually whilst surrounded by greenery.
We had elected for a day of walking and public transport. It felt strange to walk past the Harley which was parked in the street outside the Mercure and set out for the city without it.
Close to the hotel was a swanky marina, still in the final stages of development. We walked over a pair of elegant bridges to a walkway along the banks of the Swan river that was fringed, in places, by modernistic carvings and statues.
There was scarcely any traffic at all as it was a Sunday morning. Using the well laid out paths we navigated our way through the greenery to the foot of a large bluff that overlooks the city. The almost sub-tropical climate meant that the vegetation was quite lush and there were green trees and glossy-leaved shrubs everywhere. We knew from our old friends, Richard and Heather, that Perth had an impressive Botanical Garden which was on the top of the bluff. There were gentle paths upwards, but we climbed an impressive modern steel staircase, known locally as Jacob’s Ladder. At the top of its 242 steps, which were also thronged with earnest young athletes just climbing and descending as their morning exercise, was a viewing point that made the climb well worthwhile.
Just around the corner, we then found ourselves in the King’s Gardens, a beautiful park with a botanical garden and even more spectacular views over the whole city.
We had a brunch in a pleasant café where we already felt the need to drink plenty of water. Then we spent a happy couple of hours walking through the gardens. As we both love plants, this was pleasant indeed. A giant Baobab tree was particularly impressive.
The park is thoughtfully laid out with “sections” of similar plants in close proximity and with a huge variety of well-labelled specimens. One section included a high-level walkway through the very crowns of a some eucalyptus trees. This came complete with a glass-bottomed bridge through which the avian life below the canopy could be observed.
The park was thronged with people and it was really very lovely.
Our perambulations had actually carried us quite a long way, so we located the nearest train station and set off to walk there. Although we were in the middle of the city, this led us to a rough path that led through an area of bush-like wilderness which was equally as wild, if not quite as lonely, as anything we had seen in the outback.
The second item on our agenda was a trip to Fremantle, which lies on the seafront and is a southern suburb of Perth. Given its association with the Royal Perth Yacht Club and Australia’s periodic defences of (and attempts to win back) the prestigious Americas Cup, we expected a somewhat more classy resort. When we arrived on the train, what we found was a mess of buffet meals, tourists and tacky souvenir shops. It was a little bit hippy and a little bit hipster. In one part of Fremantle there are beaches that, reputably, cater for nudists and gays, but these are seemingly quite far from the centre. We did locate a beach that was more central. As is customary, I dipped my feet in the water, but why anyone would ever waste five minutes of their life sitting on it, neither of us could imagine.
The streets were crammed. In the roads, a never ending stream of vehicles, many high-end or customised, drove round and round the block. On the pavements, people meandered along either perusing the homogenous tat in the shops or watching the gleaming vehicles. According to Richard and Heather, whose daughter lived near the coast to the north of the centre, the more affluent inhabitants of Perth had long-since switched to going to the beaches elsewhere. Having seen Fremantle, we were not surprised.
What we did manage to locate was a pub selling non-alcoholic beer. It was the first time we had come across it and it was in quite a “rough” looking pub. Perfect ! Lucie found the beer very welcome on what was a hot day. I wondered what the landlady in Gunning, in far away New South Wales would have made of it. That was it for Fremantle, we took the train back to the city.
One thing that dominated our time in Perth was the flies. They were everywhere, outside and inside, it was only in our sealed hotel with air-conditioning that we were able to escape from them for a while. At that point, we had suffered from them the most in Uluru, but only close to the stone itself. Elsewhere, there were few, until we got to Perth which was the worst of all. Over time, we got quite used to them. Their occurrence seems to be related to the season and to the place.
In those few lines above, it looks as if we did not do much, but we saw a lot of the city and we were glad we had the chance. We had dinner just around the corner from the hotel, in a Vietnamese bistro. We sat by the window and drank vivid, green drinks. Outside, we could see across a green park, with palm trees, to the river Swan beyond.
Afterwards, because once we left Perth, we would probably lose the internet again, we developed a rough plan for our trip back across the whole continent to Melbourne.