We arrived in the dark of night in Western Australia. The level of excitement at finally getting here was momentous, not dampened in the slightest by the fact that it was at night and we might not actually see anything of the skyline or surrounding landscape. The dimly lit arrival area was host to a plethora of tour operators or drivers waiting a little bit patiently and looking a big bit bored for the passenger arrivals to finally make it out through immigration. Our particular tour Tigress introduced herself and welcomed us to Australia. I let that welcome sink in for a few minutes, that we were actually here was truly amazing and I couldn’t help smiling with complete happiness at the reality of this moment. We were directed to a waiting bus and the remaining 17 people who would be joining us. In Singapore we had yet to introduce ourselves widely so while some faces were familiar we wouldn’t really know anyone until much further on in this tour. In any event those who had also undertaken the tour of New Zealand were joining us in Perth and soon 19 would be 28.
I made a couple of mistakes about Perth, or misplaced assumptions perhaps would be a better way of describing it. I believed Perth was on the southern coast, this particular assumption (despite having a higher Geography I might add) was based on the writing of Perth on the Australian Map, going from left to right its position was something of a confusion. I thought this positioning of the name placed the location on the south coast, when in actual fact it was on the west. Secondly I thought it would be a bit of a backwater and once the glimmers of sunrise flickered through the curtains, I realised instantly how wrong I had been. It is a beautiful city, bordered by the river, spotlessly clean and uplifting in every aspect of its being.
The Rough Guide to Australia puts the population of Perth around 1.5 million people. Built along the banks of the Swan river, famous for its black swans and dolphins, early Western Australian settlers were free, that is they were not criminals but those who wanted to relocate. The reality of spending 6 weeks on a boat saw many of these intrepid travellers ditch their hopes of making it to eastern Australia and disembarked and settled as soon as the boat docked. The large expanse of the Swan River is perfect for boats, canoeing, fishing and a range of water sports, all of which was regularly going on. The City, built on a grid system, is easy enough to navigate so a trek around takes no time really. The newly developed Elizabeth Quay is a popular place for visitors, with play areas for the children and assorted seating, sculptures and cafes and bars for the adults. I loved the design, the views and the welcome of the whole area.
We were shown the City by bus to help orientate ourselves, then we were driven the short distance to Fremantle. Now this was a hidden gem. Quite hip, a university town, with loads of buildings with balconies that reminded me of New Orleans. Beneath were little shops, secondhand bookstores and coffee shops. Each one alluring and inviting to everyone except the Lion. Along the front we could take our pick from the coffee shops in Cappuccino Strip and watch the flood of tourists swarming the streets and browsing the wares on offer. From Freo, as the locals call it, we boarded the Captain Cook, and headed west back to Perth via the Swan river. No sooner had we moved from the wharf when two dolphins emerged from the water and tipped their fins high in the water. I screeched with delight, much to the shock of those seated around me, at seeing these mammals in the wild in the proximity of the boat, but we were unable to snap them as the boat chugged its way hurriedly back toward Perth.
Before Fremantle we stopped momentarily for a paddle in the Indian Ocean at Cottesloe. This small but beautiful sandy beach was littered with families and seniors enjoying the warm weather in the high 30’s. The sea ebbing and flowing on the warm golden sands and me dipping my toes in and feeling like I was five years old again. It was idyllic and so far Australia was living up to my expectations.
On our final day in Perth we wandered around the City streets, locating London Court, with a Tudor facia, this lane was gaily swathed in colourful bunting and little shops and coffee houses bringing a little feel of England with a lot of Australia on offer. It was a lovely place to spend an hour or so idling before striding around the grids of Perth looking at buildings and people before heading back to our hotel. The Tigress had us up early for the next trip to Adelaide so the cases were packed up, the pictures edited and organised, family updated and we were off on our travels again.