Saturday, 3 December 2011

Comin' At Ya from WA

WA - that's Western Australia for those of you not in the know.  We also call it the place where C2 works.  We figured it was about time that J and I had an insight into C2's other home and if a tan happened to be a side-effect two weeks before leaving for Canada, well so be it.

Perth was the gateway for the goldrush and remains the center of Australian mining today; it's why we're here!

We are four days settled into C2's lovely home away from home, a suite at the Pan Pacific Perth hotel where they know him well.  We've fallen into a routine of sorts, rise early (given the 3 hour jet lag), head to the Pan Pacific Club for breakfast and newspaper, return to our room where the beds are made and the bathroom tidied.  I could get used to that part!  Spend the day on some adventure, return to the hotel, shower, head back to the Pan Pacific Club for drinks and games of chess, and then to a Perth restaurant for a late dinner.  No dishes, no house-cleaning, no changing sheets, free food; golly where do I sign up?  It's been a nice break for all of us, even if C2 worked through much of it and Murphy wasn't with us.

Did you know that the city of Perth is THE most isolated city in the WORLD?  Australia is such a contradiction and perhaps nothing embodies that contradiction more than Perth.  This land of Australia  is hostile, prone to extreme heat, deadly bushfires, cyclones, the most dangerous spiders and snakes in existence, beautiful beaches prowled by Great White sharks, fields of jellyfish, and other lethal sea creatures, and yet these people impose themselves on the landscape, force it to resemble a first-world European nation with a twist, and pretend that Perth isn't actually the end of the world and thousands of kilometres from anything else resembling civilization.

If Melbourne is the Australian London on the Southern Ocean,  then Perth is the Australian Tuscany on the Indian Ocean.  Bizarre but true.  The climate is hot, dry, and arid, the architecture decidedly mediterranean, cyprus trees, palm trees, cacti all grow though dusty red soil down steep hills to the Swan, the salt water river that spills into the Indian Ocean.  The CBD, (central business district), downtown to the rest of us, is well-planned, architecturally interesting, respectful of its' history, and has some killer shopping, yet another surprise from the most isolated city in the world.

Thompson's Bay Rottnest Island

But it is the sea, oh, the sea that is so seductive in this part of the world.  The impossibly azure blue of the Indian Ocean.  Earlier this week, we took a ferry 22kms off the coast of Perth to a small haven called Rottnest Island.  It was so dubbed since the original Dutch founders were convinced that the small marsupials populating the island in large numbers were large rats.  Rottnest means Rat's Nest in Dutch, charming no?  In fact those marsupials were not rats but Quokkas, a small member of the Kangaroo/Wallaby family which exist only on two islands off the Western Australian coast.

Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island

Anyhoo, Rottnest is a lightly developed, car-free refuge of magnificent natural wonder.  From the ferry dock, we hired bicycles to explore this scrubby island, play "spot the Quokkas", and frolic in the natural reefs and basins.   We were particularly enchanted by the breathtaking beauty of the basin at Thompson's Bay with its' hard coral reefs, stunning water colour contrasts, and powder white sand.  These beaches are not surrounded by tall resorts and chain restaurants but instead by natural sand dunes, wind-swept bush and Eucalyptus, and the occasional day-tripper parking their bike before hurling themselves with delight into the water.

Thompson's Bay Rottnest Island

That these waters are also the play and hunting grounds of the Great White Shark and several other species of shark as well as other nasty sea creatures is a concern only that one is reminded to always be alert and to exercise appropriate caution.  Pretty sure, I wouldn't dive off of a boat off of Rottnest to swim, as it was I got stung by a Marine Stinger (jellyfish) off of Geordie Bay close to shore.

Closer to Perth, we spent a few hours at the local beach, Cottlesoe Beach.  Cottlesoe which rivals anything I have seen in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean has a very different vibe to our Melbourne beaches.  St. Kilda beach which is our local beach in Melbourne has an energetic, frantic vibe, music throbs in the background, frisbee games are played in the water, skateboarders and rollerbladers range up and down the boardwalk, and the barbie is always sizzling something.   Melbourne does not get a lot of really hot weather so when the temperatures do rise, everyone heads to the beach.

Cottlesoe Beach - Perth

Perth on the other hand had over 60 days of temperatures in excess of 30c last summer.  Cottlesoe has a languid, calm, organic vibe.  People here are used to heat and days at the beach are as familiar as vegemite on toast.  To us Canadians, who mostly experience beaches on 7-day Air Canada charters where we use minimal amounts of sunscreen to maximize sun exposure only to mournfully watch our burns flake off on the flight home, the novelty of living near a beach has not worn off.

Cottlesoe Beach
Cottlesoe Beach

Last evening we celebrated C2's birthday at the King Street Bistro.  We were seated at a small table beside an open window offering full views of the Friday night revellers drifting by the Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, and Prada shops on King Street.  As we chose wine from a most comprehensive list, and were amiably served by one young man from Paris and another from Stockholm, I think it's safe to say that Perth has arrived.

Harbour Bay - Fremantle


Elizabeth said...

What gorgeous photos -- you are certainly surrounded by much beauty.

Jen said...

I did not make it as far as perth in 1993...guess we'll have to add it to the list of places we'd like to see if we ever make to Oz while you are there!

Anonymous said...

TERRIFIC pictures C1 and C2! Perth looks so awesome, I want to go now. Right now.


Sheila Cook said...

Who'd have thought...little old Perth, huh? Not how I imagined it at all. I'm very delighted it has captured your interest. Sx

Melissa Miller said...

I love your zest for new adventures! You've made me crave a holiday.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine - you're killing me!


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