Monday, August 13, 2012

Fremantle and Rottnest Island

After what must have been my shortest ever flight to Australia, all of circa 4 hours, I landed in Perth, Western Australia. It was rather novel, completing my obligatory landing card, to not be ticking the “tourist” box, rather, opting for the “migrating resident” that I had now become.

Greeted by a light afternoon rain, I hot footed it to the shuttle bus to make my way direct to Fremantle, known locally as Freo.

Freo is only some 30 mins away by train from Perth, but still some 4127 kms from Sydney on the opposite coast. An impressively maintained little town, replete with colonial buildings, it looks untouched for the last couple of hundred years. That said, I don’t think South Terrace would have been known as “Cappuccino Strip” way back then. A moniker that is richly deserved, judging by the amount of bloody fantastic coffee I had whilst there. Double shot anyone?

I was in Freo for 5 nights, having my own apartment some 10 minutes walk from the centre of town. From the moment I bought my Vegemite and Mac ‘n Cheese from Coles, I felt like a local. My first morning breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup and a flat white cemented this feeling.

My time in Freo flew by in a haze of some great experiences. Putting aside the famous Watson’s Bay chippy in Sydney, for me, some of the best fish and chips in Australia are to be found here in Western Australia. It wasn’t long before I found my way back to Cicerello’s (est. 1903) at the fish boat harbour. And what visit to fish boat harbour is complete without a cheeky visit to Little Creatures micro brewery? Sat in the late afternoon sun, sipping a chilled pint of cider, brewed on the premises. Did somebody say “promised land”?

One fine winters morning, a short train ride had me at Cottesloe Beach. More famous in the UK over the last few years for notoriety gained by shark attacks in the shallow waters off the beach. Safe to say, I didn’t venture into the water but I did have the whole beach to myself. I have to keep pinching myself to remind me that it really is winter. As you can see from the picture, not a bad winters day by anyone’s standards. With a golf course that overlooks the sea, one friend had suggested that I get myself some clubs, move to Cottesloe, and grow old. Not bad advice.

One full day of my visit to Freo was taken up by a visit to the mercurial Rottnest Island, home to the small, indigenous marsupials known as Quokkas. Rottnest is a short (if somewhat choppy) 30 min ferry ride away and is like a little oasis.

Hiring a bike for the day, the island is small enough to cycle the length and breadth, discovering amazing little beaches and coves. And that is exactly what I did. Freewheeling down long empty hills, Missy Higgins on the ipod and the ubiquitous smell of eucalyptus. Boy, was I ever in Australia. And the Quokkas? Judge for yourself.

And 5 days later, I was once again packing my, rather oversized, North Face duffle bag and making my way to Perth by train. The beautiful city of Perth, Kings Park, and Uncle Doug awaits.

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