A Travellerspoint blog

Adventures on Rottnest Island

sunny 80 °F

Today my AirBnb host Susanne and I headed off for Rottnest Island, a popular tourist destination about 20 miles off the coast near Perth.

More about the history of the island later. We took Rottnest Fast Ferries and rented bikes from them as well. After a smooth 45 minute ride we arrived at the island. We headed down the road.

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The coastline is quite nice, with rolling hills and lots of small bays. It was pretty breezy as well.

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Here's Susanne and me (the lopsided one)

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The island was called Rottnest by the Dutch but it isn't inhabited by rats, but rather by a cool little critter, the quogga

Here's one

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and here are two - they are very used to people (and being fed, I bet) and these guys were hanging out by a picnic table; obviously highly intelligent animals - Yogi Bear class!

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We also ran across an osprey nest on a rock just offshore and later saw the osprey on the wing.

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Our goal was Green Island, a wildlife sanctuary with an offshore island to provide a bit of shelter.

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We had brought snorkel gear and although the water was in the 'you'll get used to it' category, we had a very pleasant swim. Underwater it was mostly seagrass and some nice sized fish. Quite pretty, but I decided not to pack my gopro this trip. I figured I would miss it maybe once or twice and this is definitely one of those times. Just one of those tough calls to try and keep the luggage under control.

After a swim we warmed up on the beach - unfortunately we spent a bit too much time so we were at some risk of missing the last ferry off the island. We started heading back and I suggested we take a shortcut across the island. Miracle of miracles, it actually turned out to be an excellent guess and we made it back with a bit of time to spare. Off on the boat back to Perth and another mighty fine day.

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Posted by tdeits 04:20 Archived in Australia Tagged beach australia island snorkel perth rottnest quogga Comments (0)

Perth

semi-overcast 76 °F

Today my plan is to visit the Western Australia Museum and Art Gallery. I took the train downtown; took about 20 minutes. First stop, downtown Perth. It's a clean, modern city with a lot of arcades, malls and plazas.

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A very walkable community with public transit, both underground and surface rail, very accessible.

The Museum was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. It suffered from Dead Zoo syndrome.

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There was a pretty good exhibition on the evolution of animal life; one item I particularly liked was this fossil of a coelecanth.

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To their credit, there is a sign that says they have embarked on a $346 million project to create an entirely new museum by 2020.

Despite some rather old fashioned features, there was a quite extensive and fairly unblinking gallery describing the history of European/aboriginal relations. Sadly, relations oscillated between half-hearted attempts to establish rights for aboriginals and increasingly Draconian measures to control them, segregate them and ultimately attempt to extinguish their culture. Lots of resonances with the experiences of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples unfortunately. It took me several hours to take the whole thing in and give it some thought.

After that fairly heavy dose of history, I roamed across to the Art Gallery of Western Australia across the plaza. There I discovered a blatant violation of the Iron Law of Museum Closings - they are closed on Tuesday !!??!!

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This was such a stunning development that all I could do was randomly wander for a few hours to end the day. Here's an example of the classic Perth hotel/bar. There are many similar ones all over Perth and Fremantle.

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I also ran across this interesting bit of street art which I call "Evolution of the bloke."

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Finally, I headed up to King's Park above the city around twilight. There is a beautiful garden of Australian plants, many of which were in full bloom. A bit too dark to get good pictures, unfortunately. I did run across this tree - an Australian version of the baobab tree of Madagascar called the boab.

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I did some brief research on this tree. Signs in the park suggest that it is a species that was isolated from the Madagascar baobab when the supercontinent Godwana broke up about 100 million years ago. This appears to be inconsistent with the very close genetic relationship between the boab and the baobob. The strongest current theory is that humans brought the boab to Australia during their migrations 50-60 thousand years ago. This is also consistent with some recent genetic studies that suggest there was a human genetic contribution to the indigenous population from Indian Ocean populations about this time. There is also evidence that the yams eaten in the South Pacific have a genetic contribution from South American yams, suggesting the possibility of yet another ancient cross-ocean interaction among early peoples. I think that is super cool.

I got an extra bonus when trying to get a photo of the baobab -

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A pair of rainbow lorikeets were nesting in the tree and one kindly showed up for a photo before bedding down for the night.

Once again, sunset arrived in style and another day comes to an end.

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Posted by tdeits 03:13 Archived in Australia Tagged trees birds sunset history downtown perth aboriginal Comments (0)

Roaming the outback and back

sunny 78 °F

Well, I don't know if it's officially the Outback, but I did head north out of Perth for a day of visiting the countryside. The first random thing I did was head off on a side road from the main highway lured by a sign for the Western Australia Gravity University Research Center. Of course, my first thought was of a bunch of scientists standing around with an apple going "yup, it does fall down even though we are on the wrong side of the world-how does that work?" Alas, I had foolishly neglected the Iron Law of Public Places and after about a 20 mile drive I found that the Center was closed on Mondays.

The good news was that I was in some pretty undisturbed country by the time I got there

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so I took the opportunity to roam around. It appeared to be the height of wildflower season if you looked closely! There were dozens of kinds of wildflowers, some quite spectacular

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but the great majority were quite small and hidden, but still beautiful. Reminded me of California desert wildflowers in that way.

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There were also a variety of unusual plants that made it clear I wasn't in Kansas any more.

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Up the road, in contrast, is the Australian wheat belt.

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I pressed on, enjoying the view and happening upon the occasional oddity like this -

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My goal was Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles formation. And it was worth the trip

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There are thousands of these things all sticking out of the desert - how they were formed is still unclear.

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There were pinnacles of all shapes and sizes. Here's a small one - a 'minnicle'?

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And, of course, the really small ones are nanicles....

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Another really cool feature of the area is a highly saline lake, Lake Thetis, which is the home of some stromatolites.

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These are mats of bacteria that develop through a combination of accretion and expansion caused by gasses welling up from below. The coolest things about stromatolites is that this life form can be found in the fossil record over 3.5 billion years ago - currently the earliest record of life on Earth. So the picture above would look pretty much the same billions of years ago! (Except for the sky color - oxygen levels were likely lower so the sky and water wouldn't look so blue - the photographers of 3.5 billion years ago would have had to use paleo-Photoshop to get this nice blue color.)

Hit the beach for the usual spectacular sunset and headed home

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Posted by tdeits 14:55 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset outback pinnacles wildflowers Comments (0)

Fremantle and a sunset

sunny 83 °F

I wandered down to Fremantle, about half an hour by car south of my Arbnb in Innaloo. On the way I stopped at a beach to sample the Western Australia beach lifestyle. Perth shares a lot of climatic and geographic features with Southern California and likewise folks are pretty actively involved in outdoor beach activities. Here are a few beach shots.

Some young folks taking lifeguard rescue training.

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A triathalon training club hard at work

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Of course, some surfing

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and sailing

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Setting aside the temptation to swim 5 miles, I proceeded to Fremantle to have brunch.

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Very tasty - corn fritters with poached eggs guacamole and greens!

Fremantle is an old trading town that had a boom during the Australian Gold Rush. As a result of its decline, a lot of the old buildings were preserved through neglect but have been beautifully restored in recent years. Here's a streetscape; several other streets look equally good.

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There is also a thriving art scene and lots of galleries, some in restored freight warehouses.

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After much wandering on a very warm day, a frosty beverage was called for. This brings up another feature of Perth - it is an expensive city. Food is pretty costly (though tipping is not usual, which helps) - this pint cost me about $10 US. It was a pretty good IPA, not a hop monster, hand drawn so it was not over carbonated, but, unfortunately, a bit too cold for my taste. However, by sitting very quietly and drinking very slowly, I manged to choke it down :) .

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To end the day I headed north along the coast. As sunset approached, I decided I needed to find a beach to see my first Indian Ocean sunset. Fortunately, I ran across Tom Simpson beach more or less at random and hustled out to the beach. I made it with maybe 2 minutes to spare, and got some pretty nice images. Here are a couple.

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Wandered a bit farther up the coast and had a nice bite to eat at an outdoor table at Burns Beach. Nice way to end the day.

Posted by tdeits 04:19 Archived in Australia Tagged food sunset beach perth fremantle Comments (1)

Perth

and a word about power

semi-overcast 75 °F

I flew on China Southern from Seoul to Guangzhou and then a long overnight flight to Perth from there. The meals were very good and the seat closely resembled the Korea Air one I showed earlier. Oddly, only about 1/3 of the seats in business class were filled - maybe they don't run an upgrade program? I was able to get some sleep so I arrived in Perth at 6 am feeling vaguely humanoid. My AirBNB host Susanne picked me up at the airport and after a shower I was able to enjoy the day in Perth.

But first a word about power. The single largest practical issue I have faced in my day-to-day life as a world traveler has been power - electrical power - battery power! Getting enough battery power to get through long days on my cell, managing camera power, laptop power, and a backup power supply is a real challenge. Just as an example here's my current (ha!) setup to charge stuff in Perth

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Let's see.. . The white gizmo at the bottom is an adapter that connects an Australian plug to the various kinds of plugs found elsewhere- I got that in Perth. Here's a pro-tip; if you go to an electronics supply shop in a foreign country (I tried this in Korea and Australia so it must be true everywhere, right?) and look for an adapter for plugs, they will happily provide you with a device that will allow you to plug Korean (or Australian) things into foreign plugs Of course, what you want is the opposite; a device that will allow you to plug your style plug into their style outlet. That's harder to find, but I managed it. This may be because Australian plugs are so weird (prongs at 45 degree angles) that even Aussies need them for their electronics. So travel prepared and get the gizmo at home before you leave My only excuse is that the one I brought along blew up in Korea.

Anyway, atop the white gizmo is an American-style plug extender that Robin found for me in Japan (many Japanese plugs use the American standard) and that has proved invaluable - thanks, Robin! On the left is a power supply for my cell or my cell backup charger. On the right is a power supply for charging my camera battery. On top is my laptop power supply which, since I had to buy it in Korea, has a Korean plug and so requires another adapter from Korean to American which I happened to bring with me. In a pinch I can also charge some things using the USB ports on my laptop as a battery . Oh, and then why does my camera decide it needs a mini USB instead of a micro USB which means one more cable to lug around? Waaaah.

The only good bit worth mentioning is that most consumer electronic power supplies are happy to accept 120 or 220 volt inputs so you don't usually need to lug a transformer around as well. If you are unsure about whether your device accepts 220, it is probably written on the adapter in print so tiny that you may need a magnifying glass to read it.

Anyway, back to fun. I spent the first day just walking around the neighborhood, Inaloo, and shopping for things like the adapter pictured above. I also had to buy a new rash guard. For those who don't know what that is, it's an elastic long- or short-sleeved shirt designed to be worn in the water. It originated in the surfing/boogie boarding world because folks found that lying on a board all day tended to rub your stomach raw. Hence the name. The other nice thing about them from my point of view is that that the good ones provide SPF 50 protection from the sun. This means you can wear one and not worry about covering your body with sunscreen. That's doubly nice when traveling alone because putting sunscreen on your own back is, to say the least, challenging. To find one I first asked a guy shopping for swim trunks what they were called down here. The answer - 'rashie.' Armed with this lingo I was able to find a store and successfully communicate with a store clerk to complete the purchase. Now I felt ready for a bit of adventure!

I had a frankly mediocre vegetable pasta dish at a restaurant on my walking tour of the area (the first klunker meal of the trip so far) and hit the sack.

Posted by tdeits 19:28 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping perth electronics Comments (0)

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