Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

What can we say but B*#?*#

And it all started out so well – our long awaited train trip on the Indian Pacific, so named because the rail trip goes from across Australia from one ocean to the other.  We joined the throngs at Perth Station and met up with our travelling companions Dot and Derek, checked our big bags into the baggage wagon, and took our smaller bags into our room.  There's just time to get one of the staff to take our photo as we posed outside on the platform.

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Happy Travellers

And this is our small room – the top bunk gets pulled down at night when the beds get made up.  With a small bathroom too, this is just what we had when we rode on the Ghan train (Adelaide to Darwin) in 2016.

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Our cabin

The Indian Pacific train pulled way from Perth Station bang on time at 10.00am, leaving Australia’s most remote capital city behind.  We went slowly through the suburbs, soon reaching the outskirts of Perth, and the countryside.

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Out in the country

Happy people all met in the Lounge car, everyone looking forward to 4 days of travelling and adventure.  Coffee, beer, wine, or in my case, lemon, lime, and bitters, were sipped as we got to know the other passengers and waited for the call to lunch, our first meal onboard.  The train had stopped at Avon, with huge wheat silos towering over us on one side, and rows of empty wagons on sidings on the other.

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Wheat silos at Avon

While the train was stopped, the lunch service commenced, and we were ushered into the dining cart, sharing a table with Dot and Derek.  The choices were Beetroot Tart, Caesar Salad or Monkfish, followed by dessert, all very tasty.

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Queen Adelaide Restaurant

Back in the Lounge Car for a coffee, we were starting to wonder why the train was still stationary.  Perhaps a freight train was coming through?  Then it was finally announced that there had been a serious incident further up the line where a freight train of  two locos and four carriages had derailed, badly damaging the track.  As repairs to the track would take several days, or even longer, our journey was cancelled, and the train was returning to Perth.  What a disappointment, we could hardly believe what we were being told.

The train manager and all the staff were full of apologies as we all discussed what on earth we would do now.  During the afternoon further announcements were made – accommodation would be found for us all, plus the cost of an evening meal and breakfast.  That was one weight off our minds.  Matt, the entertainer kept or spirits up as he strummed his guitar and we all sung along.  As he sang the first line of the Kenny Rodger’s hit song, The Gambler, he commented that the song was rather prophetic.  The words go “On a warm summer's evening on a train bound for nowhere…..”  So true.

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Matt the train singer

Buses were waiting at Perth Station to take us to the hotel for the night, Pan Pacific.  You can imagine the time it took to get everyone off the buses, luggage collected, and then we all had to queue up to register, 90 rooms we were told.  By this stage the hotel had been advised of our names and the dealt with us all as quickly as they could.  Likewise, the hotel restaurant manager did her best to get us seated for dinner as soon as tables became available.  With a $50 voucher each for a meal, she decided to cut the price of the sumptuous buffet from $55 to $50 for all of us from the train.  “You have been through so much”, she told us, as we went to pay the extra. How kind was that!

During the night the management and staff of Indian Pacific were working hard trying to find a solution to the next part of the problem, how to get us to our destinations of the train trip, Adelaide or Sydney.  A letter was delivered to us all announcing that flights had been arranged and buses would be available to take us to the airport.  The following morning we were all given our final flight details, and it was announced that we would all get a full refund for the cost of our aborted rail trip.  I was too disappointed to take photos during our extra time in Perth, most of it was spent waiting for the buses.

Although badly disappointed, we were impressed with all the work that went on behind the scenes dealing with a train full of passengers.  Our travel agent managed to book us two nights in our Sydney hotel prior to our expected arrival, (at our cost) so all that was taken care of.  We will have 5 days in Sydney instead of 3 originally planned.

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Our extra flight, Perth to Sydney

To top it all off, the collapsible pull handle broke off Robin’s suit case, so he had to lug it all through the airport.  Then he forgot to pack his Swiss Army knife safely away in his checked luggage, so it was confiscated at security.  We finally arrived at our hotel in Sydney close to midnight.  Straight to bed, it must be a better day in the morning.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Oliver Hill Gun Fortifications

On our second day on Rottnest Island we took the Oliver Hill Train and Tunnel Tour.  A group of us climbed aboard “Captain Hussey” the trolley tram at “The Settlement” station, and the train then slowly chugged up the hill to the fort.

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All aboard the Captain Hussey

In the lead-up to WW2 Capt. Hussey was seconded from the Army to oversee the construction of the railway on Rottnest (from Kingston Barracks to Oliver Hill), to transport heavy guns up to Oliver Hill.

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Oliver Hill Battery is the most intact of all Australian 9.2” gun batteries, and one of only five battery sites worldwide that still retain guns in their WWII location, and is a prominent landmark in the natural landscape of Rottnest Island.

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When Darwin and Broome were bombed in 1942 the Japanese navy were expected to arrive soon.  The Fremantle Fortress stood as the next line of defence and the 9.2 inch guns at Oliver Hill earned Rottnest Island the title of “Gatekeeper”.  The island reached it’s maximum military strength with 2,500 military personnel stationed in the island.  The fortifications and tunnels were built (four stories deep)  after removing a huge amount of sand, and when complete covered over in sand again.

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In 2010 the structure was awarded Engineering Australia’s highest accolade, the Engineering Heritage National Landmark Award for significant technical achievement.

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Our guide gave us a detailed story of how the huge gun worked, and although not a shot was fired in anger, it was thought to be a major deterrent for enemy forces attacking Fremantle and Perth.

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The mighty 9.2in projectile

We walked down into the depths along the steep and narrow concrete tunnels to storage areas and the power room.  Our guide played an audio of just how noisy it was down there when generators were running.  They supplied power, compressed air for cleaning out the barrel after each firing and hydraulic fluid for moving the gun around.  The big gun needed an 11 man crew to operate it, plus another crew on standby.  It was certainly a very interesting tour.  Back in the fresh air again we boarded the train for our return trip back.

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Back at The Settlement we got another quokka fix, this time with a little family of quokkas.  Baby was staying very close to Mum, as they fossicked around, looking for something to nibble on.  Tourists are strictly discouraged from offering them food, as it is upsetting their health, or touching them. 

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Quokka family

Our time at Rottnest Island was at an end, the ferry was arriving to take us back for two more nights in Perth, before we board the Indian Pacific train for our epic journey to Sydney.

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Rottnest Island

Overnighting on Rottnest Island gave us two days to have a good look around, and we wondered if we would  get to see those little animals we had read about, the quokka.  We were picked up bright and early from the hotel by the courtesy coach and taken down to the ferry terminal to board the Rottnest Express.

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The first part of the journey took us for a scenic cruise along the Swan River and past where all the rich people live.  This area is called Millionaires Row.  Several dolphins were following the boat, swimming in the wake, and treating us to energetic leaps out of the water.

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Where the wealthy people live

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Leaving the Perth skyline behind us

We arrived at Fremantle to see huge container ships in port, most of them seem to be car transporter ships or container ships.  And by contrast the “Fremantle Rainbow” is a piece of modern sculpture made from shipping containers.

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Fremantle Port

Then it was across the open sea to arrive at Rottnest Island.  The island is 11km in length and 4.5km at the widest point.  No domestic cars are allowed, only service vehicles and a few tour buses.  It is a bikers paradise.

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Rottnest Island was named by Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh in 1696, meaning rats nest, mistaking the quokkas for huge rats. A quokka is a marsupial the size of a hare or domestic cat, and as with other marsupials, such as the kangaroo and wallaby, the females suckle their young in a pouch. Quokkas are generally nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping and resting under shady bushes and dense vegetation. But on the island they can be seen opportunistically feeding during the day, and are not the least bit shy of people.  It wasn’t long before we saw our first quokka, there were plenty around the small shopping area close by the wharf.  With their dark brown fur and long hairless tail, it was no wonder that they were confused for a large rat at first sight.

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Our first quokka

After booking into our accommodation for the night, it was time to board the bus for our “Discover Rottnest” tour.  The bus had to carefully drive past crowds of cyclists who were exploring the island by pedal power.

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The island is rugged and windswept, with great fishing, we were told, and lovely clear water.  Dolphins live in the waters, and whales come by on their annual migration.

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Our guide stopped the bus so we could see a huge osprey nest built on a rock a little way out in the sea.  We could just make out a little head sticking up, it is Mum sitting on eggs perhaps?

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Osprey nest

This imposing Wadgemup Lighthouse was built in 1896, with a 45,000 candle power revolving first order dioptric light.  This was the last lighthouse in Australia to become fully automatic, in 1986.  Wadgemup is the old aboriginal name for the island and means “place across the water where the spirits dwell”

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Wadgemup Lighthouse

Another quick stop a little further along to show us a sleeping quokka.  They sleep all curled over.

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Sleeping quokka

The next stop was at the West End Boardwalk, nice easy walking over recycled plastic, which needs very little maintenance, we were told.  The wind was ferocious, and the coastal views spectacular.  With the crumbling rocks and pounding waves we were warned not to veer off the pathways.

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At West End Boardwalk

Damian, our tour guide, who also worked on the ferry, was very informative and kept us entertained the whole trip. A great way to see the island and find out some of the history.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Visiting Fremantle

If there’s one thing Perth can be very proud of, it’s the public transport.  Free buses drive round the CBD, doing four different routes – what a great service.  We took the free Red Cat bus to Perth Station, and boarded the train to Fremantle, which cost us $4.80 each for a 35 minute ride, quite a bargain, we felt.

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Perth Station

The modern train whisked us through quite a number of stations until we reached our destination. Right in the centre of town we came across some well known Aussie  icons, kookaburras sitting in a tree.

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Kookaburra

What better thing to do than board the Fremantle Tram Tour to show us the sights, and save our legs.

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Hop-on Hop-off Tram Tour

Our laid back tour took us through town with lots of interesting older style buildings, and down to the harbour, past both old and new housing,  parks, schools and the hospital.  Many of the former wool warehouses have now been turned into apartments.

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Hotel in the middle of town

Fremantle was founded in 1829 and established as a “free settlement” with the arrival of 400 settlers.  But as the years went on there was not enough labour to get the town up and running.   The decision was made regardless of the public opinion against, and in  November 1849 it was officially announced that The Swan River Colony as it was known back then  had been ‘constituted a penal settlement’ to accelerate the economic growth.  The first 75 convicts arrived in 1850 to be followed by over nine thousand more convicts before 1868.

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Fremantle Prison was built as a convict barracks in the 19th century and remained in continual use until 1991. The Prison was a place of hangings, floggings, dramatic convict escapes and prisoner riots. Inmates included imperial convicts, colonial prisoners, enemy aliens, prisoners of war and maximum-security detainees.  Fremantle Prison is one of the largest surviving convict prisons in the world today and is now a World Heritage Site.

Our tour took us up to Monument Hill Memorial Reserve to view the handsome War Memorial.

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The United States Submariners Memorial was erected in 1967 to honour the bravery and sacrifice made by US Submariners stationed in Fremantle during WW11.

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Memorials on Monument Hill

Fremantle has a busy harbour with many fishing and pleasure vessels docked.  But the harbour and the Royal Perth Yacht Club will forever be remembered for defending the America’s Cup against Dennis Connor in 1987.  Sadly the Aussies couldn’t hold on to the cup, but Fremantle was put on the world stage during the racing.

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Down at the harbour

After a light lunch in “Cappuccino Strip”, chock full of cafes and bars, we caught another free Cat bus back to Fremantle Station for our return trip back to Perth.

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Fremantle Station

Half an hour or so later we were back in Perth, weary feet taking us back to the hotel to take our shoes off,  put our feet up and have a cuppa – oh, the relief. 

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Our train at Perth Station

All Aboard the Perth Explorer

We started the morning with breakfast in the hotel restaurant, plenty of choice and great service, and pondered our options for the day.  Finally deciding on a bus trip on the Perth Explorer, one of those hop on, hop off buses which are great to give an overview of a new city.  And we don’t mind being “older” when we can get a senior discount, every dollar helps.  A recorded commentary kept us looking left and right as we travelled along, telling us facts, figures and stories from the past.

Explorer Bus

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The Perth Explorer

The city is extremely proud of it’s tallest building, the commentary said.  Completed in 1992, Central Park is the tallest office tower in Perth at 51 stories high.

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Central Park

The tour took us past several sports stadiums, including the newly completed Optus Stadium.  Aussies really enjoy their sport.

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For those who like to gamble, they could have departed the bus at Crown Perth, a huge complex including a Casino.  We drove over the causeway crossing the Swan River, and other stops on the tour were at high end shopping malls, and at the other end of the scale, the Watertown Discount Shop, the Perth Mint, and the Cultural Centre.  The highlight of the tour, we felt was driving through the wonderful Kings Park and Botanic Gardens.  The driveway into the 404 hectare park was lined with lemon scented gum trees, making a wonderful first impression.  There were so many quite different areas, it would take ages to explore it all.

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Views of Kings Park

Leaving Kings Park to drive back to the city, we caught a glimpse of Perth across the Swan River.  Which, as it turns out, is not fresh water but a salt water river.

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Who would have known that a little piece of Tudor England was alive and well in the middle of Perth?  This was London Court.  Built in 1937 as a combination of residential and commercial premises for wealthy gold miner and financier Claude de Bernales, Perth’s London Court is designed using the architectural features present in Elizabethan times.  The only walk in the world outside Britain that has captured a setting and atmosphere so similar to that of Tudor England, London Court is a retail arcade in the heart of the Perth Central Business District.  

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London Court, in down town Perth

This Tudor fronted street was crammed with tourists and shoppers, all gazing at the shop fronts with awe and snapping photos.  Banners with the faces of notable people of the time were hung, the likes of Queen Elizabeth 1st, Mary Queen of Scots, William Shakespeare, and Henry 8th.  Certainly an amazing place to explore.

As we made our way back to the hotel, we came across a plaque in the footpath marking the position of Point Zero.  Which is the point adopted in 1925 as the origin of all road distances in Western Australia.

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Point Zero

And we all know that kangaroos are an Aussie icon.  There was a mob of bronze kangaroos looking lively in the centre of the city.  These life size bronze kangaroos are a realistic representation of how kangaroos might behave in the bush.  The Western  Grey kangaroos were created by artists Charlie Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith in 1998.

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Then in the early evening we had a meal at the “Public House” just across the road from our hotel.  The meal was very nice indeed, Tasmanian salmon her her, and herb crusted pork cutlet for him.  The couple at the next table were also from New Zealand and were staying in Perth to do the Indian Pacific train trip, just like us, what a coincidence.  Perhaps we will be in the same carriage when our trip departs on Sunday.

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Dining at the Public House

We were on the go all day, plenty to see and do, and all of it new to us as this is our first visit to Perth.  Wonder where we will be off to tomorrow?