Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rottnest Island

For Monday's adventure, we made our way back to Fremantle in the early morning and caught a ferry to Rottnest Island.

This is where we caught the ferry, departing just around sunrise.

And this next photo is of me and Jonathan, on the ferry, heading to the island.

We made it!

A lot of people were renting bikes for the day. The guidebook said to schedule around five hours to bike the entire island. We had an old lady and a strained back, so we bought the hop-on-hop-off bus pass instead, and hopped on the first bus of the day. And rode it once all the way around, one hour round trip.

Now where to hop off? Jonathan voted to hop off at the shipwreck.

That lump in the ocean behind Jonathan is a barge that drifted away from its moorings in Fremantle in the 1930s. You can now snorkel around it.

It was about 20 degrees Celsius outside. And the water was also around 20 degrees. It was a little chilly, but not as cold as other places I've gone swimming recently (ahem... South of France). But I had no swimsuit. I took off my shoes, but I was feeling regret. Regret! No swimming for me this time.

This is what Jonathan looked like from the beach. Um... maybe stand back a little bit, Jonathan?

I dusted off my wet sandy feet in time to catch the next hop-on bus on its half-hourly tour of the island. We rode a few stops and hopped off this time at the lighthouse.

(That was a photo of a lighthouse.)

From the lighthouse, Tim talked us into walking through the centre of the island to the road on the opposite side, since we didn't get to see the island's centre from the bus.

In case you can't make it there yourself, the centre of Rottnest Island looks something like this:

And people walking around in the centre of the island look like this:

So Rottnest is really famous for all the quokkas that live there. A quokka is a small marsupial about the size of a cat. We had seen pictures of smiling quokkas all over Rottnest. As soon as the ferry landed, we asked the lady at the information desk where we could go to see a quokka.

She said, "There are thousands of quokkas everywhere on Rottnest. You will see a quokka."

But it was nearly noon and we hadn't seen one. As we were walking along, scoping out the interior of the island for Tim's sake, I mentioned that it would be very convenient if a few quokkas would hop out on the path for us to say hello.

They were not on the path, but Tim spotted one under a picnic table near the path.

Is that a quokka?

Yes! It is a quokka!

Look, it's coming closer! Sit down and maybe it will say hello.


And hello!

And hello again.

I think the tourists may have fed this guy before. He was sniffing the bags especially carefully.

Me, the quokka wisperer.

Ok. Quokkas are cute. But maybe let's not sit here taking quokka pictures all day. Goodbye, quokka friend.

Back on track on our walk through the island centre, we reached the salt lakes. Does it look better with Tim?

Or without?

Waiting to catch the bus again.... Getting hungry.

After lunch, what do you think we did? That's right! We hopped back on the hop-on bus! This time we rode it to the far western side of the island, to view the seals.

There are seals down there. Do you see them?

Grandma also saw whales way way off in the distance. But I didn't.

We hopped back on the hop-on bus one more time, and headed back to the main town to check out the tourist shops before our ferry was due. One of the first things I noticed was the special half door at the grocery store keeping out the quokkas.

And that's when we realised where the quokkas really hung out. There were dozens of them around the restaurants and shops of the main town. One with this lady here:

Two with this guy here:

Several sniffing under the tables and benches.

And at least a half dozen competing with the sea gulls for abandoned chips. Like huge rats. Only with a pouch (because they are marsupials)!

Conclusion: quokkas are cuter in the bush than in the town.

We got back on the ferry for the last sailing to Fremantle, in the late afternoon...

... and landed just around sunset.


And that was Monday.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Sunday we headed to Fremantle to see the sights there.

First stop: the Fremantle market, where we each picked out breakfast. We also bought some fruit for a couple of days.

The market was nice, although I guess we were expecting something a little larger.

Next stop: the old prison. The prison was built by English convicts back in the 1800s, before plumbing and electricity. It was actually still in use, without plumbing or electricity, up until 1991. The tour guide said that prisoners in 1991 were still taking buckets with them into their cells at night in case nature called. Ew.

Waiting for our prison tour:


After the prison, we walked around the shops of Fremantle and ate lunch.

We then wandered over to the beach, to set eyes on the Indian Ocean for the first time.

A random guy on the boardwalk said that if Jonathan had been wearing black, then a picture of him looking out to sea would win all sorts of photography awards.

Don't know if he actually knew what he was talking about, for me with my phone camera, but I consider the above an award winning photo.

We next headed to the shipwreck museum.

It looks like I didn't take pictures inside. In any case, there were rusty anchors, silver coins cemented together, even a portion of a huge wooden ship, almost 400 years old. We joined a tour, and just as we started getting into the story of mutiny and shipwreck and murder on the Batavia in the 1600s, Jonathan's back started to hurt again.

So we cut the trip short, and headed back to the hotel.

That was Sunday.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Great Australian train ride

For over a year, I've wanted to take the Indian Pacific train from Sydney, across the bottom of the country, to end in Perth four days later. We finally were able to book tickets during the winter school holidays. This post has (some of) our photos from the trip.

First, Jonathan at Sydney Central Station. We flew to Sydney on Wednesday morning.

Jonathan, Kris, Tim waiting to board in Sydney.


We had two cabins. This is what they looked like during the day.

Each had its own tiny bathroom, complete with shower.

And there was a restaurant on board. All our meals were included in the ticket cost, so we just wandered down to the dining car and made a reservation for a time to eat.

Grandma was not feeling well the first day -- from Sydney we climbed a winding trail through the Blue Mountains. The views were spectacular, but the motion was kind of nauseating. I was going to add here a photo of the Blue Mountains from the train window, but apparently I hadn't started taking photos from the train windows by then, so I have nothing to post. You will have to imagine (small) mountains covered in blue gum trees at sunset, with the train climbing through.

Now you will have to imagine what it was like to ride overnight on the train. The porter turned our two rooms into four bunks. (Photo below.) Grandma was feeling very ill, so she had skipped dinner and was rolling around in bed in the lower bunk. Then Jonathan pulled a muscle in his back while climbing up to his bunk, and ended in our cabin in pain. We put him to sleep with some medicine on my bottom bunk, and sent Tim to the other top bunk. And then I decided to shower.

The shower itself was fine, if a little wobbly and unstable. And then I finished and needed to put my pajamas on. But if you look again at that photo of the bathroom on the train, you will notice that there is no place to step outside the shower to get dressed. Imagine after showering, rather than stepping out of the shower to get dressed you must bring your dry clothes inside. And then imagine that the shower is swaying back and forth. So yup. I ended up with a wet bum and not very dry pajamas when all finished.

But then time for relaxing sleep. The gentle motion of the train swayed me off to sleep.... until about 2am when the gentle motion of the train woke me up and shook my bladder over and over again. Ok! Ok! I'll get up and empty it. Then another couple of hours and the train started shaking my bladder again. Repeat all night long and you'll get an idea of how relaxing it is to sleep on the train. Around 5:30 am I gave up.

All ok! We had to depart at 6:15am for our excursion anyway! Good morning to you, Tim! Off we go!

Our first excursion, in the early early morning, was the mining town of Broken Hill. Below is a picture of their town hall, along with the shuttle buses that drove us from the train to the old town hall.

Jonathan and Tim, in the early morning. The train people told us it was really cold outside, so we dressed accordingly. But honestly, we were too warm. The previous two days in Melbourne had been far far colder.

On the top of a slag hill is a memorial to all those killed in the mines.

The memorial includes names and dates and -- I found this strange but fascinating -- cause of death.

If you zoom in really close to that previous photo, you will see that miners were "Hit By Rock Drill", "Crushed By Cage", "Heart Failure", "Rock Fall". Not a great profession in the early 1900s.

Back on the train, it was time for breakfast. Our two invalids from the night before were feeling better. We all ate the two course breakfast.

And then we chugged along through desert. Some of it looked a lot like Nevada, except if you looked really closely, you could often spot wildlife bouncing away -- kangaroos. (I have no kangaroo photos. They were too far and too fast.)

And the trees also were very different from those in Nevada.

Towards the middle of the day the scenery began to get greener.

Interrupted by lunchtime. Three courses.

By now we were all a little bruised from walking down the narrow train corridors to and from the dining and lounge cars. Here is a picture of Grandma making her way along.

A little bit of rain as we approached Adelaide.

And Tim doing what we all did best on the train -- nothing. (Or eating.)

Excursion in Adelaide! We opted to take the chocolate tour in a little town called Hahndorf in the hills to the south of the city.

Eating again??! Three course meal in Hahndorf. 

And then all back to the train for bed. I opted not to take the wet shower in the shaky box, and just climbed up into my bladder shaker bunk for the night.

Good morning sunrise. The scenery had changed.

We had reached the Nullarbor plains. Null + arbor. No trees. No trees, no hills. Just red dirt and gray bushes and blue sky and gray clouds. Not so many kangaroos this morning, although we did see a few more emus. (Still not pictured.) Tim claims he saw a pair of dingos. And he also thought that the flock of cockatoos outside of Tarcoola were Major Mitchell cockatoos, which are very rare. All the rest of us were just seeing dirt and bush and sky and an occasional emu.

Pit stop -- Cook. Population: 5. The train needed more water. So they let us hop out and wander around this ghost town.

There's the train. It stretches half a kilometer.

And there is the family with the train, all except me. (You notice that Jonathan is much taller than his father now as well as his grandmother. He is also apparently even taller than I am, but I'll have to post a photo of that from someone else's camera.)

We only got 20 minutes outside, so we made the most of that time by walking around the dirt roads, taking pictures of dirt....

This used to be a school before all the people moved away.

Train crossing.

Ok! 20 minutes are up. Get back on!

And then six more hours of the Nullarbor plane.

Since there was nothing else to do, we sat around and did nothing. And watched out the window. Jonathan sat still for a good two hours just staring outside, stating that the view was "mesmerising". Here he is in the lounge.

And we ate. There was a three course meal for lunch, and a three course meal for dinner. Snacks provided at the bar.

No change in scenery before sunset.

After sunset: We had a break at the sheep stop of Rawlinna. This time, they gave us two hours to get off the train, drink wine, eat, and listen to a musician play in the dark. Tim and I did laps up and down the train, trying to walk off the most recent three course train meal.

Back to the train. Back to bed.

Sunrise. Is that water outside?

And trees? At least the bushes are bigger.

Tim claims he saw a wombat. I just saw trees.

Definitely water!

The last part of our journey, the train made its way slowly past the swollen Avon River (say aaa as in "cat", not "ay-von").

And finally into Perth.

We took a taxi to our hotel, then walked up a hill for a view over the Swan river before sunset.

Look at that view! We're finally off the train!

War memorial.

Elizabeth Quay at sunset.

And that is it. Train journey finished. We were all well fed. Just roll us around from here.

(And that night, I slept about 12 hours on a stable bed with no one jostling my bladder. It's the little things that make the biggest difference....)