Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Day 190 - 194: Perth and Fremantle, Part Two

The dawn of a wonderful warm day saw us drive into the city and visit the fairly average Perth Museum, which redeemed itself with a poignant exhibition entitled "Debt of Honour". This told the story of how the East Timor people helped the Australian troops during wartime, giving them shelter, food and assistance and acting as their guides. Children, or criados, would assign themselves to individual soldiers to help prepare equipment, food and generally look after them, and thanks to their knowledge of the land they were able to save the lives of many of them. A bond formed between the soldiers and these young guides, but they were betrayed by the Australian government who refused to let the men bring the children away from East Timor (and almost certain death) if they were not white...which most weren't. They were left behind, and the ones that survived lost contact with most of their soldier friends - but a few Australians eventually made it back, and found their (now fully-grown) criados, which made for a heartbreaking reunion. The debt of honour was the one which the Australians felt was owed to these guides, and many of them spent their post-war years trying to help the Timorese.

Afterwards, we took a trip over to Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens. We were lucky enough to arrive in time for a guided tour which took us around the park, visiting some of the many, many memorials, statues and features. 



If there's one thing Australia does well, it's war memorials. There are dozens of them in each city. Whilst a fairly remote country, they are nevertheless very proud of the role they played in both World Wars, as well as the other conflicts they became involved in, and rightly so.

The views from the park allow you to take in the scale of the city. Small in comparison to the sprawling metropolis of London, but much bigger than the other "cities" on the west coast, Perth makes an impressive sight.


In one long avenue, a row of red-flowering gum trees were replaced by lemon-scented gums in 1938, as the former were affected by canker disease. One remaining red-flowering gum was moved to the middle of the park and protected in an exercise which took a couple of years planning alone.


Our guide told us of a huge hailstorm that hit the city with stones the size of golf balls peppering the lemon gums, and leaving their mark:


Other magnificent trees are found around the park, including this beauty with its snaking roots:


Kings Park covers 1000 acres, and is a fantastic place to take a picnic, do some exercise (if you are so inclined) or just take in. Not far from the main park is the DNA Tower, so named because of its double helix design:


The next day we went back to Fremantle. If Perth is a typical city with a fairly organised layout, then Fremantle is more of a quirky hotchpotch of a town, with more of an arts and history bent. Our first stop was at the Fremantle Markets to pick up some coffee for Fi, fish and chilli potato spirals for me, and a huge hot dog for Gilly. They have a lot of amazing food stalls in the markets, and it's easy to find something you'd like. I half-considered buying a leather hat, but decided against it. I'm not exactly a bush-ranger.

Fremantle Prison was next on the agenda - it was built in the 1850s by convicts, and eventually closed in 1991.




Various tours take place there, including a night tour and an underground tour through the tunnels in boats. We did the standard history tour, led by Matthew who was a very engaging guide. The tour took us through the cells, yards and kitchens, and gave us some background on some of the occupants. These included Moondyne Joe, a man who escaped a number of times from various prisons before ending up in Fremantle Prison in a specially-made "escape-proof" cell. Of course, he escaped. He wasn't found until two years later when, after breaking into Houghton Winery and helping himself to the cellars, was caught by the owner who by chance had invited a group of policemen over to sample his wares after he helped them with a separate crime. That's some incredibly bad luck right there.


Some of the cells were decorated with murals done by a few talented inmates:



We were given a grisly history of the hangings that took place here, as well as the flogging post demonstrated by Matthew:


The execution room is still accessible, along with the original lever to open the trapdoor:


The tour was very entertaining and I'd highly recommend visiting if you're in Perth for a few days. In the afternoon we went Fremantle Arts Centre which had a very interesting exhibit called "Richard and Famous" which featured one person who managed to get photographed with over 2000 celebrities. It was as interesting seeing him grow old in the photographs as it was spotting the people he was snapped with.

In the evening Fi and Rob took us out to a local pub for some cracking food.


The weekend saw us making a Sunday lunch for Fi and Rob on the Saturday before some frenetic Wii action, and on the Sunday Rob took us out on their boat which was great fun:


The name already came with the boat when Rob bought it but it seemed appropriate given the colour and, more importantly, that Fiona goes out in it! After some drinks and nibbles, it was time to get out on a rubber tube whilst Rob dragged us along behind the boat at high speed. Gilly was far more adept than I was:

Plunging face first into a river is as painful as it sounds, and one go was more than enough. Well, actually two since on my first go I lasted about 8 seconds. I think Rob must have gone a lot faster for me than Gilly. That must be it. Fi and Rob were taking a 5-day break in Bali the following morning, so we took Molli out for one last bout of exercise in the park, and had a BBQ in the evening. It was going to be Molli's first time in kennels and they weren't sure how she'd adapt to it so didn't want to go away for too long. They needn't have worried - she ended up enjoying it immensely.

We took Fi and Rob to the airport in the morning in their car, and waved them into the departure lounge as they headed off to Bali. Grabbing a couple of pizzas from the supermarket on the way back, we spent the rest of the day packing, doing chores and watching TV, before Rob's friend Scott and his girlfriend arrived and took us to the airport for our own flight.  Our flight to Cairns was at 22:15, and we were to get into the city at the ungodly hour of 4:15am the next morning. This is not a good time to arrive anywhere. We staggered to the shuttle us which kindly dropped us right outside our hostel - we'd booked a room at Reef Backpackers. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up (probably because of the early morning arrival), they didn't have that room ready...they were expecting us the next day. We curled up on the sofas in the common room and got a few hours of well-deserved sleep before heading down to reception to check in at 9am.

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