G’day from WA (not Washington but Western Australia). This state takes up almost one half of Oz, kinda like if California started around OK and there were no other states before Hawaii!
It is 9am and 88°F here in Fremantle. We have already been for an Indian Ocean plunge. The water is crystal clear, warm and very refreshing.
But, I am jumping ahead in the narrative of our travels. I shall continue fromwhen I last sent you a chapter of this journey through the Antipodes
We had just left NZ as featured in this artwork we saw on a wall here (the artist is a Kiwi, I reckon, I like the relative sizing and his name for Australia) and flew to Darwin with a quick and hectic plane change in Melbourne.
Since our flight from Q’Town was delayed, we barely made our connection. But we did and all was good again.
Our hotel in Darwin, Northern Territory looked out onto the the Timor Sea and it was a beautiful sight the next morning.
But in opening the balcony door, we were hit by amazing humidity. I could not snap the pic above for about 10 minutes until my camera lens acclimated to the conditions.
It was about 108° (42°C for those of you following along from everywhere but the US, Liberia & Burma) and 90% (90% for all of us) humidity. Oy!
After an early pre stinkin’ hot time walk, we did what we often do in a new city and hopped on and off the HOHO bus. This took us to an outdoor marketplace called Parap. The place was a lot of fun with food and crafts and art booth. Nancy bought a healthy blend of seeds and grains to bring home. Supposed to be a good gut food. The sales lady is proud of her sign
We spent a fair bit of time that afternoon in the hotel’s refreshing pool. Around the corner is a brewpub (yay!) called 6 Tanks. Amazing beer served directly from their 300 gallon tanks. This place and a restaurant called Hanuman (Indonesian/Thai/Filipino fusion) were recommended by my brother, Mike who has lived in Sydney since we emigrated there as a family in 1971. He spends a lot of time in Australia’s various cities and has favorite establishments. He also has excellent taste!
We had tried to book a land tour for the next day but the few operators operating were full up. Lucky us it as turns out. We hired our own car and took off for Litchfield NP. It was a lovely drive and at one point I said to Nancy how great it would be if we saw some kangaroos along the way. No sooner had I said it then who do we see watching us drive by but a wallaby (a small roo)! We saw a few of them but they scarpered off before I could snap a pic. We are still hoping for some.
We did see a mother with baby emus that were polite enough (unlike their marsupial friends) to pose for us.
Litchfield is a large National Park and not as well known or crowded as Kakadu. It was relatively empty of people other than one rather crowded and cramped and regimented tour (that was luckily for us sold out). We had lots of spaces where it was just us. LNP is well known for (drumroll please), …waterfalls! Also lovely swimming at the falls and other swimming holes.
(In the preceding photos I was going for the ‘soft water’ effect. That there were people who moved while the shutter was open was unavoidable.)
(As an aside, Nancy is currently reading a book I just reread <bought at the amazing Edmonds Bookshop of course!> that is kinda like our guidebook here. The American author is an astute observer of humanology and is accurate in his belief that practically every creature and some plants in Australia can and will kill you if you are not careful!).
Also at Litchfield are two types of termite mounds. The Cathedral and the Magnetic.
Another great dinner at a Mike recommendation followed by quite the electrical storm but no monsoon that night. This time of year in the North (or Top End) is The Wet. This is one of two seasons only. The other is of course, The Dry. Both are unbearably (for us) HOT but one is muggy and the other ain’t. We are not sure why anyone would willingly live here. Oh well, it takes all kinds…
Our next stop in our Oz Adventure was Broome, WA. Two, one hour bumpity bump bump flights later we were in 115° (46°) heat but a dry heat! Relatively speaking.
Oh my, it was hot! Fortunately our hotel had a lovely pool and the dining room was such that the 1st night we stayed put. (Except we had to change rooms as our air con wasn’t working.). I even stomached (so to speak) their lousy beer selection.
We had a sweaty, low energy next day. The hotel shuttle took us into town and we wandered a while. We even spent about an hour cooling our core temps by sitting in their lovely library.
The ‘crosswalks’ are a bit odd:
Broome is home to the longest running outdoor garden cinema- started 1916. Go figure.
In Broome, you will see a tree that is only in that area of Australia and a section of southern Africa – the Baobab Tree. The relevant scientists do not know why. (Maybe they need to be more relevant?)
That evening we walked to Cable Beach for the sunset. This is a Broome Ritual. CB is 22km long, with deep and white sand. Some tourists pay $200 each to ride a camel there for sunset. We chose a less ungulating observance of this only once in a day event.
It is a beautiful location
After dusk settled, we went to a nearby pub and were surprised to see this fella on the big screen.
Yup, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were on telly for Monday night football (on Tuesday in Oz) and beating the Vikings of course. A nice treat for us.
We flew to Perth on Wednesday. An easy flight with no bumps. We certainly flew over a LOT of emptiness. Very barren landscapes abound on this island continent. 97% of Australia’s population live within 3 miles of an ocean!
The drive to Freo aka Fremantle was short. This is a lovely seaside town of 30k. Quite cosmopolitan yet still has the small town vibe. You may remember hearing of Freo as the site of the America’s Cup races back in 1987. That was a huge shot in the arm and (re)vitalized the area.
This city was also very hot when we pulled in about 4 pm. Then, like magic (which was more like clockwork) the ‘Freo Doctor’ started blowing. This is a refreshing, cooling onshore breeze that makes you want to hug someone. And it happens everyday in the summer.
Restaurants, pubs and little independent businesses abound. Quite a cosmopolitan town. You can’t swing a dead barista without hitting a terrific coffee shop.
The next morning, we went on a 3 hour tour – this time by bike. It was a great time with just the 2 of us and the guide – Mike. He and his wife started the business a couple years ago after a trip to the US where they did a few there. He is a 4th generation Freo and very proud of his city. He related the history and cultural aspects with so much enthusiasm it is impossible to not get excited.
He also later emailed us a summary of where we had been, restaurant recommendations and other helpful hints. We felt that was a classy touch as it is hard to absorb all the details as you go.
The Fremantle Prison is another big draw for tourists and travelers. It was built by transported British convicts to house themselves. WA started as a free colony but things were so difficult the people petitioned London to send some labor. Those guys jumped on ridding themselves of more miscreants like they did to the rest of Australia at the time and dispatched the first of many ships full of ne’er do wells. As soon as these poor buggers arrived, they were put to work to build a Big House for themselves. What cheek! It was used after the convict era as WA’s maximum security prison until 1991! And by the way, it had no internal plumbing the whole time. Just buckets in the cells – for water and…
Fremantle Markets are where the locals go to buy produce for the weekend and tourists go to buy all their essentials?
We toddled around town, the heat had abated somewhat.
Freo’s port is heavily involved in the shipping industry. I saw a ship that looked a bit weird so I asked Mike about it.
This is as big as a container, grain or car carrying ship but with open looking sides. Strange, huh? Well it turns out a few of these were purposely built to carry livestock- primarily lamb, sheep and beef cows from Oz to the Mid-East. A lot of frozen meat used to be shipped after being slaughtered in the proper Halal process but then someone over there decided the butchering would be better done locally. So…all the critters , great and small get to go for a long sea voyage. There is a lot of ventilation! We were wondering what the crew of this vessel does with the sheep ship’s sheep shit. They must sluice the decks on a continual basis. What do you suppose the fishies along the way think of this? A good thing, most likely.
IT IS NOW SUNDAY THE 8TH. I STARTED WRITING ON THE 6th SO I WILL CATCH YOU UP AND TRY NOT TO BE CONFUSING.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the sheep ship. As we were heading outta town for points south yesterday, we could detect a not so faint or subtle odour. Apparently when I first noticed the moored vessel, it was empty. Well, now it was almost full and it was apparent to everyone in town for miles around that the little lambies not only were well fed but had efficient digestive systems. The beautiful summer morning breeze was not cooperating as well and filling the town with quite the whiff!
Windows up and a/c on, we beat feet outta there.
I finally found a kangaroo to hold still for a photo on our last night in Freo:
So, where are we now? In Margaret River of course. It is one of Australia’s prime wine areas and luckily a hot bed of craft brewing.
Today, we are going on a several hour coffee, wine, beer, cheese and chocolate tasting excursion with about 10 of our new best mates (once we meet them, that is). Should be fun and will most likely be the first topic of the next chapter of this tome.
But before I let you go, I’ll tell you about yesterday. After leaving the newly odiferous Fremantle, we stopped in the bustling city of Busselton. Their claim to fame besides gorgeous beaches is the jetty. It is 1841 meters long – over a mile and the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and the second longest on the planet. They even have a small slow train running down it. At the end is an underwater observatory. So, we walked the length of it – no choo choo for us!
Two more food pics from dinner last night then I’ll finish up. We want you all to know how much we appreciate your responses and enthusiasm in reading this blog. Keep the notes coming.
Until next time – lots of love from the traveling band!
PS – I was awakened this morning at 4:30 by a sound I had not heard in years. A Laughing Kookaburra. I grabbed my phone to try to record the next song but he has been quiet for the last 3 hours. Hopefully my memorialization will not be the same as the kangaroo’s above!