Another 15 hours overnight on a Greyhound later, we arrived in Perth, our final stop in Western Australia. We headed straight to the hostel that we'd booked and then had a quick walk into town to get our bearings before catching up on some much needed sleep. The next day we spent acquainting ourselves with the city, taking in the shopping centre, the esplanade, the Bell Tower, Harbourtown and making the most of the free transport. Perth is great in that anywhere within the city limits, you can travel for free! They have specific free buses which do loops around the city but the normal trains and buses are also free within the city. Makes it very easy to get around.
On Sunday, we packed up our bags and headed out to a suburb of Perth called Baldivis, near Rockingham, where some old family friends of mine (Hannah) live. They Stacey family emigrated to Perth a couple of years ago and kindly invited us to stay with them for a few days. After a quick catch up, we all headed out to the house of some friends of the Stacey's who had very kindly invited us all to a BBQ. We spent the afternoon chatting to some great people and finding out about life in Perth from both Australians and ex-pats. The food was also incredible and we felt thoroughly spoilt, especially when leaving they gave us a platter of anti pasti and left over BBQ food as they knew we would be picnicking the following day! Later in the evening, back at the Stacey's, Simon got a call out for work and Sarah had a drink at lunchtime so the tee totalers (it's too expensive for us to drink in Australia!) were drafted to drive the teenagers home!! We were both a bit nervous about getting in a car as we haven't driven since we left the UK but we managed to successfully escort the teenagers back and get home in one piece, thanks to our patient driving instructor, Sarah!!!
Simon has what he calls his "weekend" ute (stands for utility vehicle, think a 4 by 4 with a flat bed back)- he drives a work ute during the week- and he very kindly let us borrow it for the time we were staying there. So the next day, we packed up our eskie (cool box) with our leftover BBQ food and headed out for a day of fun in the ute! We had a map of the local area and just picked beach names off the map and headed to have a look! We went to Mandurah, Secret Harbour, Palm Beach and a few others and just generally with the freedom that having the ute gave us rather than public transport. The following couple of days, we did pretty much the same thing, exploring the area in the ute, taking in Serpentine Falls, Serpentine Dam, Rockingham (where we ate fish and chips on the beach!), Fremantle & Cottesloe beach.
On the Thursday, we had booked to go to Rottnest Island. Located 19 km off the coast of Perth, it's where the locals go - to swim in the pristine bays, laze on the white-sand beaches, snorkel in turquoise water, go fishing or to simply just chill out. It's known to locals as Rotto (any word in Australia can be made into a local word by adding an "o" on to the end e.g. - car registrations is "rego", the bottle shop is the "bottle-o", Ambulance drivers are "Ambos" and if a place is rammed, you'd say "rammo") and is the home of a small marsupial known as the quokka. Growing less than a foot tall, the quokka cannot be found anywhere else in the world which is why it is a star attraction on the Island. We'd unwittingly booked the "Mega Blast" to get there- it's an "adventure" speed boat that twists and turns it's way over to the island! On the way, we were lucky enough to see a dolphin swimming through the harbour, a great start to our day!
You can't take any motorised vehicle onto the island, you have two options to get around- take the bus that does loops of the island or hire a bike. We had chosen the latter and eagerly picked up our bikes, skid lids and snorkel gear at the pier. Along with our picnics in our backpacks and our swimmers (bikini) on we were set for the day. We spent our day cycling our way around the island, stopping off at beautiful, secluded, white sand beaches to snorkel and sunbathe and spotting Quokka's and more dolphins! The beach stops were much needed as it was about 38 degrees and most of the cycling seemed to be uphill, so a dip in the cool ocean was just what was called for! So with aching limbs and sore bottoms from the not so comfortable bikes seats, we headed back on the normal ferry for a more leisurely cruise back to Fremantle and then back to the Stacey's to say our goodbyes before heading back into the city. We'd had a great few days out of the city, with the independence of the car and the hospitality of the Stacey's and we are already looking forward to hopefully going back and visiting them again whilst in Australia.
So, back in the city on Friday, we made our way to the Aquarium of Western Australia. We timed our visit just right as there was a diver in the main pool which houses the turtles, sharks, stingrays and many fish feeding them all. We walked trough the glass tunnel that runs underneath this pool and watched with fascination as the creatures were fed. Our favourite part of the aquarium was the jellyfish section. In particular one big round tank full of jelly fish, lit up with neon lights, which was totally mesmerising! If it hadn't been for a screaming baby next to us, we probably would've stayed there all day!! We were also tempted to throw ourselves in the stingray pool to cool down as it was so hot!! In the evening, we met up with our friend Pierre, for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant that we noticed earlier in the week and it didn't disappoint, good company and good food! This was our last chance to say goodbye to Pierre as we were heading up to Cairns the following day and Pierre was just getting ready to head back to France.
Our last day in Perth, we spent the morning in the museum of Western Australia learning about the local area before heading out to King's Park. It's a big park, perched on top of a hill on the western side of the city, which magnificent views out over the Swan River and the city. It was quite a climb to get there and after a walk around and a picnic lunch we headed back to the city to pack up our bags and go to the airport, headed for the East Coast.
We both loved Western Australia, Perth especially. We are glad that we took the time out to visit WA, as so many travelers just head to the East Coast and miss out on this beautiful part of the country. We hope we can come back to visit and explore some more as there's so much more to see.