There are certainly places on the Earth that are much, much more remote than Perth, such as the poles of inaccessibility (if you simply want to get away from pretty much everybody, though you will find yourself either floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over the legendary home of Cthulu, or in the middle of the Antarctic). As for inhabited locations, there is always Tristan da Cuhna, which is supposed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world, with the nearest airport being two thousand kilometres away on the island of St Helena, and the only boat that makes the trek is a supply boat from South Africa – even then it is a lottery as to whether you are actually allowed on board (though apparently cruise ships come by every so often). What is interesting though is that the pub on the island seems to have an awful lot of Google reviews (probably due to the cruise ships).
However, as a city, Perth holds the title of being the most remote in the world. Basically to the north there is nothing but desert, as is the case to the east, while to the west and the south there is nothing but ocean. In fact it takes less time to fly to Singapore than it does to get to Sydney (and I believe the capital of Indonesia is closer to Perth than the capital of Australia). This is probably why the Sand-gropers (as the inhabitants of Western Australia are colloquially known as) tend to have an independent streak about them – in fact it was only because they gave the women the right to vote in the referendum for Federation that they became a part of Australia.
However, while there is this suggestion of independence, the Sand-gropers are still pretty Australian at heart. Yet while one can experience Australia by spending some time in Perth, it almost feels as if it is a unique part of Australia all to itself. People who have come to Australia and talk about Australia will sometimes add the proviso “but I have only been to Perth” as if while Perth is in Australia, it is not necessarily representative of all of Australia. Yet my feeling was as if I was in Australia, but in a part of Australia that was effectively separated from the rest of the country – in a way I felt as if I was in another land.
Not surprisingly I caught a plane to Perth. I could have driven, but that would have been something like five days one way and five days the other (though it meant that I would have had a car and could have seen a few more places), and it would have also meant taking more leave off from my job than I really would have wanted to. However, I would like to make the trek one day, as I would also like to make the trek to Darwin – there is something about crossing an entire continent in a car, particularly one as vast, and as empty, as Australia.
There were a couple of reasons that I decided to make the trek, the main one being that I had never been before. The other reason was to go and see the football. As it turned out, this is the last year that they will be playing at the oval at Subiaco (it used to be called Subiaco Oval, but then they decided to sell the naming rights to rack up a bit of extra cash) since they have built a brand new stadium much closer to the city. Well, it isn’t as if Subiaco is all that far from Perth – it’s only two train stops, and walking distance as well. In fact it is a short walk from one of two railway stations, and the new stadium actually isn’t all that much further. I guess one of the reasons is that Subiaco is quite old, and somewhat smaller than newer stadium, and I suspect they couldn’t have it out of action for too long because they would have needed another place to play football.
The other thing that I noticed about Perth is that there aren’t as many flights to and from the city. I have this theory that the plane companies set down a number of flights based on the demand from previous years, and if the plane hasn’t been filled up by a certain time they will cancel the flight and move everybody on to another flight. That has happened to me a couple of times now, and the annoying thing was that the flight was first thing in the morning and I was having nightmares that I would over sleep and miss it. Mind you, I rang up and complained and all I got was a somebody telling me how sorry she was, and I doubt a call centre operative could have had to authority to shift the flight to later in the day. I suspect if I had really kicked up a fuss I could have gotten a flight voucher to use on their competitor, but in the end I got over it – it also meant I had some time to drift around Adelaide.
Friday Night on the Town
We ended up at the hotel at a reasonable time, which meant that we dumped our bags and headed off for night on the town. Mind you, this is with my brother, and he isn’t really the type of person you would expect partying the night away. In fact he only ever drinks pineapple juice or water. Still, in our trek we visited a few decent bars, as well as discovering a comic book store and a sci-fi/Mystery book store. It also gave us an opportunity just to wander around and have a look at the city.
Well, first I all I do have to mention that it is pretty quiet. Well, not quite because the pubs and bars do become pretty crowded on a Friday night, as can be expected, but don’t expect the hustle and bustle of the Eastern cities (that don’t happen to be Adelaide, but then again Adelaide isn’t a city, it’s a country town). However, the catch we faced was that our hotel was a bit of a trek from the centre of town, but then again that is generally the case with most cities – it seemed as if East Perth was where a bulk of the hotels were located. Fortunately there were a couple of pubs in the local area, including one that at first looked pretty good, but then the bouncer got a little dodgy the last night we were there.
That was the thing about Perth – everybody’s laid back, including the bouncers. Personally, I’ve never liked bouncers, but much of that has to do with some of the really pretentious clubs that I have attempted to get in and the bouncers basically said no because, well, because they could. However, with the exception of one on the last night (and at the football stadium), they were all pretty chilled and laid back, and had no problems with us going inside, or the way my brother was dressed (or even with my brother). This is a far cry from Sydney of all places where the bouncers are just painful to deal with – in fact there is hardly a review on Yelp, or any other website, that doesn’t complain about the bouncers in Sydney.
Perth is a mining city, and that is pretty obvious when you see that pretty much all of the buildings have the name of some mining company on them. Well, not all of them, but most of them, and pretty much all but one of the tall ones. It sort of reminded me of Brisbane, though Brisbane is a bit more mix and match. Yet it is hard not to miss all the hi-vis vests around the place. Sure, some pubs don’t allow hi-vis and work wear after a certain time (actually, I can’t think of any in Perth because I’m probably thinking of pubs in Adelaide and Melbourne), but wherever I wandered I wouldn’t be all that far away from somebody wearing a hi-vis vest.
Out and About
Okay, while I hopefully, one day, will get around to writing about the various places I visited in Perth, I probably should finish off by touching on may various treks. For instance, in the sand dunes near Mosman Park (which is basically Western Australia’s most expensive address) there are these old tunnels from World War II. Basically Fremantle was an incredibly strategic port, so the defenses matched. Sure, while the Germans had U-boats, they weren’t a huge threat because there were some big guns that could sink ships quite a way a way. However, the Japanese had something different – aircraft carriers. Yet, despite all of the protections, these guns were never fired in anger.
Obviously there was my trek to the football, and a wander around Subiaco. Actually, in my time there I visited a few suburbs, including heading all the way down to Armadale, and all the way up to Joondalup, even if it was just to add a few more pubs to my list. Mind you, the problem with some pubs is not so much the bouncers, but the patrons. Some pubs you wander into everybody will simply stare at you as you wander through the front bar and order a beer. A friend from England suggested that Australia was quite a friendly place, and I would agree, if you simply stick to the tourist areas – if you wander off the tourist track you might find yourself in a bit of trouble. Oh, we also found ourselves down at the beach on Scarborough, but the thing was not only was it freezing, but the entire foreshore had been ripped up.
Fremantle was another place to visit, even if only to mark it off my list. Mind you, it isn’t the port city that it once was – now it is actually a very vibrant and quite touristy place. The prison has since been closed down and turned into a tourist attraction, but half the reason for that is because the prison dates all the way back to the convict days. An interesting thing was that when the Swan River colony was first established they asked to be sent some convicts, though only males because females weren’t as productive. This would has been a bit of a bummer to not only be sent to one of the most remote locations on Earth, but to a place where there was no female company.
Rottnest Island is also one of those places that seems to be a must do for people in Perth. The problem is getting there can be a little tricky. You can catch the early morning ferry from the city, but make sure you get there early because there is only one out, and only one back. Otherwise you can catch the ferry from Fremantle. The thing is that the ferry is quite expensive, but I suspect the fee also covers the entrance fee to the island as it is a nature reserve. You can stay overnight, but once again make sure you book ahead. I’m not sure what the island authorities’ position on sleeping under the stars is, but I wouldn’t try it.
The island is a bit of a playground for the middle class, and pretty much has everything, or should I say one of everything – one pub, one cafe, one restaurant, one supermarket. No doubt prices are going to be reflective of this. They also have a cinema, but it is in an old tin shed and only shows family movies – don’t expect a sixteen screen megaplex here, or anywhere in Perth for that matter. The other thing I should mention are the Quokkas – they are everywhere. It won’t take long for you to encounter one of these wandering rodents (or marsupials, but when the Dutch discovered the island in their mind they were rodents). Actually, rodent is probably the appropriate term since they have a habit of getting into everywhere.
The one thing that I’ll finish off with is our trip to Wave Rock – which as you can probably guess by the name is a rock that is shaped like a wave. Actually, the people of the town of Hyden really got into the swing of things by also finding a rock that vaguely looked like a hippo yawning and called it Hippo’s Yawn. Actually, I’ve seen things like that about, such as a rock that looks vaguely like a lizard, and a mountain that looks vaguely like a nose. The thing with Wave Rock is that somehow it has been put on the map and people travel vast distances to see it. In fact the trek is something like three hundred kilometres. We basically went by coach, which is fun, but sometimes I like to do things at my own pace. However, it did mean that we could do the whole trip in a day. The annoying thing was that I never got to have a beer at a country pub. Oh well, maybe next time.