(pic - Story) Rotto - Title

I have to admit that sometimes tour guides can be really annoying, and sometimes they just seem to speak a load a rubbish. Okay, maybe it had something to do with not actually expecting there to be a tour guide on the Rottnest Express, and maybe it also had something to do with me not having my morning cup of tea (well, just a cup of tea) because the guy on the Rottnest Express was really getting on my nerves. The other thing was that I completely forgot to take notes, which means that I am basically going by memory now, though I’m not sure if our tour guide (who suggested that a group of people stop talking because, well, others might want to actually listen to him – I didn’t, I just wanted a cup of tea and read my book, and the canteen had basically forgot to bring any tea with them) was all that enlightening with regards to the rest of the passengers as well.

So, this particular guide suggested that in Australia we happen to be quite lazy with our language, meaning that we will generally truncate a multisyllabic word to a single syllable, and and an o (or something similar) to the end. For example we have Damien becoming Damo, Fremantle become Freo, and Rottnest Island becomeing Rotto. However, as I suggested, this guy was talking rubbish, because David becomes Dave, Andrew becomes Andy, Peter becomes Peter, Melbourne becomes Melbs, and as for Adelaide and Brisbane, well they become Radelaide and Brisvegas. Honestly, maybe it is because he happened to be a sandgropper (a West Australian) and thought that because they like to use the words Freo and Rotto, that everybody does. Honestly, the only reason I use the word Freo is, well, because that is what everybody calls the Fremantle Football team, but every multisyllabic word – I don’t think so.

The River Cruise

So, we started our day really early, namely because there is only one boat out to Rottnest Island a day, at least from Perth (though I believe there may be a couple from Fremantle). The problem was that we walked from our hotel, but we managed to get there just in time, and basically paid through the nose for a ticket. Okay, the Rottnest Express is basically the only ship that will take you to Rottnest Island, unless of course you own your own boat, or are willing to actually swim the distance (and people do, since there is a race once a year – not something I’m willing to try though). However, since the island is a class A nature reserve, I suspect a part of the cost is the entrance fee to the island (though I wonder if you have to pay it if you swim across, or get there by your own boat, though there is always moorage fees – there always is).

So, after getting on the boat we made our way to our seats for the hour long trek down the Swan River, listening to basically a lot of rubbish dribbling from the guide’s mouth, and basically groaning due to the fact that I was unable to read my book on the grounds of not having a cup of tea, and the speakers blaring through my ears. However, there were a few interesting things that I picked up, namely that the first Europeans that came here were the Dutch, namely because when they crossed the Indian Ocean they headed straight for Australia and then turned north towards their colony of Batavia (Djakarta). The island was first visited by Samuel Volkersen, who was looking for water (or a Dutch ship that had failed to arrive) and upon seeing the Quokka’s, labeled them as basically big rats.

(pic - Story) Rotto - Perth Yatch Club
The Royal Perth Yacht Club – Home to the America’s Cup in the 80s

A part of me wondered why the Dutch never established a colony here, since the region around Perth wasn’t actually as bad as the lands further north, but I suspect it probably had more to do with lack of trade than anything else. The thing with the Dutch is that they didn’t actually set up colonies in the way that the British did, but rather set up trading bases where they could get access to things desired back home, such as spices. The thing with Australia was that there wasn’t actually anything here that they wanted, at least at a cursory glance, and I suspect that the locals weren’t really into trade and all that either.

So, as we were cruising along the Swan River, which actually is an Estuary (and salty as well, because they basically destroyed the barrier at Fremantle that stopped the salt water from getting in – idiots), and our guide was pointing out various things, such as the Narrows Bridge, which when it was built was the longest pre-cast piece of concrete in the world, and is also at the narrowest part of the river at that position. Of course he also pointed out Kings Park, but the people of Perth are always pointing out Kings Park. There was also the university, the Royal Perth Yacht Club (which was famous for winning the America’s Cup off of the New York Yacht Club), and Perth’s Smallest Yacht Club, which has an interesting story behind it.

(pic - Story) Rotto - Smallest Yacht Club
It’s that little green shed.

Basically, the owner wanted to build a shack on the river, but you actually aren’t allowed to, unless you happen to be a yacht club. So, when he built the shack he was told to pull it down, but he then registered him, and his brother, as a yacht club, and paid the fee, so he was able to keep the shack. The thing is that there are only two members, and because of that, the club is full so they aren’t accepting any further members. There is also the sandbar, which juts out into the middle of the river forcing you to take the long way around. However, there was a time when a couple of enterprising people dug a channel through the middle, and started charging a toll to pass though. That was a while ago though, and it seems as if the government put a stop to it.

Crossing Gage Road

One of the things that I discovered while in Perth was where the Gage Road Brewery got it’s name – the narrow shipping passage between Rottnest Island and Fremantle Harbour. Anyway, after stopping off at Fremantle to pick up some more passengers, we headed off to into the Gage Road to make the half hour crossing to Rottnest Island. Even though it it technically a sheltered area, it still gets quite rough, and it certainly was rough today. The interesting thing was that they didn’t give out any sea-sick tablets, and when I queried this I was bluntly told (by my not-so favourite guide by the way), that they weren’t a pharmacy. Well, I was a little surprised at the bluntness, as if I was supposed to know this, namely because in Thailand they would give them out as if they were candy. Then again, this is Australia, so all they could do was give us ‘just in case bags’.

As it turned out, our lovely guide sat down for the journey across the Gage Road, which is probably an occupational health and safety requirement, since the waves were pulling about two metres, which meant that you certainly felt it, though it was nowhere near as bad as it was crossing over to Phi Phi Island in Thailand – then again the seas were rougher, and the boat was much, much smaller. However, that trek did teach me one thing – I don’t get sea sick, so I passed on the ‘just in case’ bags. As it happened, I, well, didn’t end up getting sea sick (and neither did my brother, though he was a little worried that he might).

(pic - Story) Rotto - Freo Harbour

One of the other things we learnt on the trip was something that is clearly to Australia’s shame, but then again this was only one of many aspects of our treatment of the Aboriginals. Rottnest Island, for a period, was actually a prison for the Aboriginals, and to say that the conditions here were horrifying is an understatement. In fact the Aboriginals consider the island to be cursed and simply will not come out here any more. There have been some attempts at reconcilliation, and also attempts to cleanse the island in their minds, but I am doubtful that this will happen in my lifetime.

Rotto Town

We finally arrive and it was time for me to grab a long awaited cup of tea, and fortunately there was a Dome Cafe near the docks. Unfortunately, they seemed to think that everybody likes their tea strong, so they let it brew for a bit, but at least I managed to stem my cravings for a while. So we then decided to go for a wander, and look for the train, though it turned out that since it was the off season it wasn’t running, which was a bit of a shame. Thus we continued to wander around the town, and I have to admit that the houses weren’t all that spectacular. Anyway, these houses are basically designed for the workers who need to stay on the island, namely because being a nature reserve the developers can’t come in and ruin everything.

As I discovered, while you can holiday on the island, you can’t live on the island, and if you happen to have a job here you basically have to commute every day (which would be a pretty long commute since the trip from the city by boat takes an hour an a half, though the trek from Fremantle is only half an hour. That’s not taking into account the time it takes to get to the ferry terminal. The other annoying part would be those days when the sea is really rough, which means that you wouldn’t want to get sea sick. Some of the workers do live on the island, but only those who need to be there after the last ferry leaves.

(pic - Story) Rotto - Info Hub

There is basically one of everything on the island – one pub, one cafe, one coffee shop, and one supermarket. Along with them you also have the touristy things including a couple of art galleries, a museum (which looks at all aspects of the island, and one day I might get around to delving much deeper into it, but that day won’t be today), and a small chapel. They also have a movie theatre, though it isn’t one of those sixty screen megaplexes – it’s a tin shed that basically shows an incredibly limited number of movies, ones they tend to be of the family variety.

I probably should mention the Quokka’s, particularly since they are literally everywhere. While they are friendly, they are still wild animals, and you are basically discouraged from petting them. Okay, that guy on the boat told us not to pet them, nor to feed them, and that is because even though they are placid, if they bite, and they do bite, you might need to get some shots. As for the food, well, that is the case with pretty much any wild animal, but the thing is that even though you aren’t supposed to feed them, that doesn’t mean they ignore your food. If you really want to see the quokka’s, go to the mall where all of food shops are located (or the pub), because basically where there is food, there are quokkas.

(pic - Story) Rotto - Quokka

Out On the Island

One good thing about the ferry is that they also offer a bus tour around the island, though they only stop at two places, and neither of those places are the old World War II guns (which was quite disappointing – they surely could have had a third stop). The thing is that Rottnest Island is quite large, which means that you simply cannot go for a walk around it – well, you can, it’ll just take a while. You can hire bikes, both on the ferry, and at the town, and go for a ride, but some people, such as my brother, can’t ride bikes, so we ended up having to take the bus.

Sure enough, our friendly guide accompanied us on the trek, and gave us a never-ending narrative as we cruised around the island. Our first stop was the lighthouse, which is located at the highest point on the island, and our second stop happened to be at the western most edge, where you get the full force of the ocean wind. I’m not really all that sure what it is that people come out here for because all you see is ocean, ocean, and pretty much more ocean (as well as a chilly wind blowing at you). Maybe they come here on the off chance that they may see South Africa, because that would be your next landfall if you decided to head out that way.

(pic - Story) Rotto - Western Edge
Not Quite the Western Most Point

Well, it was now time to head back, though we were also told that if you wanted to actually book accommodation, especially during the high season, then you needed to get in early because it does fill up very, very quickly. It was also suggested that we pop down to the pub for a quick drink, though as a pub it is actually pretty flash. The pub used to be where the governor would live when he wasn’t living in the city, but it has since been converted into a hotel. It wasn’t a bad pub, and had some decent beers on tap as well, however since I have now been out to Rottnest Island (or as the locals like to call it – Rotto), I doubt I’ll be in much of a rush to head back there.

Oh, and here is a map:

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Creative Commons Licence
Rotto by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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