Australia Part 3: Western Australia – Perth, Fremantle and Rottnest Island

I expected to have a quick and painless bus ride from Bunbury to Fremantle at 1:00 in the afternoon…but nothing is that easy on my journey…

Bus Ride and meeting an aboriginal for the first time…
– The 2  hour bus ride was great, until a man sitting diagonally behind me takes the back of his hand and hits my upper arm and says “hey”.  I was listening to my I-pod and quickly turned around and yelled “don`t touch me” and ignored the man (as he was someone I noticed earlier as annoying and maybe drunk).  He does it again and this time I take out my ear buds, turn around and louder say “don`t touch me” with the purpose of having others around me take notice.  He wanted to shake my hand and talk and I didn`t want to.

– Then he sat in the seat next to a young girl and started talking to her and harassing her.  I knew she was getting off at my stop, as we were talking before the bus left and he was really causing problems.  She nicely asked him to leave a few times, which he didn`t.  He finally he got up and stumbled to the front of the bus, almost falling a few times, and at that point, I could smell the alcohol.  Then he came back he sat with the same girls again (as she didn`t move over to the aisle seat).  After more harassment to her, I got involved and asked him to leave as she has asked many times – which at that point he started to swear at me, and I just got up, grabbed my stuff and asked the girl if she`s ready to get off since our stop was next and see if she wanted to move seats.  She did and was grateful for my help as she shouldn`t get rid of him (but she was too nice if you ask me).  Glad I was able to help out.  I later realized this man was an aboriginal man and there has been a big problem with them drinking and being drunk of buses and harassing other travelers and especially young women.

-Interesting part to this is the bus driver must have heard this commotion, saw the two of us move forward and as we found new seats together, he asked one of us to come talk to him…so the other girl did.  She explained what happened, and the driver called the cops as it`s illegal to be drunk on a bus in Australia and the police were going to come get him.  The driver was dumb (in my mind) and announced on the loud speaker that he was taking “the man in the back that has been drinking” to the nearest mall and was dropping him there.  This of course made the drunk man mad and he came louder and was thrashing around.  The driver finally announced that he would indeed take him all the way to Perth, and I learned when I got off the bus, that the driver legally had to take him to his final destination, but since that was in 20 minutes, there was no way he would sober up and the police would be waiting for him.  I was a little surprised by this as the man could have been a danger to others since he was drunk and angered, but I was getting off and not my issue anymore.  Whew!

– When I got off the bus, I was met by Tony.  My friend New York friend Pete told me his distint cousin lives near Perth and he could get us in touch if I wanted to meet up with a local.  I always prefer this as it`s more fun to meet locals to learn what`s great to do, have someone fun to have a drink or meal with or sometimes stay with.  I was lucky as Tony offered all this.  Tony had a great house in Fremantal with two spare rooms and get this…cable TV (again the little things I really miss).  He offered me a place to stay in his house, and I even got my own room which is such a treat.  I could unpack my bag and spread stuff out without worrying about having other roommates in the same room.    Little things…

-My first night in Fremantle, Tony had a work function for 3 hours, but I said I`d go with him to the area and check out South Perth. I figured as long as there was a pub, I can get a few drinks and dinner and meet him afterward.   Then I realized my friend Aileen (that I met in Margaret River) lives in Perth and maybe she could meet me too.  So using my brand new cell phone (so weird having one in another country), I called her and she came to meet me.  Many pints of beer later, she had to leave for her bus and train home, I said no worries as Tony should be there soon after 8.  Unfortunately, his work event went a little longer, and I was hanging out longer on my own.  But I had found a great spot on the couches and kept drinking and catching up on emails since there was wi-fi there.  Then I met Jamie…he came up and asked if he could join me and talk.  I didn`t really feel social, but he said his friends were all talking office politics and he noticed me all alone and thought he would say hello.  At first it seemed like a pick up line, but since I knew Tony was coming soon I said ok.  I quickly told him about Tony coming and we would be leaving soon, but that was fine with him.  Jamie ended up being a really nice and normal guy and we had fun swapping travel stories as he`s been all over as well and when Tony finally arrived, the three of us continued to drink more and had a fun night.

Swan Valley – The Wine Region
-Tony had a great idea for Friday`s activities.  He had to go to the wine region to take a client golfing.  He thought I could join him for the ride, he would drop me off at a winery and I could wine taste all day.  Sounded good to me, but in the end it didn`t work out as all the wineries were smaller (that we saw from the road), and I didn`t want to get stuck with no one to join for other places to go.  I originally thought I could find a tour group and try to get a ride here or there or pay a fee to join for a few, but it didn`t happen.  Oh well.

-So I decided to chill at the country club club house and start a new book.  After cruising the hotel that was attached to the golf course, I thought I`d ask the front desk if there was any way to get to wineries (taxi, bus tours or something).  Ended up there was a bus tour that picks up every hour at the hotel and on Friday, it`s free.  Perfect!  So when they called, I found out the bus broke down that morning and is in the shop.  Bummer!  Next attempt was another company, but they were full and final attempt for fun was trying for a massage as they come out to the hotel.  Only issue there is they need to come to your room and since I didn`t have a room, no massage for me.  So I was off to the patio to start my new book, enjoy some lunch and maybe a glass of wine.  I needed a little R&R so it was all good.

-In true fashion, I made friends with the bartender and asked about some of the wines on the list as I wanted a glass.  He let me try them, and when he gave me a taste, it was almost a half glass full, so after trying a couple of wines, I bought a glass.  Later I tried more and bought another glass…so I feel like I did get to do some wine tasting in the Swam Valley as I tried over 10 wines (about 5 glasses worth) and only purchased 2 glasses.  Not bad!

Rottnest Island
– I have heard great things about Rottnest Island, that is about an hour ferry away from Perth, so I decided to make a day trip there on Saturday.  This island was an aboriginal prison back in the early 1900`s, but now is just a fun island to enjoy the beaches.  This island reminded me a little of Fire Island in New York as there are no cars allowed (well there is the bus, but that`s it).  It`s a cute little island about 11km around that you can rent bikes to cycle around to see over 30 beaches and snorkeling places.  After I tried to rent a bike, I was impatient as the line was so long, and I didn`t have that long on the island (since I wanted to sleep in a little and catch the 9am ferry – still not that late).  So I opted for the bus and did my own hop on and hop off bus trip around the island stopped at a few great white sand beaches to get some sun, eat lunch and relax.  Wonderful day!

-This island got it`s name in 1696 as the locals thought it was uninhabited with rats (hence Rott in the name), but the animals were actually small marsupials called quokkas which are sort of a tiny kangaroo looking thing, part rat looking and about the size of a cat.  I was on the lookout for them all day, and finally as I was leaving I saw three – and later learned they hid in the daytime heat and come out in the later afternoon.  They were kinda cute.

Fremantle`s Party Scene…
– Tony and I decided to head to town for dinner, drinks and to meet some of his friends for some clubbing/dancing.  To start, Fremantle has a population of just 25,000 but it`s a popular city so lots of neighboring suburbs come in for the party life.  Best way I could describe it was like Walnut Creek, CA (just not as big).  Close to a big city so has nightlife, but not really like San Francisco.  With that said, Tony and I had a great dinner of fish and chips right on the water, and then started our own pub crawl trying beers at Little Creatures brewery, then 2 other places on our way to Newport which had a live band and dancing.  So we met some of his friends (Dean, Kirsty and Stacey) and had a great time.  This was the first time I really had heel envy!  The girls we were with were all wearing shiny and fun dresses, had heels on and looked so much nicer.  The last time I wore heels was in April, and I was feeling a little under dressed compared to the group (and I hate that!)  At this point, I really wanted to be dressier and decided I would have to get a new dress and heels for New Years Eve as I knew everyone would be fancy in Sydney.   So I will be off to shop in Melbourne for some sale outfit after Christmas!

-The taxi line to get home was UNREAL!  I have honestly never seen anything like it.  We had to wait 75 minutes in a line that didn`t move to get a taxi.  I kept asking the group, can`t we just walk down the street and flag one down.  I was quickly told a few times, “no – all taxi`s in town have to come to the taxi line to pick up at night”.  I was shocked as it took forever, but we finally got a taxi home at 2:15am (when we wanted to leave at 1am).  That was one reason to hate a small town, but it was such a fun night I wouldn`t let that details ruin it.

Driving up the western coast
– As the perfect host, Tony wanted to show off  his part of the country and drove me up the coast.  It was so beautiful with some of the best beaches.  Every turn was just a little different and the houses we saw were out of this world.  I couldn`t even imagine how many millions these things cost.  So a wonderful day of lunch overlooking the ocean, seeing all these towns and walking around the Hillary`s area which was a cute shopping boardwalk up north.

Fremantle Prison
-My final day in Fremantle was a lazy one.  I got to sleep in, watch some TV, cook breakfast (I know normal things to everyone else, but these are such a treat for me!).  I planned to meet Aileen in town and have a lunch, making me feel like a “lady who lunches” and then we were going to go to jail – the Fremantle Prison that is.  I heard this was so cool and a must see.  The prison was built back in the 1850`s as a maximum security prison and finally was shut down in 1991.  The main reason was it wasn`t up to code as the prisons still didn`t have running water in the cells and used a bucket for all toilet use.  Towards the end of the prison, there were two men is a tiny cell and both shared the bucket.  We couldn`t imagine…

-Aileen and I had a great time on our tour as our guide Steve brought the prison to life with so much information, humor and even took us to the flogging pole, solitary cells and hanging room (yes there was a room that 44 people were hung including one woman).  I will say it was quite a process and interesting to learn about.  Interesting enough, one of Tony`s friends that joined us for dinner the night before told me that her grandfather was the very last person to be flogged in that prison.  The last flog was in 1943, yet that punishment wasn`t made illegal until the 1990`s.  It was crazy as if someone was sentenced to 100 lashes and the doctor observing the flogging made them stop after 75 (as the prisoner was so badly beaten) , the prisoner was sent to the hospital and as soon as the person healed, he had to go back to get the last 25 lashes.  How horrible is that to know you have more coming as soon as  you are better, but they figured you had to get  your full amount of lashes?

-So my time in Fremantle ended, and I had such a great time.  Most of the fun was due to the hospitality and fun with Tony.  THANK YOU AGAIN!!!  I had such a great time and can`t wait to return for a visit, and then continue to tour the north west corner of western Australia.  There is so much to see here, that my two weeks in the west wasn`t enough.  But this was a great place to visit and I hope to come back again.

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