Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Report from double you aye

The state of western Australia is about the size of India...... but in this state you'll find only 88% of one person per square kilometer. Just for comparison, there are 32 people in the same space in the U.S., and over 18 thou in the most densely populated place, Macau, China. We have chosen to spend our two weeks in the lower southern corner, where almost 90% of the state's residents live. Two reasons: 1) our children's unfavorable reaction when we say things like "we are going to see lots of beautiful scenery today" and 2) at this time of year it can be scorching hot in most of the rest of the state.

Eli brought his body board along, so the first item on the agenda was searching for waves. The lovely, artsy port town of Fremantle (Freo) is our home base here, but big waves are not one of it's attractions.  So armed with a surf report promising good things, we trained it to Cottsloe Beach in south Perth. Much disappointment as nothing was splashing over ankle depth. However the day was young so next stop Fremantle Prison, and whoo-wee, this was a horrifying place; accommodating over 300,000 convicts and later prisoners enduring, um, harsh conditions. Closed in 1991, reportedly it took a year to get the smell out of the 900 or so men housed there at the time. I can imagine. Sanitation is cited as one of the main reasons for closure, as a metal bucket in a cell the size of a restaurant cold room was all that the two occupants had available for hygiene. On our tour was the gallows, remnants of the flogging rack, and the interior of the solitary confinement cells. Tough stuff......fascinating in its gruesomeness.

Monday found us and 38 Japanese tourists traveling inland and north about 300 miles to see a wildlife park (more kangaroo petting and Kodak moments with koalas) spectacular wildflowers ("specky" in Australian), a wind farm (not the highlight), the pinnacles desert with very cool limestone formations, and then the part the kids waited all day for, sandboarding! We arrived at massive snow white sand dunes in the town of Lancelin, climbed up and onto the wheel-less large skateboards and off we went. Whee! My first couple of runs went well but then I put my feet down and might has well have been dipped in sand fondue.

The 2.2 million people living in this state can make the following claims: It has the largest herd of wild camels in the world (who knew?), the longest straight line of railway, and it is the second largest subnational entity in the world (edged out by a very large chunk of land in Russia). I was curious to find out if WA'ers use a different dialect...and so far my small sample size says no.  As in Brisbane and Sydney, however, this third largest city in the nation has some ethnic diversity. Fremantle has a large Italian community as well as a significant number of Indians and Pacific islanders. Interestingly, Perth is the most isolated capitol in the world.... it is closer to Jakarta than Sydney.

Yesterday we took a  30 min ferry from Freo to Rotto. "Rotto" is local speak for Rottnest Island, the only place in the world where these cute little marsupials called Quokkas live. Amid gorgeous turquoise blue bays and inlets and rolling hill we bicycled away the  afternoon.  Eli has some sore ribs and wrists from a nasty fall, but otherwise it was a fantabulous day out and about with supreme weather to boot. We were lucky to get to visit before next week, when it will be school holidays for kids here, and the population density on the island would surely exceed .88 person.

Off to Albany shortly......back atcha later!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Steph, your blogs make me feel all chuffed! (Did I get that right?).

    The sand dune photo is AMAZING!!!! Love to you all, Hilary