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Published: February 16th 2019
We had a relatively short trip, only 55 miles and about an hour in length from Mandurah to our next, and final, stop in Australia. We were heading back to Perth, where we had landed over a month ago to start our wonderful trip around the state of Western Australia. We would return our car on arrival, having completed the loop.
The car needed to be returned with the full tank of petrol it had when we picked it up. We decided to fill it up in Mandurah, then just top up when we got to Perth. After all the easy driving, usually on the one and only road available, we thought finding our accommodation and then the car hire offices in a major city centre was likely to be a bit of a challenge. In fact, it was quite easy as we kept forgetting that our preconceptions needed to be downsized in Australia and Perth, while being a big city, is just a big city in Australian terms and was easy to navigate. Our journey took us along a much busier dual carriageway with train tracks running alongside, past Fremantle and into Perth after crossing the lovely bridge over
the Swan River. My pre-prepared map once again served us well and we went straight to All Suites Perth, arriving at 1.30 pm and finding a car park spot directly opposite. Phew – that went well. A young Dutchman checked us in but the room wasn’t quite ready and we sat in the car reading the newspaper the Dutchman had given us. He came out to us shortly afterwards to tell us our room was ready and we took several trips to empty the car of all the agglomeration of ‘stuff’ we had accumulated on our trip and dumping it in Room 304 which was HUGE but I didn’t have time to explore.
We needed to get the car back asap and expected that finding the Ace office might take us a while. In fact, we did it quickly and easily. Clutching my map and directions I navigated Steve through the city centre and into the outskirts then, suddenly, there was the car rental office! Okay, it was on the opposite side of the road to the one we were expecting and I didn’t spot it early enough to avoid us having to do a sudden, twitchy switch across
several lanes of traffic but, hey, how easy was that? We were upon it so soon we didn’t have time to top up the fuel but the gauge still read full so we risked it.
The car had done us proud. We had driven over 3,500 miles through mountains, forests, deserts, farmlands, towns, rural areas and seasides without a single problem. It had been coated with red concrete, had withstood electrical storms and temperatures in the mid-40s and had never once stuttered, with all dials remaining firmly fixed in the mid-normal position. Even the bent ignition key had held firm. We had considered giving the car a wash before returning it to revert it to its true colours but decided that would also expose all the dints and scratches it had acquired along the way so didn’t bother, leaving it with a red hue on its silver paintwork. The mean-looking spider was still alive and spinning in the wing mirror. He had accompanied us throughout this trip, and had boldly gone where no spider had gone before. We waited with bated breath while the Ace guy gave the car a once-over and were pleased when he said he was
happy to sign it off and close the account. So, thank you Toyota Corolla 1EYT 223, for a wonderful trip. We were sorry to see it go.
We caught the bus back into Perth central and were surprised when the driver said it wasn’t far and was free! We later saw that many routes in the centre were free of charge – how good is that?! We got off at the stop near our hotel but decided to continue to the centre to eat before settling in. We walked past Perth Concert Hall and Government House which seemed to be modelled on the Tower of London but I don’t know if it had any of the same connotations! I played amongst the kangaroo sculptures and displays dotted around the area. The city architecture was a mix of old and new and we wandered in to the Tourist Information Office to get details of the HOHO bus. We returned via the Carillon Food Hall in the middle of the CBD and took advantage of the ‘last roast of the year’ being offered at a Vietnamese outlet there before returning to our room, sated and happy.
Steve always says I
like to ‘touch’ things. Our accommodation at the All Suites was enormous so it took me forever to ‘touch’ everything there. I looked in every drawer in the huge kitchen area to find them stuffed full of every item of cutlery known to man, opened innocuous cupboard doors to find a washer/dryer tucked away in there (that’ll be useful!), investigated every corner of our separate lounge and bedroom, divided by sliding doors and both with TVs so we could have competing programmes going at the same time should we wish, before going out on to the balcony which overlooked Hay Street and provided a lovely view for drinking morning coffee on. Thankfully, maybe, the bathroom didn’t have a spa bath on this occasion so there was no risk of a flood but, apart from that, the suite offered everything anyone could need, including reliable wifi. Hooray. The hotel had an oriental restaurant on site and a bar next door, which was closed for the festive period. Would have thought that would be its busiest, most lucrative time but what do I know? I chatted with a guy who had arranged to meet some friends there, not knowing it was closed.
His parents had emigrated from Glasgow years ago and he had been born in Australia. He was forever grateful to them for that and said that, although Australia had its own problems (did it – we hadn’t noticed), he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. He recommended a trip to Albany and I told him we’d been. I recommended a trip to Esperance to him – oooh, get me, telling an Australian where the best places in Australia are!
We had almost a week in Perth and had a lovely time with a mixture of complete relaxation and ‘busy-ness’. I did some laundry, we did loads of admin for forthcoming aspects of our trip and I watched Perth go by from our balcony, including binmen at 10 pm on a Sunday and lots of barely-dressed young people heading for a party on the laid-on ‘party bus’ collecting at the end of the street. All super-organised. We parcelled up and posted back a ton of souvenirs we had collected on our travels and would take our luggage allowance on the plane over the weight limit. They would take many weeks to get to England using surface mail so we addressed
them to our home address on this occasion, knowing that we would beat them back home.
We did the HOHO bus trip and saw the Elizabeth Quay (still being built), the Barrack Street Jetty, the Bell Tower (which is a musical instrument in itself), the Cultural Centre, the Optus Stadium (only opened Jan 2018), the Crown (surrounded by lots of land and home to lots of gambling), the riverside (complete with the black swans that gave their name to the Swan River), the Perth Mint, Watertown Shopping area and the scenic King’s Park which was well used and really pretty with lots of history, lookouts, statues, picnic areas and a play area where children were encouraged to get down and dirty in a safe environment. We saw the library, the law courts, the arcade built to resemble an Olde England street, and a very modern building that had retained the old portico within its structure. We saw too much other stuff to remember it all. As always, lots of history and fascinating information was provided by the commentary but the most charming snippet for me was that Perth is known as the City of Lights because when John Glenn,
one of the very early astronauts, orbited the planet in the 1960s Perth was the biggest place in the vicinity that he might be able to see and just about EVERYONE in the area turned on their lights and/or waved torches in their gardens so that he could see Earth from space. How lovely a story is that?
In the busy CBD area we saw (and heard!) many homeless people hanging around outside the fast food outlets, hoping for a free meal to go with their bottles of alcohol. One kept up a drunken tirade about Australia being his country and everyone else should just bugger off (or words to that effect!). We passed a skeletally thin man who was semi-naked, just managing to hang on to his tattered trousers, but his hyper-activity put them at risk of falling down as he ran away from the invisible demons chasing him up and down the street. His vocabulary was extremely limited. ‘F**k,’ he shouted, repeatedly, ‘f**kety, f**king f**k-f**k... ‘ and despite our best efforts to avoid him he finally caught up with us unawares and very politely asked Steve, in cultured tones, ‘Excuse me, do you have a cigarette you
could spare?’ We fully expected to be told to ‘f**k off’ when Steve, who doesn’t smoke, said no he didn’t. ‘No worries, mate, thanks anyway’ said the F**kety Man as he ran off, clutching his waistband to his emaciated body. Maybe these are some of the problems Australia has?
I’d heard that New Year in Perth was no big deal (a bit like Christmas then?) and when we looked for somewhere local (no car now but we were in the centre near the river!) to watch some fireworks we couldn’t find any. We were never going to make a midnight display (I’m no good at staying up late anymore!) but an 8 pm family affair would have been ideal. We spent New Year’s Eve on our balcony and, after watching the streets below to see if there was a mass exodus of people heading in any particular direction that we might follow, we gave up and had a reasonably quiet night in. It turned out we weren’t alone in that as, when I chatted later to the relatively young people working in the hotel, they generally said things like ‘we stayed in/I had a couple of friends round/we went
to bed early’! There were no tooting cars, no police presence, no sirens, no circling helicopters, just occasional pedestrians, in groups, pairs and families, peacefully strolling around. So, Perth is a quiet city, in more ways than one. Oh, and I spoke too soon about there being no risk of water damage as I did manage to almost flood the kitchen after I turned on the taps to do the washing up and then forgot about them until the sink overflowed, but that was about as exciting as it got!
We did lots of exploring on foot around Perth. It has quite a compact centre so it was easily done. There’s lots of open grass/parkland dotted around and the area down by the river was really pretty. The streets are all wide and mainly straight, apart from the one with a kink in it because an influential lady wouldn’t allow the road to be built through her rose garden in days gone by. She just happened to be the wife of the surveyor who drew up the plans! We searched for Point Zero, from which all road distances in Western Australia are measured as we thought that would be
a fitting sight given the thousands of miles we had travelled there. We had almost given up when we spotted it on the ground, abutting and almost obliterated by the wall of the Treasury Building. Didn’t seem right ... We saw the Australian Coat of Arms on the Old Post Office building, complete with kangaroo and emu. We saw children playing amongst the water spouts in the city centre. We saw lots of tanned, healthy-looking Australians just going about their business and looking happy as they did so, and I was jealous. Indeed, on our last day, I decided I was sad – sad that our Australian trip was at an end, I love it so much there. I could only be appeased by Steve saying there were still lots of areas we hadn’t visited in this huge country and maybe we could return one day. I might just hold him to that!
The time came when we finally had to pack up and prepare to leave. We still had about half an inch of butter left in a tub we had bought when we very first arrived in the country. It had turned to liquid on several occasions
in the boot of the car in 40°C temperatures and had been frozen solid in fridges that Australians like to set on their coldest settings but it had served us well and I was sorry it had to end up in the bin! Aware that every ounce of weight counted again now that we were back on the planes, we ditched as much as we could, including the remnants of my little Book of Useful Information and all the pre-prepared maps I had so carefully printed out at home and had carried half way round the world. Bottles of sun cream, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner were emptied to the point of ‘just enough left to get us home’ and, of course, we no longer had any need for all those bottles of water we had kept in the boot of the car ‘just in case’. Half eaten packets of biscuits, newspapers we never got round to reading, carrier-bags full of tourist information and, almost sacrilegiously, one bottle of beer we had left over all ended up in the rubbish. By the time we’d finished our pruning we thought the chambermaid might need a bit of assistance to remove it
We had an early flight to leave Australia and we set the alarm for 2 am to be ready for our collection at 4 am. Our very chatty driver told us that Perth property was cheaper than in Sydney and Melbourne but the fuel cost more. He had only ever travelled up the west coast as far as Geraldton – crikey, we had done that within four days of arriving in the country! His home town was Albany and he had never been as far as Esperance which was just next door. ‘Had a good time?’ asked the driver as he dropped us off. I didn’t have the words to tell him just how fantastic it had been.
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