Freemantle, Perth and beyond

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March 20th 2020
Published: March 20th 2020
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Having probs with photos again so will just publish this and try and do photos later.

Freemantle and Perth

Day 28

Tuesday 10th March, 2020

We were due to arrive in Perth approx 10 am and duly moored up on the quayside next to a larger cruse ship, the Sea Princess (I think!). We were due to go off on a Scenic tour at noon and so had a leisurely breakfast.

Lots of info about the area:

Freemantle is situated 19 km south of the Western Australia capital of Perth at the mouth of the Swan River. It has colonial architecture and cafe lined streets with a population of approximately 32000. It is the maritime centre of Western Australia and the gateway to Perth.

Perth has the title of the most isolated metropolis on earth, with a population of approx 1.9 million, being closer to E Timor and Jakarta than other cities in Australia. It is also closer to Antarctica than to Sydney.

HMS Challenger landed in 1829. The ship’s captain, Charles Freemantle took possession of the whole of Western Australia in the name of King George IV. The Swan River valley settlement was a free settlement but the colonists experienced difficulties as they had no labourers. So convicts were imported from 1860to 1868 and built many of buildings that we see today.

Since 1945 over 6 million immigrants people have arrived by sea at this gateway to Australia.

The Australians are ecstatically proud to have won the America’s Cup in 1983 with their boat Australia II which is in the Maritime Museum here. It raised the profile of Freemantle in the world.

There are some very well preserved/ renovated colonial buildings in the town, and the wrought iron lace balconies are a feature of many.

The Round House is W Australia’s oldest public building built in 1830/1831 by the first settlers. It is a striking octagonal building. It was the site of the colony’s first hangings. There is a tunnel underneath which was used for water but also used by the whalers.

Fremantle prison is the largest convict built structure in Australia, including women’s prisons. It was a maximum security prison from 1855 to 1991.

Freemantle is a working port town with a fishing fleet, container dock and a yacht harbour, Victoria Quay.

Rottnest Island is about 20 km off Freemantle and is inhabited by Quokkas ( first discovered in 1696 by a Dutchman). These are small marsupials that look a bit like large rats( hence name) and seem to have a permanent smile on their faces. The island is now a protected area but can be visited by ferry from O’Connors’s landing, near the cruise ship quay. It was used as a prison for aboriginals from 1836 until 1901. It was known as the garden island.

It is said to be an off the grid slice of paradise, car free, ringed by secluded beaches. There is an annual swim across the bay, which was last month and the race was completed in 4 hrs this year. The island is where the Australian navy keep their submarines.

There is a wind that arrives off the coast every day called the Freemantle Doctor.

Lots more tall pine trees were very evident around the harbour ( remember what their original purpose was?).

CY O’Connor , an engineer, created an artificial harbour in the 1890s. O’Connor, after whom the landing area is named, built the first pipeline to Kalgoorlie. It is 530 km long, the longest in the world at the time.

We got to the bus early for our trip and were lucky to find the front seats reserved for passengers with reduced mobility, a real help so you don’t have to struggle down the coach. We didn’t appear to have a guide, just a knowledgeable driver. The passenger terminal is right in the port, and we drove across the river to the north side, passing the new container port area. That is all except a very small plot of land belonging to a little old lady who has been offered vast sums of money, reputed to be millions, to sell her property for development. She is now in her 90s. (Our next days tour guide told us a similar story, but that it was an old guy, and he didn’t even have an inside toilet. The truckers all got together, allegedly and built him one inside...) Anyway whatever is true there is certainly a small yellow cottage sitting at the edge of these container yards.

We travelled along the north shore towards the small town/ suburb of Cottesloe and Cottesloe beach. The climate in this area is Mediterranean. In the north of the state it is Tropical and sometimes that means cyclones. Last year after a major cyclone had been in the north it had weakened by the time it arrived here, but brought a lot of run off down the River Swan. The result of this could be seen almost out to Rottnest island in the different colours of the water it had been so violent.

Our first stop was at Cottesloe beach where there was an exhibition of 90 sculptures along the beach side of the road. There were lots of bars and cafes and it was obviously a popular place, more so because of the statues right now. There were more than a few school groups rushing around with clipboards and notebooks. It appeared that you could actually vote for a winner. See some of my photos. They were very interesting, specially the big knitted circular wrap around one of the palm trees, that I was invited to join in and knit a few stitches! I liked the idea of being part of a living sculpture!

We rejoined the coach and continues a leisurely drive via the state highway to the outskirts of Perth and some very exclusive suburbs. The close to the river, the more expensive the properties, guesses by the bus driver of $5 million were normal, although he kept saying he couldn’t guess! We circled Perth and aimed for King’s Park which overlooked the city. (More photos). It is the largest park in the world, occupying 550 hectares.

We were given about 45 minutes to have a look round.

The Park had another Anzac memorial, overlooking the city below and the Swan River. It housed the Botanic Gardens and was a totally open area. We heard that Australia has 12,000 species of wild flowers, the season starting in the north of the state in June and finally October in the south of the state in this area. We were pointed in the direction of a boab (boabob)ltree that was reputed to be 750 years old. It had been growing up state where the route was planned for a new Highway and dug up and brought down to the botanic gardens. Miraculously it had rerooted and was growing well. Another of the plants in the park they called the black bush as a slang name. Can’t remember the exact name but was interesting because it has a black stem. It looked a bit like some kind of palm. The stem was black because it had been burnt and the seed would only germinate after a fire. The plant we saw was about 6 feet tall but the driver said it was probably 150 year old. Fascinating.

After we left the Park we headed back for Freemantle and the ship, but as in good time the driver took a circuitous route through the town showing us the Capuchinno strip in Freemantle where lots of cafes, bars and shops were, with the well known market at one end of the strip only open at weekend. - it was Tuesday!

The rest of the day we spent in a leisurely way, the evening entertainment having been cancelled due to the singer being unwell, and enjoyed the live music in the piano bar and the Crow’s Nest.

Day 29

Wednesday 11th March

Perth 2

Today we had booked a trip - Two cities and river cruise.

We soon realised we would be taking the same route as the day before, although with no stop at the beach and only 25 mins at the park. The driver did take a longer route around the Park, and an opposite route though all the wealthy suburbs along the waterfront. The highlight was of course the river trip. It was a gorgeous day, about 37 degrees. We were supposed to have a commentary about the places we were passing but one of the crew came our to apologise for the broken PA system and offers everyone a feee drink instead. That was satisfactory and so we had a peaceful hours river trip back to Freemantle, sitting out on the back deck.

Another drive around Freemantle before we went back to the ship. After a siesta we went to see the film, Their Finest which we had missed in UK, where I continued my siesta and roger enjoyed the film ( yes it was that gripping!).

We had booked to go to the Sailaway cocktail and canapés party with ships officers again and so headed up to Deck 9 at the appointed time. It didn’t seem so crowded this time, or so windy outside and so we had our first cocktail after our welcome glass of Prosecco. They kept saying champagne, but it had bubbles and was cold so no big deal! The cocktails came in all colours, blue lagoon, Caribbean cruise, (green), and planters punch, (sunrise shades!) as well as gin and tonics with elderflower. I didn’t think I liked vodka (blue lagoon) but it’s amazing how different it tastes after 50 years of abstinence ( very unfortunate incident with vodka and a bet- I won my bet!), especially with blue stuff in it. All very yummy and the canapés too, with no break in the service and no hint of a sailaway. Then we hear over the speaker that the port authorities need to see everyone’s passport. Roger goes off to take it and returns. Cocktails and canapés keep coming. We don’t move. More requests for named passengers to take their passports. More cocktails, more waiting. We had a lovely chat with the officers who were there, catering manger, drinks manager, amongst others. One of them actually spends a lot of time in Javea at his brothers place! Things became a bit hazy and so we decided to have some supper in the self service restaurant while we could find it and eventually set sail at some point having finally satisfied the port authorities.

There was a comedian on in the theatre in the evening who didn’t appeal to us so we enjoyed the live music in the piano bar instead.

Sea Days

There were now due to be 7 or 8 sea days before we arrived at Sri Lanka where we now knew we could not get off but just use it as a technical stop to refuel. We also had a new captain, Captain Luka, as Captain Wesley had got off to go back to UK to take command of sea trials of Iona, P & O’s new mega ship with about six thousand passengers and 2000 crew!

This really was the most disappointing part of the trip for us as we couldn’t see Rupika, who had been my exchange partner in 2012 when I was International coordinator.

Several passengers had got off in Freemantle, rumour had it about 400, and only about 70 got on. Lots of Aussies had given up and gone home from Freemantle, instead of going on to Dubai or London, other disembarkation ports as the world situation was becoming very uncertain, as well as Brits who had been due to disembark in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thursday 12th March

Day 30

Today we were looking forward to some new speakers who had embarked at Freemantle. Geoff Peters was the first with The Man Shaw Named Australia. We hadn’t done any homework about Australia as we hadn’t expected to spend so much time there so our knowledge of is history is very sketchy. This would prove to be fascinating.

Geoff Peters himself was retired and spent most of the European summer cruising around Europe in his 40 ft cabin cruiser. He had joined the Royal Australian Navy at the age of 15 and went to Freemantle Naval College. Today he was going to talk about the voyages of Matthew Flinders. I had noticed in the past that there were lots of geographical features in Australia named Flinders but didn’t know who he was.

He was born in Lincolnshire in 1774. He joined the navy in 1790 and had actually sailed with Captain Bligh on HMS Providence on the second Breadfruit Voyage. The aim was to get lots of breadfruit from Tahiti and take it to the West Indies to cultivate it to feed the slaves there. In doing this they circumnavigated the world.

Finders impressed all with his seamanship

Flinders impressed all by seamanship and in 1795 joined Captain John Hunter on his voyage to New Holland ( now Australia) with nth new Governor King on board,

The lecture continued the story of how Flinders explored the land to the north and south of Sydney about 100 miles in an open boat, befriended the aboriginals and learned their language. Then how he used his seamanship to explore the coast and map it, how he met Nicholas Boudin, a sailor in Napoleons navy who was on a mission to collect samples of everything he could from Australia. He told about Boudin’s trip with the ships Nautaliste and Geographe, and their adventures.. He told about how they had circumnavigated Australia, both men, how Boudin is much better known in Australia than France due to a vindictive scientist. How Flinders was imprisoned on Ile deFrance ( Mauritius), for 6 years. And how fantastic Flinders maps were, still used until recently. And an interesting story about his cat Trim, that had journeyed with him from the very beginning, until lost during his stay in prison.

As you can probably guess I was entranced by his tales.

The rest of the day was just another day at sea, ricocheting from meal to meal to sitting in the sun, taking a siesta and the what we discovered daily have price cocktail at lunchtime beside the Neptune pool on the sun deck!

Evening entertainment wasn’t appealing, and so we relaxed in the piano bar and crows nest bar listening to live music after supper.

Day 31

Friday 12th March.

This morning’s speakers were John and Morag Hocknall, A Road Less Travelled. They had met while working at London Airport, both having moved down to the area from Scotland independently some years before. They had both been to Scotland to different weddings and returned on the same flight where they met, aged 18. They had been £10 Poms, travelling to Australia on the Fairsky when they were just married, aged 21 in 1970. It had taken 6 weeks, with only 2 stops in the Canaries and Cape Town, and they had got lost at sea in the Indian Ocean for a while, as the navigational aids were rather more limited than today, before they eventually docked in Freemantle. Passengers had made their own entertainment, and they had slept in separate cabins, often up to 4 women in a cabin and 4 men in another. They eventually arrived in Melbourne.

In looking for work in Australia, John, an aircraft engineer working briefly for Ansett Airways, Australia’s internal airline, came across an advertisement for a Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea. It required certain qualities such as integrity and an interest in people among others. They looked in their atlas to find out where this island was, somewhere off the north coast of Australia they thought. Indeed it was, the second largest island in the world!

He was interviewed by several telegrams as he passed each stage. He went to Sydney for 3 months training at the Australia school of the Pacific. He learned there were 850 different cultures and 850 different languages, but communication was done with the white people in pidgin English, which also had to be learned.

There was maybe 100 Europeans working at the various outposts in the different villages. He would work for 21 months on with 3 months off to return to Australia.

He found his role was a policeman, magistrate and jailer and rolled into one!

His duties included - Economic Development, Building, Administrator, Give democratic and political education, sanitation ad birth control.

They lived on the island for many years, moving from one area to another every so often. Sometimes they were the only white family in the village. They had 2 sons while they were there.

They reflected - Who would have thought?.....

He would have to patrol in the jungle........ and across flooded rivers......

He would have been in charge of the live volcano on an island 13 miles off the coast......

He would be the local government adviser........

He would have to get around in a light aircraft and take some of the most nail biting flights...

They Would acquire a pet dog and a cat given 3 wives......... have to go and arrest cannibals........that his mother-in-law would come to stay...for 25 years!

He had to keep a daily diary. He could be out on control for several weeks/ months and Morag would have to step into his shoes occasionally in the village to perform certain duties - judging competitions and presenting prizes being some.

At one point he had to build an airstrip with the locals by hand using only 2 wheelbarrows and 35 shovels.

He had to learn the difference between poisonous and venomous. The managers of the plantations and workers would come from the highlands to work. If they got bitten they had a check list of action. 1. Kill snake. 2 Take snake to manager. 3 If it was venomous the patient would need to be treated, if not then he was sent back to work! The Death Adder was the snake of the region. Once the snake in question had been chopped in half and both halves produced. They could see the snakes last meal in one half, covered in mucus and digestive juices of the snake..... but were most surprised when the lizard jumped out and ran off!

John and Morag were due to return for more lectures over the next few days.

The rest of the day we amuse ourselves as usual, lunch with half price cocktails ( becoming a bit of an addiction!) by the Neptune Pool, a siesta and sit on the balcony in our cabin where the sun was shining in the afternoon, and then supper and off to the show in the evening.

Today was Georgina Jackson, a trumpet player and vocalist who has a regular spot at Ronnie Scott’s and with the BBC Big Band. Another great entertainer with a great voice.

More news in a few days......but is much the same......cheers! Roger really into cocktails!!



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