March 28-31, 2010
03.28.2010 - 03.31.2010 81 °F
March 28, 2010
G’dday from Perth Australia and my fifth continent on the journey. Can’t express how much I have been anticipating this grand finale and the physical comfort it will bring and English again. Even Aussie’s English works for me. Finally able to communicate and this is a huge relief mentally. Last night’s 7 hour sleep was great and I thought I would sleep 12 hours or more and that was the plan but this, like every other stop, the anticipation of seeing where I am and enjoying as much experience while I’m here was too much and I hit the streets. I am staying in the CBD a common term overseas and means Central Business District. Not in the middle of huge building, they begin down the street, but a cross the street from the main Catholic cathedral and like great statement of classic architecture. It was restored recently and has the most unusual look as half appears hundreds of year old while the other half is very modern and the blending is amazing. It’s pretty pleasing to the eye and next to that is some fancy estate with gardens that blend with the church. The balcony off my room overlooks that scene across the street and though it’s not completely without noise by some traffic it’s a sharp contrast to the other hectic and loud locations I have resided before here and it’s a very welcome change welcome. Weather is like San Diego I was told today so in a word PERFECT with consistent 70’s 80’s and is the sunniest city or capital city on the planet again something I was told on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour I took today. I love these buses because they really get you oriented and aware of interesting sights you can return to on your own on local bus or subway and really check out. I bought a pair of shorts and sandals today and couldn’t get them on fast enough and now I’m in bliss. Didn’t take any as I was unsure about offending the locals and I didn’t want to upset of the natives with these legs! LOL. Heading to the coastal city of Freemantle and probably Robinest Island tomorrow and relax in the sun and do what you always do at the beach, down beer, people watch and maybe even do a little body surfing. Catch you next time with more details so do stay tuned! Amelia for Marco Polo you take your pick…
March 29, 2010
Ok now I slept 11 hrs a new record and I’m feeling like Superman! Having breakfast at McD’s not only because I like the breakfasts and anyone who really knows me knows that simple fact but they have FREE WiFi as I was not about to pay the hotel $20.00 per day at the hotel (ouch!). After I upload this I will head back to hotel and pack the computer, grab my suntan oil and head to the coast. It’s a picture perfect day in paradise and I’m going to “Become the Change I Seek” today!
Today was my best day of vacation and provided opportunities to finally have some great conversation and good times with the natives. I love Aussies (and Kiwi’s) and their sense of humor so much because they are not bashful and love to speak their mind and it was fun drinking West Australia wine with several couples my age. My planned day at Freemantle changed once I walked downhill to the harbor from my hotel. While inquiring about the boat ride to Freemantle I was offered a 10% discount on a lunch and wine tasting cruise up the Swan River to the Swan Valley and wine country leaving in 6 minutes. It sounded great to get on the water and enjoy another part of the river area. The Swan River runs from the Swan Valley, through Perth and out to the ocean through Freemantle on the coast. I was last on board and lucked out getting assigned table 2 with a couple my age and a single older gentleman probably in his 80’s. I introduced myself right off and knew I was going to enjoy this company. I didn’t have any idea what the 4 hour cruise involved so they filled me in on the instructions about the order of tables who would be allowed to hit the buffet so that the mob mentality I have been dealing with throughout this trip would be controlled and the experience would be pleasant for everyone. No worries by me and heck we were the second table in line to hit the buffet so I knew I could get to those prawns before they had been scooped up by the crowd. I eat, laughed and learned that these Aussies are steadfast that global warming is all natural and not a single dime should be spent to change course as it was all inevitable and why waste money on it. Not wanting to get heavy on the subject I did share my opinion that man was greatly accelerating the process and conservation and movement away from petroleum was a good thing and worth the effort. They also congratulated me and the country on finally legislating better access to healthcare and benefit they already enjoy and that is accessible, affordable and portable health insurance for all. Australia and New Zealand seem to like their health care system and are quite proud of it. Many I spoke with have private insurance as well to get even better coverage. The couple was from New South Wales state and own an earth moving and hauling business so I asked about the recession impact for them as I had been told earlier that Australia was completely unaffected by the world crisis. They set me straight and affirmed that it had impact their country and their business personally but things were rebounding. The only negative I can say right now about Perth is its very expensive. I told you yesterday that I did a little cloths shopping, well I didn’t tell my surprise at the register when a pair of shorts and simple short sleeve cotton shirt totaled $170 Aussie (about $150 US). I knew the shorts were on sale for $35 and was told by the clerk the shirt was also on sale so I can only imagine what the shirt cost before the markdown but I removed it from my bill and left with only the shorts. I had also check for some 3 or 4 packs of boxer shorts because I have going through the undies and didn’t want to wash. The cheapest boxer was a single at $24 yah, I’m not kidding. I must have picked the Nordstrom’s of West Australia. Wow, as the free wine flowed so did the humor and my soul was in heaven laughing and sharing funny stories from our travels. The older gentlemen in his late 70’s was from York and was well traveled so we really connected and swapped travel recommendations and confirmed similar experiences from our many years enjoying what travel can offer. Experienced world travelers and frequent flyers are weirdly related by our joy of the experience and love to exchange suggestions and great values for the buck we have discovered. Even the couple offered a clipping from the newspaper that advertised a value cruise down the coast including meal and drink for around $85. Just the gesture was refreshing as I had experienced a lot of attempts to remove me from my hard earned money through some of my shady tour guides and shop keepers in the numerous countries I had just visited. Travelers take care of travelers and that was a nice thing even thought I could do that trip they suggested. We ended up at the Waters Edge Estate winery and home of the oldest cellar in Western Australia. Didn’t take me long to get off the boat and pass the mostly elderly co-passengers to get to the tasting bar. A lady in her 80’s had actually beat me there so I knew she was my kind of gal and we bonded immediately and joked and sampled until we finally decided to each buy the Frogmouth Tawny Port described as rich, round, luscious flavors of raisins, plums and citrus along with chocolate flavors are present on the palate. The residual sugar and acid are balanced to give a fruit driven Australian tawny style which finishes soft and clean (right off the back label). Its damn good and I can’t bring it back due to the 1 liter limit for carry on so darn, I’m forced to drink the whole bottle myself in the next few days. NO WORRIES MATE! On return back to Perth harbor jetty where we started we passed some beautiful riverside homes and communities. This place is so clean and so attractive it’s no wonder it’s a very desirable place to live or visit if you can afford their economy long term. The American’s cup race that was held here around 1987 I think. You might remember they won the trophy after the US had held on to it for over a hundred years. The win by Perth was a major coup for them and was remarked to be the greatest boost to their ego ever and was the catalyst for the cleanup of the city and harbor area in prep for their hosting the race. American regained the cup but Perth really won because they have a city to be very proud of. What the America cup started, the rich mineral industry, oil and gas and other resources sustained so this place is rich without a doubt.
I was told I had missed a freak storm that hit Perth a few days ago. Hail pounded the city for about 20 minutes and did enormous damage to the produce crop that will take 5 to 6 mouths to rebound (a salad was already $12.00). Cars were dented severely and could be purchased off car lots at great discount. Skip, please tell dad there’s another opportunity to get that new Chrysler at a big discount. He will know what I’m talking about as same type of storm hit Sydney just days before we arrive for our great trip here in 1999. Had a brew and a delicious dinner of sea trout (in season) at the Lucky SHAG bar on the jetty and had a good time with some Kiwi’s for awhile before heading home for rest. Had to buy the bar t-shirt as a souvenir. Sorry, no picture day as I left everything at the room because frankly, I’m sick of hauling the equipment around and remembering to power on the camera and figure out if I’m in video or picture mode and then finding the shutter cover closed and by the time I had stressed through all that crap I had many times missed the shot I was going for. It felt great to be free and just taking care of me!
This seems to be the perfect time to visit Perth as it moves out of summer. Really, picking spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in southern was a no brainer but I have not hit any rain except a nice mist is Toledo, Spain that lasted for an hour at best. I really enjoy the walk from the hotel to the harbor jetty this morning with several rest stops along the way. This city really feels a lot like San Diego and Seattle combined (that would be moving Seattle to San Diego). There is a big park that was the first commercial airstrip in Perth back in the 1920-50’s I’m thinking I heard. It’s a grass strip that vintage planes still use during air shows. Speaking of air shows, the Red Bull races will happen here mid April. I love flying this race on flight simulator on my computer back home and you can pick several location but I don’t remember Perth being one of the them. This morning a bunch of guys were playing some aussie rules football. Lots of locals use bikes for commuting and they really fly through this mostly park area and seaside walk. Looks like a lot of fun and with San Diego weather I could really be a perfect way to commute. The air is clean and temp is going to get up to 80 or so today and humidity is about 35% and this is my last day so today I’m heading for the outlet of the Swan River and the city of Freemantle. Already had ticket from the discount package I bought when I first arrived. Left at 9:45am and the water is smooth as it is a river of course so not much boat motion and that’s good as motion sickness is my enemy. The water is a light green color and you can see about 4-5 ft down so able to see brown spotted Australia jelly fish but that’s about it from the jetty. There is no litter to speak of anywhere and that means no garbage floating in the river. A sharp contrast to the masses of garbage floating down the nearly dry stagnant river behind the Taj Mahal. Delhi was the ying and Perth is the yang! This kind of trip makes you compare and I know that’s not good in general but I love the contrasts and being about to objectively respond with just my senses so it’s made me challenge my own perception and prejudices. Funny that those same prejudices are being discussed in the paper here as Perth as a spike in violent attacks against Indians and Asians and Australia has a big debate around immigration from neighbor countries desperate of work and opportunity (sound familiar?) Jobs and education is always the key and if we could just set some priority for the world to increase human knowledge and skills and regulate population growth it would probably only take a few hundred years to turn this ying yang around but who the hell thinks that far ahead in any government or society other than the real string pullers who are mining this earth and controlling the masses including at home but time for fun. Singles are as rare as diamonds here and even when I stumble across one they’re so paranoid to smile and respond to hello that I have now made it a game. I read an article on the last flight that you will live 8-10 years longer if you smile big, the kind that causes wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. It’s a small sacrifice and it’s helping with the boredom and loneliness. My goal is to find a single who was also traveling the world and we could swap stories and console each other. Well shazam, that single seat I saved next to me in the best seat section on the ferry worked and I got a young guy to grab it like a fish going for the perfect bait. He is also doing the around the world thing and has been traveling for 3 months and we had a great conversation during the 1 hr ride up the river to Freemantle. One in three residents have a boat of some sort and we past 6 yacht clubs and many more rowing clubs. Wealth is evident big time on the waterfront passing by. We were told about a house that just set a new sale amount record of $56 million (by the way the Aussie dollar is about 90% of the value of the Dollar). Camera’s were really clicking as we past the cascading home that had over 40 rooms and a 40 seat theater and bowling alley under the swimming pool. Why anyone takes pictures of such overt decadence is beyond me. An Indian business mogul in the fertilizer business in India is building the largest house to date called the Taj on Swan. He has told his contractors that they can’t eat meat on his property because of his religious beliefs. An probably for a little added marketing for his wifes opening of a string of vegetarian upscale restaurants in Southern Cal. I told you the Aussies are strong minded and but they are also chauvinist pigs to put it nicely and that’s pretty common knowledge and the guys would probably add a “you better believe it” if confronted. The workers and their Union told the guy where to put his veg only rule. Hey, these guys are descendents of criminals dropped off my Britain (lol). Aussies are great people and I have always enjoyed meeting and sharing travel stories. They really are a mobile nation and many my age had been to US several times and well traveled.
Andy was from England and heading to Robbenest Island from Freemantle. I decided to just keep my original plan and get to know Freemantle and eat some great seafood from the source. Originally this sea port had a narrow opening blocked by a natural jetty when first settled in 1829 blocking larger ships so in the early to mid 1800’s they tied up to the jetty and then merchandise was ferried up the river to Perth and Swan Valley. This was very expensive so an enterprising guy said he knew how to solve that with a little gun powder. With the opening larger is changed a swampy slew into a flowing river that started the prosperity. Before that enlarging the entrance was known worldwide as the worst hell hole on earth because they lost so many ships navigating through it. Sydney had already had its gold rush and now it was Freemantle/Perths turn. In the late 1890’s they hit is big and with the wealth they bough their independence from England and became self governed. I walked into the oldest church in Western Australia to get out of the heat and check out the great stained glass. I scored big as another lonely person who loved to talk about the subject he loved jumped up and greeted me and began filling me in on the history. The church property was a large tack of land in the center of town and the old church sat right in the center. The city fathers need a place to park their town hall so a deal was made to divide the property with a road through the middle which meant the church would be demolished and rebuilt new. Technically it may not be the oldest church after all but I didn’t pop his bubble. He described a stain glass window that was donated by one of the founding families who came from York and settled in the early 1800’s. To make a long story short, they were making a statement that they were not descendants of criminals and apparently important to keep the good name of the family. I think this is where the evolution of prejudice started for the Aussies. I think we all need to check in on our own so enough of that. I was very disappointed there really is no great beach area although I did find a short stretch near the fishing boat docks. Got my feet wet in the Indian Ocean and had so fish and chips and headed back to Perth on the last ferry. Met an older couple who own the Kia forklift franchise for northern England and I told them about Alaska because they are doing the Canadian railway from east coast to Vancouver and a inside passage cruise. They were fun and Peter and I exchanged email addresses. They had a train to catch to the suburbs where they had a time share so I headed back to the room to pack one last time as tomorrow I starting heading home. I have a 5:45am flight from Perth to Sydney and a very short layover for the Sydney to LA flight. I was going to wait until morning to finish packing but decided to do it all and then I could sleep a little longer.
Damn, I woke up at 4:08am and my shuttle was going to pick me up at 4:20 sharp. I have never moved so fast from a dead sleep in my life. I was not about to miss my ride home for anything not even the Lady Gaga concert I was going to miss April 1st (love her music and its been my sound track throughout the trip). I was down stairs at 4:15 feeling pretty relieved as I’m zipping up my fly and tucking in my shirt. Thank God I pack last night. I waited and waited and at 4:30 I asked the Indian receptionist to please call the shuttle people and make sure they were arriving any minute but their office was closed. Being a seasoned traveler I knew I need to back up plan know. I asked him to call me a cab and he kept insisting that I should wait and shuttle would probably be here any minute so didn’t ask at that point I demanded he obeyed and the taxi arrived at 4:45am. My flight leaves at 5:45 remember I still had security to clear so once again the stressed returned. Made it to the airport fine and was on the plane in short order. Got in late to Sydney. The flight departure screen was blinking go to gate message for passengers on the flight to LA. I was in the domestic terminal and had to find the international transfer lounge wait for the shuttle that buses between the terminals, then go through security again and also immigration. Man am I sick to death of this cattle herding, intimidation tactic with customs nighmare I have endured by 7 countries! I decided they could leave without me and just maneuvered bad back and all through the confused masses trying to comprehend the process. I knew it like the back of my hand and made it to the gate on the third and last final boarding call. Man this A380 is an amazing aircraft I'm coming home and I won my amazing race!