Rotto

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
1
53
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Trip End Jan 08, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Dutch sailor, Captain Willem de Vlamingh came across an island just off the Australian coast near Fremantle in 1696. When he landed he saw that the island was overrun with what looked like rats, therefore he named the island Rattenest, or Dutch for Rat's nest. The name has since evolved into Rottnest. Despite the inauspicious naming of the island, it is actually very beautiful and is Helen, Paul and Lilli’s favourite place to go and so we all went.

In order to get there you have to take a ferry, either from Perth or from Fremantle. As Fremantle is so close by car, it was yet another trip to Freo, although we arrived just in time to get on the ferry and not to have a look around. The ferry suffered from the same ailment as the Barcelona Metro system; granted it was a lovely day, but hardly summer yet, however, the air conditioning in the ferry was on full blast – even I felt cold! I had to put my hoodie on (oh, how my students would love to have seen that!).

Shortly after arriving on Rottnest, it became clear where the name came from. Maybe I’m an ignoramus, but there lives an animal on Rottnest (or Rotto to the locals, naturally) that I had no idea even existed. It’s something called a quokka. No, that isn’t a misprint or mistake; that is what it is called. A quokka is like a very large rat, particularly when you see it on all fours, however, it is, in fact, a marsupial, like a mini wallaby, which becomes evident when you see it moving or stand up. Now, here’s the best part, they are really cute! They have little or no fear of humans, so they come up to people expecting to be fed and can even be petted. I’d never seen anything like them, nor am I likely to again – just when I thought this country couldn’t amaze me any further, out popped something completely different.

That was my day made, but we had the whole afternoon to go. First up, unexpectedly, there was some kind of Aussie Rules Football tournament going on, which we watched for a little while. My opinion of Aussie Rules hasn’t been changed; the irony of Aussie Rules is that there are no rules. However, it was exciting to watch. Then Helen and Lilli went off to the beach, while Paul and I took a bus around the island. It should be said that no cars are allowed on Rotto except for a couple of police cars (though they didn’t seem to do anything all day, they don’t even have to control traffic) and an ambo or two (that’s 'ambulance’ for those of you who don’t speak Australian). So for the holidaymakers, the only form of transport around the island is by bus, bicycle or on foot (and for me, the last two were out of the question). From the bus, I could see why Helen loved the island so much; it really is gorgeous with some fantastic bays and beaches.

Once Paul and I had been around the island, we headed off to the beach where Helen and Lilli were. One thing I noticed at Hillarys and once again here, and this is something that we don’t have in Spain, there are heaps of changing rooms at the beaches, so you don’t have to do a Harry Houdini and try and get changed under a towel. All was not rosy in paradise, however, for there was a minor problem of the water temperature – it was absolutely freezing. I hadn’t been that cold since swimming in Cadaques at Easter time, although it wasn’t as cold as trying to get into the sea at Brighton; even Lilli admitted that the water was freezing. But I had to man up, especially in front of Lilli and so, I braved the freezing waters of Rotto and after the initial shock (well, actually it lasted for about 5 – 10 minutes), it was worth it. Lilli leant me her swimming goggles, so that I could look under the water and to my amazement we were surrounded by fish and not just tiny ones, some of them were huge (well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but to be honest, I expect fish that size to be on my plate). I even saw zebra fish...in the wild.

After soaking up some rays to dry off and wondering what the poor people were doing, it was time for lunch. Once again, I was in for a surprise. We decided on pizza for lunch, and let me state that I’d had a pizza in Oz before now, but I’d never really looked at the menu properly. Hidden among the ‘traditional’ pizzas was a chicken tandoori pizza with raita yoghurt. I did a double take and once it had sunk in what it was, I had to have it. And yes, it was lovely. Helen and Paul were surprised by my reaction to this pizza as to them it was nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing out of the ordinary? Let me reiterate what was on the menu, chicken tandoori pizza! How is that normal? Then Paul proceeded to explain to me that, in Oz, just about anything is fair game to be put on a pizza, even desserts! Later at home, he showed me a pizza menu with just about every combination you could think of and to round it all off, a ‘chocolate lover’s pizza’.

During lunch, the quokkas made an appearance at the terrace of the bar we were at. Like all animals, they smell out easy food. One came up to our table, and once again I was able to pet it, even though we didn’t have any food to give it, as our meals hadn’t arrived. Evidently the quokka was so disgusted by the lack reciprocation on our part that he laid a fresh turd at our table and then hopped off.

After lunch, time was spent chillaxing until it was time to return to Freo. Now, here was something new for everyone – we were set to return on something called the Megablast. I can’t really describe it, except to say it’s basically a large speedboat for about 50 passengers. I should have known something was up, when as we rocked up to the boat all the seats had all-weather coveralls draped over them. One size fits all. Yeah, riiiiight! I’m sure you can see where this is headed, but let me continue anyway. Everyone slipped on their coveralls, however, I had more than a few problems with it and, in the end, Helen came up with tying around my front like a pinafore. For what lay in store that was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

We ‘set sail’ and as we were leaving the harbour, I thought this isn’t too bad, but once we were clear of the port, the driver put her foot down and the next thing you knew we were flying, literally, over the waves. The ride itself was brilliant, it really got the adrenaline flowing, however, there is always going to be a consequence of bouncing off the waves... the landing. Seawater came in from all sides. I felt as if I’d drunk half the ocean as the water soaked us with strength that it caused me to squeal like a baby, not realising that as my mouth was open from the first soaking, frequently there would be a second immediately afterward, which would always go straight down my throat. As for the afore-mentioned coverall, I might as well have not worn it. I was totally drenched, from head to foot – by sheer luck, I happened to have a change of clothes with me or the car would have taken days to dry out. I’d love to do it again, but if I do, next time it will be in just my bathers (‘swimming trunks’. Come on! Keep up!).

Rotto, what an experience!
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Comments

georgegoode
georgegoode on

500 metres off shore? There's no way I was EVER going to go that far out.

PaulBB on

500 centimeters maybe

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