West End Boys
Trip Start Nov 14, 2006
23Trip End Jan 25, 2007
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We have arrived in Perth, albeit by a slightly tortuous route (via Melbourne) which meant we spent most of the day in the air. Still, we got to Perth late afternoon and were met at the airport by Jenny, a friend of the my family and her family were acting as hosts for our stay in WA. Very generous of them. We were pretty tired that afternoon, but managed to squeeze in a walk along the beach of the Indian Ocean, which was very pleasant indeed. And we didn't get lost, despite the impromptu shortcut we afforded ourselves on the way back, although we did walk straight through a street-cricket game and nearly ruin the future of the next Adam Gilchrist by distracting him to drop a catch. You do what needs must.
The following day we were up ealry to take the ferry to Rottness Island, a small island only 40mins away from Hillarys harbour (Hillarys being the name of the suburb, rather than a seafaring mogul). We arrived at 8.40am (yes, we were up early!) and hired bikes from the visitors centre and headed off for a brief cycle around the island. It turns out that 11km by 4km is actually quite a long way, and Rotto (as it is fondly called by the locals) is much more hilly than it seems too. So 3 and half hours later we got back to the settlement of Thompson Bay tired, hungry and I for one was pretty saddle sore. A brief respite from cycling, and a nice spot of lunch from the local bakery, restored our juices and we headed off for a more in depth look around Thompson Bay. The settlement is very well layed out, much like a sort of outback version of Centre Parcs where even if you are surrounded by houses, its still only a few minutes walk to be completely surrounded by nature. Having spied out the mini-golf course early on, we headed there next, with me looking to claw back some of my deficit to Chris. It was all going swimmingly until the 14th, when I made a rash desicion to play out of the bunker, rather than take a penalty strokes. Three hashed shots later and an overall score of 8 for the hole left me feeling something like Jean Van Der Velde, although probably on a much larger scale. Needless to say Chris claimed victory, leaving me 3 down with 2 or 3 to play depending on time and course constraints, so I very much feel for how Freddy feels.
We completed our day of cycling by visiting the south-east corner of the island, one of the small areas that we hadn't covered on our marathon mission earlier in the day. There we found a small and largely unoccupied beach called Porpoise Bay, which was so very pleasant that we nealry missed our ferry back! The sand was soft, the skies were clear and the water was so very warm you almost didnt notice you were submersed. We spent quite a while there just wallowing in the shallows, enjoying the slight cooling the water gave us, before hurridly cycling back (still damp, mmm fun) to the depot to drop off our bikes and catch the last ferry back to Hillarys at 4.30pm. It was a tiring but great day, and set early standards for Perth, which we hope the cricket can match!
The following two days we spent 'doing the sights' around Perth. Firstly we visited the Art Gallery of WA, which housed the usual amount of quality art and complete tosh. The set out was slightly different for this gallery, with the galleries not having too much of a theme, with the exception of the usual Aboriginal gallery, which is nearly as bad as the contempory stuff, but at least most of it is paintings, so its bearable. The stand-out pieces, and there were several to choose from, ranged from the ridiculous to the absurd and then into some kind of IKEA display. The selection of chairs and tables to view was bizzarre to say the least, but not as bizzarre as the museums desicion to actually purchase these pieces. It just doesnt quite make sense. However, the piece that perfectly captured the essence of contempory art was a 'painting' (to stretch the meaning of the word to its limit) called brown dog - brown mission. Now already you're trying not to laugh in the middle of a very quiet gallery with some far too serious looking people having staring competitions with various portraits. But the piece itself was brilliant. It was an outline of some kind of dog, in brown paint, with a few squiggles and scribbles below it, also in brown paint. Genious, really. I mean the 'painter' probably spent a good 40 seconds on that piece, of which about 30 secs was put into planning. However, this piece was pushed all the way by a painting of a giant yellow circle with a blue rectangle down the middle ("Hmm, what do you think that is, Chris?" "Looks like a giant circle to me mate" "Ahh..") and a collection of videos of the outback roads, all squished onto one screen in which nothing would happen for 5 minutes, then a tiny, squashed car would fly through 1\5 of the screen. All priceless bits of art, and this blog would certainly be worse off without them.
After that pleasantry we moved on to the WACA. Having just read my notes, I've remembered that we did this the other way roud, but it doesnt really matter and I've written far too much to delete it. So onwards...
Having taken in the WACA in all its glory from every side, we stepped into the WACA museum which was very pleasantly air-conned and had a look around. Whilst there was nothing particularly special in this very small side-office of the WACA, there was a collection of bats signed by various teams. This allowed Chris and I to reminisce about all the previous England greats to come to Australia and ultimately get well and truly beat. There was also the obligatory shrine to Don Bradman, which contained a fairly exhaustive list of his career stats. A fairly pleasant way to pass 20 minutes or so.
Having emerged from the museum, we spent some time checking out the cities free bus service, the CAT buses, which depart at regular intervals from useful spots all over the city centre. We were able to get some kind of bearings around the city centre and formulate a plan for the following day before heading back home via the efficient trains and the not so efficient buses.
The folowing day our plans were struck an early blow by our inablility to wake up. Having overcome that problem by sleeping in til 10.30, we managed to get into Perth by midday. Our first port of call was the Museum of WA (Western Australia, for those who hadn't worked that out yet) which was a delightful collection of stuffed animals, skeletons of dinosaurs and human ancestors (would have been a great place to go to before my dissertation, shame really) and a brief lesson in the history of the earth. Having covered both mine and Chris' specialities, to a certain extent, we felt it was time to leave before we got any more odd looks from the vast amounts of school-age kids who were wandering around with their parents (summer holidays over here now). We were briefly tempted to visit the ashes exhibition again, as it is touring the grounds in time with the series, but one look at the slightly extortionate entry fee of $12.50 (it was free in Adelaide) meant we politley turned down the offer.
Instead we did what all good cricketers do and took lunch. Having refuelled ourselves we hopped on a CAT bus to Perth mint. We were just in time to grab a tour round the mint which was something of a last miute rash desicion, but paid off well in the end. The tour started off with some fairly standard, boring-ish talk about the history of the Mint, but soon got very interesting. Having been shown some replica's of the nuggets found just lying around in the bush in WA, we were then shown a collection of gold bars and nuggets, and were also allowed to touch one, which was probably a once in a lifetime oppurtunity, unless my life-plan goes spectacurlaly well! After that we were taken through to a forge with auditorium-like seating and were treated to a display of gold pouring and setting. The brightness of liquid gold is brilliant, and its unbelievable to see how quickly it can be set. In just under 3 minutes the gold went from 1200 degrees C and a liquid, to a solid that was cool to the touch. It really was fascinating. After the display there was the oppurtunity to get your own gold-plated coin set and inscribed with any message; an oppurtunity that I took with both hands due to soemthing of a weakness for gimmicky itmes. There was also a set of scales that allowed yourself to literally be 'weighed in gold' ie it showed you your value if you were made of solid gold. Whilst I came out at just over a cool $2 million, Chris managed to beat me by $400,000, and was very quick to point out to me how much more he was worth.
By now evening was rapidly approaching and we were starting to get hungry. Having been failed by our guide books which had suggested we dined at two places that were now building sites, we went into the first place that seemed to serve seafood, which was allegedly fantastic in Perth. The restaurant was called Miss Maid, and we only realised that it was a largely swedish place as we went through the doors. Having made eye contact with the girl on the front desk, it was far too late to back out and so began one of the most surreal dining experiences of our lives. We had already decided what we would eat outside, having looked at the menu, so when I was asked if we would be having the buffet, I replied in a confient tone "Yes, please". Damn the pressure! We were shown to a table and told to 'get started' whenever we wanted. This gave us the oppurtunity to take in the decor for the first time. It was largely alpine, with lots of wooden beams dominating the ceiling. There was also the worlds largest buffet table, complete with 1\4 size gingerbread house (as in, about 1\4 the size of a normal house) and two massive trays of fresh prawns. As I wandered round the other side it was as if all my culinary dreams had come true. There was the biggest selection of cakes on display I have ever seen and I had to use all my self control to stop myself from literally jumping head-first in! We both quickly grabbed plates and tucked in to the delicious grub. There was pasta and salads, cold meats, hot meats, seafood (including oysters), fresh bread and an array of dips and sauces. Now this doesnt seem too bad, but when Chris went up for seconds I had a chance to take in the clientele. There was noone between the ages of 14 and 50, and everyone else was dressed smartly, and noone else was carrying backpacks. To say we stood out is like saying Uluru's a bit on the big side. Never mind. We kept going stronlgy until the live act for the eveing turned up. He played an acoustic guitar particulalry badly, which we just about deciphered as pop songs from yesteryear. As the place had filled up a bit we were now surrounded by middle-aged couples, many of seemingly scandanavian descent, swaying slowly in time to the music. Never before have I devoured my plate of food so fast. The only thing that stopped me was the interjection of the head waitress, who informed us we were at a table already booked. Before we could say we were about to leave, we were whisked away to another table and provided with free drinks.
At least we were in slightly better seats now, and as far away from the wannabe croner as we could be. We decided to make the most of it and settled down to several (4, for me) courses of dessert. There was 1 fruit course, just in case you thought it was all bad, or you're my mum! (Hi mum!). It was only as we left to pay that I relaised why all the elderly people around us were smiling at us all the time. They had only seen us arrive, be lavished with a few beers and then put away a fair amount of cake and biscuits, seemingly without any considerations for a main course! Actually, it sounds like the perfect meal to me, but it probably gave them a good story to tell, so its not so bad. Still, I did wish that one lady hadnt actually flat out laughed at us, or that I had at least side-swiped her with my bag, which was far too large for the intimately set out tables.
We returned home full, contented and slightly chuckling at ourselves. The cricket starts tomorrow and we've gotta win it! Come on England!
Sam and Chris