Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Robo-post: Rottnest Island adventure

(John is quite literally out of touch in the Outback right now, exploring Kings Canyon and Uluru, so here’s a previously unpublished post about my weekend activities.)
The view from the Rottnest Island gun turret.

Last Saturday, I took the train out to the port city of Fremantle — site of a major US Navy submarine base in the Second World War and still a major Indian Ocean port. Not that seeing “Freo,” as the locals call it, was a major destination. Once there, I got a ferry out to Rottnest Island (above), about 10 miles off the coast of downtown Perth.

The pleasant ferry ride over was courtesy of Oceanic Cruises’ catamaran. It was fast and scenic and the Indian Ocean was pleasantly smooth.

Rottnest Island was named in the 17th century by a Dutch explorer who thought the long-tailed creatures he saw hopping all over the island were actually giant rats (relax Claire, they were actually quokkas). I had hoped I would be able to see some quokka on the island, but the extent of the wildlife I saw were some long-tailed skinks.

Me exploring Rottnest Island.
There’s but one real way to get around the island, by bicycle (a rental for which was included in the cost of my ferry ticket). I hadn’t ridden a bike in probably 10 years, maybe 15. But it’s true, you never forget. As much as I’d like to say my recent exercise program helped (and it did a bit), the bike riding reminded me that I’m still not in the best of shape.

Rottnest is kind of a weekend holiday and day trip destination for Perth residents, and as such was crowded when I arrived, but some peddling away from the settlement left me very much alone.

In fact, I eventually found a little bay, complete with wave-breaking reef, on the north shore of the island. It was just me and a couple Dutch tourists (maybe they were claiming the island back) in a crystal-clear warm lagoon. I hip-waded out as far as I could in the tranquil lagoon.

During my Tour de Rottnest, I hiked up to the large gun turret that was key to the Fremantle defense during World War II because of the great view (seen above). The gun turret (below) wasn’t dismantled after the war because of the difficulty in moving the huge mass back to the mainland.

I spent about five hours on the island, only leaving because the bike rental expired at 4 p.m. and the last ferry left the island an hour later. I continued past Fremantle on the way back and got a very nice cruise up the Swan River to Perth proper, giving me great views of the city’s skyline from the river (below).

John will be back blogging from Alice Springs on Saturday (Australia time) about Kings Canyon and Uluru (aka Ayers Rock), barring any baby-eating dingos.

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