25 March 2013
We decided our first order of business should be checking out the Indian Ocean. This is Western Australia - as in all the way west. Which means we're no longer on the Pacific Ocean, or the Tasman Sea. No, we're now right on the Indian Ocean - how cool is that???? So we figured out the local bus system (which is part of TransPerth, meaning the buses and trains from here and all the nearby suburbs are all part of one giant transit system, and the same tickets work within the entire system). And we walked over to the giant shopping center (mall) that is just 5 minutes away, to catch the bus to the beach.
No, the beach isn't on Penguin Road. That's one block up from the beach. The beach is actually on Safety Bay - apparently this is a very protected bay, with a headland on one end and a long spit on the other - we're guessing the name Safety Bay indicates this was a safe harbour in a storm, right?
So the signs for the beach warn: No dogs. No littering. No fires. Strong currents. No lifeguard. Sudden drop off. Be careful. Oh, and by the way, you might find snakes while you're walking across the dunes, so watch out. And here's a cute little penguin so maybe you'll forget about all the things you can't do, and we hope you don't step on a snake. (New Zealanders laugh at themselves. Aussies laugh at us tourists. Seriously, they have a very odd sense of humor.)
The sand is soft and pretty. There's a ton of seaweed littering the beach, and we walk cautiously, hoping the snakes we've been warned about don't hang out in dry seaweed. We finally reach the shore, and gingerly dip our toes into the glorious gorgeous tropical exotic Indian Ocean, only to find that on this cold grey threatening-to-rain day, the water is COLD!!!! NOT what we were expecting!
So, no, we didn't go swimming. The water was not the warm embracing tropical crystal clear ocean we were anticipating. One of those situations where reality doesn't match the photos seen nor the mental image generated. It was bloody freezing!!!
We spent some time enjoying being by the ocean, watching various people (our favorite was the middle-aged man on a motorized four-wheeler modified skateboard - I think he may have been the lifeguard). We had a bite of lunch - no, not at the hungry penguin - this penguin looks as if he's hungry enough to eat the tourists! (I told you, Aussies laugh at the tourists. Seriously odd sense of humor!)
And that was our day at the beach.
Just a note - this is the area where we catch the ferry to Penguin Island, and I plan to do that later in the week. I think that may have something to do with the penguin-craziness of the area. Just hunch.
26 March 2013
The day started out grey and drizzly (it had been stormy all night), and was wildly windy. We decided it would be a good day to go off exploring, and we both wanted to go to Fremantle. So we headed out - but right outside the house, in the green belt with the pedestian paths, we saw two huge ibis hanging out by the now clear stream - how exotic, a pair of ibis! We walked a few steps, and there were two cockatoos on the ground, looking for breakfast!! The bird life here is amazing!
We bought the day-pass tickets for the TransPerth system, and took the bus to Fremantle. This is a much older town than Rockingham, and actually is the town with the oldest building in Western Australia. Fremantle is the actual port, and Perth is a bit further inland, although it has been developed into a much larger city. But Fremantle has all the charm of a quaint old seaport, and it was a fun visit.
We aren't sure exactly when Fremantle was established - the oldest dated building was 1829. For a country that is only some 150 or so years old, that's a really old building! (And it's so odd, in both New Zealand and Australia, to realize that most the European settlers and culture are recently established, that what is the current predominant culture is really very new. It seems so British that it's difficult to remember that these countries are, essentially, younger than the USA! In both countries, the indigenous people are something of a subculture, even in New Zealand where the Maori culture is more apparent. But really, these are two new nations, and that is very easy to forget.)
The city of Fremantle, as a seaport, has taken an odd animal as its symbol - I guess this is an old interpretation of a sea lion, an animal with the head of a lion and the tail of a fish. So the sea lion is on street signs, government buildings, even little brass plates on the sidewalk. The sea lion holds a trident, and a shield with a black swan - I found that to be very interesting, the black swan is another town symbol - the old City Hall building (first few photos) have black swans just below the clock on the tower.
No idea what the black swans mean. No why the sea lion's shield has the swan on it.
But Fremantle has quaint little shops, cafés, and eateries. One long street has become known as "Cappuccino Row" because there are so many coffee shops along it. And where there's coffee, Richard and I manage to find chocolate. Yup, the Theobroma Chocolate Lounge - a lovely place for a pot of tea while we share the molten chocolate brownie. Mmmm, a chocophile's dream!!!
We had a nice walk around town, down to the marina and along the old waterfront, looking at gorgeous old buildings and burning off that brownie. The weather had cleared up so the sun was bright and the sky an incredible blue - although the breeze was still strong and cool, definitely an autumn day in Western Australia!
In amongst all the old buildings, we found ourselves in the area of the Notre Dame University of Australia. We have no idea if this school is affiliated with the one in the USA, or if it's a private university, or what. But they seem to have purchased and maintained many of the beautiful buildings from the 1800s. As well as decorated the sidewalk. In keeping with the nautical theme of the town, of course. And in keeping with the quirky Aussie sense of humor.
This sidewalk brick reminded me of a Bellingham, Wa (Washington) shirt I bought for Richard, that features a Dungeness crab and says "crabby attitude."