I am not sure how it happened but somehow we lost half a day of our precious time in Perth. It started out as a casual idea that we would go back to the famous WACA Stadium (Western Australian Cricket Association not as I initially thought because they “wack the ball”).
Now here is your “Cricket Alert”. If you are bored stiff by the thought of reading about cricket please skip to the heading “Kings Park”. If not, stick with me because even I learnt a thing or two and you never know when you could be at a quiz………
We had seen the WACA whilst walking earlier in the week and that there was a museum and a one hour tour of the grounds. We got totally engrossed in the museum and all the memorabilia that we nearly missed our tour. Jon scrutinised all the statistics and display case after display case of signed bats and stumps. I think the thing that stuck most in my mind was a hand drawn picture of a team of Aboriginal crickets who went on tour to play England in 1868. That is ten years before any other Australian players toured there. Evidently from the 1860s, Aborigines played cricket against European settlers. The indigenous touring team consisted of players such as Sundown, Red Cap and Dick-a-Dick. All either their Aboriginal names or loosely linked to it but the most outstanding player was Johnny Mullagh (traditional name Unaarrimin). He scored 1698 runs and took 245 wickets in the 47 matches played. As well as playing cricket, the Aborigines frequently put on exhibitions of boomerang and spear throwing at the end of a match. Dick-a-Dick would also hold a narrow shield and invite people throw cricket balls at him, which he fended off with the shield. It was more than just an exhibition tour though. The Aborigines were only narrowly beaten in a cricket-ball-throwing competition by an emerging English all-rounder. It was the 20-year-old W. G. Grace, who threw 118 yards, and went onto play first-class cricket for a massive 44 seasons during which he captained England, Gloucestershire and a several other teams.
Cricket followers will know what an iconic ground it is and I learnt a lot about some of its famous historical moments such as the sneaky use of an aluminium bat and the even more underhand famous underarm bowl. (The Underarm Ball) . Our guide had a obvious passion for the game and made it quite clear how devastated he was about all future test games taking place at the new all singing all dancing Perth Stadium. With a lot of anecdotes, we were shown in all the players areas, changing rooms, press box and even onto the pitch but not the priced wicket. It was clear the whole place needed a little TLC but things such has the manually adjusted scoreboard (one of only two in Australia), which takes 8 men in temperatures of up to 50 degrees to update, give the place its personality and character.
Kings Park********* Kings Park********* Kings Park
Feeling the need to stretch our legs we headed for Kings Park. This park is situated on headland just to the west of the city and incorporates Mount Eliza. There are a couple of look out points that give stunning views of central Perth and the Swan River.
Further on in the park is a large memorial opened by the Queen in memory of Australian service personnel lost in conflicts dating back over 100 years.
Weirdly to one side was a tree with a dress and a tiara on it. As you know I cannot resist a plaque, so I can tell you that the tree was planted in 1954 by the Queen and to mark the 50th anniversary of the Botanical Gardens some of the trees within the park had a variety of strange decorations.
As our days in Perth were dwindling away, we had a heart to heart about what places we wanted to see or revisit. Fremantle was top of the list so we headed off there but this time by train. We met a very interesting guy in the Tourist Information office whose great grandfather was sent to Fremantle on a convict ship from England. Most convicts were transported for petty crimes but not in this case. He proudly admitted that this relative had been an armed robber from Coventry. Bit different from some of the other convicts who had only stolen a loaf of stale bread.
We moved on and visited the market which was vibrant and a real mix of international foods and goods. I had to lure Jon away from the Didgeridoo and Cajun Drum stallholder. He was having a very technical conversation about how they are made, their shape and sound. The only way I could lure him away without buying one was with the promise of a Bratwurst. We probably should have gone for the Kangaroo steak but after trying to avoid a stall full of their pelts we couldn’t stomach the idea of eating the meat so we decided to relive our time in Germany.
We strolled around like locals for a while and after a lap around the Shipwreck Gallery to admire a variety of treasures from the deep we decided we needed one last walk alongside the Indian Ocean. On route we came across a Map and Chart shop which looked interesting. As you may or may not know, in his previous life, Jon was a cartographer so is a sucker for a map. We ended up talking to a lady called Liz who was probably wondering why we were spending so long looking over the maps. Once she realised Jon was a former cartographer she gave him a pin badge “Maps are cool”. I think she took a shine to him. After some discussion about the maps, we ended up explaining our dilemma about naming our adventure. She explained that in Australia they use the term Grey Nomads for people who sell up and head off to travel once retired. Once again we didn’t feel that we quite met this category. However, when just chatting she used the term land-sailors which we really liked. Sailors plan their journey but you never quite know when the wind will change direction and take you on a different course. What do you think? There is the added bonus that they do like the odd tot of rum as well! The sea was calling so we headed to the fishing harbour and walked out onto a long causeway.
The ocean and the sky seemed endless and it was definitely a place to contemplate. No surprises that we were both contemplating about the same thing – what a brilliant adventure we are having and how in tune we are with each other. (Get out the kleenex!)
That brought us to our final full day in Western Australia and it had to be back to Perth and the east of the city which we had not explored. Whilst walking through the city to the bus stop we discovered London Court. It looked like a mini Liberty’s of London from the front. A mock tudor building complete with statues of Sir Walter Raleigh, St George and the Dragon and even Dick Whittington.
On entering the small alleyway of shops looked more like Diagon Alley out of the Harry Potter novels. There was the Shakespeare Tea Shop some lovely antique jewelry shops. It was planned and built in 1937 by a wealthy financier.
We caught one of the free city buses (yes free!) to Claisebrook Cove. It is an man made inlet/cove from the Swan River which had parkland and a lot of apartments and houses around the edge of a harbour. There were a few waterside restaurants and bars and the whole place felt so calm and tranquil even though it was right on the edge of the city.
We had some refreshment in The Royal on the Waterfront and then decided to walk the 4 km or so back along the waterside esplanade to the city. We had promised ourselves a slap up meal in Perth so we put in an extra calorie burning appetite building workout on some of the public keep fit equipment.
Once we had stopped laughing, we headed for Barrack Street Jetty and the Lucky Shag Bar. We had seen this bar on a previous trip but despite efforts we are still not sure why it has this catchy name but the brand/theme follows through. For example, their Sex on the Beach cocktail is a Shag on the River. They missed a trick though because their Bag of chips should have been named guess what? After a Shag Burger for Jon and boringly named fish for me it was a great place to just sit to soak up the riverside atmosphere.
We have been overwhelmed by Perth. The initial thought was that as we were coming all this way we should see some of Western Australia not just focus on the east so its beauty, relaxed lifestyle and stunning scenery feels like it caught us by surprise. It is definitely still evolving and by 2018 there will be a new sports stadium (with a pedestrian bridge that definitely has the wow factor) and a whole new centre on the water front around Elizabeth Quay. Importantly though, there is an obvious respect for the origins of the city and the historic buildings are treasured.
We leave on a flight late tomorrow night and our final views of the city will be as they were when we arrived – A City of Lights nestling against the Indian Ocean. Perfection……
16.9 – 19.9.2015