Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The harbour at Fremantle

HMAS Ovens

Australia 2 Racing Catermaran

The bay at Fremantle

Jeff with his bird out for a meal

Getting thrown out at Cicerello's

The harbour at Fremantle

With our new bikes

Norm and Pat, our hosts

The Moon Plant

Norm and Pat with the Moon Flower

The Moon Plant the morning after

Sylvia's Comments

We left Sea Bird saying 'Goodbye' to the friends we made and with instructions as to how to get through Perth to Norm and Pats home.

The main road from Sea Bird continues up the coast to another small town called Lancelin so we decided to drive up and have a look at it. It was much larger than Sea Bird having more holiday accommodation, shops and homes and a small jetty for the fishing fleet. A walk around the beach area then a short spell of quiet contemplation sitting in the shade watching the boats before returning to the van for a coffee.

Retracing our steps back towards Perth we came across a sign pointing to the Gravity Discovery Centre. Thinking we might learn something we turned off the main road and headed for it.

The Gravity Discovery Centre is a non-profit organisation created through community and business donations and significant government support. It has a number of functions, a centre for scientists to detect and work with gravity waves, predicted by Albert Einstein in 191, a museum with hands on exhibits to inform the public about the work going on in a fun way and it also houses the biggest and best equipped public space observatory, boasting the largest telescope available for public access in the Southern Hemisphere.

The brochure tells us that we would discover antigravity and the giant black hole as well as measure the earth's rotation. Not having been much good at science when at school I thought this might just help me answer those big questions about life that keep buzzing around in my head. A short video introduces you to the serious work done in the centre in conjunction with scientists in Europe and America to understand gravity, but the best fun is getting into the hands on bit and having a go at things.

My favourite exhibit was a giant version of a charity collecting box, where you put your coin in and it rolls around in ever decreasing circles till eventually drops into the collecting box in the centre. This was a giant cone shaped object and you rolled tennis balls around in it, getting two going in opposite directions at the same time was quite an art. After you have exhausted your supply of tennis balls you have to go down and collect the ones you made a mess of for the next person to have a go. It is a great place for children to learn about science.

After lunch we set off in the direction of Perth and using Norm's instructions got very close to his house, with only one mistake, before having to stop and enquire further. We had originally been offered the use of their lawn to park the van on and use as a base to visit Perth and Fremantle, but when we arrived we were made very welcome, given the use of their home and invited in to join the family celebrations that evening for Ross's birthday (Norm's son). Pat cooked a lovely meal and Maria, Ross's partner, had brought two huge cakes which no one refused a piece of.

After a lovely evening we set the van up on the lawn and settled down for the night having first been warned about the dustmen coming around early in the morning (6.30am). Tuesday morning dawned nice and quietly and we discovered Pat had got it wrong it is Wednesday when the dustmen call so we still have that treat to look forward to.

We caught the local bus from the top of the road to Fremantle to spend the day there. Fremantle is at the mouth of the Swan River, which flows through Perth, and on the Indian Ocean and is the largest port in Western Australia. It is about 15 miles from Perth and reminded me of our two cities at home, Perth and Dundee and of their similarities.

As the bus stopped at the station we decided that would be where we would get off and get our bearings figuring out it would be easy to find our way back for the return journey. Our destination was the Maritime Museum, which had been recommended to us, and we cleverly deduced it would be down in the dock area. So I bravely led the way, going deeper into the docks but in vain. Eventually I spotted a footbridge over the railway tracks and set off to cross it. On the way up we met two ladies coming down so I enquired as to the museum and they indicated back the way we had just come. I pointed out to Jeff that it was very interesting to see all the new cars, trucks, vans and utility wagons recently imported into Australia and waiting to go to the dealers. He did not agree. We eventually arrived at the Museum to find that it was half price entry today, which cheered Jeff up somewhat.

We had an hour long conducted tour of the submarine HMAS Ovens which was built by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock. It was commissioned in 1969 and served as an active ship until the 1990's. It is surprising how cramped these vessels are for the number of staff they carry and the length of time they go to sea. Following this tour we wandered around the museum looking at the exhibits, they have the boat the Australia 2 which won the America's Cup for Australia. I had forgotten about this event until in the museum, Fremantle hosted the event the following year.

After touring the museum we walked around the harbour front and came to Cicerello's, this is Western Australia's best fish and chip shop, and we had visited it on our first trip to Australia. So we had to go in and buy some great fish and chips, they cook it freshly for you so to let you know when it is ready they give you a vibrator. We went outside to sit on the decking area overlooking the harbour whist we waited. As we got out of the door we had to negotiate our way passed a pelican sitting at the bottom of the steps clearly waiting for something. He got a bit impatient and climbed up the steps to the door only to be chased away by the staff. Eventually one of the staff came out with a bucket of fish, enticed him back to the water and then feed him. After this he was quite happy to swim around for the tourists.

Felling somewhat dry we moved down the decking to the Little Angels Micro Brewery to sample their ware. We had been told of this by Dave when we visited our friend Eleanor in Leyland just before leaving the UK. Tell Dave it was a nice place to visit for us Eleanor. We then had a wander around Fremantle looking at the shops before returning home and joining Norm and Pat for a drink.

Wednesday morning dawned with such a racket at 6.30am as the dustmen did their utmost to wake the whole of Australia. We were just dozing off when a noise even worse than that jolted us awake, the man across the road had just taken delivery of a large skip. As things go in threes we decided to get up and get organised for the day in Perth. We had stayed in Perth on our first trip but did not get the opportunity to spend any time in Kings Park which is on the hill over looking the city. The bus from along the road took us directly to the park. We spent a very pleasant morning wandering around the gardens and along the tree walk, which like the one at the Giant trees, takes you up into the canopy of the trees, but not as high. There is a nice water garden area with a large lake and a fountain display, which can catch the unsuspecting tourist if you get too close. Close by workmen were busy erecting a stage for a concert to be held there on Saturday night, The Ten Tenors, or a hundred pound in our money.

We left the park and retraced our steps from our last visit around the city; one thing we noticed different is a monstrosity of a building right on the water front. We later learnt it is an exhibition centre which was forced on the citizens of Perth by the politicians and is now a white elephant.

We returned home and that evening we all went out to a local Chinese restaurant for a meal.

We were due to leave today, Thursday, but Norm had told us the local shopping centre was selling bikes quite cheaply. We have been looking for bikes so they drove us down to have a look. We managed to get kitted up with bikes, helmets and locks, so look out Australia here we come. The next snag was you had to put them together yourself, so that afternoon Norm and Jeff spent it in the garage working away. I don't know who did most of the work but I have my suspicions. By the time that was finished it was getting late so Pat suggested we have an early tea and then return to the shops to get food in and for us to set off early the next day.

By doing this we now had a chance to see the plant at the front of Norm and Pat's house which only flowers once a year at night when it is a full moon. They had mentioned this the night before but the moon was not quite full and so the plant did not perform. Would tonight be the night? This was our last chance to see it. At about 11.30pm the flower had come out, what a lovely flower it was and the perfume of it was stunning. Pat does not know the name of the plant just referring to it as the moon plant. We managed to get some photos of it and next morning the flowers were looking quite dejected.

Well it was time to leave and head for the next rally at Biningup. We would like to thank Norm and Pat for making us feel so welcome in their home. We hope that in the future they might visit us in Scotland when we can take Norm around his old haunts in Perth.

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