A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

The Pinnacles

We'd heard mixed reviews about The Pinnacles and whether they are worth going to or not, with the majority of people we know saying that they weren't. But when would we be in the area again... So we hopped in the car one morning to go see it for ourselves. It is a couple of hours drive north of Perth to the Nambung National Park where the Pinnacles can be found. These are limestone formations which appear to have sprung up out of the sand and there are hundreds of them!

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There is a small national park fee of $12 per vehicle which helps to maintain the area and their great visitors centre. Its definately worth going in there first before checking out the Pinnacles as there's lots of information on the area, wildlife and the Pinnacles themselves.

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Theories on how they formed can't be agreed upon but the one I liked most was that this used to be a living forest, and each Pinnacle would be a fossilised tree!

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The indigenous people of the area were afraid of going to this place due to the sinking sand. Elders warned not to go into the desert but some young men didn't heed these warnings and disappeared in the dunes. Legend has it that the Pinnacles are their fingerstips desperately grasping for something to pull them out of the sand. When you know this story it becomes more of a spooky place.

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After walking around for a bit we decided to move on before it got too hot. I definately would say they are worth seeing, we've not seen anything like it our trip so it was quite a novelty to see.

We drove on to the nearest town called Cervantes, stopping off along the way when we saw a tourist sign pointing to Lake Thetris which is one of the few places that you can see Stromomites and Blister mats which are microbial communities, essentially bacteria in the sediment which releases oxygen. This is a living fossil which gives a view into what the Earth would have been like before other living organisms evolved. Not gonna lie, there wasn't much to look at but we can check it off the list as something we ve seen.

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Cervantes was a lovely little place to hang out, with a practically deserted beach and only a scattering of houses of the main strip with a cafe it was a perfect places to laze around for the afternoon.

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A great day trip out of the city.

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 20:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Great Escapes!

Fremantle Prison

Built in the 1850s and used as a prison up until 1991, Fremantle Prison is one of Western Australia's most significant heritage sites, so we had to go take a look.

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We decided to go for the Great Escapes Tour where we would hear tales of convicts escapes whilst going around the prison.

First we were taken up to one of the guard towers. It was already baking hot in there with the sun shining through the glass so we didn't want to stay up there for long, I can't imagine what it would have been like to have had to sit up there when it was over 40 degrees! As we looked out over the prison we were told how one guy tried to make a dash for it when a ladder had been left unattended against the outer wall by a maintenance worker. As he scaled the ladder the guard in the tower sounded the alarm and fired a warning shot in the air. This didn't stop the convict who continued to climb so the guard shot at him, he wasn't the best aim though and missed. You can still make out where the bullet smashed into the wall.

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Our guide told us that most escapees were picked up within a few days nearby. One of the guards that now tours the prison remembers when a colleague went into the pub for after work drinks. He was surprised when the barman gave him a drink with compliments from a gentleman in the corner of the pub. It was a convict who had escaped just days before, needless to say he ended up in a different kind of lock in! What a muppet!

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One man had worked out a possible escape point after a lawyer showed a map of the prison during his trial! He managed to get work duty making prison uniforms. When the wardens weren't looking he could make fake guards uniforms and civilian clothes undetected. On the day of his escape him and another prisoner scrambled over the roof and in the second of hesitation where the guard on patrol was not sure if they were fellow guardsman or not, they had got over the wall, discarded the guard clothes and disappeared wearing the civilian clothes they had concealed underneath.

Check out this jailbird! A kestral, one of a mating pair that have chosen the prison as their home.

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We were taken into the exercise yard which is overlooked by small cell windows and surrounded by razor wire.

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You can still see scraps of prison uniform tangled up in the wire from where prisoners made their desperate attempt to get out. The walls even had shards of glass sticking out of them to deter escapes. Ouch!

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It is hard to imagine how you would escape out of here but one man managed to with the aid of dieting and a lot of butter. Now these two things don't normally go hand in hand but it all comes together as his story unfolds. His girlfriend had smuggled in some diamond wire in her shoe laces, wearing similar boots to those worn by prisoners they managed to do a shoe swap under the table so now he had wire to cut through the bars of his cell window.

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It was only on returning to his cell that he realised that he was too fat to make his escape so he went on a 5 month diet, and at the same time started to hoard small packets of butter. When he reached his target weight he smothered himself in the now gone off butter and mangaged to squeeze himself through the tiny window and climb up on to the roof. Here he made a leap to the outside wall! Now that's some motivation for losing weight.

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Inside the prison it was interesting to see that the cells were now being used for small businesses. Today you can come to the prison to learn guitar or even have a massage. Although I'm not sure how relaxing that would be in an old prison cell!

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We were taken through to a section of the prison which had held one of the most notorious escapees, Moondyne Joe, an Englishman who found himself sent to Australia in 1853 as part of a sentence he was serving for burglary. He was given a pardon in 1855 where he then lived in the Darling Ranges as a bushranger earning money from catching and returning escaped livestock. For over 10 years he lived free until he made the mistake of branding an unmarked horse as his own which was considered as horse stealing and so he was locked up. This is where he made his first of many escapes breaking out of his cell and stealing the horse back along with the magistrates saddle and bridle which are very expensive items. He was caught the next day and sent back to prison.

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He had 3 years to serve but due to good behaviour he was released early and started to work on a farm. During this time he was accused of a crime he denied committing and found himself back in prison. Outraged at this he decided he no longer was going to play by the rules. He escaped from a work detail and was on the run for a month, he attempted to cut the lock from his cell, when he managed to escape for a third time he made a gang with some other escapees who carried out robberies around Perth but eventually they were all caught again!

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Given his reputation Moondyne Joe was put in an escape-proof cell at Fremantle Prison that had been built especially for him. It was tiny and was made out of stone with railway sleepers nailed onto the walls to prevent him from getting out. He was also sentanced to hard labour breaking stones. The authorities didn't trust him to do the job outside the prison so piles of rock were brought into the yard where he would be supervised breaking it up. How ever the pile of stones that he made was not moved regularly and soon he had built up a pile that prevented the guard from seeing him from the waist down. He used this to mask the fact that every other strike of his pick axe was actually into the prison wall! And you guessed it he escaped again, though a hole in the wall! He evaded capture for 2 years and was only caught again due to his love of wine when he was found stealing wine from a cellar!

Check out this amazing artwork which was discovered during restoration. Drawing and writing was banned in the prison but James Walsh, the prisoner that had lived in this cell, had managed to take advantage of the fact that every few weeks they would be given whitewash to paint their walls to help keep their cells clean. So he would draw and then cover up his creations without getting caught! They were undiscovered for nearly 100 years, you can tell that he would have been a good forger which is what he had been imprisoned for.

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We were also shown the women's section of the prison which was separate to the mens. They would be tasked with doing all the laundry and other jobs deemed for women. No men were allowed in this section so only female guards worked here.

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After exploring the prison we decided to check out some more of Fremantle which would become a favourite place for us to go wander around and grab lunch, I think because it reminds us a bit of the quirky areas of Melbourne with similar architecture and cafes on the street.

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Freo is home to the Dockers, who had made it into the AFL final this year so it was good to see where they train.

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We continued on the historic theme and headed to check out the Round House which had been the early place to hold prisoners before the prison was built.

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Dan felt at home on here...

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 20:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Symphony in the City

When I discovered that Dan had never seen a full orchestra play live I decided it we should try to find a concert to go to. Originally I thought it would be awesome to see one at the Opera House when we got to Sydney but it was too expensive so that idea quickly went out of the window. So when I saw that there was a free concert happening in Langley Park show casing the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (WASO) season for 2014 we had to go and check it out.

We wanted to get a good spot so went early into the city and managed to get a space close to the front. Blanket laid out and picnic ready we settled down to enjoy the sunshine and watched the crowds gather.

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Soon there was no spare grass as rugs and sheets of various colours and sizes quickly materialised turning the front section of the park into a large patchwork blanket. Everyone was in good spirits and further back after the blanket only section the crowds filled from low chairs to normal sized ones to make sure everyone had a good view.

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You know you re at a different music festival when someone pulls out the scrabble along with wine and cheese!

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A jazz band blended in with the relaxed chatter of a sunny afternoon creating a great atmosphere.

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As we idly laid in the sun an ominous shadow caught our eye... It was Darth Vader! Along with the rest of the cast of Star Wars, who had come out for a photo opportunity with kids and adults alike! Can you guess that the Star Wars theme tune would be one of the pieces played!

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Love these guys.

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The show was opened with the Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare followed by the Star Wars theme. Whilst this was played an epic battle was fought at the front of the stage complete with lightsabers!

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This was the programme that was played...

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Everyone was captivated by the theme from Schindlers List and even the kids all stopped playing to listen to the tiny violinist who was playing those haunting notes, the crowd was silent for a few moments after she finished before erupting in applause. Definitely the performance of the night.

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The Lord of the Rings score was conducted by the appropriately named Christopher Dragon and we were transported to the world of hobbits and elves although I was a bit disappointed that they didn't put on a Hobbit vs Orc battle like they had done for Star Wars.

We learnt that it is tradition to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus as King George II was so impressed by it at the UK premiere that he got to his feet, and of course if the King was standing then the crowd needed to follow suit.

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The evening ended with a good old sing along and fireworks! It had been a great way to spend an evening and all this had been FREE! Awesome!

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 17:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Rottnest Island

In amongst our time living in the Hillary's we had been enjoying the beaches and chilling out and so we felt we needed to have a day out and explore. The nearest main attraction that is listed a must-do around Perth was Rottnest Island which has been marked as a idyllic holiday location for locals and tourist's alike. Known to the locals as "Rotto" the island was apparently named 'Rotte nest' which means rat nest due to large amount of 'rats' that have nested on the island. These weren't rats at all but Quokkas, more on these to come. It is called Wadjemup by the Noongar people, meaning "place across the water".

The attraction is that no cars are allowed on the island except for maintenance vehicles and so families tend to hire out villas and enjoy the coastal views whilst the kids are allowed to roam free on the bikes. Similarly day trippers like ourselves can boat over and enjoy a ride around stopping off at coral bays to snorkel and soak up the sun. It is also a perfect place for the locals who own boats to sail out and moor in the bays to snorkel, dive or just fire up a BBQ and get the drinks on.

We booked our ferry a few days before going from Hillarys boat harbour and decided to get the earliest one at 7:30am having been advised by Kim on the best plan of action for a day out at Rotto. It was a perfect situation as we were only 10 minutes away from the harbour and the boat trip from Hillarys is shorter than if we were to go from Fremantle. Arriving on the island we weren't alone and already it seemed that the island dwellers were up and about getting ready for the day. We hadn't picked up our bikes from the mainland before getting on the boat and so we visited the tourist information to get our baring's and then visited the bike hire shop.

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Before the store opened we encountered one of the resident wildlife milling around. The Quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans when first visiting the continent. The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting "a wild cat" on Rottnest Island in 1658 but nowadays it has been labelled as a Kangeroo Rat. They have no fear of humans and it is common for it to approach you and so everyone was quickly getting out the cameras to have a butchers.

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Once the bike shop was open we hired our bikes and snorkel gear and headed off making the decision to cycle the whole island and visit the far western end which was about 8.5km from where we were and so it was going to be a fairly long cycle.

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Before we left one of the Quokkas came up to Sarah and said hello.

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As we started we began to see the draw to staying on the island as the views are stunning.

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Even Santa was holidaying on the island!

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As we approached our first bay, Henrietta I missed a very large bobtail lizard by a fraction according to Sarah, I didn't see but thank god I didn't run it over. When we stopped peddling the downside was that the bush flies were on you and wouldn't go away. I have no shame in saying….I hate bush flies!!, they are just relentless always aiming for your eyes and mouth! AAAAAAHAHHHHH! . Fair to say it annoyed me incredibly and so I was keen to get back on the bike. It didn't help stop them but you got a break from it as you cycled up and down the hills.

It was quite surprising that the island was very hilly, and so we managed to get a good work out as we traversed the island. It was a beautiful day and we just kept riding and stopping at a bay when we felt like it taking in the views, such a good way to start the day.

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As we reached the last two or three kilometres before the most western point of the island we stopped off for a break at a memorial for Roland (Roly) Smith who pioneered safe passages into the northern and western bays and help make Rottnest a more accessible island.

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Moving on it wasn't long before we got to the end of the island and being the only two people around we took in the sea breeze and had a stroll out on the purpose built deck which is normally used to sight whales who migrate around the bay. We were unfortunately out of season for the whales however we did spot one of the native Osprey birds. I managed to follow it as it landed on the other side of the bay and with help from our super camera zoom took a snap. It wasn't till later in the day when we could see the picture on a bigger screen that I realised I actually took a snap of two ospreys together!

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The wildflowers were out in full as well.

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We left the island edge and continued on with the intention of making it to Little Parakeet as it had been recommended by Mel as it is one of her favourites but by the time we got close to it we were getting pretty fed up of cycling and so we diverted off to Armstrong Bay to go snorkelling and catch some rays.

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It was a cool spot with only a handful of people.

Feeling like we had had a good amount of time chilling we moved on and found the Parakeet bay and its little partner and to be fair they were pretty good but by that time we were hungry and fancied a drink and so we moved on to the bar.

We got back to the main port and village around 2.30pm and so we had a good couple of hours before we had to get our boat. We opted out of the cultural walk and in true Aussie fashion we hit the hotel bar! It was so cool to just hang out by the islands edge and soak up the atmosphere with a glass of wine and good company, You really got a feel for how the other half lives in Perth and also just how isolated the city looks from across the waters.

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Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 07:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Beaches and getting in the festive spirit!

We have been blessed with the great friends we have made on our travels and amazed by their hospitality and generosity. One of these was our mate Mel who we had met back in Melbourne and had recently moved back to Perth. She invited us to stay with her and her folks at their gorgeous house in the Hillarys for 2 weeks. One of the great things about the houses here is the use of outdoor space and it would be great to be able to have space like this for entertaining back home (if the weather was better!)

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To top it all off when she came to pick us up she revealed a great surprise of lending us her old car for our time in Perth as she had just got a new one. Anyone who has been to Perth will tell you that you really do need a car to get around so this was perfect timing and made a huge difference to our time here. Thanks Mel :) We headed to celebrate our reunion at the Hillary's Boat Harbour for some pizza and a good catch up. Little Caesars even do desert pizzas but we decided to stick to the savoury!

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We were still hoping to find some work in Perth and signed up with some temp agencies to see if we could get anything. One thing to remember though when looking for jobs online is that there is more than one Perth in the world! I made the mistake of applying for a job in Scotland! whoops! Most mornings we would wait incase we got a last minute call for work that day but if we didn't then we headed to the beach and there are lots to choose from! The one closest to Mels house would soon become our regular and was always nearly deserted. If the weather was this good back at home you wouldn't be able to see the sand for all the people on the beach but I guess when there are so many beaches and the weather is consistently good noone feels the need to rush out unlike back at home.

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We had heard that Cottesloe was a good beach so headed there one day, we over shot it a bit and ended up in North Cottesloe beach instead. It was perfect for us and seemed to go on for miles, with hardly anyone on it!

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After getting our tan on and spotting a huge bob tail lizzard, which had a head the size of my fist, we went to find the famous Cottesloe beach.

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This was a lot busier with school kids having their sport lesson in the water and groups of guys and girls showing off to each other. Definately the place to people watch and be seen. As we sat down to have a picnic under the shade of a tree we heard a commotion coming from the beach and could hardly contain our laughter as we watched 2 girls who had just bought chips being chased by a gang of opportunist seagulls down the beach!

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It was hard to believe that it was the first week of December and that Christmas was just around the corner. We couldn't have felt further away from the festive season and home but this was all about to change when we were invited to help decorate Mels family Christmas tree.

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And Dan was even given the honour of putting the star on the top :)

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To continue on the festive feel we joined the crowds to check out the Christmas Pageant in the city.

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We managed to nab a good spot to see the colourful parade of lights and floats go by accompanied by dance troops and marching bands.

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It was also during our stay in the Hillarys that we got back in touch with our friend Marilyn who we had met in Bali. It's such a small world as it turned out that she lived just the other side of the park from where we were staying. After being introduced to her dog Roger we headed to the Marmion Angling and Aquatic Club where Marilyn was a member and had a lovely lunch and a good catch up over some wine.

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It was a perfect afternoon with gorgeous views over the ocean, we even spotted this bird fishing for his lunch.

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Check out this awesome house, complete with a holographic Santa delivering presents in the top window.

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As we admired the decorations a taxi pulled outside as two kids ran out to greet their father who was returning home. It had such an Xmas movie feel :)

Our first few weeks in Perth flew by with great company, food, wine and sunsets.

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A massive thanks to Mel, Anne and Kim for welcoming us into their home and introducing us to eggnog night and National Lampoons Christmas vacation :)

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We ll be sure to return the favour if you come over to the UK.

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 06:13 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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