In Perth, Western Australia, we have just seen the Easter weekend. It signifies a four-day holiday for working adults, unless you are in the hospitality industry, the beginning of the school holiday break between terms one and two (in this state at least) and the start of the first week-long break from university (my university at least). The national holiday suspends business activity over the Friday, Sunday and Monday of the weekend, which creates a four-day long-weekend to enjoy the tail end of the long Australian Summer and celebrate Easter as individuals see fit.
Unsurprisingly, I wanted to go out and be as active as I possibly could be.
Unsurprisingly, I would not have the presence of mind to acknowledge that I have jot been regularly active enough to partake in much physical activity and so needed to proceed with caution.
Unsurprisingly, Even the little voice of doubt in my head which questions my plans and motives was ignored.
Thankfully, I now have a handsome guardian angel to be the voice of reason (or my mother) to stand by me and keep watch or hold me back from overreaching.
On Good Friday (April 3rd) Gallowe, my boyfriend, took me in to Fremantle for lunch. The weather was gorgeous and we took our time wandering aimlessly until we found a seat and table outside to have some locally caught fresh fish. The city was packed full of families and couples all intent on having an enjoyable outing like ourselves. We didn’t have a booking for anywhere in particular, and my only concern was that I would only eat fish on this day. Everywhere we looked was full and the lines were long. Eventually we settled on Sweet Lips on the Harbour. I knew from past experiences the range of fish to choose from at Sweet Lips was incredible.
My Snapper was fantastic. We shared our table with an older couple and shared a conversation about real estate, eastern Europe and sports. This Good Friday was a good day indeed.
Skip ahead to Sunday morning. Gallowe and I awoke just after seven to Polly nagging us for breakfast. After we had all eaten and our bag was packed Gallowe and I were on our way to the B Shed in Fremantle to catch the Rottnest Express. Gallowe had bought us tickets are I had a grump Friday afternoon, much to my shame upon reflecting of my behaviour. The ferry left at 9:30 and pulled in to the Thomson Bay jetty on the Island 45 minutes later.
Rottnest Island named thus in 1696 by a Dutch explorer it translates into ‘Rat’s Nest’ due to the local marsupial population of Quokka’s.
The traditional name of this island is Wadjemup (Place across the water) which originates from the original land inhabitants of 7000 years, the Nyoongar people.
Located 18 kilometres off the west coast of Perth Western Australia.
Population of permanent residents if 114 although it is up to 15 000 during peak tourist periods and there is a turnover of 500 000 visitors each year.
The settlement of the island by Europeans occurred during the 1830’s.
The island hosted penal colonies and the unfair deaths of numerous Western Australian Indigenous peoples.
The first thing on our itinerary was to locate the bike hire office. Bicycling is the dominant form of transportation on this small island, there are a few buses that tour or take visitors with luggage to accommodation sites as well as one train. Given the lateness of our booking we were unable to secure a bike on the mainland or with our ferry ticket so we had to cross our fingers and hope there were some still available at one of the independent companies. There was a little bit of a wait and a little bit of an anxious moment between us as we tried to find the location of the company and wait for bikes to become free. Then we set off on our cycle around the island. Wadjemup is small but to cycle around it is a journey of over forty kilometres, and includes hilly terrain with high exposure to the often harsh winds famous along the west coast of the country.
I, of course, was adamant that I used to cycle often so it should be easy and we had to do it.
Gallowe kept saying ‘We’ll see‘ in his infuriatingly patient way.
I knew I’d show him up and prove to him we would do it. I mean, he struggled to correctly refold the map according to the predetermined map folds, so I was obviously going to right. Right?
Needless to say Gallowe was right. I was so grateful that he had been calmly insistent with his wait-and-see attitude and he never makes a big deal about being right. I don’t think I would have given in so easily if I thought my pride was at stake. When we were at the intersection directing us onwards to City of York Bay, right to Parakeet Bay and left to Oliver Hill and Salmon Bay I asked if we could stop, and see if the left turn took us back to the settlement.
‘I need to eat. Please can we go back?’
‘We could go for a swim at Salmon Bay maybe?’ I appreciate that he gave me options to go on. It was the nudge I needed to admit defeat.
‘No I just need to get off this bike. I’ve had enough riding for the day.’ He smiled and nodded, took out the map to double check the directions and folded the map in the most convenient way for him. Screw the folds it wasn’t practical, was the excuse he gave. I just chuckled.
We pulled our bikes up to the rack at Hotel Rottnest for lunch. Shared cold pints under a tree and waited for the food to come. Another large fresh locally caught Barramundi for me, a pizza for the man. The truth of this was I took a portion of the fish and my guy finished off the rest with his pizza. It tasted good, but was just too much for this little girl.
After lunch we saddled up and rode to The Basin for a swim. The weather was sunny and the ‘breeze’ was relatively low given the natural rock protection in this alcove. In the water we admired the natural valley between the limestone reef of The Basin, wished we had snorkelling equipment like many of our fellow bathers and kept a watchful eye on the area a stingray was purported to be.
To dry off we made our last stop at Bathurst Lighthouse and then returned our bikes and waited for the return ferry with coffees and pastries. It was a struggle to keep our eyes open and I wanted to cry at how painful the saddle imprint in my thighs and bottom was. The families we shared a seating area with on the ferry were friendly and watching their children made the trip back short.
In the twenty-six years I have grown up in Western Australia, and of all the places in this wonderful state that I had visited in holidays, Wadjemup is astonishingly one of the few places I had never been. This brief day trip embedded in me further a desire to stay for a weekend and truly appreciate the island life. It was peaceful, beautiful and joyful for me. An island that seemed to be a mixture of caravan parks, local history and physical activities, I can only make up for such a long absence with many visits in the future. Gallowe and I have already mused over a few possible ideas of when we will return and how long we will need.
As far as my health is concerned, the climate was great, the swimming holes were ideal given their protected qualities. The idea of walking or riding everywhere could have been an issue I concede this, as well as the fact that you need to carry the weight of your items on your back or shoulders, or pull it behind your bike on a trolley. There is a nursing station on the island, but I am not sure of the presence of doctors. There is an aerodrome where a plane or helicopter could fly you out to the mainland if there is an emergency. My bottom won’t recover from the bike seat for a few days, and my legs and knees are tender. I was indescribably tired when we arrived home and this too will take a few days to recover from. I broke down in tears not even two hours after unpacking the bags. Gallowe asked why I was crying and I had to admit that it isn’t infrequent for this to happen to me when I become too worn out. Yes Lupus makes me tired but I know how to manage my activeness to avoid becoming worn out. I did not do this.
I had the best day I can remember. It began with my adamant sulky statement that ‘This was the weekend I was going to go’ and ended with me crying because I had just had so much fun. The whole way through Gallowe was patient and calm, god he’s good. He’s a bit of a keeper I think, handling me and my Lupie, moody ways.
More about tourism on this Island can be found here.
To find about the Indigenous history and heritage of this island can be found here.
To find about the European history of this island can be found here.