Wildlife. I was so privileged with wildlife sightings in Africa that I keep thinking I am going to see a giraffe on the side of the road as we drive through the Australian bush. Actually, according to Lonely Planet, I am more likely to see Australian wildlife on the road than off it. Roadkill is an even worse problem here than back at home.
So perhaps it is fitting that my first sighting of a ‘quokka’ – an extremely rare marsupial only found on Rottnest Island and one or two other locations in Western Australia – was a dead one on the side of the road. By this point, Jason, Sarah and I had been biking around Rottnest Island for a couple of hours and I was beginning to despair. Would we see one of these rare creatures, or would they prove as elusive as cheetahs in the Serengeti? And what misfortune for this little quokka that he was hit by a car, considering that the only vehicles allowed on Rottnest are bikes and the tourist bus that circles the island every hour or so. Somehow, we found our way all around the island without seeing a quokka. We still had two hours to kill until our ferry back to Perth, so Jason and I (Sarah’s knee was hurting her by this point) decided to head out once again along a route we had missed the first time. And this time proved lucky – we found quokkas by the dozen! They were friendly, or perhaps stupid, and approached the bikes without any fear at all. They posed for photos and we moved on, my Australian wildlife hunger sated – for now.
“Toeing” the Line
One of the biggest draws in Freemantle (a kind of suburb of Perth) is the Freemantle prison. In operation right up until 1991, they now offer several different tours of the creepy and the macabre. Certainly this is a prison right out of the movies – complete with a hangman’s noose, whipping post and thick white lines painted on the floor. The white lines indicated where the prisoners were supposed to line up, and this is exactly what we were told to do when we first started the “torchlight” tour: toes to the line!
The torchlight tour took place after dark, and we were all given little pocket torches to carry around with us. Surprises were around every corner – the screams coming from Sarah were hilarious – and Jason was punished for bad behaviour on the whipping post. He had to do a spot of acting and Sarah was asked to put the cat-o-nine-tails to good use!
Another big attraction around Perth is Wave Rock. A good four hour drive away, Sarah and Jason took to the wheels of a tiny bright red Hyundai Getz and I took over some of the navigation. The drive took us past golden wheatfields and wine groves, through sleepy towns and farmland. We silently prayed we would have enough gas, and momentarily panicked when the first two gas stations we arrived at were closed. But all was well.
Wave rock is an ancient rock formation and an important Aboriginal site. The curious shape is formed by water erosion, although now there is a dam preventing further carving. I couldn’t resist the obligatory “surfing” photograph. For a moment, we had the entire rock just to ourselves. Sometimes it is worth every penny not to go on a tour, if only for that fleeting instant when you could feel like you have discovered something for yourself.