Welcome once again to the trip report that never ends. Well, until this one gets finished, then that’ll be about it.
So, we’re into the last four days of my trip – the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of April 2016. Let’s do them in order.
(There was something I missed out during the last entry – one night we, as in myself, Gordon, Nancy and Rachael, went to visit Peter Stroud’s nephew Daniel and his wife Mhari for a big dinner. Was a lovely night, I just couldn’t remember what particular evening it was in the proceedings. Oops.)
Sunday 17th of April
This was a fairly jam packed day.
This being the last day I had with Gordon and Nancy not working and Rachael off uni (what with it being the weekend), we decided it’d be a pretty good opportunity to get back into Fremantle again and for me to see some more of the sights there, particularly the famous old prison.
I got dropped off at the prison while the Walesmobile got parked in behind Peter Stroud’s podiatry clinic (closed, but Peter was cool with us sticking the Landie in there for a few hours) and the rest of the clan went for a coffee while I went to jail.
There was a couple of tours available and I did the tour of the main prison blocks. It was fairly interesting, especially the cells and areas that had prisoners’ paintings on the walls, from near the end of the facility’s time as an active prison in the late 80s and early 90s. Pics attached to the post.
After the prison, I met back up with Gordon and Nancy and we headed for the famous Little Creatures brewpub for lunch. Highlight was the mussels in some spicy tomato sauce. First time I’d properly enjoyed that kind of shellfish. Australia really showed me how nice fish can be when it’s fresh and well cooked. I definitely got my culinary sea legs down under.
The beer was good too. I actually went for a non-Little Creatures beer, because I’ve tried LC’s beers in the past (and enjoyed them). Wish I could remember what it was I had. It was some sort of golden ale, I think, or maybe a bright ale.
After Little Creatures we walked through the main bit of Freo, passing the Cappucino Strip, the famous bit of South Terrace with all the coffee shops (must visit there properly next time and get caffienated oot mah bin) and went to the well known Freo indoor markets, hoping to find a gift for my mum. The markets are nice, with lots of interesting bits and bobs, but nothing there that really fit what I was looking for. I loved the food bit of the market too, tons of nice produce. Stuff like that makes me want to get creative in the kitchen.
When we came out of the markets, it was raining a wee bit, and Gordon and I set off for the podiatry clinic to get the car while Rachael ducked back into the market to get Nancy, who’d went off to get something.
Halfway between the market and the clinic, the heavens opened, like a cow pissing on a flat rock. Probably the heaviest rain I saw in Australia. Gordon and I didn’t have far to walk to get to the car, but by the time we got there we were pretty drenched. At least I could just jump in the car – Gordon had to deal with locking the gate to the clinic’s parking area before we left. Still, it wasn’t long before things warmed up to usual Australian standards again and we were once again dry. I think I was nearly dry by the time we got back to the house, in fact.
The evening was fun too, as we went to the McGregor residence for dinner and to watch the Old Firm cup semi-final. The McGregors are all big Rangers fans, as are Gordon, Nancy and Rachael, so it was quite a rollercoaster of a game for ’em. Me, I’m pretty neutral – family and friends on both ends of the Old Firm divide, so I keep it Switzerland-esque.
Food was, as always with the McGs, the best of gear, and the game was entertaining as hell. Poor old Adam fell asleep in the second half (he’s usually pretty early to bed due to his work hours, and due to the time difference the game went on quite late), but he woke up to cheer on the Gers winning the game in extra time in a result none of the pundits predicted. Me, I thought Rangers were a bit of value, as underdogs in big cup games sometimes can be, and was kicking myself for not having a cheeky wee bet on them.
I have to say, it was pretty surreal watching a Scottish League Cup semi final from Hampden, with a bunch of Scottish folk, drinking Irn Bru no less, but all on the other side of the world.
Monday 18th of April
This day was a pretty quiet one overall. Gordon and Nancy were working, Rachael was at uni, so I just pottered about the house, surfed the internet, edited photos, played the 3DS and hung out with Charlie the dog.
Before I did that, though, Adam McGregor popped by and we headed into the CBD via Northbridge for a bit of a burger brunch and a blether. We had a stroll around the CBD and spotted a pretty damn entertaining dancing street performer doing his thing in front of a fairly big crowd. Dude was charismatic as hell. Wish I could remember his name. I should’ve taken a note of that. :-/
That night, Gordon decided to do some food on the outdoor BBQ. Aaaaand then it started pissing down with rain (apparently this past April was the wettest April in about 40 years or so in WA. I can believe that). Thankfully, we weren’t eating outside, Gordon was just using the barbie to cook the meat, but still, it tickled me, the whole idea of going to Australia for BBQ food in the sunshine only for a barbie to get the wind taken out of its sails by a rather torrential downpour.
Regardless of the soggy conditions, we ate, drank and were merry that evening.
Tuesday 19th of April
This was going to be Nancy’s last day off before I went home, so we headed out to the Caversham Wildlife park to have a swatch at some animals. We walked around the park, I took photos. The park has a large open area for the public to interact with kangaroos and wallabies, with big baskets full of feed pellets. You grab a handful, the roos saunter up (at least the ones that weren’t having a lie down) and eat the food right out of your hand while you give ’em a pet. Pretty cool experience, even for a thirty-something like myself. If I was twelve I’d probably be internally flipping out.
There was also a biog shed with a bunch of animals with handlers that one could have a good close look at, including a big wombat that was available for punters to hold and get pictures taken with, but the queue for that was huge, so I avoided it, taking some rather good pictures of some of the birds in there instead – the shot of the owl with the Australian flag behind it is one of my favourite photos of the entire trip.
We walked around the rest of the park, visiting the various enclosures – birds, reptiles, marsupials, a ‘livestock’ bit with farm animals and interestingly enough, a couple of llamas – and eventually made our way to the koala enclosure, which allows you to pet some of the koalas, with some fairly strict instructions from the animal keepers. I got a couple of cracking pics there too, inclusing a rare moment of wakefulness from one of the koalas (they spend the vast majority of the day sleeping).
We had a spot of lunch in the covered picnic area near the entrance of the park, and were only mildly harassed by a beautiful wee multi-coloured bird that was no doubt hanging around waiting to scoff whatever bits of food the punters dropped from their lunches.
After the wildlife park, we headed over to the nearby Motor Museum of Western Australia, which was maybe about 50 yards from the entrance to the wildlife park. Some pretty cool exhibits there, from old vintage cars going as far back as the late 19th century, to Aussie classics like the Holden Monaros and Commodores, to relatively modern Japanese cars, like an R33 Skyline GTR. Even a couple of ‘famous’ cars, like the Ford Falcon ute from the Aussie movie Red Dog. Pretty nifty for a petrolhead like me.
Oh, and they have a Brum there. From the kids’ telly show. Aye.
After the museum, we made our way back to the house. I showered, cracked open a beer and edited the photos I took earlier that day.
After Gordon came back from work, we headed out to Bollywood Spices, a wee Indian restaurant in North Perth, for dinner. Let me tell you, it was fantastic. Some of the best Indian grub I’ve had in a while, and easily the best vegetable pakora I’ve ever had. We couldn’t finish it all, and we had curry and rice left over, so we doggie-bagged it up and took it away with us, which came in handy for me the next day.
After the currypalooza, we headed over to Peter & Martina’s house for a visit. Martina gave me a candle as a gift to take home to my mum, we all had a bit of a blether and it was all a wee bit bittersweet for me, as it’d be the last time I’d see the Strouds for the foreseeable. It’s the downside to these things, I suppose – making a bunch of new friends and having to say ‘see you later’ at the end, with no idea of when ‘later’ is.
Wednesday 20th of April
And so it all came to this – the last day down under. A month on the other side of the planet, the longest I’ve ever spent away from home, and the furthest I’ve ever travelled, and it was all coming to a close. What did I do with my last day down under?
Not a whole hell of a lot. Gordon and Nancy were working, Rachael was at uni, so I pretty much had the run of the house to myself. In the grand scheme of things, I’d not really spent a great deal of time at the house, so I took it as an opportunity to soak in the place a good bit before I had to leave that night.
I wandered around the house, took some photos of the place, got a couple of snaps of Charlie the dog, packed away the majority of my stuff, ate the leftover curry from the previous evening, and generally felt pretty sad that the whole experience was coming to an end. The best part of two years of planning and anticipation and it was nearly over. It had been brilliant, the best holiday I’ve ever had. Didn’t stop me getting a bit misty eyed that afternoon though.
After dinner that night, I had one last shower before I fully finalised my packing, and let me tell you, the water running down my face didn’t just come from the showerhead.
Showered, shaved, packed and ready to go, we had one last visit from Adam and Arlene McGregor and a Facetime call home to my mum before we jumped in the Land Rover and set off for the airport. I got seperated from Gordon, Rachael and Nancy due to a toilet break before meeting back up with them in one of the land-side bars before security for a quick drink. After that it was off to security, but not before a few hugs and ‘see you in a few months’ – they came over to the UK for a visit this past summer.
I breezed through security with no hassle and parked my arse on the 777W to Doha, this time not making the same mistake I’d made previously and changing my seat reservation to an aisle seat. Once again, I failed to sleep on the plane, but that was fine, as most of the PER-DOH flight was during UK daytime, so being awake probably helped to reset my body clock to a certain degree.
The flight was uneventful, bar my aborted attempt to watch Demolition Man on the in flight entertainment – it was censored to buggery, which pretty much ruined the film.
Thursday 21st April
We got to Doha pretty much on time, and I was a touch anxious due to the much shorter connection time on the leg home (about 90 minutes), so I felt like I didn’t really have a great deal of time to faff about and try to get food or what have you. So once I got through transit security, I made sure to get my bearings on what gate I was at, grabbed some water and went to my gate to chill out and wait for the plane.
As it turned out, there was a bit of a delay and we ended up heading off about maybe an hour or so behind our scheduled departure time. Gave me a good chance to use the airport wi-fi to catch up on the news, including the rather sad news about the deaths of Victoria Wood and former WWE female wrestler Chyna. 2016 strikes again.
I eventually hopped onto the 787 to Edinburgh, and much like the initial flight out of Edinburgh more than 4 weeks previous, I had an empty middle seat next to myself and the woman in the aisle seat. Yaldy!
Again, flight went fine. The breakfast pancakes were nice. Spent a good amount of time listening to podcasts. It was quite the thing breaking through the clouds to see Scotland again as we came in to land – I hadn’t seen that much green land for a month. You take the sight of grassy fields as far as the eye can see for granted, but a month in Perth will give you a whole new appreciation for the UK’s green and pleasant land.
Got off the plane, made it through customs (had to wait ages for my big case though, must’ve been stood at the conveyor for the best part of an hour) and hopped onto the bus to Glasgow, finally munching the Haribo I’d bought in Perth airport but hadn’t bothered eating on the plane or during the layover at Doha. A bag of Goldbears that travelled halfway around the globe, only to meat their masticational doom on the M8.
The bus pulled into Buchanan Street bus station, I schlepped my way through the city centre, grabbed a bottle of water and hopped on the train to Stewarton. An hour later, I was home.
So, that was Australia.
Will I be back? Hell. Fucking. Yes. I don’t know when exactly, but if I can rectify my current employment-free situation, I’m thinking 2018 or 2019, probably at about the same time again to maximise the use of holiday hours from whatever job I wind up in. I’d love to go in September/October though, to catch the Australian springtime and hopefully the AFL Grand Final.
Speaking of footy, that’s definitely going on the to-do list for next time – go see an AFL game live, be it at the new Perth stadium that’s currently under construction, or at one of the venues in Melbourne, a city that I definitely plan on seeing the next time I go Down Under. Pretty much everyone was telling me I should go there. I’ve ticked the touristy-as-hell Sydney boxes, next time I’ll be hitting one of the best cities on the planet.
I didn’t get over to Rottnest Island either, so that’ll be on the list for next time as well. I’d love to visit the south of WA as well – I watched Expedia’s video about Margaret River recently and that looks like paradise.
Be nice to have a bit of female company to take with me too, but who can say if that’ll happen. This year’s been a bit of a bust in that regard. There was some stuff I was hopeful about on that front, but those things all came to nought, one way or another.
2016 was a pretty gash year overall, I think we can all agree, but it had at least a couple of good things in it for me, and Australia definitely lived up to it all. Here’s to ya, Straya. Keep the beers cold for me, because one day I’ll be back.