Terra Australis – Western Australia
In a country as big as Australia, navigating distance also means navigating time. Leaving Darwin behind in the Northern Territory, I flew west towards Western Australia (WA) which was an hour and a half behind the city I’d just left, two hours behind the city I’d started my adventure in, and five hours behind my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. Australia likes to confuse things by not adopting daylight savings in every state, so the time differences between states have a seasonal fluctuation. I landed in Perth, the biggest city and state capital of WA and sat on the bus into the city as the sun set. I walked through the city streets to my hostel in descending darkness, eager for a good night’s sleep. Aside from my immensely enjoyable night at sea on the Great Barrier Reef, I had had a plethora of disturbed nights due to the activities of my roommates in shared hostel dorms. I was booked into a dorm room once more, but was pleased to discover there was an available private room to upgrade to. I stepped inside and jumped on the double bed, only to soon discover that the room was overlooking the multiple train lines that headed into Perth’s main train station, and with every train announcing its arrival with a horn, my initial elation dulled slightly as the reality of repetitive train noises sank in.
After an obligatory night in doing laundry, I fell asleep with ease, only to be awoken early by the morning trains tooting below my window. There was no point lying in, and with blue sky above, I got up, checked out and headed out amongst the city workers heading to their day’s employment. I was headed towards Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens within it. I had a particular route in mind, but got a little way-laid, stumbling upon the Barrack’s Arch and then Jacob’s Ladder which was a steep collection of steps which had a surprising amount of people running up and down it for their morning exercise. Beyond here, the entrance to the park was only a little further, and before I’d even made it to the Botanic Gardens, I had fallen head over heels in love with Perth. Kings Park itself is massive, and the views back to the city centre and across the Swan river were stunning. Past a few lookouts, the large war memorial stood proudly on the hilltop against a blue sky. Nearby was a popular cafe and a gift shop which I made the most of by buying some unusual souvenirs.
With the mercury rising and the sky remaining blue, it was time to explore the Botanic Gardens. There are a myriad of routes to take through the gardens, and the entrance was marked by a light-catching sculpture that bus loads of tourists crowded around for photo opportunities. Despite being a weekday, the place was mobbed. I opted to take the long loop around the upper aspect of the gardens first and was rewarded with a stunning array of plants and viewpoints as well as wildlife. There were birds I’d never seen before and couldn’t identify, rainbow lorikeets, and a lizard I’d never seen before either. The route took me across a beautiful glass arched bridge also and below me a school party walked on one of the lower trails.
Cutting through a woodland section where the light through the branches created a beautiful dappled effect, I made my way back to the garden entrance via a lake with a fountain. This fountain pattern changed over time, and the lawn around it was littered with people enjoying the beautiful weather. After watching the cycle of water, I headed through a wilder section of the gardens with reams of colourful flowers in great swathes spreading away from the footpath.
After grabbing a snack at the cafe, I took the clifftop walk which skirted past the Botanic Gardens, and followed the river at height into the depths of Kings Park. This took me under the arched bridge and once away from the Botanic Gardens was a much quieter trail to follow. In fact I stumbled across three furry creatures at the side of the track which I think are bandicoots but I’m not completely sure. It was turning out to be a great place to spot wildlife even although I was still within the city. Eventually the track ended at a lookout and I cut up into Kings Park which was more arid in comparison to the lushness of the Botanic Gardens. A myriad of walking trails cut through the bush and with my park map, I found myself in the far corner of Kings Park at May Drive Parkland.
By now it was well into the afternoon and I was starving so a late lunch was in order, and the cafe here was still busy. Nearby a children’s play area and zones to explore lay around a small lake. It was still really hot under the baking sun, so I took my time shade hopping, wandering around the parkland before cutting up a long length of cut lawn back up an incline towards the DNA tower. A metal lookout structure designed to look like the helix of DNA, the view at the top wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped, with the city of Perth a little hidden from view. It had also started to cloud over by the time I’d reached here, and the haze that was forming was a little disappointing.
A nearby nature walk followed by a meander through other sections of Kings Park led me in a drawn out way back to the top end of Kings Park, where I trudged my way back to the hostel. After a fantastic day cruising around the incredible inner city green space, it was now rush hour, and I had to join the crowds of people in commuting across the city. Retrieving my luggage, I dragged it to the nearby train station which had woken me up early with its comings and goings, and found my way to the very busy platform to take me to Fremantle on the other side of the Swan River. I’d read so many recommendations to spend more time there than in Perth itself, but frankly my first day in Western Australia had set me off well for loving the place.