My visit to Western Australia’s Rottnest Island, an absolute gem of a place, marked the most western point of my great Australian adventure. From now onward, it was all about moving eastward. I’d arrived back in Fremantle in the darkness, and made my way back through the streets with the hope of grabbing some dinner at the Fremantle market. Unfortunately, I arrived just as the place was beginning to wind down, and I was forced to pick my way through the Friday night revellers to find a place to get dinner. Thankfully the market was open again on Saturday morning, because my brief foray into it had looked like it was worth some time, so that next morning, after I lazily got myself up, packed up once more and checked out of the prison hostel, I headed down there for brunch. And it was awesome.
Full of stalls selling artwork, gifts, homeware, clothes, jewellery, and a ream of other things, it also had a fresh fruit section at one end, nestled amongst a choice of food options, with sweet treats, meat, and drinks also well catered for. Whilst quite different from Adelaide‘s Central Market (my favourite market in Australia), my enjoyment of the Fremantle market rivalled that which I had had wandering around Adelaide’s market, and I wished many times, that I not only owned a house, but also lived locally, so that I could go to town buying beautiful paintings and the like. I spent quite a bit of money there, finding gifts for my family, buying gifts for myself, and sampling several of the food and drink options. I have a rule that I will never diet on holidays – travelling is all about enjoying, experiencing and embracing cultures, and I very much include cuisine in that category. After 4.5 weeks on the road though, I had definitely overindulged and was both looking it and feeling it. But I wasn’t ready to stop pigging out yet.
Eventually though, it was time to bid farewell to Fremantle and head back to Perth. My flight was leaving early the next morning, so I needed to be in a more convenient location to get to the airport, meaning I was returning to the hostel in Perth’s city centre that I had stayed at a few nights prior. It was a noisy trundle through Fremantle’s streets with my suitcase, returning to the train station to catch the convenient service back to Perth, then after trundling to the hostel and dumping my stuff, I was ready to explore the state capital’s city once more.
I was aiming for Elizabeth Quay, but I got side-tracked at Stirling Gardens where there were some life-sized sculptures of kangaroos and a view across to the pretty St George’s Cathedral. At the far end of the garden was the Supreme Court building which stood looking rather grand. Towering above it was a hint of what was to come, as I discovered a plethora of large cranes dominating the skyline as I moved closer and closer to the quay. The Bell Tower is a rather distinctive spire that points sharply up towards the sky, and for a small fee you can go up it and get a view over the nearby area. What I discovered sadly, was that its view is very rapidly diminishing as a multi-million dollar development including casino and restaurants is rising up from the ground right next to it. The view it used to have over Elizabeth Quay and the city centre skyrises, was marred by the cranes at the time of visiting, but will eventually be blocked out. As unique as the building is to look at, I feel the value in going up to the lookout level will soon be rather limited.
Skirting round the construction site, the area around Elizabeth Quay was much more pleasant to wander around. The broad expanse of the Swan River lies to one side, and the waterfront development to the other. It was yet another roasting hot day, and after taking in the views over Elizabeth Quay from Elizabeth Quay Island, I managed to procure a table at the exceedingly packed rotunda-shaped restaurant overlooking the waterfront. In a moment of thoughtlessness, I requested a table in the sunshine, and proceeded to perspire greatly as I sipped on a chilled cider and tucked into a pizza. Nearby, the beautiful archways of the Elizabeth Quay bridge led off to the far side.
Once full, I joined the steady stream of people to meander across the bridge, arriving at the sparkling First Contact Sculpture which stood proudly on the banks of the river. From this far side, the cranes made an interesting juxtaposition against the spire of the Bell Tower, and I simply followed the waterfront back round in a circle, admiring the large arches of Spanda up close, and finding myself at Gusto Gelato, a locally famous gelato parlour with a rather long queue out the door. I did not need any more food, but I wasn’t going to miss out on a local legend, and thank goodness I didn’t skip it, as it turned out to be the most deliciously delightful ice cream I have ever eaten.
After vegetating at the waterfront to allow for a bit of digestion, I decided to round off the afternoon by taking a long walk north in an effort to justify all the calories I’d eaten that day. I had my sights set on Hyde Park in the north of the city, and made a beeline for William St, a long road that led from the waterfront all the way there. This led me first through the streets of skyrises in the CBD (central business district), across the railway lines of the central railway station, and north into a student area and then Chinatown. The TAFE building had some artwork on its walls which distracted me briefly away from the main road, and I perused the windows of the Asian food marts and Chinese restaurants as I passed.
By the time I reached Hyde Park, after what felt like a very long time, the clouds had begun to pack in a little, and I was a little disappointed with the park itself. I think the name had led me to believe it would be some beautifully grand expanse, but although the central lakes provided some incredible reflections as I walked around, it was smaller than I imagined, and being September at the time, the plant life was not in its prime. It was however very busy: surrounded by residential streets and being a Saturday, it was abuzz with families and friends enjoying themselves with picnics. I sat for a while in contemplation. I was moving into my final week of my trip, and it was suddenly hitting me that my adventure was nearly over. Grabbing a bubble tea on my way back through Chinatown, it was time to return to my hostel, ahead of an early rise the next morning.
After all the overindulgence the day before, I awoke feeling a bit rotten. In the end, I had to quickstep to the bus stop to catch the airport bus, making it with just a few minutes to spare. Being early on a Sunday, both it and the airport were quite quiet. Taking off and heading east, I was returning to Adelaide in South Australia, a city I hadn’t been to since 2014. One of my old work colleagues from my former life in Scotland has made Adelaide her home, and having not seen her since that last trip, I was to have a flying visit with her for 24 hours. My stay coincided with the Adelaide Show, and after picking me up, we headed straight there.
A smaller version of the Melbourne Show which I’d attended back in 2012, it was still full of activity, from carnival rides to eateries, to outdoor shows and beyond. We decided to do one carnival ride, a 9D movie experience that was pretty terrible, then we watched drone racing, a sport which I’d never known was possible, and then we stood for ages for a prime viewing spot at the pig racing, an event which proved highly popular and entertaining despite not lasting very long. We hung out over drinks and food, catching up on each other’s lives, before heading indoors to join the crowds at the show bag arena, something which had amused and intrigued me in equal measures at the Melbourne Show. An entire hall was dedicated to selling bags containing whatever themed goodies your heart could desire, from kids shows, to daytime tv and movies, as well as perfumes and magazines. My need for a hat at my next destination tempted me to buy the Home & Away themed show bag, and finally it was time to head back to my friend’s place for dinner and drinks.
My friend’s partner ran me back to the airport the next morning. There was a sense of familiarity about the place, and I grabbed myself some breakfast before meandering around the displays and shops. I was amused to find a smiling face at the bottom of my cup of coffee, but it seemed fitting as I was heading to a part of the country that I had wanted to visit for some time. I had an indirect flight with a very short connecting time, so I was a little anxious when my flight was delayed. After take-off we headed north over the great Australian desert landscape, the near-featureless expanse stretching out for miles below us. Against the burnt orange, great grey-white lakes offered occasional contrast, and then finally we descended towards Alice Springs, a semi-green little oasis amongst the burnt orange. We’d managed to make up some time, and in the end the plane landed just 10 minutes late. Alice Springs airport was small, and in the shortest time I’ve ever spent in an airport in my whole life, I entered the terminal building having disembarked the plane, to find myself already at the gate for my next flight, and they were announcing boarding as I walked in the door. Assured that my luggage would be there to greet me at the other end, I headed back out onto the tarmac to board my second flight. Then it was just a 40 minute plane ride to Yulara, the closest airport to Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock. And so began the incredible trip to Australia’s Red Centre.