Centenary World Cruise Day 78: Freemantle

Today is our last stop in Australia. Freemantle is a suburb of Perth, and what we could see of the town from the ship was lovely – a lot of older-looking buildings, a lot of trees and grassy areas. We’d booked a walking tour, and as it started, it was already hot out. Our guide told us about something called the “Freemantle doctor,” which happens when the ground heats up quickly, the hot air rises, and the rising air sucks in a cooling breeze from the ocean to the west. It was probably over 90 when we set out, but by about 11:30, it had cooled down at least 10 degrees and the breeze was refreshingly cool.

An entire fountain made of Doulton china

Freemantle has a lot of pretty buildings that were built during their gold rush, and a lot of them are fairly well preserved. What’s really well preserved, though, is the prison. Apparently, when the rest of Australia decided they were sick of being sent convicts, Freemantle needed a lot of free labor, so the government began shipping the convicts there. The very first thing the convicts had to do was to build their own prison, and the only thing they had to build it out of was blocks of locally-mined limestone.

Iron sculpture of prisoners being brought in

The prison was completed in 1855, which was not a terribly enlightened time for the criminal justice system. Shockingly, the prison continued to operate until 1991.

After our tour wound up, the Pirate and I peeled off from the group and walked around the district near the university. It was a cool blend of coffee places, used clothing and book stores, youth hostels, fun-looking bars, and a few touristy-looking shops.

This needs to be franchised in the US!

I realize that, while I like Europe and the Middle East for the history and the museums, Australia just generally feels more relaxing. There’s no more history here than there is in California, and the Australians aren’t hung up on it. The difference between Australia and Britain feels a lot like the difference between New England and California. In California, we know that people love us for our nice weather and good beaches and plentiful vegetables, whereas in New England, they want you to know how historic they are and look down their noses at anyone who isn’t well versed in their history.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that after setting our clocks forward every few days so that our days were only 23 hours long, I was looking forward to the return trip where our days would be 25 hours long and we could sleep in every day. Even then, I knew that something would suck, I just wasn’t seeing it yet. Once we left Sydney, we started traveling westward and so getting those hours back, and I’ve figured out what sucks. I’m wide awake at 5:30am and nothing’s open – I can’t get a cup of tea or go for a swim or anything. And by 5:30pm, I’m starving for dinner which won’t be served for another hour. Then I’m ready for bed at 7:00pm.

Centenary World Cruise Day 77: Busselton

We spent today in Busselton, Western Australia. We saw a lighthouse (which just reminded us of home, where if we go down the street there’s a lighthouse, and if we go up the coast road to the Mums’ there’s another lighthouse), and a giant limestone cave. It was fine, but I noticed something interesting: lots of houses had fencing that looked like the corrugated sides of shipping containers. We saw the same on the train ride from the port to Adelaide. It seems possible that it actually is recycled shipping containers. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, there were whole blocks of shops and small restaurants made of recycled shipping containers, so it’s clear that they have a limited life as shipping containers, and then get new life as building material.

Smiling through the terror that I’m about to be impaled by a stalactite

In Busselton, we also saw a weird number of fences made of thatch – you know, the stuff that people make roofs out of. Bundles of either thick grasses or thin twigs (in Australia, it’s thin twigs), tied together. I was surprised at how sturdy the fences were.

I’m realizing that while the system of government in Australia is more similar to the one in the UK, and a lot of the language originated in the UK, the landscape is much more like home. Normally, as we go on various tours, we get the history of the town. In Western Australia, there’s no history before the 1830s. To the British, that’s last week, but in America, that’s on par with a lot of our own history.

To be honest, the best thing about Busselton was the fact that there was a grocery store three blocks from the pier. You know how you should never go shopping when you’re hungry? Well that goes double if you’re hungry and have an hour-long ride on a tiny boat with ninety other people. We carried three shopping bags of groceries back to the ship and looked forward to having fruit that’s not bananas, apples, or pears; vegan cold cuts and cheeses; vegan yogurt (or “yoghurt,” which somehow encourages them to pronounce it “YAW gurt” which is just weird); hummus and good bread; and licorice allsorts. That should get us to Mauritius, which, after tomorrow’s stop in Freemantle, is our next stop after an entire week at sea.

Centenary World Cruise Day 65: Brisbane

We’re in Brisbane today, and our port adventure was a trip to the Brisbane Zoo. I LOVE zoos. Where I grew up, we were within walking distance of the Phoenx Zoo, which, now that I have been to a few zoos, I can see is large and diverse compared to a lot of others.

It its favor, the Brisbane zoo has tons of animals unique to Australia. We saw koalas (smaller than I thought they would be), echidnas, lots of snakes and lizards, the tallest giraffe in the world, and kangaroos and wallabies. We avoided the famous crocodile show because we’re just not comfortable with animals being made to perform for humans. It feels gross.

The enclosure with the kangaroos and wallabies is huge, and rather than having them in cages, they’re just wandering around. You can buy food for them (it’s those pellets you feed rabbits, plus some corn) and then go into the enclosure and feed them.

First, you have to get their attention. Using the same logic that allows your pet to come running when they hear the can opener, we tried rustling the bags, but that didn’t work. Then we tried putting the food into our hands and holding them out to the animals. That got their attention, but they wouldn’t approach us because these are prima donna kangaroos and wallabies. They didn’t come to us – we had to go to them. Finally, we were able to get them to eat out of our hands.

The Pirate fed the kangaroos, and he looked delighted! Their heads are tiny compared to their bodies, and they look almost like deer heads, with the same kind of long noses, big ears, and long eyelashes. At one point, one of the kangaroos was so excited, it grabbed the Pirate’s hand and held it still, afraid he might take it away. A couple of the kangaroos pooped while he was feeding them, as if they needed to make room so they could eat more. They’re all about efficiency.

I fed exactly one wallaby. It ate a whole bunch of pellets out of my hand while I talked to it about how its ear got split, and how the food it was eating kind of looked like that organic cat litter stuff. It would eat, look away, sniff, eat some more. Every time it looked away, I assumed it was done and went to take my hand away, but then it would turn back to me, so I fed it more. Then it started doing a thing that every cat or dog owner in the world recognizes – the horking and jerking that means an animal is about to throw up. Sure enough, a disgusting gruel of corn and pellets oozed to the ground. Then, like any pet I’ve ever owned, it proceeded to eat that, too. I decided I was done feeding things. And now I can cross “make a wallaby barf” off my bucket list.

A lot of the animals (the wombats, the dingoes, the echidnas, the red pandas) were asleep. I came up with three reasons for this:

  1. It was beastly hot and humid, so they were sleeping through the heat of the day.
  2. There is nothing good on daytime television in Australia.
  3. After hours, these animals like to party. They’re resting up from last night’s festivities in preparation for tonight’s.

Those are the only explanations.

Also, I have decided that Australians are both friendly and not quiet about it, so they’re like aggressive Canadians.

Centenary World Cruise Day 58-59: Darwin

Day 58:

Because we missed out on Bali, we spent two days in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territories. The first thing we saw is that it was only a fifteen-minute walk from the ship to the prominently-labeled CBD. Back home, CBD is something you get from a cannabis dispensary, and is good for alleviating pain, helping with sleep, etc. We guessed this wasn’t that. In Australia, CBD is “central business district,” or city center.

The small amount of Darwin we saw was lovely. Lots of parks, everything very pedestrian-friendly. One of the things we found was the grocery store, and guess what? HUMMUS!!! And not just hummus, but vegan yogurt, lunch meat, and cheese. I was looking for some kind of hair glue or styling wax, but there was no such product, although there was an entire shelf with 20 different kinds of dry shampoo. Evidently, Australians are far more concerned with staving off the greasies than with keeping their locks locked down.

We saw a spectacular pair of boots, but they didn’t have them in his size. They did, however, have them in another store and could have them sent. Just not by tomorrow. Not to worry – they have several stores in Syndey, so they can be sent there. So now we have at least one objective during our time in Sydney – find the store where the boots were shipped and pick them up.

Day 59:

Yesterday, on our walk to town, we’d seen a Mexican restaurant near the beach. The Pirate and I have been dying for Mexican food. I think this is probably the longest I’ve gone without Mexican food in my entire life. We also saw a sign pointing toward something called “WWII Oil Tunnels.” We decided we’d kill two birds with one stone and go have Mexican food for lunch, then check out the tunnels.

We left the ship and walked to the restaurant, only to find it closed. Disappointing, but not terribly surprising. About half the businesses near the beach have signs saying that they’ve closed due to staffing shortages. It’s the end of the summer here, so lots of the kinds of people who would normally be staffing the restaurants and shops near the beach (students and tourists on 6-month work visas) have already left.

We opted for the Italian place next door, where we had decent pizza. The pizza on the ship is disappointing – made from frozen, industrial crust that’s not baked long enough, and with sauce that lacks flavor. This pizza was just beautiful, and I had plenty left over for dinner.

After lunch, we walked to the oil tunnels and had our second disappointment of the day: they were only open from 9am – 1pm. If we’d gone there before lunch, we’d have seen them. Oh well. We went back to the ship, happy that at least we’d had a nice walk around.

The most charming thing, though, was that by the time we were preparing the leave, a crowd had gathered on the sea wall to watch us pull away. As we started away, the people on shore waved, and we all waved back.