Saturday, November 18, 2006

Back in Perth

Monday 13th November 2006

Rottnest Island is beautiful. In fact it is one of the nicest places I have been to. The water is perfectly limpid, the beaches pristine. Even the seaweed is beautiful (when it is not rotting, that is). Of course, it helps that the sun is shining, and the temperatures are back up into the high 20s.

I saw my first Quokka (rare marsupial, that looks like a cross between a wallaby and a rat - very cute) as I pitched my tent (the campsite is half empty - actually, make that 9/10 empty - there are only half a dozen tents). I then made my way to the first of several beaches. The water is in the low 20s, so ideal for a refreshing dip.

The quality of the light is superb and the skyline of Perth is crispy outlined on the horizon. I thought at this point that I was going to enjoy my few days here...

...well, that was until I experienced the full force of the Rottnest fly invasion. They were so annoying that at one point I literally thought that they were going to drive me insane. Oh how I can empathise with all those poor, famine-stricken children in the Horn of Africa (I was quite hungry by this time)!

Talking of little critters, it turns out that the quokkas are capable of a degree of iritation which belies their cute good looks. They were everywhere around the campsite (alongside armies of crows and seagulls) - I even managed to kick one in the head as it scavenged for food under my table (Dad - you would have had friends galore!). And the piece of resistance came when two of them decided to use the porch of my tent as a public toilet. Dirty bastards!

On a brighter note, I saw a large ray up close while snorkelling and loads of other fish (including some pretty big ones). The snorkelling here is on a par with Ningaloo, although there are mainly temperate species, rather than tropical. (so the colours are slightly more muted - why is this so?).

Oh and the drinking water at the campsite is yellow. It looks like pee.

Tuesday 14th November 2006

I was sat writing this peering through the gap between my t-shirt (right up over my head) and hat (pulled down as far as it would go)*. I feel a burkha would have been appropriate. It's 11am and the flies are out in force. They seem to home in on all the most irritating places (eyes, ears, nose, mouth). It's lucky that I'm not a naturist.

Fortunately, other things about the island more than make up for it. I saw a pod of dolphins frollicking in the bay, not far from the shore. Then I went snorkelling and saw loads more interesting fish, in possibly the clearest water I have ever experienced. Utterly beautiful. The limestone formations underwater are amazing. Caves, arches, stacks, all with hundreds of fish swimming through and around.

Had a picnic lunch, which presented the interesting discovery that Ryvita is made in Poole. Well, I never knew that. That's a few thousand food miles racked up right there. Environmentalists be damned, I wanted my whole-rye (with seeds) goodness. Found a nice shady spot for a post-prandial snooze (in full body armour, of course)

The wind picked up in the afternoon (in more ways that one - must have been last nights mixed bean salad), which seem to result in their being fewer flies about. What a relief.

I felt pretty exhausted by the end of the day. I reckon I must have walked a good 12 miles in total. In bed even earlier tonight - must be the sea air.

Covered most of the south east of the island today... tomorrow the north...

*I had foolishly left the fly net in the tent (grrr). You would think it should be a case of just ignoring them/not letting them get the better of you. But no. Just as you think you are winning, one finds a special way of irritating you just that little bit more.

Wednesday 15th November 2006

Slept for 11 hours last night. I must have needed it after all the exertions of yesterday. Up until writing this at 11am I had not been bothered by a single fly. What's going on? Maybe there is a change in the weather afoot. It was gloriously hot and sunny in the morning, but hazy cloud appeared to be thickening from the north. Luckily, I had already done a fair amount by lunchtime (including nice swims/snorkels), so as long as it doesn't rain (thundery showers are forecast) it should be ideal for walking. Needed to try and find a shady spot for lunch and a snooze...

There are loads of different terns about (well, at least 2... and I'm sure a load of different sub-species) - including the very pretty/delicate/rare fairy terns. So much nicer than seagulls.

Well, the cloud melted away soon after lunch so it would have been pretty hot for walking and I thus spent a while longer lounging in the shade. Lucky I did as I had a close encounter with a very friendly lizard. It came and sniffed/licked my shoes, bag, rubbish, etc. Meanwhile his/her (how do you sex a lizard?) friend watched from a distance (as did I when it started approaching my foot). Also saw two Ospreys, which was nice (and later saw one fishing, during which felt like being part of Springwatch... except I wasn't wearing a hat, a la Simon King).

The sea was really warm in the afternoon (the warmest I had felt it since Broome). Saw a couple of naturists (safe now the flies had disappeared), which was unsurprising as the island really reminds me of Formentera. Otherwise this part of the island was completely deserted - just a few passing cyclists (frantically pedalling to try and see the whole island in a day). Had so far had almost all the beaches to myself.

It felt like quite a long walk back, although it was broken up with sites to see along the way (including pheasants, of all things, as well as the now ubiquitous quokkas, a wind turbine, salt lakes...).

In the evening I managed to cut my finger opening a tin of sliced beetroot (oh how us castaways survive). That's the last time I shall use that tin opener.

Early to bed again (such is the life of the camper on the unlit campsite).

Thursday 16th November 2006

Decided to take it relatively easy today (think I may have been over-doing it and perhaps the finger-slicing-incident was the result).

Bought newspaper in the morning and pottered around the settlement (for that is what it is called). Went to the museum and discovered a few interesting things about the island (readily available on the interweb, I am sure). This included finding out that the pheasants I had seen previously were introduced onto the island during the 1800s and have been flourising ever since (not the exact same ones, obviously).

Very windy, so back to campsite for lunch and a lie-down. Was hoping to find sheltered beach in the afternoon (the wind had changed to a more southerly direction and it was quite cool in exposed places).

Interested to read in the paper that Tom Cruise is planning to get married in Bracciano. Been there!

The plan to take it easy on the beach was scuppered somewhat when it clouded in at 3pm. It was too cold in the wind on the beach so I decided to go for a(nother) walk instead. Had a look around the gun emplacements/look-outs from WWII (I must have been bored). Nice views if nothing else. Saw my first snake on Rottnest - only one variety: the highly venemous (yes, really - according to the museum) dugite - and more cute (baby) quokkas. So much sweeter in the wild (and less mangy) than the ones scavenging around the campsite. Was offered a lift back to the campsite (v. kind) but it was still quite early so I declined. Perhaps I should learn to say yes more often.

Was lying in the tent listening to Joanna Newsom (new album - very, very good) when I felt something push against my head. Turned around to discover a baby quokka had pushed under the canvas and was proceeding to try and get into the fly sheet with me. Shooing it away didn't work so I watched it snoop about until it got bored. And lo, it kindly left me a little present before leaving.

Friday 17th November 2006

There were a few showers overnight (tent wet this morning, although not enough to have washed off all the birdshit). Got bus over to the far end of the island and the general tone of the day was for things to get better as they went on...

Got off bus and almost immediately after commencing my walk I managed to get both sandals wet (a freak wave), which then stared to rub. Then I got persistently attacked by bloody seagulls*, which I literally has to fend off with a large stick. Then (final straw) it started to piss down while I was walking along the most exposed beach on the entire island. At this stage I had had enough and wanted to go home (the last couple of days had seemed the loneliest of the trip so far... with so few people about. Perhaps, in the words of the Vauxhall Zafira advert: over-tired?

Luckily, the sun came out at lunchtime and the day (and my mood) turned a corner. This also co-incided with reaching the west end of the island and turning round to head back the other way up the coast. I found some lovely beaches along the way, had a couple of nice swims/snorkels and met the friendliest lizard I have ever seen. It climbed over my shoe (while I was wearing it) and licked my toe. Michelle - you would have loved it!

The weather is much improved - it is really clear and Perth stands out loud and clear on the horizon.

*this incident reminded me of Simon getting attacked by Sidmouth seagulls on his way to our friday morning French lesson at school.

Saturday 18th November 2006

Had an enjoyable final morning on Rottnest. Sunny and warm. Packed up early (dispatched luggage with handlers who take it directly from the campsite) and, after buying the paper, went to the beach as it was already hot by 9am. Had a nice swim/snorkel, but the definite highlight of the day was watching a dugite devour a mouse under a rock on the beach (just a few meters from where I had put my stuff). After my San Deigo experience I have decided that it must be the year of the munching snake.

Got back to Fremantle just after lunch to discover that they had lost my luggage. Ah. The lady phoned everywhere she could think of... but to no avail. Panic! She gives me her phone number and tells me to call/drop in later to see if it has turned up... Hmm...

...well, after a while spent reading the paper/ generally fretting about what to do if it doesn't turn up, I decide to head back to the office to see if there are any developments... And what do I see whilst passing a rival operators section of the quayside? Yup, my bags. She had already phoned across earlier only to be told that they didn't have my bags there. Well, they obviously didn't look hard enough, did they? Muppets.

After that exctitement I made my way over to Perth and checked into the hostel (the same one as when I arrived - it is clean and centrally-located... and as Kylie sang: "it's better the devil you know"). I discover that the internet is really fast and manage to upload all my photos in record time ( - sorry, there are a lot of them!). Then write this before thinking about a shower and dinner.

Tomorrow: Red Bull Air Race Day.

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