Western Australia, from Perth to Stratham

February 9-10 – From Perth to Stratham

Downtown Perth, from Kings Park
Downtown Perth, from Kings Park

I didn’t know how hungry my eyes were for green until we landed in Perth. During the taxi ride from the airport to the car rental office, even a taciturn driver could not take the edge off my enthusiasm for the green lawns and gardens we passed.

Victoria and South Australia have green hills in winter, when rains refresh the dry landscape. The same is true in Western Australia, but there is more rain here, and this year summer started later. The reservoirs are full. A desalination plant supplies additional water. And restrictions on water consumption, at least in this southwestern corner of the huge state, are in place but less severe.

Robin with June and Ron Scott, by the war memorial in Kings Park
Robin with June and Ron Scott, by the war memorial in Kings Park

Our hosts were a couple Robin met on one of his APT tours. Ron and June Scott made us feel both completely at home and like honoured guests. We were grateful for a place to stay on our first night in Western Australia, but they did more than just welcome us into their home. They fed us lunch and then took us on a tour of Perth’s splendid Kings Park and down to Fremantle before treating us to tender barbecued steak, scalloped potatoes, salad, and caramel custard.

Kings Park and Botanic Garden is a Perth treasure, set aside in 1831, by Lieutenant Governor James Stirling and Surveyor General John Septimus Roe, for “public purposes.” Acres of native species and botanical treasures spread over a hill with a commanding view of the city and the joining of two rivers, the Swan and the Canning.

Aboriginal people used the area as a source of “bush tucker” as well as for ceremonies and encampments. Around its base Waugal, the rainbow serpent, meandered, leaving waterways in its path, including the Swan River on which Perth is built.

The boab tree given to the people of Western Astralia by the Gija people
The boab tree given to the people of Western Astralia by the Gija people

We parked near the Gija Jumulu. The tree was in the path of a new bridge being constructed on the Great Northern Highway. Rather than see the tree destroyed, the Gija people of the East Kimberly offered it as a gift to the people of Western Australia. The massive old tree is the largest to have made such a long land journey. I can remember seeing photographs of the journey on the Web, just last year, and was thrilled to see the new growth that indicates it has survived the uprooting.

The tree trunk in the next photo is just one of many that have caught my eye, this one in Kings Park. I’m fascinated by tree trunks in Australia, with their twists and turns and incredible variety of texture and colour. This one attracted me because of the animals and faces I see in it.

Faces, figures, animals appear in the curves and whorls of this tree trunk in Kings Park
Faces, figures, animals appear in the curves and whorls of this tree trunk in Kings Park
Port city of Fremantle
Port city of Fremantle

In Freemantle my camera battery gave out. Though I usually have a spare along, I’d packed it away for the flight to Perth. So this view is one of the few I took when we stopped at the war memorial in this container port. Shipping traffic now exceeds the capacity of the port so another port is planned not far to the south.

Seaside town of Mandurah, south of Perth
Seaside town of Mandurah, south of Perth

Next day we hopped in the little Toyota Corolla we rented from Bayswater and headed south. Along the way we stopped in the seaside town of Mandurah, where we walked along the Mandurah Estuary and stopped at Han’s Café for a lunch of spring rolls and lemon lime and bitters (a refreshing and common drink here). Robin took a photo of me in the heart sculpture by the estuary. I include it here because some people have asked why I so seldom appear in any of the photos. Easy answer: because I’m generally behind the camera.

Cathryn in Mandurah
Cathryn in Mandurah

While we were wandering around Mandurah, we came across this one-footed seagull. It won’t come as a surprise if I tell you this one was easily bullied and quickly ceded any favoured spot to two-footed cousins.

One-footed seagull in Mandurah
One-footed seagull in Mandurah
Harbour in Bunbury
Harbour in Bunbury

We stopped to have a quick look around Bunbury before driving to the country home of Brian and Maureen Eaton (another couple Robin met on one of his APT tours). The photo is of an attractive coastal community, but I think the heat was affecting me by this point. I didn’t much care for the town and was not impressed when signage for the visitors centre was abysmal.

I was even less impressed when the staff member there told Robin we should walk up the 80 steps to the observation tower but didn’t mention that if we walked from there it was actually 200 steps. Still, the view from the top made the town look better than it did from the rather shabby main street, and the walk was good exercise.

On a day that must have reached forty degrees, turning into the Eatons’ driveway was like coming to a desert oasis. Surrounded by tall trees and lush gardens, the Spanish-style home offers a cool welcome. Maureen poured us a cool drink that refreshed our bodies and spirits, and we settled into the beautiful little home they built for her mother.

Cathryn on the verandah of the home the Eatons built for her mother, attached to their own
Cathryn on the veranda of the home the Eatons built for her mother, attached to their own

Later, over a dinner of spaghetti Bolognese and good red wine, we had a chance to get to know this delightful couple. Brian is a retired helicopter pilot who tells heart-stopping tales in a calm, low-key style. Maureen’s theatrical talents have put her at the head of productions of most of the best-known plays and musicals. Together they have created a place of beauty and welcome.

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