Monday, December 12, 2011


Rottnest Island is accessed by way of a two-hour ferry ride from Perth.  It was once home to a prison for Aboriginal men and boys.  Conditions were abysmal and the hundreds who died were buried in unmarked graves.  Paradoxically, the island is now a popular holiday destination.  A section of the old prison has been converted into a tourist lodge, and there are a number of villas, a couple cafes and a general store by the wharf.  The Aboriginal graves are still unmarked.

The best way to see the island is by bike, as the only motor vehicles allowed are a handful of tour busses.  There are a few narrow roads that wind their way along the coast, with the Indian Ocean on one side and what could almost be considered a moor on the other.  That, the colouring and the desolation reminded me more than a little of the Scottish Highlands.

 There are a few small lakes in the middle of the island, and after hiring my bike, I set off westwards around these.  The sun was bright, but I was glad I’d brought my sweater because the wind was quite cool.  I made it up to a small bay on the north side and decided I couldn’t possibly go any further without lunch, so I stopped for a bit on the beach.

After lunch, I discovered the hills.  I had to stop at the top of the first one to take off my sweater.  The steeper the incline, the more beautiful you’re apt to judge the view from the top – here, the effect was doubled by the fact that the views from the top were a special sort of amazing to begin with.

By the time I got to the bottom, the wind was chilly again, so I had to stop and put on my sweater.  Then I went up again.  And down.  And up.  And down.  The sweater came off and on and off on.  Once I went down a stupendously steep hill and discovered a dead end at the bottom.  Back at the top, I pretended I needed to put on more sunscreen and readjust my helmet as a tour bus passed.  I was actually waiting for my legs to stop quivering.  There were lots of quokkas, none of whom seemed particularly bothered by my presence.  They carried the air of an species that knows it lives on an island with no natural predators.

I looped around the island and made it back to the wharf area with some time to spare before the return ferry to Perth was due to depart.  I didn’t have my bathing suit, because I always forget something when I travel and this time it was my bathing suit, but I went to check out the beach area called ‘The Basin’ anyway.  First, I stuck my feet in the water and relished the fact that I was touching the Indian Ocean for the first time.  Then I gave a nod to the sign that said ‘Caution – unstable cliffs’ and climbed up the bit that looked alright to me.

Next, I went to investigate the lighthouse.  It was constructed, as seems to be typical in this part of the world, following a shipwreck off the coast that left no survivors and could have been prevented had there been a lighthouse in place.  A few minutes on the beach, and it was time to cajole my aching legs to pedal me just a little bit further, back to the bike rental shop and the ferry.  They agreed, under protest.

From the ferry we saw dolphins.  I was asleep by 9pm that night and I don’t think it had much to do with jetlag.

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