November 20 - December 11

Perth Skyline from Kings Park This is the view you get of the Perth skyline from Kings Park and Botanic Garden. It's a pretty city, very green and nestled on the beautiful wide Swan River. Apart from a bit of shopping we didn't do much in the town itself which is just a town centre, a bit like Brisbane. We did find that the place to hang out in the evening is Northbridge which is slightly north of the town centre. There are hundreds of pubs and restaurants up there and we saw some good bands (including a mad beatles cover band) and comedy up there. The comedy was interesting because there is hardly any stand up comedy, we figured it was because Perth is five hours from the Sydney so not many comedians make the trip. As a result the comedians we saw were almost all from Western Australia and their subject matter reflected that. Actually there was one English comedian we saw who had adapted an action man type doll to become a British Backpacker kit with British backpacker and accessories (can't remember what they were - probably a mobile phone, can of beer, ...). We did get refused entry to one pub though for not having the correct foot attire. Small town mentality strikes again (we were refused entry once to a Bristol pub). If you've got trainers or sandals on obviously you either haven't got any money or you are going to start a fight.

Talking of fights you'd think it would be a nice quiet safe place but while we were there there were a few incidents. Firstly we noticed on the trains there were security guards in the carriages in the evening and they take their job very seriously. Most of the time I feel pretty safe on trains because they are so busy in the evening as were the ones we went on in Perth so we weren't sure if the security guards were there becuase there had been a lot of troubles or whether it was a precautionary measure or just to make people feel safe. There is a lot of gang warfare between Asianic groups and somebody was killed in a tustle in the Chinatown area which is where all the bars are. Thirdly we heard on the news that a bomb had been found in a cupboard in a motel room in Perth. This got headline news because Australia is convinced they are the next target for terrorists.

And finally the incident that affected us the most was when we heard a knock on our motel room door at 5.30 on a Sunday morning. It was the police to say that there had been an armed robbery from a room a couple of doors down from us. Apparently $5000 and some gold had been stolen at gun point and some people had been hurt. They wanted to know whether we had heard anything but also took Richard's details. It seemed that there hadn't been a forced entry so it was probably some robbery between crooks or possibly someone had been followed back from the Casino down the road. Anyway we didn't feel too safe for the rest of our stay there.

One of the nicest things we did was to take a boat up the Swan River, past millionaire's row where all the very expensive, beautiful houses are up to Fremantle (Freo), Perth's little neighbour. Fremantle is a port town but it's a very popular place to hang out because it has a cappucino strip down the main street, good markets and a charming feel about it. It's wonderful to just potter around the town because a high proportion of the houses built in the early part of the last century have been maintained.

The Swan Valley wine growing region is just near Perth. We drove around the valley one day which is a pretty area with all the green vines but we didn't try any wines, it's no fun drinking on your own and one of us had to drive. We stopped for lunch at Whiteman Park where I got to cuddle a python. Charlie was a friendly 17 year old carpet python, not as big as his cousins the boa constrictors but he was still quite heavy. If you don't want to see a picture of me with a carpet python around my neck then don't click here.

Cottesloe Beach, Perth

Cottesloe Beach

Carrying on the tradition of phoning up people we haven't met before we phoned up Caitlin's Mum, Thea, who lives down at Cottesloe Beach near Perth. This is the place to go for brunch or a Sunday session in one of the cafes or pubs overlooking the beach. The building in the photo is a very civilised tea room but some of the other places around are a bit funkier. Anyway we met up with Thea a few times and Richard was thrilled when she said that she was a member of the WACA (West Australia Cricket Association) and was going to the third Ashes test, and as a member could also get a guest in.

Ashes at the WACA, Perth I'd been planning on going to the test for at least one day, but with Thea's pass I went for the third and fourth days which was good fun. Great facilities at the WACA ground, especially in the members area. Shame about the result - but that was fairly predictable given how the first two tests had gone. England did put up a bit of a fight for one innings, but soon collapsed to a big defeat to the awesome Aussie team. Great to have seen the best team in the world at the moment, and England have a lot of work to do before they can meet them on equal terms. Many thanks to Thea for taking me with her.

Rottnest Island, Perth

Rottnest Island

Rottnest is a beautiful island off the coast of Perth and apart from being very scenic it is famous as the 'land of the quokka'. Quokkas are friendly little marsupials that don't really live anywhere but Rottnest. They thrive because they don't have many predators there and there are about 10,000 living on the island compared to only a few hundred people. The island's name 'Rottnest' is Dutch for rats nest because the Dutch mariners that discovered the island mistook the cute quokkas for rats. We went on a coach tour around the island and were warned by Bert, our guide, not to get 'Blotto on Rotto' or play 'quokka soccer'. Apart from that we could do what we liked which was take in the beautiful scenery, have lunch on the beach and get bogged down trying to ride mountain bikes around the island. Going downhill was OK... At first we were really hoping we'd see at least one quokka on the island because you can never tell how elusive animals are going to be but in the end we were falling over them and they aren't shy because they no humans aren't a threat to them.

Quokka, Rottnest Island Quokka, Rottnest Island

'No getting Blotto on Rotto or playing quokka soccer' - said our guide, Bert

Little Blue Penguins, Penguin Island

Penguin Island and Seal Islands

Australia has colonies of the smallest penguin in the world and also of sea lions. We went to an island which had a big colony of little blue or fairy penguins on it. The fluffy ruff around the neck of the penguin on the right are it's remaining old feathers. When they are shedding their feathers they aren't waterproof so they can't go swimming so they need to eat lots of food beforehand and then fast as they malt. There was a conservation centre which housed a few orphan and injured penguins including one very bosy one called Jo Jo! Unfortunately all the other penguins on the island were off fishing and don't come back on land until sunset apart from one that was sheltering from the sun in a cave down the beach. The island seemed to be more overun by ugly King Skinks (lizards) that ran under our feet as we ate lunch than penguins. Our boat also passed by seal island where lots of sea lions, not seals live but they must have been out fishing today rather than basking on the rocks because we didn't see any of them.

After our longer than planned stay in Perth it was time to move on and try and make it to Adelaide for Xmas. The next stage of our road trip took in some of the south of Western Australia and then the stretch of road through the famous Nullarbor Plain.

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