After six weeks we flew to Perth out in Western Australia for our 11th and final stop in Australia. “Why fly?” you might ask. “Why not take a bus?” As we’ve learned, the distances in Australia are massive. From Adelaide in South Australia to Perth in neighboring Western Australia it’s nearly 1,700 miles. In other words, driving from the capital of one Australian state to the neighboring capital would be like driving from Boston to Wichita, Kansas.
And yes, Western Australia is big: at over 1 million square miles it’s the second-biggest subnational entity in the world after Russia’s Sakha Republic (capital, Yakutsk for you Risk players…). To put that in some context, the two largest states in the U.S. (Alaska & Texas) together are just 932,000 square miles. So yeah, it’s big out here.
Now, as for Perth. Meh. It’s a big western boom town, with over 2 million people in the “Greater Perth” area. It’s first big population boom was the result of late 19th century gold rushes, and mining remains the center of the still-booming economy here. But there really wasn’t much to do out here.
We tried. We looked into renting a car and driving out into the great vastness of Western Australia. The goal, though, was the Pinnacles Desert and it was a few hours outside of Perth and, if that wasn’t bad enough, you needed to be there in the early morning to appreciate it. We weren’t interested in leaving Perth at 3:00 AM, so that was out. Then we thought maybe we’d rent bikes and enjoy some of Perth’s bike trails. But the bike rental place wasn’t where Google Maps said it was and when we walked 30 minutes to where their own website said it was, the hostel there said “Oh, they haven’t been here in months.” And by then it was 90 degrees and we weren’t that excited about biking anymore anyway.
We did, though, take a relaxing boat trip down the Swan River from Perth to Fremantle out on the coast. Fremantle is the main port in the region and we’d heard great things about it. Meh. Nothing that exciting, for us at least. It does has a UNESCO World Heritage site, an old prison that dates back to the age of Australia as Britain’s penal colony, though it operated until well into the ’90s. Worst tour ever!! We didn’t learn anything useful and the guide was way too interested in showing us how witty he was to be interesting. We were so annoyed, all we could think was “God, when can we get out of this prison?” So maybe that was the plan after all, to be so annoying we’d experience what it was like to be an actual prisoner.
There was one nice spot in Perth, the Kings Garden and Botanic Garden. At just over 1,000 acres it’s nearly 20 percent bigger than Central Park though, to be fair, the population in Manhattan is somewhat denser than that of Perth. Nonetheless, the Kings Garden was a nice little interlude in an otherwise pretty boring city.
So. The boat ride down to Fremantle was the highlight, mostly because the cool breezes made for a lovely place to sit and read. Food? There were slim pickings. There was a good enough Greek restaurant, and a genuinely good Thai place, though with prices you’d expect more in Paris. And, to our surprise, a fun lunch place out in Fremantle that we went to twice, the second time just because it made more sense to take the train back for lunch than settle for what Perth had to offer.
Oh, enough bitching. We’re leaving Australia. It’s been good, despite restaurant prices that were just not warranted given the quality of food. But we’re itching for exotic adventures again so now it’s off to Bali which we’ve always considered one of the nearly perfect places on earth. We’ll come back to Australia in a couple years; we still didn’t get to Tasmania or Uluru in the center of Australia. For now, though, we’ve had enough of everything being in a sort of English. Time for adventure!