Monday, 28 November 2011

Perth - days 83 - 96

I’m writing this in my final week in Perth. I’m now back in South Perth at Martine and Marks place, although apart from Mark being around from time to time, everyone else is in Cananda, so I’ve got the run of the place. It’s handy being this close to the centre, and I’m managing to get out most days to faff around in the city, whizzing around on the buses and the trains. It’s a weird low key end to the holiday, cos I almost feel like I’m living here now. Plus, the weather has sorted itself out, its been hot and sunny now for at least two weeks, and I’m getting in the pool most days to cool off (with a beer in hand, natch). Most mornings here are weirdly normal - I’m taking the dog for a walk, cleaning the pool and watering the plants. It’s strangely therapeutic – apart from the day Holly (the dog) did a massive steamy dump on one of our walks. That was just gross.

Back to Day #83 and it was off to my other friend Tanyas for a week. Again it was great to catch up with her (not seen her since the late 90s I think) and her family (and another dog!). Every night we’d have a massive BBQ in the garden, Tanya would crank up the music, and many beers would be drunk. Tanyas husband Matt brews his own beer, so that got quite entertaining when we ran out of normal beer.

Day #87, and it was back to Kelly and Alexs again for the weekend. The Friday night was spent in The Flying Scotsman in Mount Lawley, which was a wicked little pub, did great food and beer, and actually played decent music in the evenings. The pub was also full of tattooed people, mainly cos of the tattoo shop across the road, so that was kinda cool to see. The place was full of other random characters too – some of the drunk aussies were funny and fairly nice people, however our table was stared at constantly by a weird middle aged couple, who didn’t seem to like us for some reason. Luckily they buggered off after half an hour of intense scowling at us – god knows what we’d done to offend them!

The next day we were off to Rottnest Island, which we were all really bloody excited about. Noone got any sleep the night before! I loved Rotto the last time I was here, and have been desperate to come back ever since, so this was gonna be a mega highlight. The boat crossing on the Saturday morning took a while to get there and got a bit tedious. The sea crossing was a rough one, prompting Kelly to go for a quick puke before we arrived at the island. That sucked – Kelly had managed to hold on for the entire journey, and hurled just minutes before we landed. Damn!

On arrival, we headed straight for the bike hire place and got our bikes sorted. Next came the test – do you ever forget how to ride a bike? Yes, kind of. I hadn’t ridden a bike since my last Rotto trip 20 years ago. And it was a nightmare!!! My coordination and balance had gone, so although I could ride it once I was on the thing, I had trouble starting off, turning sharp corners, and worst of all, stopping! Didn’t help that I’d worn my stupid sandals and not my trainers. Stopping remained a problem for the entire weekend, I could never get to grips with it.

Next we checked into our cool little hotel, the Rottnest Lodge, then grabbed a Subway. Was a surprise to see we had extra guests at our table when we started eating – the Quokkas, the local wildlife on Rotto, had got braver over the last 20 years, so we were joined by a couple of them, waiting to see if we dropped anything. I was surprised to see so many of these little buggers running around the populated areas over the weekend. Usually you only saw them out on the island. Apparently this isn’t the case anymore!

So with the fact I couldn’t ride a bike properly in mind (and that I’ve done no exercise since July), we set off for the day – on an 18km ride to and from the furthest westerly point of Rottnest! This was something I always wanted to do, and was a brilliant day – apart from the fact going there is mostly all uphill. The scenery on Rotto is mental. One minute it’s all salt lakes and forest, then its low lying scrubby bush. The beaches on the westerly side are pretty fierce and rocky, and the further to the west you get, the wilder the coast is. Took us about 2 hours to get to Vlamingh Point, where we stopped for some lunch and took photos. It felt so isolated, especially as most of the day tourists don’t make it out here.

The ride back was easier, and was a quicker journey home. On the way Kelly encountered a snake (a dugite?), and we did a bit of bird spotting. Saw lots of crazy coloured things on the way back – but didn’t manage to get any decent photos, as they were too fast!

We were totally knackered from our epic ride, so the evening was low key. Me and Kelly had a swim, then we all had a few beers and food at the local resort, complete with standard acoustic girl-singer, local aussie drunks, and a load of Quokkas. Downer of the night? The wind BLEW my full pint of Little Creatures Pale Ale over, so I had to get another. It was $11.50 a pint!!

Next day was easier. We had breakfast, headed out to the beach and SAT THERE for a few hours, standing in the sea. Had some lunch, then caught the ferry back home, having a few cheeky beers on the way. Was an awesome weekend. Was so great to get back to Rotto after all this time, and it didn’t disappoint. But there was the added bonus of that huge bike ride, which I’m really glad we did, even though it hurt like hell for the next few days.

Got back to Martines place in South Perth the following week, and spent most of the next week or so enjoying the sun and being so close to the city. One afternoon I took myself off to Cottesloe Beach. Again, somewhere I’d been 20 years previous, so wanted to check it out again. Like everyone else apparently, cos when I got off the train by the beach, so did everyone else! I guess Cottesloe is like every other beach in Perth – its big, and although there were lots of people there, there was loads of space for everyone. So I found a spot and stood in the sea for an hour. Unfortunately I’d forgotten my swimming trunks and my towel, so couldn’t really go for a swim. What a doofus.

Theres a great coast walk at Cottesloe, so wandered south past the Cottesloe Sundial (a massive piece of modern art) and onto the rocks part of the coast and sat and watched the waves for a while, sitting in the sun. Then the lure of the pub became too much, so pitched up at the Cottesloe Hotel for a few Fat Yaks and a spot of lunch, sitting on the veranda looking out at the sea.

In the evening, me and Mark went into Vic Park for the evening, had a few beers at the Balmoral, where I had more Fat Yak, then grabbed an awesome burger at V Burger, a place I’d wanted to check out for a few weeks.
Didn’t disappoint.

The final weekend of this section (somewhere around days #93 - #96) I managed to see some more wildlife and get out of Perth proper for a couple of trips. Firstly I went over to Heirisson Island, which is a small island on the Swan River between Vic Park and Perth. It’s a totally random place, considering where it is. It’s a small national park/conservation area underneath a main bridge that goes into Perth, and is populated by kangaroos. Although it took me a while to find them! On my walk, I did come across the Yagan statue, that was mentioned by Gary on my city walk at the start of the holiday. Was a total surprise as I didn’t think it was meant to be here. After thinking I wasn’t gonna see any kangaroos, I eventually bumped into some tourists who seemed to know where they were going, and finally got to see some. Six rather large gray kangaroos lazing around in the sun. They didn’t really do much, but it was cool to see wild kangaroos so close to the city.

Got taken out another day with Kelly and Alex, who took me north to the suburb of Joondalup, where we met up with Kellys mum who took us on a day tour around the area. First was Joondalup Park where we hung out with and fed some Cockatoos (awesome), then a quick trip to Yanchep National Park to see some Koalas and Kangaroos. The Kangaroos all seemed to have Joeys with them in their pouches, and really weren’t bothered by us, so we managed to get quite close and get some cool photos. Was a really fun day – seeing Yanchep and the animals was fab, but hanging out with the Cockatoos was awesome. So random - and I’m usually not a fan of birds standing on me – but these fellas were really friendly!

Day #96, and the final day of this blog, and Mark was taking me out for the day to do something I’d been dying to do since I got to Aus. See a really really REALLY long road in the middle of nowhere. So without any prompting from me, Mark decided we were gonna go to Nambung National Park for the day to see The Pinnacles, which was a big surprise. It’s a 2 ½ hour drive from Perth, and was shocked that Mark was so up for it, but it was an awesome trip. Once we got out of the city, there was nothing – miles of bush, sand dunes and coastline, and a bloody long road! Stopped every so often for some photos, and got to The Pinnacles in decent time (Marks car is FAST). Had a drive round the park, looking at the random rock structures, trying to find the most penis like ones we could find. After that hilarity wore out, we took a couple more photos, then headed back to Perth in time or more beers and another BBQ.

And that’s now more or less up to date. I’ve got 6 days left of Western Australia and this amazing city, then its onto my final stop before home!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Perth - days 70 - 82

The next couple of days, the weather is brilliant and make the most of my last couple of days in Rockingham. The last Tuesday I’m there, its Melbourne Cup day, and me and Ray got for a lunch/day-out to watch the race and get pissed. Its funny, cos I’ve never heard of the Melbourne Cup before, so really surprised its such a big deal. I guess it’s a bit like the Derby in Epsom – without all the queueing and avoiding pikeys at the fair.

My last day, we go to Mandurah, further down the coast from Rockingham. Another seaside town that’s a lot more built up than it was 20 years ago on my last visit, so again its cool to see how its changed in that time. Have a wander around the harbour, have a few beers at the Brighton Hotel, then buy loads of bags of twiglets from an English shop. I’ve not had twiglets now for over two months and I’ve been craving them. I eat all the bags in one day!

I’d had a brilliant time staying at Ray and Shirleys, but it was time to get to Perth proper and stay with some other friends. So I pack my bag and move over to Martine and Marks place near South Perth the day the weather goes to shit. It pisses down with rain and remains cloudy for over a week, which is a tad disappointing!

The weekend I arrive at Marts, they have another BBQ – kinda like a pre-birthday bash, and meet a bunch of their friends, some of whom I met earlier in the trip, and others I’ve not met. At one point I’m standing in a circle of people I’ve never met while a nice lady goes round everyone asking about their kids. I’m a bit gutted she never gets to me, as I was busy making up two kids to tell her about, so I could join in the conversation. Rest of the eve is spent with the guys I’d met at the first BBQ, getting drunk and talking about various things I can get up to over the next few weeks. It’s a fab evening, and hopefully I’ll get to see some of these people again before I go home.

The following day, Mart and Mark take me and their kids to the Perth Mint (and I spy a pub I want to go and check out when I eventually get back into Perth). The Mint is an interesting place, and is housed in a cracking old colonial style building. Highlight of the trip is the gold pour, where a chap talks through the process of melting and pouring the gold, right in front of you, in the dark.
The guys then take me to
Kings Park, another place I’ve not been to for 20 years. Again, a lot has been added to the park (shops, cafes, car parks, nature walks etc), and its quite a difference from the last time. The view of Perth is still as awesome up here as it was previously, however, the weather is rubbish so the views not quite so good!

Get to day #76, and it’s my 42nd birthday. Martine has the day off so takes me out for the day – get a haircut, go for an awesome burger, then a couple of beers at the Balmoral Hotel in Victoria Park. She also buys me a groovy new tattoo design wallet. It’s awesome and I’ve been using it ever since!
In the eve, Ray and Shirley pick me up and we head off to have an evening birthday meal with Marts sister Tanya (who I’ve not met up with yet) and her family. Have lots of beer, a massive chicken thing to eat, and get a birthday cake with “42” on it. I change the numbers round to “24” and then eat the massive chocolate cake. Yum. Arrange to meet up with Tanyas daughter Jayde (who I met when she was 3 when I was last here!) later in the week to go and catch a film or summat.

Eventually the sun comes out and I sort some things to do in Perth while I’m staying so close. Organise a walking tour round the city with a company called
Two Feet And A Heartbeat. Day of the walk I go into town, have a couple of cheeky beers at The Grosvenor Hotel (that I saw the day we went to the Mint), then meet the guide at the town hall. The Tour is being run by an irish dude called Gary, and theres four of us on the walk, which is good – nice small group. Gary takes us round the city explaining the history of the place and whats happening to Perth in the future. Its all really interesting stuff, but far too detailed to go into details on this blog. Was just awesome to hear about how Perth is moving forward, and gave me much more appreciation of the city. The tour ended at Rosie O’Gradys in Northbridge, where we all get a free beer and have a chat. And a few more beers. Two of the girls on the tour are English doing an Australian tour, and Perth is their first stop. Its good chatting to a couple more randoms (as I hadn’t met anyone travelling since Fraser Island), and we hang out drinking VB, till I decide I’m pissed and its time to go home!

Next day they weather is even better, so I head into Perth for another mooch around. Get off near
Barrack Street Jetty, take some photos and find a pub called The Lucky Shag on the water front. No way was I gonna miss a place called The Lucky Shag, so I popped in for a couple of James Squires Sundown – and was pleased to find most of the bar staff were tattooed punk rockers. Sat out on the veranda, on the water listening to my ipod. Was quite a pleasant way to spend the morning.

inished my beers, then decided to head up to Kings Park again. Was a wicked sunny day, so managed to get lots of great photos, then went deeper into the park. Found a few places I remembered from when I was last here, the main one being the Pioneer Womens Memorial Lake. The memorial is basically a lake with a statue, with loads of fountains and small streams that run off the main lake. It’s a really nice place to chill out in the sun. And I also saw my first wild kookaburra!
After the lake, I go back to the main entrance of the park and sit in the shade by the war memorial – when the two girls from the walk the previous night suddenly appeared! Had a brief chat with them, then left them taking photos. They’d had the same idea as me, which was to take photos of Kings Park in the sun to replace the overcast photos from two days ago. I wander back into town and head to The Lucky Shag again. Have a few more beers and a ridiculous steak – one of the best I’ve had since Sydney. By the time I leave, the sun has set, the bar is full of work people, and theres an acoustic duo noodling away in the background. I’d had a pretty brilliant day, and what with the info from the walk the previous night, made me appreciated how great Perth was, especially now the weather was good again. Such a brilliant city – quiet, chilled out, clean, and amazing to look at. I’m pleased I’ve finally managed to come back here after 20 years, and can see why so many people want to move here.

The next few days I lie low to save money for the weekend, but do manage to meet up with Jayde and go to the cinema to see “In Time”. Which is a totally crackers movie that doesn’t make much sense!

Get to day #80 and I’m into my 4th weekend. On the Friday, I get a ferry from Barrack Street Jetty and head down to Fremantle for the day. The trip down the Swan is fairly uneventful, apart from seeing some insanely expensive houses on the way. Arrive in Fremantle and find I do exactly the same things I did with Kelly and Alex two weeks previous. Obviously theres not that much in Fremantle! Head to the Sail And Anchor again, have a couple of amazing Nails IPAs and have lunch. The menu is fantastic (everything seems to be cooked in beer), and decide to come back at some point before I come home. Before I jump on the ferry I have a wander around the E Sheds markets. It’s full of utter tat, but it’s so cheap. So I end up buying souvenirs for everyone. Apologies in advance, haha!

In the evening, Martine and Mark take us for a Mexican in Victoria Park. It’s my first Mexican meal since San Diego and doesn’t disappoint, even though the margaritas were a bit too sweet for my liking.

Saturday is another afternoon/eve out with Kelly and Alex. Firstly we head for food at a pub called the Inglewood Hotel (near to Mount Lawley). Have a few beers and a massive fish’n’chips, then we head to The Civic for my first DIY punk gig in three months! Plenty of beers are drunk, and I meet come of Kelly and Alexs friends, who are all pretty cool people. It’s really nice getting to hang out with tattooed punk rock people again, drinking, talking music and watching bands, and I have a brilliant night. Two of the bands stand out – Ex-Nuns and Grim Fandango (the headliners – friends of K&A), and really enjoy watching these guys making a racket. The other bands playing are ok, but suffer from the same thing a lot of bands back home do – the Hot Water Music/Dillinger Four/No Idea affliction. But its brilliant being in this situation again, and it makes me realise how much I’m missing music and my funny alternative friends back home, especially getting to meet K&As friends and seeing how great they are. Not one person asks me about my trip – it’s all music, tattoos and drunk person talk. It’s nice to get a bit of normality since the US.

Sunday I get up early and head into Perth to meet Mart and the family. Theres a Heritage open day on, and we go to the open day at Government House. It’s an interesting place, and the grounds its set in are amazing, but I’m tired and hungover and just want to go home and sit in a dark room! Which I eventually get to do (and update the blog). But Mart decides I’m being quiet enough, so it’s out for more beers with some friends of theirs which livens me right up!

This is my last weekend at Mart and Marks for a few days. The following week I’m off to Tanyas for a week to stay with her and her family. I must admit though, I was beginning to burn out at this point. Apart from Rottnest, seeing Tanya and going to the OFF gig in Dec, I kinda felt that I’d done everything I wanted to do in Perth, and the gig on Saturday night made me realise how much I wanted to get back home and get a bit of normality for a while. I really need to get back to seeing some noisy horrible bands, and also to hang out and talk nonsense with my mates One thing this holiday has made me realise is how much I love my music, and was really missing getting in a dirty sweaty rehearsal room and making a noise with a bunch of like-minded individuals.

The final few days at Martines I get my last lot of flights sorted by STA, and organise a posh hotel in Singapore for a few days. It’s nice to have a definite leaving date sorted finally. At this point I’ve literally three weeks to go before the holiday is over. It has been an amazing thing to do and have done some stuff I never thought I’d get to do. I’m not dismissing the experience at all, but I’m definitely feeling it’s time to go back home and regroup for a while. That’s not to say I won’t be doing anything like this next year (I have some ideas!), but I’ll go into more detail about the whole holiday experience at a later date.

Meanwhile there’s still 2 and a half weeks left in Perth, and a list of things to get up to (although I end up saving cash, so don’t go to Wave Rock or Kalgoorlie – its just too expensive).

More to follow!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Perth - days 58 - 69

So I get to Perth – and STOP. Realised that every day I’ve been on holiday I’ve been doing something. It’s great to finally get somewhere where I can relax and chill out for a bit – especially as I’ve got around 6 weeks here. I end up staying with Ray and Shirley for 2 ½ weeks or so, and its brilliant – I have my own room and bathroom at the end of the house and I’m loving not having to live out of my rucksack. The day I arrived I emptied the whole thing – makes it so much easier not having to rummage around in the pesky thing anymore!
The first few days consists of lots of chilling out. Sitting in the sun having a beer, updating the blog or reading. The weather is pretty good at the moment, so we have a couple of BBQs. Behind the house is a massive lake, Lake Richmond. Have a wander round there one afternoon taking photos of all the pelicans. I’ve never seen so many.

Theres a decent cinema in town, so I wander down there a couple of afternoons when the weather isn’t so great. Catch “Contagion” and “The Thing” remake/prequel. It’s good to catch up on my cinema viewing, and enjoyed both films. Contagion is pretty harrowing stuff, and I really enjoyed The Thing prequel, even though it was nowhere near as great as the original.

Rockingham town is a cool little place. Very quiet, not much going on, but has a fantastic beach with very shallow water. Pop down the front when the weather is good, stand in the sea for a bit, then go and grab a beer at the beach bar. Unfortunately, Rockingham also has a rather brilliant comic shop. After my beach bar beer, I always end up in there – and end up buying something!

Do a few day trips while I’m here too. First to Point Peron, then to Penguin Island. Point Peron is a rugged bit of coast just down from Rockingham. Mad beaches, rocky sandstone outcrops and loads of random bird life, which is cool. Get wet wandering around in the sea trying to find random caves in the sea wall. Find a couple of Bobtail lizards, which Ray torments and makes angry!
Penguin Island is more of the same. It’s a small island about 10 minutes off the coast populated with thousands of seagulls, terns and pelicans. There’s a discovery centre where you can see the penguins, but apart from one wild one hopping about outside, we didn’t see any other penguins on the island. Again, the coastline of this place is pretty rugged, expect this time you get dived bombed and squawked at by loads of angry seagulls everywhere you walk. It’s like being in “The Birds”.

Manage to catch up with my other friends in these two weeks as well. First weekend I go to a BBQ at my friend Martines place. Mart is Ray and Shirleys youngest daughter, who lived in London for a good few years way back in the mid 90s. BBQ consists of copious amounts of beer and 2 MASSIVE pieces of fillet steak that are cooked in one lump, and then sliced up afterwards. Absolutely incredible.

On the first Sunday I make my way into Northbridge to meet up with Kelly and Alex. Northbridge is part of Perth central, but is separated from the city by the rail tracks. It’s populated with loads of cool restaurants and noisy bars. I’d been here 20 years previously, and it’s changed a lot. I remember it as being quite a rugged place, a bit like Camden – but it seems a lot cleaner than I remember, and there’s definitely less bars and clubs than there used to be. Meet up with Kelly an Alex and have a few beers in The Moon Bar, a weird little retro place with 50s style booths. It’s great to see them again after our US trip, and I’m glad to find out we’ve got lots planned over the six weeks I’m here. Then we go and have a Nandos, and I’m ecstatic!

In the eve I leave them to it and go and see The Dropkick Murphys and Lucero at Metro City. I go along with their mate Matt, who is there to see Lucero. Venue is a massive super club – has a great sound system, big stage, capacity looked to be about 2000, but the beers are $10 a pop! Really enjoy Lucero. Not seen them before. Kinda remind me of a more rough-and-ready Gaslight Anthem, but a bit more country round the edges. Dropkicks are disappointing though. I haven’t seen them for a while, and once they start its apparent they really aren’t the same band anymore. They’ve lost most of the punk songs from the set and mainly play their irish folky stuff. Plus they barely do anything earlier than the last three albums, which is a real shame. They eventually play “Fields Of Athenry” but I’ve got bored by this stage, and leave an hour into the set. I’m fairly sure I didn’t miss anything earth shattering! Still it was a great afternoon/evening and was cool to get to my first gig in Australia.

The second weekend I’m in Perth is also a major Kelly and Alex weekend! After a mellow Thursday night at Rifos Cafe, we’re ready for a big three days. It’s the CHOGM weekend, so theres a bank holiday on the Friday and public transport is free for two days. Thanks Queenie!

Friday we go to Fremantle. Again it’s a place I loved when I was here first time round, and it’s great to go back. I guess it’s the port part of Perth, but you’d have to check that. It’s at the end of the Swan River estuary where it meets the sea – so its surrounded by water and there always a nice breeze!
First stop is Fremantle Prison, and the “Doing Time” prison tour. The Prison is an incredible place, especially when you think it was only shut down in the 90s. Unfortunately our tour guide is a bit of an old fart, who spends most of his time embarrassing the lady tourists or rambling on about nothing until he realises that he’s running out of time and rushes us around the remainder of the prison tour. We just ignore him in the end and take our time looking at stuff. I’m shocked to see that the conditions in the prison were actually better than my hostel in Brisbane. Some of the rooms were actually bigger than my room! Final stop of the tour is the gallows room, which is particularly grim and spooky. Eventually our guide finishes the tour and we can be left to our own devices for a bit till we decide to move onto the next place, the Sail And Anchor pub.

The Sail And Anchor is a proper beer drinkers pub – they have loads of guest ales on tap and can provide a tasting palette if that takes your fancy. The barstaff will happily let you try a beer before you buy it, and they seem to know what they are talking about. The food menu is mental, and I’m definitely going to come back here at some point to have the IPA battered Fish’n’Chips. I have a Nails IPA, and its wicked. Again it’s another of their light ales – it has an IPA taste, but it’s not as heavy or hoppy as what you’d usually get. And its COLD.

Next up is Bon Scotts statue. Have a few photos posing with him, and grope his package for luck. We pop to Sweet Lips Fish’n’Chips for the BEST fish’n’chips I’ve ever had. EVER. Sidenote – they know how to do Fish’n’Chips in Aus. Not like that crumbly boring white stuff we have. It’s full on chunky tasty fish, and it’s amazing! Then it’s onto Little Creatures brewery for a final few beers. The place is PACKED as its bank holiday and we have trouble finding a seat. After a lot of faffing about, the staff sort us a table, and we settle down for a few pints. I really like the Little Creatures beers, and have been mainly drinking the Bright Ale since I’ve arrived in Perth.

Saturday the guys take me to Mount Lawley, a little suburb down the road from where they live. It’s another groovy place with some cool pubs and shops. We have a breakfast burger at Grill’d (I have to leave the chips cos I’m stuffed!), then we spend a good hour or so in Planet, a massive record/dvd/book shop. We have a brief afternoon beer in The Flying Scotsman, another great chilled out pub with music and cool barstaff, and a wander round Hyde Park, a small park in Mount Lawley with a couple of centre lakes.

In the evening, I drag Kelly and Alex to the Roller Derby at Midvale Speed Dome. I’ve been dying to see some Roller Derby action since the holiday started, and this is the first Bout that’s been happening when I’ve been in the same place. The Bout was Perth Roller Derby vs WA Roller Derby and the Northern Brisbane Rollers, and was a cracking evening. The venue was huge – so much so, the track was set up in the centre of the speed dome, so you were miles away if you decided to sit on the seats. Lucky you could stand right down at the track, and after the first few minutes, we were trackside shouting along with everyone else.
The first bout was the usual B team thing, and was great fun, but a bit of a shambles. However, the second bout was insane. Perth Roller Derby vs Northern Brisbane Rollers. Perth out up a great fight, but the NBR were incredible. There were some amazing stand out players on both sides, but NBRs Lil G Unit stood out by far, being the high scorer of the night by a mile. Although I realise now that I have to start taking more notice of the blockers from now on. I always watch the jammers, as its easier to keep up with whats going on. But if I want to start taking Roller Derby more seriously, it’s the other players I need to be keeping an eye on methinks. Spent a fortune on merch and then we went home.

Sunday was a Swan Valley Brewery Tour that Kelly had organised for us. It was run by a bunch of beer enthusiasts called GrainCru, and was impressed to see it was a pretty DIY affair. For info, they run a tour like this every couple of months. Add them on Facebook and see what they organise – highly recommended! The tatty little coach they hire was full, probably around 30 people, and the tour took in four stops. The Tap, Feral, MASH Brewing and Elmars. At each brewery we got a great selection of food and a few free beers. At The Tap, we got pizza, oysters and chicken wings and a free beer. This was a bar out in the sticks, and was basically a massive tin shack. Was a great place to start the tour, and we all had a few more cheeky beers before the next stop. Feral Brewery was my fave place, a massive lodge-type place out in the middle of nowhere. We had a lunch consisting of chunks of roast lamb, potatoes, and bread and butter cooked in the beer. Amazing. The free beers consisted of a tasting palette each – but we were getting a bit tiddly at this stage, so didn’t bother buying any extra beers. MASH was next, and was a bit of a let down. Beer was good, but the staff didn’t appear to want to bring our second free beer, and suddenly were a lot harder to get hold of when the second rounds were kicking in. Shame. The final stop was Elmars, which had a massive beer garden. The weather was really hot by this stage and was great to chill out in the shade on the grass. Food consisted of cheese and meat platters (I went round and stole all the chorizo), and we got 4 free large tasters of beer. Such a brilliant day out and was good value for $90, considering I only ended up having to buy two extra beers.

Back in Rockingham on the Monday and I’m up to Day #69 of the holiday. Have another wander down the beach in the scorching sun for another paddle and a beer. Should have made more of this day and maybe even gone for a swim. Seems the English weather that had been following me had finally caught up. The weather was about to take a turn for the worse, and ruin the awesome weather I’d had so far!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sydney - days 55 - 57

Day #55
Packed with advice from some helpful friends, I start the day with a purpose and leave the hotel early. Miss breakfast and head straight to Circular Quay and I’m off for the day!

Take a Hop On Hop Off Harbour Cruise. Get great views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and get off at Watsons Bay, the other end of Sydney Harbour. Have a wander around this quaint little place. Take some great photos of the Sydney skyline, find a couple of deserted hidden beaches and jump around on some rocks. Then have a cheeky James Squire One Fifty Lashes at the pub while I wait for the boat back.

Get back to Circular Quay and have a wander round The Rocks area (as recommended). Grab an ice cream and check out the groovy old buildings. It’s very quiet round here, and I feel like I’m in a Western. I take notes of some pubs I might come back to, especially one called The Fortunes Of War (apparently the oldest pub in Sydney).

Jump back on the ferry and head round to Darling Harbour. Go to the Aquarium – which for the first part I spend trying to get away from a load of noisy Japanese tourists. I guess it’s an aquarium – no different from any other aquarium – but I had fun looking at the sharks, manta rays and dugong, and I saw loads of fish I saw in Fiji. Things like tang, emperor angelfish, triggerfish, surgeonfish – was good to put names to them finally! They also had some monstrous crabs and lobsters - i'd never seen ones so big!

Next up was Griil’d, a burger place I’d read about. It’s another place to add to my list of gourmet burger places, and it didn’t disappoint. Although I did pull out all the pickles and salad from the burger, which seemed a bit pointless! Was a good size burger though, and after I’d eaten all the chips, I was stuffed.

Walked back to the hotel via the groovy fountain displays around the harbour. Unfortunately my camera ran out, so I have no photos! Darling Harbour is a pretty wicked place, and wished I’d had more time to spend here.

In the evening I headed back to The Rocks area to try out some pubs I’d looked up. Walked for miles as a lot of the places were hidden down random backstreets. Completely missed one place I was looking for but found the Harbour View Hotel - which was ok. Had a James Squires, watched a bit of The Mentalist on the telly (and was surprised to see Robin Tunney is in it), then moved onto the next place – another pub I was unable to find! The problem with The Rocks area is, the maps don’t really do it justice. The roads all criss-cross over and under each other, and half the time I couldn’t find the road I was looking for. Eventually I came across a random bar and decided to stop for another beer. This was the Glenmore Hotel, and it quickly became my fave pub in Sydney. It was small, had friendly bar staff and played decent music. They also did wicked food. Sat outside under the gas heaters and had a couple of pints, then wandered down to find the Fortunes Of War, the pub I’d seen earlier.

I dunno whether this place was the oldest bar in Sydney, but it definitely had the old style bar and lots of tiles all over the walls. It kinda looked like an old toilet or bathhouse. However, on walking in, the barman shouted “We’re closed!”. It was 9.30pm.Hmm… chinny reckon you were closed!

So I jumped into a cab and went back to The Yardhouse for a final cheeky James Squires. Then went to bed knackered and slightly pissed.

Day #56
Got up dead early and headed over to the Casino to catch my tour to the Blue Mountains. Boarded a totally full coach and ended up sat at the back next to a translator dude, who repeated everything the guide said in Spanish to the guys next to him. ARGH!!!

Got to the Blue Mountains in a couple of hours and spent the morning taking loads of pictures of pointy mountainous rock structures, fountains and trees. Yeah, the area is pretty immense size-wise, but nothing compared to the Grand Canyon, that still wins “Gobsmacking Hole In The Ground” award of the holiday so far. Quickly worked out that if you did the various cable cars and train rides in the valley in reverse order, you missed all the queues. Which was handy considering 200 Japanese tourists followed us around for the entire day!
Nearing departure time, I jumped on the steepest railway ever to ride back up to the bus stop – and shat myself. The thing was soooo steep and really rickety. I spent the entire journey with my eyes closed, and it really didn’t help that they were playing the jaunty Indiana Jones theme while I was on it!

Back on the bus to the next stop, Featherdale Wildlife Park. Now this was more like it. Featherdale wasn’t very big, so you could around it in an hour. But it was jam packed with awesome animals and was brilliant. First things you get to are the Koalas. Theres about 15 of them, and for a change they weren’t all asleep! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one move before. Next you move into a gated area full of baby Kangaroos and Kookaburras. You could feed the Kangaroos by hand, so spent most of my time feeding a little Kangaroo that was following me around. He seemed pretty friendly so I named him Phil. Once he got his hands on the pot of nibbles I was carrying, he grabbed the off me and ran away. The little bugger. The rest of the park was just as awesome. Finally managed to see Wombats moving around and in the open, more noisy Kookaburras (what brilliant little birds they are!), Echidnas, Dingos, and some absolutely massive Sea Eagles. I really didn’t want to go, I could have stayed there all day!

Final stop was the Olympic Park – which was relatively underwhelming, then the coach dude decided he was gonna be lazy, so he dropped us at a ferry port for us to get the ferry back into Sydney. Got on the boat and had a beer, then sat in the sun and took in the views from the other side of Sydney until we got back to Darling Harbour.

Once there, headed back to The Rocks and the Glenmore Hotel. Had some more Lashes (or might have been Coopers) and a nice big steak in their $10 Steak Night. Nice way to end my Sydney time.

So it took three days, but I finally started to get to grips with Sydney, and kinda wished I was staying for another couple of days. Especially after I found a listings magazine and saw that the Dropkick Murphys and The Drones were playing in town over the next two nights. Gutted! As luck would have it, I’d see the Dropkicks in Perth, but I ended up missing The Drones over there by a week. Its definitely a great city and I liked the place. But – I didn’t think it was anything majorly different compared to places like New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco. I’d definitely like to come back at some point and make more of the place though. And the weather was pretty good – even if it was a little nippy sometimes!

Day #57
Up dead early again and caught a cab to Sydney Airport. I was heading to Perth for my final major stop of the holiday (over 6 weeks of staying in one place!). Flew with Quantas – who hadn’t gone on strike yet – and they were awesome. Spent the whole flight watching 2 series of Modern Family – and laughing outloud and upsetting the commuters!

5 hours later, I’m in Perth and I’m met at the airport by Ray, one of my parents oldest friends. I haven’t seen him for at least 10 years and it’s great to catch up. I’m staying with Ray and his wife Shirley for two weeks or so, south of Perth in a little coastal town called Rockingham. Already the weather is hotter and sunnier than the East Coast. I hope it stays like this, it’s awesome.

We get to the seaside in about 40 minutes and go for lunch at an open fronted restaurant on the seafront. Have a mega fish an chips and a few Pure Blondes, looking out over the bay, and have a great chat with my Dads old mate. By the time I’m back at the house and have dumped my stuff, I’m absolutely knackered. Have a few more beers, chill out in the sun, wander around like a zombie then decide to call it a night. I’m in bed by 8.30pm. But I’m dead glad that finally I’m in Perth, somewhere I’ve been dying to come back to for a long time!