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The most remote city on Earth?

Perth, Australia
Sunday, July 14, 2013

Perth is often regarded as the most remote city in the world being over 2,100km from the nearest state capital Adelaide; it does feel extremely remote and cut off from the rest of Australia let alone the world. However it doesn't quite win the title of the most remote city on earth which goes to Honolulu at over 3,800km from San Francisco!

Perth might have only come runner up in the claim to be the most remote city on earth but unfortunately it has just won the title of the most expensive city in the southern hemisphere. A grand title for something that nobody wants to win! It didn't need to win such a title as we can confirm it is expensive! We might have just come from Asia so are feeling the pinch even more but a lot of stuff is much more expensive than Europe.

Day 1 - Sonya's birthday on Rats Nest Island

We set off bright and early and headed to Barrack Street Pier to catch the ferry to Fremantle to transfer onto the fast ferry to Rottnest Island. We were looking forward to winding our way along the Swan River to Fremantle taking in the sights so we were a little annoyed when the sales lady handed over our pre-paid tickets and told us where the 'bus' would be picking us up from!

After boarding the bus it transpired that during the winter months it's not viable to use a boat due to water levels, fair enough. But this was not clearly stated on the website at the time of booking so we duly paid the $20 extra per person expecting to take a boat trip. Had we known it was a bus not boat we would have made our own way to Fremantle which is only a short train journey and would have cost a lot less than $20.

In fairness the bus journey itself turned out to be quite good with some interesting commentary from the friendly tour guide who told us some great facts about Perth and Rottnest Island. Apparently the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered the island in 1696 when he was looking for fresh water. During his short stay on the island he came across the Quokka, a native animal that's still around today and highly resembles a king-size rat. He named the island Rottnest Island after the animal which is Dutch for Rats Nest Island, funnily enough we didn't see any Danish tourists on the trip!

The ferry sailed smoothly over to Rottnest and with the time ticking until we had to be back on board at 4pm we hired some bikes, grabbed a map and set off to explore the island. Rottnest is a biker's paradise being car free and with only an hourly bus service the roads were empty. We decided to follow the cycle paths around the island along with the other like-minded people to enjoy the sun and the refreshing sea breeze. As we made our way around we were absolutely blown away by the breath taking views and stunning beaches, a true piece of paradise so close to Perth's city centre. We stopped for lunch at Cape Vlamingh and just as we were enjoying our sandwiches we couldn't believe our eyes as we saw several blow holes on the horizon, shortly followed by a humpback breaching and a lot of tail slapping. We spotted at least 5 whales and enjoyed the views by ourselves for a good 10 minutes before anybody else turned up. It was simply amazing to watch and we were especially lucky as at this of year as they normally migrate northwards further away from Island. Only later in the year when they migrate southwards again do you normally get such a prominent view of the whales from the island. Unfortunately they were just a little bit too far away from the Island to get any good photos.

Our peace was broken as one of the few buses that tour the island turned up and out popped a bus load of people trying to spot 'our' whales, at which point we decided to get back on our bikes and complete the circumnavigation of the island. All was going well until the inevitable happened.... you guessed it, Sonya fell off her bike! Ross only noticed when he turned back to talk to her and she wasn't there. She somehow managed to get her hoodie caught on the seat and forgetting that she has absolutely no balance skills she attempted to pull her hood free whilst still riding and managed to jerk the handle bars which made the bike wobble and she went down like a sack of potatoes. Apart from a bruised leg, a bloody elbow and a sore shoulder she was fine, a nice birthday present ;-)

A while later Sonya spotted something moving out of the corner of her eye so she looked down just in time to see the back end of a snake slivering it's way under a bush. After telling Ross she didn't waste any time and jumped back on her bike and was out of there like a flash with Ross not far behind. We later found out that the snakes on the island are highly venomous and are in the top ten most deadly snakes in Australia..

Not content with falling off once, when we stopped to take in some more stunning views Sonya tried to swing her 'good leg' over the bike but didn't quite make it and for the second time landed squarely on her backside! She managed to get up and laugh it off whilst Ross pretended he didn't know her. To add to her injury's she now had a very swollen pinky, another nice birthday present ;-)

Luckily we managed to finish circumnavigating the island without any more accidents and managed to return the bikes in one piece and duly got our deposits back.

Day 2 - Fremantle

Since we started to plan Perth about a month ago we noticed that from the 12th to the 17th July there is a train shutdown as they undertake a massive upgrade that connects the new Fremantle line tunnel to the rail network. This has been advertised everywhere from newspapers, TV and even news channels covering 'how to avoid the carnage'. So we planned our visit around the impending doom, making sure we did everything out of the city before the shutdown. So we were a little bit surprised when we arrived at the train station only to find out no trains were running today before 11am, D'oh! They had free replacement buses running and the only consolation for the bustitution was the fact it was completely free.

Maritime Museum

Yep, another maritime museum but as the maritime trade had such an impact on Australia we wanted to dig into its history, honestly it wasn't just an excuse for Ross to get a transport fill, Sonya wanted to go too.

The building itself was very impressive built to look like a gigantic sail and once inside it was easy to see why it was such a popular place to visit. With full size boats and sailing ships it was amazing. Let's just say Australia is very proud to be the first non-American country to win the Americas Cup!

Probably the strangest exhibit was the preserved remains of a Big Mouth shark which was strangely fascinating. The shark was only discovered in 1976 and is incredibly rare with only 55 sightings to date

Shipwreck Galleries

Sort of on route from the Maritime Museum to the Prison we visited the shipwreck galleries. Before visiting we only expected to spend a short time at the gallery as we didn't think it would be as extensive as it was. Not all the exhibits were particularly interesting or even worth stopping to look at but, some of the things that have been recovered from the various ship wrecks off Australia's Western coast are just amazing. As the recovery process is on-going we would only expect the galleries to improve over time.

Fremantle Prison

Built by the first British convicts who arrived on the west coast in the 1850's, the prison was still in use until 1991. We took the 'Doing Time Tour' which took in the main parts of the prison, including the main cell blocks, solitary cells, the chapel, the whipping post and finally the gallows. The cells were setup as they would have been throughout the ages from literally nothing in the 1800's to the comforts of a small TV prior to the prison closing. The tour was well presented by yet another enthusiastic Aussie with a witty sense of humour. It was slightly eerie in places and we are glad we chose the daytime tour and not the torchlight tour which apparently is dam right scary and was described to us as 'pack a spare pair of underwear'. Well worth the trip and a must see attraction in Fremantle.

Day 3 - Cottesloe Beach

Before the impending doom of the lack of public transport later in the day we decided to head out to Cottesloe beach in the morning. Cottesloe is one of Perth's premier beaches and is just north of Fremantle, on the main Fremantle train line. It is hard to believe that a beach with such beautiful pristine waters and golden sand is only 20 minutes from the heart of a vibrant city. Luckily we didn't spot the tagged white shark that had been detected earlier in the day but we weren't planning on going for a dip anyway :-)

The suburb surrounding the beach was immaculate and we can only imagine how expensive some of the larger properties with a sea view would be.

Day 4 - Ross' 16th anniversary of his 21st birthday

We started the day at the Perth Mint. Although undergoing a renovation it was still possible to see the main exhibits which included:

The World's Largest Gold Coin measuring nearly 80cms wide, 12cms deep and tipping the scales at one tonne, the coin is valued at more than $50 million! Strangely its legal tender was only a measly $1 million. The Gold Pour where $300,000 worth of gold was heated to molten temperatures before been transformed into a solid gold bar. The mint runs gold pouring sessions every hour, on the hour and over the many years the mint has been in operation the brick walls of the melting house have literally become embedded with gold dust. Apparently before the building became listed they stripped the roof and managed to recover a staggering $20,000 of gold dust!

The World's Largest Gold Bar Exhibition. A huge collection of unique gold bars from around the world that have been crafted into a myriad of unusual shapes and sizes.

Touch and pick up a Gold Bar. Weighing in at 12.5kg the bar is worth over $600,000 at today's prices! Unfortunately although we could pick it up we couldn't get it out of the security box :-(

We would love to have got some photos but unfortunately photography is banned for obvious reasons.

Next stop of the day was the Bell Tower. After taking some stick for coming from the UK, knowing some bell ringers but never having a go ourselves we were lucky to try our hand at bell ringing. Although we didn't know people on the higher floors could watch our feeble results we both had a great time and yet again were kept entertained by a light hearted Aussie. The Bell Tower is well worth the visit if only for the views from the 6th floor of the Swan River and downtown.

We finished the day with a relaxing walk around Kings Park. Only 1.5km from the city centre and adjacent to the Swan River, the massive 400 hectare park was definitely one of the best parks we have ever visited. The views of the city and Swan River were stunning and probably one of the best vantage points in Perth for such stunning views.

Day 5 - 6 months on the road and rails

Unbelievably we have been on the road and rails for 6 months so it seems fitting on such an anniversary to get back on the rails again. Yes, we are starting our mammoth trip across Australia by train. As we embark on the second longest train journey of the entire trip, a massive 2,659km and 2 nights on the train we will be rolling into Adelaide for the next part of our adventure.

At this part of our trip we would like to thank the UK support office for your continued assistance. Although we haven't called for help or assistance that often, when we have your help has been invaluable. Consider yourself honorary members of Team Chip.

Secondly we would like to thank the Man in Seat 61. Although we have thanked you before we would like to do so again. We hope that our experiences based on your fantastic website will help to enhance an already amazing site.

As we wish Perth farewell we will miss the city but not the prices. We hope to return one day and hope the city continues to prosper and doesn't falter if (as) the mining boom goes into decline.

Next stop Adelaide; if it's been anything like WA we will love it. We feel so privileged to be experiencing so much. This is a once in a life time opportunity and don't we know it.

Team Chip

Hotel Review

We stayed in the Travelodge in a double private. Accommodation in Perth is ridiculously expensive partly due to the mining boom and the lack of housing for the influx of workers. Although we got the hotel on a special deal it still cost us nearly twice as much as the next most expensive hotel in our entire trip! However it was worth it. The other option being a pick from the wide range of hostels, but these only had shared bathroom facilities and didn't come with great ratings. The hotel's location was excellent on Hay Street right in the middle of the CBD. Most things including restaurants, the shopping area and tourist attractions were all within walking distance. However if walking isn't your thing the number 7 stop on the Red CAT bus (free) service was right outside the hotel. The room was well appointed as you would expect from a quality hotel and had everything we needed including a TV, fridge, safe, kettle, bath and shower. Compared to the competition the hotel was reasonable value for money and we would recommend the hotel to other travellers.


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