Most of us who make a trip to spend a few days in Australia is to fulfill a dream. The rest does to accompany someone who is fulfilling a dream. Of course there will be other reasons but they are the exceptions. The moment to realize my dream had arrived. The only question I have is whether it is worth taking an extension to Western Australia to Perth, Shark Bay, Shell Beach, Pinnacles, and Broome.
For months we deliberate on appetizing but expensive options, such as the desire to travel Australia in caravan or car. We had to discard, Adelaide with Kangaroo Island, Darwin with the Kakadu National Park and a few days in Bali to prepare the hard return to everyday reality.
Another doubt, finally resolved, was whether to choose to do everything for free or to put us in the hands of an agency. The first option was cheaper, but our possible travel companions were falling down the road and in the end we were going alone. I was a bit afraid to face such a faraway destination in a country whose language I did not know and which basically had to be traveled by flight.
So we looked for an organized trip, hoping to have companions with whom to share the moments that the new continent was going to bring us. Finally, the itinerary was prepared with the arrival in Perth, a guided tour of the city reaching Fremantle. We would return to Perth navigating the Swan River, and go for excursion to the Pinnacles desert.
Second stage was the Ayers Rock, enjoying the day of arrival in Uluru at sunrise. The next day was the possibility of climbing to its summit or walking through its base. We would continue with visit and walk through the Olgas Mountains. Then Cairns was on the list with a visit to the rainforest and the great barrier reef.
We would move to Melbourne, with guided tour of the city and tour of the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles. Finally we would go to Sydney with city tour and cruise on the Bay and one day at the Blue Mountains.
The preparation of the luggage had been laborious. We did not want to go around airports with heavy suitcases, but we had to take into account that we were going to find cool temperatures in Perth. We managed to find the balance between volume and necessity and equipped with two backpacks. I was worried about the transits in Singapore.
The documentation provided by the agency consisted of the entry visas to Australia, the clauses of the insurance, the boarding conditions for the flights and a summary of the route to be carried out with a list of flights, hotels and visits. In Perth someone would be waiting for us at the airport and from that moment on we would receive the precise instructions to face the day to day.
A little before 3 o'clock the plane took off with which we started the tour. They served us the snack and after 4 hours of flight, we are in Singapore. The Singapore airport surprised us by how beautiful it is. It looks like a botanical garden, all full of real plants, with orchids of all colors and luxurious corridors and rooms. We miss a little time to see the botanical garden offered to passengers in transit.
The connection was so tight that we could only buy the obligatory magnet for the fridge. At 8 our last flight of the day departed, the one that was finally going to take us to Australia five hours later and without the need to touch our clocks, since the time in Perth is the same as in Singapore. We do not sleep during that flight since the arrival was scheduled at 1:30 and at that time the only thing that could be done was to go to the hotel and get into bed.
We dined, watched a movie and played with the same games that we had in the previous flight, but we managed to stay awake. We also fill out the immigration form.
The dream began to take shape. We were stepping on Australian soil, certainly at an untimely hour but in Australia after all. We were very happy to see that the bags arrived safely. We passed the immigration, and handed in the immigration form. We queued near the luggage belt and without any mishap we arrived at the small waiting room at the Perth International Airport.
Around 20 people waited with sign in hand. I went through them several times looking for my name on the sheets they showed, without success. There is neither my name, nor the hotel, nor the agency. It was still too early to get nervous, but the restlessness was beginning to overwhelm me. After waiting for an hour, I decided that something had to be done. I had the phone number of the Australian company that managed our stay, but at 2 am it was absurd to call.
I called the agency where I had contracted the trip to ask for help. The advice was to take a taxi to the hotel and contact the agency the next morning. So we did it and with a feeling of frustration because things did not start as we expected. We walked the road from the airport to the hotel crossing the deserted streets of Perth, eagerly absorbing the first live images of the new country.
The check-in at the hotel was quick and we soon settled into a spacious room with a huge bed in which we slept immediately. At about 8 o'clock we woke up. We showered and prepared to have breakfast. The girl at the entrance asked the number of the room. She prepared to fill out a small sheet, asking if we wanted Continental breakfast or Full breakfast. I started the negotiation to convince her that the breakfast was included.
The girl, told me not to worry, to have breakfast and there would be time to clarify whether breakfast was included or not. But at reception they had taken my credit card and I did not want any further problems. They indicated that there was no problem and we prepared to have breakfast. I told the restaurant girl that the matter was already clear. She made a call to reception and invited us to settle into one of the free tables.
The buffet was varied and plentiful, a little lacking in pastries, but very good in the rest. We did not know when or how we would have lunch, so we made the most of the breakfast. We have potatoes, beans, mushrooms, omelet, bacon, a little bit of everything to try, with orange juice to accompany. We also have a milk coffee and some bun to complete.
Luckily, according to the schedule of the trip, the first day was free. My original idea was that on that day we would travel by train to Cottesloe to enjoy a morning on the beach, eat and walk around the area and return to Perth for a first contact with the city's shopping area. The day was sunny but the temperature did not invite us to go to the beach. So we started the day with an urban walk and with the intention of locating the agency office that we had seen from the taxi very close to the hotel.
Perth is a very large city. We were in the financial center, where the skyscrapers, hotels and the commercial area are located. We were during the spring season and the parks and gardens shone with a splendid green, dotted with the colors of the rainbow, produced by the flowers that flowed from all the plants. The camera began to work to immortalize those moments.
We found a sculpture of a group of kangaroo, among which we took the first photographs. We discovered the little aesthetic sense that Australians have when building huge skyscrapers. Wandering aimlessly we discover that the city is very clean. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find papers thrown down the street. There were no dogs or cats, neither loose nor tied, therefore there was no need to watch to avoid stepping on their excrement.
Of course, the traffic lights were stressful. The acoustic signal warned with beeps very often when pedestrians turned green, with just enough time to cross the street at a rapid pace and beginning to blink red more or less halfway through.
Soon we got used to almost running when it turned green, but they never stopped being stressful for me. Almost unwittingly we found ourselves in front of the agency office. I barely managed to make them understand our problem. When I had all the documentation I understood what happened at the airport. No one was going to be waiting for us. Just on our arrival we had to go to the bus stop that took the passengers to their hotels.
My basic concern at that time was that I was going to go through the visit to the city scheduled for the next day, where should I be? What time?. The answer was that they went to pick up the tourists from their hotels. Our pick-up was at 7:20 in the morning. We felt a sense of relief. we already had everything we needed and we could start enjoying our stay in Australian lands.
A few minutes passed at noon. At that time people were preparing to have their food, but we felt no hunger, so we decided to go for a walk. We went to the Swan River and walked through the gardens of its riverbank. We visited the Bell Tower, icon of Perth. It is one of the largest musical instruments in the world and was built to house the historic bells, dating from the 14th century, of the St Martin-in-the-Fields, located in the famous Trafalgar Square in London.
The sunny day was warming the atmosphere, although in a timid way. In the shade the jacket was appreciated, but the sun was too much and so, I put it on and take it off periodically. We went along streets and avenues until we arrived at Queens Garden, a beautiful garden, very well looked after like all of Perth. There is a small lake populated by ducks and aquatic plants, which together with the greenery of their lawn and the immense profusion of flowers provoked a sensation of unspeakable placidity.
We shared the place with a girl who lying on the grass watched the evolution of the ducks, taking abundant notes. There is a bride and groom couple dressed in their bridal costumes and accompanied by luxuriously decorated couples. There were posing for the wedding shoot in front of what looked like professional photographers.
We leave the park to continue touring the streets of the city. We passed through The Perth Mint, a luxurious building from the 19th century, where gold was converted into coins and is currently used as a museum of gold. It was closed so we could only admire it from outside. St. Mary's Cathedral was our next point of interest. It is about the palpable demonstration of the good architectural taste of the Australians, as they have managed to combine the Gothic style of the original construction, with the more than modern of the new part.
Finally we end up in the pedestrian area of Murray Street and Hay Street, where the shops and restaurants are concentrated. We looked for the commercial galleries. We acquired our first memories (fridge magnet included). We enjoyed seeing a way of life different from ours and we verified that in Australia it is complicated to smoke and drink alcohol. Tobacco is expensive and smoking is forbidden almost everywhere. Alcohol is not cheap and is sold in specialized stores and it is forbidden to drink on the street.
Thinking about our menu before going to bed we bought a bag of potatoes and some cans of rum and cola mixes (cheaper than if we took them from the hotel's mini bar). There was no lack of pizzas, hamburgers, kebabs and all kinds of oriental cuisines from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian. We also found that a bottle of wine in a conventional restaurant cost more than the food itself. We eat a piece of pizza in an area shared by several establishments that offered all kinds of food.
The streets were left deserted, as the shops closed. Only liquor stores remained open, some restaurants and bars and 24 hour shops that never closed. Tired of walking, we returned to the hotel to play our card games, ending our first day in Western Australia.
It started what was going to be usual tonic to wake up early to make the scheduled visits. At 6 o'clock the alarm of the mobile phone rang and half an hour later we entered the restaurant facing the girl who controlled the breakfasts. She invited us to make room for breakfast.
At 7:15 we were at the door of the hotel waiting to be picked up to visit the city, arriving to the Fremantle port with return by boat on the Swan River. At 7:30 we were still waiting together with an Anglo-Saxon couple. A few minutes later a white mini bus stopped. The driver got off and, after confirming that he was coming for the other couple, he took them away. I was already getting nervous till a bus arrived with our names on the driver's list.
After picking up more travelers at a couple of other hotels, the bus parked on an avenue next to other buses. Following the indications, which I understood quite well, we went to the bus of our excursion. I assumed that they had been distributing the passenger pick-up areas to finally organize us into groups based on the chosen excursion. At 8 o'clock, ours began.
We see the city and take pictures through the bus window. We went through streets that were crossed the previous day on foot. We toured the Queens Garden, and passed the Perth Mint, the cathedral, the railway station. After we traveled through unknown areas, we saw buildings, beautiful churches, green parks in which we were surprised by a way that Australians spend the holidays.
In many, if not all, of the parks there are picnic areas, benches and stone tables in which people eat what was previously cooked in the barbecues that, for free, provide the necessary heat. As I tried to pay attention to the driver's words from time to time, I understood when he said we were going to make a stop at Kings Park.
When the bus stopped I confirmed with the driver the time that I had seemed to understand that he had said to resume the march and we prepared to walk through the park. We did not have much time. It is what organized trips have with minutes to drink, take pictures, buy souvenirs. We could not get too far from the meeting point, even so we enjoyed the small portion of the park that we visited.
We pass through the green lawn, the flowers, the views of the river and the skyscrapers of Perth. We enter the War Memorial, a monument to the Australian soldiers, the statue to Lord Forrest, explorer and first president of the park. A few minutes before the agreed time we sit in our bus seats waiting for the start of the next stage.
We headed towards the coast through what looked like a luxurious urban space. We see beautiful houses, very large but separated by very little space, with well-kept gardens. We pass through streets with houses, schools, shopping areas, a hospital. The urban area of Perth seemed to have no end.
The next stop was on the Cottesloe beach. In fact the beach was almost deserted and apart from a group of surfers, there were no more than 3 or 4 people in the water. We loved the unique building where the cafeteria, the rescue center and the surf school were located. We have a coffee and a couple of photos.
The next stop was in Fremantle, the port of Perth. The driver stopped at the port and got off the bus for a few minutes. I did not know the reason but as nobody else came down, we stayed in our seats. Soon we resumed the march to park next to a market in the center of Fremantle. The indications of the driver were that the return to Perth could be of three forms in the same bus to the one of the noon, in boat by the river and in train. We all went down and started handing out tickets for those returning by boat.
It was just over an hour before one, so with this new setback we set out to make the most of the time we had. However, I was not convinced to return to Perth by the same path we had followed to reach Fremantle. At a rapid pace we reached the port in less than 10 minutes. We returned to the market where the bus had left us.
We found it immense, with lots of stops of all kinds, including, of course, those of souvenirs. We go indoors in an adjoining market for fruits, vegetables and other edible products. In the middle of both, a zone of prepared meals served to appease our appetite.
At the exit we found an group that entertained children and adults. We went quietly through the streets of the small town and learned everything there was to know about the opals. We take advantage of the opportunity to acquire a pair of pendants that we would give away on our return. At 3:45 we reached the port ready to embark on our cruise on the Swan River.
The tour of the river was nice. We admire the mansions that occasionally appeared on the banks. The arrival in Perth with the frame of its skyscrapers, the Ferris wheel and Tower Bell, was spectacular. We go to the hotel to clean, change and go to the pedestrian area to walk and discover the shops and shopping arcades. We were curious about what little was left open.
We had dinner and we continued to walk around a bit. The people, like the previous night, was in pubs, in the few restaurants that closed late and in the clubs. We did not want to have a drink in a place where we were going to turn out to be strangers. Aware that our drinks waited in the fridge in our room's minibar, we returned to repeat the ritual of the card game and the drink before going to bed.