We were both awake early with our bodies still adjusting to the new timezone. We didn’t mind as Karen was keen that we get out early to try and avoid the heat of the day as the temperature was predicted to hit 36c.
The previous night we had booked in for the Hotel hot breakfast as it offered a 20% discount for doing so and we thought we would give it a try. It wasn’t too bad, in fact the scrambled eggs were up there with the best of this trip. There was just a disappointing amount of fruit on offer. After going back to clean our teeth we were out walking before 9am. It was already hot and Karen was already keen to walk in the shade whenever possible.
The streets were quiet which was unsurprising given that it was early on a Sunday Morning. It was also Australia Day with tomorrow being a public holiday. Perth has the biggest amount of events to celebrate of anywhere in Australia and also the single largest event but most of them didn’t start until the afternoon. Yet we were already seeing families with flags and their face painted, carrying all the equipment needed to set up camp for the day near the Swan River for all the activities.
There is currently a big general debate taking place in Australia as to whether Australia Day should be moved to another day as it is seen as celebrating the day that the Aborigine natives had their land stolen from them. It is splitting the country in the same way as Brexit in the UK. I do not know too much about it all, but I am pretty sure that one of the moves to have a referendum to decide it once and for all may not lead to the clean final decision they hope for.
Although we have barely been in Perth for a day we are already taken by how friendly all the people we had met and spoken to. Everyone was so nice and want to help. By the end of the day we had lost count of the number of times we had been wished ‘Happy Australia Day’.
We headed down to the Swan River and walked over the bridge that is shown on all the pictures that the guide books print of Perth. My aim was for us to walk from here to Kings Park which we could now see high on a cliff ahead of us. The problem was that between us and the cliff and hopefully a path up it was three dual carriageways and a railway line. We started to follow what we hoped was the way. All the way we were being passed by people cycling in both directions which seems to be a big pastime here in Perth.
The weather was glorious and as we walkedwe chatted about how different our lifestyles would be if we lived here. We checked we were going in the correct direction with some locals who confirmed we were and said we should keep going and then take the underpass to get to the cliff. We took the first one easily enough but then found the next one blocked off with barriers that had been put in place for crowd control for events later that day. This meant a long extra walk around, but we had come this far and thought we would continue.
Eventually we got to the bottom of the cliff and found that we had to climb something called Jacobs Ladder to get to the top. This had a much more glamorous name than it was as it consisted of 242 concrete steps straight up the cliff face. This was quite a challenge in the heat. Also we had to contend with lots of locals using it as their fitness challenge, running up and down it several times. We took out time and I was proud that Karen made it in a reasonable time with no adverse effect.
At the top we entered Kings Park. This is a City Centre park that is bigger than Central Park. The tiny part we saw of it was very well manicured and maintained. The terrace along the cliff edge looked backed down the Swan River and over Perth itself. There were already families camped out under gazebos ready for the Air Show and Fireworks (the latter not scheduled to start for another 9 hours). It was plain to see that everyone sees Australia Day as a family day to do something fun together. This is a traditional family event for them.
Our destination though was the cafe at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens in the Park to get some well earned drinks. In fact Karen got me to order her two from the start as was flagging in the heat with all the effort expended. We had walked almost 3 miles to get here.
We sat and recovered for a while and then thought we would look at the War Memorial and Eternal Flame which were close by.
As we were doing so we saw 4 new cannons in place pointing down over the Swan River along with some smart young army cadets. I spoke to one of the officers and learned they were in place in order to fire a 21 gun salute at midday. We were given ear plugs in case we were still around when they actually fired them. We thought this was an opportunity not to be missed so went back to the cafe to have another drink to pass the 45 minutes until noon in the shade.
Just before midday we wandered back and joined a small crowd to watch as the cannons were fired in sequence. Even with the earplugs in, the first cannon made me jump. It was all rather splendid. We did feel we were rather intruding on the locals long planned Australia Day events though.
After this we set out on the long walk back. This time we decided to follow a road route which seemed to be easier but equally as long. Once we had got back to the Shopping District we stopped at the first pub we came to in order to rehydrate. It took Karen a pint of the local brew to sort herself out. As we walked further we popped in Coles Supermarket in order to get some fruit and snacks. Then we went into a souvenir shop as Karen wanted a Perth magnet and bizarrely I had been asked by an old work colleague to purchase him a genuine kangaroo scrotum purse which I found they had on sale.
Back in the room we chilled in the rather lovely air conditioning for a couple of hours. Then we went down to the Hotel restaurant to join in with their Australia Day BBQ celebrations and both had a burger with some of the wine on offer. The burger was not bad actually.
Then we headed the two blocks down behind the Hotel to Langley Park which we had been told was one of the prime spots to watch the annual Fireworks. As we approached the river we couldn’t believe how many people were already there and obviously had been there for some time. For as far as the eye could see there were fairground attractions, stalls and people. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. It seemed alcohol was banned which helped it to be more of a family event. I read afterwards that they were expecting around 300000 people for the fireworks alone.
Leading up to the fireworks, every 15 minutes since 3pm there had been a kind of air show. The first couple we watched we thought was kind of interesting but flypasts and aerobatic displays bore me as there is only so much twisting, turning and loops an aircraft can do before it comes repetitive. Undoubtably it is very clever and also dangerous but its not for me.
We eventually found a kerb to sit on whilst waiting for the fireworks to start and saw a beautiful sunset over the river. All roads close to the events had been closed. Just before the fireworks started we moved closer even closer to the river.
The display was top notch and easily the longest one we have ever seen. It was replicated all along the Swan River and synchronised to patriotic Aussie music. The fireworks were let off from 19 barges and had taken 10 days to install.There was a 10 minute section set to local band AC/DC music which is something you don’t hear and see everyday. It is easy to see why it is always the biggest event in the country on Australia Day. The final burst involved more than 3000 explosions.
I tried to claim to Karen that I knew all along this display was scheduled and had worked out our trip around this. Of course I hadn’t and this was a real bonus of being in the right City at the right time and with a Hotel only 2 blocks away from one of the best viewing spots.
It was a fitting end to another really good day. I really liked NZ but I love Perth. It is easily moving into one of my most favourite cities anywhere. This feels like a place I could live. It is a very inclusive place. The only trouble is that not only is it thousands of miles from home but also thousands of miles from any other city or anywhere else. Perhaps that is why it has almost a village feel to it. Lets hope the rest of our time here keeps up the very high standard we've experienced so far.