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2020 - SNZA - Day 24

Today was the day I had been looking forward to of the whole trip. We were off to Rottnest Island for the day, home of the Quokka’s.

For breakfast we had a made do with snacks and packets in our room before setting off early to Pier 3 at the Barrack Street Dock to catch the Sealink Ferry I had booked us onto. We needed to be there by 8.20am for the 8.30am departure. We made it easily with time to spare and boarded the ferry. We were early enough to grab 2 seats upstairs on the sundeck, but just under the canopy to provide some shade.

The weather in Perth was predicted to hit 37c today and so we were glad to be heading out to the Island where it was only supposed to be hitting 26c. We were quite unsure what to expect on the island and didn’t know what to bring with us. Consequently the rucksack was jammed full with flip flops, swimming gear, a cover up shirt for Karen and some snacks as we even didn’t know if there would be anywhere to get some food.

Almost dead on time the ferry pulled away from the dock and moved quite slowly for the first 20 minutes which gave us some splendid views of Perth. There were obviously some speed restrictions along the Swan River as at times we were able to speed up and then had to slow down again. It took a full hour to get from the centre of Perth along the Swan river to the sea port of Freemantle where the river meets the Indian Ocean.

Rottnest Island is 19km out to sea and it took just another 30 minutes to cover that distance. The ferry was a catamaran and coped with the swells from the sea very well and although I was weary of potentially feeling sick I felt fine all the way there. The sun was hot but the breeze off the sea made it bearable. The crew came round with free Ice Pools which took Karen & I back to our childhoods when they were always a big treat.

At 10am we docked at Rottnest Island (so named as the Dutch explorer who first landed there, first saw the Quokka's and mistook them for large rats living in nests). As we disembarked I was disappointed that there wasn’t at least 3 of the creatures sitting on the dock singing a welcome song in the style of Alvin & the Chipmunks.

Now until a few months back I had never heard of a Quokka. Indeed if you google pictures of them, they almost seem to be to good to be true. They are small marsupial’s who are not afraid at all of humans. If you catch them right with a photo then they appear to be smiling and look like a stuffed toy. They are known as the most adorable friendly wild animal ever. They almost exclusively live on Rottnest Island (it is believed that there may be some in a remote part of Western Australia, but only a few). The Island Authority actively encourage people to take selfies with them, which is most bizarre. You are not allowed to touch or feed them, but they seem to be relatively happy to pose for you. The authorities also love when ‘celebrities’ post photos with them as both Federer and Djokovic have done relatively recently.

Anyhow back to us getting off the ferry. The settlement we arrived in was called Thompson’s Bay and it was heaving. Two other ferries had arrived just ahead of us. One of the ferries was a combined bike/ferry offering and they were unloading what seemed like hundreds of bikes for everyone on board. It was quite chaotic. There are no cars on the island and to reach some of the more remote beaches, you need to cycle. As ever there were large touring groups of Asians who were causing the usual havoc by sticking closely together and getting in everyones else’s way.

We had no real plans other than to explore on foot as far as we could. In a guide we had received on the ferry we had noticed that there is a daily free extended Quokka walk at 1pm so we were keen to do that if possible. We went to try and register and found that they didn’t take bookings and we should just be at the meeting point at the designated time.

We headed to the ‘settlement’ which consisted of a large general store, and a bakery etc. The buildings had been converted from an old prison. It was all very well done. The goods being sold were of a high quality and very reasonably priced.

Whilst Karen was looking around a clothes shop, I had my first Quokka encounter when one just hopped up to me. It was however being pursued by a young lad who was stroking it and trying to pick it up. Not only is this not allowed but it is dangerous for the animals as they could catch something from humans but also vice versa. Yet the boys parents seemed to be oblivious to what he was doing. In the end I felt I had to say something even though I had only just arrived and didn’t really know the protocol. To be fair they then did get him to stop touching him. I also got myself between him and the animal ostensibly to try and take some photos but also to further protect the adorable creature. Karen came out of the shop and couldn’t believe she had missed her first Quokka.

In the end it didn’t matter as they seemed to be everywhere. It made me smile that the shops had signs on them showing that Quokkas were not allowed in. They may be delightful but I am not sure they can read.

Apparently last year there was a commotion when one enterprising Quokka manage to hop onto a ferry in an attempt to get to the mainland. I think the ferry company though was just miffed that it hadn’t bought a ticket.

We decided to get something for an early lunch along with some tea/coffee from the bakery. They were both very good. Whilst sitting there we had a number of the amusing marsupial's crawling between our legs after crumbs people had dropped. You could tell the people either staying on the island or have visited many times before as they just ignored them. We didn’t as we thought they were amazing.

As there was still time to kill before the 1pm tour we went for a walk along one of the beaches close by. The sea was stunning with a turquoise colour I have rarely seen elsewhere. We changed into our flip flops and paddled in the beautifully warm Indian Ocean. My goodness though, the sun was hot and burning down and so quite soon we had to head for shade. Even though the walk and paddle was short we already needed another drink, this time a couple of cold bottles of Coke Zero from the general store before we headed to join the 1pm tour.

Surprisingly there were only about a dozen people wanting to the tour. It was jolly interesting though. We learnt more detail than I can possibly remember about the Quokka, as they took us around some of their favourite places to hang out. There are about 12000 of them on the island, but there seems to be little actually known about them. To me, it was all a bit haphazard and amateurish. It didn’t seem to me that anyone is doing any active studies on or about them. They survive on the island as they have no predators. The reason there is only a few elsewhere is that the likes of foxes and feral cats kill them. The breeding season is a few weeks away, yet for reasons no one could explain one female already had a tiny baby in her pouch. Our guide was able to find her for us, but sadly the little one stayed in the pouch asleep unlike it had done on a previous tour.

The tour was very enjoyable and all the better for being such as a small group as we both asked lots of questions (although Karen moaned when I asked if I put one in my rucksack did they think it would keep still and quiet in my rucksack on the ferry). After this we went back to the general store to buy Karen a magnet of the island and for me a suitable Quokka souvenir.

We then went to one of the more up market cafes to have afternoon tea in the much needed cooler air conditioning.

In the end we sat there until it was time to board the ferry again for the return crossing. We managed to get the same seats. The sea part of the journey was much rougher going back yet it didn’t effect me again. We wondered if it was because we were on a catamaran which handled the waves differently. As we approached Perth we got chatting to a fellow Brit who comes over to Oz every year for 5 weeks without his wife. Apparently she is a teacher and also won’t fly and as his work dries up in January he comes on his own. Most peculiar, but he did give us some more tips about visiting Perth.

We then headed back to the Hotel to have a much needed freshen up. The heat walking back was almost stifling though. After having a quick shower we headed out to the Perth branch of Nandos. We both fancied something simple and cheap. The menu and food were identical to the UK and met the objectives. The only trouble was it was a good 15 minute walk away and at 8pm it was still 30c with hardly any breeze. Karen was not comfortable with walking that far in the heat.

Today was as good as I had hoped and the Quokka’s lived up to my expectation. Perth really is a fab place to visit despite the intense heat. We most definitely want to come back to visit. We also want to visit Rottnest Island again, not only to see the Quokka’s again but also next time to hire bikes to visit some of the other beaches and be fully prepared to swim in some of the bays.

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