Sunday, November 2, 2014

Every-day-is-Friday five: fun outings in and around Perth.

We chose Perth as our intro to Australia for two reasons: tourists don't seem to visit this remote part of the country, and it was the cheapest flight from Kathmandu. Win/win!

We hadn't had any time for research so we didn't know if we were walking into a desert, or a bustling port town, or a bland metropolis... But Perth itself turned out to be a pleasant little city that we were happy to visit for a few days.  The surrounding areas had some gems too.

Coming directly from Nepal we faced a bit of a culture shock. Perth was organized, clean, bright and shiny. There were sidewalks! And traffic lights! And people speaking English (albeit with a funny accent)!

the first of many, many sightings

definitely not in Asia anymore

It was also ridiculously expensive! Even by US price standards! Since when does a simple cup of coffee cost $4.90 or a dorm bed in a hostel cost $30? Of course this is a bit like us saying everything in SE Asia is ridiculously inexpensive - average Australian salaries mostly reflect the cost of living so residents don't feel the price pain like we do...  And we really shouldn't complain because the dollar is doing pretty well these days.

Anyway! Here are five fun things we did while we weren't WWOOFing in Chittering Valley and Swan Valley near Perth, in no particular order:
  • Kings Park - gorgeous botanic gardens featuring a lovely view of the bay. September was wildflower month and the park was bursting with color and blooms. Do not miss this park if you go to Perth!
kangaroo's paw

giant jumulu trees

wildflower season in full force
  • Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) - a really great (free) art museum downtown. The main exhibit during our visit was an urban rock climber's giant sculpture accompanied by homemade movies of her and her friends scaling art sculptures around town. There was even a rock wall in the museum for anyone who wanted to practice. (Apparently this "urban rock climbing" is a thing - read more about Erin Coates and her art here...)
  • Fremantle, also known as "Freo", an artsy little suburb of Perth - good for wandering, shopping, beach gazing, and history (although we didn't have time to see much of the history).
quinoa whole grain bread - 
definitely not in Asia anymore
  • Bells Rapids, near Swan Valley - a nice walk from the organic winery where we were WWOOFing. The rapids weren't exactly "rapid" this time of year but it was still a lovely place for a picnic on one of our days off. (Don't believe the signs - Bells Lookout does not exist!  Not that we walked for hours in the hot sun to find it, ahem.)
kicking back after a rough week...
(it was soooooo not a rough week)
  • Midland Centrepoint Shopping Center - okay, this didn't really qualify as "fun" but it was a necessary evil. Everything that no one needs, ever, on sale under one gigantic, air conditioned roof... In other words, our version of the ninth level of hell. When asked if we needed anything else while we were at the mall, Patrick famously answered, "THE EXIT."
"Sanity" was actually a shop around the corner,
much to Jen's dismay

Food notes: rather than pay $15-20/person for cafe lunches on our days off, we would stop at the local Coles or Woolworths (Australian grocery store chains). We got really good at makeshift picnic lunches on our Canada road trip and it was nice to be back in familiar territory.

That said, we did enjoy some treats while we were out and about, such as...
  • Gino's Cafe, a Freo institution. The cafe has great ($5) flat whites and outdoor seating so that you can just sit and watch the world go by.
it's no $5 shake, but it'll do
  • Little Creatures Brewing, also in Freo. Excellent craft beers made from Oregon hops! Free tastings in the brew hall and really, really friendly staff.
our first good beer in at least 12 months
  • Sail and Anchor, "an iconic Fremantle landmark" where we toasted Nepal with a pint of Fat Yak.
no yaks were harmed in the making of this beer
  • Hungry Jack's (Australia's Burger King) - what can we say, we were jetlagged and starving at 7am in a new city. Mistakes happen.
two breakfast muffins and two coffees: $10

Lodging notes: we WWOOFed the whole time in Perth so we can't speak to the hostels. We did pass a neat one in Fremantle that used to be a fire station... But that's all we can really say.

Perth and the surrounding areas were a really nice surprise. Luckily we arrived in early spring before the heat really set in so the nights (especially in Chittering Valley) were really pleasant. Ideally we would've taken some time after WWOOFing to visit a few of the national parks up the coast but our visa clock was ticking and our bank accounts weren't getting any bigger. We're treating this trip to Australia as an educational experience. Our next visit will be a vacation.

And now, to Adelaide!