Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Foundation Day Fun

It wasn't too hard to drag myself off to work on Sunday morning. It had been raining heavily here in Brisbane since early Friday and I was over it. Heading for sunny Darwin the first day, then Perth the next, I eagerly packed the boardies and bike shorts!

Darwin was a pleasant 30C/86F so after hitting an exercise bike for a while, I sauntered down to the pool to enjoy a cold beverage in the company of several lovely young ladies who otherwise wouldn't be seen dead hanging out with a wrinkled old fart. Oh, and I was getting paid to do it.....

An early start the next morning saw us with a three hour fifty minute flight down to the next city along the coast, Perth.

I was particularly interested in this leg of the trip as it traverses the Kimberley region of Australia. I spent four years here in my early twenties flying small aircraft around the desert to build my flying experience. It included, but wasn't limited to, flying tourists over the ancient landforms, flying local Aboriginals between communities, frozen foods to these communities, deceased persons to the Coroner for autopsies, SES workers on desert rescue missions and the odd bit of showing off to nurses ;-). We literally "lived" our jobs and earned below the minimum wage, but we all focused on the goal of building flight time so that we could move back to civilisation.

Looking at the countryside bathed in the contrasts of the early morning light from 38 000ft gave a different perspective. While individual Spinifex plants were not visible, the surreal patterns of this ancient sea bed were laid out below us like a giant mosaic.

Just north east of Fitzroy Crossing were these massive folds of rock. The western end of the Gibb River Road crosses the picture right to left at the top of the photo, although it isn't visible here.

Not a bad view as we sipped on some tea.

As we moved over the Pilbera the topography flattened out into massive lines of sand dunes that run as far as the eye can see. The bare, red sand is evidence of bushfires that have raged across the dunes since last wet season. After the next wet there will be slashes of vibrant green to replace the red.

And mines. This is the region that is driving Australia's economy at the moment and there are mines literally everywhere. We went past this little one just north east of Meekatharra. Remember we are about 37 000 ft/11 200m above this mine. Using the 1500m/5000ft runway for scale, that is still one deep pit and a massive tailings heap.

We were soon in Perth and discovered it was a public holiday. Something about Foundation Day. Must be the day you get off work to check the footings on your house or sumfin'. Either way, the roads were quiet and the parks busy.

Quickly changing into riding clobber I jumped on the free Red Cat bus and people-watched my way down to About Bike Hire to pick up a well wrenched hybrid.

I am not on the payroll there...yet...honest...but they do have bikes in great condition and are always smiling. Give them a try if you are in town.

The usual anti-clockwise loop around the Swan River was the plan for today as I like to try to ride the sea breeze on the way home. The public holiday made itself felt with a lot of traffic on the bike path. Obviously a lot of roadies were taking the opportunity to get a solid ride in.

My first stop was at a park in Dalkeith to have a look at a WWII vintage 25 pounder field gun. I always blast right past this park, but today, with all afternoon to kill I was going to stop and smell the roses...or cordite.

From here I stayed on the bike until arriving in Fremantle. So much for stopping to smell the roses but in my defence, all of the nice little bays along the river were exposed to the wind and were not the pleasant places to loiter that they usually are. Plus, I was hungry so Freo Subway in minimum time was the goal.

A 6" sub in my bag and then it was time for a roll around the little back streets of Fremantle. This place was typical of many of Australia's dockside suburbs in the 1980s. Rough, run down and not much going for it. That was until some blokes won a yacht race over in the US of A. In fact, it was the first time in 132 years that anyone had wrested the Cup off this group of rule changing cheats. And better still, it was a bunch of country bumpkins from Down Under that did it. I was just a teenager at the time but remember the massive pride that the nation felt in this achievement. In hindsight our national inferiority complex was on display for all to see. Even the Prime Minister of the day got into the spirit with his famous quote, "Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum".

As the winner of the cup, the Royal Perth Yacht Club was to play host to the next challenge for the cup, due in 1987. With Fremantle resembling a ghetto, much money was poured into it's restoration lest the rest of the first world confirm that we were a bunch of bumpkins.

Well, we lost the cup on that first defence, but we won a revitalised Fremantle that is an absolute pleasure must to visit.

Not forgetting, it is still the port of Perth and as such sees plenty of shipping. I don't know much about boats, but there are some bigass ones docked here.

Unloading all sorts of stuff, like bigass concrete pumpers...The Putzmeister...?

Cruising along looking for a likely spot to sit and eat my Sub I spotted this trailer boat that obviously hasn't seen any use in a while.

Looking closer, he almost has a coral reef on there! Yes, there is a propeller under that growth, somewhere.

While inhaling my Sub in a local park I watched a dad teaching his little girl how to ride. She wobbled and he caught her several times. I was thinking how nice it was to watch. But something just wasn't right.....then I saw the problem. It was one of those cheap, Chinese built, $50 K-Mart bikes that buyers assemble themselves. This budding bike mechanic had the forks around backwards so that the front brake was behind the steerer tube, under the frame and the poor little girl was battling a super-steep steering angle! No wonder she was wobbling. That ride would have been super twitchy. Unfortunately, no photos as I didn't want to look like a creepy vagrant layabout (which I did resemble).

Backyard art, Perth style.

The easterly breeze that made the bays unpleasant to sit by on the way down to Fremantle was now making the ride decidedly hard work on the way home. With a sit up and beg ride position and flat pedals it was hard work.

That was until a couple of lycra clad roadies came past. I tacked on the back and let them drag me all the way back to the Narrows Bridge.

Continuing upstream past the usual river crossing I cruised past Burswood Casino where hundreds of people were enjoying a BBQ on the foreshore.

Around to East Perth via the Graham Farmer Bridge and  past the old Power Station, which is being slowly turned into apartments, I was soon among a pleasant little cluster of houses set around a small river inlet.

Coffee was calling here, but I resisted the call and put it on hold until another day. I definitely want to come back through here again.

Soft pedalling back to the hire shed from here for a gentle cool down was a very pleasant end to my ride.
All up it was an easy 62km/39mi and you can add to or subtract from this if you have the time, all the while with the Swan as the back drop.
 It certainly makes the Brisbane River cycling options look pretty poor in comparison.


  1. Excellent blog mate, very interesting and soe great pics.

    1. Thanks Roger. Nice to be on a paid trip and have a little time to myself.

  2. Nice pics there. The ones from the plane are great.

  3. Great pics. I bet you never get tired of the views from above.

    Thanks for the leaf photos too, I keep forgetting it is Autumn there. Our rains have made it feel like that here lately too.

    1. Always something interesting to see. I wish I could get better photos though. I think the heating filament in the windows gives the photos a slightly hazy look. Better than having them frost up and see nothing I guess.
      Winter officially started on the 1st of June although it seems pretty mild just yet. I love heading south and looking at the deciduous trees. We are sub tropical here in Brisbane so the trees are evergreen up this way.


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