Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Escape from Perth

I woke up at five this morning to the sound of the flies getting zapped in the kitchen. My bike is packed; my clothes are laid out. My heavily-laden bike pushed smoothly through the city down to Swan River and the bike path that would take me mostly into Fremantle, Perth’s port city just to the south. The bike, with the roughly 70 lbs of gear, felt sluggish, a lot like the rider. I'm ridding into shape on this trip, much like the ocean row. My first challenge came as the bike path ended and the only way up to the main road was a set of 3 switchbacks. It wasn’t that steep but with me and the bike pushing nearly three bills it was harder than I thought. The weight on each side pulled me either direction almost toppling me, but I was not going to suffer the indignity of pushing my bike while still in the city limits.

Fremantle came soon after that, and without incident. It is a lovely seaside town, lazy and with perfectly preserved Victorian architecture left over from the gold rush days of the 1890s. Perhaps this was the place I should have chosen to spend the last few days waiting for my bike. I’m a sucker for old buildings, so when I stumbled upon the sandstone edifice of the Fremantle Gaol, I had to have a look. One of the docents was Margaret, who was, as she claimed, from the "older generation." Despite this, she was eager for Fremantle to develop and come into its own as a tourist town. Looking down from the Gaol into the main street where we could count everyone we saw on one hand, I was inclined to agree. But then again, school is out for the summer down here and inevitably the price of tourist dollars is lost charm.

I regretted not staying in Fremantle longer but I have urgent business in the south. I am meeting my friend Anthony from Sydney (the fishing trip) in Esperance, from there we will cycle the Nullabor, home of the longest straight stretch of road in the world. I left Fremantle at ten, knowing I would get caught in the heat. It would have been hot and miserable if had not run into Daniel, an 11 year Swiss ex-pat who pulled up along side me, introduced himself and then proceeded to show me all the bike paths on the way to Rockingham. Instead, it was just hot.

So far Rockingham is a quiet seaside town, but too small when in the grip of tourist dollars which make it hard to focus on its existing charm. However, the water of the Indian ocean is sea green - just like the brochures - except it sparkles a little bit more. I camp tonight. Tomorrow I follow the coast to the Leschenault Peninsula Conservation Park. I will keep you posted.

No comments: