The Friendliest People

Fri. 3rd May 2019

The Matagarup Bridge over the Swan RiverThe first clue was at the car hire hut last night where the receptionist went out of her way to be friendly and helpful to two somewhat tired and dishevelled travellers. This morning we decided that bicycles would be a great way to get to see a good chunk of Perth with a cycle hire firm nearby and cycle paths marked on Google maps. However, when we mentioned cycling to the hotel receptionist, she said “oh, we have cycles that you can borrow for free”. We’ve definitely paid good money for worse quality bikes before.

The floodlights of the WACA dominate the skyline from the far side of the riverSo, that was sorted and the next challenge was to work out what we wanted to see and in what order. As we looked at our map of Perth, I spot the initials WACA very close by our hotel. Yes, the dreaded Western Australian Cricket Association ground known by everybody as “the WACA” (the whacker) where the England (& Wales) cricket team has indeed had a number of thumpings over the years.

A replica of the Ashes urn at the WACA museumWe needn’t have worried though, we got the warmest of welcomes there. Although we had missed the morning tour of the ground there is a museum on site and we were promptly met by a (the?) curator who proceeded to give us a personal tour. Even better, though an Aussie, he professed himself to be a Yorkshireman by heart with an abiding love for Leeds United and (Sir) Geoffrey Boycott. Well, a man after my own heart. We were shown some of the highlights of the museum including a replica of the Ashes urn; Johnny Bairstow’s pads (Yorkshire boy!); the ‘underarm’ ball (Aus v. NZ in 1981); and (inevitably) a whole room dedicated to the achievements of Don Bradman (whose Test average of 99.94 is over 4 standard deviations away from the average Test average). We were even given a poster of cricket caricatures as a gift.

A 1 tonne gold coinAnd yet the day got even better. After a stop to fulfill Janet’s coffee craving [Ed note: We all know he is confused!], we made it to the Perth Mint which used to be a Royal Mint back in colonial days. It no longer produces currency but only commemorative coins (which from the displays commemorate such notable Australian things as Chinese New Year, Star Wars & Disney characters) but it does have a story to tell through guided tours. The tour started outside with a brief history of the Mint and casts of some of the largest gold nuggets found in Australia or anywhere – one cast a fairly convincing shadow of an eagle and (the original) weighed 38kg.

The gold pour was an amazing spectacleOn getting inside, we were shown a video about something – could have been anything as our eyes were fixed on what we assumed was a giant replica of a coin. The replica turned out to be an original 1 tonne gold ‘Kangaroo’ coin. Face value of AUD1m but with a gold value of AUD65m. When asked about security we were told that it sinks down into its vault at night and during the day, if anyone can lift a 1 tonne weight, human security is not going to stop them. After that a display of other (real) gold nuggets was fairly humdrum. Not at all humdrum was the advertised “gold pour”. We were taken into a theatre room, the guide put on protective headwear, apron & gloves opened the lid of a furnace and poured a crucible of molten gold into an iron mould, waited 2 minutes and turned the red-hot ingot out onto the table. (The ingot was then cooled for 90s in water and held up on display before being dropped back in the crucible for the next pour in an hour’s time. Our jaws dropped at the spectacle).

The Bell Tower - home of the bells from St Martin in the FieldsSo, by lunchtime we’d cycled about half a mile in total. We’re going to have to pick up the pace. Heading down towards the quays we come across the Bell Tower, a modern building currently the home of Australia’s oldest bells (because they are from St Martin in the Fields). The museum displays couldn’t possibly meet the heights of the previous two, but the architecture of the building was fascinating and we enjoyed the challenge of capturing it in the harsh afternoon sunlight. (We were helped by seeing some of the winners from a photography competition on display in the tower – never too proud to pinch someone else’s good idea!)

A local resident sunning himselfBy now we’re at the waterfront on the edge of the business district. There’s clearly been a lot of money put into the quays themselves and behind them are stacked the skyscrapers of the business district. The quay itself is quite quiet and the only boats seem to be sightseeing and the Transperth ferries over to the other side of the river. I suspect that there are bridges or other reasons that the river isn’t navigable this high up. We’re happy just pootling along the path on the side of the river before we find a bridge to cross over and head back along the other side of the Swan River.

Looking back at modern Perth - the view from the quayWe’re now heading towards the new Perth (Optus) Stadium that will take over Test Match duties (so no more being whacked at the WACA) as well as hosting (Aussie rules) football and no doubt other events. In the background there is also a fancy new footbridge with ironwork shaped like two swans (across the Swan River). In our hunt to find the best spot for a photo, we’ll cycle a bit then stop and take a picture or two and then move on again. Whilst we are doing this, we fall into a pattern with one unfortunate walker whom we keep overtaking on our bikes but then he passes us when we stop.

Swans across the Swan River - the Matagarup BridgeThis goes on for some time and then across the Matagarup Bridge. We’re definitely worried that he is getting annoyed by our inability to overtake him and get out of his way when he stops to chat with us and asks how we are enjoying Perth. It turns out his parents came over in the 70s as ‘£10 Poms’ but he still has family out in the UK. Far from being annoyed he is more than happy to spend 10 mins chatting about this and that. (And moaning that the bridge cost a lot more money and took a lot longer to build than it should have done).

With Tammy and family - Thanks for a great eveningWe’ve often said that one of the things we really love about travelling is meeting people and making new friends. So nothing could be more appropriate in this friendliest of cities than meeting up with Tammy, her husband Rod and two daughters Abbey (sorry if we have spelt it wrong) and Enya. We met Tammy whilst in Borneo (six years ago now) and we did some scary things together (e.g. climbing Mt Kinabalu) and some fun things together (e.g. Orang-utans and the mud-pit on Survivor Island). It was a wonderful evening reminiscing with Tammy and talking with Rod, Abbey and Enya about their lives here. Thank you all for a great evening and we wish you all every happiness in the future.

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