I was awoken by the sound of her playing Beethoven on the piano after her first student for the day left. I went next door and asked her to play me a Chopin piece, and she gracefully obliged. I barely noticed the subtlest of mistakes, as this angelic figure’s hands danced on the keys…
She made me want to stay. She really did. The last few notes were still ringing in my head, but it was time to leave Perth.
I had packed my kit on the bike sitting outside the night before, so I just had to jump on and leave the hostel, heading towards Margaret River.
I usually use booking.com to find cheap accommodation in cities, and limit myself to modest prices and corresponding expectations. But I just so happened to stay at an incredible place in Perth. The Fremantle YHA Hostel is built into a renovated section of the old Fremantle Women’s Prison. The rooms used to be the actual cells and offices that housed inmates and prison guards!
The Fremantle Prison next door has been defunct since 1991, and is now a World (and City, State, and National) Heritage listed site. It houses a museum offering incredibly insightful tours at very reasonable prices. It tells the story of the role convict labour played in the early establishment of the British colony in Australia. Some exhibits might be difficult to digest for some – the gallows where actual hangings took place, and the ‘special’ observation cells. Thoroughly recommended for a dose of reality.
Perth’s WA Museum is closed for renovation until 2020. Somewhat disappointing, but the Maritime Museum in Fremantle more than made up for it.
I also witnessed an historic world first, first hand: fully finished modular construction. Designed in Australia, manufactured and shipped from China, these shipping container sized ‘modules’ arrive at Fremantle port, jump on a truck, are delivered to site, get hauled up by a hoist, and will be stacked up to construct a 16 storey hotel building in 3 months. They come with glass planes and interiors good to go. An engineering orgasm to witness life of this kind breathed into an evolving city.
I spent 4 days in Perth. A day doing absolutely nothing at all. Two days at museums. A day getting a front tyre change at Five Star Yamaha, and the motorbike serviced at MotoMax Perth.
Less than 20 minutes after getting the tyre on, I gently rear ended a car in peak traffic: sudden pile up at a blind crest in a 70 kmph area. I was moving at 60 with the traffic and couldn’t dump all my speed in time. A tow truck got there in seconds; a hot spot apparently. Good for business, but we didn’t need it. 5 crashes a day on average, at this blind crest. The car in front of me was driven by a right gentleman who chose not to be the worst version of himself in this situation.
Perth to Margaret River is only a short ride, so I turned it into a long one by going off the main highways and through the 60 kmph areas along the coast. “Stop and smell the roses”, I’ve been told. Sure, but there’s other flowers too.
Caves Rd runs parallel to SH10 and will take you from Dunsborough to Augusta. I’ve ridden some gorgeous roads in NZ -the famous Coro loop, West Auckland’s back roads, Christchurch-Akaroa- but my 30- something km on Caves Rd captured divinity. Picture this: winding, hilly roads, perfectly cambered and well sealed tarmac; empty; a tunnel made of fig (?) canopy over it; vineyards on either side, interspersed with watering ponds and cattle farms; a nice cold 20°C with the sun still up in the sky, spitting rays in between the leaves…
What a moment of clarity. Pure bliss. Complete mindfulness. Me and the machine, in this part of paradise.
The experience was elating enough to forever be burned into my memory, and no photo will achieve that so I didn’t interrupt the moment, stopping to take one. I rode on to Gas Bay, went for a walk on the beach, and watched my last sunset on the western coast of this incredible continent (I head eastwards from here). Its shrubbery and dropping temperatures reminded me of home. I had a good night’s sleep.
It’s 0700 now, and raining in Margaret River today. The temperature is a gorgeous 16°C, something I’ve missed since leaving NZ and dropping myself in the Top End’s high-30s. I’m anticipating numb hands and feet, perhaps the odd shiver, and I’ll probably be wet all day…
…but it’ll turn the winding forest roads and the surrounds absurdly spectacular, and I’ll turn that into a remarkable memory.