Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 331 (141)


Wednesday 2nd February (2005)

Before dropping off last night, we walked outside and had a good look at the stars. The Milky Way was really bright with several star clouds easily visible to the naked eye. Having driven five hours into the middle of the Australian desert, I can’t imagine any other place on earth (on land at least) where the light pollution is any less. The last time I saw the sky so brightly lit up like this was in a remote camp-site out in the middle of the Namibian desert. Truly magical.

Nearly both of us slept well. Sandy complained about the cold (how about that for a change). I was quite snug so I’m not sure if it was really that cold during the night or yet more evidence of Sandy’s hormones playing havoc with her senses – probably a bit of both, I suspect. We were up and about quite quickly this morning with little on the agenda but to reach the coastline from whence we came. The trip up here from Perth took five hours but that was including several stops along the way as well as hugging the speed limits religiously. We’ll see how much we can shave off the return journey by making fewer stops and adhering less liberally to the posted limits for the trip back.

The town of Hyden can scarcely be called a town with just a few stores and perhaps two or three roads. It did, however, have a bakery and small supermarket so we bought some fresh rolls and sandwiches along with another bottle of water for the trip. Now topped up with sustenance for the road, we set off and I put my foot to the pedal. Even after accounting for a few stops along the way, we made the return trip to Perth in about three and a half hours. I slowed down a bit when we got closer to civilisation (speed cameras).

One section of the very long road that took us back to Perth was being resurfaced and was still in the loose chippings stage of construction. I slowed down to a respectable speed as I drove through this section but another vehicle coming at us from the opposite direction was not nearly as obliging. He was throwing stone chips into the air with great force and one of them struck our windscreen with a vengeance. Wouldn’t you know it, the windscreen developed a small spider web crack right in the bottom right hand side of the screen – small, but probably very noticeable after the windscreen is washed. I actually saw the stone strike and leave the crack just as I was remembering that I’d initialled that bit on the rental agreement about being responsible for tire blowouts and stone chips on the windscreen. We’re not sure what to do about this so we’ll probably keep quiet and let the chips fall where they may. I’ve often wondered about how car rental agencies deal with cracks and scratches and so on. Each time they rent out a car, they point out where all the existing chips and scratches are so I doubt they bother to get every last little blemish fixed after each rental – although I doubt this means that they don’t charge you for the repair nevertheless. We’ll just have to wait and see. Nobody has ever bothered to inspect any car that we’ve returned so far so we may yet get lucky and it goes unnoticed.

Now back into cell phone range, I was curious to see if I had any voice mails waiting for me. Sure enough, the bitch that dislodged us from our backpacker’s room the other day had left two messages for me. I deleted both of them without listening to either. I didn’t want whatever parting blow she fired at us bothering me for the rest of our time here. Any further gaps in this journal will be because they wouldn’t let me have the laptop in jail.

We decided to check out Fremantle instead of going back to Perth itself. Fremantle sits next to Perth and might be considered a suburb. There’s quite a bit of the Perth section of the guidebook dedicated to it. Once again, I was having a hard time finding a guidebook recommended hostel that had any doubles or twins available but we eventually found a Youth Hostel International place that did. It must be high season here as this has been a problem so far almost everywhere in Australia. We are between the school holidays and Easter so I’m hoping that this will give us the best chance of finding reasonable priced accommodation down the Great Ocean Road in a day or two. The YHA hostel is a pretty nice place and very airy. It encompasses a converted warehouse and our room is one of several that have been built within. We don’t have an ensuite bathroom but it’s just a few metres walk through the open warehouse to get to it. All in all, this is a pretty nice place that is full of atmosphere.

Both of us quite like Fremantle. It has a very relaxed and welcoming feel to it. The main shopping precinct is eminently walkable and we strolled through it looking for more pregnancy books. Well, actually we are looking for a very specific book that seems to be recommended in all the books we already have but we’re finding it very hard to locate it. All the bookstores carry it but so far, no bookstore anywhere in Perth or Fremantle has it in stock. It’s called ‘So you’re going to be a Dad’ by Robert Downey and we continue to look for it. All the staff at all the bookstores we’ve been to know the book so it must be a very good one.

After we settled into our room, I gave the pathology lab a call to see about Sandy’s blood test results. The woman on the end of the phone had asked if we could come in with a photo ID to collect them but after learning that we were in Fremantle, she offered to fax them to the local health centre here so that we could pick them up locally. This worked out great since the local health care centre is just walking distance from our hostel. As an added bonus, nobody asked us to pay the AU$1 per page fee that we should have paid. All the results are as expected – Sandy in a human being. She’s also around eight weeks pregnant – as if we didn’t know that already. As a matter of routine, they also did an HIV test but those tests are sent to a special lab and the results won’t be in for another few days so we’ll have to get those faxed to Melbourne. We’re not expecting any surprises there either.

The guy at the front desk had suggested we stroll down to the marina for some of the best fish and chips in town. We took his advice and enjoyed a nice little meal by the beach. The sun, temperature and general atmosphere here are just about as perfect as you could wish for. Fremantle is a very nice place indeed.

We were both feeling quite tired by now. I did, after all, spend several hours of flat our driving this morning and Sandy’s body is still working very hard at making a baby, as one book puts it. We strolled leisurely back to our hostel and dropped our heads for a quick afternoon nap. Since it was too early to go to bed, we freshened up a bit shortly after our little doze and took a refreshing stroll down by the mariner and through town. The fresh air did wonders to wake us up again. One of the nice things about this particular hostel is all the open space inside the warehouse section. We spent a couple of hours sat comfortably on some of the many armchairs and couches in front of the TV – a relaxing and fitting end to the day.