Monday, December 22, 2014

Hopping to Perth

Top to Bottom: Kangaroo with joey in pouch,
Child and joey, Cynthia feeding kangaroo
Caversham Wildlife Park is great fun simply because you hand-feed the kangaroos and wallabies, whisper in the ears of the dozing koalas, and chirp with the birds in the aviaries. This is a well maintained park with lots of area for the animals to roam. Many of the birds are housed in aviaries, but some are still maintained in cages. My favorite part is feeding the kangaroos and wallabies. There are signs that warn you not to touch the joeys in their mothers’ pouches, but in nearly every case, the joeys are happy to come hopping up to you reaching for a mouthful of food from your hand.  As with years past, there were several mamas with babies in their pouches; sometimes all you could see of the joey was a foot or a tail. The grass is really green where the kangaroos and wallabies are, and our shoes really needed scraping once we were finished in the enclosure. There is also a 'farm animal' exhibit that we had to experience. We got chewed on by kids (they particularly liked Dave’s shoelaces), rubbed on by the nannies, and ignored by the chickens. I did get to scratch some rabbits, but the park personnel wouldn't let me in
Top L to R: Bustard, Dave and kid
Bottom L to R: Barking owl, Koala and Dave
the stalls with them. It seems you have to be no older than five to actually get in the pens. The birds in the aviaries weren’t too thrilled about being visited, particularly since it is spring. The males were downright hostile and the females were grumpy. As we walked through one area, we heard a dog barking. We followed the ‘woof, woof’ and found that it was not a dog at all, but a barking owl. And if that wasn’t strange enough, the lion’s roar we thought we heard was actually a bustard. Caversham hasn’t changed substantially I visited about 15 years ago, but Whiteman Park, which surrounds it, has added a several other things to do, including a train ride and a place to eat.

King's Park and Botanic Gardens is a great place to while away a day. In the spring the  
flowers are gorgeous and the temperature isn’t too so warm as to keep you from walking
L to R: Banksia, Yellow flowers,
Kangaroo paws
through the entire park. The first place to go is to the Visitor’s Center for a good map and to find out if there are any areas that are restricted. This year there were all sorts of areas, both parking and touring, blocked off because two celebrities were visiting. England’s Prince Edward had come to Perth, as had Katy Perry; it was hard to tell just who park visitors were trying to spot. Such excitement and all we wanted to see were some native plants! The park has added a ‘tall trees’ walk that, much like what we experienced in Tasmania, takes you up near the top of the trees and provides some great views of the city. Spring means that the flowers were in bloom and the bees were zooming around them. My favorite flowers were the banksia with their spiky blooms and leaves. Although I should have expected it, there were sections with plants from around the world, including a group of cacti from California.
L to R: Bee on flower, DNA Tower, Gala
Eventually we made our way to the Firefighters’ Memorial and to the DNA Tower. The tower resembles its namesake. At the bottom are signs telling about the characteristics and function of DNA; platforms half-way to the top have information about the flora and fauna in surrounding area. Once on top of the tower, there are more views of Perth and the nearby mountains.

L to R: Ceramic pots, Indian headdresses in
Fremantle Market
The city of Fremantle grew up around the shipping business on the mouth of the Swan River. It is still one of the busiest ports in Australia. Since this area serviced transportation of goods, it was also a logical place for a jail and the Fremantle Prison was built not long after the city was established. My favorite part of Fremantle is the dock and the market. The Fremantle Markets are only open on weekends and can be a giant mob scene! Dave was amazed that so many people could be in one place at one time. In this market you can get anything from fresh food, to prepared delicacies, to American Indian headdresses, to original Aboriginal paintings, to cheap souvenirs. Outside the market was a man selling bird calls that were so thoroughly realistic and annoying that they immediately went into my shopping bag as Christmas gifts for the great-nephews and -nieces. Close to the market are the E-Sheds, which are also open only on weekends and also have all sorts of products for sale; they do have some of the best seafood restaurants in the area associated with them. The weekend we visited included a huge festival hosted by the military for Maritime Day. There were three 'ships' we could have toured but Dave passed on this adventure since we'd been on similar ships in Sydney. He did get to chat with a few of the naval officers about new equipment on their
Top L to R: Sailboat, Memorial to Immigrant children
Bottom: Scottish pipe and drum corp, Sheep on ship
ships and about new techniques for scuba diving. It seems that equipment and procedures are similar no matter in which navy you serve. I liked the navy drill team and the Scottish marching band that were entertaining folks along the docks. Since the military was all over the place, there was 'Gold Coin' entry into the military/navy museums. Gold coins in Australia are either a one or a two dollar coin, so the entry fees were very inexpensive. We spent several hours in the Western Australian Museum Shipwreck Galleries and the Maritime Museum. Dave was in hog heaven ~ my feet were tired. Both museums gave visitors a chance to actually ‘board’ these ships and to get close enough to others to get a sense of just how large – or small – the vessels actually are. The exhibit I really liked in the Shipwreck Galleries was from the wreck of the Vergulde Draeck. Along with silver coins, it included a collection of pottery with faces stamped into the necks and other decorations on the bowls called Beardman jugs. Over in the Maritime Museum, I was particularly interested
Beardman jugs
in their exhibit, The Last Gentlemen of War. This multi-media display tells the story of the battle in 1914 between the first HMAS Sydney and the German light cruiser Emden at the Cocos Islands. That, in itself, is interesting; however, what is extraordinary is the manner in which the captains of these two ships treated captured combatants, each other, and the results of their encounter. Dave really liked the models of the sailboats competing for the America’s Cup because he could compare the keels; there were some actual racing sailboats on display, too. As we left this area we walked up to the Roundhouse jail to get a good look at the harbor. The Roundhouse has a tunnel under it, through which were marched prisoners from ships. It is said that on dark, stormy days you can still hear their moans as they contemplate their fate. We didn’t hear any moaning and made the climb up the stairs to this observation site. What we did find that at the top was someone setting up for a wedding amid the gale force winds coming off of the ocean.

Roundhouse entrance

Dave wasn’t particularly excited about going to the Perth Mint until he found that they still turn gold and silver ore into bullion rather than just printing paper. If you show up at the mint with some ore that needs to be refined, they will do it for you at a small price. And in fact, people are still coming in every so often with a bag of nuggets. On our tour we learned that the largest gold nugget (named Welcome Stranger) ever found had been melted down and the proceeds given to the owner, another of the largest nuggets, the Hand of Faith, had actually been sold for more than it was worth (at the time) to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. Gold bars are much heavier than they look and the mint will allow you to
Perth Mint
experience this weight by trying to use one hand to lift a bar. However, there is a rather sturdy piece of Plexiglas between you and the bar, so while you can touch and lift it, you cannot get the bar out. One of the workers took us into a pouring room and performed a 'gold pour' for us. They have an ingot that they've been using for more than 20 years just to melt down and pour into a bar for the tourists. To be legal tender, it has to be stamped, weighed and that number has to be put on the ingot; then you can actually sell the gold. If you don't have these monograms you can sell it on the black market for about an eighth the worth. The melting gold throws vapor into the air, so every so often the ventilation system is cleaned and a substantial amount of gold dust is recovered. This recovery process also takes place with the crucibles in which they melt the gold; the pottery is ground down into dust, the dust is put through the melting process then pulled off the top of the heavier liquid gold. Once the tour is over, you can have a blank coin stamped with any number of designs. One couple was having a date put on a coin that they were presenting to some friends in honor of their wedding anniversary.

The Western Australian Museum wasn't all the far from our hotel, but Dave took a short cut.
Top L to R: Bullet chess set, Aboriginal art
Bottom L to R: Geology display, Tree frogs
We wandered through two 'arcades', a mall and the train terminal before we got to the museum. Needless to say I led the way back to the hotel ~ right by a bar so we could stop for a cider and a beer. The museum was very interesting. They did have the 'dead animal display' and some of the taxidermy was really showing its age. However, they had a great display of butterflies and geology. The geology focused on how Australia was formed and why there is such a wealth of precious and semi-precious stones, as well as metallic ores found on this continent. The other permanent display is about the aborigines and how the white man has changed their culture. Some of the same things went on in Australia as with the American Indians and the African Americans in the US, except these indigenous people didn't get equal rights until 1991. Emotions are still pretty raw for some people, particularly for those who have yet to find the families they were taken away from at a very young age. There was also a traveling exhibit on Afghanistan art that was rescued just after the bombing of their national museum. Some of the pieces were gorgeous and a real mixture of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, influences. We were surprised to find terrariums in the children’s area with frogs, lizards and other small critters for students to observe. I
Top to Bottom: Cactus sculpture, Fountain
wanted to stay and play in this section of the museum. We were both temped to go play with the kids at the Forrest Place Mall in downtown Perth. Along with a fountain that had adults and children, alike, enjoying the warm day, there is a funky sculpture at one entrance. It reminds me of an alien cactus.

The Aviation Heritage Museum was not at all what I expected. It is located on an air force
Top L to R: Transport plane, Helicopter and Cynthia
Bottom L to R: Lancaster, Transport helicopter
base that was fully active in World War II, but is now mostly an administrative branch. Both
huge and petite planes have been restored/rebuilt and are now maintained by volunteers. I was quite surprised to see the breadth of machines housed in the two hangers set aside as a museum. One of the helicopters reminded me of ‘Little Nellie’ that James Bond used in You Only Live Twice. Volunteers have added all sorts of information about the planes, including a couple of videos that show the planes in the air. In several of the exhibits you are allowed to make portions of the planes work, and in one or two children are allowed to sit in the seats. As small as the pilots’ seats are, I don’t think that if it were permissible I would wiggle into them. There are also two areas that are devoted to the contribution that women have made to the air force and to ‘flying doctors’. In about two hours we had seen everything and read all we cared to, but folks who are interested in engines would have spent at least another hour. As a courtesy to guests, the air force cafeteria is open to anyone touring the museum. 

Lighted bridge, Perth
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