I WAS to sail around the top end of Australia, from Perth to Sydney and I was to board the ship in Freemantle, home to much of our county’s maritime history.
Freemantle is just a very people friendly place and everyone is so helpful, the city even provides two free buses to make life easier. The Red Cat and the Blue Cat run about every 10 minutes so you can use them like a hop-on-hop-off bus service and visit all the major tourist sites.
The locals use them too and I noticed that lots of school students avail themselves for the bus service, but what struck me was the way the students and other bus users always thanked the bus driver as they got off; a friendly gesture that I don’t think would happen in Melbourne or Sydney.
The Swan River gives you an overview of Perth, particularly the rows of millionaire’s houses lining its banks. There’s some serious money in this part of Australia, it really is ‘Mansion Mania.’
It seems everyone has a boat and if you go out to Rottnest Island there are thousands of moorings at every picturesque bay. I would like to go back to Rottnest in the peak of summer.
I love sailing and this town is the place to be. Right on the mouth of the Swan River is the Maritime Museum that tells the history of Freemantle from the early seafaring days including the pearling industry right up to the present with Alan Bond’s Australia Two and its famous winged keel proudly on display. You could spend a whole day there just viewing all the exhibits.
It was time to set sail, boarding our ship The Dawn Princess, I could relax in luxury as the adventure began.
First port of call was Geraldton; again a town with a strong association with the sea and the Batavia Coast.
They has a very impressive memorial to the HMAS Sydney and its 645 men lost in a battle during the war.
It seems the men of the HMAS Sydney spent R&R at Geraldton much to the delight of many of the local ladies and when the ship was lost at sea the locals adopted her memory and that of her fine fighting men.
The memorial set up by the local Rotary Club features a huge dome covered with 645 metal seagulls representing each of the seamen lost. The local historical society conducts excellent free tours of the memorial as they tell you the history of the events at sea that led up to the battle.
The Western Australia Museum is well worth a look in, and if you have the time take a tour of the Kalbarri National Park its stunning scenery will amaze you.
Leaving Geraldton we have now set sail for Indonesia to the Island of Lombok. After this side tour, we will then return to the Australian coast to Broome, Darwin and all points in between.
Lombok is set like a jewel in a crystal blue sea. Its green hills and mountains reach up from the surrounding waters but hidden in the mountains is a volcano now asleep maybe waiting until another time.
Lombok is situated 43 kilometres east of Bali but in its early years operated as a separate culture. The religion then was animism then the Balinese invaded and brought Hinduism with them establishing many temples. In 1843 the Dutch arrived looking to take over the spice trade, they sent in their army and forced the Balinese off the island.
Things began to settle down and now you have a people that predominantly follow Islam but combined with their early animism, there are still Hindus and a small Christian community.
The people are very friendly but the mandatory hawkers are ever present as you exit the port area; do you want to buy? Look at my stand. Need a new watch? It’s all there so you join in making sure neither side takes it too seriously including how long the watch will keep running after you leave port.
Lombok has many beaches Senggigi is the most popular but Kuta (not to be confused with the one on Bali) is gaining lots of tourist interest because of its scenic setting.
Many visitors from our ship had trouble coming to terms with the persistence of some of the hawkers but I felt they were not as full on as they are in Bali.
All in all there is lots to see from water temples to ancient shrines, waterfalls and even a modern shopping mall.
We only had one day at Lombok, so soon our ship was calling to make the return trip to the Australian coast; our next stop Broome.