Swanning around in Perth, and Home to Darwin

I have some favourite flora in Australia, and we’re beginning to see them.  On the drive to Dongara we passed thousands of “grass trees”.  They are sort of like short palm trees, but with very fine fronds that resemble a punk hairdo.  They are the first to grow back after fire, and it’s exciting to see the tender green sprouting from the top of a charcoal black stump.  We didn’t stop to take pictures of any on the drive, but here’s a pic of John with our friend Kim – with a grass tree.

They remind me a bit of the character of saguaro cactus in Arizona, but not as tall.  They each seem to have their own personality.

I also love the bansia flowers.  Here’s a lovely one, just outside our friends’ house.

Banksia flowers

Perth WA is a big, beautiful city.  It is the most remote capital in the world, and so they have to make their own fun.  Everything is a plane ride or a long flight away.  There is a very good wine region just to the south in Margaret River which we visited the first time through in 1998.  This year, they will be the only area in Australia where the grapes are not affected by too much rain.  The Swan River flowing through the city is lovely too.

We took an afternoon to visit the Shipwreck Museum in Freemantle (or “Freo” as the locals call it).  This coast is littered with historic shipwrecks from the time of the spice and silk trade.  Before an accurate way of determining longitude was assured with the ship’s chronometer, trading ships used to regularly run into the reefs off the west coast.  By the time they saw the breaking surf, it was generally too late, and their riches are eagerly sought after by modern-day treasure hunters.  The Shipwreck Museum chronicles the search for these ships, and the identification of them.  It’s a fascinating mystery story, finding clues amid the wreckages.

Perth Shipwreck Museum

I think we saw almost everyone we wanted to see while we were in Perth, including an old girlfriend of John’s.  Time to move on!

Another great airport event:  author Jeffrey Archer was signing copies of his new book inside the secure area of the Perth airport!!!  I’m not entirely certain that was a Red Letter day for him, but it certainly added to the interest for the rest of us.  This sort of thing, and the piano in Adelaide airport, would NEVER happen in a North American airport, where they seem to keep things utilitarian and “secure”.

The famous Jeffrey Archer in Perth airport

We have arrived back in Darwin, where we lived for 8 months in 1999-2000. We haven’t been back in 4 years.  There was some concern about an impending cyclone (read: hurricane) while we are here.  It has changed direction and will miss us, but it has meant being socked in with rain.  The rain cools things down, which is a good thing.  The have had over 3 metres of rain this wet season (that’s like 9 feet!!!).  Temps are about 26-28C, cool from the usual 30-33C.  We have a very busy time here, seeing friends, doing a concert Sunday for the Top End Folk Club, and attending the Darwin Patchworkers and Quilters Guild on Monday.  The first guild I was ever a member of!  I’m really looking forward to seeing them all again, after 11 years away!

What is Darwin to me?  Open windows, palm trees, barbies on the beach (but not just now), Aboriginal art, Deckchair cinema (outdoors in the Dry season), a relaxed pace, endless empty beaches (because the weather is almost always good and because of the box jellyfish and/or saltwater crocodiles), baby quilts made puffy because they are used UNDER the baby – not for warmth, but to soften the hard tile floors.  Al fresco dining. Friendly people who accept you for who you are, no matter how strange your personality! Coconuts and pandanus palms.  And, of course the normal tropical fauna like cockroaches and ants and gekkos and little green frogs and Huntsman spiders (who won’t hurt you, but are big enough that you can hear them walk….).  But I don’t want to put you off – it’s worth it, and the people who live here really love it here. And we do too.

A little green frog on a leaf.

Today we’ll be doing an interview for the ABC Radio (like our CBC), and having lunch and dinner with friends.  Sometime we have to get to a fax machine to send our application for voting in the Canadian election which will happen while we’re gone, too.  More to come.

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