Perth

chrisflipbook

1. 2

3

Destination/Perth

Joy and pain

A TRAVELER INDULGES IN SOME OF PERTH’S CURRENT PLEASURES

AND COMES FACE-TO-FACE WITH SOME OF ITS PAST PAINS

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS CHRIS VAN RYN

I ENCOUNTER MY first murder

victim. On the top of the skull

is a distinct groove, about six

centimetres long. The skeleton is

missing its right foot and the right

shoulder blade is broken. The skull

returns my gaze with a gaping grin.

This man, aged about 35, fell victim

to a blade with enough force to

cut into solid bone. His skeleton

was excavated in 1963 and is now

splayed out under glass just inside

the entry to the Fremantle WA

Maritime Museum.

The man’s story is a subset of the

story of the shipwreck of the Batavia

off the coast of Western Australia

in 1629. Those who survived were

subjected to the infamous mutiny

and massacre that took place on

nearby Beacon Island.

Fremantle is a short ferry ride

across the Swan River from Perth

central. It has some noteworthy

bookends: the first place the

colonists landed in 1829, and the

port where the last load of convicts

was jettisoned in Australia.

It is a town for walking:

prepossessing, with boutique shops

and eclectic hospitality housed in

quaint historic dwellings. I find

a large warehouse, bustling with

people who congregate at long

wooden tables, like a boarding

school lunchroom – a tapa’s eatery

called Bread in Common. There

is a low hum of amalgamated

conversations, words colliding in

mid-air.

I walk past a long, open kitchen.

5

There are baskets of fresh green

sprouting grasses and rows of

wooden boards with chunks of

cheese, and hanging from the

ceiling are dried herbs and garlics

and red peppers. The chefs are

actors in a play, moving backwards

and forwards – frenetic yet

organized.

I’m ushered to the middle of

a long bench and squeeze in next

to groups either side. The social

boundaries defined by separate

tables are absent. By mid-tapa

I’m deep in conversation with my

neighbours, sentences linking like

words in a crossword puzzle.

“So you’re writing about

Perth?”

“Hmm, right,” I mumble

through my mouthful.

“How do you like it?”

“Very much. It’s bustling with

funky cafés and restaurants and

yet it feels… like a country town.

But you’re inside it, day to day.

What do you think of Perth?”

Perth... is easy living. Life


4

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, an eum nonumes vulputate assueverit, clita

dicant lucilius mel ne, ius ex aperiri veritus vivendo. Vix at dicant ponderum,

atqui solet commodo ex cum. Nominati persecuti cu vis, id quas

aliquando pro. Vero viris discere ea mei. Id qui possim necessitatibus, in

utinam facilis vix, id mei requeatqui solet commodo ex cum. Nominati

persecuti cu vis, id quas aliquando pro. Vero viris discere e quodsi luptatum.

Adhuc commodo hendrerit in eam, dicunt diceret id duo.

6

78 thisnzlife.co.nz NZ Life & Leisure 79


7 8

11

Today the prison cells are used as tourist

accommodation. Rottnest is both present

paradise and past pain.

is pretty relaxed here,” the guy

opposite says, as he leans over and

helps himself to one of my tapas.

There’s a consensus of nods.

I say, “But something I’ve found

interesting is that almost every day

I’ve come across some historical

reference to the treatment of the

Aborigines.”

“Maybe the thinking is, if it’s

out in the open it will somehow

right itself,” says a woman at my

shoulder. She looks at me sideways.

“So...what references have you

seen?”

“Well, for example, the dotted

red line.”

“Eh?”

I was circumnavigating a

construction site when I discovered

it. I was walking to Elizabeth

Quay, having just arrived. The

evening was like a soft whisper, the

colour undecided, with lights just

beginning to glow, and the Swan

River was serene and flat with an

occasional long, lazy ripple trailing

behind a black swan. The glass

spire on the Bell Tower glowed an

aquarium green and the copper

facade emanated a Florentine

warmth. I couldn’t see the Swan

Bells but I knew they rang at the

time Captain Cook left England,

marking the voyage that discovered

Australia: several hundred years of

historical ringing cocooned in a

modern millennial skin.

A snaking pedestrian bridge,

reaching over the water, has two

dramatic supports like gigantic

bows pulled taut. I stopped

mid-span to listen to a busking

guitarist and then headed to the

nearby building site. A poster

announced the construction of the

Ritz Carlton Hotel, together with

exclusive apartments and shops.

Renderings depicted four huge

towers – modern glass oval-shaped

architecture like something you’d

expect in Dubai, shimmering and

beckoning, with tourist-enticing

luxury and style. Tourism is Perth’s

new cash crop, a post-mining

economic contingency plan, and

Elizabeth Quay is the heart for the

restless pulse of tourists.

I saw another poster stuck to the

hoarding: a survey map showing

central Perth in about 1900, with

rows of neat little rectangles, each

a building surrounded by roads

and the harbour, and then this

– covering several blocks was a

dotted red line. It read: Prohibited

Area, 1927–1954. For nearly 30

years, the very location where I

stood was an area forbidden to

Aborigines. I was left with this odd

incongruity between the public

announcement of this mal du siècle

and the rise of the Ritz.

Fluttering pink petals surround

tiny buttons of red mounted atop

lime green stems that sway to the

warm breeze in Kings Park, Perth’s

central-city nature haven. If I were

an artist, this would be my palette.

Kings Park comprises manicured

gardens and wild vegetation, the

wind meshing the colours into

a wash of pastel pink, or lemon

yellow... the list goes on. The place

is full of meandering people,

each seeking their own catharsis

through nature.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, an

eum nonumes vulputate assueverit,

clita dicant lucilius mel ne, ius ex

aperiri veritus vivendo. Vix at dicant

ponderum, atqui solet commodo

ex cum. Nominati persecuti cu vis,

id quas aliquando pro. Vero viris

discere ea mei. Id qui possim necessitatibus,

in utinam facilis atqui

solet commodo ex cum. Nominati

persecuti cu vis, id quas aliquando

pro. Vero viris discere evix, id mei

reque quodsi luptatum. Adhuc

commodo hendrerit in eam, dicunt

diceret id duo.

10

9

80 thisnzlife.co.nz

NZ Life & Leisure 81


12

How to get there etc

Getting there: Air New Zealand

flies directly to Perth from

Auckland and Christchurch.

Accommodation: In central

Perth, the Terrace Hotel

offers stunning boutique

accommodation in a restored

historic building. Check out the

unusual artworks, and the very

good restaurant. In Fremantle

the Hougoumont is a small

modern hotel with a history of

the ship scattered throughout.

There’s no restaurant but plenty

of nearby eateries.

Must do: Book a walking and bar

tour with Two Feet & A Heart

Beat and find out everything

you’ll ever want to know

about Perth and its bars and

restaurants, twofeet.com.au

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, an

eum nonumes vulputate assueverit,

clita dicant lucilius mel ne, ius

ex aperiri veritus vivendo. Vix at

dicant ponderum, atqui solet commodo

ex cum. Nominati persecuti

cu vis, id quas aliquando pro. Vero

viris discere ea mei. Id qui possim

necessitatibufhv vbdfw hhfwd fmjjdhf

ehfdkjs, in utinam facilis vix, id

mei reque quodsi luptatum. Adhuc

commodo hendrerit in eam, dicunt

diceret id duo.

Wild flowers. Freshly mown

grass. Tree bark. Raked earth.

Garden scents. I amble over a

high arching bridge – a dramatic

curvaceous construction spanning

a gully – and the quintessential

Australian scent of eucalyptus

wafts upwards. The views stretch

towards the harbour. Actually, it’s

more waterfront than harbour, on

account of the fact that in parts it’s

only four metres deep.

If I were a sculptor, here is

where I would find inspiration. I

am looking for a “sculpture”, one

that has traveled 3000 kilometres to

get here. It once stood in a location

15

13

now covered with tarmac and

whizzing cars. Its form is distinctly

prehistoric – a throwback, as it

were. It is a boab tree, a cousin

to the baobabs of Madagascar,

that bizarre-looking tree with

its bulbous trunk and root-like

canopy. The specimen I see here

is divided in two, joined at the hip

like conjoined twins. In 2008, after

750 years in the same home, it was

served an eviction notice in favour

of a motorway and relocated to

Kings Park.

Wadjemup. I step off the ferry

onto a Greek island that got lost

and ended up anchoring off the

coast of Fremantle: a panorama

with diverse wildlife and enticing

lagoons of white sand and startling

Mediterranean-blue waters, caused

by leaching limestone. Some

500,000 visitors annually know

this place as Rottnest, derived from

rat nest, the rather unfortunate

name given by the Dutch, who

dimwittedly mistook quokkas,

those cute soft toy-like nocturnal

marsupials that little kids want

to take to bed, for giant rats. An

estimated 8000 quokkas reside on

the island.

I am here to indulge in nature,

to see the magnificent regal osprey,

that monogamous raptor that

returns yearly to its giant nest,

and the gulls that persistently

battle warm gusts of wind on stony

outcrops... I’m sorry. I know it’s an

interruption to this romp through

an island paradise, but I’m also here

to see Rottnest’s underbelly.

In a small museum hangs an

extraordinary series of faded sepiatoned

images. A quick glance and you

can see immediately this isn’t good.

Groups of linked together, chainedby-the-neck

Aborigines, each with a

padlock just under their chin. They

are lean and tall and stand strikingly

erect. In one way they are regal but

at the same time they appear blank,

impassive, empty vessels. Each wears

a loincloth. Some have swollen

bellies like malnourished children,

lined with a series of patterned

scars. Theirs is another culture,

one that operated by different rules

than the colonizers, and for this

they are prisoners. Rottnest, once

an Aboriginal prison, housed 3500

prisoners. Several hundred of them

died and are buried on the island.

Today the prison cells are used as

tourist accommodation. Rottnest is

both present paradise and past pain.

And for the Aborigines, perhaps it

was little more than a rat nest.

I’m perched at a long wooden

bar in Varnish on King, a suave

joint in a basement on King Street,

part of Perth’s burgeoning culture of

specialty bourbon bars. In front of

me is a sampling of four bourbons.

“Start with the George Dickel No

12, with speck,” says the bar lady.

“Enjoy.”

16

Indeed I do. Feeling mellow, and with

a gentle glow emanating from the midsection

– part-bourbon, part-travel euphoria

– I slip into the Perth evening, feeling sure

this would not be the last time I’d meet Mr

Dickel... or Perth.

82 thisnzlife.co.nz

NZ Life & Leisure 83

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines