How is it that I have been to all the Australian capital cities (some more than once), travelled extensively throughout Tasmania (if you haven’t been there you must go!), toured my way around Italy/Sicily and been to Canada (again a must if you haven’t been there yet). But in my 31 years of existence I have never been to Rottnest (a major tourist drawcard) despite having lived in Western Australia for my entire life?
I’ve even been to the “big” banana in Carnarvon (the lamest tourist attraction ever) before going there. By the way, for those of you who may think that Australia only has one tribute to our favourite potassium-filled fruit, the one in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, you are wrong. Western Australia has one too. If you’re really bored, you can Google it and then you’ll see why it doesn’t get much attention.
For those of you who don’t know, Rottnest is a small island off Perth that is surrounded by pristine white sandy beaches and is the home of the quokka (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo). I had never seen one of these notoriously cute marsupials before and as it is almost a rite of passage for Western Australians, I was eager to see one. So, using my birthday as the excuse I finally got there last week.
After disembarking the ferry from Fremantle and being on dry land for just a few minutes I met my first quokka, and my second, and my third and my…you get the idea. The place was teaming with them. It became clear that it would have been more noteworthy not to have seen one. It was cuteness overload! Strange then, that the island was named Rottnest (Dutch for “Rat’s Nest”) because the European explorers thought that the quokkas looked like giant rats.
We (Mum, Dad, Geoff and I) did all the touristy things. We went to the old churches, the cemetery and did a tour on both a bus and a train which took us to all the notable sites around the island. Including the Wadjemup Lighthouse, the tallest one on Rottnest. We saw the cannons used to protect the Fremantle port from the enemy during the Second World War and I saw the projectiles they could fire which were nearly as tall and wide as I am.
It was beautiful and very interesting but not what I would classify as exciting. Other than being pushed around in my collapsible wheelchair (I can walk but I’m not built for speed) at break-neck speed by my brother that is. That was fun.
While lining up for the ferry to go home I got chatting with a guy who had just arrived. He was on the same “make disability cool” crusade that I am on and had come to Rottnest to check out how accessible the island is for people with disabilities. We were deep in a very engaging conversation when my Ferry began boarding and sadly, we didn’t get a chance to exchange details which was a bit disappointing. With that said I have read the book “He’s just not that into you” and I am sure if he wanted my number he would have asked for it. Oh well.
After the events of my birthday for which I had been doing a daily countdown and the aerobatics flight I had done 4 days earlier, I felt a bit deflated.
Then there was “Titanic: The Exhibition”…
Armed with a boarding pass containing the name and details of a real passenger (mine was 18-year-old First Class passenger Jean Gertrude Hippach for those of you playing along at home), I walked up the gangplank and into a first class corridor that smelt like fresh paint and had the plushest carpet I had ever walked on.
From there I entered the display showing the setup of first, second and third class cabins, the difference in which is massive. As I approached the opulent first class set up the scene sprang to life behind what I thought was a giant motion activated video screen where the “unsinkable” Molly Brown was sitting in her suite drinking tea. Molly chatted away to no-one in particular and then suddenly got up from her chair, walked toward the edge of the display and right out of it, brushing past me in search of the Captain who just happened to be walking past. It startled the hell out of me!
With her now gone, I moved onto the foyer with the grand staircase and domed glass ceiling just like the movie, walked through the boiler room and along the starlit deck before coming to an iceberg that you could actually touch.
Although there were stories of notable passengers on display throughout the exhibition it wasn’t until this point that the actual sinking of the Titanic was fully addressed. You learnt about the efforts made by the crew to try and attract help. The desperation of those trying to gain access to a life boat or the bravery of those who gave up their place to save others and the professionalism of the band who went right on playing throughout it all. Then you get to a board listing each of the people on board and what became of them after the sinking. It really gave me a sense of them being real people and not just people who existed way before I was even thought of.
Thankfully Jean did survive but the 35-year-old First Class passenger my Mum had, and the 25-year-old Third Class passenger assigned to my Dad, both perished. Here I was moping because my fun was not adrenaline-inducing enough and these three, who I assume were looking forward to a pleasant and uneventful journey to America got far more of an adrenaline rush than they bargained for.
Perhaps I don’t need any more adrenaline after all.
Oh who am I kidding? Yes, I do!