Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day Thirteen: Rottnest

Ahhh, Rottnest. How I love thee, and how I somehow forgot I was going to want far more than one day on your sugary shores, your scrub-lined bike paths, your electric blue vistas. More than just a few hours to gaze into the limpid eyes of your native quokkas, to stroll your cliff-edged bays. More than one opportunity to eat baked goods in the presence of fanning peacocks, or admire the bounty of your general store, with its "No Quokkas" plexiglass guard. But yes, forget I did. And parting on that 4:30 ferry was so bittersweet.

We sailed from Freemantle on a boat far more sprightly than I remember--it took us there in under 30 minutes, bouncing high in the air over waves as it went. We weren't seasick, but Jarrah and I both had "rollercoaster tummy."

And then, just like that, we were in this place that pictures never do any justice. It just feels a million miles from anywhere, the water bluer than the bluest blue, the sand as white as flour, the wildlife strange and wonderful. My Frommers guide says you feel your cares melting away as soon as you arrive, and that's no hooey.

We picked up tickets for the Bayseeker bus, which is pretty much the only motorized thing you'll see on the island's roads. We didn't know if Jarrah was up for bikes, and we wanted to be sure to see everything on this sunny, blue day with which we'd been graced. First, a stop at the Rottnest Bakery, which I remembered so fondly, but alas, the baked bean pastie of my dreams was no more. I wonder if I was the only one who liked it. And the jam donut was ice cold, with sickly sweet jam. I briefly feared that the magic had forsaken me, but thankfully, a subpar donut was the only disappointment Rottnest could muster.

The Bayseeker makes 18 stops, and we got off at Little Parakeet Bay to walk the rest of the way back. Seeing the reef under the turquoise water made me wish powerfully that it wasn't too cold to snorkel. Along the way (about 2.2 kilometers, usually in view of the ocean) we had lots of quokka spottings, and we noticed that they are especially fluffy and delectable in their winter coats.

I had suggested a fancy-ish lunch in either of the two historic hotels on the island, but David rightfully decided that a Rottnest lunch is eaten outside with a minimum of fuss. He had one of the pasties he remembers so fondly, Jarrah had soup (she is going to be orange by the end of this trip--Aussies seem to favor pumpkin and carrot) and I had a surprisingly gourmet burger from a new-to-me place inside the bakery, yet another reason to love it.

Shockingly, we only had a couple hours before the ferry now, and Jarrah had been asking about bikes, so we decided to give it a shot. It took a while to get fitted for rides and helmets, but we'd seen a boy about Jarrah's age riding a "tag-on," which is like a fused half-bike on the back of a larger bike, and I thought maybe this would be just the thing to boost Jarrah's confidence out of her training-wheel mindset. I am happy to say I was right; I just had no idea it would be so instant. David told me that, except on hills, he mostly let Jarrah do the peddling, and she was cheeky as all get-out, yelling "Mommy! Why are you so far behind???"

I guess eight years makes a difference, because I was feeling the ride from the moment the guy handed me a bike to try and I attempted to swing a leg over the top. Youch! I hadn't remembered that being hard. And then I was pretty freaked out for the first fifteen minutes, made worse by the fact that I'd asked the guy to set the seat-height at about eight-year-old level. But by the time we'd breezed out of town, I was ready for the seat to be raised, and then I faced my demons on the first big hill...downhill, Readers, I'm not afraid of a little thigh-burn. The first big downhill ended in a railroad crossing, and I couldn't stop seeing myself wiping out directly in front of an oncoming train, despite Jarrah urging "You can do it, Mommy. You're brave, I know you are." Eventually, I was brave, with a little extra braking to pad my bravery, and then there was no stopping me. After a few hills my legs felt crazy-wobbly and I knew I'd be really sore the next day (but Readers, amazingly I was not!) but it was totally worth it and if we were staying until the next day, I swear I'd push on for the full 22 kilometers.

But alas, the bike rental was closing, and our return ferry beckoned. We had time for a perfect scoop of gelato as we admired the afternoon light reflecting off the water and the old stone buildings, and then it was back to Fremantle in a flash on the Rotto Express.

An emergency potty stop for Jarrah meant that we got to visit the shop where Joan sells antiques with a few other dealers. It's chock full of beautiful stuff, most of it highly breakable. It was nice to finally see it after hearing her talk about it, and while I've never felt called to retail, I can see how collecting and selling antiques would be fun.

We met John for dinner at an "American" diner called Jimmy Dean's back in Midland. Someone led us to a table and gave us menus, but to order we had to form a single queue with a half-hour line, and then wait another hour or so to get food. Drinks also took an hour, since they had to go through a separate bar order. And there was nothing very American about the food. I pointed out that the place would have had rioting within a week in the States, where people either want a fast queue or fast service to make up for the other being long. But in the end, we all got a pretty good dinner and a very good laugh. It was still a fabulous day and I'll be feeling the Rottnest glow for a long time.


Stephanie said...

You can call that thing by any cute name you'd like, all I see is a giant rat! Yikes!

Mary said...

Bring me back a Quokka, PLEASE.