Breakfast was a little haphazard — the bakery that we thought we’d visit is now a dusty empty shell. So much for three year old guidebooks! We walked around the corner and spied a place with tasty looking croissants in the window, then sighed when the toasting of these was performed in a sandwich press. Tasty fresh croissant to a steaming crushed mess in 10 seconds…
Down to the river to checkout the ferries and cruises to Fremantle — there definitely seems to be more collusion than competition here! They were very laid back about discounts though, asking us what discounts we had, and then took my word for it that I had a YHA card in my wallet somewhere! Eight bucks one way, including all the free tea and coffee you can drink — so long as you don’t mind International Roast in a polystyrene cup.
The ferry was being laid out for a coach load of pensioners, shortly after we’d boarded one old gent asked me where the coffee and toilets where — being one of the few people under 50 on board, he’d just assumed I worked on the boat!
The real captain and crew turned up shortly afterwards and we headed off down the river. It’s a great way to see the place, and the captain was very knowledgeable — not just with which suburbs and houses belonged to which millionaire, but details on the commercial shipping and the history of the river, which added a little more than your average tourist cruise. I caught a brief glimpse of a dolphin too, there are supposed to be twenty or thirty that live in the river.
We’d been told to visit the new Maritime museum, but hadn’t been expecting to spend the entire day in there! Modern displays that are well explained and once again we were given discounts on entry! There’s also the option of paying extra for a tour through one of the decommissioned Oberon-class submarines — since Jo and I have an attachment to Holbrook (NSW) where another of the Oberons is, we just had to take the tour.
Unlike the Oberon embedded in a park besides the Hume highway, HMAS Ovens is up on the dry dock, towering overhead. Even so, it doesn’t look as though a tour from one end to the other could take an hour! With another highly knowledgeable guide, I thought it could well have taken all day — one glance at our guide and he just looked like a submariner. Apart from a minor idiosynchrocy of referring to World War II as “the last war,” there was little of the history submarines and especially the Australian submarines that he didn’t seem to know — as well as considerable amounts of the operational aspects of the Oberons.
Safely out of the Ovens at last — and after only banging my head once on a piece of plumbing — there was still more of the museum to see. Australia II hangs from the ceiling in a position of honour, winged keel revealed for all to see — I can remember watching that last race of the Americas Cup back in ‘93 at college in UNSW, and then us all queueing up and banging on the doors to be let in for an early breakfast. A history of cargo shipping, fishing, and indigenous boats were other exhibits that caught our attention.
4 pm and we finally got out of the museum! Walked up the street into Freo proper, marvelling at the old buildings around the docks. Most of these have been restored and repainted, unlike other dockland areas I’ve visited where a lot of them were torn down and replaced during the early part of the 20th Century.
All the cafés appeared to be shutting, but we managed to find the — ugh — “tourist precinct” with all the open cafés and restaurants. Nothing was cheap, everywhere was full, but we finally managed to get some lunch! “Soup of the day with crusty fresh bread” in the Italian restaurant turned out to be seafood lhaksa with no bread, but it was hot and filling and restored our energy.
Walking around town afterwards, by pure chance we wandered into the Little Creatures brewery/bar/café. It’s been there around two years, but our Lonely Planet guide is at least two years old, and around Fremantle there weren’t any signs to the place. The beers were good, the service friendly, the views into the active parts of the brewery interesting — so we sat on the balcony with a beer or two and some pizza, and watched the sun set into the ocean.
We caught the train back to Perth, feeding an endless stack of 5c coins into a ticket machine — and a good thing too! We’d only just left Fremantle station when the security guard/ticket inspectors walked in and checked everyone’s tickets. I’m not sure what it is about them, but they just seemed friendlier and more competent than the ones in Melbourne — maybe there just isn’t the general public dislike of the whole system. Just another feeling that the public transport system here works well, maybe we’re just not here for long enough to experience the problems…