We finally arrived in Perth, Western Australia at 5.15pm on Saturday 26th January – “Australia Day” – after a 17-hour flight. I was thankful for the Melatonin I took before leaving the UK, which ensured a good ‘night’s’ sleep (it was a daytime flight but my body was still on UK time). Highly recommended if you want to avoid jet lag, but for some reason not available from pharmacists the UK – our supply came from the USA.
Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia and is the sunniest of all the state capitals. It is the fourth most populous city in Australia, with an estimated population of 2 million. It is also referred to as the ‘city of lights’ since the early days of the American space programme. As John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, passed over the city in the middle of the night, Perth switched on every light bulb in town, which gave a spectacular sight from outer space.
We arrived at our hotel – the Pan Pacific – just in time to see the amazing firework display on the Swan River. By this time we had blended in, virtually unnoticed, with the many thousands of Australians celebrating Australia Day
We then made our way – along with the throngs now making their various ways home – towards Northbridge, and area of Perth renowned for it’s nightlife and wide variety of ethnic cuisine, where we found the aptly named “Saigon” restaurant for a taste of the local seafood.
The next day we decided to take a stroll around the banks of the Swan River, named after the indigenous black swans, which, unlike the mute swans of the northern hemisphere, sound off like a band of clarinets noisily tuning up!
Our circuit started on the northern Riverside Walk, skirted Kings Park to the west, crossing Narrows Bridge to the southern bank, and back via Henderson Island as far as the ferry terminal. Around 8km.
During our walk we saw lots of white cockatoos nesting in the trees, the occasional pair of green parrots skimming the riverbank, and the famous black swans. A very pleasant if tiring walk in 35C heat – so a cool beer at the strangely named “Lucky Shag” was very welcome.
We rounded out the day by visiting the Swan Bells Tower, a steel, glass and copper structure which houses the bells of the London church St Martins-in-the-Fields, a bicentennial present from Queen Elizabeth II – which ring out every day. The top floor observation deck gives a great view of the Perth skyline.
The following day we joined our cruise ship, the Astor, after a short drive to Fremantle, the harbour port serving Perth, and so begins our 35-day circumnavigation of Australia. We have 3 days at sea before we arrive at Kangaroo Island on Saturday 1st February.