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Saturday, February 22: Day 306 – Freo

The Rottnest Channel Swim happens today. There are two races over two distances from Leighton Beach in Fremantle to beautiful Rottnest Island – a direct crossing of 12 miles open to solos, duos, and teams of four and six, and a 15-mile solo ultra-marathon swim. It is the longest open water swim in the Southern Hemisphere!

I was musing how hard that might be. Are you allowed to tread water if you get tired? It isn’t like you can stop and walk. However, when I was told that they are escorted by boats on the lookout for sharks and are covered with jellyfish stings by the time that they finish, that added a whole new dimension to the race. The solo men’s winning time was by Lars BOTTELIER with a time of 4 hours 18 seconds. The solo women’s winner was Zoe WHITFIELD with a time of 4 hours 48 minutes.

That is very impressive but moreso for me are the last to finish. Julie COVICH with a time of 10 hours 22 minutes and Peter DUNNE with a time of 10 hours 41 minutes. Can you imagine being in the ocean with all its currents for 10½ hours???

Today we took a boat to Fremantle. When the Australia II won the America’s Cup yacht race in 1983, it broke the longest sports winning streak in history of 132 years. Then the 1987 America’s Cup race was held in Fremantle.

The generator on the sightseeing boat broke so we had to get on another boat. We arrived at a different dock due to the Rottnest Channel Swim. A bus took us the rest of the way to a sightseeing tram.

Here is the smallest yacht club in Australia.

It has a membership of two with a club/boathouse the size of a small garage. The owner had found a loophole in the laws preventing the foreshore from being littered with boathouses by simply forming a yacht club and building his very exclusive clubhouse.

One reason that Fremantle has a healthy harbor is the original design. This has prevented big ships from coming into harbor and has kept silt out and dolphins in.

The Queen Mary 2 arrived last week unexpectedly due to COVID-19.

Fremantle, or Freo as it is affectionately called, has 1,300 Australian-heritage-listed buildings. The Goldrush of the 1890’s brought many people to the west coast. In 1887 a railway was built and is still in use today. Obviously, at that time men outnumbered the women.

Have you ever heard of the Fremantle Doctor? If you lived in Perth, you would. The southwesterly winds are named the Fremantle Doctor because the wind appears to come from the nearby coastal city of Fremantle, and it brings welcome relief from the summertime high temperatures.

The water in Freo was initially much closer to the land, but now it is further out due to reclaimed land.

In 1905 a man had a son who died of thirst while looking for gold. The father donated a beautiful dual purpose water fountain for people to drink from one side and horses on the other.

There is a street called Cappuccino Strip where there are numerous coffee shops with outdoor seating.

Over Easter weekend, the Fremantle International Street Arts Festival brings the best buskers in the world to entertain in the streets for three days.

A prison was built and is still intact today although it was closed in 1991. It is a Heritage building. Soon after it was built, the only fresh water spring was found under the prison.

Ten thousand prisoners went through this prison and got their “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

One prisoner escaped twice. He was caught for stealing bread and cheese. He was in prison five times in Australia. He had been on the loose for 2½ years and was enjoying some beverages at a winery when his luck ran out. The Fremantle police were having a function there.

Early day life in Freo was difficult. Ten thousand people arrived and after a time, seven thousand had left. The convicts provided free labor and built many structures.

We stopped at a war memorial. It started as a commemoration of WWI yet other wars have been added. Sadly, there are likely to be more wars in the future as well.

Seventy percent of Australians were related to the convicts that originally were sent to this penal colony of England. Now it is thirty percent due to an influx of immigrants. Today, Australia is very multicultural.

Islands of Australia is a recommended TV series. Here a few islands that were featured:

Garden Island is where the six submarines are serviced. Each one costs 200 million Australian dollars to build, and they keep breaking down.

Carnac Island is where there are male sea lions. It is home to the largest colony of tiger snakes. Professionals go over on a regular basis to milk the snakes in order to produce antivenom. Antivenom only lasts several months. The tiger snake is known to inject the largest amount of poison. Many of the snakes are blind. Research indicated that the birds were pecking their eyes out. People are not allowed to visit this island. I’m ok with that.

It is mind boggling how wide the Indian Ocean is. The next land mass is Africa, over 8,000 miles away. The closest major city to the west coast of Australia is Jakarta which is a 3½ hour airline ride. From Fremantle to the Pinnacles which is 2½ hours, there is only one gas station.

An old insane asylum was built for 100 people, but upon investigation there were up to 360 residents. Since its closing, it has been repurposed many times. Currently, it is an art museum and used for Sunday afternoon concerts.

Unusual stores that I saw were a build your own pizza oven, circus school, and even a shipwreck museum. They also have a statue dedicated to Vasco da Gama who was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans and, therefore, the West and the Orient.

People say that prosperity in Australia was made on the backs of sheep. Our guide pointed out a large wool warehouse.

A replica of the Endeavor was built to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Captain Cook. Currently, it is in New Zealand.

Do you know what this is? Our guide said that only two people have ever answered correctly and when they did, he was as happy as Larry. Huh?

It is a buoy that has been made into a musical instrument called a wind chime. Were you able to guess or are you still, like me, wondering who Larry is and why he’s happy.

Australian boxer Larry Foley (1847 – 1917) was a successful pugilist who never lost a fight. He retired at 32 and collected a purse of £1,000 for his final fight. So, we can expect that he was known to be happy with his lot in the 1870’s – just when the phrase is first cited. So Bob’s your uncle!

Some penguins were spotted in Fremantle. That is unusual. He asked us what a group of penguins was called. I was surprised to learn that a group of penguins in the water is called a raft and a group of penguins on land is called a waddie. Who comes up with these?

The Roundhouse is the oldest public building in Western Australia. It houses the time ball. A cannon went off every day at 1pm for the ships to set their clocks…in the olden days. It is reenacted today and is where we get the phrase “on the ball.”

Next we went to the Western Australia (WA) Maritime Museum. The Welcoming Wall which stands outside the museum records the names of the people who immigrated to Western Australia. The earliest date is 1825.

There were many interesting exhibits. Here is how they used to sell fresh fish from door to door

Here is the Australia II. Rob knows how to sail and is familiar with this America’s Cup race. The Stars and Stripes boat won the America’s Cup in Fremantle in 1987 and returned the trophy to the USA!! Rob had the chance to be a grinder on the Stars and Stripes years after the redemptive win.

This is the Perry Endeavor in which Jon Sanders circumnavigated the world three times… by himself!!!

The Swan River was Western Australia’s highway. Most everyone learned how to handle a boat at a very young age. Here are some young girls learning on the water.

We returned back to Perth and walked through a park. It looks like an unusual wedding is about to take place. I am glad that I am not invited. I would be very uncomfortable sitting in the ground.

This massive tree in downtown Perth stopped me in my tracks. It was huge and looked like a movie set!

Just to give you an idea how big it was, I had Rob take a picture of me in front of it.

We went to an unusual play based on the book, Cloudstreet, by one of the most awarded authors in Australia, Tim Winton. We did not care for it mainly due to the graphic sexual scenes acted out on stage. Those scenes are weird enough in movies, but way more uncomfortable in a live performance.

The story followed two families living under the same roof post-WWII. The format was interesting.

Part I started at 6:00pm and lasted until 7:20. We then had a meal interval until 8:40. We returned for another 1½ hours until 10:10 when we had a 20-minute interval. At 10:30, we returned for the final hour. During one of the many intermissions, I went to the ladies room. I thought that it was a good idea to have art on the doors. Women spend a lot of time waiting for an empty stall.

The evening was pretty chaotic. This could never work in Broadway but we were able to snag a cheeseburger during the dinner break. The only other problem was Rob, the snoozer. He is used to being asleep by 11:30, and it was dark!! He didn’t miss much!

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