Arriving in Perth after a record 3 flights and 30 hours just from Christchurch, we were more than a little jaded. We headed to our hostel and immediately discovered just how costly Oz was going to be...it was 60 dollars (30 quid) in a taxi, and not that far...yikes. This place is as expensive as London, if not more so in some areas.Apparently Western Australia is even more expensive than Sydney, but we shall see. Not good for a couple of cheapskate backpackers on a budget. The hostel was pretty grotty - ironically it wasn't a patch on the ones in Bolivia and at 100 dollars a night for a double room with paint peeling off the walls and filthy communal showers it was around 5 times more expensive.
After unpacking (by this I mean emptying the contents of our backpacks onto the bed and sifting through until we found a few garments that passed the sniff test) we decided to check out Scarborough Beach, which was just a stone's throw away. well, a stone's throw if you happen to be Fatima Whitbread, that is.
Luckily Scarborough in Perth is nothing like Scarborough in the UK, with rolling waves and lovely soft yellow sand. After walking up and down the beach a few times, all the while bemoaning our lack of funds due to the pants exchange rate and the rip-off bank charges that are rapidly accruing, we spotted an English pub on the beachfront and decided to drown our sorrows with a quick pint (Liam) and wine (me). As is usually the case they slipped down just a little too easily and before we knew it we were downing shots with 3 Aussie miners who were on their week off, as they worked in 2-week shift patterns.
As the afternoon wore on and the Tooheys flowed as freely as the conversation we were joined by a couple of German girls and before we knew it a full-blown party was in full swing. We were feeling a little peckish so the boys invited us all to a barbie at their mates house.
We all bundled into the back of their Ute (a "yoot" as it's pronounced, is a little truck - remember the references to these in Neighbours?!). It was set up as a bed in the back complete with duvet and pillows, but we didn't ask too many questions and all piled in and sped off (overlooking the fact that the driver had had a skinfull) to the offie (or "liquor store" as it's known here) to pick up a few "tinnies".
The host of the house party seemed a little surprised to see their mates rocking up with the whole pub's worth of tourists in tow but with typical Aussie hospitality just said "nah, you're right", when I timidly (ok so it may not have been that timid seeing as I'd just sunk my weight in vino) asked if they minded us crashing their party.
After a few steaks and yet more wine all our money worries dissipated and we had a great night, before being dropped off back at our hostel by the same driver, this time barely able to walk, which only bothered me when I thought about it the next day.As it was a Monday night there was noone on the roads so luckily we made it back unscathed.
The next morning we awoke fuzzy-headed and I reached for my rucksack for the Nurofen. But where was my rucksack? Oh, never mind, it only contains beach stuff I thought as I began looking for it and realising I may have left it somewhere the previous night. Then, in a moment of horror, it dawned on me that I had actually been carrying our passports, phones, driving license, camera etc as I hadn't emptied the daysack since we got off the plane that morning. Cue several hours of panic until we managed to get hold of the Aussie guys (thank God we exchanged numbers to arrange another night out) who kindly reunited us with the bag, which I'd left in the back of the ute as we all scrambled out of it the night before. Phew! Note to self..don't take out all your worldy goods when about to drink aforementioned self into a stupor with a bunch of complete strangers.Duh! Anyone would think I was a real blonde or something...
We spent some time sunbathing in Scarborough before checking out and moving to another hostel, this time in the centre of Perth. We decided to take in some culture, so walked around the city and checked out a few museums and exhibitions.
The Museum of Western Australia was so interesting that we ended up spending most of the day there, reading about the history and culture of WA, from the wildlife (lots more stuffed animal pics to come folks) to the Aboriginal people.
Having seen lots of Aborigines wandering around the city barefoot and dishevelled, drinking bottles of whisky and begging, we had taken all that we heard about them as gospel. Only when we visited the museum and read about the true story of their history and the appalling way that they had been treated by the white Australians and the government did we begin to comprehend the real history.
From the arrival of the first white man in Australia, when they used the Aborigines to help them find water etc before taking over their land, to the present day, the Aborigines have been badly mistreated. One of the most shocking aspects is from 1910 onwards, the government would routinely and systematically remove the Aboriginal children from their families and place them in missions or homes, in order to try to remove all traces of their culture and to westernize them. As they were seen as an inferior race, the idea was to educate them and bring them up as white Australians, often by having them adopted by white aussies. The parents were not given any say in the matter and the government even went so far as to say that as they felt that as Aborigines were less civilised people, " the mothers will quickly forget the child." Obviously this was not the case, yet they were never allowed to return to their families and were segregated and mistreated in care. This "cleansing" of the race was tantamount to genocide, and amazingly this practise continued for at least 60 years, well into the 1970's. These children became known as the "Stolen Generation", and we have met lots of indigenous people in the last week or so who told us that they were children of this time and the same happened to them, and that by the time they found out the true identities of their real parents they were long since dead, particularly as Aboriginals have a life expectancy of only 60 years, even today.
Upon finding out all this information it seemed hardly surprising to us that there is an alcohol and unemployment problem amongst these people, and that they often find it hard to integrate into society. However, many local aussies that we have spoken to say that the goevernment has now apologised to the Aboriginals and set up an official public holiday called a Sorry Day, and that they are giving compensation to those affected. We have come across animosity from white australians towards the indigenous people, who say that they get handouts, are lazy, and that the racism works the other way, in that Aboriginals are now given better opportunites and are selected for jobs, uni's etc over the whites as the government is scared to be seen as descriminating as they attempt to rebuild the relationship between them. It's hard to know exactly what the truth is, but has been a real eye-opener so far.
In the evening we went out to The Flying Scotsman with a girl called Sam who lives in Perth who had worked at Addison Lee with Liam. A crazy gay guy called Simon took a liking to me and proceded to entertain us for the rest of the night with his camp manner and funny stories. We later found out that he was high on speed, which is probably why he was firing off jokes like a rattle-gun and babbling incessantly. Amusing anyway.I did wonder as to why he was foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog but turned a blind eye to his "clubber's crust" as he was pure comedy gold.
As we were due to fly out erly on Saturday morning we decided not to go crazy on Friday night, so that day we took a riverboat cruise down the Swan river to Fremantle and wandered around the markets and had a relaxed pub lunch.We visited Fremantle Prison, our second prison visit on this trip (bit weird we know), although unlike San Pedro in Bolivia this one was no longer in use. It is, however, supposed to be haunted, as lots of prisoners (mostly British convicts) were executed there. I must admit it did feel a little creepy as we went into the room where they were hung,and it was very cold in there for a boiling summer's day.
As the evening rolled around we felt like going out after all(quelle surprise), so donned our gladrags and partied the night away at Geisha Club, rolling in at 5am for a quick catnap before our flight to Alice Springs...