Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trains and boats and planes

We're still in the honeymoon period with the train that runs between Mandurah and Perth. The train is part of Perth's Transperth public transport network. For many outings taking the train really is easier, cheaper and more convenient than making the trip by car. The train takes 45-50 minutes, trains run every 10-15 minutes at peak times and if you're lucky you'll see emus and kangaroos out the window on the way.

The best deal on the whole network has to be the Family Rider ticket. During weekends, public holidays and school holidays (and a few other times) this $9 ticket buys all-day travel for two adults and up to five children on the entire network of trains and boats (OK, one ferry),

 and planes (OK, lie. Buses.)

Bargain! Almost as much of a bargain as my new, old, red, crocheted, shopping bag, which - thanks to the Family Rider ticket - I can a) afford to take to Perth and fill with miscellaneous tempting goods, and b) have carried for me by one of my fellow family riders.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The children and I played tourists in our own town and when on a cruise. 

We left from outside the Performing Arts Centre and cruised out towards the ocean.  Before the estuary meets the ocean we turned right turn into the new marina area,

where we spotted a house-boat called Wakka-Doo,

and saw some unfinished apartments and shops.

And some more.

Quite a few of them actually. No dolphins today though.

Out of the marina and back into the estuary going towards the lovely old bridge,

past the war memorial,

then a swift right into a canal to cruise past people's front gardens.

Some famous person lives in this pink house but possibly a sporty person as I had no idea who it was.

At about this point the commentary went on a lot about house prices.  Very, very big numbers last year and apparently somewhat smaller very big numbers this year.  In a big, boomy, microphoned voice. Right outside these people's houses. I'm not sure if we were supposed to be horrified, mystified or jealous but I felt a tad mortified.

Then the commentary went on about how most of the inhabitants of these houses are never here as these are just holiday houses.  I guess that makes a good story and we didn't argue as that would be bad form.

But their story made us a bit curious as we stayed in a house on one of these canals when we first arrived here. It was a very nice (but not over the top) house lived in by permanent residents. Next door and all up and down the street were plenty of other permanent residents doing everyday things like coming home from work, walking their dogs, cleaning out their garages and taking surplus lemons to their neighbours.

We cruised out of the canals and back into the estuary looking towards the new bridge. Still no dolphins today.

Back the same route.

Past the Sailing Museum and still no dolphins.  But never mind because cruising around Mandurah with your children is still a pretty fabulous way to spend a sunny, wintery afternoon.

Pull up outside the Performing Arts Centre,

and pop in to see the General Manager who says he's had dolphins frollicking around outside his office window all afternoon.

Harvey Fresh

Guess who has a new nickname for when he emerges from the bathroom post-shower.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Going to the zoo

The first time we took our then very small children to Australia, we we took them to a zoo.  We went to a big, swanky, well-known zoo, paid a fortune for the entry fee, then several extra fortunes for "close encounters", photos, animal food and lunch. We clutched the huge map and raced miles from one end of the park to the other in the scorching-for-us (mid-winter) sunshine to catch various feeding times and jostled with huge crowds of people to see handlers wrangle various animals.

The day was a complete disaster.  The zoo itself was fantastic, but simply too much for two tiny children to enjoy.  I remember one hilarious-in-retrospect scene where we adults chastised the children for moaning about having tired legs, being hot-and-bothered and at their lack of interest in the hundredth species of fancy rat of the day. We instructed them to "Be grateful!" and "Hurry up and have fun!".  In reality, the most fun the children had all day was sitting in the shade with an ice block while enjoying the antics of various wild birds trying to eat our lunch.

You certainly won't have that sort of experience at Marapana Wildlife Park.  My children and I went there recently and had a fantastic time and not just because my children are now much older.  The entry charges are extremely reasonable and at first I was surprised that we weren't given a park map, then I turned around and saw that that is because there is no need.  Marapana is a small wildlife park.  This is a good thing!  There are not huge numbers of species at this park, but certainly enough to serve as a great introduction to Australian wildlife plus some introduced species also found locally. 

But the best thing about this zoo is that it is a petting zoo.  On entry visitors are each handed a bucket of animal food and brief instructions about which few animals not to feed. Visitors are able to pat and feed many of the animals making this a quite different experience from the other zoos I've been to in Australia. My favourites were the wombats.  I realised that on all my various trips to zoos over the years, the most I'd ever seen of a wombat was its backside poking out of a log. 

Several times when we were wondering about some creature, the zoo staff would casually come up and explain the history of a particular animal, the status of this species in the wild, the reason behind some behaviour or describe its unique breeding habits (leading to fun chats in the car on the way home...).

There is a lovely casual, relaxed atmosphere at this zoo and I highly recommend a visit, even if you just go for an hour or two.  It would have been the perfect place to take my tiny children to all those years ago. This zoo is not at all flashy, in fact some bits are a wee bit huckery, but sometimes that when combined with small, hands-on, friendly and inexpensive can be a unique and winning formula.

(And please excuse these photos.  Just like the day years ago when our video recorder went bung and much to my embarrassment the technician removed a piece of jammy toast from it, so after hours of reading my camera manual and taking test shots, I looked at the lens and found a once-edible substance smeared all over it.  Mmmmm, not nice.)

Friday, August 6, 2010


Life is full of mysteries.  One such mystery is why dolphins - more than any other animal on the planet - have inspired so much truly dreadful merchandise.  Sometimes when I am bored I play a game called "Find a cool dolphin thing".  There are no winners in this game.  I have yet to find a single piece of dolphin merchandise that I think is cool, but I love to be proven wrong, so if you ever find one, then please do send me a photo.  If I was a tutor at a design school I would amuse myself by setting my students an assignment to design a cool dolphin thing, because I suspect that it simply isn't possible.

The reason this mystifies me so much is that I appreciate as much as other less bitter and twisted people, just how cool it is to actually see dolphins in the wild.  That day when we went to the Dawesville Channel to see where the whales had been we didn't actually see any whales, but it didn't matter.

Because we did have a beautiful walk on a beautiful evening,
and we saw more dolphins in half an hour than I had seen in my entire life to that point.

And it was seriously cool. I go so excited that I took hundreds of uncool photos of rippling water where dolphins had recently been,

before I actually managed to catch one measly image of one.

The dolphins came right into the canals off the channel.  The canals are deep and have very steep sides and the dolphins were leaping out of the water right next to us.  We dubbed them a "plod" of dolphins as they were just meandering around so slowly and lingered for so long.

One of the dolphins we saw had some major damage to its dorsal fin.  After being told of a possible cause of this from a holidaying marine biologist, I have a new thing to add to my "Not To Do" list: Run over a dolphin with a jet ski.  Because that would be uncooler than the even uncoolest dolphin ornament yet created.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Harvey at the Harvey Estuary, with his Dad, on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon,

with his sister,

and some seagulls,

who tried to fool us into thinking they only had one leg.