Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Datapoints Perth 09.


Subject: Beaches. Perth log Day 08.

Yesterday was spent by the water. After our previous experience, my travel companions insisted on sticking to paved carparks. I have been thinking about that experience and realise there was a few other things we could have tried had we not gotten a tow. For one, our attempts to dig the car out was sort of half-hearted. We could have used the plank with stones to create a lever to lift part of the wheel in combination with the car jack. We could have used the floor mats in the car for traction. We could have hauled sea water (30m away) to water and pack down the loose sand.. and so on and so forth. We gave up way too easily.



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Heading south for about an hour on the freeway gets you to Rockingham. Population 80,000. A primary population centre for that region. Pitched as a family tourist area with windswept beaches. Activities include penguins, dolphins, whale watching (when in season) and water sports. Looking at a map of the area seems to indicate an organically-grown town. In most major cities and centrally-planned population centres, the roads are laid out in a logical grid format with major facilities (medical, police, fire, schools) located at primary junctions on prime land. Rockingham's road network on the map looks like a fractal pattern with facilities sprinked around the edges.

Graffiti and vandalism is more rampant in Rockingham than in Perth city (or many of the larger city suburbs for that matter). Also had a souped-up car with couple of local youths overtake us significantly beyond the speed limit and flip us the middle finger. Looking around the place, if I were a teenager growing up in a place like Rockingham - I'd be bored to tears and highly prone to random acts of misdemeanors just to keep the adrenaline levels up. Rockingham is a beautiful place to visit but not exactly the most exciting place to grow up in. The local population is predominately Caucasian with no other races (Asian or otherwise). Does not look very appealing to immigrants. Even as Asian tourists, some of my travel mates felt very out of place.

So we head back to Cottesloe beach just west of Perth. Calamariforthought headed of to bake himself in the sun for the rest of the day while the others park and chill under a couple eucalyptus trees. I head out to check out conditions further inland. What I found was not encouraging. Cottesloe is a beautiful beach area but unfortunately permanent housing is very expensive (by Perth standards) and work is pretty much limited to the tourism trades from as far as I could figure. I suppose you could live in Cottesloe and work in the city. However it would make more sense to make the hour drive from inland and work / live around the city.


Saw a homeless person at Cottesloe. He had a little wheelbarrow with all his worldly possessions in it. He was using the public toilets to clean up a while earlier. I wonder what circumstances (outside of substance abuse or mental illness) that would bring an apparently healthy 40+ year old around these parts to such a state? How did he slip through Australia's generous social safety net? I wanted to know so much more.. but I was hesistant to initiate conversation since everybody else was giving him a wide breadth. Ditto for that couple I saw huddled up and sleeping inside the ANZ bank ATM lobby one of the nights I was walking around Perth.

My travel companions were chatting with this heavily-built guy on the grass besides us. Turns out he is an avid traveller (campervan and bike) around Australia. He was originally from Melbourne but ended up in Perth. Married and with a kid who is currently wandering around Europe. Wanderlust is probably genetic or something.

When I commented that I was holidaying around Perth with an eye to making it home, he blurted out "you have to wait in line with like the hundreds of thousands of others". The tone of his comment was telling. I detected a slight resentment - probably a kneejerk reaction against the massive immigrant (or refugee?) influx. But more obvious was the tone of pride. The confident knowledge that it was a good land to make a home and that many others also wanted to be a part of his land. It was a rare reaction as I would seldom hear Singaporeans express the same emotions about their land. (Or am I hanging around the wrong Singaporeans?) Then again, Australia has 10 times the length of history of what Singapore had to try to forge a national identity.

There is so much I want to ask. There is so much I need to know about the Lucky Country.

And then the sun started to go down. The sunset at Cottesloe over the Indian Ocean was stunningly breathtaking as usual.


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On a slight off-tangent, the LPG modifications on that station wagon make it a very cheap vehicle to operate. With a fully loaded 4.0 litre engine 1.5 ton vehicle with 5 people, it is still getting approximately 10 kilometres for a (Australian) dollar. LPG is currently around 39 to 43 cents per litre around the city centre. Given the large distances in Australia, the cost of modifications for a non-metro vehicle make it well worth the inital setup cost.



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