Arrival in Australia – 1997

Continuing my occasional series of posts looking back on a round the world trip I did in 1997, using my memory, my contemporaneous journal and photos, this week 15 years ago I was in Western Australia.

I had flown from Johannesburg to Perth, and on arrival I remember having to go through the ‘something to declare’ channel, solely on the basis that, at the airport on South Africa I had bought a huge bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to use up the last of my currency and I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight, in spite of all the dire warnings of the penalties Australia imposed on people trying to smuggle food into the country.  I passed the smell test of the Beagle Brigade, although one dog was successful in locating yesterday’s pack lunch in the holdall of one of the teenage rugby team who shared my flight.  They let me in with my chocolate, which at the time felt like a small but significant triumph.

I stayed for the first couple of days with family I’d not seen for many years.  It gave the opportunity to unpack both my bags – I was travelling with a back pack and a small bag on wheels, a set up that worked well for most of the trip, as I was both able, in extremis, to carry all my belongings myself, but also allowed me to leave a bag in storage at various stages of the trip so I didn’t have to take everything with me everywhere.  My journal reveals a certain pre-occupation with packing and unpacking and opportunities to use washing machines.  I even congratulated myself that after three weeks of travelling everything was fitting more easily into the bags, although I didn’t rule out the possibility that I’d left something behind.

I was also already recording the fact that I was getting behind on writing the journal; but that is what would happen if I was busy seeing things and spending time with people; but I was very conscious of the need to record as there would be so many new experiences I didn’t want any to be forgotten or overlaid.

I spent my first afternoon in Perth watching television with my young second cousin, off school unwell; and I noted that we watched Wheel of Fortune, Bewitched and I Dream of Genie.  He was politely bemused when I observed that these programmes were already old when I watched them as a child.

I clearly relaxed into a short rest from my trip – I spent time with the younger family members and slept quite a lot according to the diary.  The showed me around the environs of Perth, and we made a visit to Fremantle, including to the prison there which had been in continuous use from 1855 to 1991, and I think we were all a little shocked at the conditions in which prisoners had been confined, notwithstanding the dry wit of the guide, a retired prison warder who clearly felt that the closure had been a retrograde step.

But there was no rest for the round the world traveller, and, taking only my back pack, I hired a car a nearly clapped out red Toyota with 86,500 km already on the clock and set off south.

Off season I had the wild coastline pretty much to myself, and I frequently found myself the only car in a park designed for hundreds, and that places that had been recommended to me as good places to eat were closed.  And for the first time I did actually agree with all the people who told me it was cold.  In the evenings I noted an absence of heating in the room, which forced me to retire to bed to keep warm and to watch my first ever episode of The X- Files eating a take-away pizza.  I also specifically recorded that I’d been out after dark for the first time since I’d left the UK in order to pick up the aforementioned pizza.  But I remember feeling residual anxiety about the dark, after all the dire warnings of the dangers it held in South Africa.

At the end of my entry for the night in Dunsborough : Tomorrow I’ll have to do more concentrated touristing.

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  1. “concentrated touristing”? Is that similar to being determined to relax?! 🙂

    • Oh no – it’s much harder work than that! I treated it all as a project. Get to a place, read the books, visit the information office, plan a route, execute the plan and then reflect on it and write about it!

  2. Had to laugh quietly about the luggage/washing/storage conundrum – it’s the bane of the long distance traveller, that’s for sure. I remember being distraught when I had to leave my pillow behind, because it wouldn’t fit (though it did fit on the trial pack!).

    The only time I managed it with any aplomb was in my 20s when I gave up all pretence to fashion, socially acceptable modes of dress, etc., jettisoning everything but a few different tops, a spare pair of jeans, an all-weather jacket, a sweater, underwear and one book. But that was in the days before electronic gadgets and the requisite multi-plugs, chargers and add ons that seem to take up a shoe box of space now. Heaven knows how they pack for a round the world trip today!

    Glad you got your chocolate into the country!

    • The clothing I had with me was somewhat eccentric. The majority of my clothes were packed and sent from Moscow to the UK with all my household stuff. I had put aside (in a mad rush with very little thought) the clothes I would need for the three weeks or so before everything should arrive in Scotland. Turned out that it didn’t arrive until a month after I’d left on my trip. I refused to buy anything new, apart from some walking boots, so I had an odd collection of random stuff with which I made do – I don’t think it did me too much harm although, from evidence in the journal, on some occasions I became quite preoccupied with having laundry done!

      • What a packing catastrophe!

        I remember feeling a bit like a scruff sometimes, and obsessing about weather for drying both pairs of jeans in a day, if I was holed up in one place for a while. Laundromats were almost unknown, back then, but thankfully, public baths were still flourishing in most towns and cities throughout Europe – though not always, in England – which made living out of our vehicles an economical and companionable way to travel!

      • You sound more intrepid than me – my minimum requirement was a room on my own, and mostly a bathroom too, altho I didn’t always manage that. The idea of relying on public baths would have been a step too far for me!

      • Intrepid, or ignorant, or downright imperative I spent as little as possible on accommodation!

        Sterling (which the bank manager had insisted was safer than the Swiss Frank – stupid me for believing him) had collapsed while I was sailing toward the Canary Islands and what had been a comfortable wad of pounds to fund a year’s travelling overnight became close on 30% less. The lessons we learn!

      • Ouch.

        I had US dollars in my pocket for my trip – mainly I think because that was what I had lived by in my time in Moscow, so it seemed the obvious choice.

      • A good deal had changed in the intervening 25 years, Rowena – sparked to a large extent by the Oil Crisis of ’73. A good thing I wasn’t on the high seas that winter, when the miners’ strikes and oil embargo crippled England – I hate to think what my stash would have been worth then!

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