Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finally, the time had come to return to Perth, work, and put my trip back on track. It was sad to leave Melbourne again. I love that city, I really do. But I have to go through once more to see Tasmania, so I suppose it’s really not that sad at all. So I arrived in Perth mid-afternoon, grabbed the shuttle, and checked into the YHA. It’s not a bad place and on the CBD side of the tracks, but it’s expensive and overpriced; it’s $32/night for a room. I wanted to go back to Emperor’s Crown, but it was booked until Sunday, so it was time for ingenuity. I would spend the night in Perth, go to Rottnest Island and spend the day and night there tomorrow, and come back to Perth on Friday. Yes, I hear you. Brilliant. Thank you! I ran errands and did a bit of job hunting before everything started to close and got myself an interview with a nice restaurant on Saturday (given that I arrived at 2:30, I thought this was pretty slick),. Then I caught up with Tanja, who I met last time I was here, and we booked a trip to Rottnest Island, or at least we tried to. The whole island goes incommunicado at 5PM. But we decided to take our chances anyway and go down to the ferry wharf in the morning.

So the next morning at 8AM, we were on the wharf and had tickets for Rottnest Island, but unfortunately, no accommodation. It’s getting to be that time of year. So we made a day trip of it, which I think was a great idea anyway. The ferry ride from Perth along the Swan river to Fremantle on the Indian Ocean was beautiful, we had some muffins and snacks and it was a perfect day for a boat ride. The trip across the channel to Rottnest was similarly pleasant. We got there, had ourselves a sandwich, grabbed a couple of bikes, and rode most of the way around the island. The sea breeze picked up a little early, so it was a bit of a struggle on the way to the point, but coming back was with the wind and beautifully casual. In fact, the whole ride was just beautiful. I thought about looking at some work on the island just so I could do that ride every day. It reminded me a bit of having a moped in Ibiza, riding up and down hills, coming to beautiful clearings between the tropical trees with pristine beaches, palms blowing in the wind, and crystal clear water you can see right through from miles away. Plus, the wildflowers were blooming, the weather was perfect, and, as I already implied, it was a sensational day.

The ferry back to Fremantle was pretty quick. We had more luck finding accommodation there for the evening and then wandered around town for the evening. I wanted to have seafood since, you know, we were on the coast and they had some great seafood places there, but she had her stomach set on steak. I’d also been told that dinner and drinks at the Little Creatures Brewery was a must, and they had steak, but that was “too touristy”. So we went on a wild goose chase for steak and wound up, at all places, at a Mexican restaurant. Ah, sweet compromise. The food was as great as you’d expect for a country so close to Mexico. Then we watched a sunset that was much better. It turned out that on Friday they have the Fremantle markets open, so we plodded around there for a while, grabbed some coffee on Cappucino strip (by which I mean that I had a hot chocolate) and then back to Perth again. This time, I was at the Britannia hostel, which is a pretty decent hostel and cheap, but with no lockers.

I got in touch with Daz and we arranged to meet up to grab a bite and some drinks in the city, but when he swung by, his girlfriend Janine was in the car and they had food and beverages for me already. Talk about class! We went back to a vacant apartment that he rents out and the three of us had some drinks, probably about 5 beer and a glass of wine. Then we walked over to the Grosvenor Pub, played some pool, had two more, grabbed some pies from a bakery, and called it a night. Aside from Mexico, which was some sort of Montezuma-combo thing, I’ve never been so sick from drinking so little. Oh, and I did have a lot in Mexico. Here, over the time we had drinks, it was almost nothing. I’m fairly sure that my drink was spiked or else there was something wrong with perhaps the wine we drank, but I still didn’t feel great even by the time I went to bed the following night. I was getting sick every 15 mins or less if I tried to drink water and couldn’t keep anything down ‘til almost 3:00. My interview was at 4 and I went in and did fine; I didn’t meet the owner but instead the manager, Adam, and he told me to come in on Monday and we’d see how things went. So I couldn’t have been too bad.

Daren was kind enough to wait for me and listen to the cricket while I was in the interview, and then he drove me back to my hostel where I pretty much would’ve been happy to lay around the rest of the evening. But I’d gotten tickets for Crowded House as well as a local band through another friend, Avram (I know him through FB.Net), and I wasn’t about to ditch on that. So he picked me up a few hours later and we checked out Crowded House – sadly, we were too late to hear Augie March. Still, Crowded House was actually a pretty impressive show, they have quite a few good songs that obviously never make the radio and I was more impressed by them than expected. Avram’s friends, however, not such a great show, not to mention I found myself back at the seedy Hyde Park hotel. It was still a fun night out though I felt terrible even crawling into bed that night.

Thankfully I awoke the next morning feeling back to normal. I went to lunch with Marion, one of the French girls staying in my room, before grabbing some groceries. And so began my mundane working life. I woke up at 6 to get to work on the construction site by 7AM, and worked through to 3:30, which is a pretty nice time to be finished work all said. And luckily there wasn’t much in hard labour to be done, some asbestos cleanup and traffic control really, and that was about all. I went home, showered and changed, grabbed a quick snack, and caught the bus for my first day at Matilda Bay. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour and I basically worked as a runner for a few hours before going home at 8:30. The next day was another double shift of construction and then it was the gala opening for the restaurant that evening. There were porsches and expensive cars everywhere, people mingling and dining on canap├ęs and champagne, live music, and it happened to be Warwick’s birthday. Wednesday and Thursday were construction days and it was already nice to have the evenings off. Friday was my last day at the construction site as I would be starting my role fully next week as day supervisor for the restaurant. And somewhere in this weekend off, I found time to start watching the very good Arrested Development episodes Alex gave me in Melbourne. Another great television show I never bothered with before.

I’d also moved out of my room with the French girls into some other room as my previous dorm was being converted into a girls-only room. Which I think is a bunch of baloney. That’s right. The worst of the meats. First of all, the hostel is ALWAYS full, why limit some rooms. Secondly, why should I be kicked out so some girl nobody would want anything to do with anyway (trust me, I saw her) can have her room with girls only. Thirdly, the French girls usually wound up having guys in there anyway. It just seems like a double standard in the end, but whatever. My new room had no desk, cupboards, or much of anything. It was quite a downgrade. But I still did get invited by the Kristen, one of the French girls, to a BBQ with some other French friends. It was a good time and nice food for a change, in fact it was a pretty sweet place for what they were paying, swimming pool, sauna, gym, etc. Then back to work for the week.

Work itself has been interesting. There are a few things I have to learn about this restaurant, there are a few challenges to coming in as the new guy and trying to manage people that have been there longer and have a better idea of how things usually work at Matilda Bay than I do, and I suppose these are what keep it interesting. Most of the people are pretty good to work with, a few are quite cool and I hope that some of them will be friends by the time I leave. I went out to the Moon and Sixpence with everyone and determined that Megan and I weren’t going to get along pretty quickly, and that Cam, the bar manager, and I probably would. The jury was out on some of the others. A week later, on Dec 1, I had my first management shift, which went pretty well thanks to people like Chacko giving me a hand. I also met some friends of Warwick’s, though I didn’t know it at the time, who were quite nice and make wines down in Margaret River. They insisted – really insisted – that I try some of the $150 wine that they make and were drinking, and I have to say that it was probably one of the best shirazes I’ve had – Rockford Valley Basket Press 2004, if anyone is interested. Yum!

We went out that night, Cam, Daren, and myself, and met up unknowingly with Nora and Hannah from the restaurant as well. Where did we go? To a place called SOCO Cargo, a cargo container club that ships around the world from port to port and generally has a week of good indie music and fun before shipping off yet again. It was great and they had a really cool band playing as we arrived (Institut Polare), though we got there a little late to hear much of them. We lost Cam and the others went home, so Daz and I looked around Northbridge for something else to do but to no avail. So, given that getting a cab in Perth is something like getting a gold nugget in the Saskatchewan River, he crashed on the hostel floor (lucky I had my camping mattress handy for him) and we were gone for breakfast before anyone else in the room knew he’d been there. I had the whole day off and it was a beautiful one, so I borrowed Luca’s bike (he lives in the hostel too and is from Italy) and rode my bike all the way to Fremantle. There, I finally got my fresh fish and took the train back to the city. The next day, I figured I’d go get some clothes in Claremont, but there’s not much there, so I wound up grabbing one Ben Sherman shirt and giving up.

And other than work, there hasn’t been much else to report. I moved in to Daren’s spare room one morning before work, which has saved me some money and given me the occasional chance to catch up with him though our schedules are pretty divergent. It was really good of him to put me up and I’m glad we caught up while I was here. I went for dinner and out to the Aberdeen one night with Tanja, where we met with Stuart and found ourselves in a pool tournament. I somehow got to semi-finals then lost to a Mauri shark. I saw, on several occasions, dolphins playing with the kids in the water just out the window from our restaurant. I saw Santa pull up in an aluminum boat and jump off, running up the shore and out of sight. I’ve waited an hour for a bus in South Perth and jumped in a cab just to get to work on time. And one thing I haven’t done is made it down south to Margaret River, though Warwick said I can stay at his vineyard down there when I do go, and I haven’t been down to what is supposed to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world down in Esperance. But I’ll get there, eventually. For the moment, I’m booked to be working over Christmas, flying out to Sydney on the 28th, spending New Years there, and then flying down to Tasmania, the last state for me to visit, for a couple weeks on Jan 6. Then back to Perth for another month’s worth of work before hitting traveling to Asia! I can’t believe how much I’ve gone from no interest to really excited about seeing Asia. Anyway, happy holidays, and see you in the new year!

Rottnest Island Photos
Perth Photos

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