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Caught up in the pass-through

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 29 April 2012 | Views [1411]

Fur seals taking relaxation to the next level

Fur seals taking relaxation to the next level

Broome has never looked so appealing. When viewed from 3,000kms away, it seems very much like the quintessential oasis in the desert. The constant sunshine, palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, time slowing down like it's as stoned as most of the towns inhabitants, turquoise oceans filled with all manner of friendly vermin just itching to get closer to you. So, that last example falls way short of appealing, but it isn't the blood hungry mozzies, sandflies, crocs, sharks, real estate agents, dope dealers or Woodside that has stopped me from returning there yet. It is the awesomeness of Fremantle.

A 10 day stop over was planned, foolishly thinking that would be long enough to exhaust all possibilities for fun that Trev seems to come up with on a daily basis. Like Hobart, Trev had a house and a job waiting to tempt me into a longer stop over. Wanting to extend my three months off work long enough to write at least three autobiographies, I didn't jump at the opportunity the universe was handing me on a silver platter. Working in a boutique beer shop looked like the step my developing palate wanted to take, but a warmer climate is my foundation for feeling happy. I eventually agreed to a four week stint, if only so I didn't return to Broome broke enough to consider begging.

Kate, of Broome Symphony Orchestra fame for her enviable trumpet rolling skills, was holidaying on Rottnest Island at the time and insisted I started sponging off her parents like adopting strays was their favourite past-time. It made a pleasant change that would have my own parents subconsciously sighing in relief on the other side of the country without actually knowing why. Believing my stay was still limited to a month, I thought it best to squeeze as much touristy fun out of my time as possible.

Returning to the mainland, a conversation unfolded between Trev and myself about the virtues of living and working on the Island. The next day, the universe had posted a job opportunity on gumtree and it no longer became possible to deny that I was where I was supposed to be. That the job turned out to be the biggest lemon this side of the Hindenburg proves the universe has a strange sense of humour.

As the Beer shop retained an air of normality, things out on the island went from mildly baffling to flagrantly ludicrous. Whereas the former was run and staffed by the nicest group of people you would want to meet, the latter was run by a bi-polar crack addict with a penchant for developing a new and more annoying personality every day. She also ran the pharmacy next door and I reckon she was scoffing down more drugs than she was selling.

Craft beer is a hot ticket and constant upgrades are efficiently implemented to keep pace with buyer demands. The only buyer demands I heard on the island related to refunds and disbelief that the place could be so vastly different to the way it was advertised on the ferry over. The complete absence of profit meant they should have operated as a charity, and claiming as much might have afforded them some tax relief at least.

One job paid modestly for stacking slabs of beer and telling people how trolleyed certain beers have gotten me. The other paid so handsomely for making coffee that part must have been compensation for having to witness the most ineffectively run business in the history of commerce. The place was essentially a case study in how not to run an successful business. That I was paid so well and could only bear it for a month gives some indication of how much it compromised my faith in humanity.

Aside from the nut house, the extra time on the island gave me more opportunity to explore a place I would not have been able to otherwise. I wasn't able to take my bike over initially because I had managed to partly unwind a section of cable during a 'routine' brake service. Two hours after the 10 minutes I had put aside for the task, I decided that no cost is too large for a repair when it means that no one will be shot. $25 the bike repair man charged me, forever freeing me from thinking that relying on professional help is too financially prohibitive, especially so when it is also saving my sanity.

Once my bike had made it across, minus my purple seat cover which gained its autonomy somewhere across the channel, the whole island opened up to me. 11kms wide and devoid of all cars, the ride couldn't be easier unless the bike had a motor. A paved pathway encircles the island linking each bay with a more deserted version the further you ride away from the pier. By the time you reach Westend, the only company is fur seals whose days are spent in virtual catatonia. As the above photo shows, when they are not laying around doing bugger all on land, they lay around doing bugger all in the water.

Like Broome, there isn't a great deal to do other than enjoy the peace that comes from unspoilt natural areas. There are plenty of little sheltered coves if pretending you are a castaway is how you like to spend your free time. It isn't a mecca for flora or fauna with little diversity and too much competition from early settlers and subversive indigenous people who were considered subversive only because they were indigenous.

The only animal in abundance there are Quokkas. Strange little rodents that seem to share more in common with ewoks than any animal I have seen. Being a protected species, they are free to meander round at their own ridiculously slow pace, eating whatever human food scraps they can and often just falling asleep where they stand. Being so docile, they could have shared the fate of dodos were mentioning Quokka soccer not on a par with shouting “bomb” on a plane.

Since telling the lady that her job is better suited to people familiar with straight-jackets, I have reverted back to my usual workload of the barest minimum to survive. I work four days a week at the liquor store, sufficient to survive as a spend-thrift with a taste for expensive beer and an online shopping addiction. The other three days should be used drawing, painting or writing, but I am having too much fun for such serious pursuits.

There is plenty of bike paths winding their way through Perth and the opportunity to explore them further is a big selling point when compared to Broomes one route only option. Even my strenuous relax-load doesn't permit me as much time on the bike as I would like. I still ride Miranda often enough to remind her of our love, but not enough to satisfy either of us. There are enough hills around to give me the shivers of recollection but the biggest factor could be rain; an environmental oddity for the next 8 months in Broome.

A holiday back to Broome has been planned for the end of May. Initially a birthday present to myself, I must have forgotten what date that was as I return to Fremantle six days before I turn 37. Other than catching up with wonderful friends and living life safe in the knowledge it won't rain at all, my time will be used to decide on a home for the rest of the year. Will the laid back pace and Utopian climate tempt me back to Broome or will I grow some man nuggets and face up to my first real winter in ten years for the sake of enjoying the more entertainment, more people, more opportunity, less remote aspects of Fremantle? Or will I go left field and choose somewhere random like the East Coast, Thailand, or the International Space Station?

That is one of the main benefits to having no ties, your plans are only limited by your imagination! And your ability to back up any wild scheme financially, an inhibiting factor that has stopped me from even buying postage stamps with rockets on it, let alone visiting the ISS. As a wanderer I love the idea of not knowing where I could be in a months time. While I feel that Freo or Broomo are most likely, all it takes is a random strike of abject craziness and even things like fruit picking in Bowen will sound like a good idea. I think that is one lesson I have learnt, but hold on and let's see where the next journal is written from.

Tags: animals, friends, work

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