xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Rottnest Island revisited.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Rottnest Island revisited.


Rottnest is a holiday island thirty kilometres west of the Fremantle. Lesley and I have been revisiting Rottnest Island for over forty years.

In late January this year, Lesley and I again enjoyed a wonderful week’s holiday on Rottnest. Before we had even met each other we had enjoyed holidays on Rottnest, but our first visit to the island as a family was in November, 1974, when we enjoyed a two-week holiday with daughters, Jane (5yrs) and Sarah (almost 3 years). 

Breakfast in bed.  Sarah, Noel, Jane and Lesley. November 1974.




Waiting for the ferry. January 1977
At our "secret"cove near Catherine Beach. January 1976.


We are going home today. January 1976.
Armstrong Point January 1976

We did not go in January 1975 as our new born daughter, Emily, was only four months old. However, we went back in January 1976 and almost every summer since then we have been to Rottnest. Our daughters learned to ride their bikes there and loved Rottnest as much as we did. When they grew up Jane and Sarah both had jobs working in the restaurant and café on Rottnest.

When our daughters left home we started going to Rottnest with friends, where we partied hard and extensively. We had many memorable moments. If only we could remember them!
Geordie Bay.
Geordie Bay.

In the 2000s we started going to Rottnest with our daughters and their families. This January we went with Sarah and Denis and grandchildren, Sophie and Luc. Emily and Jack, Sari and Kai joined us a day or two later. Carl came over on his boat for the last three days, stopping on the way to catch a feed of delicious whiting. 

This year’s Rottnest holiday was a bit different. Also enjoying the comfortable holiday villas at Geordie Bay were eight couples whom Sarah and Emily had become friendly with as parents at the schools that all of their children attend. So our holiday group comprised of about twenty adults and fifteen children, ranging in age from two to 14 years. It was a lot of fun for everyone.  

At the end of each school year the senior graduating students all head off to various holiday places, including Rottnest Island, for a week of unbridled celebration of the end of their schooling. It is called Leavers Week and generally involves a fair bit of alcohol and very enthusiastic and often random intermingling of the sexes.
Jamie with the catch of the day. January 2016.
The old man and the cray. January 2016

Well our holiday was a bit like Leavers Week…without the random intermingling, of course. Three of the dads had boats, so each morning they went off to pull in their cray pots, usually bringing home large and delicious crayfish. Western Australian crayfish are like lobster but without the claws. They are sold on the international markets as Western Rock Lobster, but we West Aussies still call them crays, or crayfish. The sad part is that our crayfish are so popular in the US and China that we hardly get any to eat for ourselves. The Yanks and the Chinese pay top dollars for our crayfish so the fishermen do not have too many to sell to us locals. As a result the price goes up and up. At Christmas they were selling Western Rock Lobster at our local shopping centre for $99/kilogram. Needless to say we satisfied ourselves with prawns, scallops and big blue manna crabs.
Luc gives Captain Denis directions about how to get to Eagle Bay.
Denis with the kids. About to go snorkelling with seals at Eagle Bay. January 2016

Each morning on Rottnest, Lesley and I would go for a swim and a long walk and then come back for another swim with the rest of the folks and then lunch. In the meantime, the dads with boats would go out early in the morning to pull up their cray pots. After bringing in the crays the dads then ferried the children and their mums and dads to various bays and reefs. Everyone would swim, snorkel or frolic with a colony of seals at Eagle Bay, right near the west end of the island, or enjoy swimming or sunbathing in the beautiful waters of Porpoise Bay and Little Porpoise Bay just around the western point of Geordie Bay.
At Porpoise Bay. Some happy campers and their champers.
Of course there were occasional visits to the Rottnest Hotel, once the summer home of the Governors of Western Australia but now affectionately known as The Quokka Arms.
The Quokka Arms. Always a popular spot.
In the late afternoons, the dads would go down and play beach cricket with the children. Naturally they took an adequate supply of liquid refreshments with them. About half an hour later the mothers would roll up with their drinks of choice, champers or chardonnay.
Fielding practice for beach cricket. Everyone wants to field at DEEP mid on.


This conviviality continued through the pleasantly warm afternoons until the sun sank below bright pink, orange and purple clouds on the western horizon. It is very unusual for us coast dwelling West Australians, when we are at the beach, to see the sun setting behind land. It always sinks into the Indian Ocean, usually in a splendid blaze of glory. But Geordie Bay faces north and so the sun sets behind the low hills that make up the west end of Rottnest Island.

It was during one of these genial gathering, as we watched the twilight painting up the sky, that I remarked to Sarah that our group of about twenty adult beach drinkers looked a little bit like a Leavers Party. Of course we were much more well behaved and a lot quieter than twenty leavers would be at 6-30pm in the evening.
Fun in the afternoon. January 2016
Then it was time to go to our respective villas for tea, after which Lesley and I were content to stay home watching the Australian Tennis Open or Australia playing India in the cricket or some TV drama while the mums and dads partied into the night. There was too many of them to all comfortably fit into one villa so the fun of the evenings was usually enjoyed in two or more villas.  Their children played on the beach, or safely on the roads (there are no cars on Rottnest), rode their bikes, went to the Island’s picture theatre or just stayed around in groups talking.

Occasionally some of our grandchildren and their friends would drop by to see how we “oldies” were going. Although, I really think some of the grandies friends often came to see us in the hope that Lesley would provide them all with some lollies, which she always managed to do.

Less occasionally, Sarah or Emily or Denis and Carl would drop by the let us know where they had been, with what particular group of social activists and where they were going next.

Two of the ladies in the group are sisters and their parents, from Luton, England, have been holidaying with them in Perth since about August last year. This couple, Jimmy (born in Glasgow), and Norah (born in Country Clare, Ireland) were visiting Rottnest for the first time and were absolutely entranced by the place. There is a tour bus that goes around the island visiting various beautiful bays and landmarks. They both went around twice on the one ticket!

On one occasion during an afternoon gathering on the beach, Norah said to me, “Rottnest is such a wonderful place, especially for the children. And even though the island is packed with people you always find beautiful bays with hardly anybody there. It is a paradise. We are 45 minutes from Perth and a million miles away.”

She is right of, course. It is a wonderful place…and not just for children!
Jimmy and Norah O'Brien. Forty five minutes from Perth and a million miles way.
Yes, indeed. Rottnest is a place where you just lose yourself in the beauty and peacefulness of it all. It is my intention to write a travel article about Rottnest. I was going to use my time on the island to do some research. The trouble is that you soon get so lost enjoying the Rottnest Holiday experience that you do not do a lot of the things that you planned to do gathering material for a travel story.

As the great Robert Burns once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men are gang tae go awry”
Robbie Burns described my feeble research efforts to a tee. However, I do have some pictures of Rottnest and my memory is still operating in a reasonable manner so, perhaps next week, I’ll try to get some words down about that sun drenched isle of beauty that is just 45 minutes from Perth and a million miles away.
Endless summer fun for the youngsters.

And as the sun sets brilliantly in the west we reluctantly say farewell to our beautiful holiday at Geordie Bay on Rottnest.

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