Sunday, January 23, 2005

Thursday December 23 1971. 

'I know!' said Uncle brightly, as if he'd had a good idea. 'Let's take the ferry to Rottnest Island!'

Aunt said that she'd already thought of it and lit a cigarette delicately.

No disagreement from cousin and me. We'd spent the days in and out of the water, eating and drinking, checking out the girls (Perth girls were browner and blonder, but then again, maybe all girls are like that away from home). A ferry trip sounded fine. And we wanted to see the Quokkas.

We drove down to Fremantle Wharf and bought our ferry tickets at the little white-painted timber office which was rotting in the sea air. Then we boarded the ferry, a green and white 1950s craft that appeared to slope forward, unlike today's more upright ferry designs.

In keeping with the 1950s, it blew its horn on departure, a long throaty honk of several different notes, mournful and exciting at the same time. Then it chugged away busily from the dock and pointed its sharp nose out to sea.

Rottnest Island was mapped by the Dutch. They were looking for a faster way around the Cape to Batavia and happened upon Australia. Later, the island was named by another Dutch who mistook the Quokkas for rats ('rottnest' means rats' nest) and who was searching for yet another Dutchman whose ship had been lost. Man, the Dutch sure were busy in the seventeenth century. (They, the Portuguese and the French all variously could have claimed Australia but don't appear to have wanted it. They each named dozens of places and geographical features around the coast but didn't stay. The English grabbed it in the end, they were running out of room for their convicts.)

Rottnest Island was baking in blazing sunshine when we stepped off the ferry at about eleven o'clock. I couldn't see any Quokkas but there were hundreds of bicycles everywhere. There are no cars on Rottnest.

Uncle and Aunt took a leisurely lunch at one of the pubs. Danny and I ate something quickly and went off exploring around the island. It was a stinking hot day and we found a little cove away off to the north side of the island.

We hired fishing rods and fished. I hated fishing then and I hate it now. I fished nothing. Danny fished some seaweed. Why would you fish when you could be talking to girls, shy and blushing in their bikinis?

The weather turned. The trip back was a mess. The wind got up from the south-west and blew the boat home. Beautiful. I stood in the bow and hung on for dear life, grinning. I turned and watched passengers hurling over the sides. Or not over the sides. I looked out and saw Perth. It rocked to the left and it rocked to the right. The waves tossed the ferry around some more and then we were home.

Aunt lit a nervous cigarette on the dock and then we drove back to the Sorrento Caravan Park.

I have dreamed of that boat trip ever since. Thirty-four years.

I'm still there.


On the radio in the caravan:

you may say I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
i hope someday you'll join us
and the world will be as one

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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