The Perth Writers Festival wrapped on Sunday and I didn’t fly out till 9am on Tuesday, meaning I had all of Monday to explore. So I picked up a rental car from Thrifty bright and early and headed for Fremantle.
It was my first time driving in Australia in five years and I was quickly reminded how infuriating an experience it is. I had no map (not only did Thrifty not supply one, they did not stock any for sale), but I figured it couldn’t be too hard to get to Fremantle – just head to the coast for 25kms – then buy a map there. But Australia must have a road sign rationing programme (most of my WA disappointments come when it behaves/looks/feels just like the rest of Australia): I only saw one sign indicating the direction to Fremantle the whole journey, meaning most of the time I was in that uneasy ‘I feel like I’m still heading west’ mode. And when there is a sign to mark a turnoff, it is often on the far corner of the intersection, meaning you can often the sign as you drive past the turnoff.
And don’t get me started on the rigmarole of turning right (made worse because NZ follows suit at the end of the month - grrr).
At least I didn’t have to do any hook turns.
Later on, when I was well north of the city, I was also reminded of the great difference between New Zealand and Australian roads. In New Zealand, the landscape is inescapable. In Australia, it is so often hidden – either deliberately, behind those 3m high slabs that preserve the serenity of the houses over the fence, or the place is just so flat that you can only see the same row of scrubby eucalypts as you drive for miles.
Man, I really seem down on Australia today. Must be all that mid-twenties-spent-in-Queensland misery welling up.
|Samuel Plimsoll figurehead|
The WA Maritime Museum was a waste of time (and $10). Hardly anything about the age of sail. All flash and no substance.
I dropped the rental car off at the domestic terminal just after 7am and proceeded to fly home to Wellington via Sydney.
I’d parked it in a Thrifty parking spot at the airport (my agreed drop-off destination) and handed the keys to a dude in a Thrifty-emblazoned safety vest. ‘That’s fine,’ he’d told me, ‘there’s no need to go into the office. I’ll sort it out.’
When I finally got hold of Thrifty in Perth the next day, they said that their system had expected the car to be returned back to Perth CBD, despite the fact I’d laboured this point I’d be returning it to the domestic airport with the person who’d served me (she knew what time my flight was and everything). So in the end the car was found, the charge for the extra day was reversed (though I lost a little money on the exchange rate, as well as the exchange margin my bank charged and the numerous international calls I had to make on my phone to sort it out). Not good enough Thrifty. Not good enough.
Man, I’ve been a total Grinch in this post.
Let me reiterate what I said in previous Perth posts: I had a great time at the writers festival. It would be hard to top my time in Sydney Writers Festival (8 sessions around greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains, all the outreach activities, the awesome writers I met, the free breakfasts and wifi at the hotel, the great weather, and the general buzz around the festival precinct), but Perth would probably come second if I ever made a list (which I won’t).