Friday, September 16, 2005

Where Quokkas Rule

Not a rat - a Quokka

In 1696 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh avoided wrecking his ship like so many of his compatriots, and discovered an island off what became Fremantle. His men were amazed to find it covered in giant rats - much bigger than the ship rats they were used to. They camped for a couple of days, and then sailed away North leaving the furry mammals in peace. They named their discovery Rottnest Island - Rat's Nest. They were wrong, of course - the animals weren't rats, they weren't even mammals. The Dutch explorers became one of the first groups of Westerners to see marsupials, and the first ever to see Quokkas.

Once common over all of WA, Quokkas are now extremely rare - but thrive on Rottnest Island thanks to the isolation. A 20-minute boat trip from Fremantle, Rottnest is a small fish-shaped island perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean. I spent most of the day there, wandering around the beaches and paddling in the stunningly clear water. The island is famed for the white sandy beaches, and the wind keeps the temperature down when it gets too hot. Holiday homes dot the bays, and people have been coming here for many years. The island has a controversial past too - aboriginies charged with breaking settler's laws (concepts which most of them didn't understand of course) were sent to Rottnest to be interred.

So that's the Perth part of my trip over - for now at least. I'll be back here in a few days. Tomorrow I've got a 7am start on a bus trip up North into the Pinnacles Desert and the Kalbarri National Park. I'm not sure what internet access will be like up the WA coast - but if I can find a terminal I'll let you all know how I get on...