Pedalling about down under: a few days on Rottnest Island
When the invite arrived for my friend’s wedding in Perth this Easter it didn’t take long for us to accept. Since we got back from South America, we’ve been working lots and dreaming about what adventures life holds next. So, an opportunity for an extended break, some sun and discovering Western Australia was too good to miss, and of course there was a wedding to celebrate too.
First though, there was a small issue of Pier’s hen party, which was to take place on Rottnest, a small island about 18km off the coast of Perth. Dutch sailors landed there in 1658 and thinking the furry quokkas, that we would get to ‘befriend’, were rats, they named the place Rottnest, ‘Rat nest’.
It is now a popular tourist destination and Paddy and I joined day-trippers on one of the ferries that shuttles people back and forth. At AU$40 plus an AU$21 government fee, it must be one of the most expensive ferry rides in the world, but at least it was quick and the seas calm.
Bikes can be taken on board, for about AU$20 return, but we had decided to hire them on the island. We planned to spend Friday exploring the island for Paddy’s birthday, before the girls arrived for the party the next day at which point Paddy would escape. It cost about $30 per bike for 24 hour hire from the local shop. The bikes clanked a bit and half of the gears didn’t work, but they were fine for what we needed considering the undulating terrain on tarmac roads.
Helmets on, as is compulsory in the whole of Australia, the fun started. Cycling is easy on Rottnest and is the most popular way to get around the 18km long island, as few vehicles are allowed. We followed the main road clockwise, stopping to admire the turquoise sea as is lapped into hidden coves and ship wrecks that poked out of the surf. For lunch, we pulled up at an empty picnic hut and enjoyed a feast whilst having the white, sandy beach all to ourselves. Paddy took the opportunity to do some snorkelling whilst I topped up my tan which had all but disappeared over the English winter.
The cycling was lovely, if a little hilly up and down across the island’s sand dunes, and, it was a bit of a shock when we turned to head back and hit a blustery headwind that had us pushing hard on the pedals in our flip flops. We’d heard about the Australian wind from other cyclists, and our experience did nothing to convince us that we might like to spend a long time riding into it. A few days later, on a road trip where by car it took two hours at a time to get between settlements, we agreed that we won’t be packing up our bikes and heading for a ride through mainland Oz anytime soon; we just aren’t that sadistic.
The bikes were a great way to explore and a lot of fun and after said goodbye to Paddy the next morning I joined the girls who had decided to up the amusement levels by hiring a tandem. We put Cathy, a PT teacher, in charge at the front and she managed to keep us upright. I’ve always wanted to try out a tandem, but at the back I found it quite disconcerting leaving the steering and braking to somebody else, and can now appreciate why Paddy won’t get on one with me in control.
We spent the day wobbling up and down the sand dunes, snorkelling, sunbathing, spotting spiders and trying to avoid riding into their huge webs that hung between trees. There were gin and tonics to drink on the beach, whilst keeping a watchful eye for snakes rustling in the undergrowth and we visited picturesque lighthouses that kept ships safely away from the shallow waters that makes Rottnest a top snorkelling destination. As we turned around to head back for the hen party games that evening, the wind was still blowing, but we were spurred on by thoughts of a cold glass of wine watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
I won’t go into events later than evening, and everything that happened once we’d persuaded the hen to swap her cycle gear for a kangaroo onesie.
All-in-all, we had a fantastic weekend on Rottnest, a beautiful place for cycling. Just bring your own bike if you like having gears and a good picnic, because it isn’t the cheapest place on earth for sure.