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Australia & New Zealand Cruise 2019
Part 1 - Perth

Introduction and Overview

This is a holiday broken into several parts. We began our holiday to Australia by flying direct to Perth with Qantas on a Boeing 'Dreamliner' which was well equiped, spacious and with plenty of leg room in a 3x3 configuration. It was a long 17 hour flight but smooth, the seat belt lights never had to come on, and we are generally impressed with Qantas which compares well with any of the long haul airlines we have used so far with good service and basic food as well as many 'snacks' although not such a good selection of wine as Air New Zealand used to have.

We stayed with Di, an old friend going back to college days who emigrated to Australia 35 years ago. She lives in a suburb of Perth close to the Canning River and entertained us in style, showing us round and giving us insights into Australia and the way of life which we would otherwise have missed. We have had in Oz speak 'a ball'.

After 10 days we flew to Melbourne with Di and her friend Loretta where the second part of the Holiday started, a cruise on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth over Christmas and the New Year. The cruise went to New Zealand, arriving on Boxing Day in Fiordland and the final port was Auckland where we saw the New Year in with their magnificent firework display. The cruise ended back in Melbourne where Di and Loretta left to fly back to Perth.

The original plan had been for us to disembark in Auckland and continue our holiday in New Zealand. That proved impossible so once we were committed to return to Melbourne we stayed on board for the next cruise which went to Adelaide then round Tasmania to Hobart and back to Melbourne adding a third section, and an extra 7 days, to the holiday.

We then flew from Melbourne back to Auckland and that final section will be writen up in the UniquelyNZ.com section of our Web Site.

Perth - 'Capital' of Western Australia

Record Breaking Heatwave: We arrived in the middle of a record breaking heatwave which did restrict outdoor activities a little. The temperatures were reaching 40 deg centigrade day after day and we were seeing up to 44 degrees on occasion so air-conditioned 'activities' had an attraction and walks tended to to be early or late in the day. Fortunately she had an air-conditioner in the living area and ceiling fans in the bedrooms but even sleeping in temperatures of 35 degs is not easy.

Bush Fires are not unusual in Australia and much of the bush and trees such as Eucalypts are highly inflamable. This year has been worse and earlier than usual and have even had considerable BBC coverage in the UK. Perth and West Australia have not been the worst affected areas but there were evenings when one could smell the smoke in the air and see the smoke haze on the horizon. Most of the big fires were to the North with areas evacuated when we arrived but they have been in all quadrants on various scales and warnings have always been in place for some areas around Perth. It is unusual for us but they are now a fact of life and locals are used to living with it. The exceptional temperatures make it worse although high winds are the biggest problem, fortunately the winds have not been as extreme as the temperatures. It is yet another indications of man made problems, both the steady increase in global temperatures and also our management of the land. Frequent small fires were always part of the ecosystem but now we restrict them and build over vaste areas the fires we get seem much more intense and dangerous.

Local Walks: The first day we were fairly shattered after the 17 hr flight so activities were restricted to a short walk alongside the Canning River to get our bearings and blow the cobwebs away. The Canning River has always teamed with bird life and we have seen Pelicans, Egrets and Ibis along the bank. We had our first warnings about the more dangerous side as we were advised not to walk into the reeds, or even too close, as there are often snakes close to water. The trees were alive with various parrots including the strangely named 28 and there were many bushes and plants we had only seen in zoological gardens or on our previous visit to Australia in 2004, such as a wide range of Eucalypti and bottle brushes which were a mass of red flowers looking exactly like their name. We ate in and drank a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate our arrival in Australia.

Background on the Canning River

The Canning River (or 'Dyarlgaard’) is in Nyungar country with the Beeliar people being one of the traditional owners. It provided Aboriginal people with a plentiful source of food, including fish, eggs, snakes, lizards, freshwater mussels, crustaceans, turtles and birds, especially during the summer months when food was harder to find. Europeans settled around the river from the 1830s and their changing patterns of land use can be glimpsed as you walk along this path.

The river remained a primary source of food and water for the early colonial settlers, though encroachment of salt up the river during summer caused problems for watering orchards, market gardens, and for people and stock. The river has been a major transport route enabling heavy materials to be barged up and down stream. Timber was one of the major Loads in the 1860s and 1870s. Jarrah was cut for timber from the Darling Scarp then transported firstly by bullock, then by a tramway. down to Mason’s Landing. From the local area, she-oak was cut for shingles, banksia for timber, and paperbarks for fencing. The timber was all loaded onto barges at Masons Landing and transported down to Fremantle.

The Canning River foreshore has also always been a choice location for building homes and for recreation. The Regional Park is bordered by roads and residences. Plants introduced by residents over the years. including taro, kikuyu, canna lillies. arum lillies and blackberries, can be seen on the walk. Now considered environmental weeds, they are being targeted for control and eradication by park managers and volunteers.

Recreational activities including fishing, boating, walking and bathing have been popular in the Park from early European settlement. Some of the activities, like bathing, have become less popular over time. Horse training occurred in the area for decades, and is still practiced on the training track near Mason's Landing.

The Core Cider House

The next day we went to the the Core Cider House in the Perth Hills. It is steeped in history and produces spectacular artisan ciders, wines and fruit wines. The associated restaurant has sublime views over the apple orchards and you may meet, what the locals admit is a Slightly Twisted crew which designs and produces the ciders and other specialities. It all started in 1939 and 80 years later CORE reckon they produce some of Australia’s best craft Ciders.

Giovanni Battista Della Franca (aka 'Jack'), planted the first apple trees on the property in 1840, and also a few vines which produced a grappa that was (in)famous in the region and attracted many friends as a result. His cellar and the original vine is still on show below the restaurant. Two generations later, his grandson John not only continued his liquor legacy and but created the first CORE cider recipes after tonnes of experiments (and tonnes of apples). The next generation included Giancarlo Della Franca (aka ‘Charlie’) added a good rough red wine from a small vineyard on the property (still there today) to satiate the thirst of his extended family. Charlie’s son, Farmer John, continued to develop the original cider recipes over many years and after many experiments around midnight. John is where the Slightly Twisted term came into play as he has always done things in his own quirky way. His ciders are not ordinary either; individualistic with great character, eminently drinkable and absolutely quaffable and, as we discovered, very strong with 8% being the norm.

We started with a tasting paddle of 5 ciders whilst deciding on lunch where we were easily seduced into an outstanding 3 course set lunch, the only catch being everyone on the table had to participate. We chose two different plates for each of the three courses and all were excellent especially with a second tasting paddle, this time of premium ciders, all 8% or over. We bought several different bottles of cider to take away for later in the evening.

Aviation Heritage Museum of Western Australia

The next day we thought a trip to the Aviation Heritage Museum of Western Australia would be a good idea - we first went in 2004 and we hoped the hangers would be air-conditioned as the temperatures were up to 40 degrees again. It has one of the largest collections in the southern hemisphere - Di used to be a volunteer guide there. They have two large hangers and a magnificent display of 30 military and civilian aircraft, aircraft engines, models display boards etc. We first admired the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina then moved on to the other highlights. There is a Lancaster, one of the last marks of Spitfire (the Mk 22), and an Anson of interest to us as we have a propeller from the Cheetah engine fitted to the Anson. They also have a DH Vampire, a Canberra, and several locally built aircraft we had never heard of such as the Wirraway trainer loosely based on the Harvard and a Wackett as well as early gliders such as the Slingsby Gull. Two hours was far too short to do justice to the displays but what air-conditioning there was in the display areas was fighting a losing battle and the safety rails on the observation platform were too hot to touch! Most of the aircraft are original but there are several reproductions which are interesting in their own right including a 5/8 scale flying replica Hurricane Mark 1 designed by Fred Slinger and built over 10 years and 10,000 hours by Arthur Winstanley and first flown in 1993. The replica Sopwith Camel is 3/4 scale but fitted with an original Le Rhone 9J engine and propeller (probably from a 130hp Clergot engine, an alternative on the Camel), the combination giving the replica an even more 'plump' and over-engined appearance. It was a scourge to the enemy but also a terror to trainee pilots and in practice the strange and unpredictable aircraft had a 30% casualty flight for first solo flights. Once mastered however it was most effective although it is sometimes claimed it inflicted more casualties on the allies than the enemy.

Spitfire Mk 22: Their Spitfire is interesting as it is a Mk22, arguably the last significant stage of development of the illustrious Spitfire. It had the huge Rolls Royce Griffon 61 with a new two-stage supercharger. The wings were redesigned with a new structure and thicker-gauge light alloy skinning. The new wing was torsionally 47 per cent stiffer, allowing an increased theoretical aileron reversal speed of 825 mph. The ailerons were 5 per cent larger and the Frise balanced type were dispensed with, the ailerons being attached by continuous piano-hinges. They were extended by eight inches, meaning that with a straighter trailing edge, the wings were not the same elliptical shape as previous Spitfires. The Griffon engine drove an 11 ft diameter five-bladed propeller, some 7 in larger than that fitted to the Mk XIV. To ensure sufficient ground clearance for the new propeller, the undercarriage legs were lengthened by 4.5 in . The undercarriage legs also had a 7.75 in wider track to help improve ground handling. The designers used a system of levers to shorten the undercarriage legs by about 8 in as they retracted, because the longer legs did not have enough space in which to retract; the levers extended the legs as they came down. The larger diameter four-spoke main wheels were strengthened to cope with the greater weights. The Mark 22 also had a cut-back rear fuselage, with the tear-drop canopy, and a more powerful 24 volt electrical system in place of the 12 volt system of all earlier Spitfires. Most of the Mk 22s were built with enlarged tail surfaces, similar to those of the Supermarine Spiteful. The appearance is thus quite different to the early Spitfires and they weighed nearly twice as much with an engine twice as powerful and an 80% increase in climb rate. The were sacrifices in handling however they once more had the power, climb rate, speed and firepower to give them superiority over the most advanced piston-engined fighters of the time in all height bands. But by then it was late in the war and there was little opportunity for them to demonstrate their superiority, the time of the jet was upon them.

Carols by Candlelight in the Park at canning

On the Saturday the temperature was due to reduce slightly and by early evening it was possible to go outdoors. The City of Canning had organised a free event to celebrate the festive spirit with Carols by Candlelight. It was only a short drive to the Civic Amphitheatre which was behind the Council offices at the corner of George Street West and 1317 Albany Highway, Cannington. There was lots of space for BYO picnics and seating, and food trucks for those who had no picnic. We had folding chairs and joined two of Di's friends and shared our bubbles and food. The concert started at 6.45 pm and featured the Canning City Brass Band, Rossmoyne Community Singers, Avenue Jazz Band plus soloist Sarah Jackson. There were classic and new carols with roving entertainment but the intended singalong was replaced by eating, drinking and chatting. Father Christmas and his helper arrived as promised. It all ended at 8pm.

Early Morning Walk along Swan River.

The next day was going to be very warm so it was an early start for our short drive to park near the Crown Perth, on the banks of the Swan River. We joined Di's friend and her two dogs for an early morning walk. The path along the riverbank went to the Optus Stadium, and then crossed the modern Matagarup Bridge, a new pedestrian bridge across the river. On the other bank we walked through Victoria Park and into Claisebrook Cove. The destination was The Partisan for coffee and toast. We were then back at the car just after 9. It was already very hot.


In spite of the weather we really wanted to see Fremantle again. We last spent time there in 2004. The historic centre is compact and there was plenty of parking near the Fremantle Prison. It is an intersting place to visit, but we had been there in 2004 and were aiming to spend more time visiting the Museums and escaping from the heat. The parking was next to the Oval and outside was a sculpture of two players of Aussie Rules. The Fremantle Markets are nearby but are not open on Monday. Fremantle is a small town and we were soon within sight of the Railway Station which is near the Cruise Terminal, having passed the Federal Hotel and the National Hotel buildings. The port blossommed during the gold rush in the late 19th century and many of its distinctive buildings date from those times. Continuing along the waterfront we passed the old P&O Building then continued along the Victoria Quay where the 55m tall ship the STS Leeuwin II was waiting to set off.

The Maritime Museum is housed in a modern building on the harbour, shaped like a sail. As well as containing lots of significant historic objects and vessels that highlights WA maritime history, there was a special Exhibition 'Ancient Rome Epic Innovators and Engineers' which included replica examples of Roman technologies. The maritime exhibition rooms are large enough to display the Americas Cup winning yacht Australia II and John Sanders' Parry Endavour, as well as lots and lots of other craft. Outside the Oberon-class submarine HMAS Ovens is open to visit, but the temperature outdoors was far too high to go inside.

Di fed more money into the parking meter while we continued to walk towards the Round House. The Swan River colony was established in 1829 and the Round House, built from 1830 to 1831, is a 12-sided stone prison and is WA's oldest surviving building. It is on Arthur Head, and also acts as a signalling station. There are cottages to house the harbour-master, pilots and lighthouse keepers. There are good views down of Bathers Beach. The Whalers Tunnel extends from Bathers Beach under the Round House to access the town. Having extended the parking there was now the choice of where to go for lunch. There are a number of bars, cafes and restaurants around Fishing Boat Harbour which are easily reached by boardwalk. Trying to avoid Fish and Chips limited the options. We had found 'Little Creatures' in 2004. It used to be a crocodile farm but was converted into a micro-brewery with bars and restaurants mingling with the tanks and machinery - a most unusual sight. The menu has expanded, and so has the variety of beers. In order to taste a variety we purchased five different glasses and these went well with the braised brisket, the kangaroo and chips. They still do excellent pizzas. Sadly we had no space for the Simmo's ice-cream which we enjoyed so much last time.

WA Shipwrecks Museum: It was only 5 minutes walk to the WA Shipwrecks Museum, housed in a restored 1852 Commissariat building which was originally built by convict labour. The highlight is the original timbers of the stern of the Batavia, wrecked in 1629, which can be viewed from the ground floor and the observation deck above. There is a replica portico which was on board as part of the cargo. Our visit continued on Level 1 with other Dutch shipwrecks: Zuytdorp, Zeewijk and Vergulde Draeck. On the ground floor there is more about shipwrecks: Australia's first known shipwreck Trial, as well as Rapid, James Matthews and stories from other wrecks. The Hartog to de Vlamingh gallery features 100 years of Dutch exploration of Australia.

Walking back to the car park there were more more historic buildings: The Fremantle Trades Hall built in 1904, the Esplanade Hotel, the Freemasons Hotel dated 1854, the Fremantle Markets and the Fremantle Technical School.

The next part will start with a visit to Penguin Island near perth and end with our time in Melbourne prior to joining the Cruise on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth.

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Content revised: 29th January, 2020