Rottnest Island... Well, The Hope of Getting There, Anyway.

The beautiful streets of Perth, Western Australia.
I would like to just take a moment and recount the time that I was met by the trifecta of bad luck on my first morning traveling solo in Australia.

It was an early February morning, hot and sticky, as it was just nearing the end of summer. I woke on the top bunk (because I got last dibs on beds) of my dorm room in a hostel, a solid three hours before it was time to catch previously purchased ferry ride to a nearby island called Rottnest, off the coast of Western Australia.

I woke up early because I'm an early riser and I love morning adventures more than late nights and because I was ready to see some quokkas on Rottnest. I fiddled with my phone for a bit, got dressed, chatted with my roommate, had leftover french fries for breakfast, and, at 7:15, set off for the port where I needed to be by 8:30. It was supposed to be a 25 minute walk.

Supposed to be.

I stepped out the front gate of the backpackers hostel and turned right (...or was it left? whether I turned left or right would end up being very important later), paper map in hand. I walked and I walked and I walked. I searched for a familiar street name matching the street names on my previously uploaded city-wide Google map. Street signs were few and far between; whenever I did find a street name, said street name was then nowhere to be found on my freebie tourist map. I combed the fold-able map for a street corner or store that matched the ones around me. None. I 180'ed and walked some more. And then 180'ed and did it again. And then turned a corner. And maybe another corner. But mostly, I did the only thing that seemed right to do at the time: I walked and walked and walked.

After what felt like 6 hours (but was probably 6 minutes), I passed a snappy looking business man on the street. I approached him to ask for directions... but too late--he stepped onto a bus before I could reach him.

So I walked and walked and walked. Finally, I spotted a young guy wearing headphones, sunglasses, and a backpack walking towards me up ahead. I smiled, waved to get his attention, and gestured at my map. He took off his headphones.
"Hi, can you tell me where the port is? Or at least point me to the downtown area?" I pointed to my map.
"Uh... yeah.." He looked at my map. At the time, he seemed to be studying the map carefully. In hindsight, I'm fairly certain this young man had no idea how to read a map.
"Uh... just keep going down that way until you see... a street... and then turn" said he.
"Turn... right?" I asked.
"Yeah, right. Turn right, " he said, seeming satisfied with himself.
"Ok, thank you so much!" gushed unsuspecting I. I was was encouraged to know that I was already going direction that he had pointed. I continued on.

And on and on and on.

Still nothing.

What was worse, nothing looked familiar any more: the streets became more highway-ish, and the already small number of pedestrians (Perth is pretty small-town) were thinning out. After some time, I found a walker lady in stretchy clothes.

"Hi! Can you please tell me how to get to Newcastle Street?" I asked. I realized that I pronounced Newcastle like New-caw-stle. Damnit, Austrlians.
"I'm sorry," she said in a perfectly American accent. In that moment, I felt the way that I do when I accidentally instinctively greet my Japanese students 'harro!'. "I just moved here," she said "I have no idea where anything is."

So with that, I bade my compatriate good luck and went on my way. By this time, it was 8:10. I felt like I had been power walking back and forth and round and round in tiny circles like one of those Roomba robot vacuums. Then, I spotted an older, grungy, gruff looking man from up ahead walking in my direction. As we crossed paths, I asked him for help.

"Excuse me, can you please tell me how to get to Beaufort Street?" I said Beaufort as any other American would say it--beau as in tie a bow in your hair, and fort like fert because... I dunno, that's just how we say it fort as a second syllable. Like 'comfort'.
"To where?!" he demanded in utter confusion at my butchering of the Australian language.
"Uh.. Beaufort?" I attempted, but this time, with fort as in build a fort out of blankets and pillows. I still leaned into that r, though, rather than dropping it off the face of a planet as an Aussie might do.
He looked at my map.
"Oh, Beaufort." he said in Australianese. "You're in trouble little lady, that street is all the way up there in the other direction!" he shook his head in somberly with more pity than I could bear. "You're better off catching the bus."

Damnit. I should have known better than to trust the lost-for-words student advising me to walk for a while until I "see a street" at which point, I should "turn".

I didn't want to wait for a bus because 1.) I didn't know how to use the public bus system, 2.) I didn't know how often buses came around and 3.) I wouldn't know if I were getting on the right bus or if I'd be able to get off at the right stop.

So with that, I turned to what I could only hope was the right direction and I ran. I was in flip flops, I was carrying a long-strapped purse (swingy) and a stuffed tote bag (bulky), and I was wearing denim shorts and a halter top (sexy. maybe. i dunno, maybe not.), but I ran and I ran and I ran. And I got blisters. And I ran some more. I eventually reached the downtown area; by this time, it was 8:25. The sidewalks were crowded with hand-holding couples, slow-paced tourists, ladies walking poodles and chihuahuas and wiener dogs and every kind of dog with short stubby legs, it seemed, and parents pushing wobbly strollers, balancing toddlers and babies and gigantic diaper bags.

I pressed on, zigzagging between these obstructions. I ran and ran and ran. As I turner a corner, about to cut off a gay couple in bright shorts and matching striped bro tanks, the strap of my tote bag broke and all my bag's content went spilling out onto the sidewalk. Without stopping to curse the world or mumble something about Murphy and his laws, I scrambled to gather my things together and shove them back into my bag, and I carried on running and running and running. I silently thanked Brian from across two oceans for our years (well, two years) of training for marathons together.


There was no way I was making it onto this non-refundable ferry for my whole-day trip to Rottnest Island. No way.

Run, run, run.


I reached the ticket window. "HI SORRY I'M LATE! I'M NOT LATE AM I? HAS THE FERRY LEFT YET? HERE'S MY TICKET!" I shouted at the ticket ladies, out of breath. They looked at me blankly. After roughly 30 thousand years, give or take, one of them finally looked down at the ticket I had thrown onto the ticket counter. "You're looking for Rottnest Express, the other cruise company. We're blah blah blah blah, another tour company. We only serve tours at blah blah blah time on blah blah blah days. You want to go down that way to the other building. Turn left at the end."


I reached Rottnest Express' port.

"HI I'M HERE AM I LATE!" I shouted once again, this time to a... skipper? What are these boat workers called?

"Nope, just in time! You've got your ticket here... ok, welcome aboard!"

Breathless, I tottered on board, broken tote bag under one arm. I plopped down in one of the dozens upon dozens of empty seats on the nearly-deserted ferry (empty as the ferry was, I'd find out the next day that a friend who I'd meet on my tour of the Outback was on that very same boat. But that's a story for later).

Then, a tall, big, fat White man wearing an akubra (don't act like you've don't know what an akubra is) walked towards me with his wife to sit down in the seats next to me. "G'day," he said (guys, I'm freaking serious... he was wearing one of those hats and he said g'day!!!!!).

I made it. I was in Australia.

View of the Central Business District of Perth from the ferry.
And, thereafter, I'm happy to report that I had a wonderful day at Rottnest Island! ...no thanks to Unhelpful Headphones Guy. Hrmph.

My first time in the Indian Ocean at Rottnest Island, off of Western Australia.

A quokka!

No comments:

Post a Comment