Greetings from Western Australia. The first day of my excellent adventure began with the four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth aboard a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800. The smiling check-in lady allocated me a seat with plenty of legroom just behind business class. I sat in between Stuart (an explosives expert from Melbourne) and Alex (a Macquarie Bank man from Perth). My grandfather’s sister’s grandson Warwick greeted me at the airport and gave me a ride into the city. For the next few nights I stayed with Warwick and his family Thelma, Emma and Will at their home in Dalkeith.
Focussing on my goal of visiting a brewery (purely for research purposes), I caught a train to Fremantle and arrived in time for lunch at the former boat shed and crocodile farm that is now home to Little Creatures Brewery.
Waitress Meeks showed me to a table handed me a menu and we discussed the merits of various beers. On Meeks’ recommendation, I settled on a small glass of their “Big Dipper” a hop-fuelled Double India Pale Ale. It went down very nicely in the Friday afternoon sunshine with a delicious bowl of garlic and white wine infused mussels. Remembering that culinary match made in heaven (beer & pizza), I went on to enjoy a small wood-fired pizza with a glass of Pale Ale (my favourite) and finished with a glass of Bright Ale (very nice but not as flavoursome as the Big Dipper or the Pale Ale).
By this stage I was starting to feel the effects of the three-hour time difference between Barham and Fremantle and seriously wanting a nap. Clearly it was time to set off for “Cappuccino Strip” the area in Freo known for its alfresco dining culture and Gino’s where I enjoyed an excellent latte.
That night I accompanied Warwick, Thelma and Will to the Cottesloe Hotel for dinner. The pub overlooks the famous Cottesloe Beach and the rather infamous shark-infested waters from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island.
Early the next morning I was swimming (very close to shore) through those shark-infested waters with Thelma and Warwick. John Williams’ film score he composed for the 1977 film “Jaws”, played continuously in my head…
Warwick, a three-time world champion yachtsman, organised for me to sail with his crew (Biggles, Viv, Bruce and Greg) in the 2011 Governor’s Cup Yacht Race between Royal Perth Yacht Club and Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club on the Swan River. We were aboard their 26-foot yacht Wafwom (an acronym for: What a F****** Waste of Money). Warwick didn’t accompany us for the race as he was in serious training aboard a “flying fifteen” (a two person high performance racing yacht) for the Australian Championships in January 2012.
I know very little about sailing but managed to successfully fling myself repeatedly under the boom as we tacked our way around the course. With over 100 yachts there were some hairy moments as large numbers converged on marking buoys. Things threatened to go horribly and irretrievably wrong and I thought our skipper (Biggles) would lose a kidney as the bow of another yacht came dangerously close as we rounded a buoy. Another yacht nearby lost a man overboard; he was happily rescued. Dangling over the side of Wafwom, with the sails full, the water whipping past and the rain bucketing down, I felt like a true sailor.
By Saturday night I was having dinner in Inglewood with Megan (who is a friend of Ash’s friend Trevor who is a friend of my friend Woolly), her husband Greg and their friends. Exhaustion overtook me between the main course and chocolate pudding and I had to excuse myself for what I anticipated would be a ten-minute power nap. An hour and a half later Megan woke me to say I was most welcome to stay the night but perhaps Warwick and Thelma would be wondering what had become of me?
(The next morning I no longer felt like a true sailor… I felt like someone who’d been run over by a Mack truck).