Now on the last leg of his Australian journey, our writer attempts to blow the didgeridoo – with disastrous results!
WESTERN Australia is somewhat forgotten in the tourist fuss over Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania, but the state of WA is basically a fourth of the continent; it’s that big! This is also the last stop on my trip around the island continent of Australia.
In Perth, I began with a jaunt over to King’s Park and the Botanic Gardens. The park is one of the largest located within a city and contains a collection of flora that are indigenous to Western Australia.
In particular I was drawn to Gija Jumulu, a huge boab tree that had been transplanted to the park about a year earlier. Boab trees have a swollen trunk and rough bark that looks like it could go toe-to-toe with a dinosaur; they’re only found in Western Australia. The park was a great introduction to some of the landscapes I’d encounter later in the trip.
Never one to spend too much time in the city, and yearning for more of a cultural experience, I headed out to the country to meet Josh, an aboriginal who would be my guide. He would also share some of the age-old survival techniques they use to, well, survive.
Josh introduced me to a wide array of weapons and implements that are used for hunting. Most of them were made of stone or animal bone. He also showed me which indigenous plants were to be used for teas and medicine, and which were downright poisonous. This was all great but what a man really needs to survive in the wilderness is a fire, a huge raging fire, so I asked him how he made that in the wild.
He demonstrated using tinder and rubbing down a stick on a flat wooden surface to create friction, which in turn heated up the tinder. Within seconds, the tinder was smoking and Josh was blowing into a full-fledged smoulder.
Then Josh handed it over to me; he had made it look easy to start a fire, but I found it impossible. Pushing the stick down with enough force to cause substantial friction and at the same time rubbing it so that it spins is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried. Suffice it to say, I know how to use matches, so I moved on.
Josh then took me to Ngilgi Cave, which is a sacred place for the aboriginals. It’s easy to see why this is so. The inside is incredible, with thousands of stalactites poking out of the ceiling. Looking up at it was like staring into a thousand knives, although Josh assured me the stalactites didn’t have a history of falling and poking people’s eyes. That made me feel better.
Later, after we had exited the cave, Josh brought out his didgeridoo, a long cylindrical instrument of the aboriginals, that makes a soothing (almost other-worldly) sound. He played it for a bit and then handed the wind instrument to me, inviting me to take a shot at it. It looked easy enough to simply blow into it, but once again I found that something which looked easy when Josh did it, to me it was like tying ribbons on the horns of an angry bull. I blew into the instrument – and what ensued was a slew of toilet jokes from the crew. I concluded that aboriginal culture was fascinatingly complex and rich and that I would have made for an abysmal aboriginal.
If I lacked the dexterity to make a fire or the ability to make music, I could take refuge in eating. I headed to Cervantes to check out The Lobster Shack where I met Nikki. She informed me that I couldn’t just eat the lobsters, that they were going to take me out on a boat so I could catch some myself.
That was fine with me. How hard could catching lobsters be? I was about to find out why lobster is so expensive in all those fancy restaurants.
The boat pulled up to the first lobster pot, and the crew hauled it up. Nothing in it except seaweed. The pot was then lifted and cleaned and the bait – fish heads (which I suppose lobsters love but smell like pure detritus to the rest of us) – was replaced. At this point, the crew wasn’t letting me do very much so I offered to pick up one of the wooden lobster pots.
I wished I hadn’t. Those things are the weight of a fat child. And the crew hauls up, checks, and cleans 200 such containers on any given day. Needless to say, they were ripped, and I let them get back to hauling lobster pots.
We didn’t catch too many lobsters but good days come with the bad and Nikki rewarded my effort with some delicious lobster back at The Lobster Shack. (Thanks, Nikki.)
My final destination was Fremantle Prison. It is fitting that my trip to Australia should end at a prison. Turns out that Fremantle was probably the inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption as the walls are made out of limestone, a rock so crumbly that you can pick the wall apart with your bare hands. Probably not the best choice for keeping people locked up. A number of prisoners literally dug their way out of the prison and escaped.
But more interesting in Fremantle is the story of James Walsh, one of Australia’s most famous artists. Painting on prison walls was originally forbidden so Walsh sketched incredibly life-like drawings all over his cell walls but covered them with whitewash to hide his “infractions”. It wasn’t until decades later that the whitewash was removed and his drawings were revealed. His drawings are still there today.
With that visit to Fremantle Prison, my trip to Australia came to a close. I’d miss it – the incredible sights, the great people, and the delicious food – but on a positive note Malaysian Airlines was flying me back to Kuala Lumpur business class. At least I could relax on my flight back so I could reflect properly on my time in the land Down Under.
Catch the final episode of Jason Down Under tomorrow at 9pm exclusively on Life Inspired, Astro B.yond Ch 728. The trip was sponsored by Tourism Australia and Malaysia Airlines. Visit www.facebook.com/litvchannel and stand a chance to win a trip to Australia courtesy of Tourism Australia and Malaysia Airlines!
Malaysia Airlines currently flies twice daily to Melbourne, and from Nov 21 will fly there three times daily.