You’re in Perth, you have 16 hours before your flight and your original plans are no longer: what you gonna do?

The conundrum in the title of this post is what befell me today: having planned to be in Perth today for the 5th day of the Australia v South Africa cricket test match at the WACA I was left at a loose end given the early end of the test match before I arrived. I did not have a flexible flight so my only option was to come up with a way to entertain myself in a city I had never been to before.

As my brain is still on Brisbane time despite having been in Western Australia since Friday I awoke at 4am feeling more than a bit unwell. All the warning signs of a migraine hit me, most ominously my right eye was blurry, but the combination of drugs and a little more sleep seemed to work and by 7am I was wondering what I was going to do for the day. I basically had 16 hours before my flight and nothing to do.

Going against my usual policy, I first decided to spend as much time as I could in my hotel room before check out. If I had not have had some work to do I would have watched a movie but having work to do meant that it was not until 9:50am that I was ready to leave. I had already chewed up 3 hours of time and despite some serious negativity about the remainder of my day I sent off into a hot Perth day to eek out another 13 hours of fun before heading home.

My first thought was to head to the WACA and check out the very good cricket museum there as well as take the ground tour. Only a 500m walk from my hotel it was an easy stroll down Hay Street to the ground. Unfortunately, the museum was closed today and the tours unavailable seemingly because the WACA authorities decided to have a day off. I was irritated but I will say when I come back to Perth I will definitely do this tour.

Queens Gardens is just next door to the WACA ground and with its green grass luring me having spent four days in the red dirt of Port Hedland, I decided that I would spend my first couple of hours in my quest to fill time just sitting in the park. Basically alone the whole time, and taking the opportunity to call a dear friend I had not spoken to for some time, time flew by and I left the park feeling relaxed and with a plan in the back of my mind for the rest of the day.

What I did not know about Perth before ringing my parents to whinge about my predicament today was the free bus service around the city. The Cat service that encompasses three routes and arrives at the bus stop every 5 minutes during the week is easily the best way to get around town and seems, from my limited knowledge, to cover just about every place one would want to go on a lazy day in Perth.

My plan for the rest of the day was simple: I was going to walk around the shops for a while and then head down to the Barracks St Jetty and get on the ferry to Fremantle (another parental recommendation). My walk around the shops started at the Miller Street Mall and wound its way around St George’s Terrace until I was back at a bus stop and ready for my trip to Fremantle. For those noting the time, it was now 1pm and my time to be filled had dropped to 10 hours.

I had some time to kill before my 2:15pm trip along the Swan River to Fremantle and stopped in a cafe for a drink and got to work on a couple of blogs whilst answering some work emails. The Riverside Cafe was a great spot to stop and relax but I will say a smidgen expensive.

The ferry to Fremantle one way will cost you $25 and if nothing else will chew up 75 minutes on our quest to get to the 16 hour mark. However, to consider it a time filler does it zero justice: the scenery is breathtaking in some places and the guide gives you just enough information to let you know what you are seeing. If I had one criticism it is that they only opened one bar and as it was on a different level of the boat than me I decided to not risk loosing my window seat by leaving it to get a beverage. It frankly would not have taken much to open that bar given that they had a staff member restocking it basically the whole trip.

Fremantle is a very nice harbour town that has as its highlight for nerds like me an excellent Maritime Museum. Now I concede that I love going to museums whenever I travel but again if you are looking at burning up time there are few better ways of doing that than wandering around a museum. You can spend as long you want in the museum until it shuts and the air conditioning gets you out of the intense Perth heat. That said, the Maritime Museum at Fremantle is an absolute ripper: great exhibits, great cafe and a great gift shop. I could have spent hours there by knowing that it shut at 5pm I decided to leave at 4:45pm and head to the train station to travel back to Perth.

I have to say I was very impressed with the train service from Fremantle to Perth. It was cheap ($4) and the carriages were clean and well air conditioned. It being peak hour my carriage did get a little full but it was not long before I was back at Perth Central station.

Another walk around the shops and another bus ride saw me back at my hotel from last night (Comfort Inn on Hay Street) where I had been storing my bags by 7pm. Now I concede as I write this that I have not completely filled the 16 hours I have spare before my flight leaves however there are only 4 hours left to go and as I see it there are only really two ways to spend them. If you are a member of the Qantas Club, one could collect their bags and head to the airport to bunker down and eat the free food and drink the free drink while reading a book. The other alternative is that you can just sit in the hotel lobby, as I am doing right now rest ones weary legs from doing a lot of walking today whilst charging ones phone. This option appealed to me as, having baggage I am going check at the airport I wanted to change clothes and have a quick wash (which I have done) and my phone was completely dead. I will have a meal in the hotel restaurant shortly (it is the least I can do as I have been lazing around the lobby) and I will then head to the airport with an hour or so to go before my plane.

So there you have it: if you are in Perth and you have time to burn before the red eye flight home do not despair because even a novice like me can find enough things to do to keep the mind occupied during a day when plans go awry. You never know, you might like the place so much that you decided you need to come back to properly check out the place like I have.

Travellers on a budget should note that excluding food today cost me a grand total of $39: not bad if funds are tight and you still want to see part of the city of Perth.

Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, WACA: some musings

The 3rd test came to an end yesterday, with the Michael Clarke described “grand final” not going the way of the Australian team as they were thumped by the world’s best red ball cricket team from South Africa.

As I flew from Port Hedland to Perth yesterday afternoon so as to be in Perth for the fifth day of the test match that did not eventuate I had time to give some consideration to the game and some of the performances of the key, and not so key, players for each side.

An easy place to start is the retirement of Ricky Ponting. I think we all knew he was under pressure, some journalists made it their mission to make sure he was under pressure even if Cricket Australia did not seem to be suggesting he was. Even so I was shocked to hear that he was retiring at the end of this test match. His performances in this series and indeed in this game were not cognisant with those of the Ponting of old however we still did see glimpses of his greatness. I don’t think Australian fans will fully appreciate how much R T Ponting will be missed until the Ashes in the middle of next year.

The “resting” of fast bowlers Siddle and Hilfenhaus for such an important game and the inclusion of a bowler many had put into the “has been” category in Mitchell Johnson and a debutant in John Hastings surprised and infuriated many. It might be stating the obvious but this experiment did not work given the haste with which the Proteas scored in the second innings of this match. I thought Hastings acquitted himself well as did Mitchell Starc however with Shane Watson again, it would seem, on limited bowling duties the need for a genuine bowling allrounder in this side was again glaringly obvious. Whether Hastings is the man for the job remains to be seen.

The batting of Amla was again sublime in this game and AB de Villiers got the “monkeys” in the media off his back by scoring his first hundred since Mark Boucher’s unfortunate accident in the UK. More importantly for the Proteas, Vernon Philander showed the form that has seen him dominate batting orders the world over and took some big wickets. As did Dale Steyn, who finally seemed to find form and his self proclaimed “crazy eyes”. The former medium pace bowler in me felt some joy watching these two bowlers at the top of their games even though they were bowling to an Australian team I hoped would win this test and win it well.

Speaking of batting, it goes without saying that whilst some of Australia’s wickets could be put down to the excellent bowling efforts of the Proteas it can also be said that Australia’s batsmen also contributed to their own downfall with some poor, and particularly aggressive in some cases, shot selection. Whether this is a hangover from the shortest form of the game I am not going to speculate however it would be fair to say the difference between the two teams in this series ended up being that one team could bat for long periods to secure a draw and the other could not.

Attention now turns, for Australian fans, to the start of the series against the Sri Lankans at Bellerive Oval on 13 December. Of course Cricket Australia has done the national team no favours in its scheduling with the Big Bash League starting this Friday so it will remain to be seen whether the team selected can remain in red ball cricket form on the most bowler friendly pitch in the country. There will be much interest in the replacement of Ricky Ponting for this game and readers should watch this blog over the coming days for my views on the potential replacement options.

Port Hedland: Family, flies and four wheel drives

It is been a while since my last blog, most obviously because I have been to Port Hedland to see my sister Kate and the family.

Followers of my twitter and tumblr feeds will know how much I love my family, how much I have been looking forward to my time in Port Hedland with them and, from the photos I have posted, how good a time I have had with them.

Simply put, I just had the best time with my family in their new house in South Hedland and, despite nearly being folded up with the fold out bed on night one, I am already trying to work out when I will come back again. To say I was little bit down as the family saw me off at the airport yesterday would be an understatement particularly given that it is my oldest nephew Jack’s birthday next weekend.

It has taken me a long time just to realise how important family is and, selfishly, how important time spent with family is for my mental health. The effect that the smiles on the faces of my nephews, Jack and Cooper, and new niece, Abbey, had on me alone on this trip has been profound.

But that is enough about family for this blog, as this trip was also my first opportunity to travel to the western part of Australia and, more particularly, to Port Hedland. Whilst I was only there for four days some key themes from my experience are worth noting.

First and foremost, if you are coming to Port Hedland expecting anything other than a mining town then you are sorely mistaken. From the marking of just about every major piece of public works with the branding of BHP or FMG to the large “salt mountain” of Dampier Salt on the way to town it is clear that mining drives the town and its people. This is never more apparent than when the BHP headquarters reveal themselves along the highway to town as the vast expanses of red dirt give way to manicured gardens and green grass.

If you intend to drive around Port Hedland it is also important to note that just about every car on the road is a four wheel drive and the bulk of them are workmen’s vehicles. I have never seen more four wheel drives in one space at one time so if you are shaky driving one I would suggest finding an alternate mode of transport. The other thing that can catch unsuspecting drivers unaware is getting caught at a railway crossing when the self proclaimed “longest trains in the world” are shunting past. My sister described us being lucky when we got to one such crossing as the gates descended because “it is only a short one”, after 10 minutes I was somewhat unsure how lucky we in fact were.

It goes without saying as well that Port Hedland is hot, very hot, and with heat comes flies. I am not sure I would have ever gotten used to the standard fly around my mouth or eyes on the occasions we went out no matter how long we went out for during this trip. My brother-in-law claims that you do get used to them after a while and maybe next time I have over hopefully in the “cooler” months I will be able to test whether the flies are less irritating.

I say none of this to be negative about Port Hedland. I am glad it is another place in Australia that I wanted to see that I have now seen. Before my sister and brother-in-law decided to go on this adventure they are presently on I am unsure that I would ever have headed over to that part of the world. I am unsure as to whether, without my family being over there, that I would be intending to come back. However, if you want to see one of the real nerve centres of Australia’s economy at work and have some spare time while you are in the West, it is definitely worth the 2 hour flight up for a look around in my opinion.