Knee-High to a Dinosaur

We had just arrived in Perth to be met by wild weather coming in off the Indian Ocean. Three storm cells in sequence had been forecast with heavy ocean swells preceding them, making any outdoor activities, especially ones involving being on the water, totally out of consideration.

Perth wild weather feels different to Sydney weather. Or maybe where we were staying (at a gorgeous B&B we stumbled onto) was a bit more sheltered. The trees outside were tossing, we could hear rain (and hail) on the roof but there were still periods of less rain, when we could do a dash to the car.

Lunch with friends had been booked in King’s Park, the sun was even trying to peek out occasionally between dripping clouds. The road there was at times closed because storm surge had waves (on the normally quiet Swan River!) splashing over onto the freeway. We could see water levels well above normal. So much water!

Park truck piled with broken branches from the storm. Kings Park, Perth, 2022.

At lunch we apologised for bringing the appalling NSW floods with us.

Whatever the weather, Perth is a beautiful city. It glistens. Although at times views were obscured, the mist only served to add to the romance.

A lovely bit of sculpture in Fremantle Harbour, a nod to those returning by ship. That instant is captured, when the dog recognises his returning master.
The old Fremantle Jail, now an arts centre.
The old rock that was used to build the jail was carved from the area. It’s got a lot of shell in it, so it is soft and weathers easily.

Once the UK family arrived, a number of activities had been planned but had to be changed. Rottnest Island ferry was cancelled due to heavy seas, and the weather was foul anyway. So we went indoors. The aquarium!

It’s the Aquarium of Western Australia, or AQWA for short.

Getting there was a challenge. The rain had eased but the winds were blowing a gale. Cold, icy, the sort of wind to tangle your hair and make your ears ache. While the recent arrivals slept off the jet lag and the previous night’s excitement (they’d landed in Perth to a terminal in blackout due to storm damage) Jeff and I spent the morning exploring Fremantle. Once we got the nod to meet up at AQWA, we got on the road to Sorrento, in the north of Perth.

I’d brought some of my medieval clothing sewing to work on, including a caped hood (the buttonholes needed work). To save my suffering ears, I pulled on the hood then put my heavy jacket over the top. The jacket hid the liripipe of the hood nicely, nobody would know it wasn’t a standard clothing item. An unusual one, but I didn’t want to attract too much attention for my weirdness. And it did the trick — my ears were protected. Even the occasional rain scud didn’t soak through.

AQWA is a fascinating place to take a child who has never travelled outside the UK. Her head had been filled with stories of how scary Australia is, so we didn’t hold back. AQWA has sharks, rays and other denizens of the not-so-deep in a giant aquarium. Smaller tanks held other delights, but when you are safe from the beasts on a moving footway in a bubble under the tank, you can enjoy the experience once more. Our young friend was delighted to have sharks and a giant ray swim over her. Later, in a glass-bottomed boat, we floated over the sharks. In an aquatic petting zoo, she got to stroke a Port Jackson shark, a small, pretty gummy shark (no teeth). Sharks don’t feel scaly like other fish, they have skin like sandpaper.

Sharks up close and personal. AQWA, Perth, 2022
Colourful jellyfish. AQWA, Perth, 2022

Out on the deck it was wet from waves splashing over the sea wall and into the aquarium. Somehow appropriate…

Wild seas, no boat to Rottnest Island today. AQWA, Perth, 2022.

The next morning was the dingo experience. The place we went to is a sanctuary, specialising in black cockatoos, but our young English friend got the chance to get up close and personal with a pair of dingoes.

People think of dingos like they think of dogs, but they are different. Even the species name reflects this — Canis lupus dingo. There is actually still some dispute over the scientific name. It used to be (and in some circles still is) Canis familiaris dingo. Dingoes can interbreed with domestic dogs to produce fertile offspring (this used to be considered a hallmark of creatures being the same species, just a different breed or sub-species) but the books are currently being rewritten.

We met our two dingo friends on harnesses being led for ‘walkies’ with their keepers. Dingoes greet by sniffing your breath and (if you are in favour) by licking your face. They have a very strong social rule system, and this was explained to us carefully. We spent a wonderful cuddly hour with these creatures before it was time to walk them back to their enclosure and meet the other animals in the park.

They look so gentle. These were… as long as the handlers were there. Kaarakin, Perth, 2022.
Naaawww… Dingo Expefrience, Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre, Perth, 2022
Major Mitchell Cockatoo getting friendly. Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre, Perth, 2022
Black cockatoo eating eucalypt seed pods. Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre, Perth, 2022

Next day we took ourselves off to the WA Museum, and the WA Art Gallery. The museum had a special exhibition on dinosaurs, and as museum junkies, we walked our feet off (metaphorically) exploring everything we could about Dinosaurs of Patagonia.

The dinosaurs were amazing and we were blown away by the size of the largest specimen. Jeff stood next to it and we realised, he was knee-high to the massive creature.

Thank goodness they’re extinct. Perth Museum, 2022

While much of a museum’s exhibits are not location-specific, there was a lot to learn about the area just from the building and the general exhibits.

It was the same in the Art Gallery (the buildings are next to each other). Some general art, but a strong focus on indigenous art from WA and we learned a lot about the state and its artists, especially their history.

A reimagining of “Shearing of the Rams’ by Dianne Jones. Perth Gallery, 2022
“I Love You, My Baby, You Are My Firstborn”, a composite work of found items and cinematography by indigenous artist, Katie West. Perth Gallery, 2022.

We lunched in a kiosk between the galleries, sharing the space with some street-wise but reasonably well-behaved pigeons.

Jeff, knee-high to a dinosaur (Patagotitan mayorum). Perth Museum, 2022.

It was time for bed. We had an early start next morning, heading off to see what else WA had to offer. We could explore Perth in more outdoor detail, hopefully, when we returned.

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