There’s not a lot to report from Perth.  We’ve spent most of our time the last couple of days resting and moving from a hotel in Perth to a backpackers in Freemantle (Freo as the locals call it).  For some reason it’s been difficult to find more than two nights available anywhere at a decent price, so this is our 4th accommodation in a week.  Lauren’s jaw continues to get better, although there is still a bit of swelling.  Tomorrow she has the follow-up appointment with the surgeon where she might get her stitches taken out and should get cleared to go back to Christmas Island.

Saturday afternoon Australia’s biggest sporting event occurred.  The event is the Australian Football League (“Aussie rules” football) Grand final.  Aussie rules football is sort of like a variation of rugby, but it involves lots and lots of running, tackling, short hand passes, and long kick passes.  Goals are scored by kicking the ball between two inner posts (6 points) or missing a bit and still getting the kick to go between two outer posts (1 point).  We watched a bit of a match in Darwin and it looks like an incredibly fun game to play.  The Grand Final was between Collingwood which is sort of like a blue-collar version of the Yankees and St. Kilda, which is sort of like the Cubs.  Collingwood wears black and white stripes, has been in the Grand Final a record 40 times (since 1897), and is the team everybody loves to hate.  St Kilda has won only one Grand Final – a 1966 victory over Collingwood by one point.  St. Kilda is also the record holder for most last-place finishes.  Needless to say, we were rooting for St. Kilda.  Both teams are from Melbourne, where the match was played, and there were over 100,000 in attendance with thousands more at an overflow site in a city park.  We watched the first half at the hotel, with Collingwood getting out to their usual large lead.  St. Kilda eventually began to get things going and pulled to within a couple of goals at halftime, when we went to watch the rest of the game at the Melbourne Hotel.  The game lived up to is billing as an exciting match, and the Collingwood fans lived up to their reputation of being loud and raucous.  With only minutes left, St. Kilda took the lead for the first time in dramatic fashion, but when time expired after 80 minutes of play, the score was tied at 68.  We were excited about getting to see a Grand Final decided during overtime, but everyone else seemed to be calming down – post game interviews started, fans started leaving, and things were getting quieter.  We were afraid that the Grand Final was going to be declared a draw, which seemed unthinkable, but when we asked we were told that there was no overtime.  A complete match would be played the following week to determine the championship.  That was almost equally unthinkable coming from the heavily scheduled and scripted television-dominated US sporting scene.  So, next week Australia will do it all over again.  It’s like having two Super Bowls in the same year.

DSC_0398 Australian rules football has lots of scoring, so there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to get excited

So far, Freo has lived up to its reputation as a pleasant, trendy seaside town.  We spent part of the afternoon at the Maritime Museum.  Maritime museums have certainly become more interesting to us since we started travelling by sail.  This one was small and we only made time to take in the first floor, but even that lasted for about 2 hours.  The museum had a lot of local and fishing history, but we did learn some interesting things about Indonesian and local sailors.  It appears that the Indonesian fishermen we saw at Ashmore Reef have been coming to what is now Australia for more than 200 years to collect sea cucumbers, shark fins, and trochus shells for the Asian markets.  The Australians have now restricted them to coming to only a few offshore reefs and they also require that the Indonesians travel without engines and without modern navigation equipment.  You can definitely see how they would want to prevent the exploitation of the natural resources by large, modern vessels, but forcing the Indonesians to sail without even a small auxiliary engine or GPS seems almost criminal.  Their vessels are made of wood, navigation is by homemade compass, and living conditions are pretty primitive, but a GPS for modern navigation is so cheap now that it really seems like it would not only be a significant safety item but would also take away any excuses about the Indonesians accidentally straying into prohibited locations.  It’s a tough balance.  On one side are the extremely poor Indonesians, who are in debt to several families who own the meager fishing boat, have wives and children to feed, and have ancestors who have been coming to these reefs and islands well before Australia claimed them.  On the other side are the Australians, who are firmly in control of the reefs and really are attempting to conserve the natural resources and marine populations, allow continued traditional fishing, and still maintain control of their borders from an immigration perspective.  The museum also had interesting displays on the 1983 America’s Cup race which was won here in Fremantle by Australia using a secret and revolutionary winged keel design and marked the first time the Cup was won by a country other than the USA.  Fremantle was also home to two world record holding single-handers.  One was Jon Sanders, who sailed around the world three times non-stop (over 685 days at sea) in the 1990’s and the other was David Dicks, who was the first teenager to sail non-stop, single-handed around the world in 1996.  It was David Dicks’ age record for a circumnavigator that was broken by Zac Sunderland last year.

DSC_0401 Perth has some great architecture and the Freemantle Maritime Museum is no exception

DSC_0406 Jon Sanders sailed this boat around the world 3 times non-stop.  It’s displayed similar to how it was when it was Jon was on deck and the boat was doused by a 100-foot wave in the Southern Ocean.

Last night we had dinner at Little Creatures, a local brewery on the waterfront that was recommended by the dental assistant in Christmas Island.  It was a really fun place with great atmosphere and good food; we even managed to find some soft food on the menu for Lauren.  Apparently it’s a well-known and popular spot.  Before we left Los Angeles, we met a young couple from Perth who were visiting Venice Beach.  We didn’t anticipate making it to Perth, but they were telling us how great it was, so I took a few notes on my Blackberry.  I just dug up the notes on my laptop and guess how they start: “Perth. Fremantle. Little Creatures…”  Pretty funny.  I’m not sure we’ll make the rest of the locales on the list, but I guess we’ve checked off an important one.

Parts of southwestern Australia, including the Perth area, are one of the few places in the world that enjoy what’s called a Mediterranean climate.  Our old home in Southern California is another.  With the warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights it really does feel like being back in Southern California minus all the smog and congestion.  Perth is a bit out of the way (even the locals find it easier and cheaper to vacation in Bali than to make it to the other side of Australia), but it’s well worth a visit.