Fremantle Port (affectionately known as "'Freo" to the locals) sits at the mouth of the Swan River about 25 minutes west of Perth. It has retained its old buildings and charm and apart from the Port Authority Building itself doesn't have the skyscrapers found in Perth. A lot of migrants arrived from Europe through Fremantle including my cousins from Ireland and there are several statues of migrants around the port area. Fremantle is also home to the eye catching West Australian Maritime Museum opened in 2002 with the old museum now used as a Shipwreck Gallery. Amongst the new museum's displays is the Australia II which was the first non-American yacht to win the Americas Cup and brought the competition to Fremantle in 1987.
Fremantle Port Authority Building and the Leeuwin II Sail Training Ship
Migrant Statue near the Fremantle E-Sheds
The West Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle
Sama Biasa - an Indonesian Fishing Boat confiscated for fishing in Australian waters
The 1983 Americas Cup winning yacht Australia II
On a slipway alongside the museum there is the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens. It was originally commissioned in 1969 and was operational for 26 years before being handed over as a museum ship. It was a fascinating tour and left with the impression that if needed she was maintained in such good condition that she could be put to sea again.
Forward Torpedo Room within HMAS Ovens
Looking up inside the Coning Tower within HMAS Ovens
HMAS Ovens Engine Room
A couple of minutes along the sea front is an odd 12 sided stone prison called the Round House, built in 1830-31 and the oldest surviving building in Western Australia. It where the first hangings in WA took place and was also used for holding aborigines before they were taken to Rottnest. In front of the Round House there is a signal canon once used for ships in the harbour to set their time and still fired daily at 1pm and underneath there is the Whalers Tunnel carved through the sandstone and used to access the beach where whales were once landed and processed.
The Round House in Fremantle
The courtyard within the Round House
Me by the 1pm Signal Gun near the Round House
The Round House and Whalers' Tunnel
Away from the coast is Freo's biggest tourist attraction and Western Australia's only World Heritage Site - Freemantle Prison. Built in the 1850s based on Pentonville Prison in London, it was in use right up until 1991 when a prison riot and fire exposed how out-dated it was (modern fire appliances couldn't get in the main gate).
Fremantle Prison Main Block
Inside one of the division wings at Fremantle Prison
Exercise Yard at Fremantle Prison
As we were guided through the different parts of the prison - the different prison wings ("divisions"), exercise yards, solitary confinement block and the hanging room and the associated prison stories and superstitions - it felt like being on the location of a film set and I kept thinking of Shawshanks Redemption.
The Chapel at Fremantle Prison - note the 6th commandment reads "Thou shalt do no murder" rather than the more usual "Thou shalt not kill"
Prison superstition - 6 and 16 missing from a wall because they look like a hangman's noose
The Hanging Room at Fremantle Prison
I escaped! Me outside Fremantle Prison Main Gate
Our final stop in Freo was the Little Creatures Micro Brewery on the Esplanade. The beer tasted great and I could happily have spent hours getting quite merry on it but we needed to get back to Perth.
Travelling alone with everything on my back and a lot of distance to cover, joining a backpacking tour felt the best way to get the essential NZ South Island experience. Having settled into my hostel in Greymouth I wandered down for a tour of the local Monteith's Brewery whose Amber Ale I had developed a taste for. The tour itself made me sad with the brewing now done in a large plant elsewhere with the micro brewery that remained only used for researching new beers. However at the beer tasting afterwards I met and joined for dinner 4 lovely ladies already on the Magic Bus I was joining who gave me the lowdown on what life on the bus with our driver "Soap" was like; the next 9 days were going to be fun!
YHA Queenstown Lakefront - typical of the hostels I stayed in
Example of a small hostel dormitory (from YHA Taronga on North Island)
Inside Monteith's Brewery in Greymouth
Our Magic Bus and crew outside the Haast Visitor Centre (I am kneeling at the front, 3rd from the left)
After a boisterous welcome aboard the bus the following morning we stopped at the Bushman Centre at Pukekara. Not a lot to see per se in the small museum but they did screen a humourous macho 20 minute video about deer hunting - NZ South Island West Coast style! Basically deer are an introduced species and with no predators bred like rabbits destroying everything. At first they were ruthlessly hunted but then it was realised profit could be made by capturing and farming them. Then the video gets fun because ultimately the way they are caught is by flying low in a helicopter and leaping on them with a net - maniacs!
The Bushman Centre at Pukekura
Deer in the paddock by the Bushman's Centre
The highlight of the day though was the afternoon heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, we were given coats, boots & crampons and flown on a short but spectacular helicopter flight to the start of the glacier. We were then taken on 2 hour hike across the ice, crossing & climbing crevasses and descending through ice tunnels. It was brilliant and very different from my previous glacial experience during my trip at Jungfraujoch in Switzerland.
The view from the helicopter flying on to the Franz Josef Glacier
Hikers disembarking onto the ice from the helicopter
We wait while our guide makes sure the ice screws holding the safety line are still secure
We make our down a crevasse on the Franz Josef Glacier
Me emerging from an ice tunnel on the Franz Josef Glacier
A helicopter taking off from the glacier returning hikers back to the village
Early the next morning we reached Lake Matheson and after a short walk across a deliberately wobbly bridge reached the viewpoint where Mount Cook, Mount Tasman (the 2 highest mountains in NZ) and the Fox Glacier are famously reflected in the lake like a mirror. It turns out the connection between the glacier and the top UK selling Fox's Glacier Mints is a myth - one is named after an 1870s NZ prime minister while other is named after their Leicester based inventor in 1918!
I didn't know it at the time but the new data card I inserted into my camera after Franz Josef turned out to be a dud and I lost all the photos I took for the next couple of days. Fortunately I was with friends trying to take very similar photos to myself and they have helped out so these are "borrowed" photos until Milford Sound. Thanks again guys for helping out - you know who you are!
The wobbly bridge on the track down to Lake Matheson, every step and the whole bridge seems to move to the left or right!
The famous mirror reflection of the mountains on Lake Matheson; unfortunately it was not at its best while we there but still impressive none the less
We then had to cover a lot of miles from the relative flat of the West Coast snaking up through the mountains and dense forest of the Haast Pass to our next overnight stop at Wanaka. On the way up we stopped at the Thunder Creek Falls which Soap our driver said were "magic" and that if we stared at them for 30 seconds and then looked slightly away we'd know why. I'm not entirely sure I saw what was intended but as I stared I did see what looked like a warp in my vision in the trees next to the top of the falls which was pretty eerie!
Thunder Creek Falls (aka the Magic Waterfall)
Once we reached the summit it was relatively flat driving alongside Lakes Wanaka (26 miles - 43 kilometres, 70 square miles in size & 4th largest in NZ) and Hawea (21 miles - 35 kilometres long, 54 square miles in size). Our final stop before overnighting in Wanaka was at Puzzling World, a tourist attraction built around optical illusions and puzzles. It had a maze but it's signature attraction was its leaning tower outside, the idea was you took a photograph from an angle such that it looked like you were holding it up!
The Leaning Tower at Puzzling World just outside Wanaka
Einstein is always watching you! Another optical illusion at Puzzling World
The next day began with "Soap" our driver playing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" full blast, we were approaching Queenstown, "the adrenalin capital of the world". First stop was at the historic AJ Hacket Bridge over the Kawarau River, the home of the original bungy jump and nearly a quarter of the bus had signed up to have a go! Needless for me to say but with my fear of heights I wasn't one of them... although there was something gnawing away inside of me saying if I could just get enough courage (or madness) to do it for the couple of minutes it takes I'd love to be able to say I'd done it!
The historic AJ Hackett Bungy Bridge over the Kawarau River
Bungy Jumper eye view of the river
We have take-off... only 142 feet (43 metres) to the river below!
Ignoring the bungy jumping for a minute, it is actually quite a pretty gorge!
All fired up we had a lunch stop in Arrowtown and went in search of the meat pies from the local bakery. Hand-sized meat pies baked fresh daily from the local bakery in every small town are considered the national dish in New Zealand and although similar, invariably taste a lot better than the steak pies back home in the UK. Arrowtown itself is a quaint small town which has managed to retain more than 60 of its original wooden and stone buildings from its gold rush days of the 1860s.
The Arrowtown Bakery
It was then onwards to Queenstown - where most towns have chemists and supermarkets, Queenstown instead has agents for bungy jumping, jetboating and skydiving and a host of bars and clubs! Our Bus was in a party mood having won the "Battle of the Buses" bar games tournament against the rival tour bus companies the night before in Wanaka and we now enjoyed a few nights in the pubs, clubs and restaurants of Queenstown (and off course the meat pies from the world famous Fergbakery in Shotover Street).
Party time in Queenstown with my Magic Bus crew (I'm first on the left)
All you can eat Pizza Night with my Magic Bus crew in Queenstown (I'm first on the left)
For the first few days of my stay in Colorado we travelled up to my cousin's mountain house at Keystone in Summit County high up in the Rockies. On the way up into the mountains we stopped to visit Mother Cabrini's Shrine near Golden just off the I70 Freeway. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850 and originally planned to do missionary work in China but the Pope asked her to go to the USA instead. The religious order of nuns she founded provided a lot of support to Italian immigrants and after her death she became the first American citizen to be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.
The main building at Mother Cabrini's Shrine at Golden
Inside the Chapel of the Mother Cabrini Shrine
Mother Cabrini is credited with founding 67 religious institutions across the USA and Americas. Her national shrine is in Chicago where she was based with this smaller one on a hill top on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. It amused me seeing my name in large white letters on a nearby hilltop although I am sure they should have spelt FRANCIS the female way with an 'E' rather than the male way I do with an 'I'.
The steps up to the big statue at Mother Cabrini's Shrine
Close up of Mother Cabrini's Statue at Golden
'ST. FRANCIS' written on the hill on the way up to the shrine
Bison (also known as American Buffalo) roam right up to the fence beside the I70 Freeway out of Denver. We didn't seen any last time I visited a few years ago so I was keen to try and see them again as we made our way up into the mountains. At first it looked like I would again be disappointed but just as we decided to give up looking any further - there they were! Then a bit later it was bonus time as we passed some Bighorn Sheep on the hard shoulder, again something rarely seen.
Bison grazing on a hillside next to the Interstate 70
Bighorn sheep on the hard shoulder of the Interstate 70 on the way up into the mountains
We then passed through the 1.7 mile (2.7 kilometre) long Eisenhower Tunnel to go under the Continental Divide and entered Summit County. Summit County with its well developed ski-resorts such as Breckenbridge and Keystone is the busiest of Colorado's mountain areas. Although the local ski season had largely ended with spring just around the corner there had been a heavy fall snow only the week before I arrived so we weren't quite sure what conditions to expect.
Entering the Eisenhower Tunnel under the Continental Divide
Lake surrounded by mountains in Summit County, Colorado
Mountain view over Breckenbridge with the Colorado Flag flying above a building in the foreground
Mountain view in Summit County, Colorado
The epicentre of Summit County is Lake Dillon (a reservoir which supplies Denver with fresh water) which was still largely frozen. Avalanche tracks could be seen on the nearby mountains where they had crashed down flattening trees in the forests below. Unfortunately there were a lot of felled trees since the last time I visited that had been lost recently to a pine beetle infestation which will take decades to recover but many had been saved by spraying. One thing that hadn't changed however was the beauty of the alpine meadows.
High mountains and a frozen lake in Summit County, Colorado
Avalanche tracks on the slopes of Buffalo Mountain near Dillon, Summit County
Alpine meadows in Keystone, Summit County, Colorado
While in Keystone we went for a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad from Devil's Gate Station to Silver Plume and back again. The railroad was originally built during the local silver mining boom of the 1880s but closed down in 1939 before being re-opened by railway enthusiasts in 1984. During the summer the railroad runs 1920s steam trains which would have been a sight to see but unfortunately we were several weeks too early in the season to ride on one of them.
Train crossing the High Bridge on the Georgetown Loop Railroad
Our train makes its way over the High Bridge on the Georgetown Loop Railroad
At the back of the train there was an open boxcar
We were in one of the comfortable parlour cars instead of the open boxcar and had a very enjoyable ride through the mountains as the track gained more than 600 feet (183 metres) in elevation over a distance of 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) twisting and looping through trees and across several bridges to cope with the steep gradient. On the return trip to Georgetown we stopped at a small halt for a visit the Lebanon Silver Mine.
Our train makes it way around a bend in the track
We cross one of the railroad's four bridges over Clear Creek
Our train stopped at the little halt for the Lebanon Silver Mine
Work on the Lebanon Silver Mine began in 1869 and by 1876 there were 76 miners with 19 lodes under development although the really big seam it was originally excavated for 1,110 feet (335 metres) from the portal (entrance) wasn't reached until 1881. Our tour lasted about an hour and a half and took us over 900 feet into the mountain during which time we had many of the working practices and superstitions of the mine described to us and saw naturally occurring “silver pearls”, calcified hobnail boot prints and stalactites from over 100 years ago.
Me stood by the entrance to the Lebanon Silver Mine
The mine shaft into the mountain
Winch down to the lower levels of the mine
Naturally occuring 'Silver Pearls' on the mine floor
A lot of the miners came from the tin mines of Cornwall back home in the UK and I particularly liked the story about how the crusts of the Cornish Pasties they took down with them to heat up and eat were superstitiously left behind for the "knockers". Traditional Cornish Pasties were made by miners wives filled with beef, potato, onion and swede. They had thick crimped crusts which served as a means of holding them with dirty hands without contaminating the meal and were then discarded in the mine.. as an offering to the "knockers" or little people to not cause mischief and watch over the miners.
Black bleeding on the side of the tunnel indicates a silver lode (seam) close by
An abandoned drill inside the Lebanon Silver Mine
A colapsed tunnel inside the Lebanon Silver Mine
Daylight and a mine truck as we emerge from the Lebanon Silver Mine
Afterwards we looked around Georgetown itself which is an elegant little Victorian mining town that feels like it has been left behind in time. It was founded in 1859 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush and started to grow rapidly following the discovery locally of silver in 1864. Georgetown's main shopping street is 6th Street and the whole town is peppered with heritage listed buildings many of which have painstakingly restored such as the Town Hall/Police Station with its white bell tower, the Hotel de Paris and a couple of firehouses.
6th Street, Georgetown, Colorado
Town Hall/Police Station, Georgetown, Colorado
Hotel de Paris on 6th Street, Georgetown, Colorado
Alpine Hose No.2 Firehouse and Tower, Georgetown, Colorado
The Snetzer Tailor Shop and the Grace Episcopal Church on Taos Street
The following lunchtime before we made our way back to Denver on the I70 Freeway, there was just enough time to add another brewery to my list and sample the ale at the local brew-pub, the Dillon Dam Brewery.