It’s late afternoon and we have have had a fabulous time today in Geraldton. We met up with our friends three days ago and now all fifteen of us are travelling in our 25 seater bus that we have rented from Thrifty.
We began our visit to WA on our first day that combined time at both Kings Park and Fremantle (again for us) but with visits to different sites. This time, we spent most of the afternoon in Fremantle at the Australian Maritime Museum which houses a diverse set of exhibits that range from historic little fishing boats and ferries to the sail boat, Australia II which won the America’s Cup thirty years ago. The stand-out exhibit is an Oberon class submarine which, unfortunately, we couldn’t get to see because all the tours for the day were already booked out.
Yesterday, we had a long, but interesting, drive from Perth to Geraldton. We took the relatively new Indian Ocean Drive which follows the coast virtually all the way. Our first stop was at the Pinnacles – a set of limestone outcrops protruding through the sand hills. It was a lovely day, but we couldn’t help but think about how hot this place will be when summer comes in a couple of month’s time.
The nearby town of Cervantes provided a good lunch spot and the lady in the local cafe did a good job of quickly making sandwiches and preparing hamburgers. I think that she must have, at one time, worked in a very noisy place as she had a very loud voice and you could have heard her calling out the orders from outside in the street. After lunch, we had a quick look at Hansen Bay with its beautiful white sandy beach before heading north towards Geraldton
Other lookouts along the way gave us good views across the national parks through which we passed. There were many patches of wildflowers and it was interesting to try and identify them all.
Today, in Geraldton, we began with a visit to the beautiful HMAS Sydney memorial. This ship had visited Geraldton on a number of occasions in WW2 and had been adopted by the locals, even though its home port was Fremantle. The local turist centre conducts guided tours of the memorial at 10.30 am every day and today’s guide, David, did a wonderful job of explaining it to us. I have visited here before but didn’t have the same understanding of the symbolism of all the components of the memorial. As our guide pointed out, the focal point of the museum is a dome of seagulls that represent the souls of every one of the lost sailors. Around the dome is a black granite wall with all the names of those who served (and were lost on the Sydney.
Further towards the sea is a statue of the “\Waiting Woman’ who represents the mothers and wives who are looking expectantly for their men to return. Some years ago, they found the location of the wreck of the Sydney (sunk by the German raider, The Kormoran, in 1941 about 140 miles off the coast) and now, the statue of the woman represents those women who are looking out to sea towards their lost men. Another thing that I learned was that during the dedication ceremony, the Naval Ode’ was read. I didn’t know until today that there is another Ode than the one to the fallen which is read on Anzac day and other commemorations.
David, our guide, had done a superb job of explaining the memorial, I flippantly suggested that he might like to provide us with a guided tour of the town. Surprisingly, he accepted and after lunch he gave us a brief tour around the port and the main features of the city. We were very grateful for his generosity.
We finished the day with a visit to the very impressive local branch of the WA Museum. It has some very good displays of history that has a local connection. The first was the story of the wreck of the Batavia, a Dutch East Indies ship that was wrecked on a nearby reef in 1629. The privations of those on board were unbelievable and only a few survived to be rescued. A second gallery told the story of the HMAS Sydney and how the location of its wreck was found. Finally, a third gallery told the story of the Australian involvement in East Timor starting from the time in WW2 when a small force of Australian commandos were helped by local people and continuing to Australia’s involvement with the Interfet force which protected east Timor just after its independence from Indonesia. This gallery had a little bit of meaning for me as it was in East Timor that my old unit (85 Transport Platoon) had its first overseas posting since Vietnam. There was also an old WW2 daybook on display in one of the museum cabinets and it looked strikingly similar to the one that I also had in the army.
We have had a very enjoyable visit to Geraldton and are now looking forward to other spectacular sites along the way.