Or: Cuddle Quokkas on Rottnest Island
Just a 30 minute ferry ride from Fremantle is one of the last outposts for the threatened quokka, small kangaroo like animals. (In fact, the first European explorers thought they were gigantic rats). It also happens to be one of Perth’s favourite weekend playgrounds. The only motor vehicles allowed on the island are service trucks and tourist buses but there are lots of roads just perfect for biking!
With trepidation, we decided to rent bicycles to explore the island. In the past, I have not had a very good history with rented bikes. On the Cook Islands, I was still jet lagged and could not get used to the brakes being on the handles instead of the pedals (Look out tree, here she comes!) and in Holland the only girl’s bike they had was larger than Jim’s! I ended up bruising the bone in my heel. So you can see why I was a wee bit worried…
We hadn’t been on the road long, with me trying to balance my attention between learning how to use the gears, stabilizing my steering, and searching the surrounding undergrowth for quokkas when Jim spotted a new bird. No, two! Oh! They were beautiful! Rainbow Bee-Eaters! They sure lived up to the first part of their names!
From then on I was happy.
It didn’t matter if we did not see a quokka, nor if I exhausted all my leg and butt muscles, not even if I ended up having a close encounter with a tree, I had seen a brand new bird! We eagerly drove on to see what else Rottnest Island had to offer.
The waters around Rottnest Island are many amazing colours, from deep blue to turquoise to powder blue to light green. We had to stop often just to admire the scenery (and to rest our legs, those hills may look gentle but…) We also stopped for an osprey family and swooping sea birds.
Snake! A big, black, slithery snake! Luckily it was going sliding away from us, very quickly. I wouldn’t even have seen it if the woman in front of me hadn’t yelled and pointed. After all the things I have heard about Aussie snakes, I was just as happy it had been “running” away. Jim, however, went back to see if he could see it but the snake was long gone into the scrub.
Once I almost ran over a lizard. It was mottled black and grey and blended right in with the pavement where apparently this lizard likes to sun itself. Nowhere else in the world could this lizard survive! But on Rottnest with the main traffic being bikes, it thrives. It was a funny looking thing with a triangle head and a triangle tail so a predator could not tell whether it was coming or going. Apparently, it stores fat in that tail. If so, mine was a jolly, plump fellow!
And then… Quokka sighting!!
Oh so cute! Truth be told, Jim has a love of cute furry animals, and he was beside himself with this little guy. As he was driving along behind me, he came to a sign that said, “Do not feed the quokka” and sure enough, there was a quokka under the trees. He was afraid to yell at me for fear of spooking the creature and so just waited until I finally noticed I’d lost a husband.
When I slowly, gently and cautiously came back, tip-toeing the last bit, we watched with excited hearts as the quokka walked across the road right to us. We soon learned there was no need to be quiet. This was no skittish animal! He told us as plainly as possible to ignore the sign and feed him! Luckily, we had no food, so we weren’t tempted. Quokka didn’t seem to mind. He hung around and even accepted a wee bit of petting. Sigh! He was so CUTE!
Back in the busy harbour area where food and drink abound, we soon saw several more quokka hanging around the picnic tables, one with a baby in her pouch. Hmmm… I gather quokka have developed a taste for human leftovers.
Later as we sat at our beach side restaurant and watched a huge pelican taking flight like a 747 taking off, we contemplated… If you took off from this point and traveled any direction except back into Australia, you’d hit Antarctica, India or Africa. None of those have I ever visited. It was the end of the world as we know it! Or at least the end of western civilization.
Oh, and the bike riding? Yes, I was successful! Okay, the brakes were on the handlebars again and it did have gears but only three. There was far less traffic than Amsterdam or even the Cook Islands so I had time to get used to the unfamiliar system. There were a few times when I braked too hard at a wildlife sighting and ended up bashing my… umm… central parts on the central bar (Ouch!). Also my muscles are not used to that type of exercise nor is my butt used to a bike seat but I didn’t end up in a tree! I may be sore and tired but with the beautiful scenery and unique wildlife, I don’t mind that for me this evening, there will be no wild life!