Righto, Rotto!

December 22: When I put in 11-hour (or more) work days and it’s summer in Australia (and winter at home), I like to get outside to appreciate the good weather.  On my last weekend in Perth, I visited Rottnest Island, which is known as Wadjemup by the Noongar people.   It’s about 20 km from Perth and quite a nice pretty little island.  It was spotted by Dutch explorers in 1610 and given the name “Rotte nest” (rat nest) in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh, who mistook the quokkas for rats.

Got quokka? Those Dutch rats must have been pretty big!

I got up early early on Saturday to take the bus, then the train, then the ferry from Perth to Rottnest Island.  But I guess it wasn’t early enough – I didn’t get to Rotto (as the locals call it) until 12:30. My return ticket was for 4:30, but I made the most of my time – went on a tour to see the quokkas in their natural habitat then rented a bike to tour around the island (cars aren’t allowed). The island looks much smaller – and flat – on the map, so my plan to ride out all the way to the west end (into the wind, BTW) did not pan out – too much wind, too many hills. The coastal views were very nice, though, and provided a much-needed rest after all that peddling!

Ship's Anchor at Henrietta Rocks, on the Indian Ocean.

I did make it up to the Wadjemup Lighthouse and saw some more nice views. The island was separated from Australia about 7000 years ago, and it contains several saltwater lakes (run-off from the soil). The salt used to be harvested for the mainland settlement but not anymore. It’s kind of cool to ride down the middle of the island and see all these lakes, which are filled with noisy birds dining on the brine shrimp.

Riding on the island, past Pearson Lake.

Of course, the island was also used as a penal colony. I say “of course” because Australia was settled by convicts, with the first landing on its western shores occurring in 1850.  Between 1838 and 1931, almost 3700 Aboriginal men and boys were imprisoned here, some for crimes as petty as stealing a loaf of bread.

Today, Rottnest Island is a tourist destination.  Many people come out for a day or more – the old buildings that housed prisoners and military personnel are now used for holiday accommodation.  There are lots of things to see and do on Rotto, and you can’t beat the view!

On Thompson Bay, outside The Settlement.

Other links:
More about quokkas can be found here and here.
Willem de Vlamingh also landed in Shark Bay.
More about Wadjemup Lighthouse can be found here.
Information about Rottnest’s penal colony can be found here.

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