Saturday, October 08, 2005

tales from freo

I landed in Freo in the middle of the night...I didn't anticipate that it would take me so long to find a willing airport shuttle driver, and I walked the streets looking for a place to stay. Freo felt safe enough to walk around at midnight...but there were suspicious characters loitering about. As I reached what turned out to be the city centre, there were packs of kids lolling about, like feral dogs. It was quite surreal. Deserted town, middle of the night and all these teenagers. And on a monday night! I wandered around till I found a backpacking place that was open and crashed for the night. But right next to this place was a cafe that was open all night! I cannot stress enough how rare this is in Australia. In the rest of the country all shops tend to close around 5 or 530, and in Freo they have all these cafes that go way into the night and open on Sundays as well. I noticed that a lot of shops had the sign "open 7 days" on them and it turned out that there's a concerted effort to keep businesses open for longer, a concept that is as natural as night in the rest of the world. The best thing about Freo (and for that matter, Perth) is that they have this free bus system called the CAT service which goes around the city centre. The bus stops in Freo were painted with wild colours and themes, but sadly I forgot to take any photos of them, so ...well too bad.

The conference itself was quite good. It was held in what I guess is Freo's biggest hotel, but apart from the fact that the screen was so high that everybody suffered from neck-aches at the end of the conference, everything went smooth. I was ill at ease till my talk got over, unfortunately it was on the last I really started relaxing only when everything was almost over.

All of us were staying in a charming beachside cottage that was at the very end of the main road in Freo. It was just a few minutes from a nice white sand beach, but the weather was absolutely un beach-like. Chilly and windy and intermittently rainy, so regrettably I didn't spend much time on the beach. The one time I did venture to take a look at the Indian Ocean from the other side, my only companions were gulls battling to keep their place in the wind. The highlight of the trip was the visit to a really strange pub/ micro-brewery called the Little Creatures. The pub was IN the brewery, so we had beer sitting amidst these huge silver coloured metal canisters that looked all the world like missile silos. The beer was strange but nice, and the food was even more eclectic. I also spent a lot of time in one of Freo's markets, in my quest for a wooden ring, but it proved to be fruitless.

After the conference i headed to Perth. I think I overdid Perth- I walked everywhere, from the awfully domesticated King's Park Botanical Garden (this link doesn't work in FireFox for me...) to all the museums. I touched a meteorite. Many meteorites actually, apparently, there was this big shower some time ago and the Museum of Western Australia has a whole bunch of them. Very interesting to see the pockmarks made by the heat from the entry into the atmosphere. They also had a preserved specimen of one of the ugliest sharks -the Megamouth- I'll ever see, and one of the most rare as well. I think only around 5 specimens have ever been seen worldwide.

MIscellaneous notes: Saw Serenity, (★★★) read Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (★★★★★) and Charlie Stross's Singularity Sky (★★★).