Blog 195 Chance Encounters 11th – 16th Dec 2011


Although we had gone into Freo (Freemantle) with Claire and Dave and looked around the markets there was still a lot more to see. Freemantle was the place where the first British expedition landed in 1829 to create the new Swan River Colony the start of modern day Perth. We headed to the shipwreck museum which housed a permanent display on the Batavia which was shipwrecked just up the coast near Cervantes (close to the Pinnacles region). The Dutch had recently returned some artefacts dotted around various museums to Freo to ensure a complete display in one museum.

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The Batavia had a gruesome history, it set sail on its maiden voyage from Texel in the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies to collect spices and deliver supplies to the Dutch settlement after which it was named ( Batavia now called Jakarta). There was some animosity between the Commander Francisco Paelsart and the Skipper Ariaen Jacobsz and a conspiracy was hatched between the skipper and a junior merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz together with some other mutineers, they deliberately steered off course and separated from the rest of the fleet. The intention was to mutiny and start a new life elsewhere funded by the huge supplies of gold and silver that Batavia was taking to the colony. Before the mutiny truly took place the ship ran aground on a reef on the treacherous Australian coast, most of the ships company managed to get to an island but 40 souls were drowned.

 

This was only the start of their problems after the Commander, Captain and senior ranks set off in a longboat to find help. Cornelisz and his conspirators commandeered the food supply and weapons and tricked the soldiers on board into moving to another island in search of fresh water hoping they would perish in the process. They then systematically murdered anyone they thought might stand in their way and planned to hijack the rescue ship that would surely come to make good their escape. Unfortunately for them the soldiers found both fresh water and food and got word of what was happening from escapees, there then ensued several bloody battles for control. Amazingly the longboat made it to Jakarta without loss of life, 2 months later a rescue ship arrived and the soldiers just managed to get to the ship first to tell their tale and through joint efforts the mutiny was quashed Most of the the mutineers including Cornelisz had their hands cut off before being hanged on seal island, some were taken back to Batavia for punishment. Cornelisz as second in command was ‘broken on the wheel’ the worst punishment possible at the time which meant being strapped to a large cartwheel while their bones were systematically smashed with an iron cudgel until they died of shock or blood loss which could take days. Jacobsz the skipper was tortured but never confessed and no evidence was found against him, its thought he died in prison in Batavia. Of the 341 souls that set sail only 68 made it to Batavia alive.

The portico(arch) in the background was found in the hull and reconstructed.

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The rest of the museum was well presented with thousands of recovered artifacts from the many wrecks along this infamous coast. They had also recovered and restored a steam engine from Xantho a steam/sailship which sunk in Port Gregory harbour in 1872. The engine had been underwater for over 100 years. This was the first time an iron steam engine had been recovered from the sea and restored anywhere in the world and incredibly they can now crank it over.

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All of this was just a gold coin donation entrance fee.

We had just enough time left to have a look at the prison which only closed it’s doors to prisoners in 1991. Too late for a tour we walked around the entrance yard and were drawn to the Wray gates shutting off the rest of the complex. These were made out of recycled iron from the convict ships but as the iron was such poor quality the gates were constructed without a single weld. They were operated by a lever in the gatehouse and were the main entrance into the prison.

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Afterward we set off for Mandurah and our contact Johan who had travelled extensively with his wife on a BMW including through South America so we were looking forward to meeting them. We had barely left the city when I spied an overland looking bike on the opposite carriageway, I was a bit puzzled though as it didn’t have any luggage and was two-up but I waved anyway. A minute later the same bike overtook us with the rider pointing at his numberplate. Kev instantly recognised it as Guernsey and we pulled over for a chat.
George was just on a jaunt out from Freo with Di but had originaly travelled overland from Sark to Australia, it turned out George knew quite a gathering of overlanders living in Freo so after rescheduling our arrival at Johans we turned back to Freo once more, almost back to where we had started.

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We met George’s brother Morgan also from Sark and their mate Duncan from the UK. They were all staying in separate digs with various other travellers. George, Morgan and Duncan had travelled together on and off. We all met up for a beer at a local bar it was like being at college we were all broke so we shared cones of potato wedges for dinner…our bikes were parked outside and we had placed our sheet explaining our travels and much to amusement of the others we got some donations. We gotta get a donation box they exclaimed. Most of them are here to try to earn some money so they can continue their travels, Duncan has decided to stay so is applying for residency. Luckily for them they are all under 30 so have got work visas
It was a good evening, talk mainly revolved around bikes and travel as you would expect but it was interesting to compare experiences especially as they had all come through the lower middle east route. George was pleased to be able to host some travellers having been hosted so many times himself even though he was staying at a mates house who works offshore.

Next morning leaving the city on the main route, we hit a few patches of rain but tucked our elbows and knees in and didn’t really get wet. It was still fairly early when we arrived at Johan and Charmaine’s place in Mandurah, they were out at work but Charmaine’s parents who were visiting from South Africa were expecting us and made us very welcome. Just as we were drinking tea in their front room a huge rain storm blew in so we were pleased to be in the dry. We caught up with Johan and Charmaine over dinner, they travelled from their home in South Africa through Africa to reach Australia where they now live and work but we suspect there is more travelling to come. They had to be up for work 4.30am every morning so we retired early. We took a stroll round Mandurah the next day and headed back in that night to watch the Christmas fireworks out across the bay. During our time here we also managed to write another blog but we were still way behind. Only after we had left did we realise we forgot to get a picture of everyone which was annoying. We did get some of the fireworks and a Zimbabwean 100billion dollar note a souvenir of their travels, apparently the paper was worth more than the note by the time hyper-inflation had set in.

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On route to Bunbury we travelled through the only remaining tall Tuart tree forest (a form of Eucalyptus) one of the rarest forests in the world, as being a hard wood most of the forests were clear felled, what is left is now protected from logging but regrowth is slow as grey kangaroos favour the young trees in their diet. We stopped to look at some Thrombalites in Yalorup national park. These were similar to the Stromatalites we saw in Hamelin Pool, the difference is mainly in their internal structure. They are formed by micro organisms, as they photosynthesize calcium carbonate is drawn out of the lime enriched water off lake Clifton to form a rock like material. In essence they are living rocks and grow approximately 1mm a year.

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I had marked a tiny church and wood gallery in Australind to explore both looked interesting so we turned off the highway for a look. Initially we couldn’t find the church but we did find “Featured Wood”. Here we met John the owner, he made his living from bespoke woodwork. His gallery was amazing and he was happy to show us around even though he knew we couldn’t carry much. Beyond the gallery is his pride and joy the museum which has been 30 years in the making. It is split into seven sections covering his family history, a Ned Kelly, American Indian history, the American civil war, the indigenous Noonwar people, Busselton jetty and Gallipoli. The replica canon he hand carved. Here are some pictures, John is a great bloke and let us dress up in some gear to get some good pictures, his museum was a labour of love and is well worth a visit. He made many of the exhibits including the wooden revolvers which are a work of art in themselves. Have a look at the photograph of his ancestors in the woodwork section he has added himself in old style dress to one of the pictures. When it was time to leave he gave me a dolphin made of Jarrah for luck and directed us to the church which we had ridden right by so incongruous was it. It’s the smallest functioning church in Australia at only 3.6m wide and 8.2m long.

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In Bunbury we stayed with Lee and Helen the couple we met in Mongolia who were emigrating to Australia with their daughter Bev in their Zebra striped landrover, they have now settled in Bunbury and invited us to drop by a while ago. It was great to see them again, the last time we met was in a valley in the middle of Mongolia where they made us a cup of tea. It was great to catch up and hear their stories from the rest of their trip. We spent a couple days with them and had a look around Bunbury and the surrounding area while we were there.

While we were out one day taking some pictures by the lighthouse a car turned in a pulled to a halt, the driver was a photographer for the Bunbury newspaper and had seen us in passing a few days previous. He rang a reporter and we did a photo-shoot by the towns tower viewpoint.

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Our other excursion took us to Gnomesville a woodland glade occupied by more gnomes than we have ever seen in our life. We both think Gnomes are a bit naff but this many in one place was a sight to behold.

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Gnomed out we then took to the dirt to visit a giant Jarrah tree and Wellington Dam before heading back in to Bunbury for tea with Lee, Helen, Beverly and Lee’s Mum and Dad (over for Christmas from the UK). The next day we got to meet their French friends who live in Bridgetown when they came over for lunch. Lee speaks fluent French having lived there for seven years. Here are some pictures. It was time for us to move on so we said a fond farewell to Lee and the family before pointing the bike toward Busselton that same afternoon. It wasn’t far and we were soon saying hello to Barry and Tina.

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Next up: Busso (Bussleton) and Christmas.

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