Bowled over Down Under Travel

Cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth where you can click a quokka selfie

With the bushfires contained, Australia is back on the tourist map. Here, cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth... where you can cradle baby kangaroos and click a quokka selfie

“When are we seeing the animals?” asks Indian batswoman Mithali Raj curiously, as we troop into our coach in central Perth, “I’m looking forward to that.”

Mithali is at home in lush green cricket grounds — having played with distinction for India and currently captaining the ODI side — but her heart lies in the greenery that you would associate with the jungles. “I’m a forest person. I love animals and wildlife.”

But now, she’s in a bustling metropolis — Perth — which she is visiting for the first time. Having toured other parts of Australia on previous occasions, Mithali has a jam-packed itinerary in Perth, and she plans to make the most of it. MetroPlus drives along with her:

Cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth where you can click a quokka selfie

Day 1

9 am

We take a stroll, taking in Perth’s sights and sounds. It is sunny but terribly windy — Perth is reportedly among the windiest cities in the world — as we explore Murray Street and learn about the location of the old fire station and the foundation of the colony. “It reminds me of Calcutta,” says Mithali, as she devours history lessons about the city’s English roots that also has quite a bit of an Irish connection. She’s fascinated when we pass the library and hears about a tree that grows inside, in the midst of all the books. “I wish I could go inside and read a book quietly.” That has to wait, for we have things to do.

Noon

Even as the sun beats down at Hay Street, we take refuge inside the grand heritage building of The Perth Mint, opened in 1899 in response to the discovery of rich gold deposits in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The only mint in the world that is government guaranteed, it has investors all over the globe.

Cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth where you can click a quokka selfie

We saunter into a room that houses the world’s largest coin, and Mithali is wide-eyed as she checks out the giant 1,012-kilogram gold coin (80 cm diameter and 12 cm thick), with a face value of 1 million Australian dollars. “There’s no way anyone is stealing that one,” she laughs to the in-house guide, who explains, with much passion, Western Australia’s link with gold nuggets and regales us with stories associated with gold pieces called the ‘Hand of Faith’, ‘Welcome Stranger’ and ‘Golden Eagle’.

3 pm

Swan Valley, just a 25-minute drive from the city, might be popular for its wine, but we are more interested in the kangaroos. For, how can we step out of Australia and not boast about petting a kangaroo or a koala?

It’s something on the top of Mithali’s to-do list, and so, with much excitement, we head to Caversham Wildlife Park at Swan Valley. Once inside, the cricketer immediately picks up a small white kangaroo that follows her tepidly. They are best buddies within minutes, and then, there is no stopping the sweet nothings they exchange. “You don’t get to see them in such close proximity anywhere else,” Mithali tells me later, after she has finished petting a koala and spotting a dingo, “The thing with Australia is that it has some animals and birds so unique to the continent — seeing them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth where you can click a quokka selfie

After bidding them goodbye, we enjoy a rather hot cuppa’ coffee at Yahava KoffeeWorks that engages its patrons in an interesting coffee-tasting experience, and check out the peanut-making process at Morish Nuts, which boasts a range crafted for over 20 years using traditional family recipes.

Day 2

9 am

We’re ready to fly. Up and away.

On board Corsaire Aviation’s pretty-yellow six-seater aircraft, we take off from the city, taking in the glorious views that it has to offer. “I’ve been on a chopper before, but that was over Mumbai and I could see only giant structures back then,” says Mithali, confidently seated next to the pilot. This time around, she sees crystal-clear water. “Isn’t it like a painting?”

The art just gets better as we circle and subsequently land at Rottnest Island that boasts 63 bays and 20 beaches, thus giving plenty of scope for water activities. That has to wait for another time, for now, we are ready to explore the island in a rather unique manner... on a Segway!

11 am

The Segway, a “two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporter”, is our trusted companion for the next couple of hours. It is a rather cool vehicle, one in which the control is entirely up to you (you push forward, the vehicle moves forward; you bend backwards, it brakes). It is probably one of the best ways to explore an island (and is eco-friendly as well). After a 20-minute initiation programme, we lunge ahead excitedly, taking in the breathtaking view of the bays and the water, whizzing along the roads of Rottnest that is mostly filled with tourists. There’s some running commentary going on in the walkie talkies plugged to our ears — and that is of interest to Mithali. “I was pleasantly surprised to find a cricket ground in the island, which is actually home to only a few families.”

Cricketer Mithali Raj recommends a two-day trip to Perth where you can click a quokka selfie

3 pm

After a gruelling few hours on the Segway and the cycle, we have a leisurely lunch in which we spend more time swatting flies than eating... pro tip: Rottnest Island is infested with flies. Be prepared to wage a war.

Flies there might be many, but Rottnest is most famous for its quokka population — the island is home to this mammal (about 10,000 of these animals live here). The quokka, a type of small wallaby, is described as the ‘happiest animal on earth’ and was also instrumental in getting the island its current name (the story goes that early settlers thought it was a rat, and named the place ‘rat’s nest’, which, over time, became Rottnest).

We find a few of them in the middle of a few bushes, busy chewing away on some grass. One of the quokkas spots us and gingerly hops forward. We offer some leaves, and it comes closer to us, very interested in the offering. And, as it nibbles on the leaf, we get the close-to-perfect quokka selfie. Mithali is delighted with her selfie with her new friend. “That I was at Quokka Island, and even managed to get a selfie with the animal, is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in life,” she beams.

(The writer was in Perth at the invitation of Tourism Australia)

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:51:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/cricketer-mithali-raj-recommends-a-two-day-trip-to-perth-where-you-can-click-a-quokka-selfie/article30868482.ece

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