Road Trippin’ Down Under: A Walk on the Mild Side

Day Eight in Australia was intensely bittersweet. Although I missed the kids and the cats back home, I was already missing all the places we had been (yes—even the place with the bees!) and all the places we would not have a chance to see (Wave Rock, Pinnacles, to name just two) before heading back the States. So, although I was eager to get out and see things, I was also having trouble mustering the gumption to get out and do something because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it all.

Although I knew going into this that we wouldn’t have time to see everything there was to see in Western Australia, it had now become clear that if there had been a contest to see who could log the most miles and see the most sites, the Jarhead and I would have come in dead last in both categories. Unless you count seeing the inside of your eyelids, that is. In which case the Jarhead would have won hands down.

From a sight-seeing perspective you really can’t cover much ground in just eight days—especially when you’re a chickenshit insomniac with a sleepy spouse and temperamental hair. Unless you’re talking about some small but historically significant town—which you can probably cover in under 8 hours—you’ve got to give yourself more time.

Exactly how much time?

That’s a great question. And one for which I have no answer. Because we lived in Naples (Italy, that is; not Florida) for three years and barely scratched the surface of what there was to see and do there, never mind the rest of the country. The same is true in the case of Arizona, Virginia, California, and Pennsylvania, where we lived for a few years each and found the time to explore but a fraction of what we would have like to have seen. But of course, we could travel to every one of those places two or three more times for the price it would cost us to go back to Australia, which is why I there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of us getting back that way again.

I know. Boo hoo. I only got to visit Australia once.

But I don’t want your pity. I’m just explaining why, as the trip crept to its inevitable close, I was already missing everything that I knew I would never get to see. And so, with only one day left, we had some pretty tough but incredibly familiar choices to make: Where should we go? What should we do? And more importantly, what should we eat?

With our rental car due back in less than six hours we knew we wouldn’t be going far. And since literally everyone we had spoken to about it—both prior to and during our trip—had urged us to see Kings Park and Botanical Gardens—the Jarhead suggested we go there. It was right on the way to the airport from our hotel, he reasoned, and as far as a retired marine is concerned, that’s about as close to kismet as you’re going to get.

I will now share with you some fun facts about Kings Park and Botanical Gardens, which I got from the fun folks at Experience Perth as well as a few regular facts, just for the fun of it.

Fun Fact: Kings Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world.

Regular Fact: At 1,003 acres, it surpasses New York’s Central Park, which comprises 843 acres. This compares to our home in Wisconsin, which sits on 36.8 billion acres, if you count the entire surface of the earth.

Fun Fact: Kings Park and Botanical Gardens hosts 6 million visitors every year.

Regular Fact: Assuming those 6 million people do NOT all come to the park on the same day but at a rate somewhere close to a mathematical average, that means 16,000 people visit Kings Park each day. Even if only 1 out of every 4 of them is driving a car or truck, that means that there are 4,000 motorized vehicles arriving at the park on any given day, which explains why we had so bloody much trouble finding a place to park.

Fun Fact: Kings Park showcases an outstanding collection of Western Australian flora and is a popular place for picnics, walks, and ceremonial events.

Regular Fact: Kings Park attracts an astounding volume of tourists to its outstanding collection of Western Australian flora, which makes finding a place to picnic, walk, or park nearly an impossibility. Tourists who are disappointed by this can console themselves by visiting the DNA Tower, where they’ll find a seemingly endless supply of fun scientific facts but, surprisingly, absolutely no competition for parking.

In addition to these fun facts, the fun folks at Experience Perth offer visitors to their site an impressive list of all the great things that visitors to Kings Park can do there.

  • ADMIRE the panoramic views of treetops, the city skyline and the Swan River.
  • LEARN about the diversity of WA’s flora
  • DISCOVER our rich history along the Lotterywest Federation Walkway.
  • SEE the mighty boab tree, a 750 year old specimen from the Kimberley region of WA.
  • CHILDREN will love the many play areas around Kings Park.
  • VISIT the Rio Tinto Naturescape – a place for children to connect with the environment
  • ENJOY the range of summer events and festivities
  • ENJOY a Free Guided Walk with the Kings Park Guides
  • ENJOY the flora and fauna including wildflowers and over 70 bird species
  • INDULGE in a spot of retail therapy at the Aspects of Kings Park gallery shop
  • CLIMB all 101 steps of the spiraling DNA Tower for spectacular views

As I said, it’s a pretty impressive list. However, to that list I would add the following:

  • RELAX in the comfort of your climate controlled rental car as you drive around for hours in search of a parking space.
  • PRAY that if/when you DO find a parking space that it won’t be so far from the entrance to the botanical gardens that you’ll need to change clothes when you get inside because yours have gone out of style.
  • REMEMBER to pack plenty of food, water, and sunscreen to protect you from starvation, dehydration, and third degree sunburn while making your way to the botanical gardens.
  • CONSIDER bringing a flashlight along so that you can find your way back to your vehicle since it will probably be dark by then.
  • TRY to arrive before the other 15,998 visitors get there. Before dawn would be best. Or maybe even the night before. Just definitely do NOT arrive at or after breakfast time.

With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to share a few photos from our adventures at Kings Park. Just for fun, see if you can guess how many of the 16 items from the preceding lists we were able to accomplish that day…

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For those of you playing along at home, the correct answer is 2!

Yep. After completing item #11 of the activities suggested by Experience Perth, and item #1 of the 5 that I added to the mix, we decided we could survive with just having seen the bird’s-eye view of the park from atop the DNA Tower. You only live once, as they say, and we were determined not to spend what time we had left in Perth/on Earth fighting throngs of other tourists.

So we hopped in the car, drove to the airport, dropped off our rental car, checked our bags, cleared security, and hit the business class lounge to see how it compared to the business class lounge in Abu Dhabi, and to determine how much free wine I could consume before someone other than the Jarhead decided I’d had enough.

Hey, a gal’s gotta have a goal. Some are just loftier than others.

p.s. Happy Birthday, Cousin Jeff!