Isolated from the more populous east coast by seemingly never ending red cracked earth, and geographically closer to Singapore than any other Aussie city, Perth quite unsurprisingly has developed a very distinct culture.
The influence of the mining boom can still be seen, felt and smelt, despite the very real slow down. Each job in iron ore mining allegedly supported 8 jobs in Perth (in retail / hospitality), thus each job lost through mine closure leaves its impact.
The city centre almost sparkles with clean newness. The sun glints off of the mining company high rises as grey haired men, rotund from an indulgence made possible by their bulging pay checks, float by in expensive suits and designer shades. Take an evening trip out to the sought after coastal suburb of Cottesloe and the pavement outside the most popular restaurants will be lined with Bentleys, Mercedes and even a spattering of super cars, each with their own personalised number plate.
Meanwhile, tribes of expats and WA locals alike are still making a healthy buck on fly in fly out (or FIFO) on site mining jobs. Here the money does not discriminate and everyone from über qualified engineers to the almost illiterate have an equal opportunity to make their million.
The stories and characters from the mine sites, be they exaggerated or not I have know way of knowing, did more than shock the sensibilities of the sheltered white middle class European in me. The widest eyes and sharpest intake of breath came when hearing of the Chilean that found himself nick named Paki. Seeing no point in correcting the error he joined right in, reporting back over the radio using the name of an infamous Muslim fundamentalist terrorist organisation whilst driving the bomb truck (needless to say he is no longer allowed to drive the bomb truck). Jaws also dropped when hearing of the worker with Swastika’s tattooed between each finger who talks of a planned trip over to holiday in France and Germany and the topless waitresses flown in from all over Sydney for special mining town events.
Back in the city and the Cashed Up Bogans (or CUBs) run boozy around the suburb of Northbridge with it’s plethora of bars, and join the rest of the city in the tradition of Sunday Sessions – drinking through from lunch time to sunset on a Sunday in the beach view bars of Scarborough. Why ruin the weekend with hangovers when you can get paid to feel fuzzy on a Monday instead?
The best part of my trip to Perth was definitely hearing the tales from the mines. But the city does have a lot more to offer than the rest of Australia would have you know.
My top five things we did whilst in Perth:
The mission to take a Quokka selfie on idyllic Rottenest Island
Learning of the city that convicts built on the Doing Time tour of Fremantle Prison
Smelling the coffee beans in Fremantle market before heading for a cold pale ale in the sun at Little Creatures brewery
Wandering through the spring flowers and taking in the views of the city from Kings Park
Indulging in a three course dinner with fizz and a bottle of local red wine at Limones Cafe and Restaurant
Disclaimer: the stories from the mines recounted here were told in the pub over a few beers and should be treated as such. They aren’t meant as a commentary on the intelligence of anyone, and aren’t intended to offend.