Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Rottnest Island experience
Rottnest Island isn't the most scenic holiday location on earth. The accommodation is a bit rough around the edges, food prices are steep, there are poisonous snakes in the sand dunes and quokka shit sprinkled liberally across all walking surfaces.
Have I put you off? Good, cause to be honest it's my favourite place on the planet and I'd rather keep it to myself. You can have your lush rainforest resorts, or drink cocktails out of two litre buckets in Bali and I'll have my Rotto.
So it was with great pleasure that I spent the last two weeks on the great southern island with Mrs Cookster and the young Cookster clan aged 2, 3 and 10. Having spent much of my childhood on Rotto, marking such memorable occasions as learning to ride my bike and getting drunk for the first time, it was a visit filled with much misty-eyed nostalgia.
In a case of life turning the full circle, I was able to watch my own son come to grips with a bike in almost the exact spot that I had some 35 years earlier. Back then the road on the Bathurst end of Thompson Bay was shaded by Bungalow 5 where our family would spend two weeks every January.
My Nanna Flora was the ruler of that rickety bungalow and in charge of duties including the shooing of rogue quokkas with the broom, boiling the water for the nightly 'bucket baths', preparing the freshly caught herring and procuring the fabled bakery cream buns.
My Grandad Len would work with Dad to set up our illegal 'hose and shower head' set-up in the back courtyard so the adults could take an illicit shower without having to line up and pay for a wash at the shower blocks.
This recent visit gave me time to reflect on those happy days and bring my Nanna back to the island for one last time. Our family gathered on the rocks beneath the Bathurst Lighthouse and scattered her ashes into the waters at Pinkies Beach where she would swim every morning in her powder blue bathing suit and matching swimming cap. Enjoy the stay Nanna, we'll be keeping the tradition alive.
That night I dreamt I was nine years old, lying on my cot on the verandah of bungalow 5, smelling the scent of Rottnest Pines and salt lake foam, reading war comics and rubbing my sandy feet on the RIB army blankets at the foot of the bed.
The next day we learned that a young boy had been killed by a collapsed pillar in a unit not far from where the now demolished bungalow 5 once stood. It was an awful feeling that such a tragedy should take place on an island that's supposed to be about creating treasured family memories.
With sentimentality running high, I texted some rather flowery prose in praise of the great island to fellow Rottnest lover, POST Newspaper journalist, union heavyweight and purveyor of smoked herring David 'Fucking Outrage' Cohen.
Of course, he bought me back down to earth by calling me a "wanker" on his cult blogsite Rotto Bloggo.
So in closing, I shall return the favour DC - wanker - and start dreaming of next October when I'll once again tread the sandy shores of Little Parakeet Bay and wallow in its crystal clear waters.