This might be a little worrying, but one of my most vivid childhood memories is rushing home to watch The Mysterious Cities of Gold.
Strangely I can remember almost nothing about the cartoon now. There were some kids running round South America looking for a lostcity, there was a giant flying bird (made out of gold?) and a great theme tune. Plus it seemed to go on for years. I was obsessed with it.
Equally strangely (stay with me…), Perth really reminds me of The Mysterious Cities of Gold. And not just because it’s spelt a bit like Peru (which was possibly the cartoon’s setting).
For a start, there’s its location. Any map you look at simply doesn’t do justice to the fact that not even Jordan and Peter Andre are as far apart asPerth and, well, anywhere else. It’s the world’s most isolated capital city and it’s closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney, which is where I’d come from, after spending three – yes, three – nights on a train.
Somehow, whenever I spend that long on any form of transport, I expect to be getting off somewhere like Mongolia. But I’m merely on the other side of Oz.
Being a believer that travelling is about discovery, I always get massively excited about arriving somewhere that hardly anybody I know has been to. So with surreal 80s cartoon flashbacks thrown into the mix, I’m finding it hard to contain myself.
As if by chance I immediately stumble across the Perth Mint, which in the context of my ongoing (and I’ll be honest, increasingly unnerving) visions of conquistadores, I take to be some sort of sign. So in I go.
Now, I’d say that mints (of the metal, rather than the minty, variety), generally aren’t too high up my list of priorities but this one is, well, a littlegold mine.
After almost tripping over a visiting sultan in the shop, I busy myself watching the precious metal getting poured, struggle to lift a bar ofgold with a $200,000 price tag and discover that I’d be worth a cool $2 million if I was made of solid gold.
Keen to get a better feel for the city I then trek up to the majestic expanses of Kings Park.
Comprising over 1,000 acres of mainly natural bushland atop Mount Eliza, the park offers unparalleled views over the state capital, and is the perfect place to chill out for a few hours.
So that’s exactly what I do, while pondering how to become a millionaire by turning myself into solid gold.
But there’s no rest for the wicked. Belly growling, I head into town to
explore Northbridge, where there are enough restaurants and bars vying
for my trade to make it more than easy to find some good nosh to eat, plus drink enough shandies to help me wake up the next morning, unsure how I made it back to the hostel.
When I do awake however, it’s another scorching day in Australia’s sunniest state capital so I hop on a suburban train to Cottesloe.
A beautifully relaxed beach, backed up with grassy terraces, Cottesloe is the perfect place to jump off the train, only minutes from the CBD, en route to a Fremantle day trip.
I get my first taste of the deliciously-warm waters that lap up against Perth, putting the icey east coast seas to shame.
I savour the refreshing Fremantle Doctor, as the locals call the south-westerly breeze that helps keep the area cool, and celebrate my good fortune by stuffing my face with an ice cream.
Satisfied with my hard morning’s work, I head onwards to historic Fremantle, spotting dolphins playing in the port from the train as I pass.
Once in “Freo”, I head straight to the prison, where I’ve got an appointment with a boiler suit, a canoe and a man called Steve. Wanting to continue with my quest for discovery, I’d signed up for one of the prison’s spooky tunnel tours.
I’m not disappointed. Dressed up like the lovechild of Indiana Jones and Tupac, I venture 20m down into the labyrinth beneath the city.
At one point we turn off our lights and the darkness becomes so intense that even after five minutes I can’t see my hand right in front of my face.
We crawl, we duck, we clamber up ladders, we jump into boats and paddle along, all while Steve fills us in on how the maximum security prison and its water supply were central to the colony’s growth.
It‘s fascinating and, maybe this is just me, but it seems all the more interesting for learning about it while sat in a boat in the pitch dark 20m underground while wearing a boiler suit. If only there was a giant bird made of gold, the adventure would have been near perfect.
Back above ground, and sadly back in my own clothes, it’s somehow got dark again. And I’m hungry again. Luckily some spectacular fish and chips overlooking the trawlers of Fisherman’s Wharf awaits me just a stone’s throw away.
Stumbling back to town on my final night, I try to work out what cartoons would represent other Aussie cities – Batman for Melbourne and The Flash for Sydney me thinks.
But for me, Perth – the boomtown of Oz where there’s riches to be made but where life still seems slow enough to feel like an eternally sunny Saturday afternoon – will only ever be a city of gold.