Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year’s Eve 2012 – Perth WA

A New Year’s Eve to remember……or not?

Oddly, Perth city does not celebrate New Year’s Eve with a firework display.  Instead they save it all up for huge display and let loose on Australia Day in a display that rivals Sydney’s NYE fireworks.  I also telephoned the casino, the race track and some other venues I had heard have done fireworks in the past, but it seemed a no-go everywhere.  When I asked at the Perth Visitors Information Centre how locals celebrate NYE, I was told most went to house parties, or just waited till Australia Day.  Odd.
However, a fireworks display was planned at Mandurah, a coastal town about 80km south of Perth, but part of the Perth train system.  They had a children’s firework display at 9.00pm.  Perfect!

We packed our usual nibblies of crackers, cheese, olives, salami, carrots, a picnic blanket, some sparklers, warm jackets and began our public transport journey at 5.50pm.  We had plenty of time to get to the 9.00pm fireworks.  Or so we thought.  I should also mention that we had Shania with us, the 10 year old staying in the caravan park.  This was her first NYE fireworks.

Elizabeth, Shania, Kate
We needed to get two suburban trains each way, and a shuttle bus was taking passengers from the newly constructed Mandurah train terminal down to the foreshore.  We had plenty of time.
The 5.50pm train was uneventful.  However when we got off in Perth city and walked to the next platform, there was an electronic message board saying that the Mandurah line was down and that buses would be replacing the train for all but the final two stops.  No problem, we had 3 hours and it was NYE so there’d be plenty of buses to replace the trains if breakdowns occurred.  Right?  Wrong!

We got on the connecting train for only two stops and then all the passengers got off and trudged into the BusPort to catch the replacement buses.  There were about 200 people ahead of us and the bus waiting area must have been at least 40C.  It was stifling.  20 minutes later and a bus appeared, filled up and took off.  20 minutes later a second bus appeared, stopped, kept its doors closed and then drove away.  WTF? 
Finally we got on a non-air-conditioned bus.  The bus would obviously follow the train route and call into each of the stations, dropping off and collecting passengers.  The first few stations were fine, but when a passenger yelled ‘Turn right driver, turn right’ it became apparent the driver didn’t know how to reach the next station!  We got to the next station, the passenger who advised the driver departed and another passenger got us to the next station.  For the next station however, none of the passengers seemed sure of the way.  They were used to being rail commuters, not navigating the same area by road.  So I opened my phone and used Navigator, a very handy GPS app, to provide directions.  How surreal, a Queenslander giving a Perth bus driver directions!! 

We finally got to a station, got on a train and two stops later arrived in Mandurah.  By this time it was 8.45pm.  We’d barely make the fireworks before having to go through the whole rigmarole in reverse to get home.  It would be totally inappropriate if I put into words my true feelings at the time!!  Still, we would make it. Right?  Wrong!
So we are now at Mandurah railway station.  On the footpath in front of the station an irritated group was waiting for the shuttle bus.  We had no idea of the geography of the area, so walking wasn’t an option.  Just as well, as it turned out the station was a good 10 minute drive to the foreshore.  But I digress….

After a few minutes of waiting, a bus with ‘Mandurah shuttle’ appears.  About 60 passengers board.  We wait.  The bus driver looks at us. The bus driver asks a passenger where they are going. The passenger says 'the Mandurah foreshore for the fireworks in 5 minutes'.  The bus driver tells us he is not the fireworks shuttle bus, but another ‘shuttle’ bus.  60 people get off the bus.  Again, I really can’t begin to describe the general mood, but I’m sure you're starting to get the picture
About 8.55pm, a small 18 seater shuttle bus appears, then another.  We manage to get on one and two minutes into the journey, hear the first of the fireworks going off.  Occasionally we can see them.
We arrived at the foreshore at 9.10pm (at least we didn’t decide to start walking!) just in time to see the last few seconds of the fireworks display.  The journey had taken 3 hours 20 minutes.

We found a table and ate the food we’d brought and discussed what to do next.  Just turn around and do it all again?  If we didn’t have Shania with us, we wouldn’t have hesitated to stay till midnight.  The three girls were all keen to stay, but Larry and I wondered what we’d do for the next 2 ½ hours till midnight.  It’s not as if we could wander into a local bar for a few drinks to pass the time with three kids in tow!
Across the water, about a 20 minute walk away was a very low key theme park which we’d noticed on our first visit to Mandurah earlier in December on our way to Margaret River.  We had assumed there would be a side show alley of some sort at the fireworks area and had previously given Elizabeth & Kate $20 each to spend, as had Shania’s dad.  They were obviously desperate to stay and visit the theme park and spend their money.  So I went to call Shania’s father to check if it was OK by him, only to discover my phone on the warning signal for a flat battery.  You’ve got to be joking?  Instead I sent him a text asking if it was alright for his 10 year old to get home at 3.00am (assuming the same debacle to get back), instead of the planned 11.00pm.  Fortunately the message went through and he was okay with it.

Anyway, the girls had a ball at the theme park.  Most of the crowd had dissipated after the kids fireworks at 9, so they pretty much had the place to themselves.  The big hit, both in fun and cost ($10) was the water balls.  I couldn’t have stood getting inside a ball in the humidity, but they all loved it and because it wasn’t busy, actually got a fairly decent ride for their money. 


By the time we had finished at the theme park it was 11.30pm and time to head back to the foreshore for the main fireworks.  They were OK as far as fireworks go, but there was no co-ordinated countdown so you could hear people celebrating at different times.  The girl had a sparkler and whistles and made themselves heard.  They weren’t flagging at all and I suspect they found it very exciting being up so late and in such a big crowd.

At 12.15am, 1 January 2013, we then had to scoot back to the shuttle bus (the correct one!), back to Mandurah train station, to be greeted with the wonderful news that the train problem had been rectified and our journey home would be as it should be, ie, just two trains and 50 minutes.
There was a 20 minute wait to change trains at the main Perth station.  The girls got quite an education with some of the outfits and shenanigans of people who had been drinking the last 5 hours.  We finally got back to our original train station, discovered the car hadn’t been stolen or vandalised and reached the caravan park by 2.00am.  Shania’s dad was waiting for us.  We were all in bed by 2.45am. 

What an adventure - and all because Perth must be the only city on the planet that doesn’t do NYE fireworks!

Travellers Tip:  If you want to attend NYE fireworks, relocate to one of the surrounding towns, most of which have displays.  Otherwise, plan a quiet night in!  If you do decide to use public transport, ring the TransPerth info line before you depart to check for any route changes.

No comments:

Post a Comment