Monday, November 22, 2010

A History Lesson

I’ve been meaning to blog about my day trip to a place called La Perouse since August… and now it’s November and I’m just getting around to it, mostly because a mate of mine is in town from the States and we’ve been doing heaps of things that I’m going to want to blog about over the next few weeks and it wouldn’t make sense for me to blog about those without blogging about this first seeing as it’s from August and I’m trying to do this somewhat chronologically.

I’ve been putting off blogging about La Perouse for months now, mainly because I just don’t know how to make it exceptionally funny and/or entertaining for my blog.  There’s nothing funny and/or entertaining about La Perouse... unless you’re a nerd.  Seeing as I’m a nerd, I absolutely loved this place.  What you are about to read may overwhelm you with nerdiness, so I caution you readers with a low tolerance for nerdiness to stop now and just wait for the next blog to come out.  This just might be too much for you.

Picture it:  Sicily, 1918.  Just kidding!  Nothing like a good Golden Girls reference to start a blog post…

Picture it:  Sydney, 2010.  A young American man who had been in Sydney for just over 6 months hops on the mystery bus (393) that runs by his front door every 20 minutes and ends up a half-hour later at a place called La Perouse.  It was a warm day – warmer than it should have been for Sydney in August – so it was the perfect day to get out of the house.

Ok, I’ll stop with the Golden Girls formatting.

So, I ended up in La Perouse – about 30 minutes south of my house on the shore of Botany Bay.  Botany Bay was where the First Fleet (the name of the boats carrying the first British military and prisoner settlers) first came into Sydney, but quickly backtracked out and headed up to Sydney Harbour to establish their settlement.  A day later, a French explorer named La Perouse landed in Botany Bay, quickly realized that the British had already settled, said a quick hello and then peacefully bid them adieu.

Can you imagine if the French had been first and settled Australia and now everyone here spoke French?  That would be horrible, and for sure I wouldn’t have moved here.  Stupid French.

Anyway, I guess the Brits decided to name this area of Sydney after La Perouse as sort of a thank you for fucking off and leaving them alone to conquer this great land for the English-speaking world.  The area was nice – little beaches and hiking trails… and a fort sitting on a very small island in the bay.  Someone had mentioned the fort to me that morning as a thing to do in La Perouse, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it as none of the guidebooks really highlighted it.  But, as I arrived, I realized that I had time for a quick tour of this little fort and one was about to start.  10 minutes and $10 later I was about to nerd out.  And…

The tour fucking rocked, and I can honestly say it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in Sydney.  Yes, the Opera House is stunning and intriguing, and the Harbour Bridge is quite magnificent, but this little teeny fort captivated me.  First of all, the little island that it sits on is called “Bare Island”.  Not a great name for an island bearing a military fortress, but whatever.  Second, the island is connected to the mainland by a little rickety wooden footbridge.  Again, not instilling faith in Australia’s military history, but I’ll let it slide.

The tour guide – a very nice female park ranger – seemed to have an absolute love for Australian military history.  It was bordering on fetish.  Seriously.  She told us all about the fort, why it was built, all of the weapons it housed, and so on and so forth.  I have never met anyone so knowledgeable or excited about military history and I sort of wanted to invite her to join my trivia team.  But that might have come off as slightly creepy.  But seriously, what other information did she have up her sleeve?

I won’t bore you with all the details, but to summarize:  it was built in response to the Crimean war because the Brits were afraid that the Russians would try to invade Australia.  Only two or three decades later, the Brits realized that this piss-ant little fort could defend Australia just about as well as I could on horseback, and they decommissioned it.  It was later turned into a retirement home for veterans (WTF?) before it was condemned and handed over to the National Park Service for restoration.

Did I mention that Australia is pretty much completely incapable of defending itself?  It’s a big barren coastline and they don’t have nearly enough people to guard it, let alone enough tax dollars generated from the small population base to buy sufficient weapons or build sufficient military bases for the size of the land.  But that’s ok, because Australia plays nice with America and the UK and knows that both countries will probably come to its rescue in a time of crisis… except for during World War 2 when the Japanese were bombing Darwin and other parts of the northern coast of the continent… the US and the UK were busy on other fronts then and the Aussies could really only hope that the Japanese would just go away… but things will be different during the next war, right?  I learned all of this during my one-hour tour of Bare Island.

Seriously, it was one of the coolest, most informative things I’ve done in Sydney.  It was sort of like watching a documentary on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel - except I was actually there, seeing and touching it all, not sitting on my couch hungover with a bag of Cheetos, half-naked and slowly passing out.  This was WAY better.

So, in summation, if you’re from the States and planning on visiting Sydney, then you need to put this on your list of things to do right up there with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  And if you’re in Sydney and you’re reading this:  go check out Bare Island in La Perouse.  Tours are on Sundays only and run at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30pm.  Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat at a waterfront café and then head over to the nude beach for some people watching.


Now look at that piddly footbridge.  And the fort trying to hide itself under the grass… pish.

When the Russians invade, we can shoot them with this.  Or we can shoot the French just for shits.

I will most certainly be off the island well before sunset.

Before or after your tour, enjoy some time at the beach!

Just watch out for the nudists. 

No comments:

Post a Comment