Discovering the back row suite, first floor, two flights of stairs was a bit of a disappointment, but then what do you expect with the cheapest booking.com selection? However, the place is clean, convenient with everything needed for a three night and two day ‘glamping’ experience. Right on the waterfront, there is a tiny distant view over the iconic Esperance harbour.
Having sorted out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for shelter, and a good night’s sleep, I head for the main drag to sort out food, having discovered a continental breakfast here is $16. Oh and to look for a good wireless connection, which is somewhat lacking in the ‘Inn’. (Maslow hadn’t yet met that need when he discovered his hierarchy of needs!)
I head round the corner and there is Dome, my favourite fall back position when all else fails, and I discover I have a free coffee coming up soon. And the wireless is flawless, fast and free. A good place to spend a couple of hours, over a leisurely avo and egg brunch.
Then to hit the town.
Esperance relies on its relationship to the ocean for both its past and present. I have been here three times in the last five years… it seems to draw me back, but I’m ever mystified by its layout.
During the day I recognise this is because it reminds me of other port towns, like Albany and Fremantle. Like them, it structures itself round its jetties and harbours, providing ample opportunity to sample both the local catch and particularly the beverages which go with it. I like the feel of being able to access it all easily, within ten minutes walk. The number of pubs and accommodation facilities, skate parks and adventure playgrounds puts the other port towns to shame.
I have to wait for the Museum visit as it only opens for three hours in the afternoon, so I sample the other experiences on offer at the local Community Arts Hub and am impressed by their appreciation of their indigenous heritage. The town is also serviced by a wealth of history buffs, mostly volunteers, and budding history writers. I eventually buy the smaller and cheaper volume by Keith O Murray: First There Came Ships. He is particularly fascinated with the number of ships which ended their journeys wrecked on the south coast between Eucla and Hopetoun, some 200 kms west of Esperance. Of course Esperance is named after the French frigate of the same name, which arrived to shelter at Observatory Island west of Esperance, in 1792. It was under the command of Antoine D’Entrecasteaux, who left dozens of French names on the WA coastline before leaving for other voyages. The French were somewhat preoccupied it seems, and the British soon seized the opportunity.
Some decades later sailors ventured from the east of Australia, particularly from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, in search of whales and seals. Left to their own devices, they were a wild lot, as Major Edmund Lockyer and his part of 61 men including 23 convicts found, when they arrived at King George’s Sound 1826, a year before Stirling arrived in Perth, and took possession of the western part of the continent and established Albany, 400 km west of Recherche Archipelago surrounding Esperance. “..they are a complete set of pirates going from island to island along the southern coast from Rottnest Island to Bass’s Strait in open whale boats, having their Chief resort or Den at Kangaroo island, making occasional descents on the mainland and carry off by force native women, and when resisted make use of Fire arms….’
On cue, while I’m reading about this Mingli rings. Her grandmother who brought her up comes from Fanny Cove, which is 100 kms west of Esperance in the Stokes National Park, and no doubt her ancestors knew of these rogues. I tell her it is too late to take the Kepa Kurt indigenous trip based here this time. She is just jealous I’m here at all.
Then I read that John Hassell, the ancestor on whose farm Mingli’s father worked in Jerramungup and where she was brought up, arrived on the first boat shipwrecked off the coast. John Hassell arrived on the Belinda in 1824 aged 26 having had a prison stint in South America after he fought the Spaniards in the Peruvian wars. After some further adventures he settled on the south-west coast in 1840, where all West Australians know, the family still is settled.
Arise early again, in keeping with the sunrise bus departure times, and try and join the local yoga in the park opposite at 6.15… of course no-one there!.. just a pretty picture in the tourist blurb to make things look good. Instead lots of machinery noise, and last night lots of kids shrieking until after my ear plugs went in.
Oh well, lovely walk along the beachfront which has been very well preserved, with landscaping, bike and walking paths and historical notation. Well done Esperance. It still reminds me of Fremantle from Bathers Beach to South Beach. Just pity about the weather, although today is dry and the sun is providing some interesting photography possibilities.
It had been 41 degrees the day I arrived and now is 22 degrees max. The kebab shop man tells me it is appalling in winter, and he won’t be staying for long (only here one year)… he needs to get back to the east coast. He won’t tell me where his family come from, other than Europe, but I guess southern.. i.e. Turkey, and he says there are far too many Asians here. It feels a pretty Anglo town to me, but no doubt the bus driver (who was Anglo) and he wouldn’t see the world the same way. Small town politics might get me down . I start preparing my trip home.
But before I go I visit my other favourite food outlet for my supplies for the last day, good old Subway. One breakfast subway will see me home tomorrow. And I select the Pier Hotel next door as the favourite fish and chip dive, with its free beer included for my early tea tonight. Arizona owned Best Western Inns might provide adequate housing, but they can’t quite cut it when it comes to providing local watering holes.
And on this last afternoon, the sun has finally emerged, and suddenly the pool adjacent to my room seems enticing enough for my water walking routine, so I don my hat and sunnies, (and bathers!) and head down before an afternoon rest.