travelogue – Perth, Australia

Sept 21, 2003

It snowed in Calgary in September. No surprise; it has snowed every month of the year here at one time or another.

Every morning in Perth I rushed to the window hoping for snow. But I saw only frost. Too bad.

mapIt has never snowed in Perth, Australia — but I was there for the month of July during a winter cold snap. A boat skipper told me that the 4-year drought which broke this year was the very end of El Niño.

I was invited to Perth by a police sports group where I worked with gymnastics coaches and athletes from 27 clubs. Good fun. A great experience.

The kids in Western Australia don’t have much gymnastics equipment — but they are fit.


smphotos Alastair McNaughton

Just kidding. WA is remote but Perth is a modern city of 1.4 million. The only complaint I heard was that shopping is terrible. Perth ladies fly to Singapore or Sydney with credit cards held high.
I was actually hosted much of the time by the owners of the excellent Olympic Gym Club . (They are looking to hire coaches, by the way.)

I was billeted by locals, the best way to travel. Hospitality can be suffocating, but in western Australia I was well treated.

Perth is an enjoyable city. I loved the parks & zoo , the unique and bizarre animals. Aussie is famous for deadly creatures. Little girls at the gym club name the various fist-sized spiders living under the lobby picture frames.

Rick holding a wombat

After defending myself from this wombat, I was attacked by a koala bear! You don’t believe me? It’s true. Juvenile male koalas are quite active and mobile.
The Tasmanian Devil is much more hyper. Luckily the ones I watched pace were locked up tight.

My last 4 days down under I signed on for a backpacker tour headed north to slightly warmer climes. Highlights:

  • Nambung National Park, Pinnacles Desert
  • sand dune surfing
  • Kalbarri National Park, Murchison Gorge
  • abseiling (facing forward and backward)
  • hand feeding dolphins at Monkey Mia
  • catamaran sailing

I’ve visited many of the famous memorials of the world. But I cannot recall one finer, more surprising, than the Geraldton war memorial. It’s not on the tourist route. We visited only because our driver once lived in this obscure town.

– Aussie Rick


My friend DB narrowly avoided meeting Michael (big hand on the little hand) Jackson at the Cirque du Soleil studios in Montreal.

I had my own brush with fame — a writer displaced me from the guest room at my brother’s place. You must have heard of Robert J. Sawyer from Toronto. He recently won a Hugo — the People’s Choice award for science fiction writing — for Best Novel of the Year.

Sawyer has previously won the equivalent of the Academy Award, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula, for Best Novel of 1995.

Sawyer joins the elite of science fiction — 16 people who have won both Hugo and Nebula including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson and Frank Herbert.

Rob is a good guy. I just finished one of his books, Flash Forward. Excellent.


Just as famous in gymnastics circles is Kyle Shewfelt. We at Altadore Gym Club are proud and still a bit stunned that one of our athletes has become the most successful Canadian gymnast ever, slightly ahead of Curtis Hibbert in the opinion of Hardy Fink of the men’s technical committee.

Kyle won 2 bronze medals at World’s in August. He is one of the favourites for an Olympic medal in Athens next summer.

I am back coaching at Altadore mainly because Kyle has done so well. I am assisting his coach Kelly Manjak in the run up to Athens.

It’s nice to be home at Altadore where I spent over 20 years up until 1990. It’s nice to be back in my hometown, Calgary — though the traffic is insane. Calgary is booming economically, but the quality of life is better in Saskatoon and Christchurch.

I am now living in a huge gorgeous home backing on to the river, rather unlikely accommodation for a minimalist. I will be out soon. The hot tub cover is so badly rotted that I suspect a neighbourhood petition is circulating. I can’t live like this!

I am house sitting for a family gone travelling around the world for 11 months.

Five weeks into a new job, it feels like I am settling in. I look forward to the Daily Show every night, certainly the most insightful news commentary in the States. Humour at the same high level as the best of This Hour Has 22 Minutes in Canada.

I now have fulltime high speed internet, a big improvement from limited access in New Zealand. In my dotage I hope to work on the www. The only glitch is that computer work demands carcinogenic quantities of Diet Coke.

And I am again a tax payer. Or am I?

Vancouver-based Fraser Institute says that Tax Freedom Day — when a typical Canadian family has earned enough to pay off all taxes and to start working for themselves — came June 28. (This includes everything including pension contributions.)

I was savvy enough to start work in August.

In Canada we live in a one party state. If only we had better politicians to vote for — someone like Arnold in California. That’s who we need to guarantee a homeland free and brave. 😦

typical Schwarzenegger voter





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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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