Christmas time in the southern hemisphere brings out a number of unique and showery flowers; New Zealand’s pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa), and Western Australia’s Christmas tree (Nuytsia floribunda), to name two. Their flowers, red and orange respectively, are dazzlingly bright against the dark greens of the trees and bushes around them.
To get out as see some these show-stopping plants, and to explore further afield in general, Karen and I are more and more encouraged to extend our cycling range by taking the regions trains for portions of the route.
For instance, the other day in the Perth, Western Australia area, we were able to cycle around the entire Canning River watershed. The Canning is a major tributary to the Swan River; the river on which Perth is located and which empties into the Indian Ocean at the Fremantle harbour. By using the train to get to and from our stopping points, it cut a good 30 kilometres off the otherwise 70-kilometre trip.
From Fremantle, we took a train to Perth, changing there to the line for the Bull Run station. We then cycled the paved tracks around the Canning River, stopping for picnic lunch at Masons Landing Park. Several years previously, we had stopped at same place and saw Rainbow Lorikeets feeding their young. This time we observed a small kingfisher bringing food to its chicks, hidden in a nest in a tree trunk. The bird visited the nest so quickly it must have been passing the bug or food morsel along to its mate to do the actually feeding. We returned to Canning station, another station on the same line as that for Bull Run, stopping in route to take a photo of Christmas bush (noted above), and then a coffee at a café, before picking up the trains back to Fremantle.
There are a few constraints to using the trains. In Australia, bikes are not allowed during the weekday morning or evening rush hours. We mitigate this by going on long rides, those where we might be returning at 5 or 6, to the weekends. Or, if on a weekday, eat dinner prior to returning home in the evening to avoid the bike curfew.
Another potential problem is shifting platforms in the train terminals. We have experienced more of this problem in some of the European train stations. There, some of the small ones had no lift, nor even groves to run the bike tyre up or down the stairs. However, due to the increasing demand for handicap access, most stations now have improved lifts; installing ones sufficiently large enough to take the bikes.
A further problem, especially with the older train systems, is getting the bike on and off the trains. The train floors are often two or three steps higher than the platforms. Why the engineers designing the trains and those designing the platforms didn’t communicate with each other is beyond explanation. Where this height difference is significant, it is best to have one person load the lightest bike, with the other helping. Then push the heavier bike up to be caught by the person in the train. For unloading, have one person step down to the platform and hand the bikes out.
You will always feel rushed. However, the train conductors are efficient; they won’t leave without everyone either on board or off. But don’t dawdle either.
So, we continue to enjoy the many kilometres of paved cycle tracks in the Perth region, able to expand our range with the help of the trains.
Henry and Karen