Monday, January 5, 2015

Western Australia Day 7: Hotham Valley Tourist Railway & Western Australian Museum

Daddy is ecstatic to see us at the finish line!
Daddy got a ride at 2.30 am from one of the volunteers at the 6 Inch Trail Marathon, and we were going to meet him at the finish line at Dwellingup, which is about an hour plus drive from Perth Hills. When we got there at the designated time at 9 am, we ended up waiting 30 minutes for him to show up. It turned out that he got lost and ran an additional forty minutes in the hills. Well, he wanted a good, long run, and that's what he got!

It was really nice seeing everyone at the finishing line, clapping for and cheering on every runner that ran past. From where we were standing, we could see the volunteers along the running trail, encouraging everyone as well. Despite the cold wind, it sure warmed our hearts (at least, mine) to see such an embracing community.

While Daddy cooled down and got changed, we got our tickets for a ride on the Forest Train which departs at 10.30 am from Dwellingup Railway Station. The Hotham Valley Tourist Railway operates the historic train services from the station twice daily. Once at 1030am and another at 2pm. Since we were there, we had to try it.

The Forest Train was hauled by this diesel powered locomotive. It was fun to hear her blast her horn each time we approached a crossing.

All set and ready to ride on the Forest Train to Etmilyn.

The friendly staff sending us off with a bright smile. You can get your tickets from the small hut-sized station. 

The ride was about 20 minutes long and we got ourselves some chips and muffins to snack along the way. Mummy had braved the drive from Perth without Daddy in the early morning, and we did not have chance to grab a bite before leaving the house.

At Etmilyn, visitors have the opportunity to explore a short trail-walk around the area that loops back to the train while the driver prepared the locomotive for the return journey. There were informative signboards along the walk that described to us various plant species along the trail. We learnt that the trees dubbed 'Black-Butt' had black trunks as they were commonly charred by bush-fires in hot and dry summers of WA. When we found our way back to the train after our stroll, the driver had prepared a box of ice-cold drinks for sale, and we gladly helped ourselves to a couple of cans to cool off from the heat.

We've arrived! 

Exploring the trails around Etmilyn. Note that many of the trees around here appear to be charred by a recent bush fire.

The walk is an easy 25 minute loop that brings us back to the train.

Arriving back at Dwellingup Railway Station.

The plan for the afternoon was to check out the Western Australian Museum at the Perth Cultural Centre. It was lunch time and we made a detour to Flipside Burgers at Northbridge to enjoy the air-conditioning, free WiFi, and shared two of their signature beef burgers: BBQ Bacon and Cheese, and the Blue Train. Light, simply and yummy, grilled right across the counter from where we were seated.
You're looking at our beef burgers at Flipside Burgers, Northbridge.

The eatery is very family friendly, and even provided us with stationery and paper for our rounds of 'Hangman' and drawings. Before we left, we had a chance to pin our sketches to the 'Wall of Art"... good old fashioned offline photo-sharing.

On the way to the museum, we chanced upon some street installations that were quite interesting, including this one - the Perth Cultural Centre Play Space. We did not notice it at first, but heard a mishmash of clanging and ringing sounds coming from around the corner. We decided to have a closer look as it was just next to the museum.

The playground concept is a combination of various props that stimulate the senses.

These 'drums' made low booming noises...

...while these pot-like ones made ringing, clanging noises.

One of our favourite activities when we visit a new place together is to check out the local museums. The Perth Cultural Centre is an entire city block of galleries and exhibits, but it is a pity we will only have time for one museum today. We chose the Western Australian Museum because Daddy was a natural history buff and Mummy is interested in both natural and human geography.

There was a special exhibition going on when we visited about the Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan, but we decided to stick to the permanent galleries instead. Admission was free for the permanent exhibitions.

A large dinosaur greets us as we enter the main hall.

The Marine Gallery showcases a selection of wildlife recorded from WA's coastal habitats including coral reefs and mangrove areas.

The Mammal Gallery takes your breadth away with life-like replicas of beasts from all over the world. There are impressive skeleton displays of large mammals including the elephant and hippo.

Skeletons teach us a lot about the similarities and differences of these animals. There is even a human skeleton here.

Appreciating the diversity of the smaller mammals.

The Bird Gallery.

Perhaps our favourite gallery had to be the 'Diamonds to Dinosaurs' exhibition on the second floor.

Excavation site replica.

The exhibit has a collection of fossils depicting primitive marine animals.

Check out the size of the Elephant Bird's skull and egg!

Gawking at the ferocious demeanor of some predatory dinos.

The gallery has a section showcasing the amazing geological features of our earth.


The girls get a lesson on the many inner layers of the earth.

The museum puts in a lot of effort to engage its visitors both young and old, with digital panels like this one that encourages children to identify the various animals spotted in the mangrove swamps. There are also reading corners, videos and interactive screens.

The museum's Discovery Centre gives children a chance to get up close with some the exhibits. Activity stations allow them to touch and inspect various items. The centre also hosts programmes and activities to engage children.

We did not have time to check out the Discovery Centre as we were tired out by the early day. Definitely a must if you're dropping by with young ones during the holidays.

We were all tired out by the early wake-up call today and decided to head back for an early take-home microwaved dinner. It was nice to less than an hour away after all the longer drives last week. Our first full-day in Perth came to an end with an early lights off. More adventures around Swan Valley tomorrow to look forward to. 

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