Thursday, February 12, 2015

Western Australia Day 13: Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm

Bottle feeding the baby goats.
All too quickly, we had reached the final day of our two week trip to explore the Southwest and Perth. It was a Saturday, and we had planned to soak up our last day at the Subiaco Farmers’ Market. When we arrived at the school compound in which it was usually held, there was an unusual quiet to the whole place. The bustle and excitement we had read about online and in magazines were missing. Only a handful of other cars were parked in the compound, and some tourists and locals dragging empty trolleys walking around the empty buildings, poking their heads in search of the market grounds. Alas, clarification with passers-by confirmed, to our disappointment, that the market was taking a break and would only be open again in the New Year. Mummy, who had been looking forward to enjoying some last minute shopping was terribly heartbroken. There was another smaller market around the corner, but that didn’t match our expectations of the Subiaco Farmers' Market.

The kids were quick to point out that we should head straight to our next point of interest, which was the Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm. After all, it was when things did not go according to plan that we were able to enjoy some of the best adhoc experiences. Although it was disappointing to drive 40 minutes from Perth Hills to this and another 30 minutes to the farm, we hoped that the prospect of spending extra time at the farm would turn out to be a better than expected.
By the time we got to the farm, it was past ten in the morning and the sun was already scorching. The temperature on the car’s dashboard readings showed a whopping 40 degrees Celsius! We were looking forward to cool off with cold drinks but the café was under renovation. We took out extra bottles of water from the car to carry with us, slapped on more sunscreen, and got in just in time to help the farmers bottle-feed the baby goats and calves. Even their milk bottles were cold to help them cool off from the heat.

A contraption that functions as a bottle-holder.

Goats in the pen eating hay after their bottle feed.

We had the opportunity to bottle feed the calves, but they are much larger than baby goats and suckle with so much force that holding the bottle incorrectly can result in bruises.

The farm as a small sand pit with land hermit crabs. They don't do much, but interesting to watch.

Once we had finished with the bottle feeds, we headed indoors into a large shed where the small caged animals were. Children were allowed unlimited plastic buckets of lettuce and bread to feed the animals on the farm, and the girls quickly brought these in with them into the pen with the rabbits, their favourite small animal.

Small animals in the shed include small mammals such as mice, rabbits and guinea pigs, birds such as chicks and ducklings, and even an aquarium with a turtle.

Our favourite animal to hand feed (they are so adorable, responsive and not intimidating).

Bottle feeding the piglets is done by the keepers as the over-enthusiastic babies are so energetic that they have to be held firmly to be fed. We joined the shed just in time to witness one of the scheduled bottle feeds for the day.

Nothing gourmet about the food in the bucket, but the small mammals love the vegetables on hot days as they contain more moisture than their normal feeds.

A small self-service table at the corner of the shed provides coffee and tea powder, hot water and full-cream milk.

There is no limit as to the number of buckets each visitor can have.

There are a number of large cages outside the shed that house an assortment of birds.

You know when they're full. Almost automatically and immediately after they are fed, they fall asleep!

The farm has a unique rustic feel. However, indoor areas were limited due to the absence of their café. There was a large bouncing castle in one of the sheds that provided some respite from the heat, and under the walkways were lined interesting bird enclosures. There was a sand pit with land hermit crabs too, but there were just too many other fun distractions for the kids to really take notice. These ‘distractions’ include rides on the seven year old Shetland Pony and tractor-train. The pony rides cost $5 per ride, and since it was our last day here, Daddy let them have two rides each.

This 'Sheltie' is seven years old and about as big is it will ever get. Just the right size for little kids.

Fun out of the sun! A sheltered bouncy castle.

After the rides, we managed to take a short walk around the compound to see the other farm animals, but it was difficult to fully enjoy the walk as the sun’s rays were beating down on us. We decided to head back to the small animal pens in the shed, and the girls enjoyed more time with their favourite animals.

This emu was getting a sprayed over with water by his keeper to cool off from the 40 degree weather!

A few buckets of feed later, we decided it was time to feed ourselves, and picked out a chic Swan Valley restaurant at the Iron Bark Brewery for our final eat-out just minutes away. A hot steak sandwich, fries and a wood-fired pizza was fun for Daddy and Mummy, but all the girls really wanted on a hot day like this were cold drinks and ice-creams. We fulfilled the girls’ wishes on our way back with a quick trip to the convenience store at the gas station to top up the car.

Steak sandwich with salad.

Nuggets and fries.

Wood-fired pizzas. You could actually watch it being prepared and placed in the kiln in the outdoor eating area.

Back at our launch-pad in Perth Hills, we freshened up, packed our bags, cleaned up the room and had quick microwave dinners before getting ready to leave. Outside, we enjoyed our last Australian sunset for the season. The kangaroos didn’t come out early to bid us farewell, but our hosts prepared some delicious herbal chicken soup to send us on our way.

This trip has been simply wonderful. The girls are older now compared to our last trip here in 2011, and were able to interact more with Daddy and Mummy, their surroundings and hopefully this will contribute meaningfully and positive memories of being together. As we take the five-hour flight back to catch sunrise at Changi Airport, we brace ourselves for the ‘reality’ that will greet us when we get back home. However, we also look forward to endless discussions of the unique experiences we had on our trip while it lasted, and anticipate even more opportunities to travel together soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Western Australia Day 10: Fremantle Markets

The section for bites you can have as you shop, or take away for later.
It was Christmas Eve morning. We arranged to meet a friend at Fremantle Markets in the late morning so we woke up a little later today. We visited the markets in 2011 and enjoyed ourselves, so it was one place we were looking forward to visiting again.

This section was dominated by fresh produce. Although about the same price as what we get back home, the produce here looked somewhat fresher.

We found parking at a nearby street corner and enjoyed a short walk down Cappucino Street before arriving at the entrance to the craft and souvenir section of the market. The market is laid out like a fair, with similar items and services placed together in the same sheltered hall.

We strolled along quickly as breakfast was already some time ago, and we had room in our tummies to try something at the food section. What surprised me was the variety of international food available at the market. Alongside Australian choices were Bratwurst, Asian noodles, Russian cake and a number of other fusion concoctions.

A large, juicy Bratwurst brings back memories from our previous trip here.

The kids just called it a 'hot-dog', but this was no ordinary sausage. After a few passes most of it was gone, and the girls requested for another on (this time without mustard). I suggested we try something else.

Chocolate coated strawberries? Sweet treats will have to wait till after lunch.

How about another 'hot-dog'? This one is branded as a Wassup-dog. We got a free egg stuffed into it.

Waiting in line for a hot snack is extra appetizing in the chilly weather.

This ain't no ordinary hot-dog! Sausage is split open down the centre, grilled, and stuffed with egg, corn and onions. We requested for no veggies, and topped it up with ketchup!


More sampling stations: this time, we pick up a piece of 'Russian Honey Cake'.

Very sweet!

There was a stall selling all kinds of jerky and biltong.

I requested for a bag of mixed flavours and pieces. It was quite nice but a little too much for just me alone.

The freshly squeezed juice bar was quite a hit with the kids. The juice is served as an icy slush in a large cup big enough for all of us to share.

On one side of the stall, Rocky-Road candies were quite a hit. On the other side, the lady was selling olive and truffle oils.

The street market atmosphere is completed with messy displays of gifts, souvenirs, food and of course, the occasional busker playing a tune around the corner.

In the spirit of the holidays, we let the girls pick out a gift each. They both fell in love with this Floonie toy.

After a fulfilling morning out at Fremantle Market (we stocked up lots of gifts for our friends back home here too), we headed to our next 'old' spot from our last trip here - Harbour Town. We were surprised to see that the shopping centre is now known as Water Town instead. The complex hosts a variety of factory-outlet shops that offered pretty good bargains if you had fashion or sports gear in mind. We stopped at the exact same Noodle Inn restaurant we lunched at during our visit in 2011. They serve large portions of Asian food, including dim sum, curries, rice and noodles. We shopped, or should we say, Mummy shopped with her dear friend (the one whom we met at Fremantle) while Daddy and the girls just followed Mummy from shop to shop.

The old 'Harbour Town' label is still alive on the banner of this eatery. The food was just as good. I have to say it's a lot cheaper back home in Singapore through <cheeky grin!>.

Lots of branded-items for sale here.

Back at our base, the girls 'discovered' that our family blog had past entries depicting travels when they were still too young to remember. After dinner, they requested to revisit the entries and read what Daddy and Mommy wrote about them when they were just toddlers. There were laughs and gasps as they flipped through our online scrapbook of memories. It was heartening to see such a positive response to our blog from our youngest readers, and I get a strange feeling that they'll be writing some entries of their own soon. Watch this space!