Posted by: Rebecca | December 26, 2019

Rottnest doesn’t do Uber

Peaceful tranquility on an idyllic island off the west coast of Australia, you’re surrounded by nothing but sea, sand, roaming hillls and fire-weathered bushland, a vision adorned only by the sight of the man you love, emerging from the crystal blue water in his swimwear…

Sadly for Mum, the dream is broken by the realization that she and Dad have missed the last bus back to The Settlement, there’s no other cars or public transport, and there’s a lot of a lot of hills between Little Salmon Bay and the last ferry home, which leaves in about an hour.


There were few things on our agenda for this trip, in terms of sightseeing, but Rottnest Island was right up there. Neither Soph nor my parents have been before, and even if they had, like me, they’d definitely want to go back. So on Christmas Day night, we finally decide to make a plan, and book to go the following day.

Clearly, so had everyone else, as the only ferry tickets remaining gave us just four hours on the island. Better than nothing, we booked it, and set off on Boxing Day morning for Shed B in Fremantle, ready to join the Rottnest Express.

Whilst Mum and Dad opt for the ‘hop on hop off’ island bus service, Soph and I are super keen to explore by bike – I live in Amsterdam and she’s a Cambridge girl, so the only challenges we expect are to use the gears, remember to brake, and not to pedal backwards (little did we know, that six hours later we’d be pedaling like hell across the island for help…)

Anyway, around 11:30am we dock at Rottnest and, after a quick pit stop, we go our separate ways. Team Trouble set off south, on a clockwise loop of the island by bus, while the Pedal Pros head north, with a rough plan to cycle round a few bays then stop at a beach when we feel like a break. We soon become accustomed to gears and brakes, familiarize ourselves with the lack or road signs and decide that, with no traffic, it actually doesn’t really matter which side of the road we’re on. We also realise that, at some point, our paths will cross with Mum & Dad, so we text Team Trouble to see how they’re getting on.

  • Me: Yo yo where you up to?
  • Mum: Just stopped at Stark Bay. We’re doing the loop to decide where to get off. You?
  • Me: We’re one bay away… will pedal on and meet you there.”
  • Mum: OK. Just passed you on the bus…”

Right. It’ll be a good hour or two before we pass them again, so we decide to stop and throw down a towel. A deserted beach, a tube of factor 50, the ripple of waves on the shore (and a bite of a slightly warm and increasingly unappetizing ham & cheese croissant), Soph and I eventually hop back on our bikes and continue around the north coast. We decide not to go right to the end of the island, but cut back past the lighthouse and down to the south coast to see some surf. Along the way, we come across a Quokka, who’s more than happy to come and say Hi (detecting the unmissable aroma of ham & cheese coming from our bag).

Despite the highly addictive nature of quokka selfie stalking, we eventually drag ourselves away and notice a text from Team Trouble at Little Salmon Bay, where Dad (who has been and bought a pair of trunks) is now taking a dip. We respond to ask if they’ll still be there in 20 minutes and, with a resounding ‘Yes’ from Mum, we pedal our way down to the bay.

By this point, Mum looks ready to head back to base (not quite sure if this was to escape the sight of Dad in swimwear, or to get to the bar for a cheeky sherbet before the ferry home). As Dad gets out his timetable (BUS timetable), we discover that the last bus passed Little Salmon Bay eight minutes ago…

Fuckety bollocks. Rottnest doesn’t do Uber, and with no chance of hitching a lift (even if Dad hides his swimwear and Mum shows a bit of leg), this leaves just one option.

I’m now not sure what I’m most afraid of: the though of giving Team Trouble clear and simple instructions on how to get to the main road without getting lost (whilst having utter confidence they’ll go the wrong way); or the thought of actually having to ride like hell up and down the hills (which Soph and I agreed, only minutes before, remind us of Scotland, only hotter) to get back to The Settlement, to find a Ranger to go and track down Team Trouble (who’ll undoubtedly not be where we left them) and bring them back in time to catch the last ferry home at 19:30.

With one final reminder of which road to take, and clear instructions to “wait by the crossroads”, the Pedal Pros set off back up the hill out of the bay, pick up the main road, and head back towards The Settlement. All day, Soph and I have taken different approaches to hill cycling – I go like hell on the downhill, to build up speed and momentum for the subsequent uphill, then finding myself almost coming to a halt half way up – where Soph (who uses the gears to far better effect), cruises on past at a pretty consistent pace. I like to think (for me) this is like interval training, while Soph is building strength in her increasingly impressive muscles. It’s worked for us all day and it continues now, as we drift apart and catch up again coming into The Settlement.

Luckily, we find a gift shop which hasn’t (quite) closed (yet). Looking decidedly apologetic, and with every sob story you can think of at the ready, I don my most concerned daughter face and go into the shop, where I’m met by Michelle.

  • “Hey there, how can I help?” She asks kindly.
  • “I’m afraid I come with an SOS” I reply, “my parents are out at Little Salmon Bay and they’ve missed the last bus.”
  • “No problem” says Michelle, “I’ll give the Ranger a call and he can go pick them up. Whereabouts are they, exactly?”

At this point, knowing help was on the way, you’d think I’d feel better, right? Well, going back to my earlier quandary; my concern now switches from my parents to the poor Ranger who has to find them.

Option one: call Dad (who knows how to send me his live location via WhatsApp, but has a tendency to overworry)… straight to voicemail. Bugger.

Option two: call Mum (who will be able to give am incredibly detailed description of their whereabouts, but sadly without differentiating it from potentially anywhere else on the island)… Mum picks up.

  • Me: Hello you – all sorted, the Ranger is coming to get you. Are you still at the crossroads where we left you?
  • Mum: No, we’ve started walking back.
  • Me: OK, which way did you go from the crossroads?
  • Mum: We’ve just walked up a big hill…
  • Me: *closes eyes*
  • Mum: …I think we’ve passed a bus stop…
  • Me: *opens eyes* OK cool, do you know which stop it was? The bus stops are numbered, was it #4? Or maybe #3?
  • Mum: Not sure, I think it was called something Aboriginal?
  • Me: *closes eyes again* OK, can you hand the phone to Dad?
  • Dad: Hello, we started walking, thought it better to keep moving, but Mum’s legs are getting tired.
  • Me: No worries, the Ranger’s coming to get you. He’s called Max and is driving a little white van. He’s heading out along the bus route, so just stay where you are and he’ll find you.
  • Dad: Fine, OK.

Halos well and truly polished, Soph and I now head to the bar for some rewarding refreshment, while Max heads out to bring home the stragglers. Apparently, on finding Team Trouble, his first words were “ah don’t worry, at least you guys aren’t pissed!”

OMG the minds boggles…


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