Down Under With America's Cup

Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

The youth travel services in Western Australia have been expanded this fall to accommodate America's Cup fans.

If you want to join in the activities and atmosphere surrounding the famous yacht competition, a good time to visit is when the international challengers will be involved in elimination races. The trial races end Dec. 19.

When the semifinals start on Dec. 28 there will be only four challenging teams and four Australian defending teams competing. The final best-of-seven races between the single remaining challenger and defender will begin on Jan. 31.

The port city of Fremantle, at the mouth of the Swan River, is the base for the America's Cup competition. The city of Perth is 12 miles inland on the Swan.

Former Nurse's Residence

Youth accommodations are available in Fremantle at the hostel at 96-98 Hampton Road or at the Golden Roo Hotel on Pakenham Street, at High Street. The youth hostel is a comfortable former nurse's residence built in 1896. It offers lodging for 56 people, for $6.50 Australian a night. For the duration of the Cup activities an extra 87 beds will also be available next door in the modern eight-story nurse's residence; the facilities are closed between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Phone 335-3467.

The Golden Roo Hotel was built in 1867. Renovation work has been going on and the new owners are trying to attract the 18-to-35-year-old international traveler. It has a restaurant, a central location and single rooms for $40 a week, double rooms for $37 per person, a week.

When you reach Fremantle you can learn about the area by taking a $3 tram tour. Several routes are available but the harbor tour will take you past the compounds of the various racing teams. Tour departure details are available from the Holiday W. A. office at High and Pakenham streets.

If you can't get lodging in Fremantle, don't worry. Frequent rail and bus service make it easy to commute from Perth. By rail it's a 25-minute trip that costs $1.10. The bus is the same price but the service is slower.

In Perth you can find an international youth hostel at 44-46 Francis St. (328-7794). It offers dormitory lodging for $5.50 a night. At this hostel you can also hire a bike for $5 a day, get details on local and Western Australian bike routes, learn how to join outings with the bush-walkers association and arrange to join four-wheel drive budget tours of Western Australia.

Slide Shows

On Sunday and Wednesday evenings you can learn more about what young travelers can see and do in Western Australia through the manager's slide show. The 14-day, four-wheel drive trips through this area are operated by the youth hostel association and cost $470 Australian (about $315 U.S.).

In Perth there is also a youth hostel at 60-62 Newcastle St., phone 328-1135. It's about a 15-minute walk from the railway station. It's hoped that a third, 50-bed youth hostel will also be open on Hay Street in time for America's Cup crowds. When hostel facilities are full, the youth hostel association has made arrangements for bed-and-breakfast lodging in the homes of some of their members. The maximum rate will be $10 a night.

If you rent a bike in Perth, keep in mind that there is a special bike path that runs to Fremantle. Sticking to special paths is a good idea for riders who are not used to traffic traveling on the left side of the road.

Another option for Cup fans is to visit Rottnest Island, 18 kilometers off the coast. You'll get a distant view of the race area and you can camp, bike and enjoy water sports.

Rottnest Island, owned by the government of Western Australia, is 11 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. Only a few vehicles are allowed on the island so it's a good place to rent a bike. Rates at Rottnest Bike Rental range from $3 to $5 a day, $15 to $25 a week. Although the staff claims to have several hundred bikes available at the $3 rate, all of them were "being fixed" the day I tried to rent one.

'Rat's Nest'

The island's strange name evolved as a result of an early explorer who mistook the native rock wallabies for large rats and called the island "Rat's Nest." The curious, cute little creatures he encountered are called quokkas. They're friendly and will approach visitors looking for treats. All of the island's animals are protected. One creature to stay away from is the dugite snake--its bite can be deadly.

You can reach Rottnest Island by high-speed ferry from Perth or Fremantle for $26.50 (same day return), or $28.50 (if you stay several days).

Campers don't need reservations if they have their own equipment. The rate is $3.20 per person a night, or $14.50 per person a week. Cabins and two-to-six-person tents can also be rented. A two-person tent costs $11 per person a night. Telephone 292-5033 for details.

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