Thursday, July 28, 2011

Underground in Fremantle: The tunnels tour


Look! I got a certificate! Not only that, it was for something extreme. I'm not normally good at extreme things (you won't ever read a post about me bungee-jumping, I can assure you) and perhaps I shouldn't be comparing this adventure with throwing yourself off a bridge, but still ...

Anyway, recently I went back to Fremantle Prison and for the first time, took their Tunnels Tour. This is totally different from their daytime tours and torchlit evening tours through the prison itself. This one involves climbing twenty metres straight down into a set of tunnels which were dug by prisoners as part of an attempt to supply the prison with fresh water (which, incidentally, worked for a few years until they made the water table sink ... and so began Western Australia's sad history with water).

Once you're "down below" you spend most of the time in a two-person boat bumping your way through tunnels and learning all about the tough time prisoners had digging them, as well as hearing the traffic rumble way above you (if everyone's quiet enough) and seeing the long, long roots of trees reaching down into the tunnel. Our guide was fantastic - both knowledgeable and funny, which I consider to be an important combination for this kind of work!

The tour begins with slightly scary warnings about the physicality and concerns about participants with a fear of heights or claustrophobia, but in reality, it was pretty harmless. Well, except for the fact that my arms ached for days after pulling myself back up the ladder at the end of it all! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and definitely highly recommend adding a Tunnels Tour if you make it to Fremantle Prison (in addition to a daytime or evening tour - they're totally different!). And no, they certainly did not pay me to say that. It's just a heap of fun and interesting as well.

12 comments:

  1. The things you learn on the internet... I had no idea such a tour even existed. Thanks for letting us know about it!

    And thanks for commenting on my blog today. You know how much it means to me. :-) (Your comment made me laugh.)

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  2. No worries Allison, I'm just trying to create an irresistible force to bring people to WA :-) And glad to make you laugh. Better than crying.

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  3. Been living in Perth for 4 years and only did the Prison tour, never the tunnels. Sounds interesting.

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  4. I am not sure about this as I have a bit of claustrophobia – my husband has it bad – he would hyperventilate just thinking about it! I went, by myself, and visited the Catacombs in Paris and walked into the Pyramid of Giza in Egypt – but that was years ago. I’d like to take the day tour though of your prison. I am planning to tour a historic and closed prison in Ohio next month, the one pictured in the movie “Shawshank Redemption” - I’ll make a post on it.

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  5. Oh - I didn't know they did that. Might keep it in mind to recommend to overseas visitors who want something different.

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  6. @ Sami, don't worry I've lived her much longer and only just done it - in fact I think most Perth people haven't even done the regular prison tour!
    @ Vagabonde, can't wait to read your post about the Shawshank Redemption prison, I had no idea you could tour it, must put it on my list.
    @AFW, yes I do highly recommend it, and it is certainly something totally different to do.

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  7. Hi Amanda

    I've done that tour, too, and really enjoyed it. I think Fremantle Prison is a fascinating place, and a really creative tourist destination, even for locals like me. (Though it's sobering to remember it was an operating prison as recently as 10 years ago.)

    I've also done (and blogged about) the torchlight tour: http://www.likestowrite.com/2009/12/torchlight-tour-of-fremantle-prison.html

    Ann

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  8. Agreed, Ann, I think they've done a really good job of setting up tours to interest all kinds of people. And yes, every time I'm there I'm shocked to remember it was used so recently - I remember always driving past as a kid and being a little bit scared of it! Will go and read your torchlight tour post now (I wonder if you jumped several times like I did?!)

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  9. Hi Amanda,
    So glad you shared your blog link on the Prison's Facebook page. I loved reading it... and just read yours too Ann (which I also loved).
    You're both right - so many locals who have never come to visit us, so we're hoping to change that.
    We're pretty proud of our tours, our World Heritage status and the way we have conserved the building.
    Without trying to plug the Prison (as you've both done that for me..!) our Tour Guides really are amazing, passionate and genuinely love what they do. I'll be sure to pass this blog on to Richard - he'll love it.
    Thanks,
    Alana

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  10. Thanks Alana, nice to have you stop by!

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  11. Really liked your website really got your point acrosss. Found it while going through google so wanted to tell you good job and you have a bookmark from me.

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  12. Thank you for marketing the The Freemantle prison tunnels tour. I've been on the tour myself and have found the tour to be educational.

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