Sunday, 19th March

The day dawned bright but mornings are feeling quite autumnal, with a nip in the air.  Nevertheless we breakfasted outside.

We decided to have a ‘domestic’  morning as washing was beginning to build up.  After breakfast we had a trip into Walpole and the supermarket before taking a short walk around an area which was the horse pound for the early settlers. Apparently the horses used to pull the huge cartloads of timber were kept on this land together with the communal horses loaned out to new settlers who could not afford horses of their own.  It is now a wooded area reached by a board walk.  We like boardwalks. We haven’t experienced one of those for sometime!!

We returned to the campsite to do the washing and have a light lunch and then set out for what was to prove to be an extraordinary experience, the Valley of the Giants tree top walk in the tingle forest. 

First some history of the area.  Over 180 million years ago there was a land mass which included Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, Africa, India and South America. It is known as Gondwana.

 Over time this started to break up and approximately 45 million years ago, Australia finally separated from Antartica and drifted north, carrying with it plants and animals of Gondwana. Although Australia has experienced significant climatic change since this time, the south west area of Western Australia has experienced far less change than other areas which has enabled many of the Gondwanan species to survive.  

For 38,000 years the Noongar Aboriginal tribe lived in the area.  Europeans arrived in the 1820’s, with Albany seeing settlers arrive in 1826, Denmark (an area a little further along the coast) in 1896 and Walpole in 1910.  Initially the settlers did not do very well and by 1924 74% had left.  However, as early as 1910 the area was seen as attractive to tourists and it was made a National Park.    

One of the main attractions are the tingle trees that can be found only in  Walpole and its immediate surrounds.  Tingle trees can live for 400 years and grow up to 75 meters tall and can have a base circumference of 20 meters.  They have extremely shallow and sensitive roots and in order to preserve them, the construction of a Tree Top Walk was started in 1995. It opened in 1996.  I am proud to say that the Gregory’s walked it in 2017!   

No mean feat when you learn that at its highest you walk on a narrow, metal mesh footway that reaches at one point  40 meters above the ground (and the trees are still higher!).  And it moves.  It is built ‘to sway  slightly as you walk to give the sensation of being in the canopy of the forest’.  I think there is sometimes the issue of taking realism too far…..

It was incredible thing from every perspective and no photographs can do it justice i.e. show just how high up you are and how tall the trees are around you or the sensation of walking on a very flimsy metal highway.  We had the good fortune to do it when there were very few other people about.  Notices say that no more than 10 should walk out on any ‘span’ at any one time.  I cannot imagine what it would be like with 10 people  – it was hairy enough with 2!  

Having vertigo and 40 meter drops are not a good combination and we soon began the descent. (Keith had had enough, but I did it again as the sun came out later and I wanted to see if I could get some better pictures.  I went round on my own – it was awesome in the true sense of the word.  It was one of those special life moments.)

The Tree Top Walk is not the only experience in this amazing place.   Next came the ancient forest ground walk – equally magical in its own way.  For there we were at the bottom of these huge trees that have a knack of having a hollowed out base.  These hollows have been created over time by fire, fungal or insect attack.  The broad root system, although shallow, spreads to give the trees more stability.  What you see is enormous holes in the bottom of the tree.  It was a fabulous place. 

A particularly notable tree was entitled Old Grandma Ting………

You just wanted to drink up the memory of your time here and store it away as something very special.  

We did eventually tear ourselves away,  both made up with the experience. 

Back at the campsite the washing was dry and it just remained the steak to be put on the barbecue and we had a great supper too. An excellent day.  

Tomorrow we move on to Albany, the furthest east we are to travel in Western Australia.  

Saturday 18th March

It rained heavily in the night and the morning was overcast and chilly. We had booked a table at the Hidden River vineyard for lunch (Keith and I have a date!), so we packed up and then went to visit the cultural highlights of Pemberton. The town has a real pioneer feel to it.  The houses look as if they might have been part of an old cowboy movie. 

We started at the wooden art gallery that advertised a cafe and smokery. There was some amazing pieces. It is all so tactile. Keith found himself some tasting spoons which will provide some happy memories. 
We moved to the cafe where we found the first wifi we have come across in Pemberton. So we had a drink and hastily tried to get up to date with things. Sadly there was no time to settle down with the blog, so goodness knows when the last few days will be published. We bought some smoked trout for supper and then moved on to another gallery we had seen advertised on the edge of town. This was a real treat. Peter Kovacsy was showing some exceptional work in several different mediums (or is it media?). There were some incredible glass pieces. 

 He came and chatted to us and we talked of the Mona. He seemed to me somewhat jaundiced about the world of art and his own place in it. We left through his workshop and went away with several recommendations in terms of our firtcomng travels. It was a privilege to spend time with him. 

To kill a bit more time before lunch we travelled out to the Cascades. These were pretty ordinary at the point we could see them as we had not got the time to work to their source, but there was some interesting information about lampreys.   Now as we all know (?!?) lampreys in past times in England have caused more than a bit of havoc, with one king actually dying of over eating them.  It was against this background that I read with interest that there was a particular type of lamprey that is peculiar to Pemberton and a small handful of other places.   Somehow the Cascades took on a whole new meaning as they are apparently found in the Lefroy Brook of which the Cascades form a part.  How exciting!  Just so that my readers are fully informed on this riveting topic, herewith the location map for these lampreys.   ( Incidentally they look disgusting – probably a notch down from abalone).

The shaded area mark the lamprey sites……

It was by then after 12 so we set off for lunch. It took no time to get there, although it had been quite a walk on our previous visit. The day was brightening which was nice as there is a nice view from the dining area.   

The food was very good and Keith had an excellent glass of wine. We bought a bottle of bubbly for our journey (as anticipated!) and then set off for Walpole a couple of hours away. 

It was a good drive and we found a campsite by a beach (we are back on the coast). The weather was somewhat mixed – quite cloudy and cool. Nevertheless we took ourselves off for a short walk of exploration. We are just outside of the Walpole inlet, a natural harbour that must have made Walpole an attractive proposition to settlers. Once again I think timber was the local income earner before farmland was cleared. Walpole is still a very small town with a big preoccupation with tidiness and litter!

We also came across a new flower to us – the kangaroo paw – I have to thank Peter for this information!

Supper was the smoked trout we bought in Pemberton. While preparing it and ourselves we had a protracted visit from a kookaburra who seemed mightily interested in what was going on….

Supper was eventually consumed inside Apollo as it was pouring with rain. Sunshine predicted for tomorrow!

Friday, 17th March

A cold but bright morning. The forecast was for a cooler,  but bright morning and wet afternoon. We had decided to walk to the Big Brook Dam, a round walk we had been told of about 10 miles, incorporating part of the Bibbulman track which was supposed to run through the campsite. We searched in vain for a signpost, but after the usual disagreement about which way to go (I think my magnetic north has gone completely south) we set off to walk along the road to the Dam. This was after asking a young lad the way on the campsite and having him tell us it wasn’t worth doing because it was a long way…….

Although we were walking on the road and initially there was a long slog up hill, it was a great walk. The tall Kerri trees towered over us but after a sharp left turn, they eventually gave way to fruit trees and vines. A large pond came into view on our right. 

 To our left there was some new planting going on, carefully protected fruit trees in meticulous straight lines covered the hillside. We had walked about 5 k when we came across a sign to a vineyard and cafe that also sold beer. It seemed rude to walk past, so we set off up the track to the Hidden River Vineyard. Horses peered over a fence at us and some very smart chickens clucked around the road way. 

There was no one around initially, except a rather large soppy dog who sauntered off to find someone. It was all very casual. We had a drink and the menu for lunch looked so good we decided to return on Saturday for lunch on the way to our next port of call, Walpole.  

I took the precaution of asking if I could taste their fizz as I will be driving when we have lunch and we might want to buy a bottle……. That very satisfactory diversion over, it was back to the walk. About another two km further on we came to the Dam. What a beautiful spot! 

It had a footpath all the way round it with some interesting information about the area. It would seem that where Augusta owed its existence to whaling, Pemberton was a centre for timber. However over the years some friction arose between the timber people and the farmers, as the timber types were concerned that the farmers land clearance would exhaust the lucrative timber trade. 

It was just such a beautiful location. Given its easy access to the road, we saw the occasional stroller, taking advantage of the opportunity to stretch their legs, but mostly we had the place to ourselves.  We had our lunch on a beach by the water and then continued our walk around what is a quite a sizeable reservoir.

It’s about 4K round. Every now and then there was a hide built to enable you to watch the birds, particularly the black swans paddling elusively in the centre and too far away for iPhone photography. Apparently the dam is a good spot for seeing rakali, the Australian Water Rat. We weren’t lucky on this occasion. Our  ‘I Spy’ book of Australian creatures was left empty at the rakali page…….

It was a lovely walk. ‘Lovely’ seems a little bit lacking as a descriptor, but it is becoming difficult to find enough superlatives for these particular travels! We reached the head of the reservoir and turned back along the other bank, picking up the Bibbulman track again and at one stage looking across to the beach where we had lunch earlier. 

Birds chirruped and called and rustled in the trees but we saw no-one on this, the more remote side until, as we arrived at the dam bridge where we had started out, we found a cycling Yorkshireman(!) who pointed out the forest path that would take us back to Pemberton.

It was a great route. Paper bark (hope I have got it right!) from the surrounding trees crunched under foot like Autumn leaves in England. Butterflies danced along  beside us. The dappled sunlight made the pathway ahead mottled light pierced the tree canopy. It was a magical walk.  For the final delight the last hour and a half it was down hill as we made our way into the back end of the campsite.  

Here the numbers had swelled. Tents had arrived. There was a triathlon taking place in the town at the weekend, so a number of participants it appeared had arrived to take part. I walked up into the town to buy some bread to augment our supper and then – never had a beer tasted so good……! Nectar of the gods!

It remained hot and sunny until quite late and we ate supper outside and then another early night. Tomorrow we move on again………

One thing I did not mention was that apparently in recommending the route  we walked to Keith, the chap at the camp site office told him there was a strong possibility of coming across snakes out by the dam. Keith omitted to mention this until well into the journey. It will be discussed at his next appraisal………

Thursday 16th March

It was quite chilly when we woke up, but a lovely sunny morning.
  We had breakfast, with the support of the local ducks, and packed up.  We were off to Pembeton. Pemberton lies inland in a heavily forested area. Our route, as always was on an excellent road, with little traffic, although we saw more road trains than we have before on this visit.  We also saw our first dead kangaroo on the road for this trip. One always hopes that they are killed immediately. Having said this, it was a large beast – I am not sure what damage it would have done to the vehicle that hit it. 

It took a couple of hours to get to Pemberton, situated in a valley in the spectacular kerri forests. Kerri trees are exceptionally tall and this place is full of them.  First stop, as always was the tourist office where the lady was ultra efficient and we came away with so many maps, brochures and ideas of what to do that we were somewhat overwhelmed.  We could never do it all in 8 weeks let alone the eight days we have left to travel, but we felt obliged to rush off and make a start!  Next stop was the caravan site in the edge of town. This actually on the famous Bibbulman Track that runs from the outskirts of Perth to Albany, the furthest point east that we are heading.  The 964 km track looks really good, but not for us on this occasion, although we do hope to do bits of it over the next few days. 

In fact, after lunch we set off to walk to the Gloucester Tree.   Our walk took us up through the town and out the other side.  All on the Bibbulman Track (known as the Bibb Track here) and clearly signposted by the Waugul, or rainbow serpent, markers.  It was a warm afternoon and our outward journey was nearly all uphill – never mind, downhill coming back!  Initially we walked along roads,  but after a couple of kilometres we moved off on to a track through woodland.  

The trees soared above us.  We eventually came to a clearing and there was the Gloucester Tree, named after the Duke of Gloucester. It is 53 metres high and 24 ft round.

  It has stakes all the way up to enable you to climb to the look out platform at the top, previously used by fire watchers who would take turns to sit in the top of the tree throughout the summer to watch for fires.  These days fire watching is done by ‘plane, but in the past it was a very important job.  I was amused by the person specification on the notice board……..

I am glad they were required to be sober!

While we were there several people climbed to the top but both Keith and I were happy to watch from the bottom…..  it looked terrifying!

This is different bird country!  Having said this, kookaburras chuckled and cackled around about us but a much more red parrot than we have seen this trip happily sat and let us photograph him. 

There were the usual ring necked lorikeets (we think) hopping around the table where a young couple were eating food.  Other birds we did not recognise bobbed in and out of the undergrowth. 

We wandered back.  It was hot and the sun was quite intense.  We eventually got back to our campsite and had some down time before sampling the showering facilities. We had bought some fish before we left Augusta and Keith made a great shakshuka which we washed down with a nice glass of red wine purchased at the Red Gate vineyard in Margaret River.

And so to bed. 

Wednesday, 15th March

We woke to sunshine and it was very quiet.  The wind had dropped after gusting quite dramatically in the night.  At our review discussion (before the usual early morning planning meeting!) we both agreed we had experienced a very comfortable night.  Apollo has done well!  However, we have learnt a lot.  Not to go into too much detail in deference to the delicately dispositioned among us, it was all about preparation for ‘overnight wanderings’ as it were.  As it was, we had not thought it through and we are parked on sand…..  need I say more.  Anyway, that will not happen again.  We have shaken the sand out of the sheets and have suitable clothing and foot attire to hand.  We have also decided that there will be no late night or over imbibing of liquids. I think this may prove to be a very healthy period of the holiday!!!   Bed by just after 8, up with the sun, one pot foods and the careful ingestion of liquid. We would pay a lot for it at a health farm.  

At about 9.30 we set off for the lighthouse which is about 8 k away. The first 4K was along a coastal path, with the sea crashing in along the shore line just yards away from us.  As we left the caravan park, a pelican was posing nicely for us on a rock, with his three cormorant buddies.   

Just a little further along at the end of the bay adjacent to the campsite, we passed a cafe dispensing coffee, but which later does meals and more particularly sells the local fish.  We decided that was to be our meal of the day, the timing dependent on what time we got back.  It was bright and sunny but with a nice breeze that made walking very pleasurable. We passed various points where you could access the ocean. 

There is quite a lot of development going on.  Large houses overlooking the water.  We passed Flinders Bay and the other Augusta caravan site that we were warned against by the tourist office because it is more or less on  the beach and was likely to be even more blowy than where we were!  

We eventually reached the new Augusta Boat Harbour, a new $34 million development that isn’t quite finished, but already has boats moored on it’s jetties. There were very few people about and it looked pristine and glary white.  The harbour wall is pretty impressive but I fear it may need to be in the depths of winter when it must be a very turbulent spot. 

We walked on.  The footpath runs out at the harbour, so it was a bit of a slog to get to the lighthouse along the road.  There was hardly any traffic, so it was not really an issue.  Eventually we came to a lookout point when we could see the lighthouse quite clearly and the waves washing over what is obviously a reef of rocks that goes right out to sea from the lighthouse promontory.  

 There was a plaque indicating that the South Pole is 3,398 miles due south from this point. We had a chat to a chap who was sitting in his pick up watching the waves and continued on another couple of kilometres to the lighthouse.  We decided not to pay the fee to go to the headland and after a drink, set off on our return journey dropping in to see the ‘water wheel’ advertised on the sign post across the road, almost opposite the entrance to the lighthouse.  This was an old device apparently used to carry water when they were building the lighthouse.  Although it was not in itself very exciting, 

the sea at this point was wonderful as it marked the spot where the Southern Ocean and the  Indian Ocean meet and was on the opposite side of the promontory from the one we walked.  

We retraced our steps and walked back.  The sun was in our face, but the breeze coming off the sea was very pleasant.  On the way back we passed an information sign we had missed on our outward journey,  marking the site of the beaching of 114 whales on Flinders Bay in 1986.  500 people of Augusta worked day and night to keep the whales alive and turn them back out to sea.  In the event 96 were saved, a tremendous achievement. 
We made very good time on the last leg of our return journey and arrived in time to have lunch at the cafe and very good it was too. After walking 10 miles we felt we deserved it.  Back at Apollo, after a bit of a rest, it was time for a shower and free time.  Life on the campsite is fascinating!   There are always people arriving or striking camp and there are some enormous and very exotic pieces of equipment!  We are very much at the ‘small fry’ end of things…. but it seems to be working.  There are obviously some very house proud ladies about. There is much sweeping and tidying and I saw one lady cleaning her windows!  There are awnings with pot plants on tables and one area where the caravans have been there so long they have extensions attached to them and roses in the garden.   A different world!

As early evening approached, the barbecuing fraternity gathered at the barbecue area, the drinkers collected with their bottles of wine, crisps and dips and the evening activity got into swing.  We had silent reading, a bit of plannning in terms of stops over the next few days, and adjourned.  I think we are getting into this now!

Tuesday, 14th March

We were up early to ensure that we got Helen to the bus station to get her bus up to Perth, she will fly to Darwin tomorrowher where she will make her next guest appearance!  Having collected her coffee and dropped her off, we returned to Kitty Kat Lane to do the final packing and close down the house.  It was odd with no Helen!  It was also extremely windy outside, although quite bright. 

Having packed all of our luggge into the back of Apollo and made a wrap for lunch, we were off.  It was back to Caves Road only this time heading south as we had decided our first overnight stay would be at Augusta, only just over 50 k away but on the most south westerly corner.  There is a walk which sounds very attractive from the lighthouse we visited yesterday to Augusta. The Two Capes Walk.   It sounds delightful and tempting but not logistically possible on this trip.  

The road had very little traffic on it.  The sign posts would indicate that there are caves all along this area.  We decided not to stop at them but passed a wonderful stretch of trees which caused us to pause and wonder at their beauty……

We also marvelled at the effort it must have taken for those early settlers to clear the land, given the prolific tree growth.  Talk about daunting!

Given the rough weather, 50 mph winds were predicted for the day, I decided it would be nice to get out to look at the sea as it was so near.  We parked just yards from the beach, the trees in front of us were waving furiously.    Keith got out first but the wind was so strong he soon got back in again but not before he managed to get a lump of sand in his eye.  Luckily it was not far to Augusta from there, but by the time we had visited the tourist information office and found a campsite he was in real distress.  The whole situation was made worse by the fact that by now it was pouring with rain.  

As nothing seemed to wash the offending sand out of his eye, we went off the the local hospital who had it out in no time.  Very much restored we adjourned to the camp site after a quick shop for supper, to wait out the torrent.  A couple of hours later, the sun was out and we were able to go out to explore our surroundings.  

The campsite is very well equipped and looks very orderly and is adjacent to a waterway called Seine Bay.  We are parked quite near to the cooking and ablution block, so it is all very satisfactory.  We decided our cooking would be done there tonight rather than tackle our own on board facilities.  Apollo is parked amidst the trees which is a bit noisy in the high winds and occasionally ducks waddle past, a new development in our flora and fauna experience.  

We went out for a short walk but it came on to rain again, so we returned to the van and got ourselves together for transporting our equipment to the communal cooking area to make our meal.   This has a seating area at one end and it was all very social by the time we arrived with lots of wine and beer drinking going on.  A group ofelderly gentlemen were having great fun outside barbecuing.  One chap inside was obviously fascinated by Keith doing the cooking!! It was obviously something of a new phenomena for him.  Supper was good, the cooking area pristine and we did not have to spend the night with the smell. 

All in all, apart from the eye issue, a good first day on the road.  We have booked into the campsite for two nights, so as long as the weather improves and we don’t get get blown away in the night – we will explore Flinders Bay and another lighthouse tomorrow.   

Monday, 13th March

It was dulling heavily and there had been a heavy downpower just before 7.00. We had no great hope of the day. Nonetheless we set out to head up the coast to the northern most point at Cape Naturaliste.  We first went to collect Helen a supply of the coffee she has been drinking (at the coffee house we visited on our tour on Friday) throughout our stay.  After this it was straight up Caves Road, first for a little retail therapy at Yallingup and then it was on to the lighthouse car park. 

By the time we reached the car park, the drizzly rain had stopped and there were patches of blue in the sky although it was still fairly overcast.  We set off down one of the smart concrete paths but this soon ran out and became a sandy walkway. 

 At regular intervals there were signs indicating where we were.  The landscape was a bit confusing.  It was pretty blustery!    To our right, peeking over the top of the hill was the lighthouse which has stood here for many years.  The small gift shop housing some interesting but odd machinery was one of the three lighthouse man’s cottages.  They were all painted white and stood out on the stony hillside.  There was an interesting chap in the lighthouse shop – when asking after his recommendations for where to walk for good views, he rather morosely told us we had ‘better views in England’…….. helpful.  

As we descended towards the sea, the rugged coastline became more evident and waves crashed against the rocks below us.   This is apparently the perfect spot to watch whales during September and November.  It was windy which was exhilarating but the flies were irritating.  We continued along the path and eventually came to a timbered lookout point 

It was very gusty here and the waves were crashing into the rocks along the shore line.
Th sun was gradually emerging through the clouds.  We turned to walk back up the path and came across a sign regarding abalone fishing – in great detail.   I could not believe it was the dreaded abalone again.  I am sure they are just trying to haunt me for not liking them!!
What is it about these things that makes them so attractive?!? Not to me!  It must be an acquired taste!!
Turning away from the rules of abalone fishing, we meandered back to lighthouse to consume our lunch away from the flies and inspect the lighthouse itself. It was a jolly affair and I am sure caused some consternation to build as the location is somewhat remote.   Apparently some vital part for it was made in England and, having safely made the journey, was smashed on the rocks when it was being delivered down the road……  I’m sure they said ‘oh blow’ before sending for another one and waiting another year for it to arrive!

By early afternoon it was time to return home.  By now the sun was out and it was very pleasant.  After picking up a few supplies from Margaret River, it was time to return home to Kitty Kat Lane and to do some laundry, not b I got sure when the next opportunity may arise. While sitting outside waiting for it to dry, our friendly kangaroo came even closer and a group of galah’s (pronounced galars) started to demolish the grass in the next paddock.


Our meal was somewhat delayed while we resolved an electricity problem (The electric pan fused the lights) which reduced our meagre cooking equipment to one ring, but supper was, as always, worth waiting for!  We shared a last bottle of bubbly to mark our last supper with Helen on this trip – she is coming over to Europe again in the summer – and we retired to bed. 

Tomorrow rage next phase begins – Apollo takes to the road.  I may be gone for some time as I am not sure where my next wifi link might be……..

Sunday, 12th March

I cannot believe we have only just reached the halfway mark on our two month visit Australia – we seem to have done so much!

The day promised a mix of weather – not what we are used to! There was rain threatening for the afternoon together with a temperature of 30 degrees. In these circumstances we decided to set out for a walk early.  We had checked the proposed walk with the information office on Saturday, but had been told the path was blocked.  We decided to attempt it and see how far we could get.  The route we wanted to do was the 10 mile Brook Dam Walk. 

We arrived at Rotary Park, to the accompaniment of hymns being transmitted through a loudspeaker system …. it was definitely Sunday and the Rotary Club was definitely drawing it to our attention.   

We took off along the track.  The two trees overhead privided us with dappled shade.  Initially we saw a couple of cyclists and a few other walkers. Very soon there was just the three of us.  The path followed the course of the Margaret River which at this point is dark and cool with rich vegetation on both banks.  

A very different creature to the river we saw emerging at the ocean yesterday.  

Further along, there were trees knee deep in the water, looking as if they were paddling…

We did indeed find the closed bit of the path, a wide roadway is going to run right across the bush about 4 k along the trail.  However, there was a footpath around the digging close to where it reaches the River.  The developers are not going have it all their own way – they are going to have to build a bridge to get their new road to the other side of the river and in the meantime, we still had a route around the earthworks.  We were surprised that anyone gave planning permission for a roadway across such a beautiful National Park area – which reminded us to ponder on the outcome of yesterday’s election …….

The temporary path wound its way over the woodland, across fallen trees, broken branches and tree roots.  It was not the broad thoroughfare of the original route, but got us around the obstacle.  Eventually we came out onto the broad path again and saw that someone had placed an arrow on the ground telling us where to turn back into the bush on our return journey.  It was a stick and two white kangaroo bones to indicate our way.  Nice. 

Back on the pathBack on the path, we continued on our way.  Just short of the end of the signed pathway we turned off on to an upward track referred to as the Winter Route.  I am not sure why.  It was equally wide but had more ‘up’ in it.  Perhaps that’s what you do in winter in these parts, walk more ‘up’.  Eventually this brought us round back the main path again and our return journey.  Careful to follow the bones, we took the diversion and were soon on the home straight and back to the Rotary Park, now resounding with the excitement of children in the play area nearby. 

As lamb chops had been purchased at the market for supper, we turned little Apollo in the direction of the Red Gate gallery, who we felt had produced the best red wine of our wine tour.  Keith tried it again to confirm our suspicion that it was very good.   A purchase was made and it was home to finish yesterday’s fish off for lunch.  

By now the promised rain had started, so it was a lazy Sunday afternoon for us.  Having first planned our Monday excursion, we all adjourned.  Intermittently we were all distracted by the kangaroos out on the paddock in front of us.   By late afternoon the rain had became more prominent and by early evening a real storm sent lightening across the sky and rolls of thunder echoing around the paddock. 

As darkness fell we had an excellent meal produced by Keith on the various devices available, there being no single stove.  The crickets chirped outside, we consumed the last of the red wine with some Brie purchased on our wine tour and all went off early to bed, happy and replete. 

Saturday, 11th March

Another beautiful day! The wind has dropped too, perfect for breakfast outside. I am sure the birds know it is the weekend – they seemed chirpier this morning.
We had decided to walk into town to go to the Saturday Farmers market. Before this there was a bit of Apollo action in that we plugged the electricity into the mains to ensure we are fully charged before we set off in a couple of days – well we thought we were being technical. …..

This done, we set off. Past the pigs having breakfast and Apollo being charged with electricity and onto the road into town. 

It was a very attractive path through the trees, running parallel to the road…

It took just under the hour to walk into town and find the market. Margaret River was all of a buzz. Not only was it Market day but it was the state elections. Everyone is required to vote in Australia so there was a lot of coming and going. The market itself was quite fun and I felt it had a ‘Woodstocky’ feel about it. In addition to the stalls of produce, there were musicians and small groups sitting on the grass and a number of people with matted dreadlocks – a prerequisite for this sort of occasion in my experience. It definitely had a carnival air to the whole occasion!

Helen found the coffee stall as usual.

The same coffee house as we visited on our tour! We had a great time buying our food for the next couple of days and after filling our rucksacks we headed off into the town proper (me with a strong smell of basil from the biggest clump of it ever in my bag!) to visit the information centre and buy a sharp knife – there is not a sharp knife to be found in Kitty Kat Lane Towers.  

Fully equipped and informed we returned home with our supplies and having quenched our thirst, we set off to the sea. We found a surfers cafe near the beach and had lunch within sight of an amazing array of surf boards….

We then took off through a park area 

and over the dunes to the sea – it was as beautiful as ever, edged by white sand, but here shelving quite deeply. 

We walked on along the coast and came across a sufing competition We watched for a bit but saw no dramatic waves.  In fact the surfers seemed to be having problems finding a wave to surf,  from what I could see. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the ocean……. a bit tricky when you have an audience and your every move is being commentated on over a loudspeaker!!

Walking on we came to the mouth of the Margaret River.  It was a bit spindly as it came down to the sea in fact it looked as if it was not quite going to make it!

In this bay the surfers looked like trainees – with lifeguards keeping a watchful eye on them. 

There certainly did not look much fear of anyone being washed out to sea by a big wave!!

We trundled back to the car and headed for home, all full of fresh air – there always seems to be a breeze on this West Coast. 

When we got home Ryan, the chap who owns the house and lives next door, came round to tell us he had been spear fishing and would we like some flush.  It was a fish called Dhu – I think this was the type rather than its name……

We were given three hefty portions which made our salad for supper into something of a feast!  It was wonderful and could not have been more fresh.  

Before supper we cracked open the bubbles we had purchased yesterday and had it outside while we watched the sun setting.  The perfect end to a perfect day.  

Friday, 10th March

We woke up to bright sunshine,  but it was still windy.  It is unlikely to affect us today as we are undertaking what is described as a ‘gourmet tour’ of Margaret River and its produce.  This is to incorporate wineries (vineyards to us Europeans!), coffee, beer, cheese, oil and chocolate. It was all set fair to be a busy day – and so it proved to be.

We took breakfast outside ( I forgot to mention that we have no table in the house) and after obtaining a third spoon from next door, had a delicious, if slightly airy first meal of the day.  We then decided to wait for our pick up by the tour company by the road, as we felt it unlikely that we would be found at 59 Kit Kat Lane by the pigs….

It proved to be a successful strategy and after picking up a few others, we were off!  We started at the Yahava coffee company. Here they ship in beans from Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and India, roast them and blend the coffee.  I wish my writing could comvey the smell as we walked into the place.  Even though I would not give you a thank you for the coffee, I love the smell! There were lessens (not to use boiling water, keep ground coffee in the cupboard, buy a small amount of beans) and tasting (two different blends of coffee and one chocolate). You could then buy a cup or bag of the coffee of your choice.  I wasn’t exactly in the front of that queue…….but by all accounts it was very good.  I felt on wires all day on the couple of sips I had to be sociable!

There are 170 wineries in Margaret River and 12 breweries. The local aborigines moved out when the white men came to the area.  These mostly set up as beef farmers after the business of shipping the eucalyptus timbers to London to become sleepers for train lines was exhausted.  In the 1960’s beef farming took a down turn and a number of the farms were turned over to winemaking.  The most successful and richest of these in the area is owned by a chap called Lawrence who has a figure of a gold lady on a pole outside his vineyard – locally referred to as the ‘chick on a stick’.  Cowaramup, a neighbouring town has put up it’s own version of this – a gold cow, upright on a pole, affectionely known as the ‘rump on a stump’.  They have an interesting turn of phrase around here!

Our next stop was the Red Gate ‘winery’.  In actual fact, this first was to prove to produce the best red wine all day, but we did not know this at the time.  It was such a different experience to that which we had at the Hunter Valley on our last trip to Australia.  The wines were full bodied and aged. They were great.  Red Gate is a small vineyard that relies on cellar sales.  They deserve to do well.

Next up was the Watershed establishment.  They sell to the big supermarkets and it looked  a very slick set up, complete with helicopter out front.  We did meet the lady who had travelled down from Perth with her husband in the helicopter for his 90th birthday……..   apart from the bubbly,  none of the wines were particularly notable from my perspective.  We bought a bottle of the the bubbles.

Our final stop for the morning and our lunch place was the brewery at Cowaramup.   The

Beer is brewed by ‘Jeremy from Winchester’, who does a good job.  We decided to taste all his offerings before choosing something to accompany lunch.

For the beer aficionados among us, the beers were a pilsner, a wheat beer, a summer ale, a special pale ale, an Indian pale ale and a porter.  He is even trying to gtow his own hops – without much success I have to say!  I think he should stick with his current suppliers – England, Germany and Tasmania.
Following an excellent lunch, we set off again. This time for another ‘winery’, this was the Tassell Park Vineyard, currently up for sale but producing some good wine.  They even had a mulled offering. Although the wines were heavily discounted we bought nothing, Helen bought a chardonnay, her wine of choice.

The next item on the agenda was the cheese factory.  The range was somewhat limited,  but they had a good cheddar and brie which we purchased for supper, but not before some very careful tasting had taken place.

Our penultimate stop was the Fermoy Estate, established by an Irish family from Cork. There were some very good and expensive (£50 a bottle) red wines here which we tasted heartily but managed to resist buying and we had a look around their wine making facility.  On this site there was also olive oil and some really good balsamic vinegars.  Yummy!

Our final stop was the chocolate factory.  A really good last hoorah for some – not to my taste – but the opportunity to eat as much chocolate as you wanted was obviously a very attractive proposition!

What a day!  We arrived home tired but happy and very pleased with ourselves.  The sun was setting on the trees in front of the house

and then quite soon an enormous nearly full moon appeared.