A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

Making it to Perth!!

Waking up the next morning we were feeling pretty good despite having had a few drinks the day before. We were a little sad that it was our last day of our epic roadtrip across the country but also looking forward to getting to Perth and the prospect of a proper bed. We had to get the van back into central Perth by 1pm so it was an early start as we needed to cover the 3 hours it would take. The roadtrip wasn't eventful apart from deciding to stop off and use up our spare petrol we had kept for emergencies, and then almost running out of petrol. Woops!


It was great to be seeing signs for Perth, the end was in sight.


The plan was to meet up with my aunt before dropping the car off as she had graciously offered to take us in for that weekend. Before we went to Carols's place we stopped off at a car wash to see if we could get all the bugs off! It didn't completely work and so we had to use some extra buckets of water and some elbow grease. I hadn't seen Carol for a long time, not since I was about 8 and so it was a quite funny as she hadn't seen me as a grown up and so we weren't really sure what each other looked like. We had a quick catch up but she was aware of our deadline and so helped Sarah and I get the van cleaned up by pulling out the vacuum and water bucket for us to use.


With the car fixed up we drove into the city centre with Carol and dropped the van off with an hour to spare.



With a quick handover of keys it was all done, they didn't even check the cleaning so we probably could have left the bugs on. I definately would recommend the relocation rental if you are trying to save a bit. It was the perfect way for us to have this adventure. Moving on Carol suggested that we do some Perth sights and so she took us to Kings Park. The park was really nice and is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and it showed off the city really well with panoramic views of river.


Life looks pretty sweet when you can jet ski from your home.


We had a good catch up with Carol as she needed to fill me in on her daughters, my cousins, Sarah and Emma who I hadn't seen since I was 8. It was nice to hear about theirs lives and how they enjoyed living here in Perth. We set up for a picnic lunch and continued to catch up about our trip.


In the grounds of the park there was some interesting trees that Carol thought we might like to see so we walked around the grounds to go see them. They were called Boabs tree and were distinctly different from the rest of the foliage around. They had been brought down from the North West of Australia in the Kimberly region. These trees have relatives found in Africa and Madagascar and so are relics of a time when the continents were together.


There was a incredibly large Boab tree that the parks had moved from the Kimberly region to preserve it as it was situated within a mining project. Being sacred to the indigenous people a ceremony was conducted to appease the spirits. Taking 6 days to move the 750 year old tree was an amazing feat especially as they covered almost the same distance as we did for Melbourne about 3200km.

Carol pointed out to us the lemon scented gum trees which have a great fragrance.


We were starting to get a picture of the type of lifestyle that this city can offer.


After the park we headed back home to relax as later that day we would be going out to Fremantle to try some fish and chips. Carol told us that you had to have an opinion on what place was better, either Cicerellos or Kailis. When we later posted on Facebook we were going it sparked a bit of talking point amongst friends from Perth.


We went to Cicerellos because that was Carol and her families favourite place. We thought it was pretty good grub and after we had our full we went off to a famous brewery called Little Creatures that has a bar and enjoyed a cold glass although I tried their pear cider and it was awful.


It had been a long day and so we were certainly ready to hit the hay.

The next day we leisurely woke up and planned to go for a walk with Carol along the river that went through her neighbourhood. It was a nice walk as the sun was out and beating down. Along the river there was wildlife to be heard and seen, one of which being the black swam which Carol told us was the symbol for Western Australia.


As we walked along the riverside we got to see the differences houses that have been built over the years and some of them were pretty amazing. You would have large mansion style houses next to the single storey older style and it won't be long before these lots are brought up and developed into more luxury houses with river views.


With people kayaking close by and enjoying a run or a walk I could see why Perth is an attractive place to raise a family. Our walk took us to the local cafe where we enjoyed some lunch and a coffee.

We didn't have much planned as we were recovering from our long trip and so after walking back we hung out until needing to leave to met up with Sarah and Emma for dinner. The place they took us too was very nice, right by the riverside in east Perth at a place called The Royal. We got a chance to exchange stories and catch up and it was just a shame that both of them were planning trips away to the UK and France whilst we spent our time here so we wouldn't be able to see them again.


It was nice to rekindle the family tie.


A big thank you to Carol for giving us a bed and providing us with a tour of Perth.


Stay tuned for more tales


Posted by doyledan 05:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Wine for Dudes tour- Margaret River

This morning we were really excited that we had the wine tour, Sarah had done the research before we left Melbourne and came upon these guys.


It looked perfect for us as we were not wine experts, despite being good wine drinkers.The Wine for Dudes idea is that 'wine is for everybody' and therefore you should be able to enjoy the wineries and not be put off by the snobbery associated with wine tasting.

We were picked up by John, a Kiwi fella who at first I just thought was a driver but it turned out he was the owner. He fitted 'Wine Dude' stereotype as he was a pretty laid back character but he was good value and obviously knew a lot about the area and the wineries. On route to pick up more of the group he told us that back in Nov 2011 there was a bush fire that came through the Margaret river area burning down 33 homes including the replica of one of the first settlers house which looks over the river. John wasn't able to get back to his own house as the roads were closed but was relieved to discover that although the outside was burnt that the contents inside including his wine collection had survived. For 3 weeks they weren't allowed to go back to their homes but the community rallied together with dinner parties round people's houses who were putting friends up.

John also explained why Margaret River is a famous wine region as the climate and soil in this area has ideal conditions. The clay soil absorbs the little rain (this mornings rain was unseasonal) that the area gets releasing just enough for the vines rather than over watering them. This area gets lots of hours of sunshine which allows the gapes to ripen, however as it has the ocean on 3 sides which helps to cool it down rather than being too over heated, similar to Mediterranean. Grapes do well on western coasts , which is why you will find wineries on the western coasts of South Africa and South America and California.


We up 2 other couples who were from the UK and headed to our first winery passing through Cowamup aka "Cowtown". This town wasn't doing very well until someone came up with the idea of adding the cows.


Now tourists will stop off to take photos and help the local business to keep going. The golden cow known the "rump on a stump", was an artists take on one of the famous wineries Laurence who are known for having a 'chick on a stick' as part of their wine labels.


On arriving at the first winery we were taken into the wine tasting area, the group grew to 13 of us and with the exception of one Aussie we were all Brits. We were also joined by our guide Wayne aka 'Crocodile Dundee' (he was a dead ringer) who was going to be taking the group around the wineries.


The first winery was called Chruchview and we were entertained by a guy called Denis who taught us some of the etiquette of how to taste wine including how to hold glass by the foot/stem and how to swirl the glass in order to release the aromas and flavours in the wine.


He also explained how to determine the age of the wine by its colour. For white wine the lighter it is the younger it is whereas for red wine the lighter the older it is as it deposits sediment as it ages. The idea is to look for the clarity in the wine to check the quality. To get our tastebuds going he suggested we take two sips of each wine. The first one to coat the mouth to prepare it for the second which is where you ll get all the flavour. It was good to get some coaching but we felt he was also a little bit too keen emphasise that we were novices, and it was slightly annoying that he constantly referred to prices but then again this is what a typical salesman would do.


We tried 8 different wines of red and white and including mixtures of Semillion and Sauvignon which are two different types of grapes and depending on which comes first when labelled it represents the higher ratio of grape in the mixture and ultimately the flavour that it contains. We also tried a Chardonnay that Sarah particularly liked, which is not the norm for her. Denis explained that the reason this is better in Margaret river is that French oak barrels are used that cost $2000-3000 dollars each and can be used about 3-4 times. So those bargain wines at Tescos which are given a manufactured oak taste which is quite harsh are the ones to avoid. Of course this basically means Sarah's tastebuds must only enjoy the finest (expensive) Chardonnays one can buy. We enjoyed the wines we tasted and Sarah even liked the Cabernet Sauvignon red which was a complete surprise as she doesn't like reds normally and so we bought a bottle.


A great start and Sarah also made a friend


Moving onto the next winery we stopped at Hayshed Hill and met Bec, our wine expert and Becky the dog...


who was proudly featured as Miss December 2014 for the winery dogs calendar.


Bec was very good at explaining the wine and was an expert fly swatter, literally mid speech she smacked a fly on the table witout a blink. We started off with bubbles before trying more white, pink and red wines.


The added bonus of this stop was that we were going to do some wine blending to make our own glass of Cabernet Shiraz blend to have with our lunch. Like a science class we had our wines and measures and set work to make the best combination.

Some of us concentrated a little too much.


And some basked in the ambience.


I went for recommended 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Shiraz.


It was during this time were the group got to know each other a little more and let their hair down, making a bit of a mess with the wine pouring. We found out the one of the couples Sarah and Steve lived off Lavender Hill in Clapham only minutes away from our old place. Totally bizarre. They were really friendly and we had a good time gas'ing away whilst devouring the gourmet pizzas the winery had supplied.


Sarah liked this quote on a tea towel..."wine is to women what duct tape is to men, it fixes everything!"

Then we went to our next stop, The Grove, a liquor place with crocs in their pond and drop bears in their trees.


Steve the proprietor, with an impressive moustache, was very funny and gave us all liquor cocktails and was a lot of fun.


There were some delcious mixtures of liquor that everyone enjoyed like Cookies and Creme, using white chocolate and raspberry liquor and creme. Butterscotch and dark chocolate liquors, Turkish delight was a favourite, and in between we would freshen palette with 'vodka' (actually water but at first we weren't sure). By this point we were all well oiled and so the laughter was infectious.


We then went to chocolate factory... Free chocolate!


Sarah got the marzipan delights yum and I tried chi chi chilli and an almond one.. Amazing!

We made a quick stop at a cheese factory where we all sampled some cheese but no one was really interested in buying any so we jumped back in the van to go to the last winery. Its a tough task to keep a group of people entertained as they have all been drinking but the girl did quite well and we sampled some of their mulled wine which was great.


The last stop was at a brewery where Steve and I shared a palette of beers and the two Sarah's chatted and we found out they had gotten engaged on their trip so a toast was in order.


It was such a good day out, and we got picked up by John and he was nice enough to swing by the local golf club so we could get a glimpse of the Kangeroos hanging out on the fairway. Apparently the golfers just play through!


John picked us up and kindly allowed us to drop off our goods back at the campsite and took us back to Margaret River centre where we went for dinner with Sarah and Steve and he joined us as well. We shared some more excellant wine which John got for the table. He was a stand up guy, and really honest about how things work telling us his aspirations for the company and was keen to get our feedback which is quite refreshing if you ever get to meet him. He had some fun stories about the different characters you get on tour and seemed to know everyone in town frequently pausing to say hello to passersby. He told us how the area had changed and where the good places were to hang out, it seems like a fun community to live in. It was a great way to end a perfect day sharing stories with some new friends.

We would definitely recommend the tour to anyone looking for a laid back winery tour!

Stay tuned for more tales


Posted by doyledan 04:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

First sights of the West Coast

Albany to Prevelley

It was gorgeous driving through all the tall trees in Shannon National park at first light but there was one tree in particular that we were looking for that we needed to head to Glouchester National park to find...


... And that was the Glouchester Tree one of the giant karri trees which was used as a fire look out point.


In the 1930s and 40s a string of look out trees were selected to have viewing platforms built at the top which would be manned to keep an eye out for any whisps of smoke that might appear through the canopy. It was imperative for any fires were detected early to avoid disaster.

The look out platform is 61m high and large pegs spiral around this giant to make the ladder to the top.


When the first forrester, a man called Jack Watson, climbed the tree he only had climbing boots and belt to climb with. It took him over 6 hours to get up and down it in order to survey its suitability as a fire look out point. There are some incredible photos of his climb and also that of a man called Dick Sprogue who would climb up with his axe to chop off the top of the tree with little or no safety equipment incase anything went wrong!


Of course you can guess that as soon as Dan found out you could climb up it that he had to give it a go.


With parts of the climb being vertical and nothing to catch you if you happened to slip between the pegs I decided to give this one a miss and nervously waved goodbye and hoped he would make it back down again. Soon he was out of sight as he got higher up the tree so I used the whistle idea from the Hunger Games to be able to tell if he was still alright up there. If anyone else had arrived at that point they would have found a slightly distressed woman madly whistling at a tree... but eventually Dan whistled back so all was ok :)


And this is the incredible view that Dan got over the Karri Forrest.


With Dan safely back on the ground we headed into the small town of Pemberton and got refreshments at the Mill House Cafe who have delicious homemade sausage rolls and all the gossip!


Pemberton built up in early 1900s with the development of the railway. It turns out that the hard wood of the karri trees make great railway sleepers. Sawmills opened up and housing was needed for the workers resulting in Pemberton, full of traditional wooden houses with porches out the front.


We continued the scenic drive through the forrest to Prevelly along the Cave Road, famous for its many caves, but we decided not to stop at any as we had visited several caves in Asia and wanted to push on to the West Coast. We knew we had some time to kill so took a detour down to Port Augusta but after a guy reversed into our van we decided to move on. Luckily no damage was done. Prevelley is quaint seaside town just outside of the town of Margaret River where the river meets the ocean. As we approached we could see the white Greek chapel that looks out over Prevelly. We would later find out that this was built in honour of the Greeks had looked after australian soldiers during the second world war.


It was still too early to check into the caravan park so we went to Gnarabup Beach to chill out and get our first experience of WA beaches. Not too shabby!


Although still several hours from our final destination of Perth we had made it from one side of Australia to another!! Home was that way!


We enjoyed sunbathing and then had lunch at the White Elephant where the persistent seagulls battled the strong winds in wait for any unattended food or food covered children!

After checking into campsite to freshen up we headed in to Margaret River. A big town with plenty of shops to look around cafes and bars. A far cry from the smaller settlements we had passed through on most of our journey. We popped into the Settlers Tavern to find some wifi. Went through the more dodgy entrance where people seem to just sit around in the dark and place bets. It was a bit nicer in the main room and outside areas and seemed to be the hub of the town.

Before heading back to cook dinner at the van went to check out where the river meets the ocean and check out some of the rock pools.



Despite being tempted to head back to the Settlers Tavern for the open mic night we decided it would be best to an early one as we had a full day of wine tasting fun ahead of us.


Posted by doyledan 18:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Albany to Shannon National Park

Waking up in the early hours we had the pleasure of watching the sun rise of the bay and jetty, the Dawson's Creek theme tune sprung to mind. I had to wake Sarah up after we slept a little longer as 4 huge pelicans were now on the jetty staring out in the distance like old men sitting on a bench discussing the days weather.


We had been doing some Yoga on the trip and decided this was a good place to do a routine but as we were doing stretches we encountered these nasty big flies that continued to pester and try to bite you, so that put an end to that! We thought it would be good idea to try out one of the walks in the area near our camping so we made the short drive to edge of Flinders Peninsula to tackle the hike to the Bald Head. As we parked up it seemed the flies had followed us and several were hovering outside waiting to pounce.

Moving quickly out of the van we made our way to the trail but hadn't counted on the track taking 6 to 8 hours to finish! Instead we meandered up part of track for an hour and found our way to some fantastic view points. It was a gorgeous day and the wild flowers were out, but also the many flies (there is a bit of theme going on here I know).


On turning back having got our fair share of sea breeze we encountered this clever grasshopper who looked identical to the wood.


Leaving the trail we headed back to campsite to grab a shower but not before seeing the fields opposite with tens of Kangeroos out for their morning graze.


The next stop from Albany would be Denmark which is about a 40 minute drive. As we approached this small town we stopped off at the visitor centre trying to figure out our next move. Not ready to move on as the town was really quite nice we found our way to a quaint cafe called Mrs Jones and had a coffee and cake to help inspire us. We read that there were some elephant shaped rocks along the way out of Denmark and so of course we had to visit them, what with Sarah's passion for all things Elephants.


Before reaching the Elephant Rocks we stubbled upon a sign to a maze and so intrigued we turned off the highway to investigate. The maze was created by a family who own the land and they ask for any donations as you enter. It wasn't the most amazing maze but as a rest bite and also a bit of randomness it brought a smile to us.


Leaving the maze we began to see signs for wineries and also a Chocolate Lounge! Named Swiss Annie's denmarkchocolate.com.au, well of course we had to stop. With a Swiss theme evident as you approached the gardens of the house we thought could this be a home to lots of Toblerone? As we entered we were met by a English chap who was the husband of the Swiss lady whose grandfather had been a chocolatier for Thornton's (or was it Lindor). They were continuing on the family tradition over in Australia, however he explained how hard it is to do chocolate here due to the climate. Generally chocolate is more suited to the European climate, and so their choice of situating themselves in Denmark was predetermined as the area has a similar climate, however they still need to make sure they don't take long moving it out from one fridge to another during the process.


We had a sample of a few of their specialties white and dark chocolate which was given to us in handfuls! We then purchased some of their truffles including sea salt and burnt caramel truffles, roast almond and honey truffle, hazelnut and Cointreau and even a chocolate Koala! (Sarah got that one!). It was dead quiet being out of season but he told us that come Xmas time their would be queues going out the door so in a way we lucked out. It was only because we didn't have a way of keeping things cool in the van that we left without buying more although Sarah was tempted to get the chocolate marshmallow sauce!

Making our way to Elephant rocks with a satisfied sweet tooth we turned off the highway and parked up. It turns out, much like the dog rock in Albany the shape of the elephants isn't totally obvious but we had fun looking around and again being by the coast and taking in the sea breeze and especially the warm weather was more than enough to entertain us.


It was getting into late morning before we reached Walpole where we had been advised there was a tree top walk, so we found our way to it. The tree top walk is 40metre high and was quite windy and so the walkway would sway and bounce with the vibrations of people walking on it. Not one for those with a fear of heights. Sarah and I thought it was like being an Ewok in Star Wars or part of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. It was a short walk around the trees but a pleasant one. You learn to appreciate being out of the car on a roadtrip like this one and so even taking in the breeze amongst the tree top was a welcome break. As we headed to the lower ground we saw some Blue Wrens and a friendly chap told us that only the males are blue and the females are brown. They stay in family units of about 12 but only one male will be blue at a time, then this dominant male dies the next one changes his colour to become blue!


Needing some lunch we stopped off in Walpole town down at the jetty, (another Dawson creek moment) and we were the only people there. The jetty went out into one of the Inlets that if you had a boat would go all the way out to sea. It was great just to sit and relax for a bit in the sun.


By the time we were done in Walpole it was close to 4:30pm and with a desire not to be out at dusk we moved onto Shannon National Park to stop at the camping grounds off the highway. The camping ground were surrounded by huge karri trees and had some resident Kangeroos and Kookaburros. Walking around the grounds we took some photos and listened to the kookaburros make their odd sound which sounds like a monkey!


A simple dinner of soup cooked on a BBQ was prepared despite wrestling the mosquitos and flies and we were ready for bed.

Next would be a trip Margaret River and the Wine Dudes tour!

Stay tuned for more tales


Posted by doyledan 06:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

On to Albany

Cape Le Grand to Albany via Stirling Ranges - 594 kms

We d got into a routine of getting up at about 5am which is not a bad thing as this meant we could beat the queues at the showers before the larger tour groups got up. We weren't the only early risers though as at least 5 kangaroos were hopping around all the campervans and tents. No doubt they were looking for a morning snack, but for a moment we wondered whether Kanga had rallied the troops to take vengeance for eating Uncle John! So Dan thought it would be best to try to blend in!


Before we left we took one last look at Lucky Bay and managed to spot a kangaroo on the beach!


We enjoyed the drive out of the national park taking in all the views. You definitely could spend a few days here going on all the walks and checking out the different bays, it was a shame we had to move on.


Our next stop would be the Stirling Ranges but before that we wanted to stop off at Lake Hellier, a pink lake that I had read was just outside of Esperance.

We were expecting something that looked like this...


But instead we found this...


Turns out I had got my info wrong and that Pink Lake outside of Esperance was NOT the same as Lake Hellier (which is actually on an island off the south coast) Whoops! After asking some locals in the town of Pink Lake, we found out that Pink Lake had not been pink for over 20 years! So I really think they need to rename this place and all the shops too which are all called Pink Lake too!

We laughed off the lake fail and headed on to the Stirling Ranges. We still couldn't get over how small some of the 'towns' were that we passed through, this is Ongerup, which according to google has just over 100 people living here.


As we were driving a long I noticed an odd shape coming out of the heat haze further up the road. At first I thought it might have been a man standing at the side of the road, and as we got closer we thought it might be a massive crow but the legs were too big. It was actually an enormous eagle standing on top of a dead kangaroo! As we got closer it spread its wings and took off and I swear it could have taken the kangaroo with it if it wanted to it was that big!

Soon the Stirling Ranges came into view, after seeing flat land for the last couple of days it was a novelty to have such a large break on the horizon. The Aboriginal name for them is Koi Kyenuunu-ruff which means 'mist moving around the mountains'. These ranges run for 65km and are home to the highest peak in southern Australia, Bluff Knoll (1095m) which Dan was keen to hike to the top of.


We had planned to do this hike and stay overnight at one of the campsites. However we hadn't factored in that we would be arriving at the hottest part of the day. Not the ideal time to start a 4 hour hike so with no cooling mist in sight we sought the shelter of some trees to cook up some lunch and decide our next move.


This is when the flies found us, and we decided that it would probably be best to do a scenic drive through the ranges and move on rather than contend with the flies and the heat. It was really beautiful and we got to see a Rosenbergs Goana!


We got to Albany around 3pm a quaint and picturesque seaside town (although I think this is actually referred to as a port city). It was the first settlement in Western Australia, so by Australian standards you find some old buildings here. It reminded us a bit of home.


In fact walking down York Street with its town hall and clock tower it reminded me a bit of Guildford, and it had a huge tree with Xmas decorations on which was strange for us as it felt so far from Christmas.


Down by the port there is a replica of The Brig Amity, which was a New South Wales Government Supply Ship. Originally built in Canada this vessel is significant because carried 58 people from Sydney to become the first settlers in Western Australia in 1826.


Having changed our plans we needed to find somewhere to camp in the van overnight. We headed to the tourist information centre and soon had a map with several circled options. We decided to head for Panorama caravan park which was a gorgeous set up on the opposite side of the harbour from the main town where we were met by the welcoming Neil and several of the residents friendly dogs. We were directed to the spot that we could park up at which was right on the water front with a small jetty jutting out. Just lovely.

Before heading back into town for some dinner we decided to make the most of the remaining sunlight and headed along the coast to check out some of this areas famed rugged coastline by visiting The Gap and The Natural Bridge. Apparently parts of this ancient coastline can still be matched up to the coasts of Antarctica!


Given that the bridge could potentially collapse at any moment into the crashing waves below I was amazed by the amount of people clambering along and jumping around on it.


The Gap was impressive and has been carved into the coastline by the Southern Ocean creating sheer cliff faces with booming waves exploding on its base. When the weather is really rough they can hit it with so much force that the water comes up over the top and the spray reaches all the way to the car park!


This is the view over the nearby Cable Beach


Getting hungry we headed back to town for some food. After mainly eating budget noodles for the last couple of days we were keen to treat ourselves to a curry and having spotted one advertised on the map headed in that direction. It was dead, the only life in the place was the blinking 'open' light outside which wasn't as inviting as I guess it was intended so we decided to head back towards the harbour. It wasn't a wasted trip as we were entertained by stumbling on the famous Dog Rock. Australians say what they see so this literally is a rock that is meant to look like a dogs head... a collar had even been added to enhance the effect and someone had built their vets practice over the road. Can't get better free advertising than this right?


We opted for the Rustlers Steak House for dinner and had an awesome meal. It seemed we were lucky to get a table as this was a very popular place and I can see why as the 'horns n prawns' aka 'surf n turf' were Yum!


Posted by doyledan 00:01 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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