Christmas Road-trip: Perth – Margaret River
After duties to the relos had been concluded, it was difficult to decide what to indulge in, in Perth and its surrounds. Western Australia seemed to contain everything I love:
(Fremantle Beach; South Beach, Fremantle; Swan River in Perth City; Redgate Beach, Margaret River; Mandurah; Smiths Beach, Margaret River; Yallingup Beach, Margaret River; Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River; Gracetown, Margaret River; Cottesloe Beach)
clear blue-sky days out at sea or in rivers sailing (unfortunately, just missed the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships) and catamaran-ing and kayaking and canoeing and fishing and surfing and kite-surfing and snorkling and diving (clear waters, reefs, the scuttled HMAS Swan wreck, no flies!);
the freedom of wide open spaces and road trips down south and off-roading without detailed maps or sat nav; real sports, “survival” and “adventure” shops staffed by people who knew exactly what i was describing and so pointing me to exactly the sort of things i would fill the remaining 17kg of check-in baggage with (packed light); loads of like-minded outdoorsy types (including a rough and tough fellow passenger on train. Said he to his colleagues: I reckon I maight get maiself a wax to-naight, you know, before baiking tomorrow. Male colleague: yeah, that’s raight);
good coffee from several little holes in walls – eg.:
The Pony Espress O (21 Mayfair Street, West Perth. Housed in old stables. Slayer),
Yallingup Coffee Roastery (Shop 7b 233 Naturaliste Terrace Dunsborough 6281. The dredges tasted quite alright – lost the rest to the floor of the car when i had to jam the brakes at 110km/h);
loads of wineries in Swan Valley and Margaret River wine regions to stop off and taste wines at or just sit and nibble and sip and look at the verdant vineyards and their trellised vines. They were totally cool with me alternating surfing with wine-tasting, tracking fine white sand all over their cellar doors, and bobbing around with sea salt on my surf hat:
good food made from locally-sourced fresh ingredients:
Clancy’s Fish Pub (City Beach. Beach towels as part of chandelier.);
dinner at Must Restaurant (107 Bussell Highway, Margaret River)
brewery tastings and chill-out nosh (Little Creatures, Fremantle);
immensely kind and courteous people – taxi drivers, bus drivers, wait-staff; the constellations so clearly visible in the pitch darkness.
But the way the relos tell it, Oz looks like this:
with every after-dinner story ending with “and he/she was Taken“, and a few murders and rapes thrown in for good measure. And did I mention the flies? They got in your car, your drinks, your food, and just about every available orifice.
But did i mention the sunsets over the Indian Ocean? Spectacular any where along the west coast, the popular choices being to toast the end of the day with some BYO at Sea Gardens (Mitchell Drive, Prevelly) or at the lookout point at Sugarloaf Rock. The heavily tattooed and multiple-y-pierced dead-ringer for Spud next to me clapped and whistled and cheered every time the colours in the sky changed. Very nicely done, God.
Every tourist spot hosts some errant tourist who came for a short holiday and liked it so much they just never left. Western Australia would have been my Hotel California, except that I understood, reluctantly, that nothing is perfect and much as I might claim to love nature and the great outdoors, ultimately it is scary because we can’t control it and even things we are trying to protect might harm/kill us anyway (in memoriam, Steve Irwin), a sad consequence of the Fall.
Results of controlled burning that went out of control to cause the devastating fire of Margaret River in late 2011.
The sermons at St. Matthew’s Shenton Park by Rory Shiner on Christmas Eve and Kanishka Raffel on Christmas Day were good reminders that though we celebrate that a baby was born some 2000 years ago, we do not coo sentimentally over his cradle – rather, we remember that this baby was the Creator of the universe himself who chose to humble himself by being conceived in the womb of a virgin, who came to die (which might be why one of the wise men gave him incense) to redeem all humans so that we can be what God first made us to be – reflections of God’s image to the rest of creation, to rule over it and take care of it, under God’s command.
The only way to really see WA is with your own set of wheels. But beware wildlife crossings, especially the kangaroos at dawn and dusk. Apparently they take to headlights like moths to a flame. All advice upon encountering a rogue ‘roo says to brake if possible but never to swerve. Also, if you see a ‘roo, it’s likely his lemming-like friends aren’t far behind. But where do they hide in daytime, i’d asked, where do Kanga’s more sensible friends counsel him in calm slow voices that lights are not his friends and not to do the suicide hop? No answers until I passed a field of sheep and slowed to get a better look at some strange creatures – naked sheep sitting up on their hind legs, bending over to nibble on pasture with them rest of them…oh yeah…
The roads are just completely dark at night so make sure your headlights and batteries are go. Narrowly avoided running into a fox, but further squished a large black (?) snake that had already been hit and was lying across the road. Counted three ‘roos by the side. 😦
Next time, the rental car needs to have a roof rack for rental surf boards. Definitely.
Augusta Margaret River Tourism Black and White Map – didn’t have GPS. Relied on this and put an eye out for road signs instead.
Perth – YHA
Fremantle – Port Mill
Margaret River – Gilgara Resort
These are the wines i tried and rather liked:
Vasse Felix – Heytesbury 2008 (“A barrel selection of the very finest sections, of the best vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant and its restrained power is lifted by the distinctly perfumed and structured Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is matured in new and one year old French Oak barriques for 18 months”). Very good service by the friendly blonde-ish lady (with her hair tied back) at the cellar door who could remember my preferences a few days after the tasting.
Most of the Hamelin Bay Wines offerings including the 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (“Lovely fresh citrus, stone fruit and nutty flavours completed with a dry, mineral finish”), 2007 Five Ashes Reserve Chardonnay (“Beautiful quince and honey glazed poached pears”), 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (“Classic characters of plums and chocolaty cedar and hint of mint fill the nose. Sweet and fleshy in the mouth finishing with dry firm tannins”), 2007 Five Ashes Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (“A beguiling mix of primary fruit and complex earthy notes complimented by cedary oak nuances. Black cherry, cassis and mulberry aromatics are mixed with earthy, seaweed, cigar-box and cedar aromatics to deliver a classic Bordeaux like aromatic profile.”), and possibly the 2009 Merlot (“Beautiful aromas of chocolate, plum skin, red berry fruit and liquorice.”) though can’t quite remember this last one. The lady at the cellar door was also wonderfully enthusiastic about the loveliness of the wines.
Lenton Brae – the Wilyabrup Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (“26-year-old Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc vines on the estate vineyard in Wilyabrup. The 2010 vintage was warm and dry providing perfect conditions for these early-ripening white varieties. The grapes were hand picked, chilled, gently pressed and blended (60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc) before fermentation in new French oak barrels. Post fermentation, the barrels were topped and stirred monthly. After 10 months maturation, the wine was stabilised and bottled without filtration. Aromatically, the wine displays restrained lemon and citrus notes with a subtle, savoury oak influence. On the palate, the wine’s entry is soft and creamy and finishes with bright acidity and persistence. Approachable now, the wine will soften and continue to integrate in the short to medium term, though it has the fruit concentration to suggest long-term cellaring is possible”) and Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (“Cabernet Sauvignon with 7% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon gives the wine structure, with the Merlot contributing mid-palate richness and has a ‘softening’ effect on the tannin and astringency of Cabernet. This wine displays lifted aromatics of dark fruits, blue berries, black cherries and dark chocolate. The rich, full-bodied palate echoes these flavours displaying fantastic concentration and fruit definition while being gently supported with supple acidity and tannin.”). Jeanette, the wife of the architect who designed the place and lived on site, was most helpful and patient with advice on shipping and taxes. I regretted not having any more space to buy bottles from her.
Laurence Wines – Laurance of Margaret River 2009 Icon Cabernet (“Dark, distinct, with complex mulberries, blackberry and cassis notes interwoven with macerated cherry, a touch of anise and graphite.The firm and velvety tannins are filling, have nice impact and grip, yet dissolve nicely revealing a long focussed finish, kept lively by succulent acidity.”). The staff here were markedly begrudging even though this was a paid tasting.
Knee Deep Wines was my last stop as i beat a retreat back to Perth City. So many of the whites (2011 Chenin Blanc, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon which really tasted like honeydew, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc that was completely shot-through with passionfruit) would have been perfect for a summer picnic and the reds (2008 Kelsea’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) were not shabby either. Young enthusiastic staff, even on Christmas eve. Salty popcorn offered as palate cleanser.