Now arrived in Perth - Cloverdale to be precise - at Tracy & Gary's. So time for an update of the last couple of weeks.
Western Australia has been a revelation so far and we've particularly loved the the south from Albany to Pemberton. This area has some wonderful scenery (inland and coastal),Ã¯Â¿Â½wineries and food but also a significant touch of autumn at this time of year. Denmark is a particularly interesting small town with a great wine trail weaving through the heavily wooded hills behind (wonder why it is called Denmark when it is so much hillier than the original!! The main attractions in this area (apart from wine) are the extremely tall (Jarrah and Karri) trees and between Denmark & Walpole there is the Tree Top Walk. This is a 600 metre longÃ¯Â¿Â½walkway about 40 metres above ground.Ã¯Â¿Â½ It is interesting and in theory should give great views ofÃ¯Â¿Â½wildlife at the tree-line but when we were there there wasn't much sign of life (too many noisy tourists we thinks!!).Ã¯Â¿Â½ But we went round a second time and it is a worthwhile educational and conservation project.
Further on in national parks near to PembertonÃ¯Â¿Â½there are 2 tallÃ¯Â¿Â½jarah trees (over 60 metres tall) which were once forest lookouts (for fires presumably) and which you can now climb.Ã¯Â¿Â½MÃ¯Â¿Â½made a valiant attempt half way up the Gloucester Tree before returning to earth safely.Ã¯Â¿Â½
This area is famous forÃ¯Â¿Â½marron - a freshwater crayfish - and one evening in Pemberton we ate at the Shamrock Cafe - a platterÃ¯Â¿Â½of marron, fresh and smoked trout - delicious. As this was a byo we took some wine and beer but with stocks running out we were joined at our table by the co-owner/co-chef who brought over his own home made wine. A fellow diner who was obviously the owners' friend didn't like the wineÃ¯Â¿Â½but we didn't hesitate to keep filling up- our glasses. A very hospitable and enjoyable evening was had by all and all we needed for a successful evening was to find our way back to Annie in the pitch black night! Phew - just made it as the heavens opened!Ã¯Â¿Â½ What is all the fuss about a drought - we've seen more rain in the last few weeks than Scotland's west coast gets in a year?
We had booked a week at a timeshare resort in South Yunderup (so many places in this area end with up - no jokes please!) so we headed north leaving the south coast of Australia behind. Nannup is an interesting little town and Bridgetown would have been worth the detour if the National Trust's Bridgedale House (open Friday - Sunday) hadn't been closed - on Friday!!Ã¯Â¿Â½ The road north is lined with farms selling fruit and veg and we stocked up for our week in the timeshare.
After the previous few months, the Mandarah area is a wee bit disappointing despite one woman we met in Ceduna exclaiming that she thought she'd landed in heaven.Ã¯Â¿Â½ She had recently moved there from a small village near Guildford in Surrey but we couldn't see the attraction.Our timeshare was situated on the Murray River and it was really nice – spacious and well equipped, although maybe a bit threadbare in places. It’s warm and comfortable (has a wood burning stove with wood freely available) and it was good to set down some temporary roots, although strange at first to have so much space (and in-house toilets!). On Saturday, after a quick shop for messages and catch up with laundry, we were off to Perth airport to pick up Jean. It was great to see her again after four months and good to catch up with all the news. The week turned out to be more relaxing than we perhaps expected, but this was welcome to all three of us. Jean enjoyed her early morning walks and we all enjoyed lazing around, walks along the river to Sandy Cove for liquid refreshment, a few games of dominoes, rummikub etc and some tasty meals. Strangely for us, although the villa was right next to the local pub (called The Clansman – a Scottish theme pub with haggis on the menu) we never once entered its doors. One of the highlights in this area is a boat trip on the river canals of nearby Mandurah to see the dolphins – and we weren’t disappointed. We were soon joined by a group of female dolphins which swam right under the bow of the boat, and overall we saw loads dolphins throughout the trip. Mandurah is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities with a population of 120,000. Many houses are built on the canal/river/lake network, cost a pretty penny and are in their own way impressive – most have large boats moored outside although most of them seem mostly to be for show and are never used. One day Jean and M went out on the bikes to have a cycle around the area and right at the end and with the villa in sight, Jean took a tumble off the bike. Unfortunately she was a bit battered and bruised, and probably a wee bit shocked, and this curtailed some or our activities. However, we were still able to celebrate Jean’s birthday with a day out to Pinjarra, its historical sites, wobbly suspension bridge (which may be on a par with Edzell’s Shakin’ Briggie) and an uplifting visit to the local Raven Winery (a sample of which we are enjoying as we write!). The previous day we took advantage of the resort’s boat hire and took a ‘tinnie’ out on the Murray River, towards Peel Inlet, to Cooper’s Mill on Culeenup Island, built by Joseph Cooper and the first settlement in the Murray region. Some family and friends will know that we are not renowned for our boating prowess and we were a wee bit wary in setting off. This wasn’t helped by not being able to connect the fuel line to the engine – but it turned out we’d been given the wrong fuel tank so not our fault this time. But it did take us a few attempts to get away from the shore although we were soon motoring gaily down the river – what side of the river are we supposed to be on/what’s the speed limit/how do we stop/how do we moor (without falling in) etc? We decided Cooper’s Mill was as far as we’d go and after a walk around and a look at the old mill we headed back upstream – and so confident were we now of our abilities that we decided to stop again at a riverside café for a cuppie. Actually, our wee tinnie took up a whole jetty meant for several houseboats and clearly Margaret had not been in the Scouts and earned her knots proficiency badge! Setting off again we provided considerable entertainment and mirth for a bunch of inexperienced houseboaters (who had thought that they were bad sailors) as M unravelled her various bowlines and sheepshanks etc and pushed us away from the jetty. E couldn’t get the engine started and we drifted helplessly into midstream. But fortunately it kicked in and we were rewarded with a big cheer as we set off again upriver. Seafaring is a tiring job for a couple of landlubbers and once our legs had become accustomed to dry land once more we headed off to the resort’s spa/hot tub/sauna for some well earned therapy – ah bliss!! On Friday, at the end of a very enjoyable week we were on the road again to Perth and Tracy and Gary’s. After a rather heavy and late night before, on Jean’s birthday, we were forced to have an early coffee stop at Rockingham, which also had an old style sweetie shop (it’s funny how the Australians call sweeties lollies). Well, this was a paradise and we left laden with sherbet dips, walnut whips, snowballs and Pontefract cakes. After a cuppie at Tracy’s Jean was off to the airport for her flight home. We’re pleased to report that her aches, bruises and scrapes are getting better by the day. It was great to meet up again with Tracy and wee Hamish, and with Gary whom Eric was meeting for the first time. It was also good to meet Leon, Gary’s nephew from Dunsborough who was passing through. But first of all we had to head off to the Subiaco Stadium to attend our first Australian rules football match – Fremantle v. St Kilda. Now, we’re not very up on the rules and what happens on match days so we headed into Perth for a beer and a bite before the match to arrive – well into the second quarter. Essentially we missed most of the first half. Apparently the match entertainment isn’t pre-match but takes place during the breaks – doh! However, we’d good seats and a tray of beers and being amongst a mixed Fremantle and St Kilda crowd it was a very enjoyable and watchable experience. Hope we might be able to see another match before the season ends (‘Come on the Dockers’, ‘Come on the Crows’). Generally our first impressions of Perth were a bit disappointing in that it wasn’t as lively as we found other Australian cities. This may have been due to the rather dull weather on our first trip into town, and the lack of a buzz in the town centre, especially on a Saturday. As Gary was working, Tracy and Hamish took us on a tour of the Swan Valley. First stop was a coffee at Houghton Winery where we saw the spot where Tracy’s waters broke – Hamish seemed very at home here, wonder why. The Swan Valley is a very pretty, commercialised area and we came back laden with wine, poryt, oranges, honey, melons and beer. A very enjoyable day was had by all, topped off by a lovely meal courtesy of Tracy. Monday was spent in town doing a bit of shopping and visiting the excellent Western Australia Art Gallery. On Tuesday, Tracy and Hamish took us to another of Perth’s highlights – the superb ‘AQWA’ (Aquarium of Western Australia) at Hilary Harbour. Although we enjoyed it immensely, as expected, it was amazing to see Hamish, at only 16 months old, absolutely enthralled by the displays of colourful fish, seals, sharks, stingrays etc. Dropped off in town afterwards, we went for a quick meal at Valentino’s in Northbridge (very nice) before heading to His Majesty’s Theatre for a night with Ross Noble, a comedian from north east England. It was a side-splitting experience, heightened by the fact that we were far enough away from the stage not to be picked on. Yet there were two or three occasions when we were tempted to shout out – once when he recalled a car crashing into a Kalgoorlie brothel which happened when we were there (we’d actually seen the police and emergency services at the scene); and another when he started talking in lah-di-dah English – does this emanate from his encounter with the esteemed and distinguished David Robins at the London Palladium? It was a great night out – great fun, and good to hear humour that we understand. We’ve been aware over the last few weeks that Eric’s hip has been becoming more painful. So he decided to take the opportunity of being in a city to get someone to look at it again. He spent the day in the Royal Perth Hospital where he was checked over and given some new medication. Our visit to Rottnest Island, which would involve cycling, has had to be put on hold. Similarly, Margaret River, which we had intended to visit either with Jean or after Tracy and Gary’s, is a wine region too far (it would have meant a eight hour return journey back south – having visited so many wonderful wineries we felt this was just a bit uneccessary). We have to remember that Australia is so vast that there are bound to be many things that we’ll just not be able to see even in a year – Margaret River and Rottnest Island are just two of them. We really enjoyed our time with Tracy, Gary and Hamish (and we’d love to see them again before we leave Australia), but after nearly two weeks of brick walls and inside toilets we were ready to get back on the road (think the travelling must be getting into our blood).
....more later ........
Ã¯Â¿Â½Tonight we're off to see our first Aussie rules footie match - Fremantle v St Kilda.
More later on our time in Perth and from our week at South Yunderup with Jean.