Well...what a week! We have done so much over the past few days that it is hard to remember everything for the purposes of the blog. Here goes...
We successfully picked the camper van up on Monday morning, and it is great. It has everything we need, although it is a little basic (it’s essentially a Toyota people carrier with the back four seats removed to make a bed) and it’s a tin can at night. However, it gets us around and it is by far the cheapest way to see the country.
So, after we left Perth on Monday afternoon, we headed to Bunbury, which is 2 hours south of Perth. Bunbury is a small town on the sea and is very pretty. We had our first night in the van there and made some friends from Belgium. On Tuesday morning we were up early (due to the sunlight blaring through the windows) and we took ourselves to the Dolphin Discovery Centre on the beach. We reluctantly paid $45 each to go on an ‘eco boat ride’ around the harbour. I say reluctantly because we were promised some dolphin viewing, but we didn’t really believe them. Luckily, we were proved wrong! Within minutes of being out on the boat, we saw lots of dolphins swimming nearby. They weren’t scared of the noise of the engine and were rather curious as to what we were doing. Dolphins live in shallow, warm waters so the conditions of the estuary in Bunbury were perfect. We saw a baby calf and larger dolphins jumping around and showing off. They even swam next to the boat when we eventually returned to shore. It was a really wonderful experience.
On Tuesday afternoon we went to Margaret River, which is further down the coast. On the way we stopped at Busselton to see the largest timber jetty in the Southern hemisphere....it is huge! We found a lovely campsite in Margaret River which was near the river and had good facilities. We parked next to a couple we had seen in Bunbury the night before, and ‘John’ and ‘Joan’ soon became our ‘friends’. They even joined us on our wine tasting tour on Wednesday (much to Phil’s delight!)
The wine tasting tour was loads of fun. Our tour guide, ‘call me Tony’, was very knowledgeable about the wine making process and the different wines produced in the area. MR has over 80 vineyards and they are now competing on a world stage, with some of the vineyards there winning international awards. We went to 3 different vineyards; one family-run, one larger corporate one, and one crazy one! We tasted around 3 reds, 3 whites, 2 rose and 2 ports at each so we were a little tipsy by lunch! We had our lunch at a Lavender farm which was great and really pretty. In the afternoon we went to a cheese factory (heaven), a chocolate factory (heaven) and a venison farm (hell). Needless to say, I kept myself busy outside whilst Phil enjoyed a tasty bit of meat! The day ended at a local brewery, where we tried 5 different ales. I have to say, I prefer wine.
On Thursday we did a bit of driving around the area. We had heard good reports about the local caves so we went to check them out, but they cost a lot of money to enter, so we ended up driving past! However, we did drive through some of the local Karri forest which was fun, and we went to Augusta where they have the tallest lighthouse in Australia. We also saw where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.
Margaret River is a renowned world famous surfing spot. We were very excited about getting some surfing in at one of the many surf spots around the region. However, the week that we chose to visit MR....the surf chose to disappear. For some reason, there was no surf at all during the few days that we were there, which meant that we spent Friday on a gorgeous white sandy beach. What a shame! We did manage to do some ‘body surfing’ which basically meant hurling ourselves at the smallest waves that came in our direction. It was fun!
On Saturday we left MR and went to Pemberton, which is inland. It is surrounded by three national parks and beautiful Karri and Marri forests. We went to Big Brook Damm on Saturday afternoon, which is a lovely manmade lake through the trees. We had a walk around it and managed to find some shade. Afterwards we treated ourselves to a famous ‘Pembie Pancake’ at the berry and lavender farm. It was gorgeous and the view of alpacas by the stream in front of us could not have been beaten! On Sunday we had a full day in the national parks and did some more forest dirt track driving. There were three climbing trees which were huge. They had a ‘ladder’ spiralling up them towards a lookout tower at the top of the tree. Hopefully we can get some pictures up to give you an idea of size, but for now you will have to trust that they were enormous!
Yesterday we arrived at our first WWOOFing host. We are currently staying with Yvonne and John Herriott, who own and live at ‘Herriott Wines’. It is a boutique vineyard in Manjimup, half an hour away from Pemberton. John works on an oil rig so it is just Yvonne here at the moment with her daughter, Lexie (6) and the farmhand, Rick. We are sleeping in their caravan next to the house, which is much bigger and nicer than our little van. When we first arrived we were shown around the vineyard and winery (153 acres) and introduced to the cows, pigs, chickens (chooks), geese, dogs and cats. Our main jobs are to feed the animals, collect the eggs, weed in the veggie gardens, string the vines and general pruning and mulching. Time for me to start getting practical! Everything seems great so far...we will try to update you soon!!
Wow...I have written a newsletter here! Sorry. I hope everyone is well and that the rain has stopped. We actually had some rain and a thunderstorm the other night...it was bliss. We’ll try to get on the internet again soon, but there is no wifi here and the connection works on a pay-as-you-go basis, so it might be a few days. There is also no running water here as the Herriott’s use water from a tank, so I am under strict instructions to have short showers. Anyone who has ever lived with me will know how hard that is! Wish me luck!
Lots of love to you all,