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Grazing through the Great Southern, Western Australia

Grazing through the Great Southern, Western Australia

Old Nov 25th, 2009, 06:53 PM
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Grazing through the Great Southern, Western Australia

November 14-21, 1009

As many regulars on this forum know, my spouse and I are American expatriates living in Perth, Australia. We’re doing our best to see as much of Australia as we can during our time here.

With one last week of unallocated leave to use before the end of the year, we’d toyed with the idea of heading north of Perth, driving as far as Monkey Mia and then working our way back. A look at temperatures up that way changed our minds; we quickly decided that a meander down south would better suit us. We’ve visited the SW of WA several times, and it’s proven to be one of our favorite areas. Western Australia is massive; the Great Southern is vast, and it’s difficult to fit everything into one, two, three or ten trips. The more we explore, the more reasons we find to go back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_S...tern_Australia)

They say it doesn’t get hot in the Great Southern, but having spent a few miserable days in Albany during a heat wave in 2007, I beg to differ. So, finding accommodation with air conditioning was a priority for us. If it wasn’t needed, all the better, but we wanted to play it safe. We also hoped to find something moderately priced, yet nice. While scouring the Internet, I discovered a few accommodation options that offered very attractive rates if booked for a week or more, which is how we came to spend seven nights in Denmark.

http://www.denmark.com.au/en/default.htm

Day 1 –

We left home around 9:45 am, and soon thereafter were on the Albany Highway pointed south. As we skirted the orchards and forests of the Perth Hills, I scouted out potential spots for our next ‘escape from the city’ day. When we made a pit stop in the tiny town of Williams we noticed that the road workers were all wearing fly nets – not a good sign. We continued our drive south through the dry landscape, passing one sage green tree after another, and it dawned on me that I’ll always associate Western Australia with red dirt, bright blue skies and sage green trees.

We eventually entered the Great Southern. The Stirling Range came into view some 50 km north of Mount Barker, and the landscape gradually became greener. By now we’d been on the road for four hours. We saw a sign announcing Gilbert’s Winery, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A break sounded pretty good, so we decided to investigate. We sampled their wine, bought a bottle of Chardonnay and Shiraz, and were enticed into their dining room for coffee and cake. We opted to share two of their blackboard specials, fresh strawberry cheesecake with coulis and cream, and a chocolate espresso almond ganache slice with cream and chocolate sauce. Ooh-la-la…..the chocolate concoction was divine! Bill thought he’d died and gone to heaven. The strawberry cheesecake wasn’t too shabby either. We were already making plans for a return visit before we’d even left the building ($21).

We’d been served by a Kiwi, who’d told us about all the snakes that were out this time of year. She mentioned that a co-worker had encountered eight snakes on a trail in the Stirlings a few days prior, and advised that we invest in some gaiters if we planned to hike there. We promptly scratched the Stirlings off our list. She said the Tiger snakes and the Dugites were plentiful and it wasn’t unusual to see them on the roads. I really didn’t want to hear about long reptiles, but I was a moth drawn to the flame.

Full of empty calories, we continued our drive on the Albany Highway towards Mount Barker, turned onto the Muir Highway, then picked up the Mount Barker Denmark Road for the final 55 kilometer stretch. As we approached Denmark the trees got taller and the wildflowers became prolific. We made one last turn on the South Coast Highway and we were soon entering the lovely town of Denmark, some 5.5 hours after leaving Perth.

Our lodging:

http://poppysguesthouse.com/

I did well on this one, if I do say so myself.

Poppy’s Guesthouse is a small cottage located on Ocean Beach Road, about six kilometers from town. It’s owned by Steve and Jemma, and named after their daughter Poppy. It’s directly behind their house and shares the garden and driveway, but it’s completely private. We found the guesthouse spacious, spotless, and incredibly peaceful. It had all the comforts of home, including a gas barbeque which we utilized several times during our stay. They’ve done a nice job; the place is new and fresh and we were very content. We felt it was good value for money at $727 for seven nights.

Denmark was blissfully cool. Off came the shorts, on came the jeans. We might not need that air conditioning after all….

We relaxed on the patio for a bit, sipping Shiraz, listening to bug chirps, birdsong and the wind in the trees (and we later discovered, getting munched on by mozzies).

For dinner we sought out (but couldn’t find) the River Bistro, so we ended up at the Denmark Hotel restaurant. I had the tarragon chicken breast with lyonnaise potatoes and ratatouille, served with a creamy tarragon sauce that I could have slurped up with a straw ($29.50). Bill had a 300 gram scotch fillet served with half a fresh marron drizzled with garlic butter, accompanied with a potato gratin and a garden salad ($36) and a pint of Guinness. The food was good, but didn’t knock our socks off and seemed expensive.
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Old Nov 25th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Yum, those cakes sound absolutely delicious! Great report as always, looking forward to the next installment.
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Old Nov 25th, 2009, 08:07 PM
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This is promising to be another great trip report.

Thanks for the entertaining start Melnq8 - having grown up in WA I still love to hear about the changes and yummy places to eat there.

The snakes however I am happy to forget - and that is why I only ever walk in the bush in very cold and preferably damp weather.
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Old Nov 25th, 2009, 10:48 PM
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Thanks guys. I wasn't going to write a report this time, but you know me, I just can't help myself. No shortage of yummy places to eat love_travel_Aus, as my waistline clearly indicates.

Day 2 –

We had a great sleep until our wake-up call from a bird that sounded more like a Howler Monkey. It was entirely too early; dawn breaks at 4:30 am in WA this time of year, thanks to the abolition of daylight savings time.

We were out by 7 am and walking along the Bibbulmun Track, which crosses within a few blocks of the guesthouse. As we tromped along the overgrown path, I couldn’t help but think about all those lurking long reptiles. It was god-awful humid and the flies didn’t take long to find us. We followed the path for about 45 minutes, turning back when we reached a large granite outcropping; then walked back via the Sheila Hill Trail, which runs parallel to the Bibbulmun. When we reached Ocean Beach Road we kept walking, looking for where the trail resumed. We located the track, which happens to intersect with the Little River Walk Trail, so we walked a small section of it too. There were lots of wildflowers through here and an island covered with pelicans in the inlet (1:40, 3.27 miles).

After a refreshing shower, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the food and wine trail. It was Sunday, so we thought we should concentrate on wineries that were only open on the weekend or had limited weekday hours.

We first called in at Monkey Rock Winery 10 km west of Denmark; home to some interesting artwork made from old car parts, preservative free wines and a wide assortment of liqueurs (we sampled a very potent limoncello). The Swiss proprietor seemed distracted and frazzled, so we didn’t stay long. Our next stop was The Toffee Factory, located 20 km out of Denmark towards Walpole on the South Coast Highway. This is an old favorite that never fails to satisfy my sweet tooth. We sampled their newest product; apple, pear and ginger cider. A bus pulled in just as we arrived, so we dashed in, made our purchases, sampled the cider and fled.

http://jjstoffee.com/

We next located Tinglewood and Silverstream, both of which claimed to be open on the weekends, but neither was, so we scratched the idea of visiting weekend only wineries.

Our next stop was Karriview, a friendly laid back winery where we’d enjoyed a nice lunch last year, so we decided to give it another go. As is our custom, we didn’t have a booking, but had no trouble getting a table. We shared a lovely platter which included toasted bread, grilled chorizo, marinated feta, a really tasty white bean dip, chili dip, pesto dip, olives and some sort of fried fish. It would have been the perfect platter with twice the bread and chorizo, and we passed this on to the waitress who agreed and brought us a bit more of both. We soaked up the views over the vineyard as we wined and dined. There’s just something deliciously decadent about sipping champers on a Sunday afternoon ($57).

http://www.karriviewwines.com.au/

After lunch we popped into Matilda’s Estate, were we rather enjoyed their sparkling Shiraz (Christmas in a glass!) and their 2007 Pinot Noir. Then it was off to Howard Park/Madfish Winery, a large establishment with a posh cellar door. We loved several of the Howard Park drops, but settled on a few Madfish wines, as the former were quite expensive.

Then it was on to the Southern End Restaurant on Mt Shadforth Road. I’d read that the Observatory Resort had closed, so I wanted to investigate. I was fully expecting to find that the restaurant had also closed. Being late in the day, the place was deserted, but open. I enquired about the fate of the resort and the waitress explained that the accommodation had been sold off and would probably be turned into private lots, but the restaurant would continue operating. So, we settled in for some incredible views, flat whites and a shared piece of chocolate mud cake ($15.10).

http://www.southernend.com.au/

Before returning to the guesthouse to feed the mozzies, we drove out to Ocean Beach, which lies between the Wilson Inlet and the Great Southern Ocean. We explored the lookouts, walked along the rocks and soaked up the ocean views.
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Old Nov 26th, 2009, 02:50 PM
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Day 3 –

We had another good sleep sans the pre-dawn Howler Monkey wake up call. Under a moody sky we left our comfy digs and drove towards Walpole (68 km west of Denmark) via the South Coast Highway. The ‘roos were out and about, so we kept our eyes peeled lest they be tempted to charge into our Toyota. Our plan was to explore Walpole-Nornalup National Park. We turned onto Tingle Drive, a one way dirt road that leads through red tingle and karri forest. We stopped at the Big Tingle Tree car park and walked the scenic one kilometer path through a forest of impossibly tall trees. The walkway leads to a few 300+ year old towering tingle trees, a couple of which you can walk through. There were loads of wildflowers through here.

Incidentally, I’ve recently read references to the Giant Tingle Tree, located in the same national park, but on a different road (Hilltop), which is reputed to be the largest living girthed eucalypt known in the world, at 24 meters. I’m fairly confident that The Big Tingle and the Giant Tingle are one and the same, but I can’t explain the different road names or signage, other than to say I’ve found some WA national parks to be works in progress.

http://www.walpole.com.au/pages/forest-attractions/

Our next stop was Circular Pool, so called because the water moves in slow circles when the river is flowing. Here a walkway leads to a few viewing areas overlooking the water, which looks an awful lot like tea, due to the tannin from native plants. Bill thought it looked more like Guinness, because it’s dark and frothy.

We left Tingle Drive and located Knoll Drive, a five kilometer scenic drive located three kilometers east of Walpole, in karri forest. We stopped to poke around at Coalmine Beach on the Nornalup Inlet. There must be some good grub along here, because we saw a ray feeding mere feet from the shore, in very shallow water. We watched it for quite some time and it didn’t show any interest in leaving. We were also entertained by a huge pelican futilely trying to scoop up a dead fish from the beach with its unwieldy beak.

I was under the impression that in Australia, one could dodge the flies by heading to the beach, but that wasn’t the case this day - we couldn’t seem to get away from them.

We continued exploring Knoll Drive, making stops at Rocky Head and the Channels, a lovely spot overlooking the inlet, where we had ourselves a picnic. We had the Channels entirely to ourselves; even the flies left us alone, albeit briefly.

After thoroughly exploring the Knoll, we drove west of Walpole and happened upon Sandy Beach; a beautiful beach with more of that tea colored water.

Following a quick stop at John Rate Lookout we located the track to Mt Clare. We pulled out our hiking sticks, thinking that a trail with ‘Mt’ in the title must be steep, but this wasn’t the case. It was downright anticlimactic when we reached the summit of Mt Clare, because, well, it wasn’t really a summit at all. The trail just suddenly ended on a granite outcropping. That’s it? No expansive views and very little exertion on our part.

We backtracked to the car park and picked up the Deep River Track, a semi-steep, 4.2 km trail that leads through forest. The day was entirely too humid for our tastes, and there was the small matter of a not-so-small black snake.... I took my cue from Bill, (begrudgingly on snake and spider patrol in front of me), who came to an abrupt halt and uttered a strange sound. The creepy indecisive thing slithered across the path, changed its mind and slithered back to the other side…must have been female. We waited a few minutes, just in case it chose to slither across again. Otherwise, we enjoyed this walk, and the wildflowers were pretty amazing (3.5 miles, just under two hours).

We returned to Walpole and stopped in at the Golden Wattle Café for some sugar and caffeine. We revived ourselves over flat whites and a shared slice of chocolate tuxedo cake ($12.80, are you seeing a pattern here?) We liked this place, and it was a nice relaxing break.

On our way back to Denmark, we made the nine kilometer detour to Peaceful Bay. It was certainly peaceful, but there were too many bloody flies, so we didn’t stay long.

We then called in at Moombaki Winery, which is sort of out by itself in the middle of nowhere, near the Kent River. We had a nice visit with co-owner Melissa and invariably the conversation turned to snakes. She told us they had snakes in the vineyard and the things liked to climb her bamboo trees! Yikes. We really enjoyed Moombaki’s wines and left with some of their Chardonnay and a nice Cabernet/Shiraz/Malbec blend.

http://moombaki.com/

On our return drive we were surprised to see a fox (we think) on the side of the road, eyeballing a seemingly oblivious bird.

Then it was back to the guesthouse to relax with a light supper and a glass of grape.
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Old Nov 27th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Melnq8, thanks again for sharing your travels while in Australia. I have enjoyed all your reports and will refer to them in the future when I plan my next trip.
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Old Nov 27th, 2009, 03:35 PM
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Thanks Bgale, the pleasure's all mine.
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Old Nov 27th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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Day 4 –

Fortunately, the noisy bird had abandoned us for good, but we were still up early and in the car by 7 am, making the five kilometer drive up Ocean Beach Road to the Denmark-Nornalup Heritage Track. This is a 47 kilometer trail that follows the route of the former Albany-Denmark-Nornalup railway (not yet completed).

http://www.railtrails.org.au/states/...rail&trail=101

Having walked a few WA heritage trails before, we weren’t surprised to find this one pretty boring. The small section we walked was flat and led through bush and meadow.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the flies were horrendous, which led to our general disgust with this trail. We had our fly nets out for the first (and only) time this trip, within 10 minutes of setting out. The longer we walked, the worse it got. Bill’s back was covered with the nasty things, so I finally brought out the big guns, the 100% DEET. Apparently, I wasn’t generous enough, because the hitchhiking flies hung on undaunted. Just in case you doubt me, take a look for yourself:

http://www.worldisround.com/articles...2/photo19.html

We weren’t having much fun so we turned around, giving our backpacks another big dose of DEET before getting into the car to discourage them from joining us (90 minutes, 4.4 miles). Ugh.

A shower later we were on the South Coast Highway bound for William Bay National Park.

http://www.denmark.com.au/en/Natural...ional+Park.htm

We made stops at Madfish Bay and Waterfall Beach, where a sign warned us that a whale carcass had washed ashore and could possibly attract sharks, so swimming wasn’t recommended. Sure enough, the carcass was still there, but not much of it.

We next visited Elephant Rocks and Elephant Cove, an outcropping of massive rocks along the shoreline that vaguely resemble elephants. I love it here…I’m not a water person by any stretch, but I thoroughly enjoy sitting atop a gigantic rock and gazing at the ever changing hues of the Southern Ocean. This day we didn’t dally, as the sky suddenly darkened and the winds whipped into a frenzy. We walked across the rocks to nearby Greens Pool, a beautiful sheltered bay and safe swimming beach, for a quick gaze before joining the other beachgoers fleeing to their cars.

Because of the uncooperative weather we opted to stay close to Denmark, choosing to next visit Forest Hill Winery, home of WA’s oldest cool climate vineyard. We had a fabulous dinner here last year but never got around to wine tasting, so we figured now was a good time. Not surprisingly, we loved their Block Chardonnay and Block Riesling ($$), but left with a bottle each of their more moderately priced Estate Chardonnay and Estate Riesling. We perused their menu for dinner on Friday (lunch Fri-Sun, dinner Fri only), but the picky one (that would be me) had a few concerns.

http://www.foresthillwines.com.au/

We next located the idyllic Lake House, hands down the prettiest winery in Denmark. The laid back cellar door and restaurant are set alongside a lake and surrounded by a gorgeous garden bursting with flowers. It’s so lovely here, especially when the sun is shining, which amazingly, it was!

In an attempt to recapture the enjoyable visit we had here last year, we popped in for a wine tasting and lunch. We loved their 2007 Shiraz, but at $45 we took a pass. We shared their three cheese platter, served with crackers, chutney, fruit, fig biscuits, almonds, and their Vinofood Merlot and Chardonnay jellies ($24), accompanied with a bottle of their He Said She Said Classic White, a perfect lunch wine ($22), and not just because I adore the artwork on the bottle. It was a lovely meal all around; it was here that I adopted my new favorite quote “Age gets better with wine”.

http://www.lakehousedenmark.com.au/

After our relaxing lunch, we returned to the defunct Observatory Resort and the now closed Southern End Restaurant. I was still curious about the place, so we peeked into a few of the bungalows and took some snaps of the gorgeous view. In a perfect world, I’d have a house up here….

We drove to town to indulge our afternoon cake and coffee craving. We unwisely chose the Denmark Bakery, which presented us with not-so-good flat whites in Styrofoam cups and tasteless chocolate cake in a paper bag ($11.80). Not exactly what I had in mind, but live and learn. Incidentally, the day we left Denmark Jemma asked if we’d tried their award winning meat pies. Next time perhaps.

It began to rain as we poked around town. We checked our e-mail at the Denmark Telecentre, only to be kicked out when they closed at 4 pm, so we retreated to the guesthouse to escape the rain.

Dinner that evening was at the Denmark Tavern restaurant; chicken vegetable soup for me ($7.50) and spinach ricotta cannelloni with chips and salad for Bill ($21). It was pretty good, but nothing to get excited about.
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Old Nov 27th, 2009, 05:20 PM
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Some photos:

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/356602/index.html
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Old Nov 27th, 2009, 07:22 PM
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Day 5 –

We were out the door by 7 am, walking to the start of the Little River Walk Track at Rainbow Close, a section of the 964 km Bibbulmun Track that traverses the wooded foreshore along the Wilson Inlet. About 20 minutes into our jaunt the skies opened up and it began to pour. We marched on anyway, enjoying the track and the abundance of wildflowers, taking the trail to its end at Campbell Road (1:30, 4 miles). By the time we reached the guesthouse we were completely drenched right through our Gortex jackets, not a dry spot on either one of us. One advantage to the rain though, no flies!

http://www.denmarkwa.asn.au/walking.htm

A bit later while at the Caltex station in town, I noticed a man across the way selling cherries from his van. They must have been good; in the few minutes it took to gas the car at least a dozen people pulled off the road and toted off armfuls of cherries.

The sun was making a valiant effort as we made our way east to Albany via the South Coast Highway and the Lower Denmark Road. We meandered through countryside, passing an avocado farm and catching glimpses of the ocean as we crested a hill.

Having never visited any wineries in Albany, we figured it was about time, but we’d also discovered it was home to a boutique distillery, so our first stop was the Great Southern Distillery Company on Frenchman Bay Road. During our years in the Middle East we’d done a bit of home distilling, so we were intrigued.

As we peered through the windows at the huge vats, we were invited into the barrel room by the German distiller, who explained how their spirits are made. We then had a nice chat with the young woman in the cellar door, where Bill sampled three Limeburners, their very young (two year old) single malt whisky. I sampled their award winning gin and we shared a sample of Absinthe, which we’d never had, as it’s illegal in the United States, or so we thought….a bit of research has revealed that Absinthe IS sold in the US, but minus the controversial Thujone, the chemical found in wormwood. Apparently, it’s strictly regulated in Australia too. It’s a unique spirit, but we found the mystique surrounding it more interesting than the Absinthe itself.

http://www.distillery.com.au/

I’d read good things about Dylan’s on the Terrace, so we drove into town and secured a table for lunch. It was busy, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. They have a huge varied menu, a bustling take away counter and the most scrumptious looking desserts in their display case…

Bill had the lasagna, which came with chips and salad ($18.50) and I had the lentil burger and chips ($13.50). Both were really good. I was seriously tempted to try the pavlova with fruit and cream, but there was just no room. As we waited at the counter to pay, we ogled the dessert display….there were at least three chocolate cakes in there that I’d have loved to stick a fork into, especially the one with the chili on top, but there just wasn’t an inch of room to spare. How we missed this place on previous visits is beyond me.

http://www.dylans.com.au/

After lunch we visited Montgomery's Hill Vineyard, 15 kilometers east of Albany. We’d just arbitrarily selected it, but a chat with third generation owner Murray revealed that he was the father-in-law of a co-worker of Bill’s. Small world.

http://www.montgomeryshill.com.au/

We also called into Wignalls, another family owned boutique winery on the outskirts of Albany with a rustic cellar door and some lovely drops.

http://www.wignallswines.com.au/

Our last stop was Handasyde Strawberry Farm, five kilometers north of Albany off Chester Pass Road, where we picked up some berries for later ($2 a kilo, a bit waterlogged, but edible).

At this point we should have gone back to Dylan’s to sample those desserts, but we drove back to Denmark instead, spotting an emu in a field along the way.

We spent the evening in the guesthouse scratching all those mozzie bites and trying to keep warm. Yes, we actually turned on the HEAT.
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Old Nov 29th, 2009, 12:23 AM
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Day 6 –

There were intermittent squalls throughout the night and we woke to wind and rain. It looked to be one of those indeterminate weather days. Regardless, we decided to visit Porongurup National Park, driving north to Mount Barker (52 km) and then heading east on #252 (23 km). As we neared the park the looming Porongurup Range appeared to our right, the Stirling Range to our left; it’s very pretty through here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porongu...tern_Australia

We parked at the Tree in the Rock picnic area, the starting point for a handful of trails within the park. We first walked the scenic Bolganup Heritage Trail, and then set out on the Wansbrough Walk, a four kilometer trail across the range, where we came across two kangaroos lounging on the path. As we worked our way up the track, it began to rain steadily. We were reminded of our last visit to the park in 2006 when we spent several hours hiking on slippery granite rocks in the rain; unwilling to repeat that experience, we cut our walk short (2.55 miles).

We’d driven past Jingalla Winery on our way in, so we popped in as we worked our way back to #252. We had a nice chat with the owner, who told us a busy day for them is two visitors. We bought a bottle of their Moondance Muscat and got some pointers on things to see and do in the area.

We next attempted to drive the 45 km perimeter road around the park, but it was unsealed and fairly rough, so we changed our minds. Had the weather been nicer we might have made more of an effort, but potential views were completely obscured by fog.

As we left the area we stopped in at Duke’s Vineyard; within minutes the clouds opened up and another frenzied squall blew through. We sampled their excellent wines, particularly liking their Rieslings. By the time we finished, the sun was out and we got a good look at their property, with its roaming hens, fruit laden lemon trees, blooming flowers and vibrant blue wrens, and their sweeping vineyard with the Porongurup Range as a backdrop. Lovely! Duke’s lost their entire 2007 vintage in the fire that burnt through 95% of the national park that year and effectively closed the park for seven months. Their vineyard didn’t burn, but the grapes were ruined from the smoke, which they didn’t realize until they’d picked and crushed them.

http://www.dukesvineyard.com/

We worked our way back to Denmark, hoping we’d arrive in time for an encore lunch at Karriview Winery, albeit a late one. We’d forgotten our Denmark map in the guesthouse and couldn’t remember the street name, so by the time we finally pulled into their empty car park at 3:30 pm, we were equally famished and frustrated, and didn’t hold much hope that we’d be getting any food. Sure enough, it was too late. We told the young man at the counter how much we’d enjoyed our platter the other day, particularly the chorizo. He passed this on to the owner, who cheerfully offered to put something together for us and disappeared into the back. We had no idea what we might get, but we perked up significantly as the smell of grilling chorizo wafted from the kitchen.

We were presented with a platter consisting of a loaf of French bread, a large serving of grilled chorizo, a bowl of feta chunks and a bowl of grilled tomatoes, which we washed down with more of their champers ($55). We were in heaven and eternally grateful.

After thanking owner Lon profusely, we had a chat and learned that his vineyard is tended by WWOOFers, world wide volunteers who work on farms in exchange for room and board.

Then it was back to the guesthouse to relax and digest.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2009, 12:05 AM
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Day 7 –

The day dawned overcast, but mercifully dry. We walked the ½ kilometer to the Sheila Hill Memorial, planning to walk the 4.6 km track to Lights Beach. It wasn’t long before the track became creepily overgrown (translation: I was worried about long reptiles), so we took an alternate intersecting trail instead. We ended up in the woods behind a subdivision, where we lost the path. We wandered around aimlessly for a bit until the flies chased us back to the guesthouse (1:15, 3 miles).

We’d left today open to explore the wineries of Mt Barker, as many of them are only open from Fri-Sun, so we worked our way north again. Our first stop was Poacher’s Ridge, which has a lovely low key restaurant and cellar door. Owner Alex poured the wine and introduced us to an unfamiliar grape, Marsanne. He’d once been in the oil business, so a long chat ensued. Good smells were wafting out from the kitchen so before we knew it, we were sitting down to lunch at a corner table overlooking their vineyard, olive grove and the distant Porongurup Range.

We shared a tapas plate ($12), which according to the carnivore had some excellent meatballs. Alex had mentioned that the Marsanne paired exceedingly well with their potted smoked trout, so Bill went with that. It came with Turkish bread and it must have been good, because it vaporized ($12). The Poacher’s Ploughman was more my style, so I happily noshed on sharp cheddar cheese, pickled onions, chutney, fruit and bread ($15), all accompanied with their 2005 Marsanne. It was a lovely lunch and a good find all around.

http://www.prv.com.au/

Our next stop was Windrush, where we quite liked their 2006 Shiraz. They have a nice restaurant and an enticing menu.

http://www.windrushwines.com.au/

Then it was on to the Banksia Farm, home to the world’s only full collection of all Banksia species. We stopped in more out of curiosity than actual interest in Banksias. They offer tours through their gardens, but we settled for a poke around their shop and a chat with the owner. For anyone interested in Banksias though, this is the place for you.

http://www.banksiafarm.com.au/

We were getting that mid afternoon craving for coffee and cake, so we drove the 18 kilometers to Gilbert’s Winery, hoping for an encore chocolate espresso almond ganache slice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available (oh no!), so we both ordered a mini chocolate cake with ganache and cream; a disappointment which paled in comparison to the first go round. Oh, well, can’t have everything (still $21).

Our final stop was Plantagenet Winery (apparently pronounced plan-tan-gent, not plant-age-net, as fell from my lips), the oldest winery in Mount Barker. They have some really nice wines; almost too many to choose from, but choose we did, taking home a bottle of their Omrah Pinot Noir.

http://www.plantagenetwines.com/

Then it was back to Denmark to chill out with the birds.

Day 8 –

We had until 10 am to vacate the guesthouse, so we drove to the start of the Mokare Heritage Trail, a three kilometer circuit that runs alongside the Denmark River. It was a nice easy stroll, with plenty of colorful wildflowers. We returned to the car park and continued walking toward the river mouth, where we encountered two ducks protectively corralling 12 tiny ducklings on the foreshore. We watched them for a long while, eavesdropping on their chatter, wondering if they were telling the chicks to ‘stay close’, ‘mind that big rock’ and to ‘keep your eyes on the humans over there’, etc.

As I was busy snapping photos of the pelicans in the river mouth, a fisherman in a boat slowly worked his way back to shore. Suddenly dozens of pelicans appeared from nowhere, overhead one minute, skidding along the water as if on skis the next, all following the fisherman. By the time he reached shore, he was surrounded by pelicans, some patient, others squabbling, all anxiously waiting for him to begin cleaning his fish. It was a sight to behold.

I needed caffeine, so we popped into Bento Box for flat whites and some breakfast. They didn’t have anything breakfast-like on offer, so Bill had the carrot cake and I had a slice of warm chocolate cake ($12.20). One of the perks of being a grownup, cake for breakfast!

We bid goodbye to Jemma and Steve and left our lovely guesthouse, once again driving north to Mount Baker and its acre after acre of grape vines. As we retraced our steps north we passed signs for Krakatinny and Crapella Road, both making us smile. Before long, the towering trees and lush landscape were but a distant memory.

We stopped for caffeine and calories at the Woolshed in Williams, where it seemed that every person in town had gathered for an 80th birthday party. Bill had a huge savory muffin with bacon, cheese and sun dried tomatoes; I had an equally massive scone with cream and jam. Both were very good ($15.50 with two flat whites).

A few hours later we were back in sunny Perth, talking about our next trip down south. Pemberton? Northcliffe? Or perhaps Augusta? Only time will tell.
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