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Yank winos invade WA - Trip Report

Old Mar 21st, 2007, 01:11 AM
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Yank winos invade WA - Trip Report

Greetings fellow Fodorites!

I've unpacked and plowed through the pile of laundry, so it's time to get on with the trip report.

Itinerary and preview:

Perth - one night to rest - pelicans and black swans, walks along the river

Albany - five nights - many miles walked in various National Parks and reserves in entirely too hot weather, spectacular coastal scenery, wineries, several bottles of wine, and gobs of fresh strawberries!

Pemberton - three nights - birdsong, much appreciated cool weather, enormous karri trees begging to be climbed, delicious marron, lovely food, more wine and more walks to work it all off...

Margaret River - four nights - incredible breads, cheese, chocolate and yes, more wine, kangaroos, and a walk or two...

Perth - two nights to wind down, visit friends, and generally poke around.

Stay tuned...
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 06:26 PM
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This trip was taken from March 2-19, 2007.

As some of you know, my husband and I are American expatriates who currently reside on a remote company camp on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Getting in and out can be tiresome and takes much longer than it should given the distances involved. Recent scheduling changes with Garuda Airlines has made our transit even more complicated, but it’s always worth the effort.

This was our third trip to Western Australia. Not only is it close and relatively easy to reach from Indonesia, but we love the National Parks, nature reserves, wineries, good food, wildlife, scenery and incredibly friendly people.

All arrangements were made online, with the exception of our Garuda flights. We flew from Pekanbaru to Singapore on the way out and from Singapore-Jakarta-Pekanbaru on the return (US $227 each).

Long story short, we arrived in Singapore’s Changi Airport at around 9 pm and spent the night in the Ambassador Transit Hotel (Terminal 2). Our room was nicer than those we’ve had there in the past; it was spacious, clean and comfy and you just can’t beat the convenience. We paid S$120 for our 10 hour stay - rooms are booked in six hour blocks, additional hours available at an hourly rate.

We left Changi Airport on Singapore Air the following morning (US $586 each) and arrived in Perth around 3 pm, after a bumpy and very full flight.

We’d arranged for a car to be left for us at the international terminal. We booked through M2000, a company we’ve used in the past (www.m2000car.com.au/). We found a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer waiting for us upon arrival. Our 15 day rental was A$655 and included unlimited mileage within 500 km of Perth, $440 excess, $1000 single car accident excess and airport drop off fees. NOTE: M2000 charges a fee if the car needs cleaning upon return, so we always wash and vacuum the car before we return it.

We’d booked one night at the Peninsula Riverside Apartments in South Perth to rest up before driving south to Albany (www.thepeninsula.net). The location was perfect, just across the street from the Swan River and within walking distance to restaurants, a grocery store and a bottle shop.

Our one bedroom apartment was comfortable and well equipped – A$135 per night. At dusk we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, crossed the Swan River and walked towards the CBD. It was a warm evening and a beautiful setting. We saw huge pelicans and black swans with bright red beaks. There were ferries and party boats on the river, and many people out and about jogging, fishing, picnicking, etc. There was an outdoor concert underway down the road a bit and the best part – an absolutely massive full moon rising over the Swan River. I could get used to this.

Next: Perth to Albany via Mt. Barker
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 11:56 AM
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I'm reading your account of travels through the same region where we were just two months ago, and reliving our trip over again. Thank you for this. Kathy
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 05:41 PM
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tap tap tap!

Waiting....
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 05:48 PM
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Can we have some more please.
I am really enjoying your report.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 07:59 PM
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Okay, you've all inspired me to keep going. Will buckle down today for sure.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 08:36 PM
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Travel day – Perth to Albany

We woke to a warm day with a high of 35c predicted for Perth (that’s 95 F for my fellow Yanks).

We headed south on 30 (Albany Highway), passing the fire damage in Wandering, the first of many burn areas we saw in our two week visit. We considered stopping for gas in Williams, but stupidly breezed right through. Needless to say, I was a bit stressed when the gas light went on and there wasn’t a town or petrol station in sight. We’ve driven this route before and should know better, but….

Fortunately, our tank’s fumes got us to Mt. Barker and we were spared having to hitchhike to the nearest petrol station (and my husband was spared my wrath).

I’d done some research on Mt. Barker wineries that serve meals and we were getting hungry, so we sought out Galafrey Winery (galafreywines.com.au/). Here we had a tasty platter with shrimp pate, prawns, ham, cheese, bread, salad, fruit, nuts and dips (A$30) washed down with a nice cold Chardonnay. Being the winos that we are, we couldn’t resist buying a bottle of Galafrey’s Chardonnay (A$16) and Merlot (A$22) for future imbibing.

Sated, we continued on to Albany, making a detour to the Fresh Pict Strawberry Farm (their spelling, not mine.) I’d inquired about strawberries while at the winery and they pointed us in the direction of Fresh Pict near Albany. Upon arrival at the farm, we were led into a walk in chiller where the owner explained that we could purchase “seconds” for A$2.50 per kg. The berries looked and smelled great, so we bought 2.5 kg and spent the next few days pigging out on fresh strawberries and cream. Yep, that’s a lot of berries, but we really miss berries here in Indonesia and just couldn’t help ourselves. And they were delicious, seconds or not!

With a huge box of berries on my lap, we headed to our home for the next five nights – The Foreshore Apartments - www.thelily.com.au/. We stayed here on our last visit to Albany, but we were in the Vermeer apartment. This time I’d booked their Rembrandt apartment, which is right next door, but a wee bit bigger. The apartment was odd-shaped, but very nice, with an incredibly comfortable queen bed, quality linens, a small lounge area with flat screen TV, a great little kitchen with all we needed and more. The owners have put a lot of thought into their apartments. We paid A$149 per night, with the 5th night free.

We immediately opened the windows and the door as it was terribly hot inside. Within minutes we had a nice cross breeze.

After a strawberry orgy, we walked around Albany for awhile then tucked in for the night.

Next – Four days in Albany
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 11:50 PM
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Albany – Day 1

We had a noisy night with the windows open and unfortunately, it was just a preview of what was to come.

The Foreshore Apartments don’t have air conditioning, ceiling fans, or any ventilation to speak of. The only way to get a cross breeze is to open the windows and the front door. We weren’t willing to sleep with the front door wide open, so our nights were a bit on the uncomfortable side, even with every window in the place open. I’m told it doesn’t get hot in Albany, but I beg to differ – read on.

The apartments are located within earshot of a railroad, a bus depot, a college and a pub. Need I say more?

On our previous visit we’d not had any problems with heat or noise (July), but this time we got a big dose of both.

We set off for the Upper Kalgan Bridge via Chester Pass Road in search of the Luke Pen walk, which follows the east bank of the Kalgan River. The walk is named after Dr. Luke Pen for his efforts in saving the Kalgan River in the 1990’s.

The walk is basically easy; the steps at the beginning and end were the only section even remotely strenuous. The river was calm, the birds abundant, and apparently the fish were biting, as we saw many people fishing. Lucky for us, most of the trail was shaded, as we were in for another hot day (32c in Albany – 90 F).

According to our trusty GPS pedometer, the walk was 12 km return (7+ miles). It took us about 2:45.

After the Luke Pen, we headed to Little Beach in Two Peoples Bay. We’d discovered this gem last July, and thought it would make a great picnic stop. After viewing the beach from above, we had a change of heart; there was no place to hide from the sun and we were a bit overdressed in our hiking clothes. Knowing there was a lone picnic table under an awning at the Two Peoples Bay visitor’s center, we went there. I asked the volunteer manning the center if we could crack open our bottle of wine and she cheerfully gave us her blessing. In fact, she seemed surprised that I’d even think it was a problem. I considered offering her a glass, but didn’t want to push it.

NOTE: Many parts of the US have open container laws prohibiting alcohol in public places.

After a picnic of salami, Margaret River cheese, strawberries, mandarins and a cold glass of grape, we continued our exploration. We visited Betty’s Beach and Norman’s Beach (perhaps they’re the Two Peoples?). We also visited North Point and East Bay where we were treated to some gorgeous views; azure water, seemingly endless white sand beaches, and even a big lizardy thing with a skinny neck and a surprisingly long tail…..

We then took Cheyne Road into Waychinup National Park. We were suddenly surrounded by a thirsty looking landscape, low lying shrubs and gnarled trees with white trunks and barren limbs, granite outcroppings, red dirt interspersed with white sand along the unsealed road (oops, did I say unsealed? Sure hope the rental car company isn’t reading this!). This area is very desolate and isolated, yet somehow inviting.

At long last we reached our destination – Waychinup Inlet, a gorgeous spot we’d discovered on our previous visit. We had the inlet completely to ourselves. We celebrated by sitting on a rock in the shade overlooking the inlet and had ourselves another glass of wine…


Next: More Albany and environs
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Old Mar 23rd, 2007, 04:39 AM
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Spelling correction - Waychinicup - all those "ups" tend to confuse me.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2007, 12:14 PM
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Your trip report is enticing me to return to WA. More please.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2007, 04:19 PM
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Albany – Day 2

The weather guessers were predicting a high of 37c (98F), so we got an early start, heading west on Lower Denmark Road in search of West Cape Howe National Park. Most of the roads in this area are 4WD access only, so our choices were limited. We took the Torbay turnoff and parked at Cosy Corner, where we then embarked on a walk to the Dingo Beach overlook. This is part of the Bibbulmun Track, a +/- 965 km track that extends from Kalamunda (near Perth) to Albany.

http://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/.

I was worried about snakes, as the trail was narrow and overgrown in spots, but other than a lot of rustling in the bush, wildlife was sparse. This was an easy walk (7+ km, 4.5 miles) through mostly bush, not much for views. It took us about two hours, which was all we could handle with the heat.

Back in the car, we continued on to Shelly Beach. One minute we were in a forest of enormous trees, the next we were surrounded by short, squat scrub. The views from the Shelly Beach lookout were fantastic, but once again, there wasn’t a protected spot in sight, so we moved on. Some of the most scenic portions of the Bibbulmun Track run through this area.

Back on Lower Denmark Road we continued on to Lowlands Beach, a secluded swimming beach with more gorgeous views.

Figuring it was time for some refreshment, we called in at the West Cape Howe Winery near Denmark. We absolutely loved the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon! That bottle actually made it home with us, but was polished off last night. The 2006 unwooded Chardonnay was very good too.

We then stopped at Bartholomews Meadery, where we sampled honey wines and honey with ginger. Unable to resist ice cream, we bought a few scoops of the cinnamon honey and vanilla honey flavors.

No visit to Denmark would be complete without calling in at the Toffee Factory, so off we went. Our favorite flavors were the chocolate chili, Kahlua, Western Australia wildflower/honey/ginger and of course the lemon myrtle.

Needing something more substantial, we popped into Farmhouse Cheese/Ducketts Mill Winery. Believe it or not, we weren’t crazy about the wines we tasted, but we had a nice cheese platter for lunch (A$20). We dined outside on the patio, sweltering as we watched the cheese melt before our very eyes.

Then it was back to our very warm apartment for a cold shower. The WA news reported that Albany did indeed reach 37c and Perth saw 42c, the second hottest day in their history for the month of March. We also learned that Porongurup National Park was closed to visitors due to smoldering fires and the threat of falling trees. Such a shame – we really enjoyed Porongurup last time and had hoped to do some more walking there, but it was not to be.

www.porongurup.com/

That evening we walked to Tanglehead Brewing Company for a light dinner - (thank you travel4flowers for the recommendation!) The food was very good – beer sticks for Bill (A$12), penne pasta with tomato, basil and feta for me (A$16) - fresh and tasty. Of course we had to try the beer too (A$8 pint.) We’d have stayed a bit longer, but here was no ventilation whatsoever and it was pretty miserable. I really felt for the poor cooks and wait staff – at least we didn’t have to move much.

Next: Albany – Day 3
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Old Mar 23rd, 2007, 06:07 PM
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Albany – Day 3

A nearby chainsaw, vacuum cleaner and train had us up by 6 am, which was just as well, as we needed to get another early start. We drove to the Albany Wind Farm and walked the Bibbulmun Track as far as the Hidden Valley shelter (6 miles return, 9+ km, 2:15). This walk had lovely coastal views, but it was exposed (no shade) and needless to say, we overheated in a hurry. After checking our e-mail (dive shop by the IGA – A$6 per hour) and a cold shower, we sought out some air conditioning at Woolworth’s. Small world that this is, we ran into a guy Bill had worked with in Angola seven years ago! He told us that the weather was unusually warm, that it seldom got hot in Albany and that they’d had a cold summer, so the locals were welcoming the heat.

We were zapped, so we lay low that afternoon. The WA news reported that it was the third consecutive day of record breaking heat for March. Albany saw 40c that day (104 F) and Carnarvon saw 48c (118 F), causing the bananas to fall off the trees.

We also learned of the Garuda Airline crash in Indonesia, with nine Australians on board. We watched in horror as a cameraman from an Australian news station filmed the tragedy and there was no foam being used to extinguish the fire - very scary and unsettling for those of us who fly Garuda regularly (our best option in Indonesia). Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy.

Albany – Day 4

Up early again, we drove to Mt. Melville and walked the 3 km (1.8 miles, 50 minutes) circuit, which provided 360 degree views over Albany. This was a moderate walk with a steep climb towards the end.

Then it was off to Mt. Clarence, where we walked the 2+ km (1.5 miles, 40 minutes, partly shaded) circuit.

We then drove to Middleton Beach, yet another eye popping white sand beach, and continued on to Emu Point, another pretty beachside town.

After a cold shower, we found ourselves back on Lower Denmark Road, headed to Eden Gate Blueberry Farm. We had a nice chat with the friendly Australian and Canadian owners and relished the COOL breeze at this higher elevation. Nice blueberry wine, port and ice cream, but no fresh blueberries as they’d already been picked.

Then it was off to Howard Park/Madfish Winery for yet more wine sampling. This winery has a vineyard in Porongurup – fortunately, their vines had been spared from the fires there, but we were told that the park itself was badly damaged.

And then, a miracle…..

The clouds moved in and we finally got some much needed relief from the heat!

Next: Pemberton and cooler weather!
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Old Mar 25th, 2007, 08:29 PM
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Travel Day - Albany to Pemberton

We woke to overcast skies and a predicted high of 21c – yippee!

We headed towards Denmark, where we called in at Harewood Winery. Grape picking was in full swing – we learned that their pickers were mostly French and Italian backpackers. We liked every single wine we tasted there, and left with a bottle of Chardonnay and Cabernet Merlot. Exactly what is it about Australian wine?

It seemed that not a day went by that we didn’t hear about a fire somewhere in WA and we saw evidence of many fires during our stay. This day we could smell the fire smoldering at Parry Beach as we passed nearby.

Just past Nornalup we entered the Southern Forests, home to some of the tallest trees in Australia – the majestic karri and tingle. These towering lush forests are truly amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed the drive. Near Shannon we picked up 10 to Northcliffe and arrived in Pemberton just over four hours after leaving Albany.

Pemberton is one of those places you could breeze right through and not give a second thought to; however, closer inspection reveals there’s quite a bit to see and do.

After substantial research on Pemberton area lodging options, I’d selected Peppermint Grove Retreat, which is where we spent the next three nights - A$185 per night.

http://www.peppermintretreat.com/

We loved this place! Our chalet was one of four located next to a grove of peppermint trees. The chalets are located on Channybearup Road, near Silkwood Winery and about 15 km from the town of Pemberton.

Our spotless cottage had all that we needed. A comfortable KS bed, two person spa tub in the huge bathroom, large shower stall, well equipped kitchen, gas log fireplace, and air conditioning (naturally, since we didn’t need it now). Our patio faced the forest and had a gas grill, which we used every night of our stay. The chalet had beautiful polished jarrah wood floors and the entire place was bright and airy with lots of windows.

Upon our arrival Nicky told us that the wineries in the area closed around 4 or 5, and that restaurant options in town were limited.

After getting settled in our chalet, we headed to Jarrah Jack’s, which we’d discovered on a previous trip. Bill claims that Jarrah Jack’s has the best wheat beer he’s ever tasted outside of Germany - www.jarrahjacks.com.au/.

It was too late for lunch so we settled for beer (A$9 pint), merlot (A$7) and a very good slice of cake made with those Malteasers we love so much (A$7.50).

That evening was spent soaking in the wonderful spa tub, and sitting on the patio listening to birdsong and the wind in the trees. It was incredibly calm and peaceful and much appreciated after our noisy nights in Albany.

Next – climbing those massive trees
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Old Mar 25th, 2007, 10:23 PM
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Pemberton – Day 1

We slept with all the windows open and loved the fresh cool air – absolute heaven. We heard some interesting creatures throughout the night; Bill commented that something out there sounded like a Space Invaders video game.

We headed to Gloucester National Park, purchased a holiday parks pass (A$35) and were promptly greeted by several friendly parrots in the car park – so colorful! We decided to walk the Gloucester Route which begins very near the Gloucester Tree. We’d climbed this 61 meter tree on our last visit and survived to tell the story. This time we were hoping to add the Diamond Tree (51m) and the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree (75m) to our list of conquests.

It took us just over 2 hours to walk the 10 km Gloucester Route, which was more challenging than our previous walks, with a few steep bits here and there. It was a nice walk through forest but we got swarmed with flies every time we stopped. They seemed particularly attracted to my blue pants and jacket.

After our walk we drove to the Gloucester Ridge Winery, which is very near the entrance to the park. We tasted their wines (but of course!) and decided an alfresco lunch was in order. The subject of marron – freshwater crayfish – came up during our tasting and before we knew it, we were talking to the chef, who suggested we add a marron to our lunch platter. I don’t care for seafood, but Bill was game, so we dined on a platter of sun dried tomato dip, caramelized onion dip, salad, bread, feta, olives, sun dried tomatoes, fruit chutney, avocado, trout dip, crackers and the marron, which looked like a small lobster. Bill said it was wonderful, even better than lobster!

After lunch we drove to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, one of the area’s three climbing trees and the tallest treetop lookout in the world. Okay, I’m not afraid of heights, but this bugger freaked me out. I made it just over halfway up, then chickened out and turned back. Bill made it to the top no problem. I vowed to return the next day when I was rested and give it another go.

We then called in at Knight’s Distillery for an interesting chat with an ornery Australian fellow who told us we were too soft-spoken to be Americans and made a mean orange liqueur chocolate.

Next: Mel gets her mojo back
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 08:49 PM
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Pemberton – Day 2

The following morning it became glaringly obvious that we’re not spring chickens and a second run at the Dave Evans tree didn’t seem like such a good idea after all.

But I just had to give it another try – I just HAD to.

So, a short time later I found myself at the base of that imposing 75 meter tree, staring up at those widely spaced steel pegs, which I could easily envision myself slipping through. As I reached the first platform, I was greeted with a sign stating “that was the easy bit” and advising anyone with doubts to turn back. Legs shaking, I continued to climb, determined to conquer the second section which had so unnerved me the previous day. As I pulled myself onto the second platform, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the worst was over. The next sections consisted of conventional wood ladders, which were a piece of cake after the pegs. Before I knew it, I was standing on a small platform which extended above the tree and afforded incredible views over the Warren National Park and distant sand dunes.

Confidence restored, I was ready to tackle the Diamond Tree and hopefully get this tree climbing nonsense out of my system once and for all. At 51 meters, the Diamond Tree seemed, dare I say it, almost easy, despite the top portion which was completely vertical.

We considered re-climbing the Gloucester Tree, strictly for bragging rights of having climbed all three in one day, but common sense prevailed. Finding and climbing all three trees in a day would make a great Roadblock on an episode of the Amazing Race!

After scaling the Diamond Tree, we took the nearby Jim Fox walk to get the feeling back in our legs.

Then it was off to Salitage Winery – what a beautiful property! We’d considered staying in their suites, so we were curious. Their wine tasting room is gorgeous and they offer a daily wine tour, which unfortunately we’d missed. We loved their Salitage unwooded chardonnay and their Treehouse Shiraz.

http://www.salitage.com.au

Afterwards we went to the Lavender and Berry farm, where we attempted to pick a plunnet of blackberries (A$5.50). The owner looked at our pitiful pile of berries and told us there’d be no charge.

Hungry, we found ourselves at Silkwood Winery, where we enjoyed a tasty platter of cheese, bread, chutneys, buttered prawns, salami, dips and pate (A$27) on the patio overlooking their lake and 100 acres of vines. Silkwood advocates tasting wine with food - we happily obliged by sharing 10 wine samples during our meal.

The rest of that afternoon was spent on the lawn of Mountford Winery/Tangletoe Cidery, sipping a mug of scrumpy while listening to live music - the perfect way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.

Next: Pemberton to Margaret River via Northcliffe
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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As usual, my copious note taking has resulted in a much-too-long report. Will try to wrap this up in the next installment or two.
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 07:12 PM
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No,no! It's great. Keep going.
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 07:26 PM
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don't shorten anything - you're giving me some great ideas!
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Old Mar 28th, 2007, 08:12 PM
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That's good to hear - figured I'd put everyone to sleep.

Will forge on...
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Old Mar 29th, 2007, 12:03 AM
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Travel Day – Pemberton to Margaret River via Northcliffe

We were in for another beautiful day, but it hurt to move, thanks to our tree climbing antics of the previous day.

The woman who’d helped us at Silkwood Winery had mentioned Windy Harbour near Northcliffe. She’d made it sound so inviting that we just had to take a look, even though it was in the opposite direction of Margaret River.

So we were off, backtracking on 259/10, a pretty drive through towering karri forest. It took only 20 minutes to get to Northcliffe; 26 km further to Windy Harbour. Once there, we parked at the boat harbor and followed the footpath to a beautiful deserted beach fringed by dramatic coastal cliffs. Wow!

Then it was off to Salmon Beach, where we stood agog at the overlook, taking in the seemingly never-ending white sand beach and more of those incredible cliffs. Here we met a local woman who gave us some sage advice about when to visit specific areas of Australia.

We found ourselves loving this area, so we just kept following the signs, ending at Point D’Entreacastaux, where we walked the path to Pupulong Lookout for yet more spectacular coastal views.

On our way back towards Northcliffe we stopped at Mt. Chudalup and hiked to the top. I’m usually wary of hikes with “mount” in the title, but this one was short (2 km, 30 minute return) and we were rewarded with views of D’Entreacastaux National Park and Yeagarup Dunes.

We arrived in Margaret River about 90 minutes after leaving Pemberton for the second time and promptly went to Kappadokia, so Bill could satisfy his craving for one of their double chicken kebabs. I had the falafel with feta – good and filling – we also picked up a fresh loaf of their wonderful Turkish bread (A$3).

A short time later we found ourselves at the Waterfall Cottages, where we’d spend the next four nights - A$135 per night.

www.waterfallcottages.com.au/

We’d stayed here previously in a studio unit and were extremely cramped, so we’d booked the small cottage this time around. Our cottage consisted of two levels, with lounge, kitchen and bath on the lower level, bedroom with queen bed upstairs via an open loft with twin beds. It was warm during our stay, so we much appreciated the air conditioner on the top level, which would have otherwise been stifling.

The cottage was okay, nothing special. The narrow staircase was a drawback, especially at night. The place needs some attention; it’s a bit shabby and worn. Screens on the windows and a place to hang wet towels would have come in handy.

The property has two resident kangaroos and several ducks, four of which came to visit us on a nightly basis, tapping on the door at one point.

Next: Three days in Margaret River – great food, entirely too much bread and a winery or two
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