Monday, April 14, 2008

Australia - Margaret River - Our Trip South

What better way to start a 3 week holiday with the Gunns than an event filled 2 day tour through the Margaret River country. MR is in the SW tip of Australia that receives more rain than any other area of the state and is ideal wine producing country. They now have 60 wineries versus the 3 when I visited in 1995.

After a 3 and a half drive south from Perth, we arrived at our temporary home in the sea side town of Dunsborough. The house had 4 bedrooms, a wood-burning fireplace, carport and backyard "Barbie" and was about 300m from the beach. The house belongs to friends of Gordon and Joy (Gordon is the brother of one of the gals at BarKayCee) and they have been most helpful to the family while they've been here.

Our first day touring (April 13) started with a visit to a riding stable to arrange an evening trail ride for the 3 girls the next night. Next we stopped at the MR Chocolate Factory where we had to drag the ids to get them in!!(ha ha)! What temptations! Then on to the MR Cheese Factory where we each selected our favorite small cheese (which we sampled for dinner that night).

We next called in at the Eagle Heritage site where we were just in time for a flying and static display of fork - tailed kites. The kids each took turns holding a female kite on a glove on their arm. We then saw owls, kites, a very large wedge eagle and the weirdest looking bird called frog mouth.

After a brief top at the Karri Forest which is a site that can't be described but I'll try. The Karri trees are a very hard tree and their trunks are whitish in color. When we rounded the corner, the vista was the sunlight gleaming in every color imaginable off the trees as far as the eye could see. We drove from there to Hamelin Bay for a picnic lunch that we carried in our Esky (Aussie for cooler).

At the Bay, there were 3 stingrays that had come right into the shore and were there for the girls to pet. Anna, especially, was fascinated and rarely left the rays even to eat. The next attraction was the Jewel Cave - a fascinating underground tour of stalactites and stalgmites formed in a limestone cave. This cave is one of the youngest in the region and is over a million years old. The water has stopped flowing in the cave, but the evidence is all there. There are tiny "straws" from the ceiling that look like tiny icicles about 1cm in diameter. They hang for metres in length and one little touch would end hundreds of thousands of years of their forming one tiny drip at a time. In the cave there is also the fossilized remains of an Australian Tiger and a possum from eons ago. These animals would have fallen into the cave and without an exit or food, perished there.

Our last visit of the day was to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse built in 1895. Only John had the energy to climb the 200+steps to the top and reported the fantastic view. The lighthouse is the southwestern most tip of Australia and is the site where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. Back to Dunsborough one hour away and a BBQ dinner with the possum in the trees above us.

The second day, another warm sunny one, we started at the Wardan Aboriginal Cultural Centre - very enlightening. The aboriginal people share many of the problems that our own indigenous peoples do. Close by, we stopped at the Knee Deep in MR winery. We were entertained by the hostess explaining operations at their new facility (opened in 2006) over samples of their product. We bought a bottle of the Shiraz. Our next stop was at another beverage producer The Bootleg Brewery. On the road near the entrance was a sign, it said - WERE Wine (as this was the name of the winery) with the arrow pointing right and THEY'RE BEER pointing left - very ingenious. John bought a sample tray with 6 glasses of the various beers. I even had a sip of each even though I'm not a beer person (Bundy rum is much tastier). It was quite amazing to taste the subtle and not so subtle differences between an ale, a pilsener, a light wheat beer,an amber, and the Raging Bull stout.

To illustrate the versatility of the area, our next stop was at an olive soap factory. Very interesting - they grow their own olives but import the rest of the ingredients. So many different fragrances and bath and beauty products. In fact, olives have become big business here as the region is very conducive to their growth.

After a picnic lunch in a nice park in Cowaramup (means purple crested lorikeet - a type of bird in the Aborignial language) plus a stop at The Candy Cow - the local cndy store for tourists, we made our way back to Dunsborough. While John got ready to cook steaks on the barbie, the girls went for their hour long ride in the bush on the horses. The boys went and played tennis and for a swim in the little pool.

Our MR adventures ended the next morning with our drive back to Perth so John could pack for his trip back to Calgary.

Poppa/Ron. (Holly's Dad)

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