Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Aus-tra-lia
Yes pop-pickers, as per the beaut of a Cornish sea-shanty suggests, we have indeed been bound for South Australia and have crossed yet another state border (I was ready for it this time) after what was a very enjoyable exploration of the coastal fringe of Western Australia. Mind you, I say I was ready for the border crossing. Although all the veg and fruit were absent, I saw the border guy eye-up Timmo’s ginger nuts and for a moment, it was a bit of a tense. I wondered whether there was going to be some sort of international incident, but fortunately, it passed and all was well. The thought of having to find somewhere to hide them on his person was too awful to consider and I’m not sure Tim was ready for that kind of smuggling caper. Anyway, instead, this time, we will mainly be considering things beginning with the letter T: tastings, tracks, town trails, typical/not typical scenes and touble at mill.
Part of the joy that was WA was our time in Margaret River – aka Margs – and a couple of excellent cellar door visits. The first, and my favourtie of the two, was Xanadu Winery. Lovely location, lovely people and nice wine – what’s not to like? as Tim would say. Always lovely to have a nice story attached, and the one this time was that the vineyard was set up by a local doctor, Dr John Lagan (an Irishman), and was one of the first in MR region. Esablished in 1977, it was run by the doc until it was purchased in 2005. Dr Lagan died in 2008 aged 80. There, now you have it. Wine is good for you – it has to be as it was developed by a medical doctor.
The second tour – this time to Cape Mentelle (again by bicycle) was very nice but not quite as friendly as I like. The lady conducting the tasting was knowledgeable, but a bit more officious and what’s more there was no option for the non-wine drinker other than water. All others have been able to furnish Timmo with a beer at least. Anyway, the wine was good but their best was probably the Cab Sav which I’m not a massive fan of so a bit wasted on me. Their Chardy was good so I bought some of that (be rude not to). We then pressed on down to the coast (note the word ‘down’) and found a bar where we could make amends and get Tim a couple of beers with lunch. Not so good was the haul back up to Margs but we managed it and what’s more we saw our first real, live skippies bouncing about in the field at the side of the cycle way! They do exist – hurrah!!
We had used a bit of the Wandandi cycle trail en route to the wineries and beach, but the second day when we went north up to Cowaramup (or Cow Town to the locals), was when we saw it at its best. Beautiful track on a disused railway flanked by gorgeous scenery. This time it was to the Brewery and some tasting time for Timmo! Great location and nice lunch plus lovely wine and meeting/chatting with the wine producer – Brad – who just happened to drop in. Great beers too and the ride home was pain free
The Wandandi Trail was a good example of the many cycle ways we’d experienced during our trip so far, but our stay in Margs provided a lovely walk trail too. Ten Mile Dam was a walking track through lovely woodland and along the actual Margaret River to, you guessed it, Ten Mile reservoir and dam. Nice views whilst we enjoyed our little picnic before turning round and heading back to base. Relatively flat too so no complaints from Timmo either. Mind you, that’s not always the case as we discovered at a later date when in Esperance. Having set out and stopping almost immediately for a coffee (as we do) we both observed a very steep hill and were quick to say how pleased we were that our cycle route appeared to go around the bay and not over it. How wrong we were. The huffing and puffing about it was considerable – and that was before we’d even set off! However after much coersion, promises of cake and fibs about how much more of the hill was left to do, we both made it to the top and took in the beautiful views of white sandy beaches and blue blue ocean. A nice swim and bit of sunbathing soon eased the pain, but sadly the fib about cake being available was not received so well. There was also a very exciting incident but more about that later…
Now some towns are nice but not that interesting which is fine as there is usually plenty of other stuff to do and see that more than makes up for it. However, two recent examples have shown that when historic buildings are left alone, they make for a very enjoyable town trail. One such example was in Albany. There were lots of traditional buildings and history about the origins of the town which made a bit of an explore into an interesting fact gathering exercise. 1) it used to be a major whaling station – it was the last operating one in the southern hemisphere at the time of its closure in 1978. There was a museum and whaling vessle that could be visited, but honestly, it wouldn’t really sit well with me even though I understand that it was a major source of income and employment for the local population. 2) The port is a major exporter of wood chips and there are massive ships and piles of wood chips to prove it 3) It has Dog Rock. Now in itself, it sounds a bit curious – there’s even a motel named after it – a large lump of granite that looked quite ordinary until you saw it from a particular angle. All was then revealed and made perfect sense – amazing!
Another great town trail was that enjoyed in Quorn (no, not that one but it does take its name from the one in Leicestershire). The town is a very attractive one in that it retains much of the original buildings and is a great way to step back in time and imagine how life might have been like at its inception in the late 1800s. It is so well preserved that, although still full of working businesses and lived-in houses, the town has been regularly used as a film set – apparently for the Gallipoli film amongst others (not that I’ve seen it). The railway was the at the heart of it and the reason for the town and it ran from Port Augusta and eventually extended up as far as Alice Springs. Its existance meant that the town became a vital railway hub for the movement of stock and supplies and, later during WW2, troops as the were moved by rail across Australia to Darwin and Papua New Guinea. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of troops passed through and the building still exists where they were able to enjoy meas cooked by the women of Quorn. The historic Pichi Richi railway which…..Ghan…..is now run by volunteers and provides lovely trips out through the Flinders Ranges. We’d obviously booked such a trip – the Sundowner – which took us out to Woolshed Flat where we could get a bite to eat and a cuppa over a 3 hour period. Timmo was beside himself and even got to go up to the business end and see the driver! The steam trains only run in the winter and this diesel train – still stunning – runs once the fire break laws come into play for the month of November. All very lovely and great, enthusiastic volunteers really giving their all.
Typical and not so typical scenes
I think one of my favourite parts of our last trip was driving up through the red centre of the country and seeing the vastness of the landscapes. This was the feeling I had again as we crossed the Nullarbor Plain just recently. Not just stunning scenery but the size and scale of it all just blows your mind (well, it does mine). Not long after you start out on the single road you encounter the Guiness Book of Records road that is the 90 mile road – the straightest road in the world! And it was – not a bend in sight! Mind you, when that section finished, there was only the odd bend or two to give your concentration a bit of a check. I’m sure someone told me that the bends were put in just for that reason. I can’t believe there are landscape features that required a deviation that’s for sure. Our first roadhouse stop was ok. Nothing exciting, just did the job. The second one was the piece de resistance – the Nullarbor Roadhouse non less. Having parked up in 40 degree heat we headed straight for the bar. Joined by a lovely couple we had met briefly that morning when packing up, we had a good chinwag for an hour or so until they went back to base and we had tea in the roadhouse – very nice too. Now, in that time, the weather had begun to change a bit – a bit more wind, more cloud and slightly lower temperature. Then – bang – the mother of all thunderstorms began to approach! It was immense. You could see it coming for miles across the flat, flat landscape and the noise was amazing. Everyone was outside of the their vehicles/accommodation just taking in the spectacle as it developed around us. Needless to say, it continued through the night which meant not a lot of sleep but what a light show! Just as you might have expected it to be and more. Great stuff.
We also enjoyed seeing another natural phenomena that was the Great Australian Bight. A huge cliff that just marks he end of of the Nullabor Plain and drops down into the ocean. A you stand looking out it’s quite amazing to realise that the next stop would be Antarctica! Anyway, there was a lovely visitor centre and walkways to enjoy the landscape without trashing it and it was truly quite amazing. One woman, of many people we chatted to on our walk around the site, exclaimed that it was an ‘almost spiritual’ experience which, although a bit of a grand statement had an awful lot of truth in it.
A not-so-typical scene but a very interesting and exciting concept, was the Nullarbor Links. The 18 hole, Par 73 course spans 1,365 kms with holes n a number of participating towns or roadhouses along the Eyre Highway starting in Kalgoorlie in WA and ending in Ceduna in SA. The idea is that you purchase a score card at one of 3 visitor centres along the route and have your card stamped at each of the holes along the way -receiving a certificate on completion. It’s obviously quite an expensive round in terms of both time expended and cost in terms of food and accommodation but plenty have done it and we saw several ‘competitors’ and some of the locations we stayed in. Now, Ben and Tim, there’s an idea for a Haywood Society Away weekend (well fornight)!!! Mind you it must be a bugger being the green keeper…. Actually, the tees and greens are artificial turf and the fairway ‘grass’ is a bit on the long side so I would guess the greenkeeper takes a pretty relaxed view of things. More worringly are the signs to look out for the snakes. Mmm, maybe not such a good idea after all.
Trouble at t’Mill
It wouldn’t be an adventure without witnessing a bit of drama from time to time. The thunder storm was certainly one such experience of natural dramas. We’ve had more storms since but not quite so dramatic or scenic (but often just as loud). The next drama to recount was whilst we were relaxing at that beautiful beach after the tortuous hill climb on the bicycles at Esperance (remember that from earlier?) Well, there was a reef that ran almost the entire length of the beach which was great for us to swim in/lark around/ do a bit of snorkelling. After our swim etc, we were lying down chilling and suddenly there were car horns from the car park at the top of the cliff and on looking up, you could see several people waving their shirts and or arms above their heads. Sudddenly the penny dropped and we realised that they, from their high vantage point, had spotted a shark and they were trying to let the surfers out beyond the reef know it was there!!!! We could see its form under the waves from where we were standing and it was quite tense watching the surfers slowly understand what was going on and a relief to see them get to shore. One young lad on the beach close to us legged it down to the far end of the bay to alert some other surfers who would not have been able to see and maybe not hear the alarm. Good job too as the shark definitely made off in that direction. Most sharks are tagged and can be tracked on an App on your phone (like most things these days!) but this little beggar had slipped through. Phew. Close call!
Next up on the drama front was on our way between Streaky Bay and Coffin Bay on the Eyre Penninsular. The long but someimes winding road that is the B100 was pretty but needed more concentration than most. We were on full alert as usual as was the road train in front of us – which is just as well as suddenly we were confronted with a car and caravan on its side across the full width of the road! Both us and the road train driver were straight out of our vehicles to see what was what. Tim stayed back with the van to stop other traffic and me and my road train matey pulled the two passengers out of their overturned vehicle. Amazingly it was just a matter of a few cuts and grazes but the lady (who had been driving) was unsurprisingly shook up and was grateful for my hugs, chair from the van and some water. Other vehicles were soon on the the scene and between us we uncoupled the overturned vehicles and, most importantly, checked their gas cylinders were OFF and no fuel was spilling out. Talk about drama. We waited with them until the emergency services arrived and then, like the others had, decided to leave it to the experts and luckily, sneak through an old track off the main road around the accident site. See, it’s not all a holiday!!!
So, there we are. Another installment in life’s rich tapestry. A combination of the power of the elements, the fragility of life and the wonders/perils of nature have combined to remind me just how good it is to be alive……
Next up more wine!!!! Yes, it’s Clare Valley wineries time and then on to the big city that is Adelaide. Back soon!!