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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Margaret River Area

We started driving in the morning after a quick supermarket breakfast and stocking up at a near by super-market. This was interrupted by stops to take calls from our travel agent about the Ningaloo trip, and so we made it only to Bunbury around noon, where we had lunch. At lunch, we confirmed all our arrangements with Ningaloo Reef Dreaming for our dives, but with one snag, they wanted everything faxed to them in writing, which was quite tricky --- there were no guarantees we would be able to arrange that today. Our travel agent offered to deal with that for us, so we remained hopeful.

At Busselton, we stopped at the information center, and saw the ads for the Bushtucker Canoe tour. That sounded like a lot of fun, especially since it meant a chance to try the Australian Witchetty grub, so we signed up for it. I also called the Hamelin Bay caravan park to see if they had a powered site for the night.

Then onwards we went, to Cowaramup, where an road sign for a wine shop stopped us. We had seen signs for a mango wine earlier and had hoped to see it, but it turned out that the shop didn't have it. They did point us at the Berry Farm, and we resolved to see that tomorrow. After that, we gassed up the car and headed to Hamelin Bay Campground, which was right in the middle of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. The Australians don't seem to mind having a commercial campground in the middle of their National Park. The campground is quite pretty, and very close to the beach, so after we had a quick dinner, we walked along the beach for some sunset photos. After the sunset, we were treated to a visit to the beach by Manta Rays, who were drawn by fishermen scaling fishes on the beach. Lisa had quite a bit of fun feeding them with the fish scaling remains.

The next morning, we drove the much touted Caves Road, which winds along the Karri forest to the Pevelly Cove for the Bushtucker tour. The tour guide, a former policeman from Perth named Chris, delighted in showing us the forests, the birds of the area, as well as a short hike and of course, the Bush lunch. The Witchetty grub was not bad, tasting a bit like a nut. Well worth the trip! On the way back, we had a canoe race, and with Lisa & I sharing the canoe with Chris, we won the race and a bottle of wine for Yuri and Monique.

After this trip, we went back to Margaret River and used the internet cafe there to finalize our Ningaloo trip. With all that printing and writing and faxing behind us, we headed to the Berry Farm, which to our delight had Mango wine. A tasting, however, revealed a sharp, spicy taste to the wine which made it a disappointing wine, despite my wanting to like anything mango-related. We did try their sparking strawberry wine and their sparkling nashi pear wine, and those were quite good, so we bought a bottle of the pear wine for the evening.

Having done so, we decided to stay at Hamelin Bay again for the night, since an inspection of the Riverside Caravan Park in Margaret River didn't impress us. Rather than provision the caravan for one more night of cooking, we decided to buy take out food in Augusta. While we were in the area, we took a look at the cape (unfortunately arriving at the lighthouse just as it closed), and were surprised to find that the color patch cafe calling itself the last dining house before Antarctica.

The overcast day meant that the sunset wasn't nearly as good that day, but we met an Australian family and spent an evening with them.

Our last day in the Perth region started out overcast, but as we drove back along Caves road, which slowly started to look more and more like other wine valleys in the world (including Napa valley), we started seeing more and more sun, until it became only partly cloudy at the Busselton pier, where Chris had recommended that we rent snorkels and swim back from the end of the pier so we could see the fishes up close and personal. I did so, and the water was cool, but not unbearable. Folks in the underwater observatory took pictures of me, though! I enjoyed the swim for about 20 minutes and then got stung by two jelly fish in quick succession, ending my snorkel in a hurry.

After that, the drive back to Perth happened uneventfully. At Monique and Yuri's home, we unloaded everything, and I borrowed one of their bikes and stuffed it back into the camper van to drive to the return office. I made it back there just in time, returned the van with no problems, and then rode my back. The ride back was initially terrible, with heavy traffic and hot weather. But I soon found the cool bike path along the Swan river, and that made for nice riding.

Lisa & I repacked our bags for Ningaloo, had a final reunion with Yuri (who was going to Europe on business the next day) and Monique, and had dinner at the local Asian food restaurant. We had a 5:45am taxi pick up the next day, so we went to bed early. At this point, I noticed my CPAP mask was damaged from the trip, so had to make some repairs with scotch tape.

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