Published: January 27th 2012January 24th 2012
Down we trekked from the heat of Perth south to a comparatively cooler area called Margaret River – originally a ‘surfer dude’ township but now better known as a fabulous wine region.....
The reason for this destination was Matt - Andrew’s nephew / cousin to our children. He lives there with his lovely wife Paula and their two incredibly sweet children Olivia & Zoe. He was a championship sponsored surfer and has surfed the world over – his favourite breaks in Indonesia where he worked on a surf boat as a chef. But now with a family, he tells me Margaret River and the Cape Leewin-Naturaliste Coastline is just about the best place a surfer can be to raise a family and still hit the big surf daily. It is one of the world’s top 5 surf spots with very powerful & consistent reef breaks on coastlines facing north, west & south. It was fabulous to spend some time with Matt & his family and we really appreciated their hospitality - though Matt was amused by, & kept ribbing me, for my English accent and sayings! Crikey
There is such a buzz about this area with so many opportunities
to be had... the government is supporting new businesses in a big way and providing very generous loans for building new houses and there are building plots springing up all over (none of this cramming houses into back gardens and brown field sites we are familiar with). Matt & Paula’s house is one of these, built of concrete to retain the heat in winter and keep cool in summer. Paula is also a trained chef and so the food offered to us during our visit was a gourmet delight! We really admired their hard work, each running their own business, and gorgeous family.
Matt usually rises early to surf, sometimes for 3 hours, before work; he speaks about the water as if it a living creature and he knows the coastline inside out and where to head off to get that ultimate break! Kindly, he was able to give Ellen, Michelle & Adam a lesson - they were ‘stoked’ as a surfer would say! The surf we saw was ‘epic’ to speak the lingo again! Having done a MSc in Oceanography I was enthralled by the waves and sat for a long time gazing at them, and also got
slightly carried away with the camera. This coastline is also the southernmost point for corals and tropical fish.
The beaches are second to none with beautiful clear water and a back drop of endless blue skies and stunning native bush land. It is a diversity hotspot with amazing range of flora and fauna - including the deadliest 5 snakes in the world as a tour guide pointed out when he advised me to check the ‘dunny’ before Adam went! The area is also well known for the magnificent karri & jarrah trees, but once more there is a sad history as many of these great statuesque trees were felled and shipped back to the UK for use in train lines. We got to drive through the scenic Boranup Forest which is a national park protecting some of the remaining great forests, but did not get down to the real giant trees of the south of the region (on the map the area looked like the size of Cornwall but is actually the size of England, so just a bit out of our reach on this day trip!) – we will save those for another time. But what we did
get to see was beautiful and eerily peaceful, with a bonus being the temperatures were 10 o
cooler than in the open, meaning a respite of 29o
instead of 39o
! This area, as is most of Australia, is subject to frequent bush fires and you may remember those in the Marg River area shown on UK late last year – we drove through these areas, they were actually a result of uncontrolled controlled-burring! The areas are vast but it is reassuring o see the resilient ancient plants that soon spring up – typically the first to do this seem to be the ‘grass trees’ . Inland there are rolling hills with historic homesteads and charming little towns with a very laid back feel to them.
Again the pretty birds abound, the most startling we saw was the Splendid Blue Fairy Wren, the male of which has the most brilliant blue feathers (the little female very dowdy though like a little sparrow) & we were also lucky to spot some wild emu & a single large red roo.
The area is steeped in the aboriginal dreaming and for a spot of education on the native history we
visited the Wardan Aboriginal Centre just north of ‘Margs’. The Wardandii people are the traditional custodians of the land of the Marg River region and their occupancy is traced back 50,000 years. The centre was a great example of the efforts being made to share aspects of their culture and reconcile with the wider community after a turbulent 2 century long struggle. It is set in a beautiful area of pristine bush land with sheock, banksias and assorted peppermint guns (the guide was quick to pick and crush a leaf from a peppermint gum when I was bitten by some stinging insect). We were very fortunate to be the only people visiting and so had the sole attention of the guide who spoke animatedly to us all about the traditional tools and the techniques for making them and techniques for throwing boomerangs and spears, about the food and medicines, the fishing & gathering techniques. Interestingly, the aborigines have six seasons and each has their associated foods and intricacies of climate. All place names in the area are aboriginal, ending in ‘up’ such as Yalingup, Boranup, Ndanrup...
There are many vines that have sprung up since the first one set
up in the 1960’s – by a Doctor, the Vasse Winery. It is incredible how quickly they have rivalled the French wines but when you see and feel the soil & the climate it is little surprise. We saw some great names we drink back home such as the Leewin Estate. Andrew even got to sample a few... We also visited a gallery as Ellen is creating an art log for her GCSE and wherever we go we look out for examples of native art. It has not all been a garden of roses though; the heat wave continues, every day has been 38-42o
which is unusual, even for here. I have had food poisoning and was bed bound for 2 days and unable to eat for five days, but all better now. It has been another fabulous few days visiting a region that reminded me slightly of Cornwall, but with just that little bit more....
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