So after the excitement at Ningaloo, it was a more leisurely stay at Margaret River. Our flight from Exmouth back to Perth took a couple of hours and then our drive in a rental car down south to Margaret River took another 4 hours, including a brief stop for dinner. We didn't actually stay in Margaret River itself, but at a very comfortable Airbnb beach house at Gnarabup (I never did find out if the 'G' is silent or not!), which is about a 10 minute drive from the township but very close to the key surfing beach of Prevelly. Margaret River is best known for its craft breweries, boutiques and surrounding wineries. Beaches and surf breaks line the nearby coast, whose waters host migratory whales during the second half of the year, unfortunately too late for our visit. Stretching between 2 lighthouses north and south of the town, the long-distance walk, the Cape to Cape Track, fringes the limestone caves and sea cliffs of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
On our first day, we went venturing down south to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin. I visited the golf club at the former location, but couldn't for the life of me locate Sergio
and his green jacket! I didn't even find the pro shop open, robbing me of the opportunity to purchase a posy golf shirt, so I just had to make do with a photo instead. We then moved on to check out the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin at the southern tip, the highest in the west and third highest in Australia. This lighthouse signifies the point where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, not that they looked a whole lot different. But of greater interest to those of us that have read the book "The Light between Oceans" (and seen the movie), this is the location out of which the fictitious Janus Island was situated. On the way back, we travelled through the Boranup Karri Forest, where at times there was a full canopy of the very tall and impressive karri trees covering our roadway.
On our final day, we went in the opposite direction, taking in the surfing beaches of Yallingup and Eagle Bay before venturing up to Cape Naturalise on the northern tip. There we inspected another lighthouse, which was not quite as impressive as that at Leeuwin. From there, we transited through Dunsborough and Busselton, which
claims to have the longest wooden jetty in the world, stretching out 2km into the ocean. This has an Underwater Observatory at the end, where life in a coral reef is on view, but after Ningaloo we didn't bother with that. I'm not sure what it says of a place when its main claim to fame is its jetty, but Busselton seemed like a pleasant little seaside city from what we saw.
In between these trips, we visited a number of surfing beaches in the region, including the nearby Prevelly, which had recently hosted the Margaret River Classic.The Classic is an annual event held at what is called the Margaret River Main Break, also known as Surfers Point, which is a well-known ‘big wave’ location and consistently produces quality waves between 3 and 15 feet year-round. While we didn't encounter any waves at the high end of this scale, we could see that the various reefs in the area made for a pretty consistent break.
Apart from the normal touristy shops in the village itself, a visit to Margaret River wouldn't be complete without visiting a few wineries. For our sins, we visited each of Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin
Estate, Voyager and Vasse Felix, having some tastings at the first three but branching out and having a gourmet lunch (plus wines!) at a gourmet price at the last of these. As well as the benefits to the palate, it was interesting to chat with each of the vintners (that's the winemaker for you dummies!) and hear why they think their vintage is superior to the others. As an added bonus, some of the wineries also have really attractive gardens on site.
My final excursion was to check out the Mammoth Cave, as its name suggests the biggest cave in the region. While I have visited many caves through the years, I probably haven't seen one for 20 years or so, so found it interesting especially to see the magnitude of the caves. I also didn't realise how far underground I had gone (nor my limited level of fitness!) until I had to negotiate the 100 or so steps to bring me out into daylight at the end of it.
One of the things I found quite interesting was the number of places we visited or passed through that ended in the suffix '-up'. Apparently this suffix originated
in a dialect of Noongar, an Indigenous Australian language, in which "-up" means "place of". Places tended to be named after their distinctive features, whereby the place names could be used to create a "mental map" allowing Indigenous Australians to determine where water, food and other raw materials could be found.
Well that about all from me for a while now. There are no further trips planned prior to a cruise in the Caribbean Windward Islands in December, unless someone comes up with an earlier offer.
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