We’re in Margaret River, a town in SW Western Australia and on our way to see David Yuki and little Orin in Perth over next weekend.
This town began its life around 1831 as a timber town. It is now famous for its wineries and gourmet food establishments. It’s a bit of ‘hippy’ town with a lot of alternate lifestylers amongst its population. A great example of this is the very eclectic local bakery. It’s a great place for breakfast, serving a very good version of eggs and bacon. As you sit in the front room, you are surrounded by esoteric artwork and a mix of furniture that better belongs in a curiosity store. The walls are decorated with assorted paintings and old doilys are hung above the windows. The ceiling is decorated with a very colourful, but obviously artificial Wisteria Vine. We sat in high backed chairs at a glass topped outdoor table as we ate our breakfast this morning.
Margaret River is also renowned for its nearby beach which has very fine surf. At the moment, it is the home of an international surfing carnival. All the good spots along the beach are closed for the carnival and the traffic in town is horrendous. We couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere in the usually quiet main street. Further up and down the coast are some other nice beaches but the weather today is rather quiet and not very kind to the surfers. I was thinking that if all the seas were like this one here today, it would be a perfect time to take a long sea voyage.
On the way down here from Perth, we passed a small forested area of Tuart Trees.This variety of Eucalypt only grows in one area of the world – a small region of Limestone soil on the South West Coast near here. They are a tall tree (up to 34 metres high) and unlike other tall trees, their trunk doesn’t seem to taper much as it gets higher. Instead it looks like a tall cylindrical vertical log with branches at the top. In fact, the perfectly round variety of this tree is highly prized. Most people would like one and some even wait a long time to get one. I certainly do – especially with housework and gardening. I’m always waiting to get ‘a round tuart!’
There are dozens of wineries in this area. Some are well known and others, I have never heard of. Some have beautiful gardens and others have beautiful restaurants. All of them have, more or less, beautiful wine. i might have thought the the most popular ones to visit were those that had the most awards for making the best wine, but having traveled around this area today,it seems that the most popular ones are those with the biggest children’s play areas. WA schools are having their first semester holiday this week and anything that keeps the kids happy is a bonus.
It’s hard to get away from some form of gastronomic food delight around here. Almost on every road, you can find a place that sells fudge, nougat, honey, ice cream, craft beer or some other nice food. The most outstanding of these is the Margaret River Providor with its enormous range of jams, chutneys, oils, spices, pickles (and, of course, wines). It’s a very interesting place for anyone who likes nice food.
Some of the towns around here have some quite hard-to-pronounce names. Many are derived from Aboriginal words – especially those ending with ‘up’. One of them, just up the highway, is Cowaramup. It’s a rather insignificant town that exists only to service the local dairy industry. Milk and chocolate products are also pat of the gastronomic offerings of this area. Cowaramup now has dozens of fibre glass cows and calves positioned in the main street and throughout the town. You can’t go the ATM, the pharmacy or the park without having to navigate your way around one. The town’s people are certainly doing a great job of ‘milking’ the first part of the the name of the town. However, the locals don’t seem to be at all ‘churned up’ about this invasion of bovines.
We also visited an historic site that I knew about, but had not visited before. Along one part of the coast near here is the Ellenbrook Homestead. This is now a National Trust property. Ellenbrook homestead was built by Alfred and Ellen Bussell in the 1850s and is the earliest European settlement along this coast. They lived here for 7 years with their large family, growing vegetables and producing butter and cheese from their herd of dairy cattle. At that time, the homestead was very isolated, and the 40 km journey to Busselton (named after this family took 2 days by bullock cart. The current Bussell Highway was clearly yet to be built! This little ten-room use was built from local stone, timber and even some driftwood. Gaps in the walls and roof were caulked with the bark from the Paperbark Tree.