Monday, December 04, 2006

Last few days in Australia: trying to get this thing up-to-date before NZ

Tuesday 21st November 2006 (continued)

Left Bunbury at 3:30pm after a leisurely lunch and some "chill-out" time reading the paper. Gorgeous weather - warm and sunny. Nice drive to Dunsborough, close to the coast with good views of the sea. Beaches and sea got nicer as we approached Dunnie. Dropped off close to the hostel, which was just as well as it is 3km from the hostel to the town centre.

YHA has a beautiful setting, right on the beach. Full of Japanese, working at nearby vineyards. First of all it seems a bit cliquey, but I soon find people to speak to. Get a free lift from the manager to do some shopping in town. Buy a bottle of Margaret River Cleanskin, which turns out to be a very nice, Bordeaux-style wine.

Later in the evening I relax in The Shed, overlooking the beach/sea and with amazing views of the southern sky at night. Start speaking to a couple of Aussie chaps who are in a band, touring the area, and who will be playing a free gig at the hostel the following night. Good to speak to some people who share the same taste in music and don't just listen to the same surfer-music-nonsense. Get given a free copy of their latest CD, which, unfortunately, I can't listen to on my MP3 player...

Wednesday 22nd November 2006

Walked along footpath/cycle-track to Dunsborough (6km there and back - which you may already have worked out from yesterday's entry). Alter bus ticket to get picked up from the same place as I was dropped off. Pasta for lunch with a glass of wine to help thin the blood! Then a nap...

Walked along the beach to the west in the afternoon. Gets rocky towards the end with red granite rocks, white sand and beautiful clear blue water. Stunning (especially under a cloudless sky). Water is shallow a long way out, which means that sharks can't eat you and the water is really warm. Luckily it is the perfect depth for swimming, so I have a gloriously refreshing dip.

Get back to the hostel just as the band are setting up. Band played two early-evening sets, one acoustic and one electric. Pretty good sound from just voice, drums and guitar. Lovely setting in the (pretty) garden of the hostel, with sea and emerging stars as a back-drop. Hostel is probably the best one that I have been to so far. Really friendly management, fantastic garden and location and lots of really nice touches around the place (beds ready made on arrival, free tea and coffee, herbs from garden, nice pictures on the walls, good decorations, general friendliness, etc.).

Stay up quite late (past 10pm!) chatting... just sitting under the stars (so clear and bright, and, of course, totally different from the northern skies). Gets quite chilly as soon as it gets dark. End up wearing both of my jumpers (amazing to note the difference, as it was up to about 30C during the day).

Thursday 23rd November 2006

Took it relatively easy in the morning: relaxing on the beach, swimming in the crystal-clear sea, and making the most of the free tea and coffee. Really hot today and sun is burning by about 10am, forcing me to stay in the shade...

Got bike in the afternoon (luckily by 2pm it had hazed-over and cooled down a bit). Meant to pay 10 dollars for 4 hours, but got it for free! Cycled out to Cape Naturaliste, via Eagle Bay. Beautiful coastline... more red rocks, little coves of white sand and lovely turquoise sea. Much greener than further north, but more Mediterranean than British. Still quite a lot of wild flowers about. Rather hard going on a fat-tyred mountain bike in the increasingly strong wind.

Got to Cape Naturaliste only to find that you had to pay to get into the area around the lighthouse. Rip off! Therefore the views up and down the coast aren't as good as I hoped they would be. I would have had to walk a few kilometres further to get right to the point, and I didn't have the time/energy - my legs were beginning to ache!

On the way back to the hostel I stopped off at Wise Winery. Really nice place and lovely lady at the cellar door. Had a great conversation about food/wine and got to taste 16 (sixteen) wines. This included their premium wines ($45) which they don't normally offer for tasting, but which the manager had accidentally opened earlier in the day. All really nice and quite European in style (suited my palate perfectly)*. Winemaker uses quite a lot of oak, so all the wines share an earthy house style. Delish!

Wobbled my way back on the bike and after dinner had a well-deserved early night (I think I cycled about 30km in 3 hours and what with the wind and the wines I was pretty shattered upon return).

Today was the first day of the Ashes, so there was lots of banter from the Aussies around the place.

*The 2002 Primitivo in particular was great, but at $45 not exactly a backpacker wine!

Friday 24th November 2006

More Ashes banter today. Things are not going well in the cricket at this early stage. Everyone is forced to leave the hostel today because school-leavers (schoolies) have booked the place out for the next 10-days. Luckily my next stop (Augusta) is far enough south not to be affected by the plague of young revellers. Although, having said that, the ones that I have met so far have all been a lot friendly (and more courteous) than their British counterparts.

Had a nice relaxing morning (I needed it - and so did my bum - after yesterdays endeavours) - updated diary and went for a nice swim. Still hot and sunny in Dunsborough. Cooked big lunch before getting the bust at 1:15pm.

Nice bus journey through vineyards and forests. It could have been Burgundy if it wasn't for the Eucalyptus and the lack of ancient Citroens, Peugeots, Renaults... Chatted to a nice group of Aussie lads, one of whom was born in Exeter (to South African parents).

Weather clouded in during the journey, but the sun was back out on arrival in Augusta, which seems to be a pretty little town (and pretty quiet too). The town is perched on a slight hill, overlooking an estuary and the Southern Ocean. The hostel is very clean and spacious, and consistently wins awards it would seem.

Nice group of people but generally quieter than Dunsborough. I treat myself to half a bottle of local Pinot Noir (must have been the early associations with Burgundy). Second half tomorrow...

P.S. The same annoying Swiss woman from Bunbury (did I mention her?) is now in Augusta and is still poo-pooing everything that I say and generally winding me up!

Saturday 25th November 2006

After some impressive triple snoring during the night (not bad for a 4-bed dorm, in which I am occupying the only snore-free bed), it is amazing that I don't feel more tired than I do (thank goodness for my earplugs - proving to be absolutely essential).

Things are going even worse in the cricket. I am pretending to be French. Bof. What ees ziss game, creekeet?

Walked out to Cape Leuwin, mainly along the foreshore. Brisk wind meant that it didn't get too hot. Beautiful wild seascapes. Quite different from the west coast. In fact, it could be parts of the South West of the UK in places.

Still lots of wild flowers out down here (courtesy of the cooler, wetter climate). Nice contrast between smooth granite boulders, white sand and rough sea. Highest lighthouse in Western Australia at point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. So much sea spray and a real surge between the two oceans.

Walked back to Augusta slightly inland. Warmer here, out of the wind. Didn't see a cloud (or another walker - well, apart from the annoying Swiss lady) all day long. I covered at least 20km so I was pretty tired as I wrote this. The second half of the Pinot Noir (14%) saw me off...

Lots of friendly people in the hostel, including a young Liverpudlian couple (Rob and Caroline), who I might meet up with again in Albany. They've got a hire car, so it might prove to be a useful contact! Glad to chat to them as it allows me to avoid the Swiss madam. I think she probably invented the word shadenfreude as she takes the utmost pleasure in other peoples misfortune ("ah, the weather was so much better when I was there", "well, I wouldn't want to go there, I've seen the same thing better elsewhere", etc, etc...).

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