Alex & Jane's Australian Odyssey
Days 4 to 5 - Singapore to Margaret River, Western Australia
Day 4: It's only a five hour hop from Singapore to Perth in Western Australia and we felt like excited school children as we boarded the Qantas jumbo at Changi airport. The cabin crew were real live Australians with accents and Crocodile Dundee hats!! With an hour or so to go, we caught our first glimpse of Australia. There it was - the unmistakable red and orange sands of the western desserts - we were here! Not a hint of cloud as we made our rather bumpy approach into Perth International Airport. We managed to negotiate customs and passport control with the minimum of fuss and before long we were loaded up and ready to move on out in our rather cute Hyundai Getz.
We have decided to pre-book as little as possible. Half the fun of a journey like this is just letting the road take you where it will, without the constraints of schedules and deadlines. So, we pointed the car south and just drove, our vague mission to get as far south as possible on this first day. We soon left the suburban sprawl of Perth behind (we'll hopefully head for Perth itself later) and drove south on Highway 1 - not a particularly pretty or inspiring coastal highway, seeing that there were no ocean views. We did however see countless new residential developments offering that dream lifestyle and our first yellow road sign warning of Kangaroos. Naturally had to pull over and take a piccie - well, we're tourists after all! Alex needed waking up so we stopped at Preston beach in Yalgorop National Park and dipped our toes in the Indian Ocean; one of no doubt many more firsts to come. Too many flies for our liking though, so was back in the car as far as Bunbury, home to our first night in Australia. A small semi-colonial one street town where we stumbled across the Rose Hotel which dates back to 1865. Parts of it seemed not to have changed much since then either, but was a pleasant enough place to spend our first night down under. Having terrified ourselves with Bill Bryson's tales of creepy crawlies in his excellent book Down Under, we made sure to put our boots on the bed. Of course, spiders wouldn't be able to climb up there would they!
Day 5: Next morning, after a thorough inspection of our boots, we ate a hearty breakfast in the rather old style dining room (complete with large 40 year old portrait of the Queen - bless) and then hit the road. Next stop Busselton, a very pleasant seaside town complete with large sandy beach and ridiculously long wooden pier - must have been over a mile long. There's an old narrow gauge railway that runs to the end of the pier but we opted to walk instead. Continuing south, we drove through Dunsborough and then followed the curve of the bay to Cape Naturaliste. No, not a nudist colony, but home to some lovely coastal scenery and the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse which we climbed up - for a fee of course. With tummies rumbling, it was time to enjoy our picnic. We found a nice spot on Sugarloaf road overlooking the sea but were again thwarted by the flies. Seemed like there were millions of them - large ones too - and it was just impossible to eat. We did eventually find a miraculously fly free spot at Yallingup beach and enjoyed our sandwiches in the company of seagulls and a handful of surfers.
Back on the road again we were soon entering the Margaret River wine region. They're not vineyards here but instead wineries - and there were loads of them. Very pretty indeed, with their orderly rows of vines (or should that be wines then?) set in green rolling countryside. The town of Margaret River itself is not nearly so enchanting as we had anticipated but we did have a superb meal, washing down beetroot risotto and lobster with a jolly nice Arlewood Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The meal was certainly better than our less than average accommodation for the night.