overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Wine Tasting Turns Tingle Tastic

Written by Siobhan Kelly. Uploaded 18 February 2007.

Australia, Country 26, Diary entry 4th - 11th Jan 2007, Total distance in Australia: Unknown, Distance to date: 18,291KM

The second part of Shiv's journey on the road....

Having said our goodbyes to the Perth contingent, we set off again on 4th January further south. We went en route to zigzag drive which supposedly had amazing views over Perth. We eventually found it (the signposts in Australia are generally appalling) and the view was pretty good but it would have been much better if it had been a clear day. We continued our journey, stopping in Bunbury for supplies then finding a camping spot on Ludlow Tuart Forest Tourist Drive. Maz and Alex put socks and walking boots on for the first time since China (even I was thinking it was a bit cold - it was about 19 degrees C so I'm dreading the return to winter in the UK!) and we set up camp. The biggest laugh was when Alex put the zip on legs onto the shorts he had been wearing. The shorts had been lovingly washed by Maz along with various other whites and lights at Kirsty's. Unfortunately, she had done a really good job of getting the washing clean and Alex was now sporting 2-tone trousers as the legs had not gone into the same wash! I don't think it helped that Maz and I thought this was side-splittingly funny...

A distant Perth from the zig zag road The longest wooden jetty in WA

The next day we drove towards Bussleton. The landscape was now forests, fields and rivers and was very pretty. One of the rivers we crossed was the Abba river, but whilst Maz and I were sorely tempted to break into song, she had already warned me that all Abba was banned from Tinfish and Alex had refused to let her put any on the ipod before she left home (boo hiss!) so we behaved ourselves and kept quiet. We reached Bussleton and the pair sorted out some diving for later in the week. We stopped for fish and chip lunch by the jetty - at 2km the longest wooden jetty in Australia and then made our way to Ngilgi cave for the afternoon.

Ngilgi Cave It gets quite dark in there without a torch

Ngilgi cave was really interesting. The Aboriginal story about the cave was that there was a bad spirit who came to live in the cave that stopped the locals getting food and water. When the good spirits who lived in the sea saw how unhappy the Aboriginals were, they chased the bad spirit deep into the cave with a big storm and waves until the bad spirit could run no more and he promised to leave the Aboriginals alone. The bad spirit then broke out of the earth from the back of the cave creating the place where the entrance to the cave is now. The cave was discovered in 1899 and the man who discovered it realised its tourist potential. A year later, he was lowering tourist into the cave using a horse and wicker basket. He effectively started tourism in this part of Australia. The cave itself had lots of interesting stalagmites and stalactites. It also had formations called helitites which grow any which way in zig zags and up as well as down. There were also some well developed shawls with some very pretty colours. The deepest part of the cave was cupid's corner at about 37 metres deep (about 11 storeys).

Our peaceful camp in the national park

After we had climbed back up, we felt we had earned a drink so we stopped off at the Clairault Winery for some wine tasting. The buildings were very elegant with the vines set in lovely long lines. At the tasting, none of us thought much to the reds but the sauvignon blanc was quite good, and the rose was quite drinkable too so we bought a couple of bottles to help down our chicken casserole later that evening. We found a fantastic bush camp in the middle of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, which was secluded but in a lovely clearing surrounded by trees. We ended up returning to that camp for the next few nights while exploring the area. As it was so secluded, I was introduced to the delights of outdoor showering courtesy of Tinfish complete with hot water! It was lovely! The pressure cooker casserole worked a treat and we had a lovely evening.

Taking a walk.....

The next day, we started the day with Jewel Cave. We had just missed one tour so we went for a walk round the forest of Karri trees before the next tour. Many of the trees here are so much taller than anything in the UK and these eucalypt trees are no exception. The tour began with a very enthusiastic tour guide. There used to be water in the cave but now it was quite dry. In 1978 the water levels meant there were lakes throughout the cave. By 1998, there was no water. The guide thought much of that was due to the general increase in the number of forest fires which had lead to increased vegetation on the ground which in turn meant the ground water had more trouble getting through to the cave (although a guide at another cave thought this might just be part of the reason but in reality, there was much more call on the local water resources than there had been 30 years ago). One of the funniest moments was very early on in the tour. This particular guide was very keen on everyone using their imagination to see the wonders that the cave had to offer. He pointed out a large white rock and said being close to the sea, the cave had its very own whale. He put his torch on and shone it onto the rock. A little voice piped up from the darkness, "How is that a whale?" - Out of the mouths of babes...!

The road to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse You take the Southern Ocean, I'll take the Indian

The cave was quite pretty although I personally preferred some of Ngilgi's features. It had the seemingly obligatory "Wedding cake" feature, and someone had actually got married in the cave. There was also a formation we hadn't seen before called pendulites which were straws (very thin and hollow formations and large pendulous shapes on the bottom).

The now crusty waterwheel at the end of the viaduct

After the cave we headed down towards Augusta and then travel through the Margaret River region. If you look at a map this might seem a slightly topsy turvey way of doing it but we had a few days to kill before Maz and Alex had some diving on the northern part of that coastline so we decided to make our way back up towards that. When we got to Augusta, we had lunch by the sea overlooking Cape Leeuwin Light House. We drove round to the light house and on the way passed an old water feature. When the light house was being built, the local needed some means of accessing water and being so close to the sea, it wasn't easy. They built a wooden viaduct which at one end had a waterwheel and they used the water for drinking and for mixing all the cement they needed to build the light house. The waterwheel is now clogged up with limestone but the viaduct is there and still works. We made our way back to our campsite and drove though the national park on the way going via the beach where we sat for a beer and to watch the waves for a while.

Maz and Shiv enjoying the sun and also a beer!

We began the next day with another cave - this time Lake Cave. It was quite a lot smaller than the other caves, but deeper. There was still a lot of water in the cave and unlike the other caves we'd visited was therefore still active. It had a lot of "young" decorations, straws and the beginnings of shawls, but it was absolutely beautiful with all the decorations reflected in the water. There was also a really interesting formation, almost like an upside down table, which had formed when the water and limestone levels were higher. When the water level had dropped, it left the column table legs and the table. We all thought this was the loveliest cave of the lot.

Lake Cave - the loveliest of them all

From here and being in a wine region, we decided to step out of character for a couple of days and try something new - wine tasting. We started off at the Leeuwin Estate. The sweeping pathway up to the property was surrounded by open fields and oak like trees, which Maz decided reminded her of the drive round Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The buildings when you got there were impressive too. Very nice surroundings but with the odd exception, we didn't really like the wines very much.

We moved on to Voyager Estate. This estate had a very different house style with formal structured gardens on the approach to the buildings, including a beautiful rose garden, which smelt amazing as you walked through it. There were also roses at the end of each row of vines, which are used as an early warning detection system for infestation and infection, as the roses show signs of any problems much quicker then the vines. We went into the wine tasting and were met by a very helpful and friendly man called Ben. We went through the wine tasting, starting with the whites and each wine in turn was just delicious.

The roses at the ened of the vines

Based on the other tastings we'd had we were expecting not to like the majority of the wines given to taste but every single wine was great. I even liked the Shiraz and normally I don't even taste it as the smell puts me off. We got chatting and Ben was very interested in the drive and what Maz and Alex were doing for Care. He had not long returned from travelling himself and they exchanged stories. We decided to go for an impromptu lunch at Voyager as it was already about 2pm, but unfortunately the restaurant was full, so we went to Margaret River for supplies then found a picnic spot.

We were due to go to Vasse Felix for lunch the next day because of the write up it got in Lonely Planet, so we decided to do a recce. The grounds were indeed beautiful and the restaurant overlooked the vines, but having gone for a tasting, again we didn't like the wines. The desert wine was very nice but I didn't like any of the others and Maz and Alex only maybe liked one apiece. We decided we'd had a lucky escape, as we wanted to enjoy great wines with a great meal and booked into Voyager instead for lunch the next day.


We meandered our way back to the campsite and had steaks cooked on an open fire followed by a game of Carcassonne - I was quite pleased to only lose to Alex by 3 points today!

The next day we had a lazy morning in our forest hideaway before going for lunch. We thought it would be rude not to go for another wine tasting on the way, so we stopped in at Xanadu, which is quite a modern cellar. They also had lovely, chatty staff and in their words, "Some very quaffable wines". This was very true - there were one or two we didn't like but for the most part they were very good. We bought a couple of bottles of rose to enjoy with nibbles and a bottle of fizz for my last night which was rapidly approaching.

We made our way to Voyager and stopped in for a wine tasting on the way to the restaurant - just to get an idea of what we might like to drink with lunch you understand. We were met by the lovely girl we had seen in the background the day before, Rachael, who recognised us and said with a big smile on her face, "Oh Ben will be really pleased you're back - he was talking about you yesterday". She also looked after us amazingly well and we had a chat with her before going for lunch, although she admitted it was unusual for people to come back for tasting two days running!

The sweet smalling rose garden of Voyager wine estate and the even more sweet smelling food

We were so pleased that we had decided to go back to Voyager as lunch was incredible. We found out later it had won a catering award for being the best restaurant in West Australia - and if our meal was anything to go by, they deserved it. We shared a main course as a starter. There was homemade bread with olive oil and dukkah (a kind of finely chopped nut and spices dip), crab and avocado puree, bruscetta, venison, smoked salmon wraps and a macadamia nut dip with flat bread. There was plenty to share and all of it was delicious. For the main courses, we had Dhufish with spinach, beetroot and mango salsa, a seafood platter which had marron (like lobster), scallops with pineapple salsa and king prawns with waldorf salad, and the last dish was smoked duck.

We did a mix and match sharing all the dishes and they were all gorgeous. We also had some eggplant (aubergine) and feta, and a tomato, mozzarella and crouton salad as side dishes. We had a lovely sauvignon blanc semillon to go with the starters and mains and then had a cabernet sauvignon with the cheese. We were allowed to sit and enjoy the meal at our leisure and were only hurried at all when the estate was shortly going to close, which was reasonable! We were allowed to stay in the gardens and to sit and relax for as long as we wanted until we were able to drive safely. It was a glorious early evening so we just sat and chatted and soaked up the atmosphere.

The gladitorial Carcassonne game continues...

Eventually we made our way back to camp, where we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the Xanadu wine and playing Carcassonne. Yet again Alex won, although he only beat Maz by a couple of points this time.

We had to get up very early the next morning to hot foot it to Dunsborough for Maz and Alex to go and dive the wreck of the Swan. Unfortunately, when we got there, it had been cancelled as the weather was too rough - it was very windy. However, as we were all feeling slightly the worse for wear, it was probably a good thing. We went for a walk round Cape Naturaliste to blow the cobwebs away after a lovely breakfast. We then drove down towards Walpole, which was where I had to get my bus back to Perth. We stopped to camp near Pemberton at a national trust campsite in the middle of a forest. We met some lovely people, Phil and Tess, who shared their red wine with us and chatted about the trip. They invited Maz and Alex for dinner later in the week with some friends of theirs near Denmark. We also had dinner with Ken, an interesting man who has been travelling round Australia for the last 17 years with his caravan and dog. All of this was great fun in the pouring rain as you can imagine.

This is about as high as Maz got! Shiv got to the top... and so did height fearing Mr. Towns!

The next morning we packed up and went into Pemberton to climb the Gloucester Tree, which is a 61 metre tree which has iron bars inserted into the side of it so you can climb to the top. The views at the top were amazing, all across the vast acres of forest. Maz managed about 10m, whereas Alex after a slowing at about 40m pushed himself to the top as I followed on behind. Strangely for Australia, except for the obligatory warning sign (which are every where... Cliff Hazard, Beach Hazard, Tree Hazard) there were absolutely no safety features in place. Should a person slip and fall, they'd simply tumble all the way down, taking out the rest of the tourists as they passed... at least the original faller would get a soft landing!

We drove down to Walpole where we found the Tree Top Walk - a manmade metal structure which allows you to walk trough the tree tops of the tingle trees, which are red with fat bottoms or yellow with thin bottoms, up to a height of about 40 metres. Again the views were great, although the constant swaying of the walkways as people walked across was slightly disconcerting. When we came down we walked round the tingle walk, where you could get close to the bases of the red tingles, many of which were hollow and charred following various fires. Its surprising the trees can survive the fires and live providing there is a shell of life at the outside of the tree. We found a proper campsite for my last night (as a treat!) so that we could all shower, I could pack with the aid of a light and there would be enough power for the computer so that I could finish my diary entry (my passport had been confiscated by Maz until I did the diary!). We had a lovely meal of king fish with fizz and nibbles before and a lovely chardonnay with the meal.

This walk was safer than the climb..

A big thank you has to go to Maz and Alex for a really wonderful holiday - very different from my previous time backpacking in Oz. And also a gentle prod about sponsorship. Maz and Alex really do spend hours and hours and hours writing the diaries, formatting them for the website, trying to find internet cafes to post the diaries, emailing people to try to get sponsorship as well as having a fantastic time visiting the various sites. I know many of you would often go for a drink with the pair. If you did, the cost of a drink into the Care coffers every now and again really does make an enormous difference to the running total, and buoys up Maz and Alex as they continue their journey because they know you are thinking about them from time to time...Theirs is a large glass of chardonnay!

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Comment from Martin
Great write-up! Lots of typing... Rather you than me... :D
20 Feb 2007 @ 23:25:38