Margaret River - Wine, Waves & a Wicked Van
I think Margaret River is the reason I came to Australia… though I didn’t know that until we road tripped down there and spent five days in the region. I’m not sure if it was the drop from the local vines, watching the five metre swell crash against the giant rocky coastal cliffs or the wildlife that hooked me…. maybe it was everything. What I’m trying to say, is that the south-west corner of this continent embodies everything I expected to get out of my Australian experience, and it had endless amounts of it all.
What’s grown and produced in Margaret River really ended up defining our trip. We took a chilled-out wine tour to sample the vino that comes from the region’s famous grapes and as we learned about each winery’s story and got informed on the wine-making process, I could tell that the local vintner’s passion was infecting me. It was hard to resist… I mean, with wine that delicious! The region is still pretty small-scale in terms of export, so we’re talking about people who simply make wine for the love of it. You could really taste that love, and I definitely brought some of it home, bottled.
Not neglecting our love for beer, our camper van took us to visit the local brewers, where we felt a little more in our element. Most interesting was the Bush Shack Brewery, makers of some quirky brews, such as Strawberry Blonde, Chilli Ale and Chocolate Beer. Our tastebuds were reeling. Margaret River tastes good.
Our trusty tin-can of a Wicked Van helped us peruse the coastal road from our campground base to indulge in everything else that the region had to offer, from blissfully silent caves to soft white beaches. But the most unforgettable for me was, simply, the scenery. The best things in life really aren’t things…
We parked our van almost anywhere to enjoy them. Cooking lunch on a beach and watching the waves pound the coast… Perching ourselves on a cliffside rock with a sundowner to listen to the ocean and watch the day wrap up. The south-west coastline is a sight for sore eyes, and it really doesn’t get much more beautiful than this. Even driving offered up some gorgeous sights; sprawling countryside paralleled by infinite coastline… One hundred vineyards, thousands of vine blocks… Kangaroos bounding away through the fields. So stunning, I could go on forever. It went on forever.
The entire trip came full circle on the last night, spent enjoying a couple of bottles of cleanskin Chardonnay from a local winery. These grapes didn’t turn out as perfect as they should, so it’s sold without a label for cheap at the cellar door. The sun disappeared over Busselton Jetty (the longest in the southern hemisphere at 2km) and soon the wine did too. We drank it out of plastic mugs for extra classiness and moved indoors to the van for a relaxing night of hearty camp-made pasta, cards, and more Chard. MMMMmmmmmm.
Yours loving the Margaret River aftertaste,
Since leaving my home in Canada on July 14, I have been in a constant state between home and away… a journey where I’ve lost myself and found myself, barely staying in one place. Since leaving my certainties and predispositions back home that term has grown pretty loose. What is a home? Is it a place? A feeling? In between the grime of a South East Asian hostel and my parent’s place back in Ontario, I’ve adopted many places that I’ve called home - a place of refuge, a place with a bed, with a pool, with wifi, with a bucket shower….. some have ticked all the boxes, and some have ticked one or two.
These places I’ve called home are a home, but not just because of what’s in them. It’s what I do in them. These spaces serve a massive moral purpose for the traveling I’ve done. They’re where I lay down my head after a long day, kept up by the buzzing in my head, going over and over and over…. everything I’ve seen. Things that have flipped my world upside down and changed me. A place where we crack open a local brew and try to make sense of a backwards land we’ve found ourselves in. Sure, some are barely makeshift when it comes to homes, and some are absolute paradise. But they’re a base where I can process things… sleep off a long day in the air… and where I’m safe with my partner in crime.
After 7 weeks on our last trip to South East Asia, where I was more mentally and physically challenged than I have ever been, these places were the key to my sanity. But…. I was craving stability. A more conventional home. We re-entered Australia and it felt good to be back… back in a place that wasn’t making me question everything, so often. A paradise in the first world, a place that is just easy. My mind and body wanted it. And after one more week in transition mode, we got what we were after, our little slice of the Australian dream.
It wasn’t that simple, though… you can’t expect it to be. We had to work to find our next home on the other side, of the other side of the world. A week in the hottest possible hostel, in the midst of the hottest ever Perth summer, we perused the suburbs for that place. And we found it in Cottesloe… Perth’s pristine town by a sprawling, curvy blonde beach and the seemingly endless Indian Ocean. The place we live… it’s really got that homey feeling - it’s a breezy, bright refuge from the relentless WA sun. We walk to the beach, to the grocery shops… I walk to work at the pub where I pour beers for the locals who know my name… we live here. We cook. We clean. Study. Work. It’s home. And of course I still reflect on where I’ve been when I’m up at night.
Home used to just be one place for me, but that has changed. Traveling has made me more adaptive. Anywhere can be home if it has at least a little comfort. It’s here or there, beautiful or grungy. Home is where I escape and reflect, where I hang out and kill time…. and it’s wherever I’m with you.
Yours from home on Australia’s Sunset Coast,
Photos of Cottesloe above - and some of a really cool art exhibition called Sculptures by the Sea. (You can take that literally) Enjoy!
Life is “Sweet As” in Australia. And Endless Summer Begins.
Two months in to my time as a temporary resident of Aus and I feel I’m at home already - I’m in my element, totally thriving on the simplicity of my life here and the small pleasures and massive beauties that this place, my own backyard, has to offer.
Stress? Drama? Though life back home had little of these two things, I barely know the meaning of them now. The only thing that has annoyed me lately was the drunk Uni student at my bar that paid for his drink in 10 cent coins.
Even the most minor upset can be turned around just by a night-walk by the beach, three blocks from our place. Everything’s just easy. Yeah, that’s my kind of life. We haven’t spent any big bucks traveling, or on entertainment…
…It’s all here. I’m talking about endless coastline at our disposal where I’m strapping on a wetsuit and learning to catch a wave, ditching my iPod in favour of the sound of crashing waves during my barefoot beach jogs, driving our hilarious (but hearty) car down the coast in search of a new beach and stopping for a good Aussie pie on the way in a chilled-out coastal town……. ahhh. There’s nothing higher to aspire to for a beach bum like me. It’s the kind of thing that drew me here, and it’s the kind of thing that has made me fall in love with the place.
And, yes, I know there’s “heaps” more to see, much more offered to me by Australia than the Sydney to South Coast region of New South Wales…. but right now I’m happy staying put. Settled in, chilled out…. totally satisfied.
My days are free for whatever as I work the bar at a local club (where my Canadian charm goes a long way in a non-tipping culture) - and I plan on using these days to the fullest as our time in the Illawarra winds down. We’ll be sure to do every hike, dig our toes in to the sand of every nearby beach and absorb the beauty of every headland in sight. The best part is that it gets better with time, as I get to know it, discovering new things that I previously overlooked and appreciating every bit.
I’m not even close to tired of this place - something this amazing just doesn’t get old. Sometimes I stop and think….. just to make sure I’m living in the now and realizing everything I’ve got here. I’m going to chase this feeling all over Australia - from NSW to Western Aus to Queensland - the sound of the waves, the sprawling, curvy white beaches….. that’s why I’m here. To live the life…. and I’m livin’ it.
Now, my fellow lovers of wildlife, outdoors, natural beauty….. I know that this post has probably made you jealous. I apologize, and I know not everyone can be in Australia and some may even be stuck somewhere in southern Ontario that seems like the biggest hole on earth. So do something about that - make it better, find your thing. I can assure you that it’s there, somewhere. Hikes, bike rides, waterfalls, lookouts, scenic drives, beaches, parks….. they may not be world class, but they’re still fun/free. Do it!
Or… just come visit me. There’s plenty of room for more Canucks on these Aussie beaches!
Yours taking it all in,