DM and MM's Western Australia 2010 Diary

Day 4 - North of Margaret River

Tuesday, 17 August, 2010

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18:20

Today began with more cereal for breakfast, before hitting the road via Margaret River for a coffee for M. Then we headed north to a cluster of artisan galleries, hoping to find one open at 09:00 so we could begin our day of exploring the region. Unfortunately, every gallery of the several we passed - plus all the wineries - didn't open until 10:00. So we killed time by driving from place to place past various farms and vineyards, seeking an early opener, until about 09:40, when we gave up and simply went back to Happs Vineyard and Pottery to wait until it opened.

The weather today began rainy, with heavy showers, but these were punctuated by periods of sunshine. It was sunny while we waited and then entered the Happs Pottery to look around at the beautifully glazed ceramic wares. We ended up buying a pair of bowls in a blue and red glaze pattern, suitable for use as fruit bowls or serving bowls. We had them packed for posting back home so we wouldn't have to carry them on the plane. (They arrived safely intact after we got home.)

Farmbow
Rainbow morning

Once that was done, we moved to the adjoining winery and tasting area to try some of the Happs range of wines. Unlike the Leeuwin Estate winery, which only made nine different types of wine, Happs made about 30 different styles! These included some semi-sweet and fizzy party style wines that were rather inexpensive, some more standard dry white and red varieties, and then a range of four different fortified wines. I tasted a small selection, including a Viognier, Verdelho, Sauvignon blanc, and two vintages of Merlot, then a couple of the fortified wines, making sure to spit rather than swallow as I was driving. The 2005 Merlot was nice, and the Grand Old Muscat was amazing, so we bought a bottle of each of those.

While doing all this, the rain started up again, pelting down heavily. Fortunately it didn't last and was back to sunny again by the time we left.

19:50

From Happs, we went to the John Miller Design jewellery gallery. This guy makes some very interesting silver and gold pieces, with carved animal designs in them. John himself had his working studio in the shop, and we could see him at work crafting new pieces with a wide selection of tools. M. took a liking to a gold bracelet with an outback creatures design. It was not cheap, so we decided to mull it over lunch and let them know in the afternoon.

The Jeweller
John Miller at work, of John Miller Design

I asked if I could take photos of John working, and that started an enthusiastic conversation, as it turned out he was also a keen photographer and he dragged out his own Canon EOS 5D Mark II to match mine! He put down his jewellery making tools and showed me a small portfolio of product and model photos, all of which he'd taken himself. We chatted a bit about cameras and then he asked if I'd been out to the coast to take any photos. When I said not yet, his sales assistant drew up a map for me with a half dozen select places to check out for good photographic scenery.

Finally leaving the gallery, we headed to the Yallingup Shearing Shed, which had several Merino sheep roaming around, and an actual shearing shed where they apparently did demos during more touristy seasons. Adjoining this was a shop containing many woollen items for sale. A brief browse here was enough, then we headed out again.

Old Tractor
Old tractor at the Yallingup Shearing Shed

It was getting on to lunch time, but we had one more stop on the way to a lunch venue. This was at the Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory, where we saw some people chopping large blocks of freshly made soap into bars on the factory floor that was next to the product sales area, sunken down a few steps. There was also a tasting area for olive oil and other products like sauces, mustards, and so on. We tried a few of the products, including a macadamia pesto which was very nice. M. bought a mandarin and vanilla lip balm stick, made mainly of olive oil.

Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory
Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory

We headed over to Wills Domain Winery, which had a restaurant where we got a table for lunch overlooking an expansive view across a valley full of vineyards - beautiful in the patchy light of a partly cloudy sky. We had some bread to start, then M. had a polenta and feta soufflé, with roasted pumpkin, pepitas, quinoa, and dates, while I had the duck dish: two duck legs, roasted vegetables including baby beetroot, carrots, potato, parsnip, and onions, with a pear puree, reduced balsamic sauce, and a small salad of radish, and dried figs.

Duck Legs with Roasted Vegetables and Pear Puree
Duck Legs with Roasted Vegetables and Pear Puree, Wills Domain Winery

With this we had glasses of wine, a SĂ©millon-Sauvignon blanc for M. and a Shiraz for me. M. really liked the lemony freshness of hers, while the cool climate Shiraz was nice, particularly with the duck. As we ate this leisurely lunch, the rain fell in short but intense bursts outside. By the time we'd finished, it had stopped again.

Wills Domain Vineyard
Vineyard view from Wills Domain Winery

We'd decided to buy the gold bracelet from John Miller Design, so headed back there. John was pleased to see us again, and the sales lady printed out a certificate of authenticity and an insurance valuation for us. We figured this piece of jewellery would serve for M.'s major birthday coming up - so I'm off the hook with regard to any presents for a good while!

From there, we drove out to one of the suggested photo op spots on the coast, at Injidup Point. This turned out to be a beautiful spot with scenic rock formations marching into the stormy sea. It was very windy and we didn't stay long, but I got some photos which will hopefully turn out well.

Injidup to Canal Rocks
Rocks at Injidup Point

Next stop was the Margaret River Chocolate Company, where we browsed the delicious looking chocolates. There was a large window showing the factory floor area, but the two workers in there looked like they were cleaning up for the day, not actually making any chocolates. We bought a couple of bars of chocolate - a 70% cocoa dark bar and a dark choc-mint bar.

Then we headed over to the Margaret River Dairy Company to try some cheese and yoghurt. This company has two separate locations only a couple of kilometres apart. We tried both of them and at the second learnt that it, the smaller one, was the original location of the cheese factory until it moved to the new, larger premises up the road.

Western Evening
Coast at Gracetown

With the time now 17:00 and all of the tourist places closing for the day, we headed out to the coast again, taking the road out to the township of Gracetown. This led us to another windswept rocky promontory, where I took some photos in the setting sun. The sun broke through the thick cloud on the horizon, illuminating the red rocks near the surf and providing what I hope will be some good shots. The wind was horrendous, very strong and cold, but not enough to deter what looked like a family group of four people who donned waterproof overalls while we were there and then climbed out on to the rocks to begin fishing.

A sign at the beach where a boat ramp entered the water near a short jetty indicated that the beach was closed due to sharks. We only found later back in our room when watching the TV news that a surfer had been attacked and killed by a shark this very morning - at that exact beach.

View across Gracetown
View towards Gracetown

Once the best light of sunset was over, we headed back to our room to rest a bit before dinner. When we went out, it was to find something relatively light and simple after our fancy lunch. We settled on a chicken shop, where I got a quarter barbecued chicken and chips, and M. just got a serve of chips. This was easily our cheapest meal of the trip so far - dinner for the two of us for just $9.50!

Then it was back to our room to eat the chicken and chips - which were tasty and hot and hit the spot. We had a chunk of our 70% cocoa bar as dessert while watching Top Gear on the tele before retiring for the night.



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