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We're relaxing in our new hotel room, back in Perth after a day of driving and stopping off for various sights along the way from Margaret River. We began the day with cereal again, before packing the car and checking out of Australis. We stopped in town for coffee and to buy some things for lunch. From the Brumbies bakery we got four bread rolls with lots of different seeds and grains in them. To go with this, we got some Vegemite from Coles, as well as some fresh fruit - a couple of apples and a couple of pears. Then we left town and stopped off at the original Margaret River Dairy Company cheese shop (that we'd visited yesterday) to buy a small pack of chili cheese to combine with the rolls for lunch.
Next we headed north, intending to check out Sugarloaf Rock off the coast near Cape Naturaliste, another of the places that the jeweller's assistant had recommended to us for photography. On the way, we passed by the Bootleg Brewery, who had made the delicious ale I'd had the other night with the pizza. We popped in, expecting it to be open by 10:00, but a sign at the gate said it opened to the public only at 11:00. So we had to skip that and headed straight out to Sugarloaf Rock.
This was a large dome-shaped rock jutting out of the ocean just off the shore, which was also rocky with red coloured stone piled high in intriguingly eroded shapes. The wind was whipping the surf up again today and the sun was peeking out now and then from behind grey clouds, making a dramatic vista. I clambered over the rocks to get different angles, making a loop down to the water level from the hill-top lookout, and back up the other side. This stop was well worth it - I think it might produce some of the best photos of the trip.
Shoreline with view of Sugarloaf Rock
Done there, we turned east to head back up the coast to Perth. On the way to the town of Dunsborough, we stopped in at our last vineyard of the trip, Wise Wines. This had a terrace and restaurant with more spectacular views over a valley leading down to the ocean beyond to the north. We went into the wine tasting area and had sips of their two Sémillon-Sauvignon blanc blends. The first was mostly Sauvignon blanc and had that tangy taste we'd come to expect, though not as good as the one M. liked from Wills Domain yesterday. The second had more Sémillon, and the guy told us it had had four months in oak, which was obvious from a taste. But the oak wasn't overpowering and actually helped add depth to the wine - a pleasant surprise given my previous experience with oaked wines. It was very nice and would have worked well with some robust fish like salmon. I also tried their Shiraz, which was very spicy and peppery. Then I tried the Tokay sweet wine, which was amazing - thick and syrupy like honey, with spices like Christmas cake. It was so good we snapped up a bottle and grabbed their flyer for reference when we get home.
We've just returned to our hotel room after an interesting dinner - but more on that later.
Leaving Wise Wines, we drove into the town of Dunsborough, which turned out to be a lot bigger than we expected, with extensive suburbs and a multi-block central shopping area full of new looking buildings that looked much nicer than the run down centre of Bunbury. We stopped here to take a look at the gallery of the local landscape photographer Christian Fletcher. This contained many spectacular photos of both places in the south-west of Western Australia and the rest of Australia, printed variously on paper, canvas, or aluminium sheets with a glossy finish. There were some really good ones and it was worth the stop.
Another view of Cape Naturaliste and Sugarloaf Rock
Leaving Dunsborough, we passed through Busselton without stopping, then turned off the highway on to the tourist drive through the Ludlow Tuart Forest National Park - a piece of remnant tall tree forest along the coast. The trees were fun to drive through, though not as spectacular and tall as other tall tree forests we've seen (in Tasmania and California). We pulled off the road at a picnic spot in the forest to eat our lunch of bread rolls. We sat in the car to eat, since there wasn't actually any picnic table or seats there, and there were large mosquitoes flitting around outside. While we ate, a small campervan pulled up near us and a woman got out and pulled out a laptop computer to work on while sitting in the back. It looked like she was travelling alone.
We continued on, driving right past Bunbury without stopping. Along the old coast road to Mandurah, we spotted signs advertising mango and other fruit wines, from Lake Clifton Wines. We'd seen them on the way down, but this time we took the time to stop and check it out. We tried mango and mulberry wines, and then a mango liqueur. We both liked the mulberry wine the best, so bought a bottle of that. They also did a white port from Chenin blanc grapes, and I got a bottle of that as a gift for my mother, because she mentioned a while ago that she liked white port.
The next stop was Mandurah, where we popped in to the Mandurah branch of the Miami Bakehouse for a quick coffee for M. and a custard and apple tart for me. This resembled a standard custard tart, but with the custard piled high into a conical mound on the base, rather than sitting flat within it. A label by the tarts indicated that they were apple tarts with custard on top, combining the best of both worlds! It was really delicious and a great idea.
Sugarloaf Ro— no, wait! It's an apple custard tart from Miami Bakehouse, Mandurah
Checking the time, we realised it was getting on to 15:30, giving us an hour and a half to get back to Perth, check in to our hotel, and try to get the car back to Avis before they closed at 17:00. I thought we might have a chance to make it - but if not we'd have to park the car overnight and then return it before 09:00 tomorrow to stay within our rental period.
The drive back found us taking a wrong turn at one point, putting us on the old coast road, Highway 1, rather than the new Kwinana Freeway which ran parallel to it, further inland. We needed to be on the freeway as we knew where it ended up and what exit to take to get to our hotel, whereas we had no idea where Highway 1 would take us into Perth - probably somewhere near Fremantle. Fortunately a bit further along we found an exit labelled as leading to Perth via the freeway, so took that and crossed over to the parallel road while still outside Perth.
Thanks to this manoeuvre, we ended up exactly where we wanted to be, and even managed to find a parking spot on King St right outside our hotel! It was now 16:30, so we had only 30 minutes to try to get the car back, fully fuelled so we wouldn't need to pay the outrageous petrol charge of the hire company. We mentioned this to the woman at the check-in counter, and they said the concierge couldn't take the car back for us, but they gave us a map with the nearest petrol stations on it and had the concierge come out and collect our bags from the car and take them up to our room for us so we could take off right way in the car.
View from our hotel, Rydges Perth
We drove up King St to Wellington St, then east to the petrol station at Hill St, just two blocks from the Avis depot. We managed to get the car filled and back easily in time, which means we avoid having to get up and take the car back early tomorrow.
Back at the hotel, we watched the news and decided to try to get a table for dinner at the Annalakshmi Restaurant. M. phoned and was told merely to "come on down!" rather than making a booking, so we presumed they weren't very busy. We wandered down to the restaurant, which is in a prime location on the Barrack St Wharf on the Swan River. The restaurant is unusual, being an Indian vegetarian place staffed by volunteers. They charge nothing for meals and rely on donations from diners, asking that you give whatever your feel is suitable.
When we arrived, the place was mostly full, but a man showed us straight to a table. The food was in a buffet from which diners served themselves. The selection included rice with spinach and spices, plain rice, a potato curry, lentil dhal, a spicy pumpkin curry, a broth-like soup, and small dosai-like pancakes. It was all good and you could eat as much as you liked from large stainless steel trays. There was also a dessert of what tasted like a sweet semolina pudding, coloured carrot orange and with a faint spicy flavour - very nice. The ambience was unusual, with many tables of hip looking young people mixing with scruffy unemployed types and some older people dressed in evening wear as if going to a play or concert later. We ate our fill, then offered $50 as we left, figuring we could afford it, and it was about what we pay for a restaurant meal at home.
Dinner at Annalakshmi
We walked back to our hotel, stopping off at a Woolies in the Hay St Mall to pick up milk and yoghurt to have with our cereal in the morning for breakfast. That done, we turned in for the evening. We have no plans for tomorrow, waiting to see what the weather is like before deciding.
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