Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Little Walpole!"

What a hoot: kookaburras laughing away in the gum trees on the hills all around the fancy but comfortable stone barn where we're staying tonight - impossible not to laugh along with that absurd sound, especially after a couple of glasses of Stonebarn bubbles. "Like monkeys in the forest," says Katrin from Estonia (not, as it happens, a nation known for its jungles) as she lays the table for our dinner on the terrace overlooking the dam with the fading afterglow of the sunset beyond.

This morning we went out with Gary Muir on a wilderness cruise that would have been a bit meh if it hadn't been for Gazza himself, who put on an extraordinary performance that mixed science, history, botany and literature with drama and stand-up comedy. It was a tour-de-force, totally entertaining as we cruised across the inlet to a jetty where we walked over the hill to a pristine beach, getting excited en route by tiny indentations in the sand that may have been made by a thought-extinct hopping mouse. Not exciting to you? Only because you weren't there - shame! It was a fabulous morning out, and Gazza managed to link Walpole (pop. 512) with Tolstoy, Kipling, GB Shaw, the Dreyfuss Affair, Gallipoli, the sinking of the Mandalay and what felt like most of Australian history along with some of NZ's, each time finishing up with an incredulous "Little Walpole!" Totally recommended.

Then we rejigged our itinerary so that we could fit in some ambience-time today, and drove back along the South-Western Highway to Peaceful Bay which was, guess? Totally peaceful as well as pristine, unspoiled and private. Sea temperature 24 degrees, clear as, calm and perfect, basically. All that plus Smiths original thinly cut crisps and a (totally biodegradable) pouch of Bannister Downs mango smoothie for our lunch. What more could you want? More time to enjoy it all, probably.

Next stop was Pemberton to visit the Gloucester Tree: a 70m karri tree (gum tree) formerly used as a forest fire spotting station. How um, refreshing, these days to find a tree where you can climb up 58m on iron pegs rammed into the trunk with a token mesh on the outside, the only warning on the sign at the bottom: 'Slippery when wet!' To be boringly honest, I didn't make it to the top - only about 1/3 of the way up. There wasn't enough time - really, I wanted to do it, but we had to get on, to Stonebarn.

It was a shame - but then again, we've had a lovely evening on the terrace looking over the dam to the sunset, eating a delicious meal and talking about tourism and technology with Walter and Dion. And now I'm going to go out into the pitch dark to look at the Milky Way before bed - and not soon enough, if you only knew how much back-spacing this post has required. I'm blaming Stonebarn's own sparkling wine, and sauvignon blanc, and shiraz.

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