Having had an amazing week in Margaret River, pretty much exhausting the tourism map, the next stop had a high standard to meet.
The caravan awoke at 7am to Lachlan inviting the girls into our bed…. a great night’s sleep by all. Trixie had got up to all sorts of mischief and had wrapped toilet paper around himself, the balance bikes and the caravan….. luckily the girls hadn’t needed the makeshift potty during the night!
We set off at 10am having done a quick supermarket stock up before we left, and called the 2 campsites we wanted to stay at in Manjimup – they pretty much laughed down the phone at us and if they could have sworn they would have. Been booked up for months and minimum 3nights – The annual Cherry Harmony Festival was on this weekend and people come from far and wide every year to attend. It’s a shame we didn’t find out about this before as maybe we could have snuck in a last minute spot – but seeing as we only found out last night whilst washing up dinner – we changed our accommodation plans and booked Pemberton instead. I started researching the vineyards which a friend of mine, Sam, from work had collected from her local friends yesterday.
We drove for only 2hours today and towards the end of the drive we drove through the Karri Forest region which is home to one of the tallest hardwood trees in the world – the Eucalyptus diversicolor (Karri). Pemberton, which seems like a small town, is surrounded by forests, orchards, strawberries, raspberries, avocados, and most importantly vines. We checked into the Pemberton Caravan Park and had some lunch in the van – it was 31 degrees outside and no wind. Heading out in anticipation of the wines we were going to try today, I opted to be designated, as Lach missed out on some fantastic wines yesterday and I wanted him to experience this new region properly. We turned up at Silkwood Wines – a grand approach, entrance with a beautiful lake and restaurant.
Lach commenced the tasting whilst the girls disappeared behind the Xmas tree into a deep rich brown Chesterfield and read their books. It would have been a perfect location with child entertainment if we had liked their wines – however there was only 1 wine which took Lachs fancy – the 2015 Walcott Pinot Noir, but I didn’t like it so we didn’t buy any, and the other which was interesting was a fortified Zinfandel – which tasted a bit like a port.
We piled back in the car and headed for a winery which Lachs mate from work, Pete, had recommended called Bellarmine Wines. As we drove along the dirt track surrounded by forests to find the winery we come across the ‘100 Year Forest’ we discuss how unlikely it is that a vineyard will appear out here, and voila….. we get to the end of the road and no vineyard. Maybe better luck at the next vineyard, so we head to Lost Lake Winery, to find out its closed as they have no running water and therefore no toilets so the cellar door is closed. Hmmmm we are now getting a little cranky about lack of cellar doors – we know that next door – Picardy Wines is by appointment only and have called 3 times today to organise but to no avail. So we then head off on our last hope for the day to Hidden River Estate to find an open cellar door !!! Yipeeee. We see in the field next to the car park a Dalmatian horse – never seen anything like it – he was beautiful. Then we entered the property – they had an old tram out the back which was fitted out for a restaurant seating and the girls found the crayons. We mentioned to the lady that no cellar doors seem to be open, and she commented that a lot have closed down – they bought 2 years ago and since then 5 have closed down. Just not enough tourism or owners were retiring. So sad as it obviously has potential but we have leant today that the two vineyards which we have been recommended by interstate people (ie known for their wines, not just a cellar door) are both by appointment only. They just don’t get the passing trade. Once again Lach tried the wines but wasn’t impressed and so we left empty handed. Having exhausted our list of recommended vineyards to sample we decided to head to the Gloucester Tree to see whether we could all climb it and what then national park entry fee was. The Gloucester Tree was originally named the East Tree as it was used/converted as a fire lookout tower – now it is a dual monument to the beauty of nature and the skill of the western Australian forestry workers. It was named the Gloucester Tree after a visit by the Duke of Gloucester in 1947. The cabin is 53m high and tree circumference is 7m. There is a spiral ladder consisting of 153 wooden pegs ~1m long with tapered ends driven into the bored holes in the tree. Anyone is allowed to climb the tree but there is no safety net or harness etc. So Lach decided it wasn’t for him and the girls are too little – I am tempted, but couldn’t do it today as only had my flip flops! Maybe a trip back tomorrow will be in order.
We decided to head back to camp and see if there were any children for the girls to play with – the private school holidays have just started so we should now have more children in the camp grounds which will be great for the girls, with even more next weekend after the public schools break up. On the reverse this means that the camp grounds are going to start to get busy and noisy – we are definitely going to miss the silence of the campgrounds we have stayed in over the past 35 days.
The girls spent 3 hours on their scooters or playing with 2 other girls in the park, Lach and I chatted to their parents a bit but made the most of having children entertained by someone else by having a Gin and Tonic in hand. Lach went for a walk with all of them to find the local swimming hole in the river about 100m away. After dinner the girl next door, Lily (8), came around and asked whether she could please read our girls a book – of course she could. The three of them sat on the floor and read – it was really lovely. The dad came around and checked Lily was ok and had the same reaction as me – “don’t they look cute – 3 girls all reading books”
We had our return phone call from Picardy Wines this evening and have organised a tasting tomorrow at 10am before we head off down to the south coast to Walpole where I can’t wait to walk through the Valley of the Giants.