|Subject:||Wine, Sheep and Tingles…|
|Date:||Fri, 21 Feb 2003 00:42:41 -0600|
|I have just returned to Perth from a bus trip tour of southwest Western
Australia. It was an organized tour with a guide. I got to see so much of
this vast and beautiful state…and we only covered 1400 kilometres in four
days through Albany, Pemberton, and Margaret River. My coach mates
consisted of the over 60-year-old set from mainly Germany and the UK. They
were all really nice and gave me great advice on two of my next
destinations: Tasmania and Thailand. But let me tell you, the red carpet was
rolled up right after dinner with this jet set! Just as well, since they
had us up at 6am every day.
Some of the highlights of the trip included:
Travelling through the Karri Forest. I have never seen the great California
Redwoods, so I really can’t compare things here…but I was in the most
beautiful forest that I have ever seen. The majority of the trees are Red
and Yellow Tingles, a type of Eucalyptus tree and pine trees. The Tingles
grow to massive heights and over 400 years. They are the sort of trees that
get so large at the base that you can cut a hole in them and walk through.
There was a Red Tingle so large at one time that you could drive a car
through it. Unfortunately, all of the weight from the cars eventually
killed the root system and the tree died. So now, they have constructed a
tree top walk. This is an elevated walkway made of a series of suspension
bridges interlocked at viewing platform junctions. As you trek through the
forest 40 meters in the air you see birds from above. It was very cool.
There is also a walk there called the Valley of the Giants. It is there
that you can walk through the giant Tingle trees. It had rained that
morning and the air was cool and crisp. The wind gently whistled through
the leaves in a very peaceful and soothing way. The scents took me back to
my days of Girl Scout Camp in northern Wisconsin. What a great moment!
We also went to a working sheep-shearing farm for a demonstration. Although
I had been to Australia before, I never saw a sheep being shorn.
The shearer had me hold the sheep in position while he explained the process. I
am sure that will be a really cute picture of me in a dress holding on to
this goofy sheep! It completely reminded me of the sheep farm in the movie,
The Thorn Birds. We also got to see a working dog demonstration with a
Border Collie gathering up the sheep in the field and herding them right
into a chute and then into the holding pen by the barn. To move things
along, there is also a Keltie dog that jumps on top of the sheep in the
chute and scares the hell out of them so they move quicker. So the Keltie
is running all along the tops nipping and the Border Collie is behind the
heard nipping. Meanwhile, all the not-so bright sheep are just stampeding each
other and throwing up a whole lot of dust. It was so fun to watch. They
tag the sheep by age and use their wool through age seven. When they reach
the age of seven they are sold for mutton. The farmer works on a rotating
basis shearing each sheep just one time per year. They do not shear in the
winter months of Jun-Aug because it rains a lot and the wool is too damp.
The wool is also rich in lanolin, so the shearers actually have very soft
hands for all the manual labour they do.
We visited a couple of wineries in the Margaret River valley. This is a
relatively new area for growing grapes. The oldest vineyards are only 30
years old. The Evans & Tate Shiraz won wine of the year in a major
competition in London a few years back and that has put their wine-growing
region on the map. And I must say, most of the wines I sampled were pretty
good. Not as cheap as South Africa, but still a good.
price. AU$11-$24 per bottler. BTW, the exchange rate here right now is
AU$1=US$1.59, so the greenbacks still go a bit further.
We also got to see the Mammoth Cave (ours are bigger in Texas!), an old
whaling station, an eagles heritage centre, and beautiful, rugged coast
where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Southern Ocean.
I will be heading to Tasmania on Monday. This is the first place I will
arrive without a solid plan or any bookings made. Just get off the plane
and have the taxi take me to the city centre of Hobart. Isn’t that
exciting? If there were anyplace to do something like that, I would think
it would be very user-friendly Tasmania. I will let you know how it goes!
Hopefully there won’t be some big event going on and I will have to sleep in
the park. That gives a whole new meaning to unemployed and homeless.
Anyway, I hear there are lots of Internet cafes, so I will be in touch!
I saw a special last night here about how America is in a panic to stock up
on duct tape, plastic, bottled water and gas masks. Now c’mon, is this an
example of the media taking a remote incident and making the world think
it’s much worse than it is? I hope you are all well and safe.
Love from Down Under,