Today we are making our way back to Perth via the tree top walk in Walpole– one of the favourite things to do in this leafy part of the world. It takes about 20 minutes along suspension bridges hung between the canopies of the great Tingle Trees. They are huge old souls with red bark and cavernous trunks - some hollowed out and as wide as 16m in circumference. They look (and indeed even their name suggests) like kindly old fairy tale characters from a story book waiting to come to life at any moment and start talking. The walk is incredibly peaceful – its a gorgeous sunshiny day and Teresa and I stand on one of the bridges and regard our shadows cast onto the canopy of tree tops below and around us. We then do the ground level board walk to read about the natural wildlife including some pearly blue toadstools that live here and then decide – that is enough nature – its time to indulge in what the area is really famous for – wine!
The Lakehouse is just one of the many wineries in the region. But as its name suggests it is set amongst a lake decorated with weeping willows. We sit in a sunny alcove of the restaurant – overlooking a flat glassy lake and some late blooming wild winter flowers and for free- try three of the house Sauvignon Blancs and three of their red wines. Then we settle down to a sharing platter -which they adapt especially for Teresa to make sure she has enough vegetarian options. We buy a bottle of wine to go with the lunch and one for later as well. The food is fantastic – at around $40 each for a sharing platter it's not cheap but great quality.
There is Spanish omelette and vegetable bean patties with a tomato chutney for Teresa as well as a selection of cheeses (brie, camembert and cheddars) with home made red wine and chardonnay jellies to accompany as well as fresh ham hock off the bone, chorizo grilled in a port wine reduction and marinated roasted tomatoes for me. By the end we have full tummies and are nicely warmed by the wine.
When we have finally sobered up we make our way to Green's Pool – Teresa has insisted I see this beach although I can't really work out why -all beaches are beautiful aren't they in their own way? – i'm not sure what will make this one so special. However once we arrive I get it. Outside of the bay area the waves froth and crash but here the rocks out to sea somehow form a little boundary that protects the inlet– leaving the water smooth and milky like a great lagoon – interspersed by the occasional dark purple boulder. The sun is just starting to set as we arrive and a crisp new moon hangs in the sky, silver and shimmering in the water below. We take a walk around the beach into Elephant's Cove – so called because of the great grey masses of boulders that rise out of the beach like the large slumbering backs of elephants. We walk slowly back to the car leaving a lone photogrpaher out on the rocks trying to capture the beauty of the bay as the last of the sun has burnt from the sky turning it slowly to amethyst. Its a place of such peach and tranquility and twilight is always such a magical time – I think this rates as one of my favorite places i've visited so far.
The next day we are homeward bound. We have been staying in Denmark at Teresa's friend's house. They have built their dream home from scratch -and even though the winter nights are drawing in we have managed to make ouselves cosy by building a fire each night from their wood burner (luckily they ave left the firewood for us – I don't think these city girls would know how to forage for dry kindling.) Two of our evenings have been spent by the fire - cooking pasta and salad and drinking some red wine of the region followed by a game of scrabble and putting the world to rights. When we wake up we can see wild kangaroos lounging on the lawn in the early morning sunshine. I'm definitely in Australia now.
Because Teresa has lived in Australia for over 10 years this is the longest quality time we have spent with each other since our university days in the mid nineties. Sometimes it really is the simplest pleasures in life that are our best.
Our little roadtrip finishes with a stop off at Bartholomew's meadery where they keep a hive of bees and make all things bee related. We purchase some mead for Teresa's mother as well as propolis – a cure all ointment made from a by product of bees that I think will come in handy for travelling. We do a free tasting of their honey –and i fall in love with their cashew nut flavoured one but lugging a big heavy jar around with me whilst i'm living out of a back pack isn't practical so I make do with buying us some ginger and honey ice cream for the road trip back.
I bid farewell to Teresa armed with a couple of guidebooks on China from her mum and arrive back in Sydney where I just have time to restock my medical kit and get some last minute tips on Beijing from Ivy before saying goodbye and thank you to my cousin and all my Australian friends who have taken such good care of me -before I head off for what I think of as "The Grand Tour - Phase Two!"
Next stop: Beijing.