After the bucolic charm of Pemberton, we set off for the (relative) sophistication of Margaret River. This is the heart of the West Australian wine industry and we can report that the wines are rather good, especially the shirazs and the sauvignon blanc / semillon blends. We could not resist buying some wine. We will have to leave what we do not drink with our hosts when we leave WA.
The vineyards are very pleasant places and some go out of their way to look very grand in an English Stately Home sort of way.
The rocks of the area are ancient (early Palaeozoic) quartzo-feldspathic gneisses – essentially cooked and kneaded granites – covered with recent limestone and sand.
The limestone and sand cover is very extensive and of varying date. It is still being deposited but some goes back maybe two million years. The Leeuwin – Naturaliste Ridge is a north south sand dune which has been transformed into a limestone. It has many caves which you can visit.
We went to Mammoth Cave.
There are lots of stalactites and stalagmites to be seen. Here is one of my photos – but the postcards were better.
On the surface the characteristic vegetation is karri forest. The trees are not as large as those near Pemberton, but they are still impressive.
If you continue south you get to the south west corner of Australia – Cape Leeuwin. And it has a lighthouse. This was built by West Australia late in the nineteenth century. It would have been built ten years earlier if West Australia could have persuaded the eastern states to pay a share – most of the ships benefiting from the light were bound for Sydney or Melbourne – but getting States to co-operate before the founding of the Commonwealth of Australia was a non-starter.
The light still functions and is a considerable attraction. Cape Leeuwin is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, but it all looks like cold water to me.
While travelling near Margaret River we saw a group of kangaroos. This was the largest group we had seen in all our travels and we were able to get some photgraphs.
The coast near Margaret River is often a series of white sandy beaches interspersed with outcrops of gneiss and there are many caravan parks to cater for holiday makers. But as you go northwards the gneiss outcrops become more extensive and people sitting on the sand are replaced by people fishing off the rocks. If you head westwards from here you scrape the southern tip of Africa and hit land at Montevideo in South America. So even on calm days the seas can be large. There were no fishermen on this rock!
This particular area was called the Canal Rocks – the canals were joints in the gneiss eroded by the sea. So the resemblances to Venice are not strong.
But when you go round the corner and are sheltered from the westerlies it becomes very much calmer. Dunsborough is all about beaches and messing about in boats.
After five nights at Margaret River we set off for Albany and that will be the subject of the next post.