Thursday, 18 November 2010

Burning rubber

I feel slightly guilty admitting it but hiring a car is the best thing I’ve done so far on this trip. I may pretend to be the intrepid traveler but the truth is that travelling with my own vehicle is far more comfortable (it has air con for a start), involves much less lugging of suitcases and means I can see so much more than if I braved the public transport network.

Since picking the car up in Perth on Monday I’ve travelled over 500km and spent my days zigzagging around the area south of the city to Bunbury, Margaret River and Nannup, getting to know the region so much better than I could have ever done by bus (unless I had weeks to see it in, of course). I’ve been to out-of-the-way wineries, side-of-the-road food producers and am now staying at a rural B&B near Nannup which feels a whole lot less isolated when I remember the shiny gold Holden Omega sitting just outside.

The past two days have been spent on the Munda Biddi cycling trail, a new long-distance cycleway which begins in the outskirts of Perth and is being extended all the way down to Albany on the south coast. I’ve seen large chunks of the trail from the saddle (plus lots of its access points from the road) and it really is beautiful. It winds through the karri and jarra forests, sometimes emerging into hot, dusty scrubland, at other times plunging into thick woodland. Birdwatchers would be in their element here – I’ve seen dozens of different species including cockatoos, galahs and wrens and am told that my home for the night, the Blue House, perched on top of a small hill overlooking fields and forest, is the perfect place to spot lots of dazzling blue wrens.

Considering the dry landscape and unrelenting sun it’s amazing to see anything alive at all out here, but there have been numerous wild flowers of all different colours, including some wonderful orchids, poking their heads through from the gravel and a whole host of lizards, snakes and goannas have crossed my path (or rather, darted from it) as I’ve cycled or walked by.

I wish I had a bit longer here but, as is the curse of the travel writer, I have other places to get to. I’m starting to feel the pain of my itinerary with its 6am starts, long drives and endless new faces but that open road feeling is getting me through and I’m loving the constant thrill of the new. And besides, tomorrow includes chocolate and wine tasting – what could be better than that?

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