Along the Margaret River

Prescott and I are staying in Margaret River, a small town in southwestern Australia that started as a logging and farming area in the mid-1800s. It has more recently become a haven for people who like good food, lots of wine, long walks along the many trails, and surfing. The 500,000 tourists every year easily outnumber the 13,000 residents.

We woke up to the slide whistle-like calls of the flock of Australian magpies in the eucalyptus tree outside. Our Airbnb apartment sits just across the street from the Margaret River (Margaret appears to have been an early resident here), and we started our day with a morning walk along the river to town.

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The trail was a broad path that wound through through tall trees and scrubby underbrush.

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We marveled at how different Australia sounds — the bird calls here are entirely unfamiliar. We’ve seen cockatoos and kookaburras, and you can find Australian ringneck parrots all over the place. This one was right outside our door.

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Everything here has to be able to withstand cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers — this area can go for three months straight without rain. This means that the vegetation is different than what we’re used to; the leaves are a greyer green and sparser than anything we have in Singapore or the eastern US.

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It’s spring, so many of the plants are in bloom. We found many small blossoming eucalyptus shrubs in the woods:IMG_3908

Prescott and I had breakfast in a bike and coffee shop called the Hairy Marron, named after an endangered crayfish that lives in the river.

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I was grateful for their wood stove, because it remains chilly and slightly damp here. We warmed up on our walk back, which took us past this eerie view:

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I am usually good at identifying front yard plantings, but most of the flowers here are new to me. Here’s a sampling of the plants in the garden at our Airbnb:

You can find proteas growing in people’s yards, which I think is pretty exciting.

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I really liked this flower, which feels like a scrub brush …

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We hopped in the car to go to the Margaret River farmers market. We didn’t buy anything — we had just eaten and can’t import much back into Singapore — but it was fun to look around and see what was on offer.

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The spring vegetables here are just what you would expect (lots of greens, cruciferous veggies, and late winter squash). This region also has avocado orchards and sheep and cow farms. The animal husbandry means that the farmers market had plenty of butchers and one or two homemade cheese vendors. You can also find citrus planted all over the place:

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We had an elegant lunch at Leeuwin Estate, a winery and restaurant with views out over the eucalyptus trees. In the afternoon, we went to Surfer’s Point, a beach area and surf break at the mouth of the river. No one was surfing — it’s really cold, and I’m guessing that the waves are much bigger in the summer. And had had we been tempted to swim, this sign might have deterred us:

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We liked that “sharks” were listed at the bottom, almost as an afterthought.

The views were outstanding…

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…so we bundled up as best we could and took a chilly walk on the beach:

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IMG_3977.jpgI engaged in my usual beachcombing — I can’t help poking around in the sand to see what kinds of shells and other kinds of interesting things I might find. The waves here kick up a lot of beautiful sea life (including tiny blue jellyfish).

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The water came in all sorts of shades of blue:

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And the sky had the drama of an approaching storm:

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We would have stayed for sunset — it looked promising — but the moments of dusk are the best time to see kangaroos!

The kangaroos near Margaret River all hang around an area near Margaret River Falls…

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… where Prescott took pictures of me taking pictures:

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From there, it’s a quick drive up Kevill Road to see the kangaroos munching away on their free meals in people’s fields.

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This little guy was right by the road:

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And this mom had a joey in her pouch! It’s a little blurry, but she wasn’t interested in my getting too close.

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In fact, she eventually hopped away. But watching the hopping is fun, too:

We saw kangaroos boxing, too — but too far away to capture on video. These guys were mostly interested in eating.

We ate dinner at Swings in front of the fire, which was perfect. I miss fireplaces.

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Our evening ended at Morrie’s, where we had cocktails and one of the best creme brulees I’ve ever had (it was topped with macadamia nut brittle and half of a perfectly poached pear). Yum!

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