After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Christmas in SW Australia (25th - 31st December 2011)

Liam enjoying a burger and a pint at Bootleg Brewery

Our Christmas day began with us loading up the van for the week before heading down to our local beach, Cottesloe, for a morning swim. There were lots of people in bikinis and Santa hats which was a sight to behold, and the outdoor gyms were heaving and lots of people embarking in their usual exercise routine (I know, exercise on CHRISTMAS DAY!). It was a hot, sunny day and the water was clear and inviting (still 'refreshing' as always!), the perfect way to start our first antipodean Christmas.  We then embarked on our journey down south. We make a most excellent driving couple. Liam gets car sick as a passenger so prefers to drive, Charlotte doesn't so was able to read for the whole 6 hours the journey took. Excellent! We stopped for a quick Christmas lunch of avocado salad sandwich in Bridgetown, and arrived at Peaceful Bay soon after 4pm. We cracked a couple of beers and opened our pressies, (a good haul, thanks everyone!) before driving around looking for phone signal so we could make a Christmas phone call home. Despite having two different sim cards (having spent $30 on a telstra sim card that said it covered this area) we could barely even get emergency signal and so screeched to a halt next to a phone box and made the call from there (before realising that there was a pay phone at the campsite, d'oh!).  Back at the campsite we got the stove fired up and enjoyed our Christmas dinner of marinated prawns followed by Porterhouse steak, tabbouleh, potato salad and a green salad, yum!  We walked to the beach and gazed at the amazing stars (no light pollution), and conceded that although it was strange not to be amongst family on Christmas day, we'd definitely made the best of it, and the weather had conspired to make it a very enjoyable day.

On Boxing day we just chilled out at Peaceful Bay at the campsite and the beach.  We had a lovely morning of snorkelling, swimming and making a sandman(!).  Late afternoon we headed out to the nearby Valley of The Giants National Park, to do the Treetop Walk.  It is a walkway amongst the forest suspended 40m in the air, enabling you to get up close with the huge 400 year old Tingle trees which give the National Park it's name. The walkway sways quite a lot in the breeze and really is quite an engineering feat. We also did a separate walk on terra firma where we could get a look at the bases of the trees close up, and walk through some trees which had a hollow bottom due to funhgi, parasites and fire. Pretty interesting stuff!

The 27th was Liam's birthday, so we had a fun-packed day. After the obligatory morning swim Liam opened his pressies and we packed up the van (not before a bacon butty feast). First stop was Bartholomew Meadery where we sample various types of traditional and fruity meads.  We bought a bottle of a sweet-yet-dry mead, with some beer-like qualities as it had been re-fermented in the bottle.  The bee hive was in the shop with a glass wall, so we got to see first hand the bees and thank them for their hard work!  The shop also made ice-cream, so it would be remiss of us not to try some lovely ginger ice-cream on a hot day like this. Liam chatted to the guy working there who was wearing a Rolo Tomassi t shirt, who are a band from Sheffield, small world!  We then moved on before hastily doing a u-turn after seeing a sign for a brewery, it was Liam's birthday after all!  Entering the Denmark Brew and Ales building from the front didn't really build up much expectation as it looked like a caravan park, but in fact it boasted a gorgeous veranda overlooking beautiful countryside, where we enjoyed a tasting paddle.  The beer was drinkable yet unremarkable, but the view on a hillside looking over the coastline was what this place was all about.  The day was hotting up and the locals remarked to us how it isn't often this hot down here (being on the south coast it is a lot cooler and wetter than where we live).  We moved onto Denmark for a quick pit-stop (or should that be pie-stop?) for a lunch of proper Aussie pies at an award winning bakery.  We decided that when people recommend Denmark as somewhere to visit, they mean the surrounding countryside (which admittedly is utterly, utterly stunning) rather than the town itself (nothing wrong with it but it is just a single street with a mixture of tourist shops and cafes).  We visited windswept Ocean Beach but retreated to the car to head to the next campsite at Emu Point in Albany. After a longer than intended walk around the point we wined and dined and stuck some birthday candles in some pieces of homemade peanut butter fudge, and drunk some tasty vintage barley wine we had bought a few months previously from Bootleg Brewery. Splendid!

We then treated ourselves to a lazy day where we sat reading the paper in the front of the van overlooking the ocean, and eating delicious salt and pepper squid from the Squid Shack (an Albany institution). Once it had cooled down a little we explored Albany Town Centre and enjoyed it's high street with many old buildings, as Albany was the first settlement in Western Australia.  It was quite an interesting and vibrant little town and possibly the first town we've genuinely liked (bar Freo, obviously!) in WA.  On the way back we drove up Mount Clarence to the war memorial and fantastic views over the unique landscape of various inlets and sounds.

Early next morning we packed up ready to head back to Peaceful Bay and had a glorious breakfast at Emu Point Cafe. Before getting back on the road west, we drove down a very long peninsular and to the inappropriately named Misery Beach. Oddly named, as after a long drive, followed by a hike down from the car park, the reaction stepping onto the beach is 'Oh, WOW'.  A truly beautiful beach and beautiful azure water, of course the photos just don't do it justice.  There was a huge cliff face at one end, making the scene even more impressive, and lots of huge waves crashing in making it a lot of fun to swim in!  Later in the afternoon the horse-flies came out, so we made a run for it and visited 'The Gap' and 'Natural Bridge', aptly named rock formations which date back to the last ice-age when Australia and Antartica were joined together.  Our last stop of the day was at Greens Pool, a shallow and sheltered, very pretty bay which attracts lots of families due to it being so much safer than many of the other beaches. We played with a new ball (a Waboba) we'd got for Christmas which at times was more like playing fetch, as Liam bounced the ball off the water so effectively it went for bloody miles. Thanks Mark! It was a fantastic day to mark a year to the day since we set off from home.  Thinking back to that chilly December morning when we waved our families goodbye at Chorley Railway station was strange because, in some ways, it feels like an incredibly long time ago, and in other ways it feels like time has just flown by.  We cracked opened a beer at 6.17pm to mark the occasion of our train leaving Chorley station at 10:17am British time exactly a year ago!

The following day, we awoke to damp and wet morning and tentatively tried to coax Eric into life to no avail. A German guy who was camping nearby came over, asked where we were heading, and said 'if I get your car started, can you give me a lift to Walpole?'.  All it needed was a little meths on the carburetter and we were away, and enjoyed chatting to Heigl before continuing on from Walpole to Pemberton.  Heigl had told us about some good climbing trees in Pemberton, and as it was on our way we checked one of them out, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree in the Warren National Park . We'd read about it and had in our heads an idea of a huge tree with basically a rudimentary staircase leading up it.  Charlotte was indignant when Liam asked if she was going to climb it, and retorted that of course she was going to climb it, "I'm not a wuss". Well, it turned out to be an ENORMOUS tree with metal spokes sticking out of it to climb up and around it. Turns out Charlotte is a wuss, although Liam did make it to the halfway point about 40m up.  Scary stuff! We also enjoyed a refreshing walk through the National Park in the mentholly eucalyptus air.  We then carried on to our final destination, to campsite in Margaret River that we'd visited with Charlotte's family earlier in the year.  We visited Colonial Brewery in the afternoon for a scrumptious tasting paddle - more info on this to come in the next post - 'The 12 Beers of Christmas'!

For the final day of our holiday we walked along the river from the campsite into the town of Margaret River, and had coffee at a local cafe. We then headed to Cowramup Brewery for a tasting paddle, nothing like the taste of beer in morning!  We also visited Tassle Park Wines for a tasting (as Liam felt he couldn't visit the Margaret River region twice without visiting a single winery) before heading to the Bootleg Brewery for lunch.  It being New Year's Eve, Bootleg was heaving and we were almost turned away at the gate, but conceded we were only going in for a drink, but thankfully the floor staff found us a table so we could eat.  Liam had an awesome steak sandwich and Charlotte had a scrumptious Turkish platter.  Gorgeous lunch, gorgeous beers, gorgeous setting for a brewery, amongst the farmland and forest.  It had been a great holiday, with perfect weather, and the stunning scenery of the South West coast.

We then drove home, after a long drive for Charlotte and a hard day's beer and wine sampling for Liam, we were exhausted. By the time we had unpacked it was 9pm and we thought better of our idea to go into Fremantle or to the beach for midnight (Charlotte also had to be up for work before 6am).  We watched Four Lions and went to bed at 11.15pm as we were absolutely knackered.  We were woken up by fireworks at midnight and lay in bed watching a pretty elaborate display towards Perth from the window.

So, 2011, we bid you a fond farewell.  I guess all our blog posts will attest that 2011 has been pretty swell. Yep, swell :)

Christmas '11 - South Coast WA

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