Yes, that’s 4 stars – ****. In spite of the fact that I’m staying in the Bayview Resort (read “Youth Hostel”) in Augusta, in a room that is lacking heat and a phone, and that I had dinner at an unlicensed (no beer or wine) café attached to the Gull gas station a block away, this was likely the best day of bike touring I’ve ever had anywhere.
Coming out of Bunbury, the plan was simple – breakfast at Busselton, lunch at a winery at Margaret River, into Augusta by 3PM and then check out Cape Leeuwin. Yesterday was so dull I woke determined to find interesting non-road shots. Never knowing what to expect, at a roadside information stand celebrating local titanium mining (“everyone uses it everyday” – in everything from food coloring to computers), I took a picture of a little stream running through the trees and wild flowers.
15km from Busselton, I turned onto the scenic road (read old highway before they built the new 4-laner). This was Ludlow Tuart Road leading past Tuart Forest National Park, the world’s largest pure Tuart forest. A sunny day, a good road, a pretty forest – I was having a happy morning with only the nagging concern that I’d never figure out what a Tuart tree was, and let you all down.
Busselton, like most of the towns so far in WA, was a couple km off the main highway. I was making good time, so with the logic that I may never see anything around here ever again, I decided I should detour over and check it out. Rode down the main street to the ocean and came to a pretty little park with a waterslide, miniature golf, grass, trees, picnic tables, people, etc. and viola!
That my not look like much to you, but it’s the Busselton Jetty. Stretching 2km into Geographe Bay (named after the French Ship that bore its discoverers), it is the longest wood structure in the southern hemisphere, the longest over water structure in Australia, with a little train that takes you to the end and back – a legitimate sight with a fun element – the Busselton Jetty! Those of you who know me well, know what comes next.
This alone would have been enough to make my day. The couple that took my photo were from Queensland on holiday in Western Australia, heading north from where I was going. They briefed me on the scenic road (Caves Road – highly recommended) and the highway (dull, flatter, shorter). Given the hour I just burned up in Busselton, I went for the wide median on the highway. After a morning to moment of nothing but flat, the terrain turned to gently rolling hills – mostly pastures, with a few wineries that looked like the owners recently plowed and planted grapes, and threw up a shed to sell tourists cheap wine from new vines.
I crossed The River and came to The Town. All it is is about 3 blocks of boutique shops, restaurants and accommodations on a hill. I rode up without stopping, turned right at the main intersection, and kept heading toward the answer to the question “If you could only visit one or two… where should I go?” The guy on the train said go to Voyager (great wines) and Leeuwin Estates (OK wines, but beautiful for lunch). Just south of town I saw..
“a fascinating collection of wedge-tail and white-breasted sea eagles, peregrine falcons and a few owls – a rare menagerie of impressive flying hunters.” A reason for Rob and Cathy to come out here, in addition to the wine. Undeterred, a giant Australian flag loomed in the distance.
The rootstock here was more than just sticks. The vineyard was very well kept.
The place was magnificent, inside and out. Immaculate, tasteful. As good or better than most anything in Napa (except Opus One). Really. I should have taken more pictures, but I was there for a reason.
They were very friendly and let me taste their best white (a 2000 Chardonnay) and best red (a 1999 Cab/Merlot blend) for free, in spite of the facts that a) I was kind of sweaty, b) I obviously couldn’t carry wine on my bike, and c) the wines said “tasting charge applies”. I asked for little tastes, they gave me big. They took my picture. They have no importer in the USA. I should change careers. I then headed toward a late lunch at Leeuwin until….
Leeuwin must win awards for the longest driveway to a winery in the world. A couple kilometers into it, this “steep grade” sign. They were definitely trying to keep bicyclists out. It was approaching 3PM, and I still had at least 50km to go, so I turned around and headed out without even seeing the place. Turning south out of that driveway, the road immediately went from sealed (paved) to dirt gravel.
My little tires and lots of weight dug in well. It was 5km of difficulties. I came to a T intersection equidistant from the highway (east) and Caves Road (the pretty road I skipped farther up to save time) and decided to go west. Best decision of the trip. First I came to a little glass blowing studio, which I had to check out for Claire.
Maybe this was impressive for the tour bus set (I noticed one pulling in as I rode out), but nothing I saw (I have photos) seemed too special to me. But this little guy was..
I don’t know what it’s called, but it has an oversized snake head on an crocodile skin body with tiny little legs, and it was trying to cross the street, slowly. I took the picture and tried to shoo him away from a miserable death. He opened a big pink mouth with a black tongue and scared me.
We took turns scaring each other for a bit, until he got bored, turned around, and blended in with the stones on the side of the road. Farther along on Caves Road, I came to a sign listing caves (Giant Cave, Jewel Cave, Lake Cave…) and picked one called Mammoth Cave. They had a high tech, proximity actuated, recorded, 45 minute, self-guided tour. (You walk somewhere and the machine tells you about it automatically.) I have maybe 10 bad photographs of this cave. Here’s one of the steps leading out of it.
It is 1/3 mile long and up to 10 stories tall inside (though some places you have to duck to get through). Very impressive. When you leave the cave, you’re lost, on the other side of the main road (you guessed it) 1/3 of a mile away from your car (bike). You are supposed to, and I did, hike back, return their machine, and say words like wow and cool. The experience took me “only” 25 minutes.
It was now after 4PM, and the road sign outside the cave said Augusta was still 40km away. I rode into, hands down, the most captivating forest I had ever been in.
Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park is, as they say in the Michelin guides, worth a Journey. At every corner and hilltop I wanted to stop and take a picture. And the roads were the best roads for cycling I’ve ever been on. (I don’t care if that’s not good grammar.) Nice curves and hills weaving through the forest – a variety that kept me excited without slowing me down much from what flat and level would be. Unlike maybe every other day of touring I’ve ever been on, I did not want this road to end. I did not want to stop.
Alas, after 25 km, the road to Augusta branched off to the left. For the first time this trip, I had a great tail wind, going into beautiful rolling hills. The air must be cleaner down here.
The highlights along this stretch included one giant kangaroo and some really giant anthills. I think the Kangroo was taller than me. I spooked him and he tried to run away parallel to me, but I was faster. He reversed course in one hop and took off the opposite direction. I went back for a photograph but couldn’t spot him again. I’ll spare you the pictures of the anthills, but here’s one of the 5 welcome to Augusta signs. Augusta is the 3rd oldest settlement in WA, with an interesting history. Now it’s 2 gas stations, 3 accommodations, a few shops and 3 restaurants with some houses all around.
In the back of my mind here was a strong desire to see Cape Leeuwin, the southernmost part of Australia, the windiest point in Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet at the southwest tip of the continent. The sun sets at 6:30P, and I thought I’d make it to town around 6P, toss my gear in a hotel room, and high-tail it 14km farther south to the lighthouse. When I got to the hotel, it was a little after 6, and my plan became impractical, until the guy said “dead finish” point was only 8 km away! Off I went. Here I’m waving to you from my naked bike on the way to… yes, I would see the sun set from this auspicious location!
Here’s Leeuwin Cape as you approach it, with the lighthouse (closed at 4PM). And me by the official sign.
I took maybe 15 pictures of the oceans and the sunset. I also took a picture of a wooden water wheel, built in 1895 and now salt encrusted. It brought spring water from the hills just north of the cape to power the water wheel and then pump some of that same water to the lighthouse. Here’s the water wheel and the Indian Ocean.
(picture of water wheel temporarily lost.) It was cloudy looking west to the sunset, and I thought this would be the best picture I would get, with the sun shining up on the bottom of some of the clouds.
I took it, and started riding back. (I was COLD.) Then everything in front of me turned reddish. Looking back, the last photograph of the day.
The End. (9 October 2002, 11:25PM, Augusta, Western Australia, Australia)
– Hi Becky!
– How about a couple comments in the guestbook. I’m getting lonely.
– Apologies again for errors, etc. I don’t proofread.
– Promise Made: You’ll never get another update this long again.