Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cape Leeuwin

Our last day in Margaret River we split up. Olivia went for a scuba dive off the coast of a small town called Dunsborough, and the rest of us drove south to the town of Augusta, specifically to Cape Leeuwin. It's notable for a few reasons- it's the most southwestern point in Australia as well as being home to a pretty sweet lighthouse. It's also the starting point for a multi-day hike across the entire Margaret River area, but we wouldn't be doing that since we're not crazy people. It's incredibly rugged down there with high winds, jagged rocks, and incredibly choppy seas. The need for a lighthouse was pretty obvious from the start.

Laurel and Bob braved the incoming tide and super strong wind for a chance to get some quick pictures on the awesome rocks.

This was the waterwheel that was constructed to provide fresh drinking water to the lighthouse construction workers. It's impressive that it's still standing over a hundred years later, although sediment build-up has completely stopped it up.

Before going in we stopped at the coffee shop for some sweets and caffeine. Immy was pretty happy about this decision. It could be that she had just eaten and had a fresh diaper though. 

This is the "Moorine Maraduar." In 2010, 85 cow statues were positioned around the Margaret River region as part of the world's largest public art event "Cow Parade." The name came, presumably, from the small town of Cowmarump, where most of the statues seem to have ended up. Following "the parade" they were auctioned off with all proceeds going to charity. The pirate cow was apparently purchased by the owners of the lighthouse and given a position of prominence near the entrance.

Here's the lighthouse! It was funded by what was then known as the Swan River Colony, now known as Perth, and was built in 1895-1896 due to the extreme hazard of navigation in the area.

This was a memorial to ten sailors who died in the wreck of the HMS Nizam in 1945. While sailing past Cape Leeuwin the ship was hit by a rogue wave which cast ten men overboard, and while the area was thoroughly searched they were never found. This monument was erected in 1993 in their honor.

So, this is weird. You know how in school we learned the four oceans- Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Indian? Well now, apparently, there are five. The four we learned about growing up and the Southern Ocean. This new ocean seemed just mysterious enough that we had to look it up to see if it was only an Australian thing. Turns out, it's not- the Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean, is the "newest ocean" of a total of 5, the boundaries of which were added in 2000 by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). So now we know. Anyway, the Southern Ocean is the body of water between Australia and Antarctica and New Zealand and the Western tip of Australia. That tip is Cape Leeuwin, and it's the "point where two oceans meet." So here are Laurel and Greg in opposite oceans. 

Fortunately, Cape Leeuwin was there to bring them together.

Since two oceans are coming together, and two current patterns, it's a pretty violent place. Giant waves crash into each other, and about the first twenty feet of water is permanent white water. Definitely a dangerous place to be in the water. The lighthouse might as well just have a giant sign reading, "Don't come anywhere near here. Seriously. You'll crash."

Looking good Bob and Tina!

Following our trek to the southwestern most tip of Australia we returned to Margaret River where we met back up with Olivia at one of the many vineyards. Seriously, how epically beautiful is this place?

Look how happy Immy is to be there! She did not get any wine though, she's on a strict, milk-only diet.

Just down the road was a brewpub named the Cheeky Monkey. With a name like that we couldn't pass it up, and they even had a couple gluten free ciders for Olivia. Bob and Greg got the beer tasting flight . . . and were sorely disappointed. All of the beers were just full of hops, and since neither of us are huge IPA fans, we didn't love them. Oh well, not every stop can be a win.

Lastly, we'll leave you with a picture of Immy in her car seat doing her best to gnaw off pieces of her toy giraffe, Jeffrey. This was momentous for us, since it was the first time she figured out how to pick up and play with one of her toys all by herself. You get him, Immy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Margaret River

The second part of our Western Australia trip was about a 2.5 hour drive south of Perth in a small town called Margaret River. Greg could move there forever- Climate is similar to San Diego, it's in the middle of wine country, and there are just tons of things to do everywhere. Our first morning we drove south where there are a series of gigantic caves carved into the limestone rocks. This particular one was called Lake Cave. Here's the approach down into it, which starts as a large, open-air chasm.

And this is why it's called Lake Cave. While not very large, the bottom of the cave is submerged by a giant groundwater river. Makes for some really cool reflective pictures. It was pretty spectacular. Unfortunately our camera just can't do it justice.

And this is the main selling point for the cave. It's a hanging column. Thousands upon thousands of years ago, a stalactite formed and eventually grew so large that it merged with the stalagmite on the ground, forming a column. Then the river came through and slowly eroded the rock away from the bottom of the column. Now the whole thing, several tons of rock, is suspended in the air, supported only from the top of the column. This is one of the very few places in the world that this phenomenon has been observed.

This cave is still an active cave, meaing water is still running through the rocks, carving out new crevices and ever changing the inside. Here are a collection of relatively "new" stalactite straws. If we came back in a couple thousand years these will have turned into some pretty impressive stalactites.

On the geologic scale, this cave is still pretty young, but since its made entirely of limestone, not the strongest of rocks, in a couple million years it will collapse in on itself and all this will be gone. Nothing, not even rocks, is permanent.

All of us, with Immy passed out, back on the outside, kind of dreading the stairs we're going to have to climb to get back out. Laurel got a serious leg workout that day!

Following the cave we drove to one of Margaret River's premier attractions A-Maze-N Margaret River! Aside from the cafe, where we had an excellent lunch, the main attraction are the gardens which features a giant hedge maze. It's something Greg has always wanted to do, but never had the chance. Upon entering the maze we all vowed to stay together, but that lasted until the first intersection. Greg and Laurel went left, while Bob and Olivia wanted to go right. So much for unity. Tina followed her own path, testing out the theory that the way to solve the maze is to "always follow the wall to your left."

Oops. Imogen hit a dead end. She's lost, gone forever.

We made it to the center! Success . . . now we just have to get out again.

It was a dangerous maze. Around every corner there was the possibility that a hedge gremlin would be hiding, poised to strike.

The Jacksons escaped! We all found our way out (although we totally beat them), and had a great time. The weather was fantastic and it was a fun way to spend an hour. Greg wants more, bigger mazes now. And, by the way, Tina's theory totally works.

In front of the building was a pretty sweet crocodile sculpture- Pictured here attacking Greg.

Following the maze we went for Margaret River's main attraction- the wineries! This particular one was a no brainer for the Jackson/Otey family. In addition to the the wine they also sold an assortment of home-made nougats. Free samples? Why yes, we would love some! How did you know?

Imogen was being pretty cheeky. She bellied up to the bar, and she did her best to look as cute as possible (which is ridiculously super cute), but we didn't let her try any of the wines. Silly girl, wine is not for babies!