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We were so utterly excited to be on the road again. Music loud, windows down, eating well and discovering new places – that’s when Rob and I are truly happy and at peace with the world.
The trip from Rockingham to Margaret River took between 3 and 4 hours, through a host of national parks with sometimes towering, humbling forests and other times vast, arid expanses of land either side of the road. It was a nice drive, actually. We stopped at a town called Bunbury on the way and, to our shock and dismay, discovered our beloved 12V car fridge wasn’t working. We’d only had it a week! After all the problems with Speedy, finally getting her back on the road, we couldn’t be in for more bad fortune, surely? Thankfully there was a Super Cheap Auto chain store nearby (the shop we bought the fridge from) so we paid them a visit. It was a faulty charging cable, which they replaced with no questions asked – “too easy” as the Aussies say!
We felt like the most smug pair of travellers to ever grace the land when we stumbled upon some free. indoor. showers(!!) in the town of Busselton. There was even a lock on the door! And okay, they might have been lukewarm and possibly not the cleanest of places. But it was so hot anyway, the water felt perfect. Grinning like Cheshire cats, we could preen, shave and scrub to our grubby little hearts’ content, and I don’t think the smile left my face that whole day. We also had a huge fresh seafood platter that evening with a few beers. When all runs smoothly, life on the road is oh so sweet.
On arrival in Margaret River, we instantly felt a welcoming warmth from the place and people alike. It has one main bustling highstreet with all the shops one could want or need. The focal point of the highstreet is The Settlers Tavern (“The Tav'”), a pub specialising in local beers, wines and live music – it’s consistently busy. It was always going to be a hit with Rob and I, having two pool tables and a tasty varied menu. We went there on our first afternoon in Margaret River and there was a brilliant bluesy band called Howlin’ On Shores- I’d highly recommend checking them out if you like old school blues. Their music instantly transported me to the era of cowboys in the southern American states. That night, there also happened to be a David Bowie tribute act on, starring Jeff Duff: an Australian cabaret singer and former transvestite who embodied Bowie for the evening. He had a great voice and stage presence and the band behind him were also incredible – the pianist could sing, the drummer could play guitar, the guitarist could drum, and they switched roles for some of the songs. We boogied all night, and met a lovely and eccentric Scottish lady called Lorraine who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Bowie’s greatest fan. She bought a framed photo of David to the night because Jeff Duff, although a true talent, doesn’t particularly look like Bowie, so we had a Bowie shrine I think the man himself would have been pleased with! We’ve become firm friends with Lorraine since and she has helped us to no end – giving us somewhere off-road to park the van (because Margaret River is super strict when it comes to free camping), laundry and cooking facilities, a toilet and even a cheeky hot shower when we really need it. She has such a huge heart. She also has the best balcony on earth. It’s my idea of Heaven – full of succulents, cactii, flowers, mismatched old furniture and trinkets. It’s such a relaxing space, we’ve nursed a fair few hangovers away there over a green tea, with the birds tweeting above.
We also met a lovely local called Dave the night of the Bowie tribute. He has a wicked sense of humour and an even better taste in music. A week or two after we’d met, incidentally it happened to be January 26th (“Australia Day” – but if you read my last post you’d know my thoughts on that), he invited us to his friends’ housewarming party. It was set in its own land out in the sticks (a great place to murder someone) so we caught an Uber there. He said it would be fun, there was a live music act and the more the merrier. Well. The party was interesting, to say the least. Fun? You can make your own mind up.
It was set in a multi-million dollar home which reminded me of the starship enterprise, all white walls, bright spotlights and chrome, full to the brim with aged 60+ ‘hippies’, yogis and arty/musical people – the sort who don’t believe in shoes and preach organic, wholesome living, yet are secretly loaded and seem to have more money than sense. (The homeowner was a millionaire yogi – am I the only one seeing the hypocrisy here!?). On more than one occasion, Rob and I side-glanced at each other as if to say, “How the hell did we end up here?”
As I see it, ‘hippies’ by definition should be all about one love and respect – but I’ve never felt so unwelcome anywhere in my life! I would like to say that Rob and I get along with people of all ages, but especially those in their 50s and older, it’s just something we’ve noticed over the years! We always seem to make new friends who are a bit older than us wherever we go, because we love to hear stories of people who have much more life experience than us – that’s how you grow as as person! So I can only see the problem being with these guys – not us.
One stand-out moment was when the owner of the house’s gorgeous little granddaughter – she couldn’t have been more than 3 years old and had been so well-behaved all evening despite not being given anything to occupy her – was playing shops with me. I thought I’d give her some time, seeing as nobody else was bothering to, and she was so sweet! She happened to put her bare feet on the wall behind her. Her grandfather – yogi bear – came striding over, reprimanding her for potentially dirtying the wall. Seriously, dude? That’s what’s really important here? I’d just be pleased my granddaughter was enjoying herself…without shoes, too, that’s gotta be worth at least 10 yogi points. We voiced our honest opinions to Dave whilst sneaking off behind the parked cars on the edge of the land (I think we spent most of our evening there, it was much more fun just the three of us) and he laughed uproriously and admitted, “I knew! I knew it would be awful! I needed you guys here – no one else is on the same level as me!”
The bugger. We couldn’t help but laugh too. We stayed to enjoy the live music – a husband and wife acoustic duo – they were extremely talented, although their names escape me as I was a few beers down by this point…
We managed to extract Dave eventually, and headed back to The Tav’. We stayed for a beer and then headed to Dave’s place which he shares with a friend – the yogi’s brother, incidentally. We chilled in the garage playing old school rock tunes and drinking until the wee hours, and when the sun started to come up we thought it was time we make the walk back to the van to snooze.
The Tav’ is basically the best and only place to meet anyone in Margaret River. We heard about the local soup kitchen there after getting chatting to an English expat who runs it. His name is also Dave, he’s lived here for almost 30 years. He’s in a band, and he’s a bit of a pillar in the community. He’s basically a cool ass guy and has a lovely wife and a gorgeous pooch called Sonny too (a New Zealand sheepdog). They do a $5 vegan curry night every Monday and Wednesday at the community centre, which is great for backpackers living cheap and those without much money. You pay, get a big plate of delicious homemade curry, and it doesn’t hurt to help them clean up too. They’re always looking for help so if anyone reads this and goes to Margaret River in future, it’s a great thing to do!
With Margaret River being such a hub of musical and creative energy, Rob and I got a bit carried away in a music shop and decided to impulse buy a ukulele. This was a great idea. We’re already learning a few songs and thinking to maybe busk along the way when we’re a bit more confident. Watch this space!
We have applied with a few local agencies to do some grape picking work when the harvest starts, which should be in the next week or two. It’s all weather dependent, because obviously the grapes need enough sun to ripen, so we’re waiting on their call. This work is classed as ‘regional’, and if we complete 88 days of this type of work, we will be eligible to apply for our second year working holiday visas – which is definitely an option we want to have. We are also running a bit low on cash at this point, so could really do with some fresh funds!
I’m so happy Margaret River is going to be our home for the next few months. It’s definitely a place you find yourself blending into the furniture of, which is probably why I’ve met so many expats who have been here 20/30/40 years and don’t ever want to live anywhere else. I’m looking forward to seeing where the next few months take us.
Until next time…