During our time in Perth a family friend kindly offered us accommodation at her property in Cowaramup near Margaret River, about 3 hours south of Perth. This had been playing on our minds during the camper trailer trip and after weighing up the logistics of where to go after Shark Bay we decided to head down south and return the camper trailer early. In order to make it back in time to collect the keys we endured a 10 hour drive which then gave us a rest day in Perth for cleaning up the camper trailer, eating out and enjoying a final swim at the lovely Perth beaches.
After heading back to PAWS for more food shopping and devouring another delicious falafel for lunch we attempted to go for a swim. Stingers (jellyfish with stinging tentacles) were littered across the shoreline of several beaches and clearly visible in the water which was odd as we hadn’t noticed a single one a couple of weeks earlier. As the weather was very warm, we braved the water momentarily to cool off although it wasn’t the relaxing swim we had been hoping for. A bushfire burning in the nearby Swan Valley sent clouds of smoke creeping over the otherwise clear blue sky.
We ordered take-away from Sri Melaka for dinner once again and had an alfresco meal in Kings Park. All of the meals on our first night in Perth were so good we wanted to eat them all again, even though we didn’t have the young man around to help us out this time. We couldn't resist trying some entrees and snacked on crunchy spring rolls and curry puffs. Along with main dishes it was way more food than we needed which didn't matter as the leftovers were devoured the next day. Pictured on my leftovers plate is "beef" rendang, mee goreng noodles and kangkong belacan.
I’ll never forget our arrival at the Cowaramup property as it was like being in the lovliest dream I never wanted to wake up from. After meeting our friend at the front gate we drove down a long driveway with rows of grape vines on one side and a lake on the other. This wasn’t just any old property we had been invited to stay at, it was a huge vineyard with a tastefully decorated luxurious home overlooking an enormous lake. Our friend showed us around the house and vegetable garden and then left it in our hands as she was staying elsewhere with family over the long weekend.
Ollie amused himself all afternoon trying to work out how to catch ducks and the hundreds of other resident water birds, thankfully without success. The man and I slowly unpacked and told each other a million times that the change of plans had definitely been our best holiday decision. When it was Ollie's bedtime we realised that his mattress had been left outside on the front verandah and discovered that a large frog had made it a temporary home. Ollie's fur is strewn across the front of it's nose.
It had been leisurely until Ollie spotted a young kangaroo! Ollie was right on the heels of the poor frightened creature at the beginning of the chase. They ran up and down the rows of vines until we lost sight of them for ages, eventually Ollie reappeared looking exhausted but very disappointed his fun game was over.
The walk worked up our appetites and it was inspiring to have an expansive kitchen at my disposal so I made a tofu and mixed veg stir fry for lunch. The sauce was thrown together from items in my portable pantry in addition to items at the house. From memory it contained soy sauce, garlic, sambal oelek, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil. Apart from being slightly too salty from an overload of soy sauce it was a fine meal and one I would like to replicate at home.
Lunch was followed up with a slightly less healthy dinner of pizza! We had been craving pizza ever since our disappointing one at Loving Hut. This was one of the main reasons we stopped off at PAWS, to purchase Cheezly and Redwood cheatin' pepperoni for pizzas. The man always loves a simple margherita and this one was enhanced with some fresh basil from the garden.
The other pizza was Mexican styled. I mashed a tin of Coles Mexican beans with some tomato paste and hot sauce to spread on the base and topped it with red onion, red capsicum/peppers, mushrooms, vegan pepperoni and cheezly. The dried out spinach on top that was procured from the garden was supposed to go on top of the bean layer but it was forgotten until the pizza was fully assembled and about to go in the oven. Regardless of my error, the pizza tasted great and the crunchy spinach provided a interesting texture.
A cooking relic in the house that captured my interest was a bean cutter. I have clear memories of my mum and grandma using these devices throughout my childhoood. Green beans are fed into the holes at the top and then you wind the handle whilst placing pressure on the beans. I don't think I ever ate a whole bean as a child, they were always sliced using one of these machines!
The days dwindled away quickly and we really hadn't seen anything at all in the region as we found it difficult to leave the magical property for long. The man suggested that we visit one of the nearby caves as he had fond memories of seeing them as a child and left it up to me to decide which one. I booked us in for a tour of the Lake Cave which begins with a descent down 300 steps through karri forest into a doline - a hole in the earth's surface.
True to it's name the Lake Cave contains a permanent lake in it's chamber. The main feature of the cave is called the "suspended table", an impressive formation which is the result of the fusion of stalagmites and stalactites and weighs several tonnes.
As we were due to hit the road again, our final meal needed to use up the frozen goods we had remaining. On my plate is a couple of Linda McCartney sausages with fried onions and gravy, mashed potatoes and some mixed frozen vegetables which were sautéed with garlic and a dash of soy sauce.
Neither of us were ready to say goodbye to this beautiful place. Camping had lost its appeal after this comfortable instalment of our journey, and we weren't looking forward to the long drive across the Nullarbor back home either.