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The ultimate Western Australia road trip

The Gap and Natural Bridge, smashed by the rumbustious Southern Ocean, in Torndirrup National Park near Albany. Photo: Auscape/UIGAs a lifetime cyclist I have an innate distrust of cars, but on this road trip in Western Australia’s south-west, driving through a landscape of coastal plains and softly contoured farmlands, along empty roads, I’m experiencing a rare harmony between man and four-wheeled beast.
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As I round a bend deep in the sun-blushed forest, between Denmark and Pemberton, and the car reverberates to the ethereal strains of Florence and the Machine, I’m close to euphoria.

Around every corner and along each straight are trees, like mobs of teenagers that never stopped growing, yet like elders possessing age-old wisdom. In these southern forests are karris standing 60 metres tall and red tingles that have survived 400 years of climate change.

If I hadn’t stood, an hour ago, inside a living tree-trunk at the Valley of the Giants or wobbled along the adjacent Tree-Top walk, angling like an oversized Meccano set above the canopy, this natural architecture might have passed me by. However, having learnt that the Noogar Aboriginals, inhabitants of these forests for 38,000 years, believe these trees are imbued with their ancestral spirits, every soaring trunk appears animated and characterful.

I begin my journey by flying from Perth to Albany, spending two days around the former whaling town, Western Australia’s first European settlement, founded in 1826.

Albany’s a likeable town with much to see nearby, from coastal features like the Gap and Natural Bridge, smashed by the rumbustious Southern Ocean, in Torndirrup National Park, to 7500-year-old fish-traps at Oyster Harbour to the historic whaling station, in Discovery Bay.

Yet, it is Albany’s role, as the departure point for 41,000 Australians and Kiwis heading to the First World War, that most defines its heritage. In November 2014, the National Anzac Centre opened, overlooking King George Sound from which the naval convoys left, to commemorate that fact.

The museum is no glorification of war but a touching evocation of its reality, achieved by interactive displays and the opportunity to track one individual’s involvement.

I follow South Australian Aboriginal, Private Gordon Naley, of the 16th battalion. It’s a poignant journey that takes me to Gallipoli, onto Naley’s convalescence from typhoid, in London, his redeployment to the Western Front, in 1916, imprisonment in Germany, his marriage to an English woman and his death, at 44, from war-related sickness.

On my second morning, I drive inland to Porongurup​ National Park, where fragmented granite tors reach for the clouds. As a wet mist swaddles the forested slopes, I follow a two-kilometre trail up to Castle Rock, where the Granite Skywalk wraps around the peaks and a ladder leads to the summit. With mist swirling below, I can picture these bluffs surrounded by ocean, as they were 55 million years ago.

In more recent times, winemakers have discovered that the Porongurup foothills provide a mineral-packed terroir producing intensely flavoured pinot noir and riesling. Among the vignerons are Eugene Harma, from Hiawatha country in Michigan, and Rob Diletti, whose family comes from Lucca in Tuscany.

Diletti, of Castle Rock vineyard, was named James Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year in 2015. His Reserve Riesling, produced from hand-picked grapes, is a snip at $30 a bottle.

While the wines are impressive, the Porongurups cannot yet compete with the Margaret River region, where I spend the latter part of my five-day trip. With so many wineries to choose from, I confine myself to visiting two of its pioneering labels, Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate, returning each night to Cape Lodge, the apotheosis of the area’s accommodation.

At both vineyards I take “Ultimate Winery Tours”, meeting winemakers, viewing art exhibitions, tasting “flights” of wine and indulging in long lunches at award-winning on-site restaurants.

An afternoon trekking part of the 125-kilometre coastal track, with Cape to Cape Explorer Tours, helps undo the damage to my waistline while reminding that beaches, rockpools, cliffs and the turquoise Indian Ocean make this the continent’s most scenic wine region.

However, with Swedish chef Michael Elfwing performing culinary sorcery at Cape Lodge’s restaurant and a final morning visit to the Margaret River Farmers’ Market, gluttony inevitably triumphs.

After five days driving from Albany to Perth, I’ve not only achieved a contented, meditative state behind the wheel of a car, but also been able to see the region’s food (and wine) for the trees. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

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australiassouthwest南京夜网  GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia flies to Albany daily via Perth, see virginaustralia南京夜网419论坛. TOURING THERE:

National Anzac Centre, 1347 Forts Road, Mount Clarence, opens daily 9am-4pm (except Christmas Day), adults $24, children $10; see Nationalanzaccentre南京夜网419论坛.

Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, Walpole, opens 9am-5pm daily, adults $19, children $9.50; see valleyofthegiants南京夜网419论坛.

Ultimate Winery Tours cost $249 at Leeuwin Estate and $185 at Vasse Felix; see ultimatewineryexperiences南京夜网419论坛.

Cape Lodge has two-night packages from $645 a couple, including accommodation, breakfast and six-course tasting menu; see capelodge南京夜网419论坛.

Daniel Scott was a guest of Tourism WA and Australia’s South-West.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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