Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A glance out the window the next morning presented an aspect, predictably, substantially different from what had been on offer as dusk rolled in the previous evening. 

While the mist and mizzle didn't allow a great range of vision, the scenery that was visible offered was relatively lush and offered the promise of rather spectacular views to the right-hand side of the train. Unfortunately, as previously indicated, we were looking to the left, where we had a view of hillsides rather than the depths of the Avon Valley. 

The Avon Descent whitewater race was something I recalled from the days when I watched things other than the cricket and rugby league on Channel Nine, and I'm sure that, had we been looking out the right-hand side under conditions offering better visibility I'm sure I would have been impressed.

There were more pressing issues that needed our attention. 

Experience suggested the gap between finishing breakfast and the arrival at East Perth Terminal would be too small to allow for much packing and preparation, so it would need to be taken care of before breakfast. Before we could do that, we needed two showers. 

With the preliminaries out of the way, we were on our way to the Club Car when the call for the Red sitting came.

We found ourselves with new mealtime companions, and as the introductions were made, there was something said that prompted me to suspect the gentleman opposite, who volunteered Townsville as his home base, knew me. 

The word that I was from Bowen threw him for a bit, but a question about pubs, specifically where I drank at in Bowen got the bells ringing again. 

Well, I answered, I started at the Grand View. 

The remark produced an observation that he'd seen Donna and Ted in Thredbo recently. That was followed a question about where I'd gone once I'd left the GV. News that I'd shifted to the QB and the explanation that followed produced references to Browny, and left me convinced I should have been able to put a surname to the face. 

Introductions on the Indian Pacific are usually confined to a first name basis.

We were well inside suburban Perth when we rose from the breaky table, and before long we were pulling into the terminal, and the train part of the journey was over. 

There were final details like collecting checked luggage still to be negotiated.

But, more importantly, we had to find Madam's new friend, who'd generously taken time off work and had volunteered to pick us up from the station. From there, she would convey us to the Travelodge, where we were booked on for the next two nights and take Madam to Kings Park for a session photographing wildflowers.

While that last bit was taking place I was expecting a couple of iPod hours, perhaps followed by lunch in town, a wander through the CBD and even a possible visit to a CD shop (78 Records) that seemed like a place worth exploring.

As has often been remarked, the old internet is a wonderful thing, though it can have its pitfalls. 

I'm only too aware of the propensity of online communities to degenerate into flame wars, slanging matches and general nastiness, but I've been quite amazed by the apparent civility and generosity of the little blogging community that Madam contributes to. We've met three of its members now, and they've all proved to be quite wonderfully warmhearted and interesting people.

Once the introductions had been made it was apparent we were going to be a party of four rather than three.

Yuko's partner Mark appeared after he’d parked the vehicle. 

There was that uncomfortable pause as new acquaintances try to figure out what the hell to talk about. 

Crowded railway platforms aren't the most congenial get to know you places, but once the luggage had been claimed and we were en route to the city things seemed to be flowing relatively smoothly. 

I'd heard something to the effect that Yuko lived next door to the Travelodge, and the reports turned out to be accurate. After dropping us off with the luggage, we arranged a rendezvous in about ten minutes while cameras and other paraphernalia were organised, and set off expecting to be unable to check in but hoping we'd be able to deposit the luggage for a while.

As it turned out our room was ready, and with check-in complete we hurried upstairs, stashed the bags, collected our wits and headed off on the Kings Park excursion. Fine, I thought. A few hours in the park, bloke to talk to while the photos are being taken, music on the iPod. Looks good. Bit of lunch and take it easy for the arvo.

How little I knew.  

Mark, apart from his interests in photography, wildflowers and birdlife shared some mine. As we strolled through the park the blokey conversation was interrupted by indications of wildflowers worth photographic attention, along with the odd technical tip.

After the lap around the park, we adjourned for coffee. 

Out of the blue, an observation that the light looked promising if we were inclined to head off to the escarpment meant we found ourselves en route to Gooseberry Hill for more wildflower photography. 

While I must admit it didn't do a lot for me, I should point out, as I did, that the train trip had been my indulgence, and the wildflowers were Madam's thing, so I was happy to tag along.

But I'd done something right. As we made our way down the zigzag hill since we happened to be in the right area, was I was interested in visiting a winery?

I apparently don't do please don't put yourselves out well enough. Though I suggested that I'd be quite happy with lunch and maybe a tasting on a full stomach if time permitted, I was decanted at Sandalford, ushered into the tasting area and told to take my time.

With three people waiting nearby while you're the only one tasting, taking your time isn't  easy. And when they're discussing dinner options, and you want to contribute to the discussion it's difficult to devote the attention that good wines deserve to a very attractive range. 

In any case, much of what I'd tried came from Margaret River so I could remove Sandalford from the list of places I needed to visit.

Then it was on to Houghton, where, as you'd expect going from one winery to another, the experience was substantially different. 

Sandalford had been friendly, but the girls in the tasting room, while happy to pour samples and give a comment went about their other tasks and left you to it. The young bloke in the tasting room at Houghton, on the other hand, was a salesman, and a classy operator at that. 

Inquiries about varieties, regions and styles developed into an ongoing conversation that ended up with Hughesy ordering half a dozen and placing himself on the email list. 

In the meantime, my companions took a stroll around the grounds and through the gallery before they ended up in the Tasting Room, By the time we'd finished it was getting on for four, and the fact that we'd missed lunch was starting to tell on all concerned.

Back in the car, we made our way back to the city, arriving just before five and splitting up to put cars to bed, deposit cameras and freshen up.

We joined back up to head off to dinner at an eatery called Caffe Italia, which does the BYO wine only bit, which gave me an excuse to knock over one of the two bottles that had made the transcontinental odyssey with us.

Brook Eden Pinot Noir mightn't have been the perfect match for the entree of Arancini di carne al sugo (rice balls stuffed with cheese & peas), but it went down quickly enough for me to order a bottle of Waterwheel Cabernet Merlot to go with the main course. 

Having sighted Maccheroni all'osso buco (pasta with osso buco in tomato and basil sauce), a hearty red seemed like the way to go, and the Waterwheel appeared to go down well with the other mains ordered around the table.

We'd arrived shortly after opening time, and when we left just after seven the place was filling up. 

That was a factor that should have entered my consciousness at the time but had a significant effect on Thursday's evening meal arrangements. 

Still, we'd eaten well, were feeling no pain, and the stroll back to the corner that marked the divergence of the two parties' paths was enough to remind us that tomorrow was another day that would need a gathering of strength to negotiate.

After five days on the road, there was a load of laundry to be attended to once we’d passed on a thank you bottle of Rockford Alicante Bouchet, after which it was a matter of gathering strength for the morrow and ensuring that the new day would be greeted with freshly laundered clothing.

© Ian Hughes 2017