Last Aussie Days: Love, Wineries and Breweries

It felt great getting some sleep in a bed after a weeks worth of camping alongside the road on route to where I was now, staying with Bridget's sister and her partner by the biggest city in Western Australia, Perth. Bridget herself was set to arrive around midnight via plane, I was excited to see her again and fully enjoy my last days in the country.

Tracy was her sister's name, she reminded me of their mom a great deal with her facial expressions and demeanor. Adam was Tracy's partner, full of life too, easy to get along with and always with projects he was working on, always happily busy.

I bounced around town with them in the morning as they went carpet shopping and to the market, ending with something more up my alley - to the home brew shop. Adam had done some brewing before and my mentions of beer sparked the interest to find the place. We talked to the people in the shop and Adam got ingredients for a red beer, they also gave us a map and recommendations of good local breweries.

We got back to the house, Adam and I running out once more to pick up a barbecue they'd found on the street and a ladder from a friend. He spent the rest of the afternoon fixing up the barbecue to working condition just in time for another couple and their two kids to arrive to get some use out of it. We had a big meal of meat and veggies we grilled up and enjoyed the night.

Close to midnight the three of us headed to the airport, before long Bridget came stepping down the sidewalk with her bag, chucking it in the trunk and hopping in the backseat with me. I was happy to see her face again, cheerful and content.

Tracy and Adam went to sleep straight away, I stayed up talking with Bridget, catching her up on my travels from the east coast to Darwin and on to Perth - she told me about her transitioning down the coast bit by bit. We laid in bed a while before sleep came on, happy together, happy where we were, happy and excited with everything.

We went to a coffee shop in the morning with a couple of Adam and Tracy's friends, then later headed to the park for a run. We jogged around through forest and across park fields and roads for an hour or more, stopping once up a tower for a good view of some of the city. At the very end of our run I came across four forgotten bottles of Corona in the shade, I scooped them up and they landed in the fridge back home.

Bridget and I hopped the train to the nearby Fremantle, transferring once to a bus and arriving before sunset. This place was a nice small city of a town right by the water, we walked down the streets, stopping into a little boutique grocery for a look, then down to the water for the main reason we'd come: Little Creatures Brewery. It was a huge place and packed with people on this Sunday night, the following Monday was some sort of public holiday so people were out in force.

We got a couple pale ales and stood outside watching boats and darkening pink sky. We decided next to go to another brewery I'd heard good words about, it was just across the park plus a few blocks and called the Sail and Anchor. They had some of their own beers there as well as a good range of other local beers, walls covered with posters recognizing breweries as far as California like Lagunitas and Stone to breweries just down the street, like Little Creatures.

We got a Brass Monkey Stout and stood talking and enjoying. We then went on the search for food, passing one decent place then on to the water to find something better, nothing reasonable to be found. We meandered back through the park set on the place we'd passed earlier. We paused in the middle of the park for a kiss and a group passed by, one seemingly narrating our story with whatever other story he was actually telling, "They crossed the park in the dark and stopped in the middle..."

The place we'd seen earlier wanted reservations and said there could be a cancellation and to come back in fifteen minutes. Bridget thought we should go back for another beer at the Sail and Anchor to wait, I couldn't agree more. She got a pint of a sort of pale ale and I went for a Russian Imperial Stout called the Velvet Sledgehammer that was easily my favorite on the night.

We decided just eat there in the pub, ordering a huge meal and filling ourselves considerably, leaving with a small bag of leftover wedges and dips and the like, meandering back to the bus.

I told Bridget that we could probably make it back to Tracy and Adam's without buying a ticket, so we decided to give it a go. Getting on the bus we both flashed our older tickets to the driver who seemed to give it a decent look, but just waved us on. We changed to the train a bit later and cruised on. Metro ticket checkers emerged at one end of the bus doing a random ticket check, Bridget smiled nervously at me and I smiled back, "and now we may be stuffed".

They finally made it to me first, I held up my ticket and he gave it a good look, it seemed, then looking at Bridget's, then on to the next person and we were in the clear. We guessed they only looked at the date, we smiled on down the tracks eventually getting back home, thoroughly satisfied on the night.

The next day the lot of us headed up to the Swan River region, haven for wineries and in our case, a particular brewery recommended by the home brew shop called Faral. It was a great afternoon of trying samplers of all their beer, eating tasty food and meeting up with a bunch of Adam and Tracy's friends, including the couple who'd come for the barbecue. Of all the beers I was impressed most with their Black IPA, Karma Citra.

Some of the couples came back to the house and we sat around eating snacks, I broke into the found Coronas from the park. They talked a lot about rock climbing in the area and that sort of thing. One girl told Bridget and I about good places to go around Margaret River, wineries and camping spots, this was our plan for the next day.

Tracy let us use her car for the trip south, just a few hour drive through a beautiful day. I realized it had been a while since I'd been on a long car ride with someone I knew prior to stepping into the car, it felt good with Bridget behind the wheel heading toward more imminent beauty.

We entered wine country the best way I knew how, by sniffing out the first brewery. Like everywhere we'd go, it was a beautiful spot. We got a sampler tray and sat by the water, sipping tastes of brew while studying the wine country map plotting a plan of attack.

We spent the rest of the afternoon both methodically and sometimes randomly visiting various wineries and at least one other brewery, names like Woody Nook, Redgate, Xanadu and Voyager. The great thing about wine country is that nine out of ten of the places will let you taste several of their wines without any charge. By the middle of it one can actually get an idea of some of the subtleties in taste, by the end one can love everything and everybody. We picked up a bottle of Shiraz at the last place we managed to squeeze in, it was called Leeuwin.

We stopped at the tavern in town for a good dinner, by this point I was happy to see some local beers on tap to further balance out the wine. We drove around a while after looking for a particular camping area the girl from the other night had pointed out to us, we at last found it and got our spot set up. We managed to find just enough firewood to get a smokey fire happening, something to sit by while enjoying each other's company and our bottle of shiraz.

In the morning everything was mystic, tall mighty trees surrounded us that were much more vivid here in daylight. We rode up to an overlook and then down to a beach to get another dip in the Indian Ocean. I was falling in love with Bridget again, not that I'd fallen out of it, more like I'd jumped into a pool of it and kept on splashing around.

We craved the tavern again, they were closed this early so a coffee shop did the trick for breakfast. After that we headed to the Colonial Brewery to start our day of wine tasting... beer in this case again. The first winery came afterwards, a place called Edwards with some aviation decoration which had something to do with their history. The woman pouring wine took a liking to us, after tasting the range and talking a while about travels she asked what our favorite was, we both agreed on the Shiraz. She reached down and grabbed a bottle saying we could have it, happy journey as it were.

Buzzing off the kindness we raced back into the day, more unique wineries and estates, this time names like Juniper, Bettenay's and Knee Deep. Duckstein was a winery and brewery we landed at later in this day, by this point I was carrying most of the weight as far as trying the samples, Bridget had some line about being responsible which was well and good, we were having a blissful time all together.

By late afternoon we were racing to a place called Bush Shack Brewery hoping to get there before they closed, word was it was a novelty brewery with all sorts of unique brews. We got there and hopped out of the car racing for the door barely a minute before their closing time, but out walked one of the bartenders, "Hey, we're closed, you just missed us!", our bodies sagged, we were so close. The guy paused noticing this, "Ah, come on in, we can do a quick tasting", we perked right back up, thanking him up and down and telling him how we raced to make it.

He lead us through just about the whole range, even giving us bonus tastes. They had chocolate beers, chili beers and even some wine based drinks with mango, ginger, vanilla and all kinds of combinations. We told him we were on the lookout for a camp spot and he suggested going back down the long driveway and slightly down across the street saying it was all wide open forest with an underused dirt road going through.

We thanked him again and hopped in the car to explore the spot he mentioned, as we took the turn a bit down the dirt road a giant kangaroo went leaping across, my first proper sighting of one after almost three months in the country that since being a kid I'd associated with such a creature and long dreamed to see. This was the spot.

We headed into town now having eyeballed our camp spot in daylight. We touched on a beach just after sunset, then to a pub for dinner and a game of billiards before heading back to our found campsite for the night.

It was always beautiful waking up to those eyes Bridget had, staring back into mine with mutual appreciation. There inside the tent on my final morning in Australia I could have laid for ages longer, but there was more to see, more to do, and a car ride back up to Perth to catch the flight to Singapore.

We eased up and headed into town where we found a place to have some breakfast and coffee. Once properly fueled up, we made our way to the top of the cape and took a windy walk where we had great views of the turquoise ocean below us, jumping along and pausing here and there to enjoy it.

Afterwards there was a winery thrown in for good measure, a half way decent brewery of course, some more pausing for playing in waves and sand, then finally the realization of time, but not yet the total lack of it. We gassed up the car and made the short drive back to Bush Shack Brewery where we'd camped near. By this time we were hungry and took care of that, indulged in some more novelty beer goodness, also convincing them to mix the chocolate and chili beers with great results. We laughed with them a bit and they showed us around their tiny little operation, it was a relaxed place.

There was one more winery to see before the road broke out towards Perth, one last taste of Australia at the source. We raced back up to the house in Perth where I got a quick shower in, slammed down a bowl of noodles and glass of wine, then it was off to the airport. I kissed Bridget goodbye, there was talk of meeting again some day, but talk and action do not have a one to one ratio, for this reason I considered the possibility of this being the final embrace.

I walked on in to the airport, through check in and security and everything that is the airport, chaos on a conveyor belt, witnessing hugs and backpacks and luggage and suits, sleeping and slouching and sandals and boots. It's the beginning, the end and every step of middle in these places, colliding and exploding as people relaxed and stressed scatter or drift along from one world to the next.

I was drifting, coasting, now with shy of twenty dollars Australian that would fetch nothing at a currency exchange, it's only purpose to be souvenir or one last gas in airport trinket shops. I whittled it down to a single coin getting snacks and a bottle of Bundaberg rum, the prominent rum in Australia that I'd managed to not yet touch even having driven through or at least near the town itself for which the rum is named after.

As the plane's engine roared and we picked up speed I twisted off the cap, the bottle was up to my lips as we took off the ground and I looked out into the dark of Australia, it was up to my mind to make up the light with the past months of memories. Another day will come, but now it was on to the next thing.