Fremantle to Margaret River


This morning we packed up and left the apartment in Fremantle. I liked it: it had a nice view of the harbour from the balcony, the kitchen was nicely outfitted, the underfloor heating was awesome and the bed was enormous. But it wasn’t suitable for children – whether that was the steps everywhere for small children to trip over, or the hard tiled floors that made the underfloor heating possible, or just my two little goons’ obsession with doing things as dangerously as possible. You don’t need to eat breakfast while jumping up and down on a chair that you’re simultaneously trying to lean back so you can be thrown over the railing and down a flight of stairs. It’s just that apparently that’s the fun way to do it, when you’re somewhere approaching four years old.
So, while my wife packed and ran out clothes through the washer, I put Destroyer on my head and went out for coffee. Australia is famous for its coffee and so is Fremantle, but not at 7:30 on a Monday morning, or at least not where we were. I walked miles to get to Spake, where a man with a ginormous beard did me two lattes and two babycinnos, which I carried quite precariously (Destroyer still on my head) back to the apartment, and a while later we were on our way to Margaret River.

The drive is incredibly boring in the late autumn. The skies are a cloudless blue, there’s no floods or hurricanes, people drive sensibly at the speed limit on never ending, well paved straight roads. We just drive on and on and on, Caspar Babypants the soundtrack to 300 kilometres of nothing at all.

About halfway, we stopped at Mandurah, a coastal town with a nice playground by the water, and a place called Mamma’s that serves ice cream, burgers and kebabs. I’m always suspicious of somewhere with such a litany of foodstuffs on the menu, but Mamma’s were competent at serving ice cream and frying potatoes, and also had counterstaff covered in tattoos. No, really. The woman who took our order had both sleeves done and big green black scrawls all along her jawline. Kind of heavy duty, that.

We glided along through Western Australia. The Audi is super competent. It doesn’t gobble the road, it just hoovers it up. On the last ten miles, La Serpiente woke from a nap to scream bloody murder because we didn’t have a band-aid for her toe, and didn’t stop raging till we reached the Riverglen Chalets.

Where nobody was in at the office. There was a mobile number to call, but the vagaries of mobile telecommunications mean that even if I attached +61 to the number, I still reached the same vaguely irate man in Singapore. But then I was on holiday, he probably wasn’t, and when somebody says "wrong number ah" and sounds considerably more pissed off than you would be in the same situation, it only makes you laugh. Or that’s holiday fever kicking in.

Eventually we got the management of the chalets to come let us in; this new place is a lot more kid friendky, in that it’s not filled with fashionably sharp edged hard surfaces, and it has a one-man hot tub and grounds in which kangaroos lurk. There’s also a distillery at the end of a path leading from the chalets. We walked past it once, not believing our luck, then went back to drink strong booze.

Well, how could we not, when they offer a Margaret Reviver, a variant on the lethal, absinthe-based Corpse Reviver? Like all wineries here, there’s a kids play area: some tennis balls and a broke-ass swingball game. But there was also margarita pizza to feed our kids, in Margaret River, so who could resist?

After that booze and carbs, we decided to walk into Margaret River proper, but I don’t know if the instructions they gave us were crap, or we were ruined on gin, because instead of a 10 minute walk to town we tramped into a forest that grew more Blair Witch with every minute ("are there wolves here?" my wolf-phobic child asked me as we battered through the undergrowth) and arrived in Margaret River to find we’d taken half an hour of walking up hill to reach somewhere ten minutes walk on a flat path.

Never mind. Margaret River is a bit like Breckenridge in Colorado: designed for rich people for when they’re not in the city. Lots of high end food places and souvenirs to bankrupt us. So after we’d bought wine and bread, we hightailed it home.

There’s a table tennis table at the games room in the chalet complex; we went there and failed at table tennis for a while, then went and put the kids to bed. We saw a kangaroo in the dark on the way back. It’s not so great; in the dark, a kangaroo looks like a naked sex offender staring at you from a ditch.

But they look cute, don’t they? (The ladies at bedtime, not naked sex offenders standing in ditches, naturally.)

Because we’re storing both kids in the same bed, this presents many extra opportunities to muck about. Tonight Destroyer was the maestro, variously pulling her tights up so she could slap paradiddles on her bare calves, sing "Baby Shark" complete with hand gestures, spend five minutes going into downward facing dog position and then slamming herself prostrate on the pillow again and again, kissing her sister’s hand, anything she could think of. After an hour or so she went down, allowing us to sneak out and drink wine in the living room.

And so to bed.


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