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30 September 2003

In "The Importance of Being Earnest," Jack Worthing has created an imaginary friend named Mr. Bunbury. Whenever he wants to get out of town on some holiday, he explains that he has to go and visit his sick friend, Mr. Bunbury. Thus he comes to refer to his fun adventures as "Having a Bunbury."

Today we started off on our next Bunbury...and our first stop was...the town of Bunbury!

Bunbury is about two hours south of Perth and I knew before I even got here that I had to visit the town of Bunbury before I left Australia. It is not, of course, like walking back in time to an Oscar Wilde story. Bunbury is the second largest city in Western Australia and is a bustling metropolis.

I have long bemoaned the "homogenization" of the United States, where you fly into any airport, get whisked to the nearest Holiday Inn, see the same fast food joints, read "USA Today" and leave without ever having experienced any "character" of the town which you've just visited.

Not only, apparently, has our industry infected the U.S., but other countries as well. Not only do you not know what city you're in, but in some cases, you may not know that country you're in. We turned off the freeway onto the main drag of Bunbury and what did we see: Target, K-Mart, KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Woolworth's, and H&R Block. So much for local colour!

We stopped at K-Mart because I brought all warm weather clothes to Australia with me, and it's been a bit more chilly than we anticipated. I managed to find sweat pants and a sweatshirt for $18 total, which, when converted to U.S. currency, was an offer I couldn't refuse--and I'll be more comfortable now!

We ordered sandwiches from a take-away in the local mall and drove out to a deserted point overlooking the marina and ate, while watching the display of clouds, wind, and rain. Then we drove to the local tourist office, where I could pick up a couple of post cards, and then we checked town itself.

As the rain had stopped and the sun was out, we wandered along the estuary and watched seagulls and one obstinent pelican beg for food from picnickers (how do you discourage a pelican determined to share your hot dog?), but it was kind of cold so we decided to press on.

We had planned to stay at a nearby town called Busselton, but it was early enough that we decided to drive the 100 km to Margaret River, which was where we planned to begin our adventures the following day.

Janne and Chris had told me that the road south was quite different from what I'd seen thusfar, and they were right. The road to Margaret River takes you through rolling farmland, tall trees, and fields of calla lillies (I thought of Katharine Hepburn, as all the calla lillies were definitely in bloom...acres of them. Peggy calls them "death lillies."). Ultimately, we began to see vineyards. This is Australia's version of the Napa Valley. It's all wonderfully bucolic.

I don't know what there is about this place, but I have consistently been struck by how vivid colours are. From the azure of the Indian Ocean to the blue-blue of the sky contrasted with the beautiful cumulus clouds, to the emerald green of the fields and the purple and yellow bushes of wildflowers which lined our path. The place is electric. Perhaps it's the total lack of pollution which allows the true colours to display themselves to their fullest. (Peggy says it's because she finally cleaned my bloody glasses!)

We had come to Margaret River because our guide book to accommodations showed a myriad of places to stay and as this was mid-week, we figured there would be no problem finding a place. However, this is a popular tourist spot (the main drag boasts several surf shops, for example) and we began to worry when every single hotel/motel/B&B we passed had "no vacancy" signs hanging from it. We drove thru and out of town without seeing a single vacant place. Then we started on the side roads, wondering if we'd have to go back to a previously visited town to find a place to sleep.

Eventually we passed the Margaret River Resort and did not see a "no vacancy" sign, so I went in to enquire. Yes, they had a vacancy. Yes, it was double what we had paid anywhere north, but it was a special discount rate and it was there so I took it. Up to now we had spent only a fraction of what I had anticipated for accommodations anyway, so why not splurge?

And splurge we have. We have, again, a two room suite overlooking the forest. It comes with all the amenities and one could not ask for better.

We settled in and went into town to pick up food to heat up at home. We ended up getting beef satay, potato salad and cole slaw and heated the beef in our microwave, using the bakery bread we bought in Bunbury to sop up the gravy.

The hotel has provided us with a videotape of things to do in Margaret River (most of which involve wineries, which we probably will not visit, since neither of us drinks--though the chocolate factory is a definite possibility!), but we settled in to watch the 30 minute video, which was more entertaining than one would expect a commercial video to be. We are now armed with information about the local raptor center (expecting wonderful pix of bird of prey) and the local limestone caves to explore and so our day tomorrow is mapped out for us.

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