Voyager Estate

After visiting some of the boutique wineries in the Margaret River region, we thought it only fair to experience one of the more substantial enterprises.

1.entrance

The word that springs to mind when I recall our visit to Voyager Estate is ‘immaculate’.

2.Voyager Estate

Established in 1978, the regimented vines were patiently awaiting their spring foliage.

3.Vineyard

At the end of the long driveway, we parked the car

4.Voyager Estate

and made our way along the perfectly paved paths edging manicured lawns.

5.Voyager Estate6.Voyager Estate

The gardens and buildings were inspired by the Cape Dutch farmsteads of South Africa. The colourful plantings complemented the stark white buildings beautifully.

 

As we neared our objective, the flawless approach

10.Voyager Estate11.Voyager Estate

was lined with some intricate examples of topiary.

12.topiary hedges

We finally reached the Cellar Door

13.Cellar Door

and entered the inner sanctum.

14.entrance

The hallway leading to the restaurant was pristine (as were the bathrooms).

15.hallway

Private tasting sessions are offered in ‘Michael’s Room’, named after the late mining magnate, Michael Wright, who bought the estate in 1991.

16.Michael's Room

We settled for a few samples at the tasting counter and, of course, a purchase or two.

17.departing

Taronga Zoo

On a warm December day in Sydney, we caught the ferry from Circular Quay to spend the day at Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, the zoo was based on the bar-less exhibits seen at Hamburg Zoo on a visit to Germany by the Secretary of the zoo in 1908. The 69 acre site is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species and is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely day. The first animal we encountered was the gorgeous red panda. The deep rust-red colour contrasts beautifully with cream facial markings, the large claws a bonus when it comes to tree climbing.

These two were enjoying a nap in the humid heat, dreaming of their ancestors in south-east Asia. Binturongs have been described as a bear-cat and as tree dwellers with long bushy tails, it’s hard to believe they are distantly related to meerkats. Apparently, they have a strong odour of a cross between burnt popcorn and corn chips. We didn’t get close enough to find out.

The Java Finch seemed to be enjoying the steamy atmosphere in the waterbird exhibit.

Usually a white bird, the Cattle Egret is seen on the backs of cattle making a meal of ticks and flies. The orange brown breeding plumage becomes bright red at the height of the season. Interestingly, a group of egrets is known as a “skewer”.

9.cattle egret

The smallest known ibis in Australia, the Glossy Ibis was showing the magnificent colours of breeding plumage.

10.glossy ibis

The Asian elephant breeding program has been very successful at Taronga. The keepers led them out for their daily exercise, giving them wooden “toys” to play with.

11.Asian elephants

15.Asian elephants

The Sumatran Tiger and Snow Leopard were on alert

16.Sumatran Tiger17.Snow Leopard

but there were others who had given in to the somnolent, steamy atmosphere.

18.lioness19.bear20.tapir

I have always had a soft spot for hippos and the baby pygmy hippo stole my heart.

The meerkats were entertaining, as usual, I could watch them for hours. The dark patches around their eyes act as sunglasses to lessen the glare of the desert.

Mum and baby gorilla were enjoying a nap, dad doesn’t look too impressed at being left out.

We passed the colourful cassowary and opulent ostrich

on the way to the giraffes. The meal didn’t look very appetizing but he was tall enough to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge.

The world’s largest lizard at 3 metres long, the Komoda Dragon was magnificent.

38.Komodo Dragon

Unfortunately, Tuka, as he was named, died two years ago at the age of 33.

There were many fascinating lizards and snakes, I won’t even attempt to identify them.

The Indian Star tortoise was heading for lunch

50.Indian star tortoise

while the eastern snake-necked turtle cooled off in the pool.

51.Eastern snake-necked turtle

The handsome countenance of the Rhinoceros Iguana reveals the sheer pleasure of basking in the sunshine.

There was a fabulous view from the Sky Safari cable car. The lush verdancy  below

contrasted perfectly with the harbour and city beyond.

58.gondola view

Watching the chimpanzees brought us back to earth. It’s not hard to believe they are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.

Nearing the end of our visit, we stopped by the farmyard where children can get close to the animals. The piglets were adorable

and the acrobatic goat had us wondering how she would get down from there.

68.goat

We enjoyed every minute of our day at Taronga, and with a final hint from the crocodile on how to stay cool,

69.crocodile

we returned to our apartment to do just that.

70.cooling off

midwinter morning

Winter is well and truly upon us. After a very mild autumn, we are having one of the coldest winters in Tasmania I can remember. Maybe it’s just that the bones are getting older? One morning last week, I awoke early and, after turning off the alarm on my phone, I checked the weather forecast. Currently 1ºC, feels like -3ºC. Fortunately, it was considerably warmer inside as the wood fire was still burning. Just before I left for work, I became aware of the subtle hues in the sky, promising a spectacular sunrise.

1.pre sunrise2.pre sunrise

Making my way to the garage, I noticed the bird bath had frozen. The nocturnal creatures had left their calling cards as usual.

3.birdbath

The frost was beautiful

4.frosty garden

and crisp underfoot as Michael and Poppy headed off for their morning walk.

7.frosty paddock

Driving along the dirt road toward the bitumen, this vision had me reaching for my camera.

8.almost sunrise

As I drove, I kept watch from every angle, intermittently testing the brakes as I stopped to capture the spectacle.

9.almost sunrise

The newly ploughed chocolate paddock had a delicious topping of vanilla ice.

10.chocolate field

Travelling north, the fire in the east simmered,

11.sky on fire

the roofline silhouettes a captivating contrast.

12.silhouette

In the valley, the frost lingered

13.rolling frost

before the road climbed again. One last glimpse of nature’s wonder.

14.sunrise at last

The moon was still high in the sky over the suburbs of Burnie.

15.moon over Burnie

I really had to get to work.

Watershed Winery

With lunch time approaching, we arrived at Watershed Winery, not far from the township of Margaret River. The expanse of regimented vines

1.Watershed vines

followed us down the driveway to the impressive cellar door edifice.

2.entrance

The light, airy café and restaurant are separated only by seating arrangement and menu.

3.restaurant

Head Chef, Dan Gedge, was trained in Cornwall by none other than Rick Stein. Sourcing the freshest seasonal produce, he creates a very tempting menu. I can’t remember what we ate and I have no photos but I do know it was delicious. On a warmer day it would have been perfect to sit outside. The extensive alfresco dining area

5.alfresco6.alfresco4.alfresco

delivers stunning views over the dam and rolling vineyards.

7.vineyard & dam

The architecture is exceptional, and with the beautiful setting, I can see why it is a popular venue for weddings.

8.rear entrance9.rear courtyard

We didn’t linger after lunch, there were more wineries to conquer.

mellow monotreme

We rarely see echidnas in the wild and were very excited when, travelling back from lunch at a friend’s house, we spotted one foraging in the grass.

1.echidna

Echidnas are fascinating creatures. Along with the platypus, they belong to the order of monotremes, the only living mammals that lay eggs. Evolving between 20 and 50 million years ago, their ancestors were aquatic before echidnas adapted to life on land.

2.echidna

The cream coloured spines, around 50mm in length, are actually modified hairs. The fur between the spines provides insulation and ranges in colour from honey to dark reddish-brown and even black.

3.echidna

Long-beaked echidnas are only found in New Guinea, we have the short-beaked variety here in Australia. The Tasmanian ones are larger than those on the mainland and their fur is thicker and longer, concealing most of the spines.

4.echidna

Their diet is mainly ants and termites but the echidna is also partial to grubs, larvae and worms.

5.echidna

The pointy snout is an amazing appendage. Not only can it sense the smell of its prey, it detects the electrical impulses from the insect’s bodies. Then, the long, sharp claws on strong forepaws are used to dig into the soil or open up ant’s nests, followed by the devoration of a meal with a sticky, 15cm tongue. They have no teeth, but grind their tasty morsels with horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues.

6.echidna

Breeding season is between June and September. A single egg is laid into the backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days. Echidnas don’t have nipples, they secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Around 3 months of age, the puggle (such a cute name for the baby echidna) leaves the pouch or rather, mother ejects it due to the growth of the spines. Mum leaves the puggle while she goes off to forage and returns every 5 days to suckle it, until it is weaned at 6 months of age. She then leaves it to fend for itself, never to return.

7.echidna

Echidnas do have natural predators, despite their spines, such as eagles and Tasmanian Devils. They were a favourite food of the early settlers and Aboriginal people. Fortunately, even though they are not considered endangered, they are now protected by law. After posing for a few photos, we left him (or her) to enjoy afternoon tea.

8.echidna