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Reports

Wednesday, 17 July 2002
Margaret River --> Pemberton, South-West, Australia

It was thanks to John Cuthbertson that I got to see this fascinating fertile wine region around Margaret River, a place where lots of West-Australians can't stop talking about. But after one day in the shed apartment with John and his daughter Anne it was time to get on the road again and to continue my little tour around the South-West of Australia, before returning in Perth again on Monday.

From Margaret River it was on to a place called Pemberton, just another 150km down south, almost along the south coast of Australia.



After a quick breakfast with coffee around the open fire outside the shed it was time for me to warm up the motorbike. After some more lessons by John ("Oh, is that the brake?") I went for a ride over the smooth green hills. I had never really ridden a bike like this before, so it was quite a new thing for me. Include the breathtaking sceneries I was riding through, forests, hill tops, green patches with cattle, wineries, and you can maybe guess what was going through me. It was a therapeutic feeling for sure!

We went to have a coffee at the next-door-neighbours house, Gale, (whom I had met last night) and she got me engaged in her talks about South Africa, especially her family background. She has married the (also) South-African Trevor and his family tree shows how his great-great-great-great-greatfather was one of the first four (!) British settlers in South Africa. Now we are talking about a long time ago!

The man and his wife lost a baby during their trip over, but the woman delivered another one on the beach when they arrived in South Africa. Imagine that! They started a cattle farm in the north east and got another son, named Isaac Marcus. As there was no educational system yet, mother taught the kids to write.

Here is the catch: from as soon as he could write Isaac Marcus wrote a diary. Just on loose pieces of paper, but that diary almost recollects his entire life! When his older brother was 13 he started to build a new house, totally by himself and with bricks and all. When the house was almost finished, the guy died of an unknown disease (probably malaria). The young Isaac grows up and tells clearly how the family survived to live in the unknown African country, with all these scary animals and nearby Zulu tribes.

Unfortunately his mind gets flipped totally upside-down and he suddenly became very very religious. Not that this is any bad thing, but his stories got hard to understand as he goes on about the power of the Lord and so on and what actually happens there gets somewhere lost in the middle.

It ended up that he became a missionary, one of the first, who talked with the Zulu people and other local tribes in South Africa and told him the stories from the Bible. Of course with lots of difficulties in the beginning, but when the first sheep had made the jump over the fence, things were getting easier on him. Suddenly churches were built across South Africa!

This document is found at the beginning of the 20th century, when the later relatives of the Marcus-family tore down their old house. Family members have since then saved it. In 1953 some professor of the Durban University in South Africa typed out the fine writings of Isaac Marcus, made a copy for the university and gave the original and the typed sheets to the family.

What we had in our hands here was one of the rare copies of those typed sheets, bundled together tightly, but almost two fingers thick! Gale had heard about the existence of the diary when she and Trevor visited their family in SA and after a long long time she received a copy last week.

Here I was sitting with my hosts and this South African lady, with a document that maybe some ten people on the world has seen and read, but contains so much valuable information about the first decades of a discovered South Africa. Unreal!

I asked Gale if this was going to be published somewhere, but of course that is up to the family member who own that document to decide. All I could do myself is to ask Gale if she could get a copy for me, because I'd love to sit down and study those writings when I get the time for it somewhere in the future.

But I couldn't stay there all day. John and Anna were leaving back to Perth again today and I was going south. They helped me a bit by driving me all the way down to a town called Nannup, where they dropped me just outside of town (next to a creepy cemetery).

It took me quite a while to get to my destination in Pemberton. First I sat around along the road in Nannup, where I counted the oversized timber trucks on their way to the local saw mill passing me by (only 96), then a lady dropped me a few kilometres ahead. Here I was standing on the so-called Vasse Highway, which ended up all the way in Pemberton. A family from Perth took me along to the Karri Valley Resort halfway, where a maintenance man of the resort took me along to Pemberton.

Now why is every car stereo playing the same song when I hop in for a lift? U2's With or without you seems to be very popular today. Typical!

Now Pemberton is a real eye opener, especially when it was just yesterday when I left busy Perth. Pemberton is a small village, looking sleepy, but as every little town there are heaps of things that keeps the locals live their pleasant and peaceful lives.

Pemberton is located 335km south of Perth and is seen as the ultimate southern destination for visitors. The town with the usual smoke stack of a local saw mill factory is nested in a valley surrounded by giant forests, rolling green farmland and wineries.

The town once began as a timber town and housed workers from the state saw mill, which was established in 1913. Before then, cattlemen and farmers had sparsely populated the surrounding country. The town's name comes from one of the earliest settlers, Pemberton Walcott.

In Pemberton I am picked up by Minke and her two kids Josiene and Jasper. For some that might be very recognizable, because all these names are Dutch. Minke is one of those backpackers that decided to leave The Netherlands for a good tour through Australia. Just somewhere on that line she met up with Greg James form Melbourne. Together they travelled on and as one-thing can start another: they now live happily married together in Pemberton!

Nowadays Greg is a chemical engineer and he works 5-days a week in Perth, which is not a distance to travel every day, so he is only around in 'Pemby' from Friday to Monday. And as it was Greg who had invited me to stay for a day in Pemberton; he was a bit disappointed when I was visiting during the week when he couldn't be there.

Minke didn't really knew much about my Internet project, however Greg follows my travels up close from his internet connection in his Perth apartment. Just before I got to Pemby she had a look at this site. "Man, I didn't know you were that famous!". I am not, I tell her, but certain people call me famous. I still just travel around from one place to another.

Suddenly I got caught up with this life in Pemberton, as the James' live in one of the early saw mill houses (the whole street looks the same) and I am surprised by the animals around here. This place seems to have more chicken than people walking around. A rooster was jumping from fence to fence, harassing the chickens in the street, three amiable goose walked around in the garden, their cat Sippie jumped on me on arrival and in the living room was this nine year old puppy dog named Sjoerd.

I guess I am with people who love nature!

Inside the house, that because of its style already has its own warmth, Minke makes coffee and we talk about our thing-in-common: The Netherlands. We caught up with each other on the little tiny things we miss from home, like chocolate pretzels or 'beschuitjes'.

Minke gives me another introduction to Pemberton, as I had been to the Tourist Centre in town before where I noticed alarming articles about the bad state this town is in.

Due to the rising insurance premiums, lots of tourist attraction need to close their doors (happens everywhere in Australia: just because people hit their head somewhere they can make crazy high money claims and destroy their own country like that! Onya!!), a few newspapers recently wrote articles in a way that it is over with Pemberton.

"It is not!" says Minke. "Pemberton is a real village. We might loose the touristy old tram and steam train that ride through town, but that doesn't necessarily declares the town as dead!"

This week the doors closed of one of the oldest steam trains in Australia. The owners yearly premiums for his unsurance increased from 30,000 to 81,000 dollars per year. Even if he increased the price of his tickets, he wouldn't make it. And next year the premiums will be even higher.

What a way to kill a country, I thought.

If you triple over something in a place where I come from, we tell you to watch out the next time. In The Netherlands we don't go that far to sue anybody for that; be real! If we triple over something we couldn't see, we should have our eyes checked at the optician.

Minke has never thought to end up having a life like this. "Children on my 28th!" she laughs, but clearly shows her happiness in this situation. She is not a one-hundred percent mother, she tells me. "Whenever I can I do a home study in Anthropology."

She is also very artistic and has plans to write and draw pictures for children books. She shows me some of her work and I tell her to find a publisher for that, because it really looked cool.

While we look out over the veggie garden in the back (the next door rooster has found the chickens in the garden and tries hard to rape them within a few minutes) we ended up talking about love. Because I seemed to be in love. Ramon? No, I am not, I say. How can a world traveller fall in love? There is no time and space for that. "Admit it Ramon, you are in love," but I was in constant denial.

Anyhow I loved her story on how she met up with Greg.

I am not in love, I just have unbalanced adorations for certain people I meet during my travels and I have to love every second of it, before I silently have to leave to my next place to stay. I choose that life for now and just have to live with it.

My life motto still is: better live life in the fast lane, than to be married to a speed bump. I just take that motto to the max!

Enough for now, I will be staying here for another few days. Got to meet up with Greg, I decided and having some rest in Pemberton won't hurt either. Time to catch up in my writing and to just sit down and read a book, while the goose are trying to have a conversation with me as it seems..


Good night Pemberton!

Ramon.