"" Writer's Wanderings: Perth - The Mint and Swan Valley

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Perth - The Mint and Swan Valley

Some of our planning for this trip fell a little short when we found that we had allotted more time for some activities that was necessary. The good part of the problem was that we were able to add a few last minute things to the list. One of them was the Perth Mint.

Like the USA, the west coast of Australia experienced its own gold rush. The mint was built in 1899 in response to the need for a place to refine and mint the gold from the prospector's finds. Today it still mints precious metals and during the tour, you can see some of the work being done.

The premiere attraction on the tour however is watching a worker pour a bar of gold. The gold is heated to thousands of degrees (I couldn't convert celsius to fahrenheit at that level). Amazingly it cools enough to be solid in just a few minutes. Then the bar is put in water to further cool it so it can be picked up in a bare hand. Unfortunately the demonstrator could not pass the $200,000 bar around for inspection but he apologized with a big Aussie grin. Unfortunately as well, we were not allowed to take pictures of anything inside.

As temperatures climbed into 38 C/101 F range, we struck out for the Swan River Valley area. It is one of the wine areas of Western Australia. We thought a good ride in an air conditioned car would beat the heat. And it did for a while.

Our first stop was in Guildford where we took a walkabout along a marked heritage trail and got a glimpse of a darling town that was built in the 1850-60s. Some of the houses and buildings are original. There was a stretch of downtown that was dedicated to antique stores and invited more exploration than we were able to give.
One of the reasons we like exploring on our own rather than with a tour group is that we often see things we wouldn't with a guided tour. For instance, when was the last time you passed a store that sells anything and everything you would want for prospecting? And then around the corner and down the street, we found a mobile dog wash. The Hydro Dog is a trailor pulled behind an SUV or a truck and is plugged into the dog owner's house electricity to operate all the nifty dog washing equipment. This dog's owner says his dog looks forward to his weekly wash.
The heat was rising now. We headed back to the car.
As we drove the circuit that was suggested by the information center in Guildford, we stopped at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory for a look-see and of course free samples. The dark chocolate was superb. For a bit we watched through the windows into the work area as caramel centers were showered with rich milk chocolate. Luckily there were free samples of those too. I think it kept the observers from drooling on the glass.

About two-thirds way around the loop, we stopped at a winery that had a large restaraunt. The Sittella's outdoor eating area on a large balcony overlooked grape vineyards and a grove of olive trees. It reminded me of our lunch in Italy in the Tuscany area except there was no medieval walled town in the distance.

After a short stop in Whiteman Park where we realized that we just weren't up to being out in the heat, we came back to our B&B and cranked on the A/C and began planning what we could do that was cool for the next day when temps were due to climb even higher.

Of course as always, the day ended with another glorious sunset. (Sigh).

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