Today was a special day because I got to go out on a tour with one of Western Australia's FACET Golden Guides - Sean Blocksidge of the Margaret River Discovery Company. Sean is the 2010 winner of the FACET Golden Guide Award, which recognises excellence in guiding, and after today I can confidently say he deserved to win.
Sean lives and loves the Margaret River Region, not just the vineyards, but the beaches, cafes, bush and of course the fantastic Cape to Cape walk trail. His passion and enthusiasm shine through. His knowledge is thorough but doesn't make you feel silly. Questions and comments are encouraged and you really feel included and engaged throughout the tour.
Our seven hours together flashed by and at the end of the day everyone on the tour felt like old friends. Its a small and intimate tour and one of Sean's great skills was the creation of an atmosphere where five strangers could get to know each other through the mutual appreciation for a stunning place. We canoed the Margaret River, we sipped coffee by the sea and tasted local honey. We marvelled at the beautiful white sandy beaches and engaged with Clive the winemaker at Fraser Gallop winery (an exclusive experience open only to Sean's guests). We finish the day on the Cape to Cape Track at Wilyabrup, taking a moment of quiet to appreciate the view, the ocean, the bush and our day together.
Most Western Australian's don't ever do a tour like Sean's because they think they know the place but I think once in a while it is vital that you see the place where you live through someone else's eyes. On our tour were my new friends Kathy and John from the US via Shanghai, and Niall from Perth. Seeing how blown away Kathy and John were by our fantastic scenery, open spaces and fabulous wines reminds me just how brilliant WA is. Niall already knows how great it is because he is fortunate enough to be a travel journalist (boy am I jealous!)
My lesson from today's experience is to make sure I take the time to see my home through other people's eyes and the remind myself what an amazing place Western Australia really is. Thanks a million Sean, Kathy, John and Niall.