That’s exactly how it was billed, an extravaganza… not a day-trip in a bus around Margaret River for the more senior members of the Capel Shire, but a Saturday jaunt in March fully jamb-packed with sensational pleasures that would border on the truly gigantic… indeed, an extravaganza.
My wife, Angela, and I paid our $45 each and, ever mindful that descriptions like extravaganza have been bleached into meaningless beige by today’s demand for the spectacular in everything, boarded the bus – long-distance, luxury coach by Boomers’ standards – in Capel, for the comfortable haul south.
The day trip was sponsored by the Shire of Capel and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Culture to encourage active ageing.
At 7.30 am the morning was chilly and heavily grey, hardly a good look for a day promising experiences and delights of gargantuan proportion.
There were more than 30 expectant seniors on board already and, as we shuffled down the aisle to a gauntlet of smiling faces, cheery ‘good mornings’… and not an iPad in sight, we embarked on one of the very best 45 dollars worth of day trip in a bus one could ever wish for.
Now, Margaret River is already world-renowned for the pleasures of its grape in a bottle, but could 10 hours of swooning among its vine fields, farmers’ markets, luncheon hot-spots and raptors’ park really deliver the extravaganza we were all expecting?
As I mentioned, extravaganza, like other superlatives has been white-washed down by careless usage, so my own expectations settled more into the realm of comforting, reassuring, even quite a nice day out.
That was my first mistake as a becoming-slightly-cynical senior participant in a young persons’ world.
As we eased our way south to Margaret River, calmly looked after by our organiser and guide, Donna, and our driver, Graeme, I was instantly aware that all 37 fellow, day-trippers were contentedly engaged in scenery watching, happily chatting, occasional laughing and new-people-meeting so that the atmosphere in the coach was an upbeat and restful hum which was distinctly… yes, comforting.
Soon a bus crowded with strangers became a bus of companions and even friends. Have you ever noticed that? Conversation and curiosity are things that baby boomers achieve quite easily, as if they share a secret hand-shake or a code of behaviour that only they can recognise.
Many BB’s enjoy a life driven by some level of passion. They are passion-driven people and that passion is their common ground. But, this day had some new and exciting passions waiting for us, passions that were owned wholly by the younger set… beginning at the Margaret River Farmers’ Markets.
Now, Angela and I have visited many prized markets throughout Australia and the one I strolled through now was as superb as any, and better than many.
Fresh, beautifully grown or created produce of all kinds, was presented with flair and individuality.
It was especially reassuring to realise the work, care and dedication (yes, passion) that had brought these items to the display shelves, for our deliberation and purchase, was not baby-boomer passion.
This was young passion, vital and thoroughly encouraging, the outcome of labour, care and intelligent input.
Then, as the grey sky parted a little and blue peered through, a special treat for us: a dozen or so young, trainee chefs in full kitchen whites wandered among the stalls carefully selecting items for their own culinary exploits.
I was taken with their discernment and keenness and the enthusiasm of their cookery lecturer, Kelly, from the South Regional TAFE, who shepherded her student flock from stall to stall.
At the TAFE, she told me, the cookery school students select ingredients from the markets, exclusively, for their display restaurant which is open to the public… how reassuring, I thought, a night of dining there is certainly on my wish list for the near future.
The point here is this… the brilliant market, the often cottage-industry style, quality and presentation of produce, the zeal of the trainee chefs, and the dedication of their lecturer is all evidence of a passion in the young.
As senior citizens, oldies, we need to rejoice in this passion, encourage it wherever found, and be hopeful for the generations taking the baton from us.
The information-drowning computer age and mind, blanketing social media is not taking everyone for a ride to that nowhere-good place. There is passion, still.
There is imagination, still. I rejoined the others on the bus, excited by a most comforting encounter with a future that could, indeed, be more spectacular than many are suggesting.
Talking about the icing on the cake, where our day trip took us next had both cake and lashings of icing… Eagles Heritage, the biggest collection, rehabilitation centre and free flight presentation of raptors – birds of prey, in all of Australia.
Now, I have to admit that I am a sucker for raptors. Here, we got in close, real close up, even as close as having a barn owl perched on our gloved wrist, and witnessing black kites swooping down a couple of metres in front of us, taking, with raptor ease, food morsels thrown into the air.
It was humbling to be in their noble presence. And to be in the reassuring presence of Phil who, out of love for these feathered wonders of nature, set up Eagles Heritage 30 years ago and manages it still, with just the income from entry tickets and a whole sky full (and life full) of passion.
Ok, about now I am tempted to use the word extravaganza to describe this day trip by bus to Margaret River.
Along with an excellent lunch at the Brewhouse, great coffee at the Deck on Busselton’s impressive marina and as-good-as-they-get Devonshire teas at the Berry Farm, we had just bussed it through some of the most handsome vineyards in the country, and, at the end of the day, through the coastal wet-lands that are of national significance hosting more than 30,000 migratory birds and 70 species at any one time.
Now, I am rifling through my mental dictionary to source a brand new and more appropriate adjective than extravaganza to describe the day trip, suitable for seniors, that we had just completed. Comforting or reassuring just won’t cut it.
Still rifling… still. Ok! An extravaganza it was. Thanks to all who made it possible.