FROM HONG KONG TO HERE!
As my first post I thought I would start with a short recitation of how I came from a privileged life spent in Hong Kong, to calling Margaret River home!
It would be fair to say that the drastic economic take-off in the 70’s, with a gradual economic restructuring process that resulted from the migration of her industrial base into mainland China, contributed to the deterioration of Hong Kong’s air and water quality, with the worst days usually caused by wind blowing the smog in from China!
Add to this the handover of the territory to China in 1997, followed by the financial and economic crises that spread across the eastern part of Asia in 1998, and a move to the lucky country seemed very appealing indeed!
I can hear you saying, ‘why is he talking about himself’ and ‘how is this possibly relevant’?
Well to be be honest, as a small group guide and driving specialist here in Australia it seems to me that the more you know about the person responsible for your Margaret River and Southwest experience the better! I also happen to believe that small businesses are run with passion and purpose, and small business owners are the most passionate people I’ve met; they love what they do, and I like to think that I am no different. And of course, a memorable tour experience can often be attributed to the passion, insight and integrity of the host or guide.
Okay so let’s start at the beginning. I was born in Trinidad to amazing parents and with two elder sisters to watch over me. Though to be honest my recollections of this far flung British out post are not very clear or indeed relevant to this story. Trinidad gained its independence from Britain in 1960, which prompted my parents to relocate to Hong Kong after a short stint back in the UK.
Once we arrived in Hong Kong my younger brother was born, and so finally I had a comrade in arms!
My father worked for the Swire group a Hong Kong-based diversified conglomerate that owned and operated Cathay Pacific Airways; and so travelling extensively by air was very much part of our lifestyle!
We lived on the Peak, which in those days was a sort of residential enclave for non-Chinese expatriates. As a child it was like living in Shangri-La (hilly and green) or perhaps in a Peter Pan world, with all of our friends living within an easy bike ride. Twelve years on and we had moved to the quaint fishing and market village of Stanley, located on the south side of the main island. Legend has it that the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsai was active in Stanley in the early eighteenth century!
Most of the expatriate kids were packed off to boarding schools, however the English School Foundation or ESF set up shop during the late 60’s at a time that Hong Kong was experiencing rapid growth to both its economy and population!
I have many fond memories of growing up in Hong Kong though foremost of these were the fun filled junk trips…where we swam, snorkeled and water ski’d in clean tropical waters. We all played a lot of sport and had wonderful access to a selection of sporting and recreational clubs.
Lantau, is the largest in the Hong Kong archipelago and was considered a getaway destination and only accessible by ferry. Every year the family would disappear for weeks on end to enjoy one or other of the company bungalows, surrounded by paddy fields, amazing mountain walks and only minutes from a pristine and empty beach. Oh, and there were plenty of snakes to keep us on our toes!
For those that have been to Hong Kong within the last twenty years, this island now houses one of Asia’s more modern airports, a Disney Land (fun park), a giant Buddha tourist attraction at Ngong Ping (home to the Po Lin Monastery and formerly also a tea plantation) and a burgeoning population…and so basically completely unrecognisable!
Back then the Hong Kong government set aside as much as 70% of its landmass along with 240 odd islands as country parks, and for use as a land bank for future development. Today this number is already below 50% and falling!
As was the case with many of my friends I spent time in the United Kingdom pursuing a tertiary education, before then applying to join the Royal Hong Kong Police Force as an Inspector.
My squad intake (there was 12 of us) arrived from London in June 1982 into furnace like conditions or what was just a typically hot and sticky Hong Kong summers day! After completing the challenging nine months inspectorate training, followed by three months of secondment to various vice units…I was delighted to receive a posting to the Marine Region, which was my first preference selection. The Marine Region at the time was experiencing a period of growth & reorganisation that included the introduction of a fleet of new modern patrol craft built in the Netherlands. Hong Kong was still receiving huge numbers of Vietnamese refugees as well as experiencing an upswing in smuggling activities! As a result the ‘Ring of Steel’ operational concept was introduced with the deployment of large radar equipped patrol craft to form an interlocking ring of radar coverage of the Territory’s boundary to ensure boundary integrity.
In the 80’s and 90’s Hong Kong experienced a huge building boom that included substantial Boat Marina and Residential projects. I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and with my marine qualifications I left the force to try my hand as a yacht broker! The job included extensive traveling to Taiwan and mainland China, supervising boat builds and fit outs, as well as making boat deliveries back to Hong Kong and to the Philippines. It was a lot of fun!
Eventually all of the marina’s filled up and the time had come to consider the next challenge. This came about with the emergence of golf as the next big thing in Hong Kong and China! And so along with a Chinese partner I started a small company specialising in the brand management, distribution and retail ownership of golf merchandise in Hong Kong, China PRC and SE Asia. At the time this was a fast and heady industry to be involved in and it didn’t take long for it to become extremely competitive!
By this time, I had become a proud father of a beautiful baby girl and we were living in a two-story house set back from one of the best surfing beaches in Hong Kong.
Shortly after the formal handover of Hong Kong to the Peoples Republic of China we holidayed in Perth. By then all of my family had opted to settle there, as it boasted a comfortable west coast Mediterranean climate, with ‘hot and dry’ rather than ‘hot and humid’ summers! Whilst there we headed south and explored the Margaret River region which turned out to be a real eye opener for us all…and so clean compared to Hong Kong at that time!
Not surprisingly on our return to Hong Kong, we sent off an application to emigrate to Australia and within six months found ourselves arriving at Perth airport on a very cold, windy and wet day! On the upside, the rain did eventually ease up some six weeks later and by then we were sort of acclimatised!
We spent a year living in Fremantle before visiting Margaret River again whereupon we instantly fell in love with the place, and were lucky enough to secure a rental property in Prevelly. The opportunity came to purchase the property in 2001 after which we were well and truly committed to making this our home.
My early years in Margaret River allowed me the opportunity to try something completely different and I secured employment with a vineyard management company, learning the craft and trade of grape growing. However, it didn't take long for me to gravitate towards a more people-oriented industry where I found myself working at Cape Mentelle Vineyards in a cellar door and hospitality role.
Shortly after this I was offered the position as Cellar Door manager, with responsibilities of front of house guest service and hospitality, with a strong focus on structured wine tasting and wine education. I was fortunate to be involved from the ground up in establishing and marketing the regional benchmark ‘The Behind the Scenes Tour and Degustation’ experience and followed this up with the hugely popular 'Movies in the Vineyard' & 'Movies at Cape Mentelle' outdoor experience.
The realisation in late 2015 that I was far too deep in my comfort zone convinced me to consider stepping out and taking more of a calculated risk in working for myself.
MYDRIVER Margaret River occupies a niche in the marketplace for the more discerning wine lover and traveler; and with local knowledge and expertise, I feel I can help our visitors explore the region, escape the crowds and indulge in the best local food and wine around!