Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Albany

21/09/08 Denmark – Shelter Island – Albany 57( ) kms

For Sue and me, Wal and Faye's place was the hardest to leave since we left home in early July but after a few more stories and a few last minute photo swaps, we pointed the Forester towards Albany and made our way into the wind and rain and increasing cold.

Middleton Beach, Albany 5C
Our first bypass was the turnoff to Mutton Bird Island. It wasn't an easy place to find thanks to someone’s cartoon magic of turning the road sign through 90 degrees but we eventually arrived at the lookout. The lookout sat out from the vegetation, totally exposed to what I discovered was 60 km/h winds with gusts up to 80. The roof of the shelter was about a quarter of the floor area and that made it about the size of an umbrella. Using my own umbrella to supplement the shelter, I soon had it at right angles to the horizontal whilst it tried to turn itself inside out. After three attempts and rain stinging my face, I snapped a shot into space and hoped. In the end, I captured Shelter Island and missed Mutton Bird Island altogether! Full of false confidence, I steered our belongings past the turn for the return journey, determined to find a way down to the water. I swept around a bend and became the squeezed middle lane between two parked lanes of cars which filled either side of the road down to the far end where there was no turning space. A quick assessment in the still pouring rain confirmed what I feared. In one of those moments retold over schooner glasses, I backed the trailer up the narrow alley between the parked cars, around the bend, swung the trailer wide on the then clear road until, picked up an opposite lock and bought both car and trailer to rest in a position of reversed direction. All those exercises in reversing trailers made the operation relatively easy but I was so pleased to do it in front of several vehicles full of blokes..

That was the end of sightseeing.

Our arrival in Albany was a few hours too late to catch the day's balmy maximum of 10 degrees, so we had to be content with 8C. Not surprisingly, with the rain still drumming away on the roof of the Forester and temperature conditions in single figures, we took the softer, safer more sensible option of a cabin. By the way, the wind chill factor - reported on Weatherzone soon after - was -4C, so we weren't imaging the cold!

TODAY'S PHOTOS
Our park was right on Middleton Beach, behind the sand dunes. We climbed the dune and went down to the beach before doing a spinnaker run back to the cabin. We went for a walk and our shivering stopped about an hour after we went to bed that night.

22/09/08 Torndirrup NP

The morning had a few time wasters in it - I got the washing done and the car went to the Subaru dealer for a little check up.

The Bridge
Once we finally got underway, Sue pointed us in the direction of the Torndirrup NP, and its variety of amazing coastal scenes and experiences. The first was the combination of The Gap and The Natural Bridge. Both are formed in granite which existed 20 km underground some considerable time in the past before water gradually eroded them into place. The Bridge is a thick band of granite which has been undercut to expose a "bridge" of rock under which wave action crashes. The Gap is a tall trench in the granite perhaps 30 metres long and the same in height across a width of about five metres. Waves surge into the gap and under certain conditions the wind and wave action causes spray to surge upwards and out of the gap. Not content with the view provided from the official viewing platform which is on one side of the Gap, I moved to the end of the Gap for my view. Realising it was unsafe to get a close view, I stood listening to the din below when a surge send spray all over me! Sue had warned me! She even came down to see for herself and copped an even bigger spray and soaking!

We moved on to the Blowholes. It was an 800m walk down, down, down to their locality and twenty minutes of roars and crashes but very little signs of blowhole action (no spray etc)! Whilst us Easties are used to seeing blowholes like Kiama which spurt sea spray skyward and roar their approval, not so in WA. Here, noise is enough. For the record, it was 800m walk up, up, up again. It is by far the furthest I have ever walked to hear rocks fart. Our last port of call was Stony Hill and a spectacular lookout around 360 degrees. This had been a radar placement late in WWII and the coastline was spectacular.

Back to town to gather information from the Tourist Information Centre and short list activities for tomorrow. This naturally included coffee. We also walked York St and others with old buildings. The standout in this wandering was the Anglican Church, thanks to a recommendation from Faye Gibbens. Sue took herself inside for a sticky beak whilst I played safe and found a café. That was about it for our tourist activities. Tomorrow should gear up a tad more.

We had nice calls with Dad and Sam during the day.

TODAY'S PHOTOS
Stats as at Pemberton: we have travelled 13502 km, used 1367.75 litres of fuel at an average price of 175.8 c/L (price range 219.7 at Timber Creek, to 143.1 at Perth). Fuel consumption has averaged 10.13 L/100kms. Not bad fully loaded with trailer in a 2.5L engine.





23/09/08

Today was one of the big ticket items of the tour. We went whale watching this morning in a cruise that took us all over St Georges Bay. It was fabulous. I got some great photos and Sue had another dream come true and boy did it show. The male whales tend to be the ones that show off to impress the females, so we got to watch Southern Right Whales doing the equivalent of wheelies in Peel St. Lots of tail shows, breaching and some very close contact as they moved about our boat to get in the best positions for us to photograph them. Sue will have that smile on her face for weeks.

This afternoon we visited the Princess Royal Fort up on Mt Adelaide to see lots of interesting military hardware and memorabilia. The lookouts were good but the afternoon was hazy which detracted from Albany's natural beauty. The Light Horse Memorial was moving.
TODAY'S PHOTOS

Came home, ate tea and watched TV.

Stirling Range tomorrow, about 80 km to the north of Albany. Hope the weather is kind. Sorry. More
to say but really tired tonight.


24/09/08 Stirling Range NP

Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range
Up early this morning (5:30) for the drive to the north to take in the Stirling Range which lies about 90 km north of Albany.

Much like ranges such as the Warrumbungles in NSW, the Stirling Range becomes very apparent as you approach it and by 8:00am we were roadside taking photos of these dramatic mountains as they rose in purples and greens. Unlike ranges in the north of WA, these are covered in vegetation giving them a greener, softer line against the blue sky.

After seventy five minutes driving we were in the carpark already high up beside Bluff Knoll. The carpark sits on its perch on a lower hill and looks a lot like something from a James Bond movie and about as much out of place in this setting. Sue and I set off with confidence but with the reality that this is a difficult walk and one we were unlikely to reach the summit. Fifty minutes later and about half of the climb completed, we sat on the track and decided to enjoy the amazing view we already had without having to punish ourselves or rummage around in the realm of failure. It was all hard going, straight up from the get-go and we gave it our best and most measured shot. In the end, we captured some great photos and felt satisfied of our achievement.

Naturally, as is our want, we found a cafe within fifteen minutes of coming off the mountain and planned the rest of our day.

It was further to the north first, to look at a replica Dutch windmill. It was interesting and gave me some good photo opportunities but all a little odd and out of place. After that, Ken was turned off and Sue navigated us around a circuit through the Stirling Range. We had lunch at Redgum Springs - a place where there were no redgums and no springs! Still, vegemite sandwiches have never tasted as good ... actually, since I was 12, vegemite sandwiches have never tasted any good but the cook has made few mistakes on this tour.

After lunch, we continued over a good dirt road and stopped several times to look at these spectacular mountains and the wildflowers which covered them. We have seen some wonderful sights on this trip but none of them were better than this.

A campground is available at Moingup Springs.

Mid afternoon, we put the Stirling behind us and set course for Mt Barker and the home of Goundrey Wines. One of my two favourites, this time things worked out well and we tasted until satisfied of our choice and sent a combination of cabernet/merlot and a shiraz blend home to Tamworth to ease the pain of our arrival there in a couple of weeks.

TODAY'S PHOTOS
Nose for home and a long soak in the c-park spa and an informal review of our tour with another couple. Ah, the life of the traveller. Off to Esperance tomorrow for four nights and then we start for home. There it is, that seemingly inoffensive four letter word but how reluctant I am to mouth it.

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