Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view of Middleton Bay

A view of the bay from the tourist lookout

Entrance to Whale World

The last whaler

The flensing deck at Whale World

The Ancient Mariner (with the emphasis on ancient)

Former whale oil containers

A view around the headland at Albany

The Normand Installer

Jeff: Albany 08 to 11 January 2007

On arrival at Albany we parked near the harbour and walked up through the shopping area of the main part of town before returning to the van. Lunch was eaten whilst we gazed through our dining room window at the jetty and sea. Then we went east to Emu Point along the tourist road. On our way back we learned the caravan parks by the beach were all full but a space was available towards the back of Albany at a 'Big 4 Caravan Park'. This proved to be a good base for a few days and was only 20 minutes from the supermarkets and the top of the main shopping street; we booked and extra day and in total stayed four.

Visiting the port for a crew change over, and to collect materials before travelling to New Zealand, was a brand new Norwegian deep water installation and construction vessel belonging to the oil industry. My information is taken from the local paper, the 'Albany Advertiser'. The Normand Installer took two years to build, and comes complete with a 19.5 metre helicopter pad, gym, pool and sauna. The towing winch with a world-record towing capability of 308 tonnes has three times the strength of an ordinary tug, and it runs from two bow thrusters and one stern thruster giving it the ability to move sideways. The ship was launched in March 2006 and can carry 100 passengers. A very impressive ship.

As the weather was very rainy, our first full day at Albany was spent mostly in the van catching up on blog and diary write ups and naming photographs. Australia is desperate for rain and it is hard to begrudge them a few days of it, and a shame we can't give them a few days of Scottish rain. After an evening walk to the town and a little shopping, we called at the Caravan Park kangaroo enclosure where there are about 10 female kangaroo's, some big ducks and an Emu which walked off behind some bushes when it saw us coming. Apparently there is a wild male kangaroo who would like to get access to the enclosure but we did not see him.

Our next day was windy with heavy showers and we decided to travel to 'Whale World'. This is Australia's last whaling station which closed in 1979. During its last 6 years of operation an average of 850 whales were caught and processed at this station. (Tasmania had 10 whaling stations). The owner gifted the property and Whale World first opened its doors to the public on Boxing Day, 1980. Only in the last few years has funding been available to help it undergo the transformation into an award-winning tourist attraction.

The tour guide, with the use of a microphone, tells of the history of the whaling station. We were taken through the various areas and buildings where the dead whales were dragged out of the sea from the holding area, and transformed through a gruesome process into oil. This was piped into ships and sent round the world; a lot of it to Britain. He admitted the industry had been barbaric and sad for the whales but at the time whaling took place, the oil was necessary and it was an acceptable practice in its time. The welcome invention of oil substitutes has made whaling unnecessary.

Other attractions at Whale World is access to the various decks and cabins of the last whaling ship, a history of whaling in pictures, access to all areas so you can revisit areas of the tour, and three film shows. The shows are all held in various sized whale oil drums which have been transformed into imaginative theatres. After watching two Tom Thumb sized actors in a large household sized fish tank telling the story of one day in the life of a whaler and his wife we entered a theatre. The stairs went up both side of the door to an elevated walk way and we look down on the screen on the floor to watch a film about whaling boats. The next theatre showed a film about sharks. It informed that over 30 million sharks are killed each year for food by fishermen and less than 10 people are killed by sharks each year. The largest theatre has terraced comfortable seating and the film lasts about 25 minutes. It is in 3D and tells the story of 'Giants of the Sea'. I thought the giant squid, (which whales apparently like to eat), was coming out of the screen to get Sylvia, but she is still with me.

The café had stunning views, (when the rain clouds pass), and everything at Whale World was reasonably priced. Whilst enjoying the exhibits we dodged the showers. At one time we were in one of the oil drums when there was heavy shower which created so much noise it drowned the audio system, (no pun intended). We arrived at 11am and left at 4pm and would recommend this as a place to visit to learn history we should all be glad has now passed, and should not be resurrected.

There were still lots to see on this peninsular and as some of this was down or up steep gravel roads, these were given a miss. We did travel up 'Stony Hill' and was impressed by the massive large areas of stone the peninsular is built upon. The views were great and the 15 minute walk was completed in dry weather. Down another valley was 'The Gap' where spray from the very rough sea came to a great height, and although it was not raining it was too wet to take pictures. A short walk away was a stone bridge which proved to be big and wide. It will be very many years before this wears away and collapses forming its own Gap.

The most impressive sight was 15 minutes walk down hill where we found people sat behind blow holes. These work by water pushing air back into a cave until the compression forces the air back out. Usually this is back out the way the waves went in. These holes were high above the sea and above the caves. Because of the heavy seas the holes were really performing and as the wind took the spray from right to left, many yards over the rocks, we had a close grandstand view. The only damper on the walk back up the hill was the rain during the last 4 minutes.

It was time to go back for our evening meal. We had enjoyed a very good day despite the weather which nearly caused us to put on pullovers over our short sleeved shirts.

Our third morning was spent at a 'Sandalwood' factory that provides oil for such products as 'Channel' and make a wide range of sandalwood and Emu Oil products of their own. They are now going into lipsticks and scents. We did not take advantage of booking a massage in the 'tribal dreaming' centre but after the tour we enjoyed the experience of 'The Cone, The Gong and The Bowl'. This took place in a Tee Pee shaped room and was designed for relaxation, with the gong in the centre being the main instrument to be used. The experience we were about to have was explained to us and we each chose a silk scarf laced with sandalwood scent to sniff at and make us relaxed; this we kept at the end of the session. Lying on our backs on the floor mats with our legs supported by a cushion, and the lights turned off, we listened to the sounds of the gong whilst gazing at the ceiling of small lights simulating stars.

The therapist talked in the beginning, and gonged, and I occasionally snored. She was very adept at hitting various notes on the gong and at one stage must have used a 'singing bowl' as the pamphlet says she does. A small gong is also used and this is passed over you whilst you lay relaxed; the sound waves can be felt on your person as this is done. The vibrations of this variety of gonging is said to connect to various organs on a cellular level and to be very beneficial. After a relaxing period at the end of the gong's use, we roused and spoke with the therapist on a 'how was it for you' basis.

On leaving we both admitted it had been a very good relaxing experience. Lunch had been consumed before we were gonged so we drifted along in the van to a distant beach by a river outlet and played three close games at boules. As I won for the first time I offered to be gonged more often but as Sylvia offered to keep hitting me with one I withdrew this suggestion.

When we arrived home, (home is where the site is), we walked towards the town and bought a 'bug net'. Several times we have driven through various sized swarms of flying insects, mostly locus. Australia needs rain but unfortunately the farmers are still not happy as due to it being summer, rain creates conditions which are favourable for locus to breed. Apparently there have been a few infestations of locus this summer. I expect to need the net to keep the bugs off the van radiator when we are moving north of Perth.

If you visit Albany during June to October you can watch whales with their babies. Albany has proved to be a good place to stay for a few days.

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