Oz and the Big Lap travel blog


3 March

Albany

Woken by the magpies this morning. They are not at all like European magpies, they are black and white but the amounts of each colour vary from bird to bird, but they do have a beautiful song, however when they form a choir its a lot of noise. Anyway the sun was shining, looked like a beautiful day, so we set off to explore the area to the east, Two People's Bay Nature Reserve. So-called originally by a French whaler, after they met an American whaler ship in the bay, as Baie des Deux Peuples in honour of the two new republics.

We went first to Little Beach, said to be one of WAs best beaches, and we agreed. The sun was shining, only 29degrees, and the sky was clear, what could be better. The Beach was pristine, white sand, very few people and the ocean was blue, blue blue. Into the water we went and yes it was cold to start, but the water was so clear, we soon got used to the water temperature and stayed for quite a while. I swam across the little bay a couple of hundred metres and back and soon warmed up. The Southern Ocean wasn't so bad after all.

Lunch beckoned so we drove around to the main Bay and found a picnic site. The main Bay wasn't so attractive as there was a lot of seagrass washed up, but by now a sea fog had started to roll in and the temperature dropped. We drove back to look at Nanurup, smelly as we arrived. It has a large lagoon the ocean end of which was blocked by a low dune, the lagoon now suffers from toxic algae, hence the smell. We did walk across the beach to the ocean but the wind was getting up and the fog increasing. I'm sure it is a fabulous beach in good weather.

We drove on to Gull Rock National Park, the opposite point to Emu Point, both Points enclosing Oyster Harbour. Took a look at Ledge Beach, nice beach but the wind was strong and the waves quite high, not a place for a relaxing swim. We met a couple who arrived at the same time who had been there a few days ago and it had been calm and they were able to swim out to the wreck in the bay. Not today! So, back in the car and we headed for camp. We went on into town to see the highly recommended ANZAC Centre.

Opened in 2014, 100 years after the departure of the first convoy of 29,000 troops heading to assist Britain in the First World War. The Centre told the story of the assembly of the first convoy in Albany Harbour, some 38 ships, the second convoy and then how the war went for the Australian and New Zealand volunteers, at Gallipoli, the Western Front and Palestine. Set on Mount Adelaide it was part of a larger exhibit including wartime buildings, anti-aircraft batteries, etc. It was a sobering experience, perhaps made more so by the miserable weather. Extremely well and thoughtfully presented, well worth a visit.

Down into town for some food shopping and to visit the library for internet. Internet slow, so we took a long time to get a message to our friend Peter for his 70th.

We were now getting quite hungry and the thought of barbecuing our shoulder of lamb for an hour and a half didn't appeal, so we called in at The Squid Shack, near to our campsite, for fish and chips. It came highly recommended, so much so, it was full and there was a 45 minute wait. We ordered, went to the campsite, put a bottle of rose in the freezer, sorted out the shopping and only had a few minutes wait when we returned to the Shack. The fish, blue groper, was delicious, lovely batter and great chips. The Shack was a fun place, it was just a tin roofed shack with wooden benches and tables and very busy; it had a real happy buzz.

Back to the camp for some ice cream and a small tot then bed.

4 March

What a grey morning, cool, only 20 degrees, and misty, murky, drizzly. We headed into town, via Middleton Beach (still drizzly) and down into town through the 'historic' quarter to find the library again. The library was very busy and the internet even slower than last night, but we were able to check emails. Ruth went in search of a haircut, but the salons wear booked out - it was Labour Day on Monday, so today was part of a long weekend. We bought some prawns to cheer us up for lunch and good they were too, just chucked on the barbie!

On the way back we spotted a bed shop and bought a new mattress, the old one, supplied with the camper was too soft. The new one is so much better. I went for a walk around Emu Point while Ruth tried out the new mattress. A really nice beach just inside Oyster Harbour, saw someone struggling with a fish on his line. It surfaced and he saw that it was a stingray, so cut the line, hugely disappointed.

Caught up with barbecuing the lamb; it was delicious, washed down with a cabernet sauvignon we bought at the little winery in the Otway.

5 March

Yet another grey morning, it wasn't cold, about 22degrees, just no sunshine. We had thought about going back to Porongurup for the wine festival as as the weather was so poor, we decided to go.

The clouds thinned a bit as we drove north, then cleared, a lovely sunny day. We turned off to visit the Porongurup National Park, a beautiful woodland drive on gentle ups and downs before arriving at the National Park and we drove in to the car park at 'tree in the rock'. There was actually such a thing, just up a short track was said tree, a pretty substantial tree, poking out off a large rock. We took the Bolganup Trail, it was only 600 metres, but a lovely walk through karri forest. The karri is a eucalyptus, there were some massive specimens, but most were a modest girth and all of them very tall and elegant with a pale biscuit-coloured bark. There had been an extensive bush fire here in 2007 and blackened tree trunks could still be seen and there was a lot of regrowth.

We followed the scenic route, Angwin Park Road, a gravel road that wound its way down through the forest of jarrah and marri trees, quite different from the higher karri forest. Some beautifully flowering red gums, cascades of small white flowers. The road ended at Woodside Road which lead us to the Festival.

It was busy, the large car park was pretty full when we arrived at midday,and the Festival only opened at eleven. We duly paid and collected our tasting glass and headed for the tasting booths. There were nine wineries represented here, and I think we tried something from them all. We started with whites at one end, had some lunch then worked our way back along the line trying some of the red. We found some wines we liked and some we were indifferent and we ended up buying some reserve chardonnays (not at all like the eighties big and blousy Aussie chardys), some shiraz and more of the Ironwood rocky rose. Ruth now wanted to go home!

Back to the camp, as we approached the Albany area, about 15 km out, we drive into the clouds and gloom. Obviously, Albany had not enjoyed the same weather as Porongurup. Glad we got away. Ruth crashed and I went for another walk around Emu Point and Beach.

We returned to The Squid Shack for squid and chips as the fish and chips had been so good. And tonights offering was very good too, I think I preferred the fish, but the squid was fresh and crisply battered, a great meal. Back for a little tot and bed.

6 March

Oh well, despite our hopes, the day once again dawned grey. Albany seems to have its own little weather system, a battle between the cool oceanic winds and the hot interior winds and Albany lost out while we were here. Nonetheless, it was our last day here, so we felt we ought to see a bit more of the area.

We drove west, through Albany to visit the other peninsula encircling King George Bay, curling south then east to Bald Head at the end. Essentially following Frenchman's Bay Road to the Torndirrup National Park and The Gap. The Gap is a huge cleft in the granite rock cliffs, enshrined in Aboriginal folklore. The current keepers of the land, the National Park have built a beautiful stainless steel lookout cantilevered over the edge of one side, with a perforated floor so you can see the ocean swells heaving and crashing against the walls and rocks 25 metres below. Quite an expereince and a great view. Fascinating rocks around, the granites and gneisses banded from the huge pressures existing when the rocks were made, by the collision of the Antartica and Australian plates.

A few metres away was a natural arch, carved by the ocean, in the huge granite rocks. Absolutely amazing! Quite a few tourists here, including the Chinese, all taking selfies and shouting to each other.

Back up the road to the next site, The Blowholes. The warning was of 78 steps down to the blowholes but omitted to mention the 500 metres beyond the steps! Anyway, Ruth declined, so off I went. The blowholes resulted from wave action and 'onion peeling' of the rocks. A very impressive 'blow' right next to me, quite unexpected, took me by surprise, as the blast of air rushed upwards. It is said the blast can carry water spray 15 metres into the air, but the ocean wasn't that rough today, but impressive nonetheless.

We drove on to Jimmy Newell's Harbour, a tiny inlet named after Jimmy was blown into it in a storm. No access by land, it was a pretty little inlet and Ruth spotted a small bird of prey, not sure which one, but I did manage to get a photo before it flew off. On now to Salmon Holes a small beach with a low limestone reef that gave protection and calm waters for the salmon to rest on their migration, very pretty and we were tempted to swim but it was getting very near lunchtime so we moved on to Discovery Bay. There was an old whaling station, a wildlife park and botanical gardens, all shut! So, on now to Frenchman's Bay, a very pretty bay and it had a picnic site. We flash-barbecued slices of lamb and ate them with some aubergine dip, turkish bread and tomatoes. Delicious.

We drove on towards Quarantine Hill to discover it was now a Government Youth Camp, so no admittance. A real shame as we would had great views of Albany across the entrance to Princess Royal Harbour. So back along the road around that Harbour where Ruth had earlier seen a distillery. We called in to see what Limeburner's Distillery offered and were so taken aback by their prices. $700 for a bottle! We did have a taste, at $5 a 15ml shot of a couple of their whiskies, but they weren't anything special, so we left empty-handed.

We looked in at the ANZAC memorial, this time to Mount Clarence and the Avenue of Honour, red gum trees planted along the avenue with names of soldiers lost at war. At the topp of the Mount was a lookout and copy of an ANZAC memorial originally placed at Port Said in Egypt, destroyed during the Suez Crisis. All very touching. We did see quite a few goannas along the way.

It was getting late, we drove back to Emu Point and our camp, dinner, Spanish omelette, then bed.

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