Australia (South West Tour) Pemberton - Albany

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Day 1

Arriving at the tiny town of Pemberton we drove straight to the site of the Gloucester tree, a large Karri tree with a spiral staircase constructed around it to enable people to climb to the top (60m high). We were planning on climbing it until we arrived in the pouring rain to discover that it would cost $9, the rungs were soaking wet and slippery and there was no harness or even hand rail to aid the 60m ascent or more alarmingly prevent a 60m fall! We moved on.

As we drove around the village looking for a free spot to camp we came across a YHA and called in to ask for their advice and recommendations on local camping spots. They advised that the only free camping spot for miles was up around the Big Brook Dam in the forest. With the darkness and rain closing in we began the long and bumpy drive up to and around the dam and adjoining reservoir eventually coming across the slight clearing which was to be our home for the night. The only other people there were actually packing up and leaving as the rain got heavier and more persistant...perhaps not a good sign.

As the rain continued we opted to sleep with the pop-top down and closed our eyes at 10:30 trying to ignore the heavy patters on the roof.

Day 2

With the rain continuing relentlessly throughout the night we were still unable to climb the Gloucester tree the following morning (or at least unwilling to take the risk!) so instead we got back on the road and drove to Walpole to the Valley of the Giants. This is the home of the tree top walk; a giant metallic walkway amongst the canopy of the huge Karri and Tingle trees that are specific to the region.

The walkway, although a fairly new construction still wobbled around rather disconcertingly. As it turns out this was one of its better features and actually designed to move to accomodate the ever changing weather and surroundings. It is actually a lot higher than it feels and you never feel unsafe. (PICS)

Alongside the tree top walk is the ancient empire walk, a feature which we initially dismissed having overdosed on forest walks in Eastern Australia, however the tree top walk was quite short so we opted to have a quick look around. Surprisingly it turned out to be the more worthwhile of the two despite the fact that the tree top walk is meant to be the main attraction.

The walk takes you around the base of the giant Karri and red Tingle trees giving you a close up look at their enormity and vast scorched, hollow trunks. Some trees were showing their age more than others with one in particular being known as 'the old granny'(PICS).

Having viewed the offerings of the valley of the giants we continued south to Denmark and found a campsite near the river mouth, just as the sun was beginning to set (PIC). Tired from the walking or perhaps just disheartened from the amount of rain we indulged in a locally made wood-fired pizza before bedtime.

Day 3

With the usual morning routine completed we ventured into the centre of Denmark; again a fairly small town with just a couple of main streets featuring the essential local shops. One that warranted a look was the Toffee factory, perhaps not an essential store but one that stirred our interest and appetites. Not only did it produce a myriad of tantilizing toffee treats but also a plethora of gourmet savoury delights and better still they provided free tasters. After having our fill of freebies we painstakingly narrowed our decision down to; six flavoured toffees and a roasted garlic mayonnaise.

Taking advantage of an increasingly rare internet opportunity we spent a while updating our website and catching up with friends before grabbing some basic supermarket necessities and departing for Albany.

A couple of hours later we pulled into the tourist information centre in Albany, which unlike many services in Australia was still open past 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Maps and advice taken on board we made our way round to a few of Albany's more renowned natural attractions; The Gap, Natural Bridge and Cable Beach.

The Gap is an impressive sheer drop down to the surging waves far below, carved over thousands of years through the granite rock of the coastline (PICS). As the enormous waves crash against the sides of the rock the giant sea sprays are driven up and over the cliff edges and bystanding tourists.

The Natural Bridge, only a few hundred metres away from The Gap, is another testiment to the force of nature; the waves, having penetrated the coastline, have left the granite stradled between two rock faces and balancing precariously in its wake (PICS).

Finally, Cable Beach which is a fairly innocuous beach on the southern coast, apart from the fact that the characteristically huge waves in this region have deposited a gigantic 200-tonne boulder, seemingly too big to ever be moved on the crest of a wave, onto the shoreline there. (PIC)

As the sun began its descent in the sky we decided return to the Natural Bridge in an attempt to capture some sunset views for the photo album (PICS).

With the sun having disappeared below the horison we returned to the centre of Albany to find a camping spot, unfortunatley all of the beach carparks were 'camping prohibited' zones so we opted for a closed off road near to the peak of Mount Clarence overlooking the town and the ocean.

Day 4 - Mother's Day

Our quiet camping location and comfortable bed conspired to a late start and we eventually journeyed down the other side of Mount Clarence to Middleton beach just in time for a midday ice-cream on the beach.

Agreeing that the water looked too cold for a dip we instead returned to the top of Mount Clarence for a panoramic view out over Albany from the War memorial perched at its peak(PIC). There was also a nearby fort but, not wanting to pay the entry fee, we gave it a miss in favour of another natural phenomenon back near the Natural bridge; the Blowholes.

The Blowholes is actually a large crack in the granite where the waves are forced up with enough pressure to shoot the resulting spray up to three metres in the air. It can be a lot more imposing during high winds or a storm and has been known to take lives of those that got too close. (VIDEO)

With the early afternoon light still good we opted to travel out to the Porongurups and the Stirling Range, only 40km away from Albany. The Porongurups has a number of its own naturally occuring spectacles such as the balancing rock and Tree-in-a-rock. Tree-in-a-rock could be driven to, as opposed to a two hour trek so it doesn't take a genius to guess which one we visited. Thankfully it wasn't a long drive or walk as we nearly walked straight past tree-in-a-rock, only noticing it at the last moment (PIC). Overall it was a bit disappointing and probably only worthwhile if you are a hardy walker willing to visit the other sites and surrounding mountains. The distant view of the sprawling Stirling Range was the most impressive part of the trip (PIC).

Trundling back into Albany with the sun setting in our rear view mirror we were quite content with our day and discussing what to do for dinner and where to camp when the decision was made for us; taking a corner a bit too sharply one of the cupboard doors flew open and the contents flew out onto the floor with a thud. The unmistakable smell of sauce quickly filled the cabin as we pulled up and ventured back to assess the mess; a jar of pasta sauce had fallen from the bottom shelf and smashed spilling its contents all over the opposite cupboard door, the carpet and a bunch of clothes...all of which turned out to be Verdi's! Not one item of Andrew's was touched. To a campsite and laundry it was.

Luckily we had seen a smart looking campsite the previous night next to Middleton beach so we headed straight there. We were not disappointed, despite the higher than average cost at $26, not only did it have the much needed laundry but also a pool, spa, games room, TV room and immaculate amenities. We later discovered that it was part of the Big4 chain of caravan parks.

With the laundry underway, table tennis sampled and the morning dawning in the UK we set ourselves up in the deserted spa and rang our mothers to send our love.

Having said goodbye to the folks we relaxed a little longer in the spa and then dragged our wrinkly bodies lazily to bed both in agreement that we could do with a whole day of enjoying the parks facilities.

Day 5

With no deadlines, timescales or flights to catch our time was our own so we decided to spend the day just like that...a whole day of enjoying the parks facilities.

Luckily we had picked a day with clear blue skies, warm sun and cooling sea breezes to lounge around the pool (in hindsight a better day than any other, before or after, for quite a while).

The day was spent languishing by the pool, reading our books and with the occasional dip in the pool and spa. As the sun disappeared and the breeze picked up we took advantage of the games room with a few games of table tennis and pool before devouring dinner beside the log fire and in front of the TV - an activity we hadn't experienced for a good few weeks.

Hooked by our respective books we continued to read before calling it a night. Suitably refreshed and ready to continue our travels eastward; embarking on the long drive to Esperance.
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