I (heart) Albany
Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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If you took New Zealand's tiny alpine resort of Wanaka, gave it the hilly contours of a Cornish seaside village and surrounded it with a picture-postcard coastal inlet not unlike the soothing expanse of Lake Te Anau, you'd have yourself a little place called Albany - South Australia's first European settlement and world class in terms of coastal scenery. I spent twenty minutes yesterday striding along its streets with a grin stretched from ear to ear. I'd like to think it was the excitement of strolling through an unfamiliar place again without a care or a plan but it was probably the fact that I'd finally broke the chains and got out of Feralsville.
The send off was a beaut and much more than I could have expected (they sent me packing with a mohawk!) Everyone came outside to wave me off and the brief moment that I had with each one of them before I saddled up will stay with me for a very long time. I saw tears in eyes of the most unexpected and I actually roared out of Boulder with a lump in my throat. The end of another era.
Day one was a proper let down. I was stupid enough to forget the neckwarmer so ended up with a chill to the spine that has buggered my back up for the last few days. First stop was Esperance and could I find any accommodation? Absolute nightmare. They managed to squeeze me into a shit-hole of a dorm at the YHA (well out of town) with two idiots who didn't have the first idea about manners. Coming back to the hostel at 4am rat-arsed and banging the door down cos' you forgot your key isn't one of life's nicer gestures, especially when you start turning the room upside down under the thousand watt bulb while people lie tucked up in bed trying to dream of happy places. And bumping in to a few of the local dickheads from Kal who'd come down for a jolly didn't help matters either. My new found freedom was shadowed. But only temporarily. I made a snap decision and hit the road the very next morning, nailing a full 500k's over to Albany, with yesterday's underwear wrapped round my neck to keep the wind out.
Albany's spot on and well worth a few days exploring. I've just got back from a great day with a couple of randoms from the hostel. Mark the Aussie was the older guy. I'd put him in his late forties. Nice enough bloke and at first I thought he'd got great potential of becoming the hostel 'pain in the arse', much like that older Aussie guy from the hostel in Adelaide was. But Mark's alright, harmless enough and a generous fella. We were joined by Dan, a pom out doing his gap year, still wet behind the ears. Aussie Mark was keen to get down on the beach at Nanarup (a long sweeping stretch of coastline) to give the fourby a good thrashing. So we parked up, let the tyres down and blasted along. Happy days apart from the tide rolling in. We must have lasted ten minutes. Two very sticky moments in the sinking sand and we were out of there.
Next up was the highlight of the day and probably one of the main highlights of my time in Australia so far. They're known as The Gap and Natural Bridge: two spectacular coastal marvels created by the thunderous pounding of the Southern Ocean. The rocks we stood on were the very rocks left behind when Antarctica and Australia finally broke away from each other 45 million years ago. Apparently they can still be matched to rock formations on the northern coast of Antarctica today. Standing on the very edge of the Australian continent, looking out towards Antarctica across that vast expanse of perilous ocean was magical, right up my alley and with everything I'd just left behind and everything I was starting I lost it and kicked off like an exciteable child. Aussie and Gap Year wouldn't have known. Then the Aussie sparked up: 'Calm down you silly pommie bastard', expressionless, just as he'd been all day, but I was made. I'd got my shot of morphine. Natural Bridge was what you'd expect it to be: a makeshift bridge leftover from a good pounding, and I ventured down there with Gap Year for a better look. We blatantly ignored the warning signs and climbed right underneath and on to the slippy stuff where the southern seas were hammering into the rock like a mad thing. It was a monster, absolutely spot on.
Hostel life has been better than I'd anticipated, much better than I could have hoped for. Albany backpackers is a proper haven and has given me the best nights sleep I've had in months. Met some great randoms too, including a guy from Northern Ireland who's obsessed with card-tricks, a swiss guy who spends every day in bed, a feral guy who's constantly high on painkillers and an interesting Aussie thrillseeker who's just bought himself a KLR650 to take on the whole of Russia and the Stans on two-wheels, alone. He's leaving next May and has asked if I want to tag along..
Kilometres eaten: 4835
Where I stayed