Creature Comforts

Trip Start Sep 28, 2003
Trip End Sep 29, 2004

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

After seeing Alan, Sally and Martin the previous evening at the pub, I had a hire car lined up for the next morning. I had decided that I was going to take three days to do the very southwest corner of Australia. This trip would take me from Freemantle (nr Perth) to Albany on an inland road and then back round to Freemantle using a more coastal route.

In order to have plenty of time to see the nice bits of the coast, the driving on my first day involved a four hour drive. As I had not driven for a while, the drive tired me out a bit, so when I got to Albany, I went for a cheap room above a pub. So I could relax straight away.

I would hate to belittle Albany, but I had a look around on foot, and did not find too many interesting things to look at. I think that like a lot of places the interesting things to see are those outside of the town itself! When I had booked into the room, I had been given a subtle hint that as it was a Saturday, I may not get the best night's sleep I have ever had. I decided to take action and for me that meant it was time to buy a pair of earplugs.

I have not used earplugs for years, but the pair I bought are fabulous. The only problem being as they protrude out of the ear, they tend to fall off when you turn over, while asleep! Still as long as I get to sleep quickly that is the most important thing. I also bought a couple of cd's for the car cd player. All of the cd's I had brought with me were prepared as compressed music files that only a special cd player (mp3) can play back. This means that I have copies of most of my music on much fewer disks, however they were not compatible with the in-car cd player.

That night I had some food at a place called Dylans On The Terrace, which is on Stirling Terrace, near the Information Centre in Albany. Dylans was recommended by the Lonely Planet and really was very good, as well as being extremely fast, despite being busy enough for people to be waiting for tables.

I then wandered through to town to an Internet Cafe, which I used for an hour to check email. At the Internet Cafe there were a range of leaflets and brochures about things to do in the area. (Many Internet cafes in Oz also have loads of tourist info and will book tours and provide other useful info.) So I had a word about my proposed route for the next day. At that point in time, I was heading across to a place called Pemberton, although I kind of had it in mind that I might aim to get a bit further, to a place right on the SW tip of the coast called Augusta. I was told of a few places that I could visit on my journey.

That night I slept very well, thanks to the earplugs and woke up fresh and early ready for a days driving and sightseeing.

The first place on the list was in a small National Park near Albany. There was a (another!) natural bridge and also a feature called The Gap, which, as you may have guessed is a Gap in the rocks. The sea swells right into the gap, obviously eroding it very slowly over time.

Next on the list of things to do, was the Wind Farm high up on the hills just to the West of Albany. A couple of paths had been created near and around the wind turbines, so I took half an hour to have a quick look around. There were pretty good views as it was sited close to the sea.

The next thing I had been told to have a look at, was a particular beach called Shelly Beach. Unfortunately, the road on the way there (after travelling a good way off the main road) turned into an unsealed road. Basically a track road. Unfortunately, the terms of the hire did not permit me to travel down to the beach. I was extremely tempted to carry on after the detour, but thought that it would be just my luck for something to go wrong with the car down there and to end up losing my deposit.

I stopped at a Tree-top walk next, which is near a place called Walpole. I had actually read about this walk, some time ago in the Bill Bryson book "Down Under" (you should read this if you ever think of coming to Oz - great book) and had decided then that I must get to go and have a look at it. Well, it was a walk up above some trees, just as you might suspect. It was actually quite high off the ground - around 40 metres I think. It was interesting to see a forest from a different aspect, however at the end of the day it was just trees! That walk cost about 6 Aus dollars (2.50 - approx), and there was another walk (this time on the ground) which is free of charge. You could argue that the second walk was the more impressive, because the type of trees made for interesting viewing. The trees were in the "Tingle Tree" family, and one of their peculiarities, is that huge hollows form at the base of the tree. These trees were also pretty big, some maybe 40 or 50 metres and correspondingly, some had pretty thick trunks to go with it.

I carried on with my driving, through the amazing scenery that makes up this area. Some of it looking like the green countryside of home, but also huge areas taken up by grapevines. I cannot explain quite how attractive this part of the country is and I am now kicking myself that I did not get the pictures to prove it. After a while, I got to Pemberton. By this point, it was still mid-afternoon and I had decided that I would try and push on to get to Augusta.

It was soon after I had, had an Ice Cream and left Pemberton that I wondered if my decision was a wise one. I drove along a road that was lined with trees and saw a car that had driven into a big kangaroo and the kangaroo was not looking too healthy. This is a major hazard of the roads out here. A kangaroo minding its own business can quickly hop onto the road, seemingly coming from nowhere. Travelling at the allowed speeds it would be very hard to avoid such a large animal, and as well as unknowingly putting their lives on the line they can also cause serious damage to the vehicles colliding with them and any occupants.

It is a general fact in Australia that to avoid the wildlife on the roads, it is best not to drive around dawn and dusk, nighttime is also not ideal, because of your reduced vision. So I wondered if I had made a bad call to continue with my journey. I had just seen a sign warning of kangaroos for the next 70km's or so, the sun was getting closer to the horizon, there were trees close to the road on both sides and I was a little tired, despite taking reasonable breaks. In hindsight I would have stayed at Pemberton for a night as I found the next hours driving very stressful, but fortunately the journey passed without event after that.

Augusta is a very small town, population of only a few thousand. Luckily I knew that I would be staying at the YHA there, which I knew was going to be pretty good. Well I was amazed! I did opt for the luxury of having my own room but, it was in a fairly new purpose designed building and I could have been in a very new hotel. Maybe not all mod cons, but it certainly rated as the best hostel I have ever stayed in. With its comfortable lounge and brilliant kitchen. Again this is somewhere I have to recommend. So next time you are down that way, pop in to Baywatch Manor YHA. Beware though, the town has one ATM, and when I tried it, it was empty!

One of the reasons I had been so keen to get to Augusta, was that the Whale Watching there is meant to be the best in the country. So with the help of the great staff at the hostel, I was soon booked on to a tour for the following morning. I was in a seaside mood so I enjoyed fish and chips again for dinner.

The whale trip was good. Maybe I didn't see quite as many whales as I had hoped, but I did see more whales than I had seen before in the rest of my life, so it cannot have been too bad! Unfortunately, only one of them breached a couple of times near to the boat. Apparently on a good trip, the whales do it so often, it is like they are trying to get into the boat! The two types of whale that we saw were Southern Rights and Humpbacks. It was truly incredible to see them, when they did leap out of the water and I did manage to catch a photo of a whale's tail despite my quickly running down camera battery (stupid twit for not remembering to charge it the night before). When we headed back on our boat, we saw some of the whales that we had just been close to, breaching in the distance.

The rest of that day I decided to spend looking around the local area, as I had extended my stay at the Augusta Hostel for one more night because it was so good. One of the other places that I had heard about, to visit in that area was a cave by the name of Jewel Cave. I had made sure that I arrived just prior to the time that the tour would start. However when I went to buy my ticket, I was told that they were unsure if the tour would be running as there need to be three people (inc the guide) on the tour for health and safety reasons. I was told that it is not very often that a tour has to be cancelled for this reason, but as the minutes ticked on this was looking to be the case.

However right at the last moment an older chap turned up and the tour was saved.The amazing thing about these caves is that they are packed full of stalegtites and stalegmites formed out of coral deposits in the water that had dripped down through the earth and had ended up in the cave. This meant that many of the formations were translucent and stragetically placed lights, really helped to show them off. There were an amazing ray of different stalegtites and stalegmites varying hugely in size and shape. Some of the stalegtites particularly had grown out at strange different angles, some turning into spirals. These ones were more specifically called helectites. There were also many "straws" - long thin stalagtites. The guide gave us both an interesting and enjoyable tour around the cave. It is woth having a look at this if you are in the area.

One of the other places in the area that I had not visited yet was the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which is only a handful of K's south of Augusta. Seeing as this was at the very SW corner of Australia, this had to be done. Umfortunately, by the time I pulled up, it was closing time and the gates were just being shut. However, I parked the car up nearby and still managed to enjoy the view and take a number of different photos, just where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

As I was leaving the next day, I was trying to maximise my use of time and of the hire car. So I drove back through Augusta to a lookout that I had seen marked on the map. The road to the lookout was fairly rural and I was amazed to see a kangaroo jump out of the bushes in the road just ahead of me, and it was great to see as he hopped along and off the other side of the road. Since seeing the Kangaroo accident on the previous day I had been taking it very slowly on the country road, so I was able to enjoy this sighting without it causing me any stress! The lookout was highup and there were reasonable views but I had seen better before. I soon was back in the car and drove back into to Augusta to find some dinner. I soon settled on the Colour Patch cafe (claiming to be the last eatery before the Antartic!) Where I had nice food with a great view across the water. I tried to take some photos here, the ones I took before the meal came out pretty well with great shouts of cloads reflecting in the water. However the sunset photos I took later, the camera did not do well on, because of the lack of light.

When I got back to the hostel, I soon found the TV room, but it was not long before a huge group of french students arrived. I decided to have an early night - to get out of the way! All good intentions of getting up early the next day were also shattered when I heard the large group getting up early, so I decided to stay in bed and let them leave before I ventured out of bed. Luckily, because I had chosen to take my own room, I was kept a bit away from the noise.

Today's itinary, was the drive back upto to Fremantle to return the hire car and stay overnight in preparation for my trip to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific the next day. The road north was lined, on either side with lots and lots of grapevines. I wish I had taken some more photos than I did, but it was hard to find places that were appropriate to stop on the relatively small road.

The first stop on the way back to Fremantle was at Margaret River. Margaret River is very well known for its wineries, as I am not very well known for my wine drinking, I had decided that I would skip staying the night here, in favour of two in Augusta. So I had a very brief glimpse of the place, buying some local produce (Fudge, which I do enjoy) and also I got a Powderfinger(Australian Rock Band) CD which I saw on offer. I know many people that have stayed a lot longer in Margaret Riber and really rave about the place, but I had to keep moving and did not have time to stay and experience it properly. It was a very nice looking place though, and I guess there was a river around somewhere, but I did not see it!

I made one or two other stops travelling back up to Freo. I went to the Jaffle Pie Shop in Bathurst (very good Pies, quite healthy as well, apparently.... or at least a bit healthier for you than a normal pie). Jaffle Pie Shops are a chain in WA and worth trying out if you are there.

Finally I got back to Fremantle, checked into the hostel and returned the hire car. To celebrate the return of the deposit, I decided to buy an ice cream and then went onto the Little Creatures pub, for food and a drink, before going to the cinema. It was good to be back in civilsation again, after having been in the sticks for the last few days.

The next morning I made my way back to Perth on the train and anto East Perth station from where the Indian Pacific Train departs.

When I was checking in, the girl suggeste dI keep my sleeping bag with me for the trip rather than check it in. This was a good idea as overnight on the train, they use air-con which keeps the temperature down. Earplugs and eyemask were useful again. Also I got the luxury of two seats to myself.

This time, I had only two days on the train which saw me travel back to Adelaide. The train stopped in the same places, so I enjoyed the luxury of a meal off the train (same place as last time) in Kalgoorlie and simply stretched my legs in Cook, having been not too impressed the last time I visited.

On the train they offer tours for passengers getting off the train at the various cities, and as I had not got too long in Adelaide - two days, I decided to take this tour so I would get an idea of the layout of the city and maybe work out what I wanted to do while I was there.

Well this is the end of this installment, next installment includes my two days in Adelaide and my first trip on the Lengendary Ghan...
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