Albany 2014

Oh my goodness! What an inventure (Master 11’s word)!

Where are we? I have to think. We are in Northcliff, night one. Didn’t mean to get this far but we did! Just on 10 hours driving and the odd episode of being lost and the odd case of misadventure. We left home at 9am, some petrol and my mail from the post office. In doing so, I realised I forgot to fill up my water tank so home we went for 80L of water. Now that sounds easy, but the angle on the inflow pipe means that it takes forever to fill! By forever I mean 15 minutes! And there is no quick way, believe me, I’ve tried. Finally back on the road and on our way. LPG at Thomas rd exit and then next stop Harvey. Just so we can say we’ve been there. We’ve been there and there ain’t nothing there. Even the big orange isn’t worth the effort. And we should know. We come from the place where the big banana is. The info centre wasn’t bad. May Gibbs was resident in Harvey for a couple of years so there’s info about her. And there is a monarch butterfly breeding area so there were a few butterflies. And Tyly and the geese chased each other around. We got lunch and coffee in town then and hit the road again.

Next stop Bridgetown. Arriving there we became aware that the d-shackle that holds the winch strap to the camper was gone. Not sure where or how that happened given that we never take it off and as far as I know it was as tight as all get out. Anyway, we were just calling in to Bridgeton to get some info on camping around Pemberton but ended up spending a good hour in the puzzle museum. Believe it or not. Onwards to Manjimup for supplies and then on to Pemberton. This is where no plans sort of means you can come unstuck. We did the Diamond tree (I’m not going to clarify whether we scaled the 50m by ladder or not). Very, very, very cool. And saw the big tree at Pemberton (can’t recall it’s name) then headed off in search of a camp site. We followed a road to Moons Crossing hoping to cross and head to Shannon’s camp ground after that. But the river was up and I wasn’t dragging the trailer through so we u-turned (that’s sounds easy right? Single lane, thick forest, dirt road, absolutely deserted and towing a trailer longer than my truck it’s far from easy, but I did it) and back we went to Pemberton. About 15k, all on dirt and part of it steep and rutted. But all quite easy for the truck. Did I mention that by this stage we had run out of LPG? We’re on those few litres of petrol now.

Back through Pemberton about 6pm with Master 11 telling me the trailer is making a funny noise and me insisting it’s all fine. A quick squizz at the map and we’re headed for the bicentennial tree and Warren NP and the camp ground there. Cruised past the bicentennial tree turn off because we can go back in the morning and as we turned onto the road I can finally hear the  noise Tyly has been telling me about for the last 20k. I stopped, jumped out, thought we had a flat tyre on the trailer but no, we had busted a bracket on the water tank and had been dragging it the last 20 odd km’s (or more) by the inflow and outflow pipes! Needless to say it has holes in it (it’s brand new!) and is rubbish now. But the clamps on the two pipes were so tightly applied that it took us quite a while to get the tank off. And then Ms 17 went under and got the broken bracket. There goes our 80L of water. Never mind. We used the little bit left to fill up the water bottles and strapped the tank to the camper and went in search of our campsite. Less than 3k apparently, but rounding the corner we came across a closed road, and a handwritten sign on a white board explaining the campground closure due to work following winter rains. Really? Why is the sign not miles back at the entrance? Turning around again.

By this time Ms 17 is happy and Master 11 is crying. He’s scared and she’s having a hoot! I’m just plain knackered and need alcohol. There’s no way I’m going back so onwards we go to this place. Northcliff. At the Eco-caravan park. Which is code for someones property, a few sites, a couple of toilets and showers and nobody else here. As good as what I had hoped for but with hot showers! Just a fair bit later than I planned and a lot further. It’s really very nice (at least I think so, we got here as it was getting dark). We have it to ourselves. There is a guy staying in the camp kitchen who is walking the Bibbulman track but we haven’t seen him. Anyway, we’ve eaten and showered and the kids are asleep. It’s 9.30 and it’s been a hell of a day. I’m not sure what tomorrow brings other than a squizz at Windy Harbour and then onwards with the adventure. I’ll need to get water but that’s easy. A few litres at IGA and we’re all good. I hope to be camping somewhere by a beach tomorrow night but we’ll see. I better get fuel too!

Ok, I’m off to do my teeth and hit the sack. I’m tired but happy. My camper is up, my kids are asleep and it’s quiet and dark. I love the quiet and the darker the better. Good night for now.

Day two – far less chaotic than day one

We are at Fernbrook Falls camp area in the Mount Franklin National Park. It doesn’t get much better than this. We are completely bush camping with a fire pit and long drop toilets. The feral side of me emerges now.

We had a great day. The boy wonder was up before 6am and it’s 5.25pm and he’s splitting wood like a mad thing! And we’ve done so much in between. We sent messages and the kids called their dad from on top of Mt Chudalup. That was fantastic. An easy walk but a spectacular 360° view of a breathtaking landscape.

We set off for there and Windy Harbour after breakfast and showers in our deserted caravan park. The magpies were so inquisitive there, they were coming right up to the camper door. And there a were heaps of kangaroos too. There was also an elusive owl, hooting in a tree but I couldn’t find him. As usual, when I’m camping, I slept well. Partly through tiredness from driving and anxiety towards the end, and partly through just being away. We have had no Optus coverage since yesterday (Thursday) afternoon so I also don’t know if there is anything I should be worrying about. That certainly helps.

Anyway, after Mt Chudalup we headed to Windy Harbour and walked the cliffs from Pt D’Entrecasteaux to Tookalup to look out over Salmon Beach. Very spectacular coast and we saw whales! And dolphins! That was very cool! We had lunch back at Windy Harbour and a walk on the beach. It was covered in blue bottles with more big ones washing up as we sat there. And I saw a stunning little blue wren. He is a very attractive boy! We have also been highly entertained by the black cockies. They are skittish here but in abundance. The wild flowers are all in fine bloom as well. There were some very pretty pink little native daisies. There was also a crazy lady who wanted to chat about the umpteen kangaroos, wallabies and birds she is caring for. Couldn’t extricate ourselves from that conversation very easily.

Now we are here. Ms 17 is cranky because there is no coverage so the boyfriend will be angry! She’s reading a book! Something I haven’t seen her do in a long time. We have a fire and the spuds are in. I’m cooking a steak and having a vodka. It’s cool but not as cool as last night. It’s also breezy but not blowing a gale. The boy wonder is in his element. He had a ride in the front seat today and chatted like crazy about absolutely nothing. He’s back in the back tomorrow! Did I mention the budgerigar and mouse are on holidays with us too? So he has company in the back seat.

It’s got quite still now. The sun has almost set and we’ll be eating soon.

Day 3 and 4 all rolled into one. Where do I start? Yesterday morning seems like more than 2 days ago. We woke in Fernyhook early again. When I say early it’s master 11 and I then we annoy Ms 17 til she finally gets up. This has meant that we have an angry teen for a while. Back to yesterday, we had a good walk around Fernyhook and then headed up the dirt track to Mount Frankland. That is an amazing Mount. We walked up to the top and stared into the distance.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Natures peace will flow into you as sunshine into flowers. The winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy. All care will drop off like autumn leaves. John Muir 1838 -1914.

The wildflowers were superb and I photographed so many of them. The trek up and back was as much a part of the experience as the summit was. We were talking about 7 billion people in the world and how many have done what we did. A small drop in the huge ocean. My resolve to drive around the world is stronger than ever.

The experience of being there is part of the experience of wildness but only a part. The exquisite sight, sound and smell of wilderness is many times more powerful if it is earned through physical achievement. Conservation Council of WA 1980

After Mount Frankland and a lot of push and shove about who rides shot gun, we were back on the road to Walpole. Now I can’t say I was particularly enamoured of it or Denmark for that matter, but we had lunch there and stocked up. We found a great spot to throw some sandwiches on a hot plate and make toasty and about 5 minutes later some amazingly feral folk turned up to share the BBQ. They had been out fishing and the flies they attracted were unbelievable. They must have been covered in fish filth. They didn’t smell but we were fly free thanks to them!

We also found the op shop in Walpole. Both kids came very under prepared for the weather so I got Ms 17 another pair of jeans and Master 11 a hoody, two pairs of sox and a beany. Sal also found a tartan skirt she had to have and Tyly got a pair of Nike Air shoes. $12 later they had a change of warm clothes and Walpole Community had my fortune!!

Searching for Saturday nights destination we spoke to the guy in the info centre. I had been told at the caravan and camping show in March 2013 to make sure I went to Mandalay Beach if I was ever down this way so we inquired about Banksia campground just adjacent to Mandalay. The guy told me it was the best on the coast but 5k on sand to get to it. He tried hard to put me off but words like those … Red rag to a bull! Mandalay first. Breathtaking! Didn’t see the wreck but the coast was amazing and further inspired me to head to Banksia. I’ve not ever attempted anything like that on my own but been a passenger many times. So, why not? In we went. 5k of anxiety but worth it a million times over! The best camp site. And we had a great night. Master 11 was in charge of the fire. Ms 17 had potatoes in their jackets. I slept to the sound of the surf. This morning we spent more time on the beach before we headed back out. There’s that conversation about 7 billion people again …

So, here we are at today. Our first stop was the tingle tree. I have to say that tree is amazing. Mother Nature at her supreme best. A feat of engineering that surpasses the best man can make. I felt so small and so insignificant in the shadow of that tree. We spent a bit of time just paying our respects to the beauty.

To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour. William Blake 1801

After the tingle tree we did the touristy Tree Top Walk. It was worth it but there was not the same degree of solitude. Master 11 didn’t enjoy it at all. The height really scared my little guy. He didn’t lose it altogether but he barely held it together. The perspective is different and perhaps not as grandiose as standing underneath the giants. Add the extra people and it loses something more.

Next stop Peaceful Bay for lunch. A great spot. Barely anyone there. Master 11 headed out to one of the rocks and chatted with the gulls. He hasn’t stopped talking since we left Perth and he’s nattering away here beside me as it type. Bedtime for him!

Now, post-Denmark, with our washing on the fence we are spending the night in Cozy Corner. It’s blustery but the surf sounds so great. I miss that. I had it every night for so long. It’s so comforting and drowns out everything else. So now, dinner is cooked. The washing up is done. The kids are settling down for the night and I’m having a drink. Tomorrow and the rest of our trip will be spent in Albany.

Day what-are-we-up-to? Is it day 5? At least I know where I am. Albany. We got here this morning. Early for a change! The spot we stayed in overnight was ok but not up to our standard. Having said that, it was free so there were no complaint cards in the foyer! I think that it would have been fine except it was blowy, as is it is here now, and we were on high. But we got in there late and were gone before 9 this morning. The place was jammed with grey nomads too cheap to pay for accom and backpackers with no $ to pay for accom. And us.

Anyway, we are here in Albany now. I have to say that it feels great to have been dirty. Not filthy or even smelly, just not washed my hair or worn makeup. Just jeans and t’s with hiking boots and a pony tail dirty. We had a bush shower with the solar bags on Saturday and a wash yesterday. Master 11 was the cleanest of all of us, having swum at least twice a day. He’s been in the ocean despite the cold. But it was good not to care what people think because they are as dirty and bare as we are. Unfortunately my face is burnt (a legacy of no makeup that has a 30+ sunscreen) but the red will fade (I hope!).

Now all that said, it was just as good to get in the shower. We are in a caravan park on Middleton Beach for tonight and tomorrow night, just to have 2 days rest from towing and packing up and setting up, before we journey home on Wednesday. Back to my shower … It was awesome. The water pressure was extreme! The temperature divine and the soap just plain amazing. Shampoo and conditioner complete the picture and I’m almost civilised. I have never had such a good shower. I’ll be having at least another three before we leave! Just to catch up.

Anyway the shower came after the National ANZAC Centre visit, so pity the poor folk who were there the same time as us. But that centre is fabulous. It opened on 1st November this year (officially) and has some great interactive exhibits and a wealth of information. Each visitor gets given a card, the size of a credit card, with an ANZAC on it and as you walk around you place your card on a reader find out about how they joined up, when they embarked, what conflict they saw, and their ultimate fate (Ms 17 got me a nurse – apparently her story was part of the tv show on ABC recently). The kids loved that, along with the audio tour and swiping with the wand over the symbols to hear more specific stuff. Of course we had heaps to compare with our visit to ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli earlier this year. Did you know that the entrance to the harbour here in Albany is Ataturk Entrance after the president of Turkey at the time of WWI? What he said, post war, moved me when I first saw it in Turkey and again when I saw it today …

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours …

You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears;  your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Atatürk 1934

Amazing man and worthy of the statue at the entrance to the harbour here.

The other thing that struck me, and this one bought the only tears to my eyes in the whole Albany Heritage Park, was this letter from a lover to the officials. It is on a 4 sided post inscribed with a variety of letters from the time. This one is at the front, centred and most obvious. It’s presented in flowing script, like handwriting …

Dear sir, In reference to your kind letter which I received last week about the inscription on the tombstone of my husband late W.J Jackson no (1952) … I do not understand about the 66 letters but I am sending the inscription what I would like to have ‘In loving memory of dear husband and father William John Jackson killed in action at Flores between 16 and 18 November 1916. Loved in life, honoured in death, cherished in memory,’ and I would like you to put it in the best way you think possible that it will fit on the tombstone, as you will have a much better idea than what I will have. So hoping to hear from you if this will suit you. I remain yours faithfully ...

The bureaucrat who saw fit to put that the best way they thought in 66 letters had better have had trouble counting and not changed a single word. The sense of the depth of her loss is almost possible to feel. The fact that so many women, lovers and wives, felt that loss, on both sides, is much harder to believe. Today is the 17th November 2104. Just a coincidence but an interesting one all the same. Obviously the war history is at the forefront of everything here at the moment but these monuments and statues and centres are permanent. Albany has a strong affiliation with the start of the First World War and they have done a great job of respectfully presenting both sides of the story.

That brings me to my shower. Oh, I’ve done that. It was just so good, it’s hard to gloss over it. Post shower, we rested. The mouse has louse again so de-lousing has been undertaken, the camper was a bit of a mess so a general clean up has been performed and the boy wonder finally brushed his teeth (thank goodness for apples!). This afternoon we walked the board walk around to the harbour entrance to work up an appetite and tonight we ate in town. A well earned rest from cooking although it hasn’t been that hard. I cooked on the open fire on Friday and Saturday nights, so that’s never an ordeal.

And now it’s bed time. The agenda for tomorrow is jam packed. The kids have last-full-day anxiety about seeing everything so the alarms are set (!) and we’ll be off with the birds! Fortunately, no towing. That means I don’t need to find the longest car parks, don’t have to reverse a rig that’s over twenty feet, don’t have to watch to make sure the trailer is there (I still don’t trust myself to attach it properly), and can just cruise for a change! Lights are out, kids are asleep and I’m out of wine. The wind has dropped, so the flapping of the canvas has stopped. Must be time for me to sleep to the sound of the surf.

The end of the journey. I’m actually exhausted. Bring solo mum is hard work at home around the house, work and school. Being solo mum on holidays as well as driver, accommodation setterer upperer, cook, cleaner and bottle washer is draining. But it’s all over now and we’ll be home this time tomorrow. My massage is booked and I’ll be moaning about work in no time. This is the first holiday ever that I haven’t looked at my emails. I haven’t even peaked. And I’ve only taken one work call. That’s absolutely unheard of for me! I hope there’s no one losing it about their conference presentation on Thursday or Friday …

Today … Fit in three days worth. The wind turbines x2, the gap and natural bridge, the blowholes, the salmon pools, the whaling station, a swim, a couple of spas, dinner in the pub and a game of pool, a drive up to the lookout and fuel for the car. Highlights? I would have to say today’s highlight is man made. Unusual for me, give me Mother Nature any day. But those wind turbines! Wow! Although, it is Mother Nature doing the hard work. We were there this morning right as a ripper of a lightning storm came through so we abandoned that and went back this evening. With the grey of the stormy clouds as their backdrop, the turbines look like aliens or triffids. Life like and invading. And mammoth. The sheer size and speed of each turbine is extreme. There are 18, dotted into the distance, whirring and winding. They were cracking along today, about 4secs per revolution, equal to more than 200k/hr! Generating 80% of Albanys power. Good on you Albany, I say!

As for the rest, the Pygmy sperm whale skeleton was unreal too! Huge Pygmy! I’d hate to see it’s non-Pygmy cousin. The whaling station was really very good. A good use of a place with a horrid history. The lady who took our tour was so animated and engaging. We spent longer there than I anticipated. The blowholes weren’t blowing but just as well. My sooky kids were scared! I jumped over the blowhole to get a better view from the other side and the kids were peeing themselves the whole time. But the sea was just too calm today.

Unfortunately Albany has been overcast and grey our entire time here, I can imagine the colour of the water when it’s a nice day and I look forward to seeing it next year when we cruise through here headed east and north. The travel bug has sunk it’s teeth in deep and I can’t wait to move on again. Bring on 2015 and my long service leave for travelling Aus with Tyly and doing Bolivia with no kids.

Anyway, time to bed down the pets, kiss the kids, brush my teeth and lock up. It never ends, even on holidays! The morning will be here soon enough and we’re headed for Castle Rock on our way home. No chance we could do Bluff Knoll so that will be next time too!

Another great day although a lot of it was spent in the car. Quite honestly, I think we’ve all has enough of each other! The kids haven’t stopped fighting and I’ve been seriously grumpy about having to constantly listen to it. This house is normally way too big for the 3 of us but tonight it’s perfect!

We left Albany just on 9 and hit the road via the info centre. We collect stickers for the lock box on the camper from all the places we stay. It’s a cute tradition that the kids like, hence the info centre stop at the end of our stay! We headed north-east to Porongorup to Castle Rock. It was a wonderful experience. A lot harder than I thought (grade 5 hike) but we coped no problems and a heck of a lot easier than some. We did the whole thing, including the “scramble” over huge rocks for the last 65m. It was worth it and now I have a new love. And a new aim. Mountain climbing. Wow! I just want to keep hiking up mountains. We did Mount Chadalup (187m), Mount Frankland (class 4 and 410m) and Castle Rock (570m) this trip. Great achievements and so enjoyable. Now I just want to climb. I’m going to sus out a better pack and a pole and keep climbing. I never liked it much when I was a big girl but it’s easier being littler.

The only things I don’t like are the ladders and the edges. The ladders are fine going up, not so fine coming down. The edges make me nervous because I’m afraid of heights! So I just look out, not down. And in all three cases there was so much to look out at. Today’s was by far the best. We weren’t at the summit long but it was worth the climb. Now though the climb is part of the experience not just something I do to get to the experience!

After Castle Rock we basically hurtled home. Perhaps that’s why we’re all cranky. Just because we had to come home. It’s not home as such. More not being on the road. We all just love exploring and experiencing. The kids adapt and enjoy the travel and love both the place they are at as well as the anticipation of the next place. Anyway, we played “trip stats” (20 logging trucks, 5 different overnight stops, 2 animals run over etc), “favourite natural and favourite man made attractions” (Banksia campsite, the wind farm, the whaling station and Castle Rock), the ABC of places visited (Albany, Banksia campsite, Cozy Corner, Denmark, Emu Point, Fernhook etc etc) and stopped for lunch in Kojonup.

We rolled into the city at 4.30. That last 20k from Armadale is a killer. Traffic! Traffic lights! Just want to get home! Unpacking was relatively efficient, I washed down the trailer and backed her in the garage. We owe her for keeping us safe and dry. I quickly mowed the back lawn while the daylight lasted (rental inspection tomorrow) and then took the truck for a wash too. We owe her as well. She did 1400k in 6 days and didn’t miss a beat. She dragged the trailer up hills, down dirt tracks, along a sandy road and even over a few rocks. She loved being washed down. She is old, falling apart and costs me a bomb but I trust that truck to keep us safe and mobile. She doesn’t let me down.

Now, three loads of washing later, I’m ready for bed. Checked my PowerPoints for tomorrow and they’ll do. Alarm set for PT and then I’m on the bus to the city for the conference. I’ll go from jeans and hiking boots to a dress and heels. From singing country tunes in the car to presenting research outcomes. From being on holidays to being back at w#&* (4 letter word).

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