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Bill Leithhead's WA Trip Diary
WA Trip Diary Segment 12 - Days 63 to 68
© William G. Leithhead 2006

Day 63    Monday, October 15th, 2001
Third day touring around Albany

Natural Bridge, near Albany
The Natural bridge, near Albany, is popular with tourists. But, like much of this southern coastline, it is not without its dangers. The day before we arrived, two men were washed into the sea at this spot, and one was drowned.
Today loomed cloudy with extremely heavy rain overnight, but more sun appeared during the day, and it wasn't too bad at all. Bill's back is tender, especially after yesterday's extensive tramping, bending, twisting, jarring and lying down taking close-ups. We put in 5 films, shopped, got bank printouts and tried to contact the electoral office, to no avail. (The government has called an election.) We also phoned Mum. She seems OK but lonely.

After a rest, lunch, and a read of the paper, we went for a drive to the coast southwards, at Torndirrup National Park, to see huge coastal rock formations and walk along the coastal vegetation.

The Gap, near Albany
Glenyce views the awe-inspiring Gap near Albany. During storms the waves sometimes reach above the lookout point.
Skirting the very shallow far reaches of Princess Royal Harbour, we visited a region comprised of The Gap, and the Natural Bridge. It was at the second feature that two men fell into the water on Friday, just as we arrived at Albany; one drowned and the other was rescued. This is not the first death there; there is a long history of such losses. The waters are deep, savage, unpredictable, crashing and lapping hungrily onto the notorious sloping rocks of southern WA.

Cable Beach, Albany
Lighthouse overlooking Cable Beach, above verdantly-vegetated slopes.
The Natural Bridge is a huge archway of granite, very imposing, with many smoothly-weathered boulders all jointed rather neatly into a very attractive gigantic jigsaw pattern. The Gap is a chasmic channel 8m across and 25m deep into which the seawater rushes hither and thither with thunderous roars and pure white foam. It is absolutely awe-inspiring.

Glenyce and Bill at Albany Blowhole
Glenyce and Bill get the wind up at the Albany Blowhole, as waves pound into a rocky cave deep below.
Next, we looked at a lighthouse near Cable Beach and also walked down to the Blowhole, climbing 800m down there and 800m back up again along steps and rocks through fascinatingly beautiful low vegetation, some of it being interesting sage-green conifer-like bushes.

At the Blowhole we took turns standing over a narrow rocky slot up which air would rush, saltily blowing our clothes upwards with considerable violence. Driven by the Southern Ocean waves, this blowhole is different from others that we know in that it involves only air, and not sea-spray.

Then after all this exercise we bought new trousers for Bill to replace the ones ruined by yesterday's battle through the charcoaled scrub to photograph the Kingia australis, then home, chores, delicious steak for tea, diary-writing, and bed.

Day 64    Tuesday, October 16th, 2001
Fourth day touring around Albany

Another grey day! Overcast pretty well all day, with occasional sunshine. Light breezes blew on and off, so that we took jumpers on and off all the time!

Albany Windfarm
This large windfarm located among the windswept heathland southwest of Albany had started up a few days before we arrived. Since then, many just like it are being built all over Australia.
This morning Bill had a doctor's appointment at 10am but didn't get to see him until after 11am. Anyway, the doctor very generously gave us prescriptions for Panadeine Forte and Mersyndol Forte, and another pair to be post-dated! That's a relief!

Off we went, then, along Frenchmen's Road to the windfarm of 12 huge windmills on the coast southwest of Albany, near Sandpatch Peak, which were only built in July and and opened this month! There is an extensive boardwalk there, as part of the completion of the Bibbulman Track, a walking trail winding from Kalamunda (near Perth) to Albany.

Albany Windfarm wildflowers
Western Australian wildflowers growing just near the Abany Windfarm.
There was yet another, newer confusion of wildflowers; in particular, Pink Banjine (Pimelea rosacea or ferruginea) in bright pink bunches, and fine-leaved shrubs of Scaevola species, also called Fan Flowers (many species of this in WA!), plus white, red-orange, yellow flowers of many kinds, dryandras and other little beauties. There were many tourists here, and it will become very popular.

Next we visited Whaleworld at Frenchman's Bay, south across the Princess Royal Harbour from Albany. This was a whaling station from 1952 to 1978, and is now a still-developing tourist site of great interest. There are some old WW2 planes preserved in a large hangar, including a Catalina flying boat. There is a 42m whale-chaser (Cheynes IV) mounted high and dry on the shore, whale skeletons, whaling equipment displays, and the original flensing decks with holes going down to the boilers where the stripped blubber was all melted down into whale oil, and fertilizer from the meat, guts and bones, some even finding its way into animal feed as an high-protein additive. I'm very glad that whaling has stopped almost all over the world.

After we did a guided tour at the whaling station we ate lunch there, picked up prescriptions in town, had home-cooked snapper for tea, diaried, photoed and bedded.

Oh! We tried to see whales off Middleton Beach and saw 2 just floating around half a kilometre offshore.

Day 65    Wednesday, October 17th, 2001
Fifth day touring around Albany

Today was, yet again, overcast almost all the time, with occasional drizzle. Bill's back was still rather painful. After breakfast we again went to Middleton Beach in the dismal, grey drizzle where there were reported to be whales yesterday, when we saw one with its calf floating around.

Sadly, there was nothing to be seen, and we went on a wild goose (whale?) chase along the beach looking for the elusive critters. How can the largest animal on earth be so hard to find?! Anyway, standing in the drizzle at several selected spots, we whale-searched without luck, until we saw a black dot through the binoculars. What a thrill that was!!

We had planned to drive around Oyster Bay to look at the nearby township centres of Cheyne Head and Ledge Point, but it was too miserable for that. Then we looked for Wignall's winery, only to find it opened at 12 noon: bummer!

Then we went to the Romance Sandalwood factory where they process sandalwood, mainly from the Goldfields region, to obtain the oil, much prized for perfumery and aromatherapy. Sandalwood costs $10,000 per ton, but after processing they can obtain $800,000 worth of oil.

The process involves solvent extraction of the chipped wood (the solvent is "secret"), after which the solvent will be distilled off, and the remaining oleoresin is vacuum-distilled to obtain various grades of oil, which is obviously a very high-boiling mixture of epi-alpha-bisabolol and E,E-farnesol. This is then compounded into a wide range of oils, creams, cosmetics and the like, for some of which are claimed the usual range of curative properties characteristic of the alternative aromatherapy game. Glenyce said that she found that the application of some emu oil, followed by some sandalwood oil, efficacious for her left knee, swollen from all the walking we've been doing.

After lunch Glenyce went into a blur of activity to clean the caravan inside, while Bill's back was still, unfortunately, painful and he was very sleepy for about 3 hours. During this time the car was serviced at the Ford dealer, and we picked it up at 4:30pm with no problems found, so the trip home could be trouble-free.

Then Bill did some photo-titling, and we decided to go out for another Chinese meal with a bottle of wine. We found a bottle of "Antipodean" from Angaston, SA, which we'd enjoyed at Merimbula in 1998. And we both craved a nice spicy meal, which we did finally enjoy at a restaurant different from the one where we had a poor-quality meal Chinese last Sunday. This time it was most enjoyable, and a welcome way to finish our Albany visit. In the meantime, before we went to tea, a somewhat irritable Bill hosed down the car and caravan vigorously, being interrupted by a talkative neighbour and an irritated Glenyce.

So, at 9:50pm, here I sit writing, after wine, a spicy dinner of sizzling pepper steak and Szechaun chicken, followed by a romantic drive around the scenic headland of Middleton Beach (as scenic as it can be in the pitch blackness), and one last lingering look at the now familiar Dog Rock!!

Bremer Bay tomorrow!

Day 66    Thursday, October 18th, 2001
Albany to Bremer Bay

Albany, a warmer day with more sunshine as we did some early supply purchases and hooked on by 10am, aiming for Bremer Bay, 160km east, on the coast, adjoining the renowned Fitzgerald National Park, home of wildflowers, bushwalkers, 4WD enthusiasts, fishermen and other adventuresome types.

Bremer Bay
Bremer Bay, where the Bremer River meets the Southern Ocean, is an exceedingly beautiful, striking place with a unique away-from-it-all feel.
Travelling along the South Coast Highway, it didn't take too long before we left the grazing pastures and encountered the characteristic stands of Kwongan heathland, light woodland, and specialized vegetation peppered with banksias, dryandras, grevilleas and many other native shrubs. Very soon, we spotted new plants, and started taking photos just off the roadside. Again, the flowers were not prolific, but are widespread and very varied, so that each time we found new species as well as old favourites.

Lunchtime at the Pallinup River crossing we did find some swathes of pink everlastings mingled with little yellow billy buttons, which was delightful to see, and some unknown flowers and new kinds of trigger plants. Later on we photographed even more.

Bogged at Bremer Bay
Embarrassed to be bogged in the sand at the Bremer Bay beach, Bill took photographs whilst Glenyce attempted to dig us out. Well - someone has to do the artistic stuff!
Bremer Bay is a strangely out-of-the-way, rather undeveloped place, but the van park is nice, so we'll stay overnight. Bill did a tourist drive out onto the nice white fine sandy beach at the river entrance and got bogged, didn't he! Aware that the tide would come in, we did some frantic digging with with our hands. After a rather fruitless attempt to enlist the aid of our caravan annexe matting where we succeeded only in ripping a hole in it, we received a welcome hand from some friendly folk in a four wheel drive.

After more walking, touring and sightseeing in this very beautiful nest of bays, we ate, wrote and slept, ready for further adventures, tired, but glad to be here at Bremer Bay. It's an absolute Mecca for all water activities, bush walking, and 4WD drives.

Day 67    Friday, October 19th, 2001
Bremer Bay to Wave Rock at Hyden

Lake Grace luncheon
Luncheon at a wayside stop near a salt lake somewhere north of the town of Lake Grace.
Today we drove from Bremer Bay to Hyden, to see the famous Wave Rock, which was about 350km on a hot, humid day. Travelling through Jerramungup, we passed through very dry-looking woodland, a bit like Kalgoorlie, and wheat and sheep areas with little to see in the way of wildflowers. Then through similar country through Ongerup and Pingrup, we passed a multitude of salt lakes, some dry, some with a little water, and all with fringes of snow-white salt and gypsum crystals. Some had pink fringes due to pigmented bacterial growth, like Port Gregory near Kalbarri, only less so.

Karlgarin roadside flowers
Surrounded by prolific wildflowers, Glenyce enjoys the roadside vegetation in this lovely little spot near Karlgarin.

Lake Grace township was a dump, but we went north and lunched on the edge of a salt lake which was a bit like a moonscape. Passing through the odd thundery shower or two, we suddenly came upon a veritable cornucopia of vivid wildflowers on the roadside at a localized area between Pingaring (it's shown on the map but we don't remember seeing it) and Karlgarin, also an almost invisible town!

Flies on Glenyce
Swarms of the ubiquitous and annoying Australian bush flies keeping Glenyce company in the sticky weather.
At this spot we took photos madly, like kids in a lolly shop, joining a load of tourists which emerged like a swarm from a passing bus; they do trips to here from Perth! Soon after, we struck 7 or 8km of dusty gravel where the road was under repair, then made it to Hyden, then Wave Rock Caravan Park, all dirt sites arranged in a huge oval around the toilets and shower block.

Bill surfs Wave Rock
Bill attempts to surf the famous Wave Rock at Hyden. He was dumped and retired injured.
By this time grey clouds were looming ominously and Bill was anxious to photograph Wave Rock while it was still light.

Stone wall on top of Wave Rock
On top of Wave Rock is a concrete wall that collects the water and redirects it to the Hyden town water supply.
Meanwhile it rained on us with little niggling showers. Damp, sweaty, tired and aching, covered with swarms of flies, we did the photography stuff, and discovered that the Wave Rock can be walked upon up top and that there are little concrete barriers up there which help divert the rainfall down into a dam which is the source of the water supply to the town of Hyden.

So we returned to our van for the comfort of some sherry, tea, some photo titling and a good night's sleep on a very warm night.

Day 68    Saturday, October 20th, 2001
Wave Rock & Hippo's Yawn at Hyden

Wave Rock concrete wall directs water to reservoir
At one end of Wave Rock the concrete barrier directs water into the reservoir for the town water supply.
This morning we awoke to a sunny day (in defiance of Bill's gloomy predictions), and it was pretty warm. In fact, the van got up to 36°C during the day.

Glenyce did a timely load of washing, and we opened up the windows as the day hotted up. The van was still attached to the car, and we just walked, rested, slept, read, did some chores and did some more walking, as we needed the rest day.

Hippo's Yawn
The evocatively-named Hippo's Yawn is a short walk away from Wave Rock.
Spraying ourselves with Aerogard, and smeared with sunscreen, we forged off to a 1.4km round walk to the "Hippo's Yawn", a rock formation similar to the Wave Rock. This was quite interesting, and apparently there are many such rock formations around here. They are of granite 2,700 million years old - very ancient volcanic intrusions which have gradually become exposed over immense periods of time as later strata of sedimentary rock has weathered away.

We left the path and ventured into the dry woodlands, finding good displays of wildflowers, some of which are new to us. By this time we were hot and sweaty, and escaping the flies and mozzies, slept in the van, had a little lunch, and just rested around the van.

Quandong fruit
Fruit of the Quandong tree have been eaten by the Australian aborigines for millenia, and is a good source of Vitamin C. Early settlers liked to make Quandong Pie.
Glenyce looked at a display of memorabilia, and an antique lace display nearby, while Bill did some closeup photography of the fruits of the native Quandong tree. Then we rested some more, Bill wrote a few more photo titles, Glenyce got the washing in, and we had delicious barbecued steak, mushrooms and veggies for tea.

Tomorrow we go south again to the Ravensthorpe/Hopetoun region, where there was an earthquake yesterday, felt as far away as Perth, with aftershocks expected today. The owner of this park felt it in his house, but we didn't in our caravan - probably because it's not stabilized, and just attached to the car.

© William G. Leithhead 2006