Albany (Western Australia)

29/11/16  The morning we left Peaceful Bay, we walked across to the park office to fix them up for the extra day we’d stayed, and while waiting at the unattended counter, came across a young woman sitting to one side weeping. Offering our assistance, we learned she was a French Canadian backpacker, who had come to Australia for 12 weeks to solo walk the 1000km long Bibbulmun Track from the hills outside Perth to Albany on the south coast. She had two weeks to go and, in the final stages of the trek, was suffering painful ligament damage in one ankle. We sat and chatted with her to see if there was anything we could do to help. It was plain to see she was absolutely exhausted, physically and emotionally. We took the park lady aside and offered to cover any accommodation costs while the girl rested up and recuperated, but they were going to provide it at no charge as they regularly looked after travel-weary Bibbulmun walkers. By the time a lot of walkers have reached Peaceful Bay, they have hit “the wall” and apparently the next section to Denmark was the toughest of the entire walk. Some recuperate and carry on, some drop out and some skip that section and go on to finish the final leg to Albany. We hope she makes it through to complete her trek before heading back to Perth and then home to Canada.

Coming into Albany, we hit the 25,000km mark on this year’s trip. Albany is the first European settlement in Western Australia and sits on the sheltered Princess Royal Harbour, the best natural harbour in Australia outside Sydney. First stop on arrival was at the local Beaurepaires for a tyre to replace the cactus one I took off in Bunbury. Second stop was at the Land Rover dealer to have a look at a worrying squeal which had started up in one front wheel. I’d put it down to either a stone caught up against the brake disc, a worn brake pad, or a failing wheel bearing – or any one of a number of other complex mechanical things. Pulling off the wheel earlier, I couldn’t see anything lodged up in there and the pads were fine, so the prospect of a replacement wheel bearing (involving the entire hub assembly at no small price) was filling me with financial trepidation. Land Rover confirmed the bearing to be OK, and blew out a bit of road rubbish from the back of the hub so hopefully the problem is no more (touch wood!). We’ll need all four wheels working when going back across the Nullarbor, this time off the beaten track via the disused Old Eyre Highway section.

March flies have been a menace at the last couple of camps, especially so in Albany. Their saving grace, if they have one, is they are big and slow and, if missed, the buggers come back and you get another go! “Slap ‘em ‘n stand on ‘em” is the only sure-fire way to deal with them. If you don’t stand on them, they just get up and shake it off! Someone told us the other day if you slap them, they give off a scent that attracts more to you. I don’t know about that though. It seems there are plenty around regardless of what you do. I just like slapping them anyway. The Marchies have been so big that, at Peaceful Bay, as I slapped each one, I fed it to a magpie that was hanging around. Recycling at its best.

We visited the Princess Royal Fortress complex, overlooking Princess Royal Harbour from the top of Mount Adelaide. Built in the late 1800s, it has two gun batteries dug into the hillside to protect the harbour on the important shipping route to Europe. The nearby National Anzac Centre is dedicated to honouring the Anzacs of the First World War who embarked from Australia in 1914 in two convoys from Albany’s King George Sound.

Torndirrup National Park is very close to Albany, around the seaward side of Princess Royal Harbour. We spent a day sightseeing the very scenic beaches and cliffs, particularly The Gap where you can stand on a platform extending out over a chasm buffeted by massive waves from the Great Southern Ocean. At the nearby Blowholes, crevices in the high granite cliffs reach down to the sea below and expel air with each wave swell, sounding like breeching whales. We weren’t there at the right time to see them blowing water, though. There are some terrific beaches around Albany, some very calm and others great for surfing. The wind was still very cold though and kept us out of the water.

“It’s not fair! They promised me they fixed it! It’s not my fault!” – Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV (Famous last words resounding in the still of the Nullarbor Plain night. Touch wood!!)

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