Albany, WA


And so to my final post inspired by our trip south of Perth. Our route has taken us from Perth, through Margaret River, Pemberton, Walpole and Denmark to our final destination, Albany.

Albany is the oldest permanently settled town in WA. It was founded on 26 December 1826predating Perth and Fremantle by over two years. Its creation was part of a plan to thwart French ambitions in the area.

As it was too early for us to check in we headed down to the town centre to stretch our legs and grab a bite for lunch. It was a lovely day, albeit very windy.

Found ourselves on York Street and dropped in to Cosi’s Cafe for a spot of lunch and a coffee. York Street is very busy but at the same time has the feel of an Australian country town.

While in York Street, we ventured into the visitor centre and booked ourselves onto a four-hour river boat cruise for the following day.  We also decided that we would take a run out to The Historic Whaling Station after we had checked in at our hotel.

This was our second visit to Albany, Gerry and I having been here some eighteen years ago. It only seemed fitting that we should stay in the same hotel, The Dog Rock Motel …..

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The Dog Rock – Albany, WA

…. named after the large rock shaped like a dog’s head.

Having checked in and unloaded the car we set off to be educated about the whaling industry. The following is from Wikipedia …..

The Whaling Station, which closed operations in 1978, has been converted to a museum of whaling, and features one of the ‘Cheynes’ whale chasers that were used for whaling in Albany. The station was the last operating whaling station in the southern hemisphere and the English-speaking world at the time of closure.

On the way out to the whaling station we stopped off at the Vancouver Lookout to absorb the scenery …..

….. seems like every turn of the road offers us a new perspective.

Tearing ourselves away from the fabulous views we soon arrived at the Historic Whaling Station (previously known as Whale World). There is lots to see here, and whatever you think you know about whaling, this place will show you how little you know. For me, the overriding factor is the sheer brutality of the whaling process. There are some pretty graphic pictures around the site and, for the people who worked here or on the ships, it was a tough life. No health and safety regulations, no protective clothing, no sick pay and no pension.

 

We spent an enlightening couple of hours at the Whaling Station. No matter what you think of the morality of whaling, you have to remind yourself that was a different era. The world has moved on.

And so did we, heading back into Albany and the Dog Rock Motel to rest up prior to dinner.

We had dinner at Lime 303 where I was talked into having a cocktail, a “Blue Lagoon”. Needless to say I was soon back to drinking beer. The cocktail was like an alcoholic Gatorade…. Yuuuk !!! Regardless, the food was very, very good.

The next day we were up early and down to Emu Point ready for our river cruise aboard the Kalgan Queen …

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Kalgan Queen – Albany, WA

Once we were all aboard we were treated to a display of pelicans and their party tricks. Our skipper would feed them but only after they had “danced”, twirled around on the water. He did this while explaining about the pelicans and there abilities and traits. As the Kalgan Queen is a glass bottomed boat we were also treated to the view of a large sting ray cruising under the boat.

After the regulation safety notices we were off on our journey, across the sheltered waters of Oyster Harbour and then up the Kalgan River.

As we crossed Oyster Harbour our skipper pulled out a whistle and tried to attract the attention of White Breasted Sea Eagles. Unfortunately, they did not put in appearance. However, later as we were running up the river we were treated to the spectacle of several Osprey plunging down to collect the fish thrown out onto the river.

 

Part of the cruise package is a wine tasting at Montgomery Hill Vineyard. To be quite honest, it was a waste of time. We all agreed that we would rather have stayed on the boat and perhaps travelled further upstream.

The folks in the tasting rooms made no attempt to tell us about the wines, didn’t even ask about individual likes or dislikes to try and match their products to our tastes. Most unlike any tasting I have ever been to before.

The only positive was the view from the tasting rooms and terrace …..

After thirty minutes or so we were bussed back down to the river and back on board the boat. Here we were treated to hot Billy Tea and Damper as we headed back down the river and on to Emu Point.

En-route we encountered other river users / inhabitants …

Back on shore we bade farewell to the Kalgan Queen and to “Perch” …

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“Perch” – Emu Point, Albany, WA

The cruise had been around four hours duration and was well worth the money.

After a spot of lunch the afternoon was spent fishing off the shore at Emu Point. On my first cast I caught a blowie and although I had many bites I didn’t manage to land another fish. Steve, on the other hand, despite also be plagued by blowies, managed to land a Port Jackson Shark.

Port Jackson Shark - Emu Point, WA

Port Jackson Shark – Emu Point, WA

While we were fishing there were rays  constantly cruising along the water’s edge. Fascinating to watch.

All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the motel to wash up and head out for dinner, this being our last night down south.

The lucky establishment to be blessed with our custom was the Mean Fiddler Restaurant. It was very busy and when I enquired, about a table for four, was informed that they had more tables upstairs but that there would be about a thirty minute wait.

Upstairs was much quieter and also cooler. Our waitress seemed to be a bit eccentric, a bit like Julie Walters as the elderly waitress in the Two Soups sketch from Victoria Wood As Seen On TV.

Quite early on, the waitress had handed out some crayons and informed us that we could use them to draw on the table-cloth, if we wanted to.

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Doodles, Noughts & Crosses – Mean Fiddler Restaurant, Albany, WA

Despite the eccentricities of the staff, the food was good. By the time we had our main meal, the other upstairs customers had gone. We had the room and the balcony to ourselves and were able to wander around perusing the artwork and other curiosities.

From the balcony there was a view, both, up and down York Street.

After our meal we once again headed back to the motel. Sad with the knowledge that we had to head back to Perth the following day.

And so it was that the following morning we headed out on the Albany Highway for the journey home.

 

 

 

 

 

Pemberton / Second Best Western


Our second day of travelling, south of Perth, found us bidding farewell to Margaret River and aiming for Pemberton. Travelling along Warner Glenn Road we crossed the Blackwood River where we stopped so that I could take a couple of photos. By coincidence a couple of kayakers were passing through…..

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Kayaks – Blackwood River, WA

The figure in the bow of the yellow kayak is that of a dog, proudly acting as lookout. As I walked up the slope from the bridge, back to the car, I noticed a small yellow sign…… lower left corner of the photo below.

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Bridge – Blackwood River, WA. Little yellow sign in bottom left corner indicates flood water levels.

The sign has a line, indicating the flood levels in January 1982. Which means that the bridge would have been totally submerged. Given the height of the bridge, over the current water level, that’s a significant amount of water.

Back on the move again we continued towards Pemberton. The “satnag” had routed us through quite a remote region and once again, well for Gerry and I, we found ourselves watching the fuel gauge.  However, it wasn’t really an issue and we were soon in the centre of Pemberton.

Pemberton is a small town named after original settler Pemberton Walcott. The main industry of the town was timber and there were a number of sawmills processing timber to supply half a million railway sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway. There are a number of associated artifacts dotted around the town.

Log Carriage c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Log Carriage c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 - Pemberton, WA

Steam Locomotive c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Before touring the town we hunted down a cafe where we could have a bite to eat. There are a number of cafe’s and we soon settled ourselves on the veranda at the Crossings Bakery. This establishment self promotes themselves as the “Home Of The Great Aussie Pie” and advertises “Home Made Chunky Meat Pies” “All $5.00”.

Well I don’t know if they are “great” or if this the home of the pies but they hit the spot and when washed down by coffee’s and iced teas our little group were fighting fit to go and hit Pemberton’s tourist hotspots.

Suitably Refreshed - The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

Suitably Refreshed – The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

As per usual we headed for the visitor centre where we fought off the urge to purchase copious amounts of Koala Fart5J7A2559_edited5J7A2559_edited.jpg, but discovered that we had about ten minutes to get aboard the Pemberton Tramway which was about to set off on its last trip of the day. This journey is well worth the time spent and, if nothing else, means you get a cooling breeze as you trundle through the forests. In their own words ….

This unforgettable 1¾ hour service shuffles out of Pemberton, past the Saw Mill and descends deep into the Karri forest.  The tram meanders through the forest, crossing six bridges, stopping at the Cascades and ending at the Warren River Bridge where the Lefroy Brook Joins the Warren River.  Your tram then returns to Pemberton.

This is not the most comfortable ride you will ever take but it is fun and informative, the drivers dialogue will have you laughing, well smiling perhaps. We were lucky enough to see a Kookaburra take off from a tree branch and keep pace with the tram for quite some distance before zooming off into the trees.

I See No Ships - Waiting For The Off - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

I See No Ships – Waiting For The Off – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride takes you from one side of Pemberton, across the main road, past the remaining sawmill before plunging into the forest. The following photo’s were all taken from the tram.

Timber Yard / Sawmill - Pemberton, WA

Timber Yard / Sawmill – Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway - Pemberton, WA

East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway – Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

Lefroy Brook – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride paused at the Cascades where we were invited to disembark and explore the river below.

Tram - Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Tram – Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Apparently, at the Cascades, the Lefroy Brook transforms from a gentle flow in mid summer to a raging torrent in winter. I guess being December it was summer time and the flow was decidedly tranquil. Definitely a pretty spot, only spoilt by the hoards of tourists just dumped from their tram ride.

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton - Pemberton, WA

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton – Pemberton, WA

Oh yeah, I was one of those bloody tourists too.

I held back to take some shots when the tram horn blew, calling all the passengers back.

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

Cascades - Pemberton, WA

Cascades – Pemberton, WA

After a twenty-minute interlude at the Cascades the tram carried us further to Warren Bridge, the end of our outward journey. After a few minutes admiring the view …..

View From Warren Bridge - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

View From Warren Bridge – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

….. the tram headed back to Pemberton. The return journey was a lot faster, and with little or no commentary.

Once back at the Pemberton station I thought this grand only veteran railway engine was deserving of a mention.

W.A.G.R "V1213" - "V" Class

W.A.G.R “V1213” – “V” Class

This engine was built in England at  Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn’s Darlington works at a cost of some £55,019 . It was in service from 20th December, 1955 through to its retirement on 17th June, 1971.

This class of engine was designed to haul coal from the Collie mines to Perth and Fremantle and were also used for heavy freight on the Perth – Bunbury and York – Albany lines.

From the station we headed back into town to search out the hotel. All of us were feeling the need to freshen up. Our hotel was very easy to find, situated as it is, right on the main road as you drive into Pemberton.

First let me say that the photos on the  Best Western Pemberton Hotel website bear little similarity with our rooms. Dull, tired, dated, these are all descriptors that I would use for our accommodation. Certainly not bright and airy as the photos seem to imply. At least the room was clean.

Having freshened up we headed out to take a look at the Gloucester Tree. None of us had any plans to climb the tree which, at 58m, is way out of our league.

Gloucester Tree - Pemberton, WA

Gloucester Tree – Pemberton, WA

We stood and watched a number of people set off up the tree. Quite a few made it fairly quickly. A couple stopped part way and returned to the ground after only 10m or so. What really had us bemused were the number of apparently sane adults who were allowing their 8-10 year old children to climb, when they could barely span the step between the pegs. And, I know this is Australia, but climbing in thongs (English “flip-flops”). Come on folks.

After the Gloucester Tree we went exploring and came across Big Brook Dam. This is a man-made lake, built in 1986, to provide water for the Pemberton region.

Big Brook Dam - Pemberton, WA

Big Brook Dam – Pemberton, WA

This late in the evening the area was very quiet but looked to be a great place for  walking and picnics.

As time was moving on we thought we would find somewhere to eat and returned to Pemberton centre. Much to our dismay we found that all of the earlier eateries were now closed. The only choices seemed to be our hotel, a fish and chip bar, and a curry house. It seems that Pemberton goes to sleep between 16:30 and 18:00.

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

So, it seemed to us that the Pemberton Hotel is the “only show in town”, unless you want a curry or a fish supper carry out. Because of this the restaurant / bar was very busy and the food service was poor. There were four in our party and two of our starters didn’t turn up. Oddly it was the first two dishes we ordered. I had to go and enquire, seems they had lost / forgotten part of our order. Then we had to wait for nearly an hour before the mains were delivered. It felt like we were being punished for having the temerity to ask where our food was.

To be quite honest, the  quality of the food left a lot to be desired and wasn’t worth the wait. It was very poor, probably the worst we have had in WA. Over cooked, bland and the seafood batter was heavy, way too thick. I had Salt & Pepper Squid which seemed to have been cooked with out the Salt & Pepper !!!

When ordering our meals I had considered having the salad bar instead of a normal starter. The one and only healthy thought I had during this week away. When I looked at what was on offer I quickly changed my mind. There were just four dishes with some sort of coleslaw,  some tomato slices, some beetroot and some kind of pasta salad that had seen better days. It was like a time warp back to the seventies.

During our meal, my wife pointed out  to a waitress that someone was smoking, despite signs clearly stating that was not allowed. The waitress ignored my wife who was left to confront the offender who thankfully was compliant and moved away to the smoking area. In general the rest of the waiting staff were friendly but I think they were overwhelmed by the work load.

Somewhat depressed by our meal experience we headed off to our rooms. The room Gerry and I had been allocated had two single beds. It transpired that the wheels on my bed were not locked and the bed, like a supermarket trolley, had a mind of its own,moving around the room at will. Also, as I subsequently found out, the mattress hadn’t been set on the bed properly so the edge wasn’t supported. After having laid down for a while, when I first went to stand up, the mattress tilted down and I was spilled onto the floor. I sorted the mattress out but, overnight, it seemed to have moved again.

And a general note, the car park is limited for space not enough spaces for the number of rooms. Although we managed to park on site for check-in later in the evening when we returned we had to park out on the street.

So for the hotel I’d rate it as the Second Best Western. Pemberton gets a thumbs up although the early curfew is a pain. Many of the cafe’s could make a bomb if they opened a bit later in the evening.

Many of the properties in Pemberton are heritage listed. Some are in dire need of some TLC but all add to the charm of this country town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in the Antipodes


Grand title. Hopefully I will find something of interest to back it up.

My wife and I have begun a holiday in WA (Western Australia). So, for the next few weeks my posts will be centred around Perth. We are planning to take a trip down south, perhaps taking in Esperance, Albany, Augusta and Margaret River.

We have been down there before but we hope to spend a bit more time and explore the area.

Then later on we are intending to head up north.

We have previously visited Geraldton, Denham and Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. But the intention is to go further up, possibly as far as Broome.

This will be the first of, we hope, many trips down under. Now we are retired we have the freedom to take off for as long as we like.

Originally I had thought we could do a complete circumnavigation of Australia. Prudence has taken over and the plan is to make several, more focused trips.

WA first, then perhaps Victoria based around Melbourne so we can take in the F1 Grand Prix or perhaps the tennis. After that, maybe we’ll head up  to Darwin or Cairns, not forgetting the Red Centre Uluru and Alice Springs.

Lots planned for the future as long as mind, body and bank account hold up.

We only arrived in Perth about ten hours ago. Jet-lag has forced me up after just over four hours sleep. Not much of a battery recharge having been up and mostly awake for the previous thirty hours, or so.

So, after a short scene setter, I’ll  sign off. Back soon with more words and, hopefully some interesting photos.