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 …..

Dog_edited
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 …

5J7A2897_edited
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” …

5J7A2896_edited
“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.

MF1
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.

 

 

 

 

 

Northam, Pelicans, Kookaburras, Bushfires and a Good Samaritan


Continuing our general exploration of the Perth region we headed out to the township of Northam. The main reason for heading that way is that Northam is said to have the largest number of historic buildings in Western Australia (other than Fremantle).

Northam is just over 30 Km north of York, which we have visited before, and just over 90 Km from Perth. So just over an hours drive. Waiting until the Perth suburbs commuter rush hour was over we set out on a drive through picturesque countryside. Some might question the picturesque descriptor and certainly the countryside is nothing like the green and pleasant land that is the UK.

Driving out we passed through forests of trees, with fire blackened trunks, starkly contrasted by brilliant white gum trees. All topped of with leaves that are tinted close to sage green. All with a constant backdrop of a clear blue sky. Occasionally these forests give way to more open lands, presumably cleared to provide grazing for sheep and cattle. Although mainly open, these pastures are dotted with trees to give livestock some shade.

Countryside - Near Northam WA
Countryside – Near Northam WA

The landscape change as we enter the “Avon Valley”, becoming more hilly and open. The road changing altitude more frequently and, as we entered the outer suburbs of Northam, we made a short detour, following a sign indicating that there was a view-point on top of the hill.

The view-point gives good panoramic views over Northam and the surrounding countryside.

Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

The picnic tables up here have been vandalised and the whole area is looking a little sad. It would seem that it is a popular place for “hooning” around with cars and bikes.

After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.
After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.

There is also an information board which makes reference to a grave site accessed down a made path. Unfortunately, most of the information is obliterated but I was able to determine that the grave site is on un-consecrated ground and that it once held the body of a Mrs Iva Jane Burrows. Apparently she shot and wounded her step daughter before injecting herself with a lethal dose of poison. It was her wish to be buried without religious service or sermon. One other oddity was that her husband had the coffin bound with two chains prior to interment. Confusingly, despite the presence of the grave-site on the hilltop other sources on the web suggest that she was buried in the Northam Cemetary which is, presumably, consecrated.

On into Northam and we spotted a sign for the pedestrian suspension bridge and were soon parked up again.

At the foot of the bridge is a modern day wood sculpture, of a Bob Tailed Lizard, entitled Little Bobby.

Little Bobby - Northam WA
Little Bobby – Northam WA

The bridge has a 117 metre span and is 16 metres high. Apparently it can hold up to 400 people, evenly spaced, and is capable of withstanding 150 Km/hr winds. It is a popular vantage point for the famous Avon Valley Descent, so the live load capacity has probably been exercised on numerous occasions, since it was built in 1975.

Shire of Northam - Avon River Suspension Bridge
Shire of Northam – Avon River Suspension Bridge

We crossed the bridge, and yes it wriggles, squirms and bounces as you walk. I was told on numerous occasions, to stop making it bounce.

The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley - Scourge of the western world
The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley – Scourge of the western world

Having crossed the river, we ate a very pleasant lunch on the veranda at the RiversEdge Cafe. Here, I had a Curried Rice Salad with added Chicken Strips, while Gerry had a Peach Salad with added Salt and Pepper Squid. Mindful of the rising temperatures we washed the food down with some thirst quenching Iced Tea.

Apart from being the start point for the Avon Descent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Avon Descent is an annual, two-day, white water event involving both paddle craft (kayaks, surf skis) and small motor boats. It runs from Northam to Perth, Western Australia along the Avon and Swan Rivers, and is held in August of every year.

Sponsors and commercial support regularly changes, sometimes annually.

It is the only event in the world where both power craft and paddle craft race compete. The course has Grade 2–4[clarification needed] white water rapids and is 124 kilometres (77 mi) long.[1] The first Avon Descent was held in 1973. There has been an increase in the prize pool from 2007 of $10,000 providing an extra $6,000 for 1st, $3,000 for 2nd and $1,000 for 3rd fastest single paddle craft. In 2006 757 competitors started the event in 459 craft.

The top class in the powerboats is the 10hp sports class. These boats are made from foam and fibreglass, and have hydraulic jacks that enable the motor to be jacked up. The motors are unmodified and run a surface piercing propeller. These powerboats can reach speeds of approximately 70km/h.

Northam is also known for its many historic buildings …

133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam - A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style
133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam – A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style
 Northam Post Office & Quarters - a brick and iron building designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909
Northam Post Office & Quarters – a brick and iron building
designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909
Commercial Hotel, Northam - Built 1902-1903
Commercial Hotel, Northam – Built 1902-1903
Northam Hotel - The original hotel was built on the site In 1887 although a licence had been operating from the site since 1890.
Northam Hotel – The original hotel was built on the site in 1887.
Commonwealth Bank - is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934
Commonwealth Bank – is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped
Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934

During our walk alongside the river we were entertained by various aquatic birds. Ducks, gulls, moorhens, and a lone pelican. The Pelican was fishing, and seemed to be doing quite well. Sailing along majestically, plunging his enormous bill down into the water, then slowly lifting his head while draining the water keeping his bill closed enough to keep his prey from escaping. This would be followed by a uptilt of the bill so that whatever had been caught slid quickly down into his gullet.

Pelican - Northam Town Pool
Pelican – Northam Town Pool

The gulls spent a deal of time harassing the pelican. Everytime his head went under water, and his bum went up in the air, they would swim in close, as if to peck the exposed behind. Then when his head came back up they would move away. On one occasion, one of the gulls leapt out of the water and used the pelicans back like a trampoline to launch itself into the air.

Other birds on or around the water included an Egret …

Egret ?
Egret ?

…… a Heron ….

Heron ?
Heron ?

…. and a Cormorant drying it’s wings …

Cormorant
Cormorant

Western Australia is known for the Black Swans which feature on the state flag, but Northam is known as the home to White Swans which were first introduced to Australia during the 19th century.

In 1896 the White Swan was introduced into Western Australia by a British colonists. In the early 1900’s, it is believed a Russian settler and the town’s mayor, Oscar Bernard, introduced White Swans to Northam . The Avon River in Northam became the only place in Australia where the newly introduced bird survived and today it is still the only place in Australia where White Swans breed naturally in the wild.

After spending a few hours in an around Northam it was time to head back to Perth. Returning to the car I made a really bad decision. I knew that the car was low on fuel but decided that we would be able to fill up at a service station on the way. This was stupid as I then made a second dumb decision, which was to take “the pretty route” back. We drove for many kilometers along very quiet roads, with few other motorists. Slowly the fuel gauge dropped towards the empty mark.

Then nature stepped in to compound my dumb decisions. We started to see the signs of a bush fire directly ahead …..

Bush Fire - Gidgegannup, WA
Bush Fire – Gidgegannup, WA

Then we encountered signs stating that there was a road diversion ahead due to the fire. This was not good news, with the fuel tank virtually empty, we could not afford to be diverted onto even more remote roads.

Cresting a rise I spotted a guy and his vehicle on the opposite side of the road and I stopped to speak to him. The reason he was parked up was because his vehicle was LPG fuelled so no way through and, being low on fuel, he also had a limited range. He said that he was resigned to spending the night at the roadside.

When I asked if he knew where the nearest service station was he waved his hand towards the smoke and said “the other side of that”. This was not looking good.

Off the road, through the trees on our side, we could see some buildings. So we decided to go and see if anyone there might have some fuel to sell us. The buildings that we had seen were not inhabited but we could see a house further back and made it up to the front of the house.Luckily there was someone home, and, not only that but they had a can with about 10 litres of fuel which they gave us.

Thats right, gave us !!!

Twice I offered to pay for the fuel, but was refused. I siphoned the fuel although he offered to do that too. I couldn’t allow him to do that when he was donating the fuel. The fuel he provided took us back up to about a quarter of a tank. After thanking him profusely we set off on our way, me with the taste of unleaded on my lips and tongue. No amount of water seemed to clear that taste.

Shortly after leaving the “Good Samaritans” home we arrived at the detour which took us through some picturesque wooded roads. These roads were quite narrow, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. I guess I should be grateful that they were paved. En route we encountered this little fellow.

Kookaburra
Kookaburra

I’m pretty sure he’d had an encounter with another motorist. He let me drive right up to him and even when I got out of the car he just sat there looking at me. Not very humane of me, I took a picture first before considering helping him. Looking at the displaced feather I thought I might have to move him off the road or even contemplate something more drastic. However, as soon as I got within a couple of feet, he took off and flew away through the trees. Hopefully he was just stunned.

A few more kilometers down the road and we began to see signs of civilisation and then we were ejected onto The Great Eastern Highway. Soon after that we arrived at The Lakes Roadhouse where we were able to fill up with fuel and I was able to get some mints to try to get rid of the taste of unleaded.

It took us another hour to get home and a nice hot cup of tea while we discussed the days adventures ……. or perhaps I should say, misadventures.

Here is how the bush-fire was reported on the day ….

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia-bushfires/wa-bushfires-gidgegannup-issued-emergency-fire-warning/news-story/39277d63a9c087f8c3aac13969fb839a

And, at the time of this post, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services had this to say some twenty four hours on …..

http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/alerts/Pages/Alert.aspx?ItemId=15727

And finally, once again, a big thank you to Paul for donating the fuel.

View From The Conservatory


My recent angling experiences are limited to salt water,  mainly here in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in Western Australia.

Here in the UK, especially when fishing from a boat, if a fish is caught or perhaps old bait is thrown overboard seagulls will materialise out of thin air. Where none could be seen on a mirror flat surface or in the sky, suddenly they will appear to take ownership of the fishy scraps.

IMG_9394

I have witnessed a wee, brightly coloured, bird land on a rod tip to watch as a string of feathers were dropped to the sea bed. Then, in a bright flash of colour, it has plunged into the sea to follow the feathers as they dropped to the sea floor. After a few seconds, when the bird didn’t pop back to the surface. the feathers were retrieved with the bird well and truly hooked. Thankfully it survived.

When fishing in Oz I have observed and experienced the fact that each and every shore based angler will have their own personal pelican. Usually sitting on a higher vantage point, but also just a few feet behind the angler at sand level where they are so brazen that they will sneak up behind the angler and steal bait from his hand.

PrepareforTakeOff

Close up, that beak can be quite intimidating.

My own personal experience was when fishing from a breakwater, I was luck enough to catch a small silvery fish. Looked a bit like a British garfish. Anyway, as I triumphantly reeled my catch into shore, my personal pelican launched and tried to steal my catch from the water. He failed.

However, when all said and done, I have never experienced this …..

Gone_Fishing4_IMG_2381
Fishing Buddies

Fishing buddies, or a fish thief in waiting ?

Penguin Island


Yesterday we decided to take a run down to Rockingham and Penguin Island.

Penguin Island is part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park and, as the name suggests, is the home to a colony of Fairie Penguins as well as providing nesting sites for several species of gull and Pelicans.

The weather was beautiful and after a short drive and an even shorter ferry boat crossing we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours walking the island. Part of the Penguin Island experience is a short educational session at the Discovery Centre where a few penguins receive treats and are used to explain a little about these delightful creatures. I should point out the penguins in the discovery centre have been rescued and deemed unlikely to survive being returned to the wild.

So here are a few snaps which will I hope convey what a beautiful place this small island is.

Bay Colony FeedMe Jetty Little1 Little2 Little3 MumandYoung NearlyThere Pelican PenguinIsland PenguinIslandApproach PrepareforTakeOff Rock Rock2 Rock3 Soaring Tongue Trio Tufty Tufty2 Whatsfortea