Having thought the 5 hour drive from Esperance to Albany, our next stop, might be a bit easier and more interesting, I quickly learnt that you should never underestimate rural Australia’s ability to contain absoloutely nothing of interest whatsoever. There were barely even any turns and some more sanity flowed out of us over the trip, just retaining enough to arrive in Albany and self check in to our hostel.
With the beautiful sight of a 6 bed dorm to ourselves to greet us, we set our bags down and headed to explore Albany town centre’s delights.
The highlight came right at the start of our trip in the glorious form of Dan Murphy’s – the biggest, cheapest and most bargain-filled alcohol chain in Australia. A $5 bottle of red wine (grape variety: cheap) practically demanded to be bought and I was liking Albany so far.
45 minutes later and I realised we’d saved the best till first – Albany was a bit like lots of other Australian towns in that it was one wide central high street with a variety of shops, filled with things we couldn’t really afford to buy or had space to carry. A sad truth of backpacking in Australia – if it’s small enough to get in your bag chances are it will be so overpriced that your card would turn round and slap you in the face for even trying to process that amount of funds. Soddo’s Law, Mate.
Albany town centre done and dusted the rest of the night was a story of wine, curry and admin before crashing in our private dorm undisturbed by room mates.
Until 3 of them arrived at 1am and crashed into the room like rampaging bulls in some sort of crockery shop. They were up at 7 and out again, so it hardly seemed worth disturbing our sleep for that measly kip.
Just in case anyone thinks I’m heartless – I wasn’t serious when I said it was ‘hardly worth disturbing our sleep’. It absoloutely definitely wasn’t bloody worth disturbing our sleep.
The next morning we headed off to discover the sights around Albany – starting with the National Park. Our first stop was The Gap and The Natural Bridge. If you’ve read my last post and/or understand Australian naming conventions, you’ll know pretty much exactly what to expect here.
1. A large gap between 2 headlands of rock
2. A naturally formed bridge.
One interesting aspect of a lot of Australian places is the Aboriginal stories which surround them. In the case of The Gap, there were two men in the area who were ‘quarelling’. Lots of Aboriginal stories, and those of human history generally, start with a quarrel. Anyway, to sort it all out they were sent to either side of The Gap. One was very skilled with a spear and threw this at the other. At the same time the other chap, who was very skilled with a boomerang, threw his weapon. Both weapons landed and the two men fell into the sea. The one who’d been hit with the spear became a stingray and the one with the boomerang a shark (the boomer being the dorsal fin). Hence explaining the presence of stingrays and sharks in Australia.
Bloody quarrels. That’s why I can’t swim in Australia.
They’ve built a platform meaning you can stand directly over The Gap which frankly is bloody terrifying when the water below is smashing into rocks 50 feet below. This may explain the poor quality of photos and videos to follow. Apologies that your blogger is a bit of a wuss, but seriously, you try it:
Our next stop was an impromptu one just down the road to have a look at a signposted beach. Upon discovering the beach was down a spudload of stairs we decided to take a typical traveller picture on a rock and then carry on our way:
Next up on the National Park tour of fun was The Blowholes, a spot hanging over the edge of a cliff where occasionally the water is forced up from the sea 50 feet below through holes in the rock, blowing up in a spectacular display of power. Unfortunately Soddo’s Law came into play again and all that was blown up through the Blowholes was wind, so no photos for you. Sorry team.
Our final National Park stop was Stony Hill Lookout, but by this point we were seeing a view we’d already seen enough times to memorise, so we headed back to Albany for an afternoon on the beach.
Luckily Middleton Beach in Albany installed a shark net on a trial basis last year, though why on earth anyone would reject being able to swim without dying is beyond me. Either way we were able to swim and then relax on the beach whilst getting a consummate battering off the wind.
A few hours later, with sand blown into every crevice of our bags and bodies, we headed on a stroll and found this almost insultingly picturesque boardwalk and view;
With the sights of Albany now pretty well completed (checked against the Top 10 things to do on tripadvisor of course), we spent a last night in our empty again dorm in the hostel before moving on to Denmark the next morning.
Our arrival in Copenhagen after the long flight was a cold one given the temperature differences and it didn’t help matters that neither of us spoke a word of Danish.
I’m kidding of course. Denmark is a small town an hours west of Albany, and thankfully the journey there involved a lot of greenery in the forms of trees and hills making it all slightly more bearable.
So we arrived in Denmark feeling pretty positive about our chances – green rolling hills, grass, trees? As Brits, this was our bread and butter served with a cuppa. All too easy. Having arrived early on to escape the thrills (sarcasm there people) of Albany, we nipped in to our hostel to check in early, chuck food in the fridge and have a nosy round before heading out to see what Denmark had to offer. We only had a night here and with a 4 hour drive needing to be done to get to Margaret River the next day, time was shorter than Warwick Davis.
Our first stop was Greens Pool, a beach recommended to us by almost everyone we met, and it did not disappoint. The beach stretched out far to the right but the real charm was the left hand corner – a sheltered sort of mini bay with easy swimming in crystal clear water amongst large rocks scattered on the beach and in the sea. Look at me getting all fancy descriptive. Anyway, after a walk down the expansive bit of the beach getting blown away (the sights were okay but I mean literally blown away by the wind – WA, Windy Always) we took refuge in the sheltered area and relaxed, swam and generally enjoyed this little haven.
But time was, as we know, short – and more importantly Katie was hungry, so we headed back to the hostel to whip up a bit of late lunch. This done, our afternoon was dedicated to food, wine and puzzles. Now you’re intrigued.
The ‘puzzles’ aspect came at our first stop, an impromptu one which came from a brown sightseeing sign pointing to the ‘Denmark Maze’. Well, if this maze had the name of the town all to itself it must be the best and had to be worth a visit, right? Well, yes, if you’re 5. We had neglected to consider the fact that we are not children anymore and for me at 6’4, mazes often no longer pose the all-encompassing unknowing thrill they once did when I couldn’t see over the fences. Still, after taking a worryingly long time to solve the maze given we are both graduates, we had had our fun and headed to our next stop, food.
It had been almost guaranteed we would stop at this place ever since I saw the sign on the way to Greens Pool, for as far as I can remember the sign just said ‘CHOCOLATE’ and pointed left. Katie, and anyone less of a chocaholic than me, may say that it says ‘The Denmark Chocolate Company’, but I am blind to unnecessary words. So, naturally, I fervently demanded that we turned off towards it with all the subtlety of an elephant doing ballet. (My metaphors need work). The grounds of the Denmark Chocolate Company took you through the history of chocolate – a satisfying combination of my degree and my real passion in life. For clarification, I’m passionate about history – I studied chocolate for three years and got a Cadburys.
Anyway after the history of chocolate we went into the shop itself. As nice as it was, I’ll take offence to anyone who tries to charge me $3.50 for a small Lindt-like truffle and we slipped out without buying anything, feeling a mixture of classic British impolite guilt offset by resentment at prices in Australia.
Finally, wine. Thanks to a recommendation by Gavin, whom I would trust with any recommendation on wine (also as a result of my gratitude for him introducing hummus to my life) we headed to Forest Hill Winery, set in very lovely grounds and with a genuine big wooden cellar door into a genuine cellar for wine tasting. Katie was driving so only had a taste of two of the wines, while I had a taste of all of them. It may have been for this reason that I got a bit tipsy and basically insisted we buy Katie a bottle of white wine for a rather hefty fee compared to our budget. I should have heeded the signs for our trip to Margaret River but as will become apparent in the next blog, I am an unstoppable wine-collector when tipsy.
With me happy as larry despite the instant regret of buying the bottle, we headed back to the hostel to make our dinner. With proper food back in the equation thanks to the presence of supermarkets in the south west and our trusty Hyundai to carry the goods for us, topped off with a bottle of wine each to drink, we managed to make an almost classy dinner. Our hostel was very homely and only had one large dining table, which meant we spent the evening chatting to backpackers whilst looking the classiest by drinking wine out of bottles while everyone else drank death juice from a bag (look up Goon and you’ll understand).
The night wound down as, in a sleepy small town like Denmark, daytime is very much the only time people are awake. We headed to bed very happy at the lovely area we were in and excited for the next one. Tomorrow brought Margaret River, wine, food, wine, beaches, wine, scenery and did I mention the wine? But that place needs a whole blog of its own, so you’ll have to wait and see what happens there.
It’s not too hard to guess that it involves a lot of wine.