Well, I am back in the library and have been informed that I can happily type up my blog on the computer's word processor for free, save it to disk and then upload it from a different computer (outside of the library). I think I should be able to bypass the second step and paste it directly into my blog (as long as no-one is watching). If this appears then it is England 1 – Australia (or, at least, Albany Library Services) 0 (unlike the latest Ashes disaster, which just doesn't bear talking about).
So, where was I?
Friday 1st December 2006 (continued)
Got to the hostel in Albany in time for lunch and discovered, much to our delight, that in addition to the v friendly and welcoming owners (who somehow managed to remember the first name of everyone in the hostel), there was free bread around the clock. Bonus.
After a carbohydrate-packed lunch, we drove into the Torndirrup National Park, where we saw beautiful beaches, interesting rock formations (so many huge lumps of granite around here) and impressive blowholes. It was at the latter where an amusing incident elapsed. Sebastien and I were almost upon them when they first blew (a violent gush of spray about 10m high). We almost jumped out of our skins (or as Melanie later put it, “into each others arms”). Melanie, who was a few metres further back, found it hilarious. Well, it was funny at the time. The swell was huge, so the views, as well as the blowholes, were all very dramatic.
On the way back to the hostel we visited Dog Rock, which, as you might well imagine is a large granite boulder in the shape of a Dog's head. The locals have painted on a collar, and its likeness is so rubbish that it is actually rather amusing.
Arriving back at the hostel I discovered that Rob and Caroline (who I had met in Augusta) were staying at the hostel. I spent a very pleasant evening with them and the two Canadians, over a couple of bottles of wine which we had accumulated on our various tastings (them more than me – their car was a veritable wine cellar).
Saturday 2nd December 2006
Started off the day going to the office of the bus company to claim my refund. You'll be pleased to hear that this amounted to the princely sum of 90c (mainly as a result of me being issued with the incorrect – and overly discounted – ticket in the first place). Ah well, even 90c isn't to be sniffed at, especially when I got a free tour in place of the bus journey.
Later in the morning we went to the farmers market (pretty rubbish and usual overpriced “organic” nonsense) and saw an exhibition of wildlife photography. But the highlight came when we popped into Alkoomi Wines to see if they had any tastings on offer. And did they ever! Their vineyards are in Frankland River (a couple hours north of here) and as it is rather off the tourist trail, they offer tastings in Albany as well.
Perhaps the wines weren't quite as good as those that I had tasted in the Margaret River/ Pemberton/ Denmark areas, but what they lacked in quality (and they weren't that lacking) the lady more than made up for in quantity. Each “tasting” was a good three mouthfuls and after 12 wines, we (me and the 2 Quebecers) were decidedly tipsy.
We felt a bit more with it after a long, bready lunch (I'm going to look like a loaf soon), so, together with Melanie and Sebastien, I went to Two People's Bay Nature Reserve. Little Beach was another corker and we managed to find a spot out of the wind (which was just as well, because in spite of the glorious sunshine there was a chilly breeze). Went in for a couple of swims and messed about in the surf. Very refreshing/invigorating but not as cold as I thought it would be (apparently the Leuwin Current reaches around the corner as far as Albany and thus keeps the temperatures higher than would be expected for the Southern Ocean).
A seagull bit Melanie while she was sunbathing (they are worse than they are in Sidmouth around here) and there was an amusing incident with a “bastard fly” (a bit like a horse fly – they bite – but I don't know the name so I invented my own). Anyway, one landed on Melanie, she screamed, we told her to sit still so that we could swat it (they are quite slow and death-prone), she carried on with her fit, insisting that at least that way it wouldn't be on her. Well, a couple of seconds later Sebastien slapped Melanie on the thigh, and lo, there was the dead fly. Hmm... another on of those “you had to be there” comedy moments, I suppose.
Another pleasant, wine-fuelled evening with the same group and after finding anywhere nice to have a night-cap, we went to have another look at Dog Rock. This time by night. And still rubbish.
Sunday 3rd December 2006
Lost an hour's sleep overnight, as the clocks went forward for the first time in W.A. (for a 3 year trial period).
Sad to say goodbye to the Quebecers and Liverpudlians, as we had spent a really enjoyable few days together. Still, it was nice to have a morning to myself, which I spent looking around town and doing some food shopping. The shops (including the big supermarkets) all operate rather archaic opening hours here, so the only place open was the local IGA (a Super Spar, if you like).
After lunch (some lovely seed bread from the free-bread bread-board – which made me feel a bit homesick), I went on a mammoth walk to Middleton Beach and Emu Point. Another 20k-er, I reckon. It was a beautiful sunny day and much warmer than the previous few days (high 20s). There were loads of lizards (King Skinks) about, clearly enjoying the warmth as much as me.
Albany has a really lovely setting, with granite strewn hills, white sand beaches and deep blue natural harbours. The town itself isn't up to much (typical sprawling Aussie suburbia), but the surroundings, and areas of wilderness within, more than compensate. It rather reminds me of Sardinia and is more Mediterranean in Character than I expected (someone else at the hostel likened it to the coast of Turkey). I thought it would have been lusher, but the vegetation is maquis-like and aromatic, rather than damp, woody and vivid-green.
I made another lovely curry (trying to use things up before moving on to NZ) and then had a very early night. It had been a hectic and very sociable few days.
Monday 4th December 2006
Spent the morning catching up on diary and internet housekeeping (mainly at Albany Library, where it is free). Weather took a turn for the worse again (preparing me for New Zealand?) so there was no great rush to get outside.
After lunch (yup, you guessed it, more bread – this time in the form of tuna sandwiches), I went for a walk, up to one of the hills overlooking Albany. This was delayed to begin with by a large patch of drizzle, so I popped back into the library for further blog updates (it's taking longer than I thought).
The sun sort of glimmered through the clouds, but the views weren't as good as the previous two days. It's amazing to note the difference between here and Perth. It was 35C in Perth today and struggling to reach 20C in Albany. Still I was reading on the interweb about the flooding in Scotland (and have since heard about Budleigh Salterton's storm-related power cut) so I mustn't grumble.
Had another quiet evening. Chatted for a bit with a pleasant divorcee from Holland, read for a bit and then had another early night.
Tuesday 5th December 2006
Penultimate full day in Australia today. Another morning of chores. This time washing, blogging and weather-watching (the sun came out at about 10am – hooray – I managed to get my washing dry).
Went for a long walk in the afternoon with Petra, the aforementioned Dutch lady. Very pleasant, although I'm quite glad to be moving on tomorrow (I think we just about exhausted her surprisingly limited English). The weather was great. Warm and sunny, but with a cooling onshore breeze. Walked up to another viewpoint overlooking the city, which still houses some gun emplacements which we were able to look around (and even go inside some of the large gun-type-things). Also revisited Middleton Beach (much quieter than on Sunday – only a handful of people along the entire 5km length). More lizards, birds, wildflowers... it's just a shame that Albany town is such a sprawling mess, as we had to walk back through endless bungalow land (and not everyone is proud of their gardens here, unlike the majority of Poms). Car is king, and if you haven't got one you just have to endure roads which weren't designed for walking.
Well, here we are, up-to-date at last. I am sitting in the Library at 7:30pm, the sun is still shining (thanks to the clocks going forward – it doesn't get dark until after 8pm now), and the Aussies are doubtless being smug about our latest cricketing disaster. I think it is time for me to flee the country, which (with mixed feelings – I have really enjoyed Western Australia) I will be doing on Thursday. I notice the 5-day forecast for Auckland is for rain on my first 2 days, so I had best pop out into the late evening sunshine and enjoy it while it lasts...
Best wishes to you all,
Love James xx