For some reason, this computer won't let me go into the previous post and edit the title - hence the air of strangeness (now corrected - blink and you'll have missed it). The weather today has taken a turn for the worse, so I have postponed this afternoon's walk and decided to continue updating the blog from the library instead. Hopefully the drizzle will cease and I will be able to make full use of the extra hour of daylight that Western Australia now enjoys. Anyway, back to 26th November for the next installment...
Sunday 26th November 2006
Bought the Sunday Times, which is more of a Mail on Sunday. At least it gave me a slight flavour of what is going on in the world (well, mainly Australia, but there was the odd international story). The front page showed the England cricket team with rabbit ears, under the headline "England's Bunnies". The lady in the newsagents didn't get my joke when I asked if there was an alternative front cover. It must have been my French accent which threw her.
I cooked a substantial pasta meal for lunch, making full use of the hostel's excellent kitchen, as I wasn't sure what time I would arrive in Pemberton (the bus was scheduled to arrive sometime after 8pm). I then went for a walk along the estuary. It wasn't as nice as yesterday's coastal walk but I saw an interesting lizard and lots of nice wildflowers. The weather was hot and sunny, so it was nice to be out and about and there was a bit of a breeze right next to the water.
In the evening I caught the bus to Pemberton (only one other person on board). It was a beautiful drive through fields and forests, with the evening sun casting an amber glow across the landscape.
It was dark upon arrival. They had no record of my booking, but luckily I was able to take the last available bed. Lucky, or what?
The other person on the bus (a Danish girl), checked into the same hostel, so we decided to go to the town's (only) pub for a drink. It was the final of Australian Idol (on the big screen), so there were quite a lot of drunk Aussies, which made of interesting people watching. And the standard of the competitors made X-Factor look positively professional in comparison.
Although I am unsure whether or not the Danish girl irritates me (I am erring towards yes-she-does), I decide to give her a chance and arrange a plan for the following day, which will involve a long walk through the forest and a visit to 3 wineries. It will be good to walk with another person because I am always conscious that it would be a bit dodgy if anything should happen to me in the middle of the Australian bush.
Monday 27th November 2006
An early start today as a lot to pack in. We got a lift to the Gloucester Tree with an Australian man (from Adelaide*) who was staying in the same dorm. We climbed to the top (60m up). The views were really good, but it wasn't quite as exciting as I thought it would be. In fact, it could have done with a death-slide from the top to complete the experience. There were some friendly parrots at the bottom (very colourful and noisy)... which gave it something of the feel of a tropical forest (as did the temperatures, which were already pretty warm).
After this we left our taxi driver behind (he was driving on to his next overnight stop) and went to a nearby vineyard (Gloucester Ridge) for some early-morning wine tasting (we arrived at 10:05am, just after they opened). Nice range of wines although a bit more pushy on the sales front. Luckily we had the excuse of a 15km walk ahead of us.
From the vineyard we walked back into town and then out into the forest along the Bibbulmun Track (a long distance patch connecting Albany and Perth). The eucalyptus forest was beautiful with some absolutely massive specimens (even higher than the one we had climbed). Interesting sounds (birdsong, insects and assorted rustlings in the undergrowth) and the wonderful smell of Olbas Oil heightened the sensory experience.
We had lunch next to a stream, dangling our hot feet in the cool, clear water (which also smelt of Eucalyptus). Lovely. Got to Big Brook Dam feeling rather hot (there wasn't the cooling sea breeze this far inland) and so were glad to have a refreshing dip in the reservoir.
From there we walked back towards Pemberton, stopping at a couple more wineries en route. A couple from Stuttgart, who were staying in our hostel, gave us a lift for part of the way, which was welcome as the walk had seemed further than anticipated.
The first winery (Hidden River Wines) was the best one of the day. Really friendly staff, sizable measures, good selection of wines and no obligation to buy. Feeling a bit squiffy upon exit.
Walk to next winery (Woodsmoke Wines) for more tastings (not as good as earlier ones - the Chardonnay tastes of armpits) and then start to stagger back to hostel. A kindly Australian couple (from Melbourne) must have noticed our zig-zag path, as they offered us a lift back to Pemberton. Perhaps the Danish girl (who had hitched part of her way around Australia - yes, she's a bit crusty) was able to telepathically persuade drivers to stop and pick us up.
After getting back I scrumped from fresh fruit (nectarines and loquats) from the hostel garden and made a noodly dinner. In bed by 9:30pm, after a full and satisfying day.
* I have met quite a lot of Australians travelling around, either visiting places as a tourist, or travelling to a new area to look for work. This seems to illustrate both the sheer enormity of their country and the questing, pioneering spirit of such recent colonists.
PS Saw a snake during our walk (not sure what kind, either a Dugite or a Tiger Snake... both of which are pretty venomous).
Tuesday 28th November 2006
Up early again. Leisurely breakfast and more scrumping of fruits (I'll be getting the squits at this rate) before checking out at 10am. Danish girl has already left, after securing a lift with a couple heading in the same direction. Quite glad about this as she was getting more irritating as time went on. Unfortunately she said she'd come and find me in Denmark, as we would both be staying there that evening.
I left my stuff at the hostel and went for a wander around the town. It's got a real wild west feel - timber houses with big verandahs, an abandoned railroad and a large timber mill at the bottom of the hill. And all this is surrounded by massive forests, increasing the middle-of-nowhere atmosphere.
I found a nice spot next to the town swimming pool (a dammed-up lake in the forest) to sit and update my diary. There were lots of little beasties around (including mozzies), so I hoped I hadn't been bitten to shreds* (which luckily, as it turned out, I hadn't). More walking (it was a bit cloudy and much more humid), followed by a trip to the supermarket to get stuff for lunch and dinner.
I sat outside to have my lunch, but was forced to seek shelter by a heavy shower (the first rain since leaving Perth). It didn't come to much but was quite grey. A further few showers drove me back to the hostel to read and wait for the bus in the dry.
Another scenic bus journey through hills (getting a bit bigger) and forests...
Arrived in Denmark a bit early as, once again, there were very few people on the bus. Hostel is tiny and very homely (there is a smelly dog - flint - and chickens pecking around under the building - like a lot of places around it is built on stilts). Have a lovely evening cooking curry (enough for 2 nights) and chatting with fellow guests. They wind me up about the Danish girl, who despite staying in a different hostel comes to see me and asks what I am doing the following day. She is becoming a bit too clingy (I know I am in Denmark, but this is surely a joke), so I decide to say that I would rather have the day to myself. Funnily enough, I don't see her again. Phew.
* I'm not sure what tense I should write this in... I was writing it as it happened, but now that is several days ago... appologies for any grammatical errors/air of confusion.
Wednesday 29th November 2006
I am offered a lift over to Green Pool by a German lady (I was thinking about hiring a bike to cycle there), so I decided to accept the offer and walk back from there along the Bibbulmun track (about 20km one way).
The weather is rather unsettled and the heavens open almost as soon as I set off. Luckily my waterproof is up to the job and I soon dry off once the rain stops. Then the sun comes out and eveything looks beautiful. The sea is a fantastic range of greens and blues, the sand is white and the smooth granite rocks frame everything wonderfully. I decided to scramble around the coast to look at the different beaches and rock formations (Elephant Rocks - which look like a herd of elephants, Waterfall Beach and other coves, pools and inlets).
After the rain the rocks were quite slippery... and so, following the Wood tradition, I managed to slip into the water at one point (my trainers got soaked and so did my bum!). Luckily the sun was still shining at this point and I soon dried out. This was aided by stopping for an hour (lunchtime) at Light's Beach, where I was able to change into my swimmers and lay my wet stuff out in the sun to dry. There were a few mozzies/flies about, but otherwise it was stunning.
I start walking up the steps from the beach and was about to take a photo when I realised that my camera was missing. I searched everywhere to no avail... so start to retrace my steps (it wasn't long before lunch that I was taking pictures, so it can't be far away).
It doesn't take long to find it, but unfortunately it is lying at the bottom of a rock pool. Aaaarrrrggghhh. This is pretty gutting, especially as I really can't understand how it got there. I take it out and try to dry it off the best I can, but obviously it doesn't work. No life at all. Not a sausage.
I just don't know how it could have happened. I am always so careful (almost to the point of paranoia). Maybe I had left my bag unzipped, or it had been in the pocket of my waterproof coat (also unzipped?). Maybe as I swung around to swat a mosquito, it was somehow flung into the rock pool... who knows... just one of those mysteries, I suppose.
That incident rather marred my journey back, but the scenery was wonderful (immense granite boulders, in and out of the forest, some so big that they jutted above the trees; dramatic coastal scenery and lovely wildflowers... a shame I couldn't capture any of this on film).
Got back to the hostel and decided that a glass of wine was required. Luckily, everyone in the hostel was very friendly, so they consoled me about the camera and my mood was lifted. As the German lady (who had given me the lift) said, at least I hadn't broken any bones. Furthermore, the pictures I already had on the XD card were still there (I was able to check on another camera which took the same type of card), so not all was lost.
Later in the evening I got chatting to a couple of friends from Quebec. They currently live in Montreal, but originally come from a place near La Patrie, which just happens to be the tiny village where I used to have a school penfriend. Another "small world moment" on A Sidmouthian Abroad! They are really nice and amazed that I can speak French, as for some reason they seem to have the impression that on-one in England can speak a foreign language.
Well, time is getting on and the sun is back out, so I think I shall venture out for my walk now. I hope to finish updating my blog tomorrow and upload those photos that I have when I get back to Perth. Until then...
Love James xx