Saturday, March 31, 2012

Walking Bridge Nannup

Nannup is a very small town in the middle of the forest. There are a few cafes and craft shops. The Blackwood River runs through the town and canoeing and bush walking are very popular. This walking bridge across the Blackwood is near the town centre. There is also a very long cycle track from further north and Nannup is bout the half way point. We stopped here for lunch and did consider staying longer as the Quit car rally has special stages here in about five days time but decided to continue on.

Not so far from home

There are numerous National Parks in the south west of Western Australia and this signage caught our eye. It would take us much longer than two hours by plane to reach New Zealand let alone walking. We have no idea why it is so named.

Meelup Beach

We wandered from one end of the beach to the other watching a group of five canoeists heading out. The water was quite warm and clean. A pleasant spot.

Meelup Beach

The coastline has many beautiful beaches. Meelup Beach is bout five kilometres from Dunsborough and is a poplar place for day visits. The water was really clear and colourful. The rocks with their white tops were interesting.

We are now near Busselton and we were disappointed to read that the Shire of Busselton does not allow any free camping. There are many places that we would have enjoyed stopping at but instead we will stay in a caravan park in Busselton for a couple of days.

Inside the lighthouse

Peter and our tour guide discussing the operation past and present of the light.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

After a few days of exploring the Margaret River area we packed up today and headed to the furtherest point - Cape Naturaliste. The whole peninsula is only about 100 kilometres in length so we didn't have far to travel.

We stopped off first at Yallingup which is a surfing and fishing beach and very pretty. We had expected Yallingup to be a reasonable size, but were surprised that it was quite small. I checked google and see that the population is only 300. It was tempting to stay but we decided to move on a little. Next stop was Dunsborough. Some years ago Dunsborough was voted Western Australia's top tourist town. It was certainly busy today with lots of shoppers enjoying the warm Saturday.

We headed out to Cape Naturaliste as we wanted to go to the lighthouse. We booked a tour and we were surprised when we were the only ones on the tour. Peter was enthral led with all the information about the machine was has been in use since 1903 operating the light. For me I enjoyed the climb and the view from the top. The lighthouse was originally operated by three keepers working around the clock and from 1992 is now totally automated. Like the Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta, this lighthouse is extremely important to ships passing this rugged coastline.

Apparently during the annual migratory period from September to December whales can be seen in these waters. Also, we continually hear that these parts of Western Australia are wonderful during spring when the wild flowers are in flower. Perhaps we will have to visit again!

There is obviously money growing grapes

Like in other wine growing areas there are many beautiful homes and wineries. This is just one that we stopped off at - Lauranne Winery. They must be making a dollar to keep this facility operating. The gates at the road and the gardens, which are not in the photo, were most impressive.

Wineries and more wineries

Wherever you look there are rows and rows of grape vines and signage for the cellar door. For us it was a matter choosing which ones to visit as the choice was so big. We visited a few just to ensure that the stock of red wine is kept up.

A change of flavour

After ice cream, nuts and chocolate it was time for a change. Next was a visit to one of the boutique breweries - Bootleg Breweries. The facility had a wonderful open restaurant, children's playground and lake with gardens. It was a lovely spot to relax at the end of the afternoon. A mixed six pack was on the shopping list from here.

Margaret River Chocolate Company

Great to look at, and this is only about half of the showroom and there was a cafe as well.

Is he a quitter?

Our next stop was just along the road at the Margaret River Chocolate shop. This is a very large commercial facility rather than a small owner operator which we prefer. I thought the coffee mug quite appropriate but I shouldn't ask for too much as Peter quit smoking a year ago and that is no mean effort. Well done Pete. A much smaller slab of rocky road went into the shopping basket during the stop.

From ice cream to chocolate

Our next stop was at Nuts and Cereals. There was no information that I saw that said it also included chocolate but it was certainly there. So a good size slab of peanut chocolate went on to the counter along with mixed nuts and homemade muesli. As you can tell from the smile, Peter was a happy chappy. His chocoholic tee short we bought in Denmark will get an airing!

A Tasting Dish

The choice was a kid's cone for $3, a small for $5, a large for $10 or a tasting dish of eight flavours for $15. A group who were just finishing said there was only one choice ...... Well of course it had to be the tasting dish so we could try lots of the flavours instead of being limited to one or two. The tray doesn't look that big but I can assure you it took some eating. They were just wonderful with unique flavours. Don't think you can buy Millers in any supermarket we go too.

We also bought two litres of milk, produced on the farm with that layer of cream for the top third of the container - just like the pint bottle from years ago. Rice pudding made from it has been beautiful and I have had porridge made with it the last couple of mornings. No low fat in that milk and I still like to stick to the low fat variety in my coffee.

Sampling all that Margaret River has on offer

Most of us are aware that the Margaret River is famous for its wines, mainly their red wine. However the area is also popular for their agriculture, horticulture and other various activities. We had a couple of days enjoying some of the fruits of the area. First stop was Millars Ice Creamery. This is a dairy farm where they produce their own ice cream and sell their milk direct to the customer. Perhaps an opportunity for the farmers in our family???

This was the display of homemade ice cream to choose from. Now as most people know, Peter loves ice cream. What shall he choose?

Bush fires in south west Western Australia

In November 2011 extensive areas along the coast of the Margaret River region were badly burned. Rehabilitation activities have commenced with some areas replanted. Fortunately most of the houses were saved but we did see some that weren't so lucky. This photo was taken from the beach at Prevelly Beach.

Prevelly Beach

We camped at the Prevelly Beach Caravan Park which is about ten minutes from the township of Margaret River. There was a beautiful sunset as we walked along the beach before dinner. This beach area had a very bad fire in November 2011 and the area is very badly burnt right down to the water edge.

Hamlin Bay

The remains of the historic jetty at Hamelin Bay in the Margaret River region. This beach is also known for the stingrays that can be seen on the water's edge. We could see at least five but a photo only showed shadowing in the water.

More stalactites

The tour was about two hours long and we were continually marvelled by the cave.

Coral within the cave

This area of the cave looked as though it should have been underground as it resembled coral. There was no water in the cave although scientists have said that historically the area was an underwater cave.

The waterfall

It is really difficult to show photos of the inside of the cave. We joined a small tour and the guide provided explanations. This was just like a waterfall and was pretty impressive.

Original access to Jewel Cave

This photo shows the hole through which the explorer originally accessed the cave back in 1958. Apparently he was with a group of experienced cavers and thought that it was probable that there were more caves in the area. He located a hole believe to have been caused by a tree root and descended into the cave. What an amazing find. This photo was taken holding the camera above my head.

Jewel Caves, Margaret River

The Margaret River region is home to over 100 caves. We visited Jewel Cave which is the largest cave open to the public and has the longest straw stalactite found in a tourist cave in the world. The caves were first located in 1958.

Cape Leeuwin

Although known to be treacherous, it was a beautiful day when we visited. This photo was taken from our lunch stop heading back towards Augusta.

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse

This lighthouse was built in 1895 to guard ships travelling from Western Australia to the eastern ports. It remains in use and as this coastline is considered me of the most dangerous coastlines in the world. This area is the meeting point of the Indian and Southern oceans and is the tablet lighthouse on the mainland of Australia. Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is located in the south of the Margaret River (south of Augusta).

Totem poles

A series of nine totem poles have been crafted and displayed at Nannup depicting aspects of the township, eg adventure activities, wine, gardens, crafts etc.

The biggest place in Greenbushes

Like many areas of Australia, the pub or a number of pubs were close to the first buildings built in a new area settled. These buildings are quite elegant and many are still in use. This one in Greenbushes is still in very good condition and was open for business. Greenbushes has about four shops so you can see this building was by far the biggest and there were a couple more pubs as well!

Old gaol in Greenbushes

Like many places in the world, Australia is very good at maintaining their historical buildings. This very small old gaol is in the equally very small rural area of Greenbushes. There is an exercise area and two cells.

Ready to start climbing

A close up of the steel steps leading up the Diamond Tree for the fire watch platform 56 metres higher up. This tree is near Pemberton in the south west of Western Australia. There are three of these trees with fire watch platforms still in use in the Pemberton area and we visited two of them, Gladstone Tree and this one.

The eye in the sky

Hopefully from this photo you will be a able to see the platform from which the fire watch is undertaken. Amazingly high and you couldn't get down quickly if you wanted to go to the toilet!
We didn't try and climb this one. Too high and too vertical for me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kari forests

The area between Denmark and Pemberton is just about entirely Karri forest. This is a distance of around 190 kilometres. This road was a lovey change from deserts and similar as we drove through the forest with the huge trees around us. This area has a series of national parks.

Yeagerup Beach

It was time to try something different today so we headed into one of the national parks near Pemberton to try riding the sand dunes. The sand dune in this photo doesn't look steep but let me assure you it certainly was and very soft. We tried to walk it first and I found it nearly impossible so it was not surprising that with the weight of the Patrol we didn't get far. That was really disappointing but possibly if I hadn't been there Peter would have taken a much faster run up and got to the top.

Obviously others got to the top and then perhaps down the other side - shall we try again tomorrow?

The Gladstone Tree

Fire is always a risk of Australia and particularly in forest areas. For many years a unique fire watch was at the top of a very tall Karri tree and there are a number of these in the vicinity of Pemberton. We visited this one today - Gladstone free. It is 61 metres tall and has a series of steel spikes circling the tree trunk to form a ladder to a fire platform on the top. Try and see the circular steel ladder leading up to the platform at the top - nearly impossible to see unfortunately.

On the way up

Both of us tried the steel steps up the tree never intending to make it to the top, even if we could. We didn't have closed shoes and thongs (jandals) are not ideal for this activity. Beside that 61 metres, and with the steps quite vertical further up the tree, didn't make this a walk in the park!

A close up of the steel spikes into the tree to form the access to the fire platform

Free camping near Northcliff

We constantly find some beautiful spots to free camp. This is where we camped on Saturday night, 24th March amongst the tingle trees. A campervan had also joined us overnight but they were out of bed much earlier than us and had left by the time this photo was taken. It doesn't get much better than this - it was just so peaceful.

Hollow Tingle tree

This one was hollow on both sides - amazing that it was still growing.

Discovery walk

Once we had completed the tree top walk we continued with a discovery walk amongst the trees. The trees are tingle trees which are very tall but very shallow rooted. Many of the trees have huge splits in the trunks which are caused by insects, rodents, fires and the like. The trees continue t grow although they have these hollow trunks until their shallow roots are disturbed when they topple. This photo gives an idea of the hollow trunks.

Valley of the Giants tree top walk

Time for more exercise, however there weren't too many calories used this time.  The tree top walk is a series of five cantilevered bridges with the highest 40 metres above ground level.  We really felt that we were up amongst the tree tops.  We missed Sharryn and Garey's company today as we know just how much Garey likes these walks.  

Now it is toffee and homemade ice cream

As though the stop at the chocolate studio wasn't enough, next it was the toffee factory. Here they produce toffee in all sorts of variety - peanut toffee, lemon myrtle toffee, chilli peanut toffee, macadamia toffee, traditional toffee to name a few (I know these as these were the ones that Peter bought). To top off the morning the toffee factory served the most beautiful homemade ice cream so that was a must - passion fruit for Peter and raspberry for me. They were devine!

Time to get some more exercise in ...........

Greens Pool

From Elephant Rocks we walked across the rocks to reach Greens Pool. There was no doubt to us why this area is so popular. The water was so clear and green and sheltered from the rocky coastline. Surprisingly it was quite warm and there were a number of people swimming. To complete our exercise for this morning we had a long climb up wooden steps back to the car.

Elephant rocks

After an early sugar hit it was time for some exercise and we headed the short distance to the coast to see one of the great highlights in the area - Elephant Rocks. It was an easy walk along sandy tracks to the top of the rocks and then a series of wooden steps to the base. From here it was a walk in the water (avoiding the incoming tide if possible) between two of the rocks to reach the beach. The rocks were really impressive and it was a beautiful day. Unfortunately the photo doesn't give a really good impression of how big the rocks were.

A selection of home made chocolates

All beautifully made but quite expensive to have too many.

Treats for the chocoholic

Denmark in south west Australia is a small town with a number of adventure tourism activities plus is known for its food and wines. Between the town of Denmark, through Walpole through to Pemberton is a narrow strip of Karri forest - apparently the nay Karri forests in Western Australia. One of our stops was t the Denmark Chocolate Company and the chocoholic in our family was in his element. Perfectly made hot chocolate and then a chocoholic teeshirt, which is so fitting. The owners are a Swiss couple and they were just delightful. We were there first customers for the day so too early for me to have chocolate.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sperm Whale

In the last few years of whaling in Albany it was the sperm whale that was captured. This is a skeleton of one of the last sperm whales caught in 1978 - it was 37 feet or 11 metres in length.

Skeleton of blue whale

This skeleton on display at the Whale Centre is that of a Pygmy blue which beached at Albany Harbour in 1973. This whale was 72 feet or 22 metres in length and is a smaller variety of the Blue Whale which is the largest creature to have lived on earth (up to 112 feet or 34 metres).

Aboriginal art

This is a photo of some Aboriginal art from the wall of the overnight lockup following arrest for drunkenness and the like. It is considered the earliest Aboriginal art located in a "lock up" facility.

A visit to Albany

We have now enjoyed two days sightseeing in Albany (around trying to sort out our computer repairs). We took a historic walk in Albany looking at various hotel and shop buildings from the time of early settlement. We also visited the Old Gaol which was built to accommodate convicts mainly. This building has been very well maintained and certainly sent some shivers down the spine. The prison had separate men and women sections with the original kitchen, bakery and laundry with the equipment still in place. The women prisoners cooked and cleaned etc for the prison and the men were contracted out to the "free" settlers on a daily basis as labourers.

The volunteer on duty was delighted to have an audience for her stories of prisoners and it was hard to get away from her! Still it did make the visit more interesting.

A visit to Albany

We have now enjoyed two days sightseeing in Albany (around trying to sort out our computer repairs). We took a historic walk in Albany looking at various hotel and shop buildings from the time of early settlement. We also visited the Old Gaol which was built to accommodate convicts mainly. This building has been very well maintained and certainly sent some shivers down the spine. The prison had separate men and women sections with the original kitchen, bakery and laundry with the equipment still in place. The women prisoners cooked and cleaned etc for the prison and the men were contracted out to the "free" settlers on a daily basis as labourers.

The volunteer on duty was delighted to have an audience for her stories of prisoners and it was hard to get away from her! Still it did make the visit more interesting.

Whaling Station

Our last visit for the day was to the Cheynes Whaling Station. This was a working station until November 1978 and was not purpose built for tourism. This boat was the largest of the three that was used for whaling in the waters near Albany. They captured and killed up to 19 whales a day and the industry was worth 2.5 million dollars in 1978. Government policy closed the industry down. Peter enjoyed looking through the boat which has been well maintained in its original state.

The Natural Bridge

Unfortunately this photo does not give the best view of the natural bridge which was pretty spectacular. The waves were crashing in and at times broke over the rocks in the foreground of this photo although they were significantly higher than the water level.