This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2004 Travels May 22


There was more rain through the night, quite heavy at times. It fined up through the morning and after the damp start, the day turned out mostly fine.

We managed to sleep in until 9.30am, probably due to the dimness of the light. The Phoenix ladies had left by the time we got up, so we did not get a chance to say farewell to them.

We went driving, out through the forests of karri and tingle, on a winding unsealed road, to the Giant Tingle Tree area – about 7kms from Walpole. Here, there was a walking path amongst superb, old, big trees. It was a delight to see them.

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These trees have their centres burnt out by fires, but the remaining side parts of the tree provide the route for the nourishment to the canopy, as well as supporting it. It was amazing that the bases of these trees could be so hollowed out, yet be the bottoms of living, seemingly healthy forest giants.

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After a walk of 800 metres, we came to the Queen of Trees – a 24 metre high red tingle tree, the oldest living eucalypt tree in the world. We did much admiring of this tree, standing inside its hollowed out base looking up, marvelling at how it could still be alive.

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Queen of Trees

From the tree, we drove on, completing a loop that took us through farmland back to the highway, then some 18kms west of Walpole, we turned south onto the 8 km long unsealed road that would take us to Mandalay Beach.

Our visit to the beach nearly did not happen, as there was a fallen tree across the track. John liberated the axe from its place attached to the roof rack, and got to work to clear enough of the tree for us to get past. It was hard work – he was really puffing. I fell over backwards, when a tree branch I was pulling on gave way quickly. Hurt my neck a bit.

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Enough tree moved for Truck to get through

Mandalay Beach was worth the effort to get there. The beach is named for the three masted barque “Mandalay”, which was wrecked there in 1911.

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Mandalay Beach

We followed a path and board walk to the beach – these were part of the Bibbulmun Track, so we were on that again.

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Mandalay Beach and Cliffy Head


The seas were wild, which was great.

We walked along the beach for a while. There was an interesting outlook to Chatham Island.

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Chatham Island

The road in would be ok for the van and we could, on a future visit, park the van in one of the bays off the carpark. It was not really clear if camping was permitted there, though.

I have to admit that, whilst walking on the beach, I had this little niggling thought – what would we do if, whilst we were here, a really big tree had come down across the track? There are times when I wish I had less of an imagination!

On the way back to camp, we took a quick detour to look at the caravan park where we stayed, in the rain, in a rather musty old caravan, in 1993 – on the other side of the inlet. It was not a patch on where we were now, for environment or ambience.

This had been a varied and very enjoyable day.

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2004 Travels May 21


On our only other visit to these parts, in 1993, we gave up on the wet and stormy south west, and hightailed it from Albany direct to Perth. On our long trip, we had intended to spend the summer and early autumn of 2001 exploring the area south and east of Perth. That was before we had to, unexpectedly, go home.

This time, we were determined to see more of this area. However, the elements were definitely not on our side, yet again. We were just too late for these parts – again.

Steady rain had set in overnight and this continued into the afternoon, when it cleared, a little.

Daughter texted in the morning, asking to borrow more money. We were not really happy about it, but found it impossible to refuse, under the circumstances.

We drove into the town, arranged the money transfer. At the tyre place, had a new tube fitted in the latest flat tyre.

Then we walked around the town, seeing what it had to offer. As it was a small township, this did not take long. The town is situated on Walpole Inlet, but our caravan park, just out of town, faces onto Nornalup Inlet. The two are joined by a narrow stretch of water. In turn, Nornalup Inlet empties via a narrow opening, into Grace Darling Bay, with its attractive sweep of sandy beach.

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Nornalup Inlet

It was an attractive little town, with its watery setting. In better weather, we would have been wishing for a boat or a canoe, to explore the inlets. This would be a great place to stay, with a canoe.

Back to the van, and lunch. After that, we ventured out for a walk on the Bibbulmun Track. This long distance walking track extends from Perth to Albany, some 1000 kms, sometimes through the great forests of the south west, sometimes along the coast. Here, the track followed the coast and went between the caravan park and the sea. We were able to walk out of the park and onto the Track, which we followed for some way to the east. However, we got rained on, and retraced our route. It was a very pleasant segment of exercise, despite the damp.

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In the caravan park were two ladies, widowed sisters in law, travelling with a Phoenix van. We had seen them in the caravan park in Esperance too. Both had lived on Queensland pastoral properties, one in the Lakefield area, years ago. We’d talked with them at the fish BBQ last night. Tonight, they had power problems in their van, and came across to ask if John might be able to help – in the dark and the rain! They fiddled about for quite some time, trying to find the source of the problem, until eventually realizing that it was a faulty electric jug that was shorting out their power. Sir John to the rescue!

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2004 Travels May 20


Nice day, with pleasant driving conditions.

We took the highway along the coast, westwards. Actually, although it was the South Coast Highway, the route was somewhat inland from the coast, so we saw a mix of farm land and bush land, rather than coastal vistas.

At Denmark, we visited Goldfields Timber and Burls – an inspirational place with an excellent variety and supply of special timbers and tree burls from WA species. John obtained details of how he could make purchases from home, and have them transported.

Our next stop was at a place producing honey and mead, where we bought some wine and honey. I guess mead was mankind’s first wine?

The final activity for the day  was at the Valley of the Giants, where we wanted to do the Tree Top Walk – on an elevated walkway through the canopy of a tingle forest, some 40 metres up.

As we pulled into the car park there, yet another tyre went flat. Well, that was number three out of the four that had been on Truck at Fowlers Bay. John refused to admit cause and effect, but I was convinced. We changed the wheel before doing anything else.

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Yet another flat tyre

The 600 metre long Tree Top Walk was not the most comfortable experience, given my aversion to heights. It seemed very high up, and swayed. But I was very pleased to have had the experience – it was an unusual perspective and good value.

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Hanging on tightly!

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Bird’s eye view

Then we did the Ancients Walk there – this time at ground level, on a pathway that took us through a little forest of old Red Tingle trees – unique to this corner of the world. This was actually more impressive than the Tree Top Walk.

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Long way up there!

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Base of Giant Tingle tree

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At the inevitable associated shop, I bought a National Parks book and a jarrah waiter’s friend that John took a liking to.

Continued on towards Walpole, turning off just before the town, to go to the Coalmine Beach Caravan Park. We wanted to stay there because it was right by the Nornalup Inlet, and had a really bushy setting.

The park was a Top Tourist. After discount, cost $18.90 a night. It was really pleasant.

There was a free fish dinner night happening, which we took advantage of. Quite a few people attended. The fish was really nice, too.

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2004 Travels May 19


Today was relatively pleasant weather – windy and not too hot.

I did the washing.

We went off to visit Whale World, driving around the coastline to a point almost opposite Albany town. Whale World  was a display of the whaling history of Albany – and wider parts – located on the site of the Cheynes Bay Whaling Station, which was the last one to be opened in Australia (1950’s) and the last one to cease operation (1970’s).

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Former whaling vessel at Cheynes Bay

The hunting of whales and seals was the first major industry of the new colonies set up in Australia. The main product gained was oil, from the melting down of their blubber, (for lamp oil) but items like whalebone for corset stays and fur from seals were also of value. The whaling industry often led to the first (informal) settlement of many areas along the coast, where small groups of hunters set up land bases. By the time whaling ceased, several species had been hunted almost to extinction. It is pleasing to see the extent to which the populations of these beautiful creatures have recovered since.

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Grey day at the whaling station

At Cheynes Bay there were factory buildings where the whale meat was processed, and a whaling boat on display too. We did a tour, which was detailed and interesting, and then were able to wander about independently. We could even go on the boat.

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The flensing deck, where whales were cut up

The area was so pretty, to have had such a grisly past!

We were several hours at Whale World, then drove further around the coast to look at the dramatic rocky coastline at the Gap and the Natural Arch.

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The Gap

Refuelled – 99cpl. Under the dollar again – good.

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2004 Travels May 18


John had arranged that Truck would go into the Land Rover dealer here, today, for a service.

He suggested that we fill in the time waiting in town by going to the cinema – a favourite activity of his, though we rarely agree which film to see! This time, he chose to see “Troy”. It was absolutely awful and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day!

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2004 Travels May 17


It was another day of rain.

We don’t seem to have much luck, visiting Albany. Our other time here, in ’93, we had major storms and wet weather, to the extent we had to abandon the tent and hire a cabin for the duration of that stay!

After breakfast, drove to the Tourist Information Centre. Followed the coastline around, through Middleton Beach. The drive around the headlands into town was very scenic, much of it through coastal bush land, interspersed with outlooks over the bays and islands. I hadn’t realized there were so many little islands off Albany. Last time we were here, we couldn’t even see the harbour. Now, we discovered, it was lovely.

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Picturesque Frenchman’s Bay at Albany

After collecting some information about the region, and some about parts further afield, we went off to look at the full sized replica of the brig “Amity”.

In 1826, this vessel brought the first settling party from Sydney, to establish a settlement at King George Sound – in case the French had ideas of so doing!

Being able to walk around inside the ship was fascinating – it was so small! It gave a really good idea of the difficult conditions of so many voyages of those times.

We drove past the Dog Rock – an outcrop beside one of the main roads. It really did look like the head of a Labrador dog.

After browsing the tourist propaganda, decided to visit the Mount Romance Sandalwood Factory. Just the name appealed. It was a 12km drive from the town centre.

There, we found out much about the nature and production of sandalwood oil in WA. The native Australian sandalwood tree was once a significant export product – to parts of Asia for making incense, on particular; and for its oil for perfumes.  It had long been used by the aborigines for its anti-biotic properties and this was exploited by pharmaceutical industries overseas. But this demand stopped with the coming of manufactured anti-biotics.

Mount Romance had revived the use of sandalwood oils for a range of skin care products, soaps and so on. They saw it as a potential growth industry and were working to have sandalwood plantations established, rather than just rely on the harvesting of the tree in the wild.

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Sandalwood tree (photo Forest Products)

Also on offer there was the Gong experience. This sounded unusual, so we paid to do that, for something different. We went into a specially built, 16 sided, conical room, and were supplied with a sandalwood infused small scarf. The idea was to relax in the dim room, on large cushions, inhale the sandalwood smell, shut the eyes and listen to the reverberations of s number of gongs being struck. A number of these had different tones and pitches. I did seem to go into somewhat of a meditative state, I thought. Anyway, the “resonance massaging” was very relaxing, as promised, and put us in a receptive mood to spend money on sandalwood products in the shop!

After that, relaxed some more back at camp.

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2004 Travels May 16


Today was a long, rainy, windy day. The driving conditions were most unpleasant, and whichever one of us was driving needed great concentration.

We stopped to fuel up at Ravensthorpe ($1.11cpl). This small-ish town, once a copper and gold mining base, appeared to have had its natural decline halted by talk of BHP setting up a big nickel mining project here. Presumably, they would ship the product out through Esperance, which would be good for the economy of that town, too.

We were relieved to reach Albany and go into the Emu Beach Caravan Park, at Emu Point. This was a Top Tourist Park and after discount cost us $18.90 a night. Its beach front location had drawn us, despite the weather. We found it a very pleasant park.

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