After a short farewell from a number of the members of the MG Car Club, Bridget and I left Perth set for Albany on our first drive in Australia. The trip lasted around 4 hours and was uneventful. I stopped off for coffee at the Wool Sheds in Williams a small town some 90 miles south of Perth. The Wool Sheds a typical local product/craft centre for tourists. This particular one specialises in woollen clothes made from local wool. The Marino items were fantastic, so soft.
I’m not sure if it was something I said, but I must have upset someone in Perth for them to send me to Albany. They said it is beautiful and would remind me of England. I guess it does as it has rained all day and the wind off the sea is bitterly cold.
The architecture puts me in mind of the frontier towns of the early colonial days, some being little more than wooden sheds and some grand with beautiful verandas and balconies. I really rather like it. Many of the buildings, of course, are from that era and those built later have been sympathetic to them. There is the first consecrated Anglican church of Australia erected in 1848 and a town hall built in 1886, that would look perfectly at home in many northern or midland towns in England.
My first fleeting view of Princess Royal Harbour immediately put me in mind of the television pictures of Goose Green in the Falklands with hills down to the waters edge and the water being whipped by strong winds.
The countryside on route has been largely bush with some cereal farming and rolling hills similar to those in the UK.
Day 2 in Albany and the weather is still bad, however I have to take back what I was thinking of those that sent me here. We took a drive along to Frenchman’s Bay, luckily there weren’t any about, and stopped once or twice on the way. The scenery is just stunning. The sea goes from a very deep, ominous, blue with white caps to an almost luminous sky blue before turning brilliant white as it breaks onto the rocks and beach. The waves are fairly big and although I didn’t see any there are warnings of occasional freak waves coming ashore and the danger that presents. There are rocky cliffs in places with blowholes, a deep cleft cut into the cliff by the sea and wind, and what they have called the Natural Bridge. This is where the elements have literally carved away the granite in-front, behind and under some of the rock to form a bridge from one escarpment to another. This whole area takes natural beauty to another level.
Just two miles away on the opposite side of the headland is King George Sound and here the sea is very calm. Whaling was a major industry here in years past and they have turned the old whaling station into a tourist spot with explanations of everything that went on. True to my previous observation about the Australians, they have also turned the local wind farm into a tourist attraction. In the UK there are groups trying to curb the spread of these structures, but perhaps English Heritage should take a leaf out of the Australian book!
We moved on some 300 miles along the coast to Esperance. On route we ran out of petrol and three vehicles came along and each one stopped to make sure I was alright. This is the norm in Australia where, partly because of the extreme distances and partly the sparse population, everyone looks out for everybody else. I refuelled from one of my jerry cans and made a mental note that the fuel gauge should not be relied on, however there may be another problem with the fuel supply but I’m not sure. After covering around 200 miles the engine started to misfire and occasionally backfire but there was nothing visual, that I could detect, to cause it. On arriving in Esperance I again checked the engine and found a damper on one of the carburettors was unscrewed, so I reinserted it, after adding some oil and screwed it down tight. Hopefully that resolves the matter.
I have now had a sample of the type of driving that I have been told about, with absolutely straight roads for as far as you can see. At one point I stopped on top of a small hill and the road stretched as far as I could see in front and behind me. Away in the distance I could see two cars, well spaced out, but the thought went through my head “Traffic’s building up!”
The South Coast Highway is flanked for much of its length by bush. This in some ways is similar to heath land in the UK but the vegetation tends to be around 4/5 feet tall, with some trees of up to 10/12 feet. I have also been advised to watch out for kangaroos as they tend to hop out of the bush into the road without any warning. As some grow up to 2 metres in height they would do considerable damage to Bridget if we hit one at 60 mph.
Esperance is a seaside resort that earns most of its income from tourists. However it also has a small, diverse and busy port exporting grain, nickel and Iron ore, and importing fuel and fertilisers. The area is renowned for its pristine beaches and I decided to explore the Cape Le Grand National Park. Apart from visiting one of the beaches where the colour of the sea is much as I described it in Albany and the sand is almost white, I also went walking and climbed Frenchmans Peak. This towering granite hill affords fantastic views over the whole of the surrounding countryside and coast.
Right let’s go and explore The Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide some 1400 miles distance.