Esperance to Augusta - through the forests.

Trip Start Jan 13, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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What I did
Denmark Farmland Cheese Factory
Denmark Alpaca Farm

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, October 20, 2012

Esperance in Western Australia comes as a fresh, salty-aired relief from the arid three-day stretch of the Nullarbor. I'm not sure if the vibrancy of the greens and depths of the blues were enhanced by the fact that my eyes had been bleached out by pale oranges and dusty scrubland for the best part of a week, or if Esperance really is that lush and glistening.

Esperance is home to an Ocean Drive that in my opinion rivals the world famous "Great Ocean Road" in Victoria. There are no cliffs dramatically falling into a crashing ocean, but instead huge sand dunes covered in a thick mat of Garden-Of-Eden green that roll effortlessly to the waters’ edge. The bitumen road weaves through the dunes, each turn presenting you with rock formations, white spray and a magical blue ocean. We went around twice, taking it in turns to drive so the other could gawp out of the window.

Moving on west along the coast to Albany we found the opportunity to climb aboard the Brig Amity…well, a landlocked replica of the ship, as she was actually shipwrecked in 1845 after spending her years exploring Australia and establishing settlements .We clambered below deck and near crawled through the ship mates sleeping quarters. About 40 men to a room which makes 18-bed hostel dorms look like luxury! The best part of climbing aboard the Brig Amity was meeting Jim, the volunteer taking the $5 entrance fee. He was a Ten-Pound-Pom and moved to Australia with his wife on a whim back in the 60’s. We spoke for hours about his new life over here, making friends and finding work, how basic the camps were that they were moved to, how he eventually bought a house and nearly lost it until an Aussie friend kindly lent him the money. These Ten-Pound-Poms were so brave to make such a drastic move. Nowadays if we were to move to another country we would spend years planning and researching online, visit for a holiday before we committed, do reams of paperwork, find a job and a house before we arrive, spend hours trawling ex-pat forums…but not these guys, they took a huge blind risk for the chance of a better future. For many, like Jim, it paid off and they could never imagine their lives being any different.

That night, upon Jims’ recommendation we stayed at Cosy Corner, a free beach campsite not far from the town. We were sheltered from the cool coastal wind by bizarre moss-covered trees that created a canopy only a few feet from our heads. The golden sunlight shone down through the twisted branches into our own private enchanted glade, with fresh green grass and wild lilies growing at the base of the trees. The crashing of the ocean waves and the delicate birdsong created the perfect background music to the scene. Very cosy indeed. This spot played home to us for a few nights while we explored our surroundings.

Within driving distance from Albany town we discovered several coastal spots along a tourist drive that had us leaning over lookout points, feeling the spray of the ocean on our faces and reaching for our cameras to capture The Natural Bridge, Jimmy Newell’s Harbour and The Gap in all of their glory. We refrained from trekking to see Stony Hill as we were pretty certain from what we could see that it was infact just a stony hill. Lazy, yes…but there comes a point when any traveller is all 'lookout-ed out.’ We drove along the Vancouver Peninsula with the aim of catching some fish for tea. Fisherman’s bay seemed an appropriate spot as any, especially as it was one of the few places we could get to without getting bogged. We fished and fished and fished to no avail. Even the dolphins came to mock us. Yes, dolphins! We were so surprised. Vicky dropped her fishing rod and scrambled up onto the rocks and I followed suit. We watched the pod of dolphins leave the bay, fins arching out of the water, silhouetted as the sun reflected harshly, probably chuckling to themselves about all of the fish they managed to catch. Anyway, neither of us was willing to give up on the idea of fish for tea, so off we headed to the Moby Dicks Fish & Chip Shop.

Upon leaving Albany we headed inland toward Denmark. The landscape remained a leafy healthy green with storybook forests lining the road. We half expected to see a gingerbread house nestled in amongst the trees and Little Red Riding Hood hitching alongside the road. Denmark is home to plenty of wineries but as Vicky and I don’t drink wine we focussed on my true love…cheese. After tasting every single cheese sample on offer in The Denmark Farmhouse Cheese Factory we opted for something smoky, something garlicky and something creamy. Oh, and some chocolate macadamia fudge. With our most important food-groups catered for (dairy, dairy, more dairy, garlic and sugar) we headed on to the local Alpaca Farm. Not only did we have the fabulous opportunity to be mauled by greedy alpacas, we also got to talk to parrots, cuddle rabbits and guinea pigs, meet a camel, coo over a koala, interrupt chicken mating season, meet a Highland Cow with my surname (Lear), feed biscuits to a horse that played guitar with the fence and best of all…I got my ferret fix. (I used to be the weird girl who kept ferrets and walked them on leads. Now I’m the weird girl who cuddles other peoples’ ferrets and doesn’t want to let them go.) Whilst clomping through the mud we were surprised by a fairy wren. Just like an electric-blue Ping-Pong ball with a sticky-out tail and a little beak, it bounced from fence post to tree branch and danced around, wagging its’ tail from side to side. With the astonishing contrast between the fantastic blue feathers and muddy green forest it’s clear to see where this little bird got its name, like a fairy flitting through the trees faster than the eye can keep up with.

Fascinated by the forests we headed to The Valley of The Giants to complete the Tree-Top Walk. A metal walk-way towers (and wobbles precariously) 38 metres above the forest floor giving a fairy wrens’ view of the marri, karri, tingle and jarrah trees. These trees look tall from the ground but the Tree-Top Walk helps you truly appreciate the size of the majestic giants that surround you whilst travelling through this area of Western Australia. Once our legs had stopped quivering and our heart rates had returned to near-normal we took a walk through the Ancient Empire of Tingle Trees. Tingle Trees are hundreds of years old and often hollowed out at the base of the trunk through fire or infestation. The hollows of these trees are the perfect size to pose in for a photograph or two, nervously, as the signs all around warn that the root base is very shallow and delicate, meaning one of these beasts could tip over before you can say TIIIIIIIIMMMBBBEEEEERRR! One tree has a hollow large enough to park a small car in. Remarkably handy as well as beautiful.

Next stop en-route was Pemberton. Here we took a tram journey through the Karri forests on a worryingly ‘vintage’ looking track over six rickety bridges. Our guide talked the hind legs off of any donkey on board and we learnt a lot about the trees and plants as we passed them. We even had time for a quick wander down to the cascades, a group of small waterfalls. I even got to toot the horn on the way back, much to Vicky’s embarrassment.

After a night in a lay-by behind a pile of chopped down trees we headed towards the coast once again, this time to Augusta. Our usual routine when arriving somewhere new is to head to the Visitor Information Centre and get some hints and tips on what to do in the area, so this is exactly what we did in Augusta. There’s a whale watching trip leaving in 10 minutes with spaces on board you say?  Alright, let’s go! It was a rather spontaneous yet very good decision to make. Within half an hour of arriving in Augusta we were poised at the front of the catamaran, wrapped up in winter coats, binoculars in hand, getting sun and wind burn and scoffing the on board complimentary chocolate brownies. Perfect. First we spotted dolphins and they even came to play in the wake of the boat, so close you could almost touch them. Before long we were making tracks towards the horizon where the skipper had spotted a humpback. He was careful not to break the rules and regs of approaching it…not getting any closer than 100metres I believe. We’ve seen whales a few times and there is something captivating about their slow, steady movements and their incredible size. These majestic creatures appear to lazily roll around just at the surface, slapping the odd fin here and there. Everyone on board was staring in silence, gasping oohs and aahs every time the whale moved. I always feel truly privileged to see something so spectacular up close. Heading back to shore we gulped more coffee and devoured more brownies, a good healthy breakfast.

In-keeping with the forest theme of this leg of the road trip we found a free spot to camp that night further north in Busselton in the Ludlow Tuart Forest amongst the pine trees. It was dark when we got there, very dark. We missed the turn-off (a tiny gap in the trees) about 4 times as we drove up and down feeling increasingly unsettled about the nights’ accommodation. It all had an air of ‘horror movie’ about it if I’m being honest. We parked up in the clearing between the trees and nervously shone lights around, glancing quickly at moving shadows and hearing nothing but our own short, shallow breaths. “The guy in the service station suggested we stay here...I reckon he was a bit over-friendly, don’t you? You don’t think…?” Inside the van felt better, safer. We always said we’d never stay anywhere if we felt that we had to sleep with a knife beside us. A good rule I reckon. But rules are made to be broken. We half slept, waking up at every sound, each time hoping that the dawn was a little closer. Eventually the sky turned morning-blue and we slept better than we had all night.

When we woke we made a pact never to sleep in a pine forest again and headed into Busselton to explore…
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