6 National Parks in 3 days (Part 2)

Our journey to Albany took us winding through the wheatbelt and was therefore accompanied by many road trains hauling grain and James continuing to dominate at spot the combine. By opting for a slightly longer route we also took in Stirling Range and Porongurup National Parks. This turned out to be an excellent decision as Stirling Range is home to the truly beautiful Bluff Knoll.01In all honesty, we hadn’t even known that the range was there, let alone this particular mountain, but we definitely would have climbed it had we planned for it. As it was we had to satisfy ourselves with the, admittedly fantastic, view from the bottom.

Our climbing aspirations were to be satisfied in Porongurup National Park in the form of Castle Rock. Once again, we hadn’t particularly researched or planned so we didn’t know what to expect on arrival; the carpark doesn’t give anything away as you can’t see above the treeline. So, we donned our trainers and started the fairly steep 2.2km walk without really knowing what we were headed for beyond this intriguing sign:02The bulk of the walk is actually fairly non-descript so our main diversion on the way up was scintillating conversation. Quick aside; we have spent a lot of time solely in each other’s company, either walking or driving, and have therefore been through many topics of conversation . This means that, now, we tend to express any thought that comes to us:

Caro: What’s the definition of a mountain?

James: What?

Caro: I mean, what differentiates a mountain from a hill?

James: I have absolutely no idea, but there must be something

Caro: Height above sea level?

James: Maybe

Caro: Although there are mountains under the sea aren’t there?

James: Mmmm.

Caro: Maybe it’s something to do with having a defined peak

James: What about Table Mountain?

Caro: Good point

James: I’ll add it to the internet to do list

Well chaps, turns out that there is nothing specific that defines a mountain, there are some generally accepted criteria but you can call a tuft of grass in your back garden a mountain if you want to. We’ll wait here whilst you google it, Caro’s dad didn’t believe us either.

Anyway, the walk isn’t thrilling but the main show is at the very end and worth every metre of ascent that precedes it. Just before you reach the top there is an opportunity to take some superb boulder photographs.0304Beyond this you are faced with two options, an easy 50m walk to a viewpoint or the 200m Skywalk Scramble requiring upper body strength and a certain indifference to heights. Definitely do the scramble. You have to clamber up through the rocks to reach this wall of granite:05The skywalk is on the other side of this sheer cliff but to get there you first have to climb the 7 metre ladder. 7 metres is a big ladder in any circumstance and made to feel even more so by the fact that it is hanging off a granite outcrop which requires 2.2km of fairly steep ascent to reach.IMG_2938

Congratulations, you are now on the Skywalk.

06Take a closer look at the structure of the Skywalk; it is not built on or in to the rock, it protrudes out from it with absolutely bloody nothing underneath it.07To add to the fun, you can see through the floor so if the vertigo isn’t quite hitting with full force, all you have to do is look down.08We were both quite irrational about this and insisted on only standing on the metal struts, as if that would make a blind bit of difference. All in all we would highly recommend it, it’s already included in the cost of a park pass and it really is superb fun. Look at these happy smiling faces:09Having clambered back down to Heidi it was time to make our way in to Albany for packet noodles and bed. The next morning was a fairly nippy one and we got up quickly in search of hot drinks and hot showers. By the time we reconvened at the campervan James had befriended a crazy person. This chap was preparing to tackle the popular Bibbulmun track, an 1000km walk from Albany to Perth, and was busily packing up his gear in the camp kitchen whilst telling James his life story. He appeared to be taking everything bar the kitchen sink with him and, once he had it all packed up, struggled for quite some time to actually get his backpack on. In all honesty, we were concerned for his health, but he persevered and started to make his slow progress to the entrance of the campsite and the start of the walk. We sorted ourselves out and an hour or so later we were on our way to Two Peoples Bay National Park and the famous Little Beach. We passed our new friend 500m down the road already looking about 4 inches shorter.

Little Beach itself is lovely with white sand and blue green sea but we were actually drawn more to the rock pools that are just around the corner where we had a good climb about and James worked on his photography skills.1011Once back on the beach we decided to go for a bit of a paddle and Caro discovered, when rolling up her leggings, that one of us had finally succumb to Australia’s famous array of dangerous creatures. She had a tick on her leg, delightful. We hoped that it hadn’t been there for long, added a note to the internet to do list to look up symptoms of tick related illnesses and made our way down to the water. The beach was even lovelier once we got on to it.12Our next two stops were less successful; there wasn’t particularly anything to see at Emu Point and the Whaling Station, whilst doubtless interesting, cost AUD32 each and we were not feeling that flush. The one upside was that the drive gave us an opportunity to listen to more of Albany’s fabulous community radio station. The old dear who hosts it gave out random pieces of information, such as her gardening habits and details of her recently acquired fly bites, interspersed with long periods of silence whilst she read her notes. She would occasionally play some music which included instrumental versions of classic songs, played by her friends ,and songs streamed directly from YouTube. It was radio gold.

We made our way to the Blow Holes, not having any idea what they were, what to look for or if we would recognise them when we did eventually see them. It turns out that you hear rather than see blow holes; as the waves crash against the rocks far below the sound is occasionally amplified through gaps at the top of the rocks. If you are standing near them and not expecting it the noise really does make you jump. It’s a fun stop and easy enough to include so definitely stop by. The water swirling around the rocks was also mesmerizing to watch and we stayed for a good long while taking photos and videos:13We had one final stop, Natural Bridge and The Gap, just down the road from the Blow Holes and another great spot to visit, particularly if you like watching the sea. The Bridge is just that, a bridge formed by the constant pounding of the sea:14It’s difficult to get an idea of scale so just know that it’s really big. The Gap is also fairly self-explanatory, it’s a crevice in the rock where the water swirls and crashes up the cliff edge. It was very difficult to capture in photographs but we gave it a shot.15

You’ll have to take our word for it, it’s really cool when you are there.

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