Albany and the South Coast

The “city” of Albany is located a 4 hour drive south of Perth, and is the largest town in the Great Southern Region. Located on the Southern Ocean this is Western Australia’s most southerly town, and because of this, it is usually cold!! But get a beautiful weather window and Albany has so much to offer, with a mix of great history and beautiful natural scenery!

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After our day of hiking on the Saturday we decided to explore Albany and its surroundings in the comfort of our car! After a hearty breakfast in town (visit La Botanica for awesome coffee!) and exploring the quiet Sunday morning main street we headed out to the National Anzac Centre, which is Australia’s only museum dedicated solely to the conflict of World War 1. Even though I have grown up in Australia, and learnt all about the Aussies that fought in world war 1 in school, there was still alot I learnt in this museum. For example Albany, a small town back then (even now there is only 38,000 people) had 41,000 Australian and New Zealander men leave from this port in 1914. From all around Australia and NZ men came from far and wide to Albany to leave on a convoy of ships to go Europe. For so many of these poor men Albany was the last time they would see Australian soil. It is a sobering thought and definitely a solemn place of quiet reflection. Nearby there is the Padre White Lookout and the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial where a dawn service is held every year on ANZAC day to remember those that gave so much for our country.

After spending time exploring the centre and the nearby historical bunkers and war memorabilia it was time for a change of pace and head towards Albany’s famous coastal features. The Torndirrup National Park cops the brunt of the brutal Southern Ocean and the fierce Antarctic winds that whip up in the winter time. Due to this there are some amazing coastal cliffs and natural features like land bridges and beaches. Even on a calm day with minimal swell it was cold and the ocean looked foreboding! Sadly with calm weather this meant the blowholes weren’t blowing water up, but they still blew air and it gave me a fright the first time I stood next to the hole! I would love to perhaps go down one day in winter and see the ocean at its furious best (but I hate the cold so there is no chance of that haha). Come at the right time of year (sadly most of winter lol!) and you will see the large whale migration, where whales come close to shore with their babies and frolic in the waters.

From exploring the numerous little beaches and coves we headed back towards Albany for an afternoon coffee and to grab dinner before heading back to our accomodation up at the Porongorups (about half an hour north of Albany). We stopped at the Albany Wind Farm though, which was a great experience! I didn’t realise we would get so close to the turbines, and just how large they were! With all the wind that Albany experiences it makes sense to harness the energy. We walked a small walk circuit, which intersected with the famous Bibbulmun Track! For those that follow my site I love hiking, and often do day hikes on the Bibbulmun’s northern section. The track starts (or ends depending where you walk) in Albany, and goes past the wind farm and all the way up 1000km to Perth. It was exciting for me to see where this section of the trail, as the part I usually walk is in the Perth hills, and not the ocean.

Overall I highly recommend Albany, and can’t believe it took me 40 years to get here in the first place! I will definitely be bringing the family down – I think husband will love the coastline and beaches, and Miss A is always a fan of exploring rock formations. It’s definitely a great spot in this big wide country of ours!

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Pottering about the Porongorups.

One would think after climbing a 1000 metre mountain in the morning that our hiking for the day would be done, but no! After our morning on magical Bluff Knoll we decided to tackle another hike in the area so that we would have the whole of the following day to explore Albany and the surrounding sites. So we decided to tackle the famous Granite Skywalk on Castle Rock. But first it was lunch break, and after a gorgeous lunch at the cozy Porongorup Tearooms we then went on to our afternoon hike. Sadly (or not sadly for this glutton) I couldn’t resist the amazing homemade scones with homemade jam and cream for dessert. This absolutely unnecessary gluttony mixed with the tired legs of the earlier hike made for a long and slow afternoon hike. By the end I was in agony, but it was so worth it!

easy start

Just off Porongorup Road, at the end of Castle Rock Road you will find the carpark, picnic area and lovely new clean toilets. Use them as there is nothing for the rest of the trail! The hike starts easy enough, and apart from a full belly I was feeling good! It had drizzled earlier in the day so the trail was super muddy, which was fine for prepared people like myself, but for those certain tourists that wear white converse shoes or worse, sandals, it was a nightmare. The higher up the trail you went the more wet and muddy it got.

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balancing rock

As you get higher up the trail the muddy path gives way to rock. The Porongorup Range is basically made up of numerous massive ancient granite domes, that rise up to 600 metres from the earth. When I say these are ancient, I really do mean ancient – apparently these rocks are the oldest mountain range in the world that are over 1 billion years old! These granite rocks make for some great scrambling, and as you get closer to the skywalk you will begin the challenge of climbing up the rocks (with the help of some handrails and a ladder).

570 metres from ground level and we are up on the granite skywalk! I must admit to being a bit freaked out by how the skywalk is kind of just drilled into the side of a huge piece of granite rock. 570 metres might not sound that high but when you are up there the wind is fierce (even on this calm quiet day the seabreeze from the southern ocean can feel quite strong!) After a few minutes up the top the wind chill cooled down the sweat of the climb quick smart and it got cold real quick! After some quick snaps of the views of the surrounding farmlands we headed back down.

the weird pano view thing from my phone
the brochure shows where we were!

Overall a fantastic experience and definitely recommended! It can be done by pretty much anyone with a basic level of fitness, but be warned you will need to do a bit of scrambling and grabbing on to some rails to hoist yourself up. My friend and I followed a family up and we helped the young boys whose tiny legs were too short to hoist themselves up at times! It’s a big call to make but I think I enjoyed this experience more than the “premier” tourist spot that is the hike up Bluff Knoll. I just loved the ancient granite outcrops and the “fun” of climbing and scrambling!

INFO:

15km (10 minute) drive from Mount Barker or 40km (30 minute) drive from Albany. This region is about a 4 hour drive from Perth. The trail itself is 4.4km return, so should take you around 2-3 hours. As mentioned it gets muddy – every day when we woke from our chalet nearby we would see misty clouds hanging around the rock, which means its pretty much always damp, so wear decent footwear! Entry fee is $15 per vehicle and this is paid at the pay machines at the carpark. For keen hikers there are numerous other trails like Nancy’s Peak and the Devils Slide Trail. Your entry fee is good for the whole day so you can park at different trails and spend the whole day here.

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Spring Has Finally Sprung!

It has been a while since I’ve posted on this blog…. its been a long dark cold winter and I have enjoyed reading blogs more than writing them. We had our wettest winter in like 30 years here in Perth, including flooding which I had never seen in my life! I had scheduled some hikes with friends during the winter (since winter in Perth is usually a good time to hike) but every time we set a date the day would be a torrential stormy downpour!

Finally Spring has arrived, and on the first warm sunny weekend day we had I took Miss A for a family friendly hike to Lesmurdie Falls. The falls are located only a half hour from the city, and is probably Perths most well known and popular place to experience a bit of nature with city views in the distance. With all the rain we did have the falls were gushing and the wildflowers were blooming! It was a perfect way to spend the morning with my mini-me!

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Ellis Brook Valley

In typical Perth fashion for this time of year I am writing as the rain falls, it’s super cold and my daughter is home from school sick with a cold. Yet the week before it was a balmy 23 degrees, Spring was in the air and we felt good and ready for a hike! That’s September in Perth for you – an alternate between winter and summer in the space of a few days! Anyway with the sun gloriously shining on a Saturday after so many weeks of rain I decided to take Miss A out on a trail she hadn’t been on yet. I had read reports that the Sixty Foot Falls in the Ellis Brook Valley nature reserve were finally flowing, so I knew this was the time to do it before they dry up again for another year.

The park is only located about half an hour from my house, making it a quick and easy morning trip for us. At only 2.1km the loop is a relatively short walk, but it is very steep and rocky going up to the top of the falls. Once at the top I sat and caught my breath while Miss A does what she does best – get her shoes wet in the mud even though I told her not to! lol. Oh well, I let her have her fun and made my husband wash her shoes when we got home! hahaha. Along the way back down we also passed the old Barrington Quarry, where sometimes if you are lucky you can see abseilers and rock climbers. This time we didn’t, but I had seen some before. After a few hours we headed back home – happy to have got some sunshine on us after such a long crummy winter, and looking forward to hopefully more weekends like this in the coming weeks!

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I Finally Climbed Bluff Knoll

It only took 40 years but I finally managed to get down south from Perth and finally conquer one of the states most iconic landmarks!

After two years of no travel, and a very rough start to my year 2022 I decided it was time to do something for myself, that I had wanted to do for a long time. Lucky for me, my old high school friend, Miss K was up for taking a day off work and making an extra long weekend out of it. So I booked a cute chalet in the small township of Porongorup and head down for a 4 day long weekend.

Bluff Knoll is the great southern region’s highest peak, at 1099 metres. Located in the magnificent Stirling Ranges National Park, these ancient peaks climb up from the broad sweeping flat landscape that is predominant in our part of the country. While 1099m might be nothing to alot of you overseas, for us Australian’s it’s pretty damn high! The climb, subsequent snack stop at the top, and then back down took a round trip of about 4 hours for us. It;s only a 6km round trip but this trail is UP UP UP! It is very steep and full of steps. Going up was hard for my unfit self, and going down was hard because my knees were screaming at me! The climb definitely taught me that if I my dream of ever doing the Everest Base Camp trek is to happen I better sharpen up my fitness big time!

this hurt!

We were blessed with the most beautiful hiking day anyone could ask for. Being late April, the mornings were starting to get fresh and the chance of bad weather coming in grows as we head towards winter, but for us we had a glorious chilled morning that warmed into a pleasant enough day to not get too hot. I can’t imagine doing this in summer, but I also can’t imagine doing this in winter! Alot of people do climb in the winter as it’s one of the only spots in Western Australia that can get snow on the top! With winter climbing though comes inherit risk – the trail is narrow in parts. It has loose rock and can slip easier in the wet. Many people have died falling over the edge of the trail, or of course getting too close to the edge for that “perfect insta selfie”. It was really high up the top…. I kept well back and definitely didn’t get close to any overhangs.

Overall I could not have asked for a better experience of Bluff Knoll. I had such a good time with my friend, the views were stunning, and the hiking was glorious. I will definitely come back and bring Miss A along when she is a bit older and will appreciate it.

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Perth’s Best Day Hike?

It’s quite possibly a big call to make, but the perfect day hike accessible from Perth for me personally would have to be Sullivan Rock to Monadnock Campsite. I have done this numerous times over the years and it never fails to impress when you reach the top of the “mounts”. This day hike is probably the most popular section on the 1000km long Bibbulmun track, so it can also make for a good overnighter if its your first solo hike – there are plenty of people around so you aren’t totally alone if you need help.

This hiking season I did this as a day hike and then an overnight hike to try out some of my gear. Its only 8km each way from the carpark on Albany Highway to the Monadnock campsite… so 16km for a day hike, or split overnight. While that doesn’t sound much it was definitely a challenge with a pack containing my tent, , sleeping bag, cooking stuff and of course, a cheeky dessert! While the elevation isn’t much either, climbing the two “peaks” of Mount Vincent and Mount Cuthbert are quite tough, as its a very steep climb and of course, the aussie sun, even in Spring, can be quite brutal. The views from the top are stunning though, and well worth the effort. I do love our unique West Australian scenery!

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The Dead Sea

On this day a year ago I was enjoying my final day in Jordan by visiting the famous Dead Sea. (Yes, it’s taken me a year to write about a 9 day trip, don’t judge me!). Anyway what a difference a year can make huh?

Anyway there isn’t much I can add that hasn’t already been mentioned on countless travel blogs about the Dead Sea. It is an amazing experience, one I would recommend you give a go if in the area. The sensation of feeling weightless and floating is surreal, and a nice warm lather in the mineral rich mud is a fun novelty while providing some temporary benefits to the skin (a few hours later after all the dust and sweat of summer in Jordan will have your skin going back to its normal shit self lol).

Finishing up with a few hours relaxing by the Dead Sea and the nearby swimming pools was a nice way to end an action packed week in such a beautiful country! The Dead Sea was just another example of Jordan really “having it all” for such a small country. I will be back…

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Aqaba

After an action packed week of exploring bustling cities, ancient castles, Petra and the deserts, it was time to finally hit the very south of the country of Jordan and explore it’s port city, Aqaba. This city was a surprise… as we drove down towards the sea we saw brand new fancy mega apartment complexes, and new fancy hotels being built right by the sea. As I write this it’s been a few months of lockdowns across the world because of Coronavirus, but back in August 2019 this city was booming with tourism and wealthy city folk buying ‘holiday houses’ by the sea. While for the tourist there isn’t “much to do” it is worth a stop for it’s amazing snorkelling opportunities and the chance to relax by the sea. After a week of touring and hours spent walking in the previous days in Petra this was a welcome break. Imagine the groups surprise when we saw our hotel – an upgrade to a 5 star brand spanking new hotel complete with a bar that had happy hour! And a pool that allowed women to swim in it too! (Our hotel in Amman wasn’t very woman friendly lol).

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While approximately half the group went on a boat snorkel tour the other half decided to just kick back and relax by the pool drinking icy cold drinks in the 42 degree heat. You can guess which group I went with… the second one this time! Having snorkelled in some of the worlds greatest spots and having heard the snorkelling in Jordan wasn’t that great I opted to be lazy. (When the snorkelling group returned about half said it was amazing while those who had snorkelled elsewhere said it wasn’t great). For me though I had a chilled out day swimming in the pool and chatting with some English friends. It was heaven!!!

In the evening when dusk approached and it cooled down slightly (like down to 38c lol) we explored the old town. The market area was very cool, to see locals buying spices, fish, vege and of course plastic crap from China. It was fascinating to note that there were alot of Bangladeshi mini-marts in the downtown and we noticed many Bangladeshi here compared to anywhere in Jordan. I guess they have migrated here and made a small community for themselves in Aqaba. We also walked past the mosque and then had a seafood dinner since obviously, being a port city, seafood is king here.

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The next day, at 7am, myself and two friends who lazed around the hotel the previous day decided to go for a swim in the public beach in town. The big fancy hotels have their own private beach, but as our hotel wasn’t right on the water, we walked the 10 minutes to the public beach to say we had ‘swam in the Red Sea’. Well… we got to the beach, and it was PACKED! At 7am! lol! It was full of families and teenagers and to say we stood out would be an understatement. Even though I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt on top of my bathers I guess it was still too revealing as everyone from the old grannies to the teenage boys just stopped and stared. I guess it didn’t help that there was me, Mrs L who is this blond haired crazy 60+ year old and Mr I who was tall, lanky and had a dyed pink mohawk! haha. No wonder we stood out, we were an odd bunch! Anyway after a while the young boys came close and got us repeating Arabic words after them. Which of course must of been naughty words because even the old ladies in hijab sitting nearby were pissing themselves laughing and got in on the act. Although we couldn’t communicate at all, by the time we left we had a crowd of people filming us on phones and laughing at us. Everyone wanted a photo with us! I hope we didn’t end up on Jordanian news, saying naughty words for penis or something! haha. So anyway we didn’t end up having our swim but we did dip our feet in and had a fun morning interacting with locals. I don’t think I will ever see a beach so busy at 7am again though!

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Anyway after getting back to our nice hotel in time for a huge awesome breakfast spread it was time to head on to our last full day of exploring before our time in Jordan came to and end. After dipping my feet in the Red Sea this morning, it was time for the Dead Sea this afternoon….

 

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Wadi Rum

While Petra is obviously the main attraction in Jordan, to skip the wonderful Wadi Rum desert would be a travesty!! This beautiful region is amazing to experience, especially in today’s hectic modern world. During the day Wadi Rum dazzles with it’s beauty, it’s history and it’s landscapes. For me though, the magic happens at night. After a glorious feast from the “zarb” (an underground contraption that cooks the meat and vegetables) we then sat around the campfire, drinking mint and sage tea, and watching the shooting stars in the sky. The sky here is so free of pollution that it is easy to see the stars. With no internet either it was a chance to just sit and chat with fellow travellers, listening to people’s lives and stories. In the morning, before anyone else was awake, I tiptoed out of the tent and sat waiting for the morning glow to begin. A cat had the same idea! lol. From the chill of early morning (the desert does get cold overnight) as the sun began to rise so did the heat. By 9am it was already promising to be another scorcher of a day. The desert is wonderful and I loved it!

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Little Petra

After two days exploring Petra one would think I would have had enough of Nabatean ruins, but not so! When our guide offered us a choice of an early morning trip out to Siq Al-Barid or a sleep in before heading out to Wadi Rum I obviously chose the chance to see another well preserved site by these fabulous desert peoples. A short 8km drive out from Wadi Musa will get you to the Siq Al-Barid, which translates to “cold canyon”. The name is apt – even at 8am it was super hot but as soon as you walk through the narrow slit into the canyon you can feel the coolness that the canyon walls provide. What a relief it must have been for those crossing endless deserts to come to this little cool paradise! It is said that the canyon was an agricultural centre and a hub of trade, and also a resupply post for those who were continuing on to Petra proper. While obviously not as grand as Petra, the site does have a few interesting features. For me personally I enjoyed the “painted house”, which was a small dining room that has a beautifully painted ceiling of vines and birds and flowers. True paradise in the middle of nowhere!

temple
possible dining hall for merchants
this old fellow started early to earn a few bucks, we were the only tourists around at this time
the painted house. My photo doesn’t do the intricate painting any justice

After exploring the small site we headed back out to the small carpark. Our guide said he wanted to show us one of the oldest sites in the middle east. Just to the left of the entry to Little Petra was a rough trail, with no real signage to mention. After about 15 minutes exposed to the searing heat we came across the ruins of Al-Beidha. There are around 65 round shaped buildings that are said to be 9000 years old! The site is important as one of the earliest examples of humans going from hunter/gatherers to settling down and start ‘farming’. For me it was amazing that something so old and historic is not really pointed out for tourists at all. I would never have known we could visit this from the carpark at Little Petra without our guides knowledge!

neolithic ruins of Al-Beidha
later rectangular style
earlier rounded style
today or hundreds of years ago?

Our walk back was a bit of a slog over rocky scree in searing heat, but our grumbles were put aside when we witnessed locals herding their animals towards their camps. Being the only people around it really felt like we had stepped back in time and were witnessing how life would have been all those years ago (I am sure the herders had mobile phones in their pockets but lets pretend they don’t!). It really was a fitting end to our little visit to this oft missed section of Petra. If you do have a spare hour or two do make the short drive over from Wadi Musa – both places are free entry, are quiet, and are perfect to get a sense of the true history that this region has to offer!

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