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Andy’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 02 Apr 2006

Location: South West, Australia

MapTOUR OF SOUTH-WEST AUSTRALIA:
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Finally got round to getting on the t-internet.

Last Thursday i went on a tour of the South West region of Oz. Was a great way to see the region and sites. Went with a group called Planet Perth tours. Had to get up at six o clock in the morning (am slowly learning to get up and out of the room without waking people up…little tricks such as having a mini torch help).

The four day journey started…interestingly. It became patently clear after half an hour that the driver had an “eclectic” mix of music which consisted of Kajagoogoo, the theme song from the Neverending Story and a Jackson Five medley. So we headed to our first stop with the windows down, and the system up (playing Meatloaf’s “Anything for Love” - fingers in ears).

The first day was good though. Headed to the Stirling Ranges, a set of mountains that were once higher than the himalayas but millions of years of erosion have filed them down to lightly sloping, but very picturesque hill/mounts. Stopped off and had lunch there al fresco before we set off on foot for a hike up a mountain to reach Castle Rock. A good 45 minute climb (Dad i hope you are impressed). At the summit we saw a huge balancing rock. All tried to push it down. No luck. Then we started the ascent up Castle Rock which is basically an outcrop of stone about 30 metres or so high. Had to put my mountain climbing skills into use and traverse the rock whilst being whipped by gale force winds and sleety rain (dawning on me that Oz is not all sunshine and beaches). Hairy! Worth the scramble though as the views were fantastic…very Misty Mountains aka Lord of the Rings.

After that we headed to Albany which is good for Whale watching. Were meant to go on a sunset cruise and have a BBQ but it was now pissing it down like i’ve never seen before….so we sat in the hostel and got drunk instead while our hosts cooked up some nice grub.

Day 2 started early again (didn’t order this!). Headed to the coast to see a Blow Hole (where the wind and water whip up through a very small hole in the ground and creates a whoosing noise), the natural bridge (a bridge made of stone under which the waves come crashing through…very impressive) and the Gap (a popular suicide spot. Delightful). Mel I think you went to the Natural Bridge…i swear i’ve seen pictures of it before. After this we headed to the Green Pool in Denmark (incessant jokes from the driver about having to travel a long way to get to Europe. Eddie Izzard in the making)

Highlight of the day was the Valley of the Giants. Walked 40 metres off the floor on a small steel walkway. Right up in the canopy of these vast trees called Tingle trees (name does not really suit these trees, they can live for 400 years old and grow huge). at the same place was The Ancient Empire walk which is a trip around the base of these trees, some of which you can walk through. You can check out the place by going to www.valleyofthegiants.com.au

Continuing on with the tree theme, our next stop was the Gloucester tree which is a fire lookout tree that stands an impressive 61 metres tall. Can climb up it via a series of pegs drilled into the trunk. Got about 40 metres up and bottled it. Really rather high. The surrounding forest was incredible though. Full of parrots and cockatoos. Stayed in a cabin in the forest that night huddled up by the fire. Stroked some roos that were in the area.

Day 3 we went to see the point where the Southern and Indian oceans met. Then went to see Lake Cave in Margaret River. Got the giggles when i became trapped in a cave crawl experience. Weather started to pick up by the time we got out so we headed to Hamelin Bay to swim with the Stingrays and buy some fresh salmon caught that day for dinner.

Day 4 was the best. Went on a Bush tour up the Margaret River. Kayakking skills came into play. Went round in circles for a good half hour. First stop up the river was a holy place of the local aboriginals. Really ancient paper trees half submerged in water. Then we stopped off for a talk about boomerangs (managed to throw one…about five metres, alot heavier than i imagined) and the methods aboriginals use to hunt and trade etc. Then we all sat round and ate some bush tucker. Even ate a paste made from tree grubs. Delicious. Next was a bushwalk and some cave exploring. Came across a bee nest. Was told they haven’t stung or attacked anyone in all the time they’ve been doing the tour - until i arrive. One attacked my hair. In a calm and collected fashion i flung my arms around, stumbled down a hill, fell over, screamed loudly and in a high pitched voice. To end the tour we had a kayak race back to the sea. Managed to ram and overturn another boat. Would have stopped to help but a bottle of wine was at stake.

Finished the tour with some wine tasting. Margaret River is an area famed for its wines. Vineyards everywhere. Gorgeous countryside.