The morning revealed a grey sky and cool winds and as we drove into Denmark we noticed locals walking by in coats and beanies!!! Denmark is described in one of our books as twee; however we just found it to be a cosy and idiosyncratic town. The shops were different, full of character and sold an unexpected mix of goods. The river that meandered through the town was very high and edged with green banks of soft plants. The locals all thought the weather was just normal for the area (18deg)!
Arrived in Albany to windy grey weather and started to wonder about this part of the coast! As we heard lots of advice about the big caravan park being so crowded and pricey ($45/night) for the Xmas holidays, we bypassed the town to find one just out of town. We booked in for 2 nights (no more available) at Kalgan River Park and really felt the weather close in with heavy rain and cold winds, though we found comfort by turning on our air conditioner and putting on our winter jackets. While exploring the King River on a long meandering drive around Albany we found another caravan park on the river. We were looking for something special for Xmas and held our breath as we asked about any vacancies. It felt like a really green park, all manicured for Xmas and right on the river looking across to natural bush. As there was a cancellation, they gave us the best spot in the park, away from the other campers, except for one other couple! It was ideal for Xmas and we could come across on Friday.
We went into town to explore Albany, which is a large city, with a good range of services. It is positioned in the most sheltered part of a large harbour, whose many inlets and bays make it a perfect port. Albany is the oldest settlement in WA and has lots of historical buildings and churches that we enjoyed. We discovered lots of op shops and found a couple of special things! Thursday was still grey and wet so we explored the town museum with its full size replica of the Brig Amity. The museum enlightened us to the major exploration by French Naturalists of Australia’s flora and fauna. The size of their collections and the information they took back to France is amazing considering they did not claim the land, but only came as explorers of nature. The three vessels (the Naturaliste, the Geographe and the d’Entrecasteaux) carried out these discoveries and had some major adventures along the way and many areas having French names to honour their achievements.
On a wet Friday we moved across to our new caravan park and shortly after the sun came out. We put up our op shop decorations and enjoyed our site before we went off to explore the many attractions of Albany.
South of Albany there were some very spectacular cliffs, bays and inlets in an area called Torndirrup National Park, which curves around the bottom half of King George Sound. The area is virtually wild nature! The two most spectacular views of water lashing and cutting into the cliffs are at the Gap and the Natural Bridge. The day was cold and a bit windy, so we easily imagined really wild scenes. There were a few walks to high vantage points to see 360deg views. Yet again the vegetation was amazing in the diversity. The scrubs were very thick and about body height and hence out of the wind and in a fairly warm spot. The plants seemed very ancient with heavy leaves, chunky dense seed pods, lovely greens and lots of flowers making the air very heavy with nectar perfume. The paths cut to the peaks created the feel of an English maze.
At the top of one hill called Stony Hill was the remains of a military lookout from World War II, known as Misery Point. It would have been tough being stationed there! We explored the coves, know as Frenchman and Shoal Bays, where the sand was silky and white and creating the aquamarine colours that make the coast look so pretty. We looked in on Whale World from the outside, but decided not to go in as the idea of looking at all the harpoons and boiling pots was a bit gruesome. They promote it by showing lovely whale films but there is bile in the mouth when we think of it all.
We took another day to explore the vantage points closer to town, including Mt Clarence Lookout which has a wonderful statue of two horses and a soldier from the Lighthorse Brigade. There is a 25 year old Lone Pine at the site that unfortunately, looks very unhealthy with wind damage. Just down the hill is a wonderful restored military site from late 19th century with a very informative museum. Albany was the last calling place for soldiers on their way to war and the photos of Princess Royal Harbour full of ships made us think of the busyness of an international Airport! This was the hub of travel and masses of young people leaving on the adventures of war. The more personal stories in the museum and the memorabilia from WWI brought the horrors of the reality of war to mind.
Xmas morning came with full blue sky and a perfect temperature of about 26degs. Everything glittered and had a freshness of the perfect day. We used the oven to heat up the turkey and the yummy stuffing made the day before. Put the vegies in the electric frying pan outside and set up the table with all the little bits collected along the way. The tiny Xmas tree that Peter acquired from the back of the parking lot (it was growing in the wrong place!) with the decorations bought from the nuns in Geraldton for a few dollars, and set up in the garden, gave it a festive air. We invited Lou and Kerrie (from next door), to share our Xmas lunch with us. Finished the day with drinks around a fire with the other friendly campers.