Day 4: ON THE TREE TOP
It was about 6am when we awoke. Given the long drive ahead of us towards Albany, this was an hour later than what we would’ve normally done earlier on in the trip. Still, the fear of kangaroos was strong and we had to do whatever we could to avoid hitting another one.
It was 7am when Julie and I checked out of the Comfort Inn Karri Forest at Pemberton and made our drive towards Albany. Always conscientious of kangaroos this time of day, we took our time driving well below the speed limit, especially given the trees around the road providing plenty of hiding spots for the potentially road-bound creatures.
As we headed south on Hwy 1, we took an unsealed turnoff towards Fernhook Falls. I hoped that the rains we were getting since yesterday might have helped out the flow of this waterfall.
Even with the threatening rains and the rainbow we saw in the early morning, the unsealed road wasn’t bad (usually I would’ve feared muddy conditions if it was raining). And by 8:15am, after having driven 6km on the unsealed road, we arrived at the car park for Fernhook Falls.
We were hoping for the nice full Fernhook Falls we saw in the photo on our Explore Australia atlas, but when we got to the falls, it still had disappointing flow as only a small section of stream was left of the wide watercourse that would normally span the width of the long bridge just above it.
I guess the rains came too little too late for our waterfall hunting. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how this waterfall would’ve been like had there been more decent flow and the winter wasn’t so dry. It would need a lot more rain to produce the kind of volume that we saw in that book.
We wondered if this falls might be better later in the year (as if we happened to show up too early in the season) or if this just happened to be a dry year. We couldn’t tell, and we weren’t sure when we’d be back in this part of the WA.
So we didn’t linger here for too long. We left Fernhook Falls at 8:35am and continued our drive.
Eventually, we’d make it to the southern shores of this part of Southwest Australia along Hwy 1. At 10:15am, we eventually passed Walpole and not much further on, we ended up at the Tree Top Walk. Again, this wasn’t a planned part of the visit, but we figured that we mind as well check out this place since we were already here, and it might be a nice change of pace since we hadn’t done something like this before.
Indeed, the name of this place was aptly named as we went onto suspended metal walkways that allowed us to walk amongst the treetops. It felt strange to be consistently this high up at tree level, and it was quite the unique experience as expected. Even the sun started coming out.
When we were done with the walk, we then did a short trail amongst the base of the forest called the Empire Walk. Julie and I continued on a boardwalk path that passed through the forest floor beneath more of these tingle trees. It was reminiscent of some of the walks amongst the giant redwood trees in Sequoia National Park in California. We even got to walk through some of the tingle trees.
We also ran into an elder Australian guy who asked us how we could have voted for Bush. Of course I had to set the record straight and say we didn’t vote for him. Still, it was yet another indication of what the world thinks of us even though we totally disagree with our government and those who support it with excuses or an unwillingness to see the connection between our actions and the world around us. The guy didn’t seem like he wanted to let go of the issue.
I just shrugged my shoulders and told him that I pretty much agreed with everything he said. I guess he just needed to vent. I recalled we had to apologize to people when we were on our New Zealand honeymoon trip back in 2004. It was totally out of our control. Anyways, the wife of that husband pushed him along sensing that he was ready for a confrontation.
Eventually at 10:45am, we finished with this part of the excursion. Again, a pleasant surprise and a unique experience, with a little bit of politics interjected (that was not expected, clearly).
Then, we stopped by a pair of coastal attractions at the Greens Pool and the Elephant Rocks an hour later as we got closer to the town of Denmark (nope, not the country). It was our first glimpse of the south coast of the WA and it was wild and beautiful. However, the winds were blowing hard as dark rain clouds threatened to come in.
When the sun was out, the Green’s Pool looked to be aptly named. However, given the churning Southern Ocean, there’d be no way we’d even think about getting close to the water (especially given how cold it was). The Elephant Rocks I think pertained to the rounded rocks that were all around the area.
After the brief lunch stop in Denmark, we eventually made it to Albany at 1:30pm.
We’d ultimately reach the car park for Torndirrup National Park at the Natural Bridge and the Gap at around 2:55pm. However, the winds were blowing hard and it was quite cold given the wind chill. To our surprise, sea spray was coming up above the sea cliffs and blowing onto the car park. The howling winds were obviously the culprits.
First up was the Gap. The short walk way led to a small railing area that looked down into a chasm that would fill with the giant crashing waves. The forceful winds made walking to this overlook a bit scary as we could easily see how easy it was to get pushed into the Gap by the wind. So we didn’t linger here for long after taking a couple of photos.
Then, we headed over to the Natural Bridge. At least this overlook was a bit less exposed, but it was still unnerving to be standing amongst the howling winds looking down at the intriguing arch as the crashing waves sent spray that would blow through it and spray our faces. There was also a sign discussing a dramatic rescue that took place after a boy fell into the turbulent oceans here.
By 3:30pm, Julie and I left the chaotic scene here. We stopped at another viewing spot with a lighthouse and nice views of the coastline before reaching the car park for a blowhole.
The walk to the blowhole was probably some 30-minutes each way but the winds were still blowing hard. By 4pm, we arrived at the blowhole, which behaved more like the seething nostrils of a dragon than a spouting geyser. It was difficult to photograph and we dared not venture any closer to the holes given the winds and the steepness of the terrain once you leave the trail.
Apparently, Albany was one of the first Australian settlements said to be settled in 1827. We could see relics (especially of the prison variety) thereby upholding that joke or reputation that the first Aussies were convicts.
The Lonely Planet book we had was pretty much outdated as just about all of the recommended dinner spots were closed or out of business. We finally settled in on this place called the CBD Central Cafe, which sat in some hotel on York St. And the food and dining experience was quite pleasing.
We returned to the Comfort Inn Albany Motel at around 9pm and showered to wash off the salt from all the sea spray blown upwards by the howling winds in Torndirrup. Then, we slept without trouble after watching some interesting news special about automobiles in China – no doubt one of the big contributors (outside our own way of life in the States) to the energy crisis and global warming.