Before I set off for my fateful encounter with Albany, I rode east from Esperance to Cape Le Grand National Park where I had great fun riding my Tiger up and down the beach right on the sand next to the calm ocean’s edge. Unfortunately my extra cool photos taken there were on my lost camera… Damn!
Yes, if there’s one thing I’ll always remember Albany for, it’s that I lost my camera there with hundreds of great photos I’d taken over the previous 2 weeks. Sorry to keep going on about this, but I’d like to use a red hot poker to burn the eyes out of whoever picked it up from the car park where it (most likely) fell off my pannier and didn’t hand it into the Police Station down the road. Well, perhaps a red hot poker would be a step too far, but I certainly would not be very happy with them should I meet them.
The only good thing about losing my camera, if you can call it that, is that it forced me to open the box containing my GoPro Hero2 for the 1st time and learn how to use it – something I had not bothered to do up until then due to technophobia and procrastination. When I actually read the instructions it was pretty simple to use and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a pretty decent camera, as well as shooting great action videos when clipped onto the top of my helmet. I love the ‘fisheye’ effect of the lens, and I’m still having fun playing around with it. Here’s the first shot I ever took with it at the campsite I stayed in at Albany.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Albany before I arrived, and although it was a nice town, I didn’t think it was particularly special in any way. But perhaps my perceptions have been eternally marred by the camera loss! However, the road to the southern peninsula led to a couple of great lookouts over the surrounding area.
Thankfully the road signs were very helpful in letting me know when I was passing from rural outback to populated suburbs, with warning signs changing from kangaroos, camels, emus and wombats to old biddies, push bikes and horse riders.
Leaving Albany (and my camera) behind I was looking forward to exploring the rest of Australian SW, of which I’d heard had everything from great beaches, great vineyards, forests and caves full of buried treasure.
I rode west through nice looking Denmark and through the beautiful, huge Eucalyptus ‘Karri’ forests of Walpole, Shannon and Gloucester National Parks to Pemberton. Karri trees are one of the tallest trees in the world, growing up to 70m tall, and there are even some with foot-pegs hammered into them allowing people to climb up and use them as viewing platforms. The famous ‘Gloucester Tree’ at Pemberton was used as a fire-lookout tree from 1937 and takes 153 spikes to climb before reaching a viewing platform. No fires that day to spot, thank goodness.
I checked into the Pemberton Youth Hostel which looked pretty downtrodden, but was cheap. However, to my surprise, I was given the key to a 3 bedroom detached house located half a mile down the road. I pulled the Mean Machine into the driveway and initially thought I was at the wrong place because it looked amazing! Inside I found 2 fellow hostellers equally bemused with our luxurious living quarters. It is certainly the nicest youth hostel accommodation I’ve ever stayed in, and must be a contender for the nicest in the world! I had a private bedroom in an all but private house for only $44 AUD. After starting a real log fire in the fireplace (with free firewood already chopped and piled up outside), I sat in the comfy sofa in the lounge and drank wine and cider with my other 2 housemates into the night. If only all hostels could be like that!
The next morning I had difficulty dragging myself out of my new home and hitting the road again, but I did; otherwise this blog would tell quite a different story! Sometimes it’s interesting to think what would happen if I just stayed somewhere and made a new life for myself at random places around the globe; how different (or similar) would all my ‘parallel universe’ Chris Bowen’s be in 30 years’ time? But then I think no, I’d rather be the Chris Bowen speeding off on his Tiger around The World; which is lucky, because I am.
Next was the far SW corner of Australia, Augusta and Cape Leeuwin, considered in Australia to be the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. I must say they looked pretty similar to me, but what do I know? I do know that I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered because on the way back into Augusta from the Cape I was clocked by a Policeman doing 71 in a 50. I’m all for enforcing speeding in accident hot-spots, but when policemen with radar guns hide behind the brow of a hill in an area with hardly any traffic in the middle of nowhere, I can’t help thinking it’s a shameless way of making money. I didn’t even get the change of trying to sweet-talk my way out of it (as I did in New Zealand) as he was a bloke (obviously not gay) and just handed me a ticket on the spot. Cheers mate! I’ve ridden 25,000km around the world so far and the only speeding ticket I’ve got is in farty little Augusta, WA! Well, I suppose it would have been boring had I not received any memento from friendly neighbourhood policemen during my travels.
The SW coast of Australia is littered with around 350 limestone caves and Caves Road takes you past most of them following the coast from Augusta to Dunsborough to the north. It also takes you through Margaret River wine country and winding Karri tree forest roads. Altogether a very peaceful and relaxing ride and one could probably spend months checking out everything there is to see & do.
On a roll I made it to Busselton and stopped to look at the longest pier in the southern hemisphere at almost 2km. I must admit it is very nice as far as piers go, and it even has an underwater observatory halfway down, and daily diving trips beneath it. It has been one of the fastest growing regions in Australia in the last decade (Busselton, not the pier), and has been voted Western Australia’s top tourist town three times in 1995, 1996 and 2005. It certainly was a lovely town and I was more than happy to give it my official seal of approval once my audit was complete, which was post fish’n’chips and a cider.
After Busselton I was ready for a night out in Perth with my mate big Al Cordiner, who I used to work with, so I knocked the Tiger down a couple of gears and burned rubber all the way to Freemantle to iron my handbags and gladrags ready for the weekend.