The first National Treasure grabbing our attention this week has been the National Parks here in Western Australia. There are over a hundred if you count in the Marine Parks, Nature Reserves and Conservation Parks and so we thought it worthwhile to invest in an annual all parks pass. The permit is not needed when we’re cycling but we drove through and camped at Stirling Ranges National Park and stopped off at several places in Porongurup National Park. It won’t take us long to break even as we plan to visit many more over the coming months.
Walking was to have been the main focus of our stay but unfortunately Mike’s hiking boots gave him nasty blisters on the 4 km walk in to Toolbrunup Peak’s base camp so we didn’t actually manage the climb. Next day, however, wearing his trusty Skechers the climb to the Granite Skywalk at the top of Castle Rock was easy peasy. Not so easy peasy for me though – I haven’t got a great head for heights and the last part of the climb required me to scramble over rocks hanging on to strategically placed metal hoops and climbing a ladder to the suspended walkway. I gave up on my first attempt and let Mike go on ahead. Whilst waiting for him to come back I started talking to a couple of woman who were older (and a good bit heftier) than me and when I heard they had done it I gritted my teeth and decided to give it another go. Success – maybe not quite as challenging as the Cat’s Spine in Iceland, but still had my heart racing!
The Caravan Park at Porongurup (pronounced Prong-Grup) sold beautiful avocado pears and free range eggs which we took away with us and instead dined at the Karri On Bar right next door. No prizes for guessing what Mike had – I had their mini hamburgers in brioche buns with the most delicious barbeque sauce.
Weather has been quite wet and windy this week. We’ve got soaked through twice whilst out cycling and I was most put out to have to pay $2 to tumble dry clothes that had been dry before the rain caught us out! Still they had gone through a full hour’s wash cycle that only cost us $2 compared to the usual $4 charged at most caravan parks. Two People’s Bay was not at its best but makes a change from all the sunny beach photos!
Throughout this blog I try and keep the dialogue entertaining and informative. I make no apologies for the fact that the next newsworthy item is serious stuff and therefore there will be no funnies. The National Anzac Centre in Albany is a National Treasure and is a must see for anyone visiting this area.
It is set within a huge parkland reserve overlooking the very location from which the first and second convoy of ships left Australia bound for the Great War carrying over 41,000 Australians and New Zealanders and 13,000 horses. A third of the men and women never made it back and only two special horses returned. The exhibition creates a really deep connection with the past and I was particularly moved by the water feature that continuously runs through the names of all those who left on the convoys. It takes 11 days to run through the full list. When you go in you are given a card with the name of one of the actual service men or women and interactive technology allows you to follow their experience from recruitment, through training, the conflicts at Gallipoli, the Middle East and Western Front and, for those lucky enough to survive, their return home and adjustment back into society. My hero was called Sergeant Alfred Foster, he spent a lot of time as a stretcher bearer and thankfully lived into his nineties.
Another aspect to our visit to this National Treasure was to visit the special centenary display called Field of Light at the Avenue of Honour. Here 16,000 green, white and yellow fibre optic lights come on at dusk symbolising the national flowers of Australia and New Zealand and the troops that did not make it home. We were only able to stay until the first splashes of green appeared as we had a half hour cycle back to camp on bikes we haven’t fitted lights to (yet).
One of Scotland’s National Treasures is its whisky. Mike tried a couple of the award winning whiskies at Limeburners Distillery but they didn’t make it into the shopping basket on this occasion.
We’re off to Denmark next and the ‘Wow Trail’!