Albany is the oldest permanently settled town in Western Australia, predating Perth and Fremantle by two years. It was founded in 1827 as a military outpost as part of a plan to slow and stop French ambitions in the region. Until 1978 when the whaling station closed operations, whaling was important to Albany’s economy. In World War I, Albany was the last port of call for troops departing Australia. Today, tourism is Albany’s main economy followed by agriculture. It is well regarded for its natural beauty and preservation of its heritage.
It is one of the smaller ports we visit in Australia with a population of 35,000. It was a pretty sail-in that began in the larger King George Sound and then moved into the smaller Princess Royal harbor. I was up early to take some pictures. I particularly liked this one with the cloud formation above. The next two are what we saw as we got closer to Albany.
Most of the tours here focus on the former whaling industry or the natural beauty of the area. We chose a ship’s tour that focused on nature by taking a four mile hike on the the Bibbulmum Track, which is a 600 mile walking trail that stretches from Albany to Perth. The name comes from an Aboriginal tribe from the Albany area.
We had a guide who took our group first to the Wind Turbine farm. This is where we began our hike before actually starting the Bibbulmum Track. This wind farm hike took us along the coast line which was stunningly beautiful. It was a clear and sunny morning to start out, so these were the best pictures we took. Later in the morning as we returned, it was raining and a fog settled over this same area, so we couldn’t see much at all.
And now we are ready to begin the actual trail whose walking path included wooden board walks, rubber matting, but mostly sand and dirt. While we didn’t see much wildlife, we did see a huge array of different plants. The unfortunate thing about this tour was that we had two guides and forty ship passengers – way too large a group to really be able to learn much about the things we were seeing. We began in one long procession, but as time went by, we started to spread out with a guide at either end. Because our leader was young and training for a marathon, we kept up a quick pace, making it hard to stop and take many pictures!
Here are some of the interesting plants we saw.
After about an hour or so, we stopped at a place called Sandpatch Campsite. This is a small shelter for hikers to rest, get water, and even spend the night. There are no camp fires allowed on this Treck and no trash pickup, so you take out what you bring in. Our guide said that 95% of the people hiking this trail follow the rules. The water that you can use is rain water that is stored in the big green tank to the right. You only take what you need and waste none of it. As our guide said, people’s lives depend upon being able to get water at these small shelters along the trail. There are 45 for the whole 600 miles, so each one is important.
The trail was diverse as well as the plants we saw along the way. Here are some pictures of the different ways the trail looked.
One of the signs that marked the Bibbulmun Track was this “wobbly” as they called it. It was an Aboriginal symbol. It showed you were on the correct path. It looked like a snake, which as it turns out was the one thing our guide said was dangerous here. They have lots of snakes, the most poisonous being the Tiger Snake. If you get bitten, you have very little time to get to a hospital. And if you don’t die, you can suffer from neurological damage that lasts the rest of our life. The good news – they are scared of people, so if you make noise, they go away. We didn’t see any!
After the rest stop, we went to a look out point and then started the hike back – going back the same way we came. However, by now it was raining so I couldn’t take many pictures. But the little islands we had seen off the coastline earlier were no longer visible. It was pretty seeing it this way too.
Back at the beginning, we were served some sweet buns and tea and then took the bus back to the ship. It was about 1 p.m. and since it was raining, we decided to have lunch on the ship instead of going into the little town. And since it continued to rain most of the afternoon, we decided to have a “reading day” but as it turned out, we both fell asleep with books in our hands. Guess the hike wore us out!
We were able to watch part of the “sail away” before dinner. The sun was now out, so it looked really pretty and brighter than it had been when we sailed in early this morning. Here are a few pictures to show how beautiful it was.
After dinner, we decided to skip the show and just read, watch CNN, and do this Blog entry. I even found some time to knit which I hadn’t been able to do for a while. It was a very relaxing evening – and afternoon – a perfect Sunday on the ship after an active morning.