Yesterday we visited the old whaling station in Albany. It is located at Cheynes Beach on Frenchman Bay and the weather was bright and sunny, and the surface of the water sparkling silver and blue. It was hard to reconcile the beauty of the bay with the photos and narratives describing the processing plant when it was fully operational. The whales were harpooned out on the edge of the continental shelf, inflated with air to ensure that they remained afloat, and tethered to buoys to await collection at the end of the day’s hunt. They were towed back to the station and moored to a pontoon nr. the beach. They were then hauled up on to the flensing deck and dismembered and cooked down for oil. It would have been a scene straight from Dante’s Inferno – unimaginably ghastly. The stench was appalling and clung to everyone who worked there. The last whale to be killed in Albany was in 1978 – not so long ago. Such a horrible end for these gentle giants of the sea, some species of which were hunted almost to extinction. When one species started to become scarce, another was targeted. The finest grade of oil was used for, among other things the preparation of cosmetics.
Today has been a lovely day. We are spending 3 nights in the delightful, small town of Denmark and we started out at Black Hole (much more beautiful than it sounds) where we just stood and watched the waves roll in – a wonderful way to start the day. The next best way to start the day is with a good coffee and there is a terrific cafe here called ‘Ravens’ – yes, really -and I am so excited to find a decent cafe that I walk in with a huge grin on my face. They probably think I am mad! You will gather that food, other than home-cooked, has not been a highlight of the trip so far, but I think that will change when we reach Margaret River. We are looking forward to it.
After delicious coffee and cake, we bought lunch to take with us and headed to Mt. Barker and the Stirling Range National Park. It is a diverse and spectacular area and we drove through the range over 42 km of unsealed roads, kicking up red dust, and enjoying every moment. The vegetation constantly changes from low scrub to tall trees and the palette from soft greys and greens and browns to stronger greens and the acid yellow of the canola fields and the vibrant reds of the banksias and bottlebrush. A gift to the senses, even the smell of woodsmoke from the controlled burns which are being carried out prior to summer.
Back to the caravan early evening, before there were too many kangaroos on the road. There are lots of them here at the caravan park and Geoff stepped out one night to find that they had us surrounded. There is also a Tawny Frogmouth Owl in a nearby tree and he keeps up his mournful cry for most of the night. I like the sound and can imagine him sitting on his branch, droning away, presumably very bored. Geoff, however, thinks the bird may not have long to live!
Driving to Walpole tomorrow.