Friends told us in advance that we’d love Albany and they were right. Having Judith and Don’s car has made a world of difference in our ability to get around and see what there is to see. Albany is a small port city (pop: ~34,000) located on the largest natural harbor in Western Australia. King George Sound, Oyster Harbour and Princess Royal Harbour join to form a huge expanse of protected waters. The red “X” marks the spot where Nine of Cups is moored.
We made our first trip into Albany with new friends, Don and Judith. They showed us the lay of the land, then we headed to Saturday’s fresh market.
An interesting sight en route was Dog Rock, a huge granite boulder in the shape of a dog’s head. There’s even a collar painted around its neck. What was most interesting though, were the stories associated with the rock which has been probably been there for millennia. The Aborigine dreaming story of the rock goes like this. There were two snakes that lived on the islands (Breaksea and Michaelmas) near the entrance to the Sound. They lived on bird eggs on the island. One snake got very greedy and took eggs from the other snake’s island. A terrible fight ensued … the snake fight causing lots of the features in the area’s terrain still seen today. The local people (the Minang), tired of the aggravation caused by the snakes, built a snake trap, but it didn’t work. So they threw a dog at the snakes. One of the snakes bit the dog in half … the dog’s head, Dog Rock (Yacka), still remains. The snakes finally went away, but Oyster Harbour and the King and Kalgan Rivers were left in their wake.
Don and Judith also introduced us to the best coffee/cafe in town, Dylans, where we sampled friandes (a rectangular muffin of French origin) and Lumberman cake for the first time. After coffee, they headed off in one car and left us with another … and the exploring began in earnest.
As always one of our first stops is the Visitor’s Info Center. Albany’s is quite modern and large and had all sorts of good brochures and pamphlets on things to see and do. So many choices … so little time.
Albany is the oldest continuous European settlement in Western Australia, founded in 1826, two years before Fremantle or Perth. A British military outpost was set up here to discourage the French from making any claims. The brig Amity sailed from Sydney on 9th November 1826, carrying a party under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer, who had orders to form a settlement at King George Sound. A replica of the Amity built in 1975 and refurbished recently sits behind the museum beside a small pond with beautiful views of Princess Royal Harbour.
Speaking of the museum, the Albany Western Australian Museum was quite a pleasant surprise. Several buildings house different aspects of the area’s history from Aborigines to first European settlers to modern times. A special exhibition entitled Debt of Honor was especially well done and featured the role of the Timorese people and the help they provided a small band of Aussie commandos who fought a guerilla campaign on the island against the Japanese in 1942. The admission was a “gold coin donation”,i.e. a $2 coin.
Between Emu Point, where we’re moored, and Albany is a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline called Middleton Beach. A boardwalk along the hillside at Ellen Cove provides wonderful overlooks into the bay below.
We walked along the beach, but opted not to swim because of the posted signs! Evidently the carcass of a young whale washed ashore catching the attention of the local great whites. This did not, however, stop lots of other people from swimming and surfing.
Check back for further exploration around and about Albany tomorrow.
Happy Easter to those on the other side of the dateline and Happy Spring to everyone above the Equator!