We had two objectives heading west to the Walpole Wilderness. One was to see and experience the Treetop Walk. The other, just as important to us, was to visit with friends Maree, Tom and Floyd, a family we'd met when we visited Deal Island in February 2013. They were volunteer caretakers on the island. In a just a few days visiting with them at Deal, we formed a friendship and stayed in touch. They live in Walpole and when we told them we had arrived in Albany, they invited us out for a visit. Maree sent suggestions of several possible stops along the way in addition to the Tree Top Walk and we were excited. Road Trip!!!
We traveled the South Coast Highway and took the scenic route between Albany and Denmark. We stopped at South Coast Wood Works, but they were closed. We'd catch it on the way back, but we appreciated the sculpture of the infamous Ned Kelly, an Irish Australian bushranger. Bushrangers were escaped convicts who had the survival skills to exist in the wild Australian bush. Roughly akin to highwaymen or outlaws, they were sometimes romanticized into Robin Hood types and are the subject of legend and lore in Australia in the same way as characters such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are in the USA.
We stopped in Denmark for morning coffee and a sweet roll. It's a lovely little town with a riverside park and neat little shops and cafes within a block of the main street. We stretched our legs and enjoyed the morning sun then checked out the well-stocked Visitor Info Center for anything we might have missed in Albany.
There are several national parks and reserves in the area and we took little side roads on occasion to explore the coastal areas. William Bay National Park offered Greens Pool, a beautiful, well-protected beach, which despite the cool weather, had lots of visitors.
We also stopped at the Toffee Factory. No toffee making was in progress, but we did get to try the samples. We got a kick out of the little display they had in one paddock of a cyclist who obviously had a run in with a haystack.
We stopped at Peaceful Bay to check it out. It's considered a dicey anchorage and after reconnoitering, we agreed, it was not a place that we'd enjoy anchoring with Nine of Cups, especially with two local fishing boats already moored there.
As we headed closer to Walpole, the forests became thicker and we entered the Valley of Giants and stopped to visit the Tree Top Walk. Rather than return to the highway, we opted to take back roads and approach Walpole from the north. The countryside here is rolling hills and pasture land and farms. Cattle and sheep grazed and except for the eucalypt trees and the occasional kangaroo or emu, it could just as easily have been New Hampshire or Wisconsin, we were driving through.
Maree, Tom and Floyd were waiting for us and gave us a warm welcome. It was drizzling, but who cared? We drank wine, ate, laughed and enjoyed the reunion. They took us to the tiny local yacht club and we had a look at Walpole Inlet. We talked about boats and fishing and Floyd's school and our travels and Tom's work in Romania and Maree's work at the Treetop Walk. There was nary a break in the conversation.
The next morning Maree set me up on their back porch with a cup of tea and my camera. I could see the inlet from the porch and the backyard was teeming with birds. Floyd had his camera and the two of us enjoyed spotting birds and trying to photograph them. In particular, I was looking for a brilliantly blue male superb fairy wren which frequently appeared in the yard. Not today though. I did, however, see a Western rosella
and an Australian ringneck parrot, both very colorful and new ticks on our Australian bird list.
They offered to drive us up to Mount Frankland for a walk in the forest and panoramic views of the surrounding area. A new walkway had just been constructed in the manner of the Treetop Walk and allowed great views with little effort.
Climbing the trail to the top of Mount Frankland required a bit more exertion. The paved path switch-backed and ascended steeply, leading to 300 (David counted 303) stone steps, including two vertical ladders and finally to the bald, granite top of the mount.
Despite the haze, at 422m / 1372', we had quite a view.
On the way back, we stopped at the Thurlby Herb Farm tearooms. There's no way we would have ever found this lovely little place at the end of a dirt road had we not been with our hosts. A little cafe offered coffee and tea and light snacks. An adjoining gift shop offering herbs, handmade soaps and distinctive imported gifts made for interesting exploring. We sat at a table overlooking beautiful flower and herb gardens. While Maree and I explored, David and Tom played a rousing game of Tantrix. The morning was fun and leisurely, but it was time to be heading back to Albany and Nine of Cups.
Maree packed a lunch for us. Tom gave us fresh-caught frozen fish to take home for our dinner. Floyd gave us hugs and we were heading back east along the highway. We stopped at the riverside park in Denmark to enjoy our lunch. Several of the locals dropped by and tugged at our jeans for handouts.
We did manage a quick stop at the South Coast Wood Works Gallery and we're so glad we did. The quality and craftsmanship of some of the pieces was extraordinary … exquisitely intricate and elaborate. This wasn't just wood-turning … it was true artistry.
We sighed in relief as we pulled into the car park back in Emu Point and loaded our stuff into the dinghy. Tired, but happy, we headed home to Cups.
There is probably no kinder or friendlier gesture than to invite someone into your home. Recently, we have had that honor extended to us by Don and Judith and now again by Maree, Tom and Floyd and we feel truly blessed.