Saturday, April 2, 2011

Life and death

Anyone who thinks travel writers are on permanent holiday should have come along today. We had breakfast at 7.30am (yet another happy variation on the Bircher muesli theme) and then it was away from the vice-regal splendour of The Rocks to the busy Farmers’ Market down the road, where serious shoppers with baskets and carrier bags (green, naturally – no plastic dares show its face here) were checking their lists and loading up with heirloom tomatoes, artesan bread, free-range chicken, organic this and gluten-free that.

Next we went out to the airport for a scenic flight in a helicopter that turned out to be a little Cessna in which we zipped up and around, over brilliant blue sea, white surf, green hills and smooth granite headlands – and eavesdropped on an air-sea search and rescue for someone swept into the water by a rogue wave. I hope he was found.*

Then we went up to The Forts for a bit of ANZAC history: the Expeditionary Force set off from Albany harbour in November 1914 for Egypt – 20,000 Australians and 10,000 Kiwis, all excited and fearful, looking back at the beautiful harbour which was their last view of Downunder on a bright sunny morning much like today’s. Only about one in ten returned: many of them fell of course at Gallipoli just five months later. The museum was very good, and the memorial on top of the hill has a fabulous view.

Next we drove around Frenchman’s Bay to Whale World: the last whaling station in the southern hemisphere, that closed in 1978 having killed and butchered 15,000 sperm and hump-backed whales. It’s very clean and tidy today, but must have looked (and smelled) like hell back then: the little bay next to it, a lovely curve of creamy sand edged by granite boulders, the sea clear and blue, is called Misery Bay because it was permanently red with blood and guts and the bodies of shot marauding white pointer sharks.

Not finished yet, we headed off for Denmark, two hours late by now and lunchless, for a quick look round (not that you’d need a long one) before finally seeking out Karma Chalets where Beverley welcomed us and was full of suggested improvements to our itinerary for tomorrow. It was a relief to relax finally in our cosy little pole house and enjoy the view to the sea, over woods and farmland where roos were grazing. Busy day.

*Sadly, not.

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