It was cool and dull when we woke up, with an anticipated deterioration in the weather forecast for the afternoon. We decided to walk into Albany town. It was about 6km each way from Middleton Beach into Albany ‘city’ centre. The route started as a boardwalk and then moved into an asphalted walking and cycle path.
As we left the bay a very large group of school children were sitting on the edge of the beach looking rather chilly in swimsuits, obviously waiting for some sort of watery event to take place. You could almost see their goosebumps from the pathway! I am sure this sort of thing is character building! Sometimes being old and not required to do these things is a blessing!
The boardwalk started to climb and we looked back over the bay where the Beagle with Darwin on board moored, having taken 4 years to travel here from England, in 1868. He and Captain Fitzroy (one of my heroes!) came ashore apparently to dine with the Governor who had set up home at a place called Strawberry Hill, just behind Middleton Bay. It was probably a child involved experience. The then governor had 9 children……..
The path took us up and down along the headland. We had amazing views over the water that looked a bit dark and sinister. The wind generated white crests on the waves. It is apparently a great place to watch for whales between June to October. We were aware that there was a big Anzac Museum in the Princess Royal Fortress above us on the path, but there was no indication of whether the two areas connected so we carried on walking into town. Further along we came across some rather grand bronze sculptures. One a rather wonderful head of Baudin the French sea Captain who circumnavigated Australia and made the British rather anxious that the French were going to lay claim to the area before they had made their own claim. The other full statue was of Atterturk….. which was interesting. He apparently made rather a grand speech indicating that all the Australians killed in Turkey would be considered sons of Turkey, which did not sound much of a comfort to me. Hundreds of young Australians left Albany never to return to join a war that seems such a long way off…….
We kept going. Eventually the new nice cycle/footpath finished and we were on a road in the industrial part of town. It was some sort of gas depot on the dockside. It certainly was n0t the most attractive part of town. There were gasometers and huge hoppers built right in front of some very nice houses that must have been gutted to have such commercial enterprises built right in front of them. I hope none of them had called their houses ‘Sea View’ because most of them had not got one any more! Some had wonderful gardens. Once we were past the docks things improved again and there was a municipal garden trimmed to within an inch of its existence with rose beds and borders…..
We then arrived into what was referred to as ‘historic Albany’. An area of town with definite Victorian overtones. It was there that we found ‘la Gourmonde’ , a cafe that had been recommended to us. It was very good with a definite French influence. We took advantage of their offerings – I found an English elderflower cordial which was great. We then wandered up Main Street which really had nothing to commend it so we headed to the museum and the replica of the brig Amity. The little museum told interesting tales of the old lighthouses and their keepers and families. They also had the light from one of them – all parts shipped from England. Amazing to think of the organisation that went into setting such a thing up, in terms of letters and waits and then putting things together when all the bits were assembled – no mean feat when everything had to be landed in invariably rough seas.
We then moved on to the ship Amity. What always strikes me is how small these vessels are. The original Amity was made in Canada in 1816, worked Scottish and Irish waters and then journeyed to Hobart via Rio de Janeiro! There was just a Captain and a crew of 6. After spending some time transporting stores, livestock and men around the Australian ports. The Amity was tasked with bringing those who were to start a new settlement in King George Sound, the waterway outside of Albany’s Princess Royal Harbour, in 1826. She carried 21 soldiers, 23 convicts and what was referred to as a ‘small support staff’ plus a variety of domestic animals and materials to build shelters and grow crops. It took over 6 weeks to get from Sydney to Albany. It is difficult to visualise that journey. There is so little room inside!
Having enjoyed our wander around the Amity, we did a bit more history on the local aboriginal tribes and then set of to walk back. By now it was really blowy, the waves were crashing into the rocks below and dark clouds were scudding across the sky.
We decided to have a late lunch at a local restaurant when we got back rather than battle with the elements, which were obviously going to be a bit unpleasant, and cook ourselves. This proved to be a very sensible move. By late afternoon it was pouring with rain and a storm raged around us most of the night. The sound of the sea was drowned out by the roar of the wind and rain pounding on the roof. A good night not to be in a tent!
In looking back over our day in Albany, I could almost agree with a quote from Darwin as he left Australia to travel back to England.
‘Farewell …… you are a rising infant and doubtless some day will reign a great princess in the South. But you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough to respect; I leave your shores without sorrow or regret.’
I am sure we did not see the best of Albany and it would have been a very different view if the weather had been better!!
Tomorrow we start to head back to Perth.