The time had finally come last week for us to set off on our journey to Bluff Knoll, located in the 'Great Southern', the very south of the state. It's not long before I head back to work full time and so when our friends Daniel and Helen invited us on a four day mini-holiday with the intention of climbing this particular big hill we jumped at the chance. My wonderful mother in law, Margaret agreed to dogsit for us and Christian got a few extra days off work and we were all set to go!
Day 1 - Thursday.
We were meeting at Dan's house early Thursday to try and optimise the 'not in Perthness' of the trip and so we made sure we had packed and dropped of the puppies on Wednesday night. Come Thursday morning though and I still had a hard time of dragging Christian out of bed. He can get up early when needed, usually for work but when he doesn't have to work his internal clock sets itself to continual snooze. This is something of a challenge for me as I do have this tiny issue with being on time. Dan had said to be at his place by 7:30ish and so Christian thought 15 minutes would be heaps of time to get there. Unfortunately he didn't factor in peak hour traffic and so it was almost ten to eight by the time we arrived.
Not happy Jan!
This is Christian in the car skillfully ignoring my appraoching panic attack about being late.
In the end it didn't take us long to get organised once we got to Dan's place. We threw our bags in the boot, got comfy in the back seat and headed off. I realised shortly afterwards that Dan is a God-awful driver! For some reason he feels the need to change gears about 3ooo rpm too early and so it was quite a clunky and jerky ride until we got out of the metro area. Once we hit the open roads it was fine and we settled into playing the movie game to pass the time (someone names a movie and an actor from that movie and the next person has to name either another actor from that movie or another movie the original actor has been in).
We had booked into the Stirling Range Retreat which is pretty much at the base of the mountian, in the middle of no where. It's about a four hour drive from Perth but apart from climbing Bluff Knoll we didn;t have any concrete plans and so we weren't in much of a hurry to get down there. Daniel remembered this cool playground he'd been to as a kid and we thought we'd stop off there on the way down. Unfortunately, Dan didn;t quite remember which town it was in but was pretty sure it was Wagin and so we detoured off the main highway and headed that way.
When we got to Wagin we found not much at all. There was an old well that we didn't stop at and a Giant Ram somewhere but that was it. We stopped off at a small park for a leg stretch and to hopefully ferret out the location of the playground. There was a network of small canals that linked all through the park and I took great delight at the colour of the water. Say what you will about it but chlorination does have it's benefits!
We thought it prudent to make use of the facilities whilst there and I couldn't resist taking a photo. Do you notice anything strange about these public toilets???
If you haven't spotted it have a look at how high the doors are! I could see a scary amount of the outside when using them and you feel very exposed! If a toddler or dwarf had chosen that moment to walk in they would have seen much more than they bargained for!
We soon found a crazy bird lady in the park who happily supplied directions to the playground we were seeking. It was located in Katanning, the next town along that just happened to be in the direction we were heading. She described it as 'Over-sized and a heap of fun and if a modern day parent ever lay eyes on it they'd rip it down in an instant'.
This summed it up fairly well but boy was it fun!
We stopped off for about an hour and had the time of our lives! It's aptly called the All Ages Playground and is one of the most famous landmarks of Katanning.
This is the spiral slide. I went down it but being taller than three foot isn't helpful. Your feet keep hitting the middle and you don't slide very well at all. I was just impressed I made it to the top as I'm terrified of heights.
You can't really see him that well but Dan is actually mid-climb on this huge slide.
What goes up must come down.
A lovely metal rocking horse.
And just because I'm sure so many of you would like to see me riding a pony here's the video that Chrstian took!
This satelite looking thing was what made the day! We had so much fun! One of my friends commented on Facebook that so many people have broken bones on this over the years that it's been threatened to be removed many times. I'm just glad they kept it!
Dan atop the spiral slide.
Christian riding a giraffe. I was surprised that he played on so many things since he's not usually as childish as I am.
This slide intrigued me. I went down it and yes, it is bumpy! I don't really see the point of it but neyh, does playground equipment really need a point???
I climbed to the top of the Trio Slide. I am actually hanging on for dear life! These towers were very high and very rocky! Any time the wind blew they'd rock from side to side in a very scary manner.
Helen and I before heading down one of the slides.
Christian testing his balance...
Helen and I after we all decided it was time to get going.
After a grocery stop off we arrived at the Stirking Range Retreat midafternoon. We had hired a rammed earth cabin which although small was extremely well equipped and not to mention very cute!
After we had dumped all of our gear and gotten settled in we decided to head out for a walk. Helen had heard of a nice hike up Talyuberlup Peak and after being assured by the lady at reception that this was great walk we chose to do that one.
Oh my God! I thought I was pretty fit. I may not be as small weight wise as I'd like but I exercise regularly, hike as often as I can around here and am as fit as I've ever been. However once you've tried climbing up a frickin mountian as steep and rocky as Talyuberlup you start to change your mind!
This is about halfway up along some of the easier bits of the trail
The view was amazing.
Christian took this photo from about three quarters of the way up.
I didn't actually make it to the top. I came close dammit but the last fifty meters was that rocky that I didn't want to risk it. Christian took the above photo from about three quarters up the trail. I'm crap at using the photo tools and so I won't mark the spot but I got to the bottom of the rocky part at the top. Going up there would have been hard and I was tired but I was more concerned about coming down. Christian and the others went on ahead and after enjoying the view for a bit I started back down. Basically the trail you follow is a gully that has been cut from the mountian by rain and then had a heap of small rocks strewn over it to discourage plant growth. It's not only extremely steep but the loose scree makes for a very interesting and scary descent. Going down takes more time that going up and you're basically scrabbling over loose rocks and gravel hanging on to trees and bushes to try and stop you from tumbing head over heels to your death.
It was pretty late in the day when we did this climb and Christian took advantage of this to get some great photos from the top. I won't post all of the ones he took, just this one which happens to be my favourite.
Dan being a bit of a goose.
This is us at the bottom of Talyuberlup, not the best photo but you can see how high the peak is.
Day 2 - Friday.
Even after the climb the day before we decided to climb Bluff Knoll on the Friday and then head down to Albany on the Saturday. When we woke it was a little bit drizzly and cloudy and so we hung out in the cabin playing board games until the afternoon hoping the weather would get slightly better.
After lunch it had cleared a little and so we started getting ready. My mother had warned me how very cold it gets up there and so we layered and layered.
Christian looks like a bouncer!
I thought we should get at least one photo of us together while on the trip!
From the Retreat it's an eight kilometre drive to the carpark. Bluff Knoll has an elevation of just over a thousand metres but the carpark is situated at about the 400 metre mark. We stopped on the way to take some photos and I think this one turned out really well. As you can see the weather was still not great!
Up close in the carpark the peak looked a little less wet although we had some clouds coming nearer by the second.
Even down below it was freezing! The wind was blowing a gale and we were all rather glad we had worn so much clothing!
I had on so many layers I felt like a bloody onion!
For some reason unkown to me Daniel decided to wear shorts. Go figure.
The trail is about 3.4 kms long and climbs up about 625 metres. The photos just don't do the place justice at all. It's absolutely beautiful but very high!
I didn't really know what to expect of the hike but parts of it were really pretty. The rocks did make it harder to climb but not as hard as the day before. I was still amazed at how unfit I actually am! It felt like I was stopping every two hundred metres or so to catch my breath. I can take solace in the fact that Christian was too!
Just uner the halfway mark we came across this really pretty little waterfall. It was a good place to stop and taking photos gave me a great reason to stop for longer!
As opposed to Talyuberlup the trail here involves a lot of stairs. Which is a good thing I guess. It makes clibing easier although your thigh muscles really start to hate you after a while!
Halfway it got rather cold and windy and before we knew it it was hailing! Dammit! It was difficult walking because you'd get hot and so you'd take off a layer or two and then it would get really cold from the hail or wind and you'd out them back on. But it wasn't long at all before we were soaked to the skin and extremely cold.
I'm not too sure where the 'Bluff' it comes into the mountain's name but I like to think it's the way it tricks you as you climb. You'd look up into the clouds and see a peak and think 'Yay, almost there!' but as you got closer suddenly there would be even more mountain looming out of the mist. Then you'd see another peak and think that was the top but as you rounded a corned yet another peak would materialize out of the cloud.
We didn't have much of a view once we got to about halfway up. The clouds came in pretty fast and when you loooked down all you could see was white. This is probably a good thing due to my aforementioned fear of heights although I didn make sure I stayed as close to the rock as I could. Just because I can't see the hundred metre drop on the right, it doesn't mean I'm not scared shitless of it!
By the time we reached the top we were all so wet and cold that we couldn't think of anything else but getting down! My jeans weighed a tonne and kept on trying to fall down, every layer I was wearing was damp or outright dripping and I had to take my gloves off to ring out the excess water.
We couldn't leave without taking some photos and since we couldn't see anything of the view that meant of us!
Christian timed this picture perfectly. A gust of wind has just blown all of our hoods off out faces and I must say our expressions say it all!
In between teeth chatters we tried a smile.
This is looking down at the edge. Beyond those rocks is a very long drop but you wouldn't know that from this! Christian wouldn't let me go anywhere near the edge as I'm a bit of a clutz and he had these awful vsions of me stumbling on a rock and pitching face first into oblivion.
We decided to head back down and all we could think of were cups of tea and snuggling up in a blanky. Helen and Dan went on ahead as they had done the whole way (they are much faster with the hiking than I am) and so Christian and I set our own pace.
I must have been a bit distracted by thoughts of tea as the next thing I knew I was on my arse and my ankle was sitting at a funny angle between two rocks.
Gah, it hurt like hell! But what could I do? We had only come down a hundred or so metres from the top and we still had two hours of walking to go to get down.
I had no choice but to keep going.
And so I gritted my teeth and set of with what I hoped was a dignified hobble, swearing every other step as the pain shot through me. Christian helped me over some of the more awkward rocks and it was slow but bit by bit we moved down the path.
When we reached a point where the clouds cleared slightly we got the photo of the carpark.
It was still so far away!
The view was just breath taking though and I'd go through a dozen more twisted ankles to do it again.
We finally reached the bottom and by then my ankle actually felt ok. I was walking almost normally and I thought maybe I'd just jarred it. We were all frozen to the bone and so I guess that actually helped. I didn't need an icepack anyway! We hurried into the car and were all looking forward to getting warm.
Once we got back to the cabin however I discovered that I was in a lot of pain. I couldn't understand why it all of a sudden felt so much worse. Christian said it was probably because when I was trying to get down I knew I didn't have a choice and so I just ignored the pain and forced myself onwards. Plus once I started to warm up the swelling started and that made it hurt even more.
It was just lucky that we'd climbed all the mountians we'd det out to and only had a leisurely day in Albany planned for Saturday.
Day 3 - Saturday
We all got up earlyish the next day as we planned on heading to Albany, about 90kms away for breakfast. Upon dressing Christian and I discovered our folly at only bringing one pair of shoes on the trip. Our sneakers were still soaking wet. At the time of packing one pair had seemed like a great way to save space but in hindsight it was actually very stupid.
We lay our soggy shoes on the back parcel shelf of the car and hoped the morning sun would dry them. I also discovered that my mobile phone had also been in the backpack we'd taken up the Knoll and it was also sopping wet. That also joined the shoes...
We reached Albany and headed to the information kiosk to get some maps and to ask around for a local place that served all day brekkies. From the carpark there I took these photos.
This is of UWA. For some reason the UWA campuses are always very pretty and have really nice towers...
Part of the hike I do in Mundaring takes place along the Bibbulmun Track which actually runs from Perth to Albany. This is the Southern Terminus of the track. It takes about three months to complete and while we were there four hikers came in, just finishing it. They all stood about the sign getting photos and then went somewhere to collapse. I like hiking but I'm not that dedicated.
After brekkie Christian, Helen and I headed off to see some of Albany's natural wonders while Dan went for a wander about the town. The first place on our lst was The Gap and The Bridge, two rock formations along the coast. The coast there is very rugged and apparently there are matching formations in Antarctica that have been discovered since the two continents were joined millions of years ago.
The Gap is just that - a gap in the cliffs and the surf gets really smashed around in it. It is very frothy, a little like a giant cappucino and spray flies up into the air and is thrown all the way to the car park. I'm surprised the car didnt corode away entirely while we were there.
the Gap is however a bit hard to photograph but Christian tried his best.
The Bridge is a little easier to take pics of and is just awesome.
My ankle was feeling much better the more I walked on it and so Helen and I decided to go playing on the rocks.
Th sea is quite rough around that particular stretch of coast and Christian got some great photos of the waves hitting a patch of rocks.
This is my new desktop picture on my computer.
Helen and I also decided to climb out onto the top of the Bridge. It looked a lot smaller from the lookout but once we were on it you can see for yourselves just how big it is.
After we had gone to have a look at a few other beaches we headed back to pick Daniel up from town. Although he had been adamant that he wanted to have a good look around and find the 'real' Albany he must not have been too serious about it.
We found him in K-Mart.
We headed back to the cabin after picking up a few things for dinner and stayed up quite late that night playing boardgames and cards. I annoyed Helen a bit by saying I'm crap at cards (I am!) but then I proceeded to win the first game we played by a long margin. It's a game called May I, not sure if you've heard of it but there are six rounds in it and by the second round it was obvious I was going to win. And no, I didn;t lie, I am crap at cards, I'm no a huge fan, I think it was just luck!
By 2am we decided we'd better get to bed. We'd all had a heap of fun but home was sounding real good and we wanted to make an early start.
Day 4 - Sunday.
We were all up and about early and had had brekkie and were all packed up and ready to go by half nine. Although we like Helen and Dan, Christian and I hadn't had five minutes to ourselves the whole trip (it's only a one roomed cabin) and so were looking forward to getting home. And it wasn't just because of that, you gutter minds! The small talk and quite conversations we have had been missing and I really noticed it.
It took us about four hours to get back to Dan's place and from there Christian and I decided to head straight up the hill. I had left my car at Mum's place while we were gone and we had to pick up the dogs from Margaret's. Christian dropped me off and went to get the dogs and help Margaret chop down a tree while I visited with my sisters for a few hours. It sounds crazy but I missed them a lot while we were gone. I usually see them every couple of days and it felt weird not seeing them for so long.
I got home about an hour before Christian and went to help him when I heard him pull up. I was glad to see the dogs were excited to be home. We used to live at Margaret's house and so they were really staying at a place they had known for years. I was worried they wouldn't want to come back here but that wasn't the case luckily. They both acted like puppies and went beserk when we let them in the house.
We couldn't be bothered cooking dinner than night and so we got a pizza and sat down to watch a few TV shows and just veg. It's funny but you almost always need a holiday to recover from a holiday! Since I didn't have that I settled for an early night instead.
I hope you guys liked looking at the photos and I'm sorry it's such a long post. Please pass my apologies on to you computers for me!