Esperance and Albany, WA - Where are roo?

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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Esperance
December 17th 2018
Published: February 8th 2019
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We had chatted with the check-in guy at the Esperance Beachfront Resort when we arrived and had mentioned our complete failure to see a kangaroo. ‘Oh, you’re bound to see them here,’ he said, ‘they’re everywhere.’ Yeah, yeah – we’ve heard it all before. Nevertheless, he gave us tons of information and indicated on the local maps where the best places to see them were, and pointed out local scenic drives.

Our first morning in Esperance started off cold and grey but at least it wasn’t raining. The skies gradually lightened as the day progressed, though it remained a bit on the chilly side (in Australia, in their summer!) and we decided to motor along the Great Ocean Drive, one of the scenic routes recommended to us. And it was lovely! I was so jealous of those who lived in the amazing properties offering wonderful perspectives over the cliffy landscape to the horizon and there were LOTS of well-signed lookout points along the way giving us amazing views of pristine, totally unspoilt beaches, islands and blue, blue sea. We stopped at Observation Point to look across to Observation Island (where else?) and saw West Beach, Salmon Beach, Blue Haven Beach, Fourth Beach, Twilight Beach, 9 Mile Beach, 10 Mile Beach, 11 Mile Beach – they had so many beaches I think they ran out of inspiration when it came to naming them. All of them were accessible but there were so many of them none of them were busy or even had anyone on them at all! Blissful. Ever safety-conscious, the fishermen were provided with ‘anchor points’ to secure themselves onto the rocky outcrops and prevent them being swept away and every effort was made to ensure people could safely enjoy the wonderful environment. We turned inland and visited the Pink Lake (which wasn’t pink on this occasion!), before retracing our steps and popping in to the Tourist Information Office for a postcard or three. We’d really enjoyed a lovely day, though our evening beer time on the patio watching two parrot-type birds building a nest in the trees was curtailed due to the chilly temperature.

The next day the weather was much improved and was once again hot and sunny. We decided to follow Mr Checkinman’s advice and take a trip out to Lucky Bay, which he’d told us was quite lovely and often had kangaroos on the beach. Yeah well – we’ll settle for the lovely beach. It was located in the Cape Le Grand National Park, about 40 miles from Esperance town.

The journey there was fantastic – really, really pretty on deserted roads in a green landscape dotted with farms. We passed a replica of Stonehenge (couldn’t fathom that) and, although I had lost all hope of ever seeing a kangaroo anywhere in Australia, I couldn’t help myself from constantly scanning our surroundings. ‘Stop the car!’ I shouted, ‘reverse, reverse!!’ WTF, thought Steve but he performed an excellent emergency stop and reversed anyway which was a good job because I had just seen a mob of about a dozen kangaroos hopping towards the crest of a hill in a farmer’s field. A minute later and we would have missed them. Phoowee! Roos, finally! They really do exist. We travelled a little further and I thought I saw an emu in a field. We did a more leisurely stop this time and we were more than delighted when we saw that I had got it wrong on this occasion and the emu turned out to be another kangaroo. Just sitting there looking all kangaroo-like and not a bit like a giant, flightless bird.

We continued our journey, still buzzing at having seen kangaroos but watching out to avoid all the other wildlife the signs told us were present. I couldn’t identify most of them but didn’t want to run them over anyway. At the entrance to the National Park we were greeted with an honesty-box type affair for entrance fees of $13 per vehicle. A young couple pulled up behind us. I think they thought I worked there and was collecting money from those who sought entrance but, when they saw I was just befuddled by how to pay, they said they usually just made a token contribution as they visited National Parks a lot and couldn’t afford the entrance fees. In the end, I suspect they put an empty envelope in the box. Personally, I couldn’t put a price on the prospect of seeing more kangaroos but in fact the cost was worth it for the beach alone.

Now, I’ve sat on some beaches in my time and have paddled in some clear blue seas but nothing compared to this. The sand was white – and I mean white – and was formed with some super fine grains that caused it to squeak when walked on. It was so hard even vehicles could drive on it and a few of them were parked down at the far end of the lovely bay, which surprised me. Why risk oil leaks and other pollution in such a pristine environment? The sea graduated from green to turquoise to deep, deep blue and the horseshoe shape of the bay was wonderful to see from our elevated parking spot. It was easily the best beach I had ever seen and I couldn’t wait to get down there to explore.

The beach was quiet and was reached via a short flight of steps. I’m rubbish on uneven surfaces so my focus was on my feet, looking down. Steve caught my attention at the bottom, quietly pointing to the right of me and there, on the edge of the shrubbery, was a kangaroo! It was literally mere feet from me. Who’d have thought?! I crept steadily closer to it, in stealth mode, having no idea if these things would kick, jump, spit and hiss or just accept my proximity. It turns out that the kangaroos at Lucky Bay are quite used to people and this roo wasn’t a bit put out by my presence. ‘Photo’ I said to Steve. ‘Another photo!’ ‘Just keep taking photos ... ‘. So that explains why we have tons of photos of me with a kangaroo and not one of Steve (who wasn’t that bothered anyway ...)! Up close I couldn’t believe it had such small front legs. It reminded me of a small dinosaur ...

The kangaroos in Lucky Bay are so used to people, apparently, that they will often approach and steal food from picnickers. There is a danger that they will end up eating all the wrong things and Park Rangers keep a beady eye out to stop this happening. Plenty of signs warned against the dangers (to the roos) of feeding them but, apart from that, there is nothing to prevent human interaction and the kangaroos wander at will. I couldn’t get enough of it.

We spent quite some time in Lucky Bay, savouring our surroundings. I paddled in the clear waters and watched people swimming in the perfect conditions. There are some lovely coastal walks offering some stunning views out to the nearby little islands and plenty of fishing places and areas from which to launch a boat. An associated campground was fully booked and I can see why but, at 5 kms in length, it is easy to find a secluded spot on the beach to get away from any madding crowds. I thought it was just perfect and we returned to our accommodation at the end of the day completely happy. After all, we finally saw kangaroos!

Our next destination was Albany, about 300 miles further along the coast, and we once again took to Route 1 now called, appropriately, the South Coast Highway. We travelled through a proper bread-basket area, with undulating hills and a sandy-coloured soil clearly perfect for growing grain and sustaining horses, cows and sheep, which must have been mafted in their heavy wool coats. Signs told us that this was a mallee fowl area but we’d no idea what they were so didn’t know whether to look for a bird the size of an emu or a robin. The farmland in the area was mainly fenced and there was much less roadkill, though signs continued to warn us of stray animals and, indeed, another kangaroo crossed the road right in front of us! For the first time in a very long while on our journey the creeks and rivers had water in them, rather than being bone dry. We’d noticed that the police in different areas seemed to have been tasked with monitoring different things, ie ‘Police in this area are targeting speeding/seatbelts/drinking.’ In Ravensthorpe they were targeting fatigue! I mean, how could they measure that? ‘Now then, now then – you’ve got bags under your eyes, you must be fatigued. Here, have a ticket.’?? Most peculiar, but we were feeling quite chipper so weren’t at all worried!

The huge vistas slowly gave way to more mountainous terrain, as the Stirling Mountain Range came into view and began to dominate the landscape. We had to ‘drive’ rather than steer now, as the roads became narrower and more bendy and were noticeably less smooth than they had been, though still in better condition than ours at home. We noticed many place names ended in ‘up’ (Needilup, Cowalellup, Ongerup, Toompup, etc) and we were so bemused by this we looked it up to discover is means ‘place of’. Neat, eh? I particularly liked Jackitup. At Chittowurrup we saw a corridor protection plan for the long necked turtle so maybe Chittowurr is the place of reptiles wearing shells?! We also saw poison notices for bait put down to deal with the feral cat and fox population. We had to avoid two lizards in the road in this area, so I don’t know if the bait is species-specific but signs warned people to keep their pets out of the area. We stopped in a rest area for me to have a cigarette break and I had been quite happily mooching around the vicinity until I finally managed to read an extremely faded sign that someone had kindly made warning ‘Beware – snakes’. I didn’t hang around too long on reading that!

After a lovely journey of about six hours (and I really needed the loo by then!) we finally approached the outskirts of Albany. As we slowed for a roundabout on the outskirts of town I glanced into a field of cattle and did a double-take as there, bedded down amongst them, were LOTS of kangaroos! Wow, this is certainly the area to see them! I’d lost count of the number we’d seen now but was still delighted at the sight of them!

We found the Albany Holiday Apartments easily enough, even though my pre-prepared map was a little confusing, and eventually checked in to Room 6 after a lengthy conversation with the owner, who took forever on a telephone call and insisted on showing us maps and giving us useful information. It wasn’t until I started hopping from one leg to the other that Steve remembered I needed the loo about 100 miles ago and swiftly drew the conversation to a close! The room was fine but there were problems with insecure internet access, eventually sorted by a reboot in the office. There was nowhere to sit outside and when I asked for a chair and possibly a table for our morning coffee the manageress thought that was a splendid idea (!!) and procured a table and two chairs from somewhere.

We had a relaxing time in Albany, more so when the noisy next-door neighbours left. We were staying in the Middleton Beach district, just a short drive from the town centre, passing Dog Rock on the way. It took quite a stretch of the imagination to see a dog in the rock, but it is apparently a well known feature of the area. The weather was again hot and sunny, so I was happy!

We took a trip around the Albany Heritage Tourist Drive, about 6 kms in length, and once again used the parking facilities provided at points of interest on the cliff road and marvelling at the views of the coast and beaches which were stunning but couldn’t match Esperance in my eyes. We drove into the Albany Heritage Park and saw the Field of Lights Avenue of Honour, a display by Bruce Munro with a light for every life lost in the war(s). We continued up to the Anzac Memorial on Mount Clarence which was most impressive but I daren’t walk past a big reptile on the path up to the Padre White Lookout so I gave that a rain check. We saw the Princess Royal Fortress at the National Anzac Centre and drove the Historic Albany Buildings route, passing the Old Gaol and a replica of the brig Amity which delivered the first settlers in Western Australia on the way. On a separate occasion we visited the Gap and Natural Bridge, both on the cliff edge, but were finally driven away by the flies, which were of the ginormous variety, after Steve was bitten/stung.

What else about Albany? Well, they like their horses here and the fields were full of them. A race meet was scheduled for Boxing Day. Apparently, the best fish and chips in Western Australia are available in Albany. Hang on, didn’t we have the best fish and chips in Western Australia somewhere else in Western Australia?! On this occasion we shared shark and dory with the shark being a bit drier than normal white fish but tasty nevertheless. There are many extremely expensive looking properties, particularly on the coast road, so I think it must be a prosperous place. The town is popular with Australians as a tourist resort, being close enough to Perth to easily access. It had just about everything anyone could need - except any indication whatsoever that Christmas was just days away. None of the houses had outside lights or trimmings, the main street had no decorations and the one car we saw sporting tinsel on its aerial and roof rack was the only indication that anyone was joining in with the Christmas spirit!

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