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  • Cheryl Osborne

Albany and The Field of Lights

Tuesday - After a rocky start due to a flat tyre our journey begun. Lunch, most enjoyed homemade goodies at Kojonup’s Black Cockatoo Café next to the Rose Maze (1400 plants, 100 varieties) and Kodja Place Museum (no time to visit); onwards and with the GPS working there was no difficulty in finding our home for two nights, Emu Point ‘Chalets’ (not stand alone, but 3, 2 bedroom units side by side). Time for a walk through the sand dunes to the ‘top’ end of the wide bay of Middleton Beach – some folk even found time for a swim too - before Happy Hour at ‘social central’ – the middle unit housing Barbara, Lyn and Sally – followed by a large bowl of Sally’s homemade soup. We gambled the night away playing blocks – well, several rounds before heading to our respective units and zzzz!

Wednesday: Some early risers walked along the beach, then had a swim; some just walked; the rest were sleepy heads! A cooked breakfast – bacon, eggs and mushrooms - set us up for the busy day ahead – first, a visit to the amazing chainsaw carver Darrell Radcliffe and his sculpture drive, a circuit of about 300 metres through the bush – look twice at the couple in the old truck; the birds and lizards on the ground and up on the branches; lots of birds, animals, men, women and mythic figures, a wonderful menagerie of carvings – Lyn fell in love with a dog (and bought two). Sally had arranged for us to meet Darrell, so we had an intimate look at his studio shed and the smallest chainsaw he uses, which cuts down to a millimetre (he has 6 saws of various sizes). Inside were two completed commissioned pieces – one, a huge eagle, with wings upspread, the other which turned out to be 2 in 1 – the intended piece was a family of owls in various positions down a standing ‘branch’ but which, from the back, was also a shapely woman with long hair! We could have stayed all day – even with three circuits of the track we probably didn’t see everything there was to see! 23ks to the next stop, Torndirrup National Park and The Gap, a spectacular channel worn into the coastal granites, pounded by the Southern Ocean. The Parks & Wildlife Service have now provided a safer access to view the spectacle and a lookout platform extends out 10 metres above the ocean surging some 40 metres below – it felt secure having a fence on a somewhat windy day! It was just a short walk round to the Natural Bridge, a huge granite arch, once known as “Devil’s Gate”. From both these vantage points there were long views of the Southern Ocean and the coast from Bald Head to West Cape Howe. Back to base where a couple of folk decided to spend a lazy afternoon, whilst the rest headed back into town and wandered slowly up and down both sides of York Street, window shopping, browsing in and out and spending time in small art gallery/gift shops – the Anglican Op shop even made a sale! Again, briefly back to base before heading to the Avenue of Honour leading to Mt Clarence and the Field of Lights. We were there somewhat early; for some, there was time to read the plaques honouring the fallen; sit and chat and enjoy each other’s company or make new friends; make one’s way slowly up to where the lights began or was it ended. As the sun slowly sank behind the trees the ground under the trees began to glow as the 16,000 individual spheres gradually lit up, till the whole area was a blanket of colour in swathes of yellow, green and white. We just stood for several minutes in awe observing the colours slowly undulating and changing to a different colour - it was a moving and magical experience as we walked slowly and quietly down the Avenue between the two flanks of softly glowing lights. Fish and chips were on the menu for dinner – Middleton Beach was on our way, so we stopped off at “Hooked on Middleton Beach” voted the best fish and chippy in Australia in 2018 – enjoyable, but ‘the best’, we had some reservations about that!

Thursday: Though it was hustle and bustle to pack up and head for home, the early risers managed to have a walk and swim. A stop at Kojonup for coffee and a snack; next stop North Bannister to refuel – diesel was cheaper there – but anyone wanting lunch was out of luck; we had plenty of fruit, so didn’t go hungry. And so back to Sawyers in mid-afternoon – it was a quick action-packed trip – with thanks to everyone for the camaraderie and fun, especially those in ‘social centre’ – who now knows what a tea infuser looks like???

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