It was getting pretty murky as I drove from Bluff Knoll and through Walpole, visiting the Tingle Tree and Circular Pool, the first being a huge karri tree, and the second being, well, a circular pool. The whole area to the west of Albany is home to the most amazing forests you've ever seen, with really tall trees stretching up into the distant canopy, and driving to Pemberton, my next destination, was a delight, leaving the weather behind.
Pemberton is as pretty as a picture. Imagine a tiny village completely surrounded by huge karri forests, and you're almost there. One of the main attractions of Pemberton is the Gloucester Tree, a 61m karri tree with a lookout at the top: it's open to the public, and you can climb up a rickety old ladder of steel rods set into the tree, all the way to the top. It's a scary climb, though – one mistake and you could easily fall to your doom – but the view is amazing. The lookout used to be used to spot fires, and as a result the top is above the forest canopy, giving quite a view.
The caravan park I stayed at had a fireplace for every site and a huge pile of logs out the back that you could raid as much as you liked, and it didn't take me long to get a pile of wood together, seeing as the night was drawing in. And then it happened: despite the fact that I was miles from the beach, my site got invaded by a family of Germans, who didn't speak a word of English, but who took over the picnic table, expressed extreme interest in my fireplace, and well-and-truly towelled my beach. My response? I decided to hit the bottle shop and make the best of a bad job.
Which I did. Putting down their utter disregard for privacy to a forgivable difference in cultures, I proceeded to have the most interesting Pidgin English conversation with the family: at least, I think it was interesting, but it's always hard to know what the subject is in Pidgin, especially alcohol-Pidgin. Never mind: they offered to feed me steak and salad (seeing as I'd offered them all a beer and was being extremely polite about the invasion) and we had a very pleasant evening by the fire, talking gobbledygook.
But I paid for it in the morning. I don't know why it is – old age, something they put in Aussie beer, a developing stomach ulcer perhaps, who knows? – but sometimes I wake up after only a few beers (not necessarily too many) and feel just awful, much worse than with a normal hangover. I reckon that this time I got a serious hangover because I hadn't had a drink since the Nullarbor Roadhouse, and I was out of practice.
Thursday was, therefore, a bit of a washout: no sooner had I finished my Coco Pops for brekkie than I was throwing them up. Suffice to say I wasn't going anywhere, and I paid for another night in the caravan park, feeling very sorry for myself. To compound the agony my air mattress had sprung a leak in the night, a slow one that let the air out over a matter of hours, so I woke up at five in the morning, lying on cold, hard ground and aching to the core. I felt terrible, and it was all my fault.
But here's a perfect example of every cloud having a silver lining. Pemberton has a thriving wood industry, and one of the offshoots is the local art and craft set-up. When I felt a little better I walked to the Fine Woodcraft Gallery to ease my aching bones, and I was truly stunned. What a place! The most amazing woodcraft was on display, from all-wood clocks to whole furniture displays to sculptures, all made out of the most beautiful woods. The proprietor of the shop was a friendly soul, too, and when he found out I was a computer journalist, he took me to the back to show me his Apple Mac, of which he was justly proud. It's little touches like this that make these visits worthwhile, and I felt compelled to buy something to remember the shop by; when I walked out of the shop I was the proud owner of a little sack of herbs that were specially mixed to promote alertness while driving, ideal for the car.
But even that couldn't shake the ache I had behind my eyes, and to add insult to injury, Thursday night was when the weather I had spotted in the Stirling Ranges finally caught up with me. There I was, with my fireplace finally all to myself, and a large pile of logs, and it suddenly went very cold and started to rain. Typical: when I got up on Friday, the tent was soaked, the car was sodden, and my enthusiasm was dampened. But I wanted to move on, so move on I did.