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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Australia: Albany

The Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park
The Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park, near Albany

Albany is cute, but it drove me insane, almost literally. It seems to be an Australian thing, not bothering with road signs or making them so hard to find that by the time you spot them, you've missed your turning. One theory is that in a country where roads are all orthogonal and people work in blocks, you don't need road signs, it's all a case of 'two blocks west' and so on. I think that's crazy: in a world where everything is at right angles and the roads look pretty much the same everywhere, you surely need signs even more. My pet theory is that it's a bravado thing; when I see a bumper sticker that says 'Real Men Do It Without Road Signs' I'll know I was right all along.

Backpackers vs Travellers

A 'black boy' in the Stirling Ranges
A 'black boy' plant in the Stirling Ranges, so called because from the top it sprouts a long stalk with a seed pod on the end, and this makes it look like there's an Aborigine behind it with a spear

When I got to the top of Stony Hill after an easy five-minute stroll, there was a little group of people there, and when I got my camera out to capture the view, one member of the group offered to take a picture of me, with the view included. He then proceeded to explain what it was I was looking at – the Gap, Natural Bridge, Blowholes, Albany – and I listened politely, not mentioning that I knew all this, thank you, and I wasn't a complete moron and did know how to read a map, so nice to have met you. It turned out that this guy was a manager of the Youth Hostel in Albany, and he had a tour in tow, so I instantly forgave him for treating me like a tourist, especially when he asked whether I would like a cup of coffee, seeing as they were about to have one.

Porongurups and Stirling Ranges

Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges
Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the Stirling Ranges, though it's still a relatively easy stroll to the top

Unsatisfied by the views at Torndirrup, I decided to spend the afternoon in the Porongurups, a range of hills to the north of Albany. The Porongurups are home to Castle Rock, a mountain that sounded about the right size for an afternoon's climb. It was gorgeous, with these huge granite boulders perched precariously (or so it looked) on the top, and the view was worth the effort, even if I did get mauled by a huge cloud of flying ants when I reached the summit. The area round Albany is truly weird; it's totally flat, but you get these big triangular mountains that just appear out of nowhere, and when you climb them you can see for miles. This is what happened at Castle Rock, though the best was yet to come...