Sometimes when travelling, plans change. This stretch of road was one of these times. Originally we had planned to drive straight from Pemberton to Albany however our friend Al, who helped us out on the Gibb, had suggested doing the WOW Tour in Walpole. We had also found a brochure for a sculpture walk in Northcliffe so it was time to slow down a little and make some extra stops on the road.
Northcliffe is only about 30kms from Pemberton and is a smaller town set in the bush. Understory is an Art and Nature Trail established around 2006 and features over 40artworks along a 1.2 km bush trail. Artists, writers and musicians have spent time in Northcliffe developing site specific artworks. Some are permanent and some ephemeral which made us really stop and take note of the surrounds. Sometimes the remnants of works were so subtle due to the bush slowly enveloping them.
We chose to pay extra for the audio tour. This had five options, one which was a series of five children stories that entwined and were played in a series of lovely story nooks set up in the trail with gorgeous works by Kati Thamo.
Both Andrew and I chose the artist descriptions which were wonderful way to understand each artwork as told by each artist. You could also choose stories by musicians and poets inspired to create works about the area including a young locals.
The walk itself was scenic with remnants of the springblooms and the works were great and varied, some whimsical, some poignant.
A few of my favourites included Bound by Alex and Nic Micle with its stunning poetry and symbolism.
Nurture II by Graham Hay, who returned more than 20,000 pages of mostly unread government reports on the forest to the forest in the forms of fingers impregnated with native Scarlet Bracken Fungus spores.
Also Written in the Wind by Norma Macdonald, an indigenous artist who made a subtle steel work fixed to a massive gum. Her audio description of the piece was simply moving and perfectly described the symbolism behind every aspect of this work.
The work with the most visual impact is Lorenna Grant’s work Whole, You Were Meant to Be Here, a suspending halo made of Karri sticks suspended around a tall gum tree.
Needless to say we spent hours exploring, listening and appreciating this area, before heading to Walpole for the night. We stayed at Coalmine Beach Caravan Park in Walpole which had a bush like setting nestled into the bay. It was here we spotted our first Quenda, also called a Southern Brown Bandicoot.
The WOW Tour
The next day we took the famed WOW Tour. This tour has been running for over 25 years and the thing that makes this tour so unique is the guide Gazza whose knowledge of the area and all things is incredible. He is a bit like holding a conversation with Dr Karl on steroids. You drop a comment on something and he will rattle off an in depth knowledge about a species or a person undergoing research in the area and then somehow manage to connect it back to Walpole for some reason. His commentary was fast paced and somewhat erratic as we jumped from snake bites to Stalin but really was a fun and a theatrical experience for the whole family. And the scenery and homemade lemon cake for morning tea was amazing too.
We sailed in the bay to a headland that separated the bay form the ocean. Gazza’s family had been coming here for over 100 years and at present he was participating in research on how far plastic had travelled in the ocean from a large international plastic spill from a boat. It is a worldwide study and every day he, and anyone on his tour, walk along a stretch of beach collecting tiny globs of plastic (in its pure state) which has been washed up along the oceans worldwide since the spill. This is small plastic, about the size of a lentil and I hate to think the impact such tiny plastic was having on the marine life since the spill. We collected about 80 pieces in the 100 metres we walked and Gazza said it has been found worldwide since the spill. Our collection was placed in an envelope to send off with the daily collection records for this beach.
From Walpole we took a leisurely drive to Albany stopping at a gourmet bakery, a few roadside stalls, a visit to the enormous tingle trees and a brewery for dinner. The tingle trees are huge and so wide that visitors used to drive their cars into them! That was until one of the trees fell over just missing two British folk who were posing inside it fora photo. It was such a lovely more mainstream touristy day. This really is a stunning part of Australia and full of friendly people and some real characters.