It was a good idea in theory, leaving Gemma’s farm early and pushing on to Albany via Wave Rock to make it in time for Dawn Service on Anzac Day morning. But as it turned out it was a very loooooong day.
We said our farewells and headed off relatively early for us – if we get going before 9.30 we are doing extremely well. 9.15am and we were on the road, making tracks for Ravensthorpe where we stopped for fuel and to check out some more painted silos. Check these out – very different to the ones in the Mallee and Coonalpyn.
By lunch time we had arrived at Wave Rock and after some sandwiches we head off to explore. It’s easy to think that Wave Rock was the result of an inland sea and waves crashing to create the iconic shape, but this particular rock was created by dripping water off a ledge as opposed to an inland sea… or something, the geomorphology got confusing after a while!
After doing the obligatory surfer’s pose, along with every other tourist there, we climbed on top of the rock formation for another exploration before jumping back in the car and making tracks again.
Light was starting to wane as we made our way across the stunning Stirling Ranges and into Albany, and by the time we reached Gemma’s folks place (via McDonalds because, well, it was just easy), the sun had well and truly set.
After a quick set up, it was in bed for everyone so we’d be ready to get up at 4am!
Did you know that the first ever Dawn Service was purported to have been held in Albany as a result of Padre White undertaking a dawn Eurcharist on Anzac Day in 1930 and making a pilgrimage to Mt Clarence to commemorate the Anzacs who had left Albany’s shores to serve in WW1. Our original plan was to head up to Mt Clarence to the Dawn Service on the hill, but we’d been told by several people that you have to get up there super early (ie 2/3am) to be able to get a spot as they limit the crowds to around 4000. Knowing that we’d struggle to keep the girls entertained for hours before Dawn Service, we opted for the broadcast down on the foreshore at the Albany Peace Park instead.
It was quite a moving service with the echo of the speakers reverberating behind us in the wind and a very pertinent message about remembering the legacy that has been gifted to us. Organisers even provided chairs so it was quite an unusual Dawn Service compared to our regular one in Mildura where we tend to stay on the outer fringes (in case the kids decide that 5am is a great time to talk or cry or, you know, be a toddler!)
After the service, we participated in the Gunfire breakfast with the rest of the community before taking a drive up to Mt Clarence. I understand that the girls are too understand the significance of Anzac Day yet, but I have written before about why I feel it’s so important and that it’s my responsibility as a parent to ensure that the respect and understanding of Anzac Day is not forgotten.
The Mounted Desert Corp Monument atop Mt Clarence is the location of the Dawn Service and surprisingly, by the time we arrived around about 7am, everyone had gone and only the sound and lighting crews were left, packing up the scaffolding and equipment. The memorial (which was originally erected and destroyed in Eygypt), was salvaged and relocated to Albany after it was destroyed in 1956 during the Suez War. It is a stunning memorial commemorating Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in service or were killed in action in Egypt, Palestine and Syria during World War One.
Given it was only 8am, we decided to head to the beach in search of a coffee shop and a playground and low and behold, Middleton Beach provided us with both thanks to the Three Anchors and a fabulous park right out the front. It also happened to be the location of a community Anzac poppy art installation project and so we were able to purchase some poppies and include them into this year’s instalment. Each year, volunteers create a new image made of poppies, which the community then create with the placement of their poppies with the proceeds going to the RSL. A fabulous tradition and a great opportunity to continue the conversation with the girls.
Mid-morning, we were off to the National Anzac Centre to immerse ourselves of the history of Albany and the broader story of the Anzac legend. The girls lost interest pretty quickly but thanks to some audio wands, they were happy to go up to each display and wave their wand to trigger the audio about that section. When we went into the centre, the ski was blue with only a few clouds. Within an hour, we looked outside and it was foggy and covered with a misty drizzle – such a contrast!
We then piled back into the car to work out what our next activity was going to be and before we knew it, the girls were asleep in the back seat!
So coastal scenic drive it was! We checked out The Gap and Natural Bridge.
A lunch at the historic Albany Hotel and a super early night finished our day, but we were glad that we pushed on to make it to Albany in time to share a Dawn Service in such a special place.
The next day, we headed out to the Porongurup National Park to tackle the Granite Skywalk. It was probably an ominous sign that a couple who had just come back down from the walk shook their heads at us and said there was no chance of us getting up the hill with two small kids but we thought we’d have a crack at it and if it got too hard, we’d just turn around and come back.
Well, if you can imagine my fingers waggling in my ears and me singing nah, nah, ni, nah-nah, we made it to the top, that’s what I felt like saying to the couple if we had ever seen them again! It was definitely a tough walk and Miss A resisted about ¾ of the way up, but with some encouragement she got to the top.
There was a little platform lookout at that level, but the crown of the walk was the granite skywalk itself which involved scrambling across some big boulders using handrails and significant flexibility, to make it to a ladder 7meters high – once you conquered the ladder, you’d made it to the skywalk. Miss B begged to have a go and after Corey checked it out he suggested she have a try… and the little mountain goat made it! And boy was she proud of herself! As were we!
About 500m from the carpark, poor Miss B tripped over a tree root and face planted in the dirt. She ended up with a graze on her nose!
We finished the walk, had lunch and a drive around the national park area before heading back into Albany where we walked the street and down to the foreshore before heading home. We didn’t cover off a half of what Albany had to offer, but it was time to move on.
And of all the places we’ve been so far, Albany is the only one that I could honestly envisage myself living in. A gorgeous town, steeped in history and some of the most gorgeous scenery around. Yep, I could live here!
Do you attend Dawn Service where you live? Have you ever visited some place and decided you could definitely live there? (don’t worry people, we’re not moving!)