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We were on the road at around 7:40 am this morning. Perhaps the smoke alarms going off around 3:30 am for no apparent reason caused some of us to sleep less soundly and rise earlier. Whatever the reason, an early start would help with our roundabout route to Albany, which was about an hour by the direct route, and activity there.

Our first destination was Porongurup National Park, about an hour away and the site of the Granite Skywalk we had read about. The information we had found indicated that getting to the skywalk was a level 4 walk estimated to require 2 hours. The roads from Denmark to the park were very good so we made good time.

John parked and we all walked to the area with signs. They indicated a 2 hour return level 4 walk with an additional 30 minute level 5 climb to the skywalk. It was 9 am and Majella wanted to be in Albany at 11 am to join the walk for Yes. She and Lynne decided to do a short walk near the car park and gave John and me an hour to get as far as we could on the major walk and return.

John and I set off on the path up the hill. It was broad and clear but muddy from the recent rain and steep in places. Much of the uphill walking was on steps and we wondered about the people who had built it and how much and how often they carried material up for the steps. About 200 metres in there was a sign indicating 1.7 km to go. Those appeared every 500 metres and gave us some idea of how we were travelling. It was hard work but not beyond us. The track was often lined with flowering bushes and we could hear birds in the forest though we seldom saw any.

About 20 minutes into the walk Majella called to say she and Lynne had decided we could take as long as we wanted or needed. By then we were 1.5 km or so up the track and we arrived at the base of the Skywalk section about 35 minutes after we had left the car park.

I had not realised that there was a lower viewing platform. It was at the end of a short level track and had a supported path leading out to the viewing platform. There were 4 people there with one setting up to take a self-timed photo of the group. I offered to take the photo for them and they reciprocated. We enjoyed the view out over the surrounding plains to the distant mountains for a while before considering the climb to the very top platform.

We could see part of the top platform some way above us and read the sign warning of slippery surfaces, vertical falls, and the need to scramble over rocks and climb ladders. We decided we might be too old for that and started down. On the way we paused for a photo John wanted by the nearby balancing rock. Then we headed down as quickly as possible. By that time there were more small groups of walkers coming up, some looking decidedly fitter than others.

We made it back to the car park a little before 10:30 am. Majella and Lynne greeted us with enthusiastic reports of the walk they had done, slowly on a level track enjoying wildflowers and birds. Without delay John was back at the wheel and we were heading for Albany with an ETA of 10:59 am, just in time for the Yes walk.

Majella checked the location of the walk as we approached town and we parked nearby. There was a good crowd for the walk. It began in a park with some short speeches by local Noongar people. Then it went across and down the street, back across and up the street where it stopped for photographs by the local press and others.

The walk finished a little before noon by which time we were in need of food and coffee. Majella and Lynne asked a local who suggested Ocean and Paddock and offered directions. John drove out in the direction indicated and we eventually found what claimed to have been judged the best fish and chips in Western Australia. Majella and I shared the Albany Nannygai with chips and coffees. Lynne and John had snapper.

From there we drove around the headland, pausing at a lookout where we could see ships waiting to enter the harbour, and up to the National Anzac Centre. As we paid our entry and awaited the brief explanation of how things worked Majella asked a man wearing a jacket with a centre logo about what the ships, which we could now see through a large window over the harbour, were loading. In his strong Scots accent, Bill (as we later found was his name) told her that wood chips (for paper), mineral sands, and grain were exported from the three terminals we could see on the shoreline below.

We moved on from there into the exhibits. Each visitor is given a card with the name and photograph of a person who left on one of the convoys that sailed from Albany. At appropriate points that brings up details about the person. In my case that was Jack Dunn from New Zealand who fell ill at Gallipoli, spent time in hospital, reported sick when he returned to the front but was sent on guard duty and later found asleep at his post. For that he was sentenced to death but died soon after in a battle. That sad story seemed typical of the futility of our participation in imperial wars then and now. The Anzac myth is built on stories of bravery but so much of it was senseless killing on both sides.

Majella and I watched a couple of the 5 minute stories on video before proceeding into the exhibits. We found each other back there again later and, after watching a couple more sad stories, went outside. There we bumped into Bill again and learned more about how he had come to Australia as a child, worked in Perth and retired to Albany where he volunteers 2 days a week at the centre. He offered us a ride to the lookout atop the hill in a buggy and, when John and Lynne joined us outside, we accepted his offer. He offered informative commentary on the way up and down the hill and at the lookout.

John drove 25 minutes or so around the bay to Discovery Bay. There we visited the historic whaling station and the wildflower and native animal parks. At the whaling station we explored a whaling ship that has been preserved as an attraction, watched a 3-D movie about whales, explored the scrimshaw gallery which is mostly the work of one local man, and looked at the huge skeletons of whales.

The native animals are in enclosures within a fenced section of the botanical garden that hosts the wildflowers. We were hoping in vain to see a quokka but did see wombats, pademelons, bettongs, and sulphur crested and Major Mitchell cockatoos. We did see a variety of wildflowers and a few colourful birds among them before we had to leave to avoid being locked in at 5 pm.

On the way back to town and our rooms we paused at the blowholes but none of us needed another 700 metre walk with 78 steps. We drove on, checked in, and settled for the night. Lynne and John did not need dinner but Majella and I found our way to the hotel dining area where we shared a dish of tasty nachos and a glass of ginger beer.

By 7 pm we were back in our room. We had done a lot of walking today, more 16000 steps on my Fitbit. Tomorrow we will drive about 500 km to Esperance. That will leave only limited time for walking.