2020 Aus The Porongurups that made monkeys of us
Climbing the Porongurups for a Skywalk
Brought out the monkey in us
Craig was our driver/guide for the day and as there was no cruise ship in town and the tourist season is on the wane we had him to ourselves. The Poronjurups (an ‘up’ ending means meeting place) is a short mountain range 34 km north east from Albany and south west of the Sterling Range that loomed above the horizon as we drove away from civilisation. The day was dry and the sky an interesting array of cloud formations that could be a prelude to stormy weather, we would find out.
We were looking forward to this excursion as we hadn’t been for a decent walk for a number of seabound days down from Woody Island and we weren’t disappointed. Our sturdy walking shoes gripped well over the uneven path and in places smooth wet surface of the granite. The walk reminded me of Parihaka in Whangarei but the Karri’s here are nothing like as grand, long lived and beautiful as the kauris of NZ, maybe a different species. Indeed they are; the WA Karri are from the species eucalyptus diversicolour, while the New Zealand Kauri is Agathis Australis, so the shared characteristics are in name and size only.
It took only 45 minutes to climb through the bush and emerge above the tree line to these impressive granite rocks. Since the building of the Skywalk visitor numbers to the area have rocketed which has helped the local vineyards, bringing thirsty hikers to their cellar doors for a much deserved lunch and glass or two of their excellent wines, as did the three of us later.
Craig chatted all the way about the walk and area, his family and travels and then explained a little about the demands of climbing the rock boulders to the walk on the summit, clinging on to the giant stainless steel staples in the rock as hand holds. I was a little worried about the baby in the dad’s back carrier because there is a near vertical caged ladder to climb for the last ascent. Hopefully the little one escaped without being scalped.
The view on the top was unsurprisingly vast, looking over the dead flat plain all around that was once the seabed. Now farmed mostly with vineyards, a luxury pig farm where the creatures get to roam free and out of doors, and blue gum plantations galore that are felled after fifteen years or so depending on how well they have grown, for use in making glossy paper for magazines for one thing. They could do with taking some of the foliage back east as this type of gum is loved by koalas. Masked lapwings soared around us and I hunted the airways to see if there were any eagles surfing the thermals, but no they were elsewhere.
Towards the ocean the sky was dense with that dark blue type of cloud that tells one there is trouble aloft and sure enough the familiar rumble bounced across the plains towards us and fork golden lightning crackled threateningly.
We soaked up the beauty of the surroundings and the wonder of the ancient rocks and the design skill and precarious construction of the walk was not lost on us either. The engineers had to like abseiling, back to that subject again, as they were suspended from the rock face to drill the holes for the rods that would support the floor and bannister structure. No good trying to build one of these in sandstone; it was the strength and solidity of this granite that made the whole engineering project possible.
A big clap and rumble of thunder combined with the first drops of rain made us decide it was time to descend the rocks by the same route and back into the trees where we saw the scarlet robin and the little pale yellow rumped thornbill and honeyeaters flitting around the tree blossoms.
Craig took us to the Ironwood Estate to try their nice wines grown on the ten acres they bought three decades ago. They had quite a good number in for lunch, us the only hikers amongst them, and we sat on the terrace overlooking the plains towards the Stirling Mountains. Then Craig took us up Mount Adelaide at the summit of the Albany Heritage Park to see the views over the sounds and the Anzac memorial. Our first excursion out of Albany was a memorable and enjoyable one and we felt a lot fitter once back on Zoonie.