After a final update of the web in the internet café and a last minute shop for a few messages we said a sad goodbye to Esperance and turned back eastwards for a short way in order to make sure we didn’t miss Cape Le Grand National Park. All the brochures and everyone who’s mentioned it to us say it’s a must and not to be missed. And they are right – what a stunning place, especially when we were lucky enough to have such a glorious (late autumn) day. A steep climb up Frenchman’s Peak, a granite hill about 350m high and with an odd shaped top which gives it its name, rewarded us with breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean and the La Recherche Archipelago. The birdlife is abundant here too – it was great to get up close and personal with honeyeaters, swifts, a beautiful Nankeen Kestrel and many others we couldn’t name. We stopped overnight in the campground at Lucky Bay, right on one of the fabulous pristine white beaches for which this area is renowned. Being in the National Park and well away from civilisation meant there was no light pollution to spoil the amazing display of stars and great swathe of the Milky Way. It was so romantic we almost gazed on each other as fondly as we did the sky! Next morning, we headed out of the Park (paying a quick visit to Cape Le Grand beach - not as impressive as Lucky Bay) intending to make our way westward and inland towards Stirling Range National Park. According to the guidebooks Fitzgerald River National Park is one of the world’s few biosphere reserves and one of the main highlights of Western Australia, but all indications were quite clear that it was inaccessible to us in our two-wheel drive motorhome. When we stopped at Ravensthorpe for fuel and information on the area, the local tourist office strongly hinted that we’d be able to drive through it from Hopetoun, on the coast 50km away. This was too much of an invitation so off we set thinking we would stay the night at the campground there. Reaching Hopetoun we stopped at the local IGA store for a pint of milk and set off into the National Park, passing a very inviting looking golf course on the way. It certainly was a lovely area, but unfortunately after about 15 km the unsealed, corrugated road proved too much for Annie (and our teeth!) so we turned around and returned to Ravensthorpe – 130 km for a pint of milk – hmmm!!! And by this time it was too late to reach either Albany or Stirling Range (our two options) and rain was threatening so we pitched up for the night at the caravan park in Jerramungup, a tiny little place at a junction in the road so it gave us options for Saturday morning. The main attraction is watching the very lively dog and pet kangaroo chasing each other around the campsite - and keeping them from jumping in the van! The camp manager advised the route we should take to Albany and although there was low cloud/mist and rain had been forecast we set off on a really good journey which was to take us by some of the places we had wanted to visit. The first of those was Lily – a Dutch windmill – which was in a wonderful setting overlooking the Stirling Ranges National Park. Before a great cup of (European) coffee and Dutch apple pie, we were treated to a conducted tour of the windmill by its Dutch owner and builder. He also grinds spelt flour and makes his own bread which is served in the B&B/restaurant but which is unfortunately not available for general sale. Heading into the main road to set out towards the national park, we spotted the first motorhome for (we think) a couple of days. A short distance down the road it stopped and as we slowed up to offer help/directions/etc, who should it be but Peter and Dagmar. What a surprise as we thought they would have been away ahead of us by now. We agreed to meet up in Albany but firstly had to stop over at Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges – at 1073m, the highest point in the mountains and indeed south west Australia. Although there was sporadic low cloud it was in a wonderful setting and good to experience distinct mountains which Australia seriously lacks. After a bit of dithering, we decided to set off up the path with a plan to walk about one hour and turn back. The path is an incessant climb but naturally offers fine views. We climbed on and on and as we approached the cloud level we exchanged comments with those coming down the mountain – how much further, any views, how long to the top etc – but carried on. We were really pleased to reach the top and felt good but were not afforded any views apart from a quick break in the cloud. It was good to return to Annie and set off to Albany where we settled into a more relaxed (perhaps enforced?) couple of days. Albany is in a great setting on the King George Sound and has a more normal European feel. We enjoyed a walk around town, a few beers (brewed on site) at Tangle Head and some pleasant live music. The following day a run around the coastal drive to Frenchman Bay took us past Natural Bridge, the Gap and Blowhole – all quite impressive on a slightly windy day. Afterwards Annie was treated to a wash and brush up outside in and end to end – she was meeting her cousin Jean after all in a few days!