Which brings me to Walpole, population maybe four hundred. Somewhere between Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and Albany, not far from the Frankland River there's a series of large inlets which sit behind the wild southern coastline. The Albany Highway pauses for a few hundred metres and invites you to fill up with petrol or get some supplies from the IGA and then speeds on. It's good fishing country - remote, unspoilt, protected. Good mullet, bream and whiting here. On the the surface it's unattractive. No protected surfing beaches; it's out of the main winery belt, a one pub town where, above the main bar hangs a whale's penis in all its four metre glory.
The bar is populated by crusty regulars sheltering from the cold, waiting for the weather to settle so they can get back to fishing. The barmaid is in a state of high anxiety. There are people wanting to order food AND drinks. I'm freakin out she says in a broad Manchester accent. Its 5.30pm. The rain is belting down and locals and tourists alike are seeking refuge. The fire is blazing.
What's your house wine I ask? I don't know, comes the answer in that broad accent and a look of panic enters her eyes. We've got some red I think and pulls out a half full bottle of shiraz. Have you got any cab sav I ask? She looks blankly at me. I'll have to get the manager she says and disappears. A young fellow returns and is no better informed. We've got shiraz he says and unscrews the cap from the half empty bottle, sniffs it and pours it down the sink. He goes to fetch another bottle. I'll have a shiraz I say, accepting defeat.
How long have you been here I ask the Manchester girl? Since last Thursday she says. How long have you been in Australia I ask? Three weeks, she says. I love it. I never want to go home. I worked in a bar back home but things are so different here, she says. In Manchester we only have three types of wine. Red, white and rose. It's so confusing here, she laments.
Margaret River, the wine centre of the west is only forty minutes up the road and this pub has only one variety of red wine! They've recruited the right girl for the job. She'll be on top of the three brands of wine they stock in no time.
More people begin to arrive. Tourists. They ask for the menu. She can't answer any questions and confides to us that the cook tonight is actually the bar manager. It's the chef's night off. Which explains why the cook is steering everyone to the sirloin steak. I suspect it's the only thing he can cook. In between pulling beers our Manchester girl is trying to slip outside for a quick cigarette, but every time she gets close to the door someone new steps up to the bar or walks in the main door. I need a ciggy she says. I'm stressed to the max.
The local, thin as a stick with long grey hair, who has been camped in front of the firesince we arrived, makes a move to head home. He's already had his fill but Manchester girl, against everyone's better judgement offers to pour one him more whiskey. What's the tab he asks, pays and slips off into the Walpole night.
To be fair to any Walpole readers, there is a gallery in town which delighted us. The best little private gallery between Perth and Albany we reckon. It's run by the wife of a local farmer. She's got a good eye.
We decide to risk the rain but not the sirloin steak and head for our campsite at the western end of Nornalup Inlet.