Leroy’s great escape

IT’S a common occurrence to hear someone complaining about their job, about where they live, or how they want to get away from their lives just for a week or two and go on a holiday.

Albany lad Leroy Savage decided to stop talking and start doing and took it all a bit further when he landed the idea of a bike ride through South America.

Planning for the ambitious 16-month trip began in 2016 when Leroy and his mate Jono (it’s just ‘Jono’) decided they were sick of what they were doing.

“We both needed a change,” Leroy said, when he sat down with The Weekender to re-tell his epic journey.

“I was sick of my FIFO job, where I was living, and wanted to escape a bad relationship.

“We both wanted to go to South America, so we looked at buying a Kombi but decided it was going to be too expensive and too hard to cross borders.”

Luckily the trip wasn’t completely lost when the idea was floated to cycle instead.

“Jono’s cousin had recently finished cycling from San Francisco down to Ushuaia in Argentina. He’d been thinking of doing it for a while. That bloke can sell ice to an Eskimo,” Leroy said.

A quick scour on Gumtree for a bike, and $100 later, Leroy had the 1996 Marin Bear Valley SE mountain bike that would take him more than 14,000km through South America.

Leroy started his journey from Ushuaia, nicknamed ‘the end of the world’, as it is the southern-most city on the planet.

After spending some time winding through Argentina and Chile, Leroy pedalled through Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

He said there were only a few moments when he questioned why he decided to tackle such a long ride.

“There was one moment when I was riding through San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, it was just these horrible gravelly-sandy roads and strong head winds,” he said.

“It was all desert with hardly any places from shelter out of the wind. It was getting so cold during the night that my water bottle with about 700ml in it was freezing solid.

“I was there for a week trying to ride through it. When I got to the other side I was a bit physically and mentally broken.

“The thought crossed my mind of going home.”

Despite the testing conditions Leroy continued his journey, cycling through mountain passes and jungles.

“The most disappointing part about riding through the jungle was that I didn’t see a puma,” he said.

“There weren’t even that many birds, just lots of weird insects and howler monkeys.

“I didn’t come across any live snakes, just ones on the side of the road that had been run over.

“I saw heaps of tarantulas though. I’d help them cross the road.”

Since returning to Albany in time for Christmas with his family, Leroy’s days have seemed almost slow in comparison to life on the road.

“I’ve been back for nearly a month and I’m starting to make bad habits again,” he said.

“Life at home just isn’t as free as it was on the road. All you need to worry about when you’re cycling is food, water and where you’ll camp for the night. The routine is super addictive.

“When you get home it’s all about the money, spending it and earning it.

“I don’t have a phone contract, or a license or car, and straight way I’ve started spending way less.”

Leroy continues to cycle around Albany waiting for inspiration for his next trip.

“It was the best thing I’ve done in my life so far,” he said.

“The only thing I could say to someone who is thinking of cycling for a holiday is ‘what are you waiting for?’.”

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City jewel gets new tenant

A STATE heritage-listed York Street landmark, vacant for the past 18 months, will be tenanted once more when Mark Blyth Fine Jewellery moves in at the end of January.

From letting agent Doug Pearson, Mark and Tamara Blyth recently received the key to Albany House, erected in 1884 on the corner of York Street and Stirling Terrace.

Mr Pearson said the Blyths would lease the 152sqm downstairs space for close to the asking price of $27,360 a year.

“It’ll be great, because they have a really good product and it’s been hidden where it is at the moment,” he said.

“They’re going to set it up nicely, with good interior layouts, designs and finishes.

“This will give them a lot more exposure.”

For the past nine years, the Blyths’ jewellery business has been located in a shopfront across York Street from Albany House, in the Empire Buildings, which are on Albany’s local heritage register.

That shop-front is now up for lease.

Ms Blyth said the business should start trading from its new premises on January 29, depending on whether the City of Albany approves an application to convert the space from commercial to office use by then.

“For the first time in Mark’s 20-plus years as a jeweller he’ll have windows in his workshop,” she said.

“He won’t be working in a little dungeon out the back.”

Mr Blyth said the white marble of an existing fireplace in Albany House would be mirrored in a white marble shop counter he’d commissioned from Perth that would come in at a cool $14,000.

“We baulked at it for a couple of weeks, then we decided we should just do it,” he confided.

He said the bespoke building would be consistent with the hand-crafted nature of much of his jewellery.

A massive London-built safe from the building’s original use as a bank will again store valuables for the jewellery shop and for members of the public wishing to safeguard personal treasures.

Albany House was added to the State Register of Heritage Places in 1999.

Notable for pre-dating the gold rush, the building housed a branch of the Union Bank and then of the ANZ Bank, from 1884 to 1973.

For many decades, its sprawling top floor was home to whoever was bank manager at the time.

Mr Pearson said the 136sqm top floor was still available – for $16,320 a year.

“It’s Central Area zoning, which allows some really good uses there,” he said.

“It goes from retail, to office, to restaurant subject to conformity with health regulations.

“It’s a very prominent position right in town, and you’re looking out over the harbour, of course.”

The building’s most recent long-term tenant was an engineering firm.

A vegan café occupied the downstairs space for a short while after the engineering firm vacated.

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More than meets the eye

ROBOTS have taken over Vancouver Arts Centre, but the kids of Albany will be in control.

Artist Sandy O’Doherty said Robots – Cool Fun would see local ankle-biters create their own transformers, droids or automatons from recycled materials.

“We’ll be using polystyrene foam, plastics, a little bit of metal and wood, and predominantly screwing or hot-gluing the pieces and components together to create little robot animals, robots themselves or robot wall hangings,” she said.

“There is such a range of materials to choose from, it will really be up to each kid’s imagination and how bold they can go with their robot.”

The activity is inspired by the several ‘bots made from bric-a-brac that feature in Neil Elliot’s Creations from the Man Cave exhibition that runs at the centre until January 27.

“It’s a great idea for the kids to have a look at the exhibition before they start,” O’Doherty said.

“If they haven’t, I might send them down to have a quick look because it’s really fantastic for inspiration.

“With all the kooky variety of animals and robots and morphed types of objects, the kids will be really inspired and have something to work from.”

The robot workspace will be open from 9am to 4pm on January 12, 16 and 19, with workshops running from 10am to noon on those days for children aged 8 and 12.

Call the centre on 6820 3740 to book a workshop spot.

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Real stories reveal true colours

THE chance to expand on her one-liners inspired Perth comedian and ABC radio presenter Andrea Gibbs to fly halfway across the world to be coached by some of the industry’s best.

The product of that trip, Barefaced Stories, is coming to Albany on January 19 and will give people the opportunity to have a sneak peek into real people’s life stories.

Barefaced Stories is the love child of Gibbs and her best friend, Kerry O’Sullivan, and creates an evening of entertainment via live storytelling.

The Albany edition of Barefaced Stories, set to hit the Albany Entertainment Centre stage in just over a week’s time, will feature special guests and Albany locals – all of whom will break down their barriers and tell true stories from their lives.

Gibbs said Barefaced Stories is a chance for people to come together and show their true colours.

“Humans are natural storytellers, but we rarely really open up to each other and reveal the full picture,” she said.

“Our anecdotes sometimes have an Instagram filter on them, but Barefaced is all about stripping that down and revealing the reality of life.

“Stories, whether they are happy or sad – if they are told well – have the power to bring us all together, which helps everyone feel a little less alone in the world.”

Prior to the Albany performance, Gibbs will host two workshops at the Vancouver Arts Centre this weekend to help people ‘find their story’ and learn how to craft it for presentation.

The Saturday ‘Find Your Story’ workshop will go from 10.30am to 2.30pm, and Sunday’s ‘Craft Your Story’ workshop will be from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.

“The workshops are open to everyone that is willing to answer some questions about their lives and be honest with their answers,” Gibbs said.

“I spend day one mining people’s lives for stories that are worth sharing, and then on day two we try to share them.

“The workshops are a blast – interesting, funny and challenging.

“We learn a lot about each other and have a whole lot of laughs along the way.”

Tickets to the What’s Your Story? Workshop can be booked via andrea@barefaced.com.au and tickets for the AEC performance of Barefaced Stories can be purchased from the AEC Box Office or online via Ticketek.

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Developers’ picnic at Frenchies

A SILVER BULLET that could deliver a tourist resort for Vancouver Peninsula and allay environmental concerns at Goode Beach has arrived courtesy of an application for a 25-unit holiday retreat at the defunct Frenchman Bay Caravan Park.

As opponents ramp up a campaign to stop a 51-unit five-star resort at Goode Beach, The Weekender can reveal that Harley Dykstra Town Planners has applied to build 24 holiday units and a ‘caretaker’s commercial building’ at the jaded van park site.

Recently, Frenchman Bay Association President Tony Kinlay (‘Goode plan, wrong place’, 19 October, 2017) and Traditional Custodian Lynette Knapp (‘A mighty Wagyl breathes here’, 23 November, 2017) said a resort at the former van park would be better, environmentally and culturally, than one at Goode Beach.

Yesterday, University of Western Australia Chair in Biodiversity Steve Hopper agreed.

“From an environmental and cultural heritage viewpoint, provided all necessary assessments are undertaken and controls implemented, that site has a number of advantages and fewer disadvantages than the Goode Beach proposal,” said the Goode Beach resident, who today will co-host a briefing by opponents of the Goode Beach resort for media outlets at Lake Vancouver.

“It’s already cleared, so a development with a strong environmental ethic would actually create an opportunity to restore habitat for threatened fauna and remove pernicious environmental weeds on the edge of the national park.

“In relation to wildfire, there’s no need for additional roads across wetlands, and all the disruption of amenity that would occur with the Lake Vancouver development would not apply there.”

An online petition launched last week to protest the Goode Beach plans attracted more than 1800 signatures from around the world in its first two days.

In 2015, Harley Dykstra achieved approval of a development plan for the van park site on behalf of West Perth-based MTK Ventures Pty Ltd.

After MTK sought 30 units, including 10 unrestricted-stay ones, 28 objections were lodged.

The request for unrestricted-stay units was withdrawn, and Albany city councillors unanimously endorsed a maximum of 25 units, including the caretaker’s building.

Also unanimously endorsed was a provision regarding the need for any on-site effluent disposal to be referred for Department of Health consideration.

A further 46 public submissions supported the project, which Harley Dykstra had called the ‘Frenchman Bay Retreat’.

A development sign is yet to be placed at the site, but City of Albany Executive Director Development Services Paul Camins confirmed the project would be advertised “soon” for public comment.

If approved, the application would be the final stage of a protracted process that in 2009 saw Dykstra Planning unsuccessfully apply for 100 units on the van park site on behalf of an entity called Frenchman Bay 5 Star Resort Unit Trust.

In November, city councillors were set to vote on whether a structure plan for the Goode Beach resort was acceptable to them.

But the plans were pulled, probably until February, after the Department of Fire and Emergency Services raised concerns over emergency access to the La Perouse Court site (Goode Beach plans pulled, 23 November, 2017).

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Curtain’s country calling

ENTERTAINER from the outback and true blue Aussie Tom Curtain will head down to Mt Barker and Albany this weekend for three big nights of country music and live demonstrations of cattle station life.

Queensland-born Curtain moved to the Northern Territory in 2001 to work at Mount Sanford Station, and was inspired to write songs about life in the red-dirt state.

This eventuated into the creation of his current business, the Katherine Outback Experience, which includes Curtain breaking-in a wild horse, watching how working dogs are trained, meeting trick horses and a live performance from Curtain himself.

His massive success, including charting at number one on the iTunes Country Album Chart in November, has led to his Katherine Outback Experience show tour stretching across regional WA.

Curtain and his show will visit Mt Barker tomorrow at Frost Park Pavilion at 6pm.

The country party will continue at the Kalgan Stampede on Saturday and at North Albany Football Club at 3pm on Sunday.

Curtain is touring with his new album, Territory Time, and is keen to travel the country.

“I’m really enjoying hitting the road and touring the Territory Time album throughout regional WA and Queensland, to towns and communities who wouldn’t usually get these sorts of events visiting their doorstep,” he said.

“People love the show because it’s raw and real.

“There are no flashing lights or production sets.

“We provide real horse breaking and working dog demonstrations – something the general public wouldn’t usually see.”

Curtain kicked off his tour in early November in Katherine, and has moved through Kununurra, Broome, Karratha, Tom Price, Geraldton, Tamworth and Queensland, and will finish off his country spell in south-west WA.

You can purchase tickets to Curtain’s WA performances online at katherineoutbackexperience.com.au/territory-time-tour-wa.

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All about that bling

I LOVE bling.

There is no denying the fact.

Everywhere I go, no matter the circumstances, I am shining.

Be it glittery rings, glistening bracelets or sparkly necklaces, you can always see me coming a mile away.

Even that time I went crabbing down at the smelly mile, decked out in waders and a head torch, I was wearing my blingy chandelier earrings.

I think I was a magpie in a former life.

Or is it crows that like shiny stuff?

Ah well, some bird.

Which is funny, actually – I have a slight fear of birds.

Anyway, back to bling.

I don’t know when my love of bling started, but I do know where and how it started – my mum.

If you see a diamante phone case on a shop shelf, or a strawberry-flavoured jelly with glitter in it, you can guarantee either my mother or myself has purchased it at some stage.

We have glitter radars.

If anything even remotely shimmers, our eyes instantly turn to it and we head its way.

So, you can see how we have issues wandering around jewellery stores and shoe shops, and why my mum can’t understand her classroom cleaner’s dismay at her “overuse” of glitter on year 1 art projects.

Bling is my thing, and I think most people have a ‘thing’ – they just might not be aware they have it.

I think it is pretty cool to be known for having a particular trait or doing a particular thing, because it emphasises your uniqueness.

For me, it’s bling and pink things.

Put the two together?

BOOM.

Heaven on a stick.

If I could buy a Ford Mustang in a pale, pastel pink with a hint of sparkle, I’d be happy.

Actually, hmm, borderline Barbie, and I already have blonde hair…

I’ll rethink the Mustang custom job.

What I’m trying to say is that everyone deserves to shine (bad pun, I know).

If you are renowned for something, and you love that something, embrace it.

Ignore people who tease you for always carrying a yoyo with you, or for having Britney Spears custom ringtones for each of your friends, or being unable to go anywhere without three water bottles.

I’d get the odd face pulled from people when I’d rock up to the beach in glittery thongs (or “bejewelled shoes” as my mum likes to call them), or for buying the same stationery as everyone except in pink, but now I’m older, I don’t care.

Uniqueness is something that is often the cause of bullying or put-downs, which is such a shame because uniqueness makes us who we are.

We aren’t made in a factory; we are all weird and wonderful creations influenced by our parents’ DNA, our environment and trends.

Why bother trying to be a robot, saying and looking and feeling the same as the next person, when you can be you?

So, for those of you out there whose ears stick out a little bit, prefer Justin Bieber over Justin Timberlake, have hips that don’t fit skinny jeans or who’d rather stay at home instead of go out to a party, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns and be who you are.

Don’t feel the need to force yourself into a mould that society has shaped.

Be your own person, and don’t be afraid to let that person shine.

Someone told me that once, and I took them literally by becoming obsessed with bling, but hey, no matter how you shine, don’t let anyone dim that light.

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Funding boost for new festival

THE new Albany Arts Festival Season has received a helping hand from the State Government for its inaugural program that kicks off next month.

As revealed by The Weekender in December, the Albany Arts Festival will be held over three months and will incorporate local, national and international arts acts to fill the void left by the Perth International Arts Festival’s exit from the Great Southern.

On a quick visit to the Albany Entertainment Centre, Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said a modest $15,000 would be granted to the festival via the Great Southern Development Commission, with the aim of driving economic development and local job creation.

“This is world-class stuff we have here,” Ms MacTiernan said of the festival line-up.

“The festival will have things we don’t normally see in Albany, and be an important part of economic and social stimulus, as a tourism attractor.

“It will add to Albany’s rich tapestry and make a fantastic addition to the Great Southern.”

Both Ms MacTiernan and member for Albany Peter Watson were enthusiastic about the arts festival, and urged the University of Western Australia, the founder of the Perth International Arts Festival, to reconsider their move to not be involved in the event.

“The State Government did support the new Wave Energy Research Centre [new UWA Albany campus resource] with a lot of funding, so we are pushing for UWA to revisit their decision,” Ms MacTiernan said.

The Albany Arts Festival will commence in February and run until April.

Tickets for the range of performances and a list of the acts are available online at albanyentertainment.com.au.

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Green-thumbed grannies

HAVING their fellow Ingenia Gardens residents asking for more colour around the place prompted 92-year-old Esme Taylor and 99-year-old May Beach to get down and dirty and rebuild the estate’s gardens.

The pair have been at the Yakamia village for more than 10 years, and said they got straight to work on the gardens the moment they arrived.

Their efforts won Ingenia Gardens the City of Albany’s Business Garden of the Month Award for November.

“It’s just automatic for us,” Ms Taylor said of gardening.

“I had the shovel and I dug, and May planted.”

Ms Beach said when she first moved to Ingenia Gardens, there was not much to the gardens except lawn.

“We were all sitting together and some of the residents said they wanted some more colour around, so from then on, we gave them colour,” she said.

“We really transformed the garden; we’ve got fuchsias, hydrangeas, geraniums and day lilies.”

A quick turn around the garden reveals stunning pops of colour around every bend – all the handy work of Ms Taylor and Ms Beach.

With the occasional helping hand of the official resident gardener, Ms Taylor and Ms Beach today continue to keep their gardens fresh, neat and tidy.

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Ballroom blitz for twirling trio

A SILVER medal and two call-backs have left three emerging Albany ballroom dancers with smiles on their faces after returning from a Perth competition in early December.

Albany Ballroom Dance Studio students Grace Franzinelli, Lorna Ings and Kara Ings participated in the Dance Masters International Australia Christmas Pageant on December 3 at the South Perth

Civic Centre, and their studio principal Donna Foster couldn’t be happier with the girls’ results.

Ten-year-old Grace participated in the bronze star and bronze standard grades, performing the waltz, quickstep, samba and jive.

She placed second in her waltz and quickstep sections.

Twin eight-year-olds Lorna and Kara performed in the grade two slow rhythm, evening three-step and jive sections, receiving a call-back for their talented moves.

The three youngsters were among more than 100 people from across the state vying for gold in the popular Dance Masters competition.

“It was a really long day, but the girls stuck to it and they danced beautifully,” studio principal Donna Foster said.

“I am very proud of Grace’s medal and Lorna and Kara’s call-back. They were all amazing.”

Ms Foster said Dance Masters competitions were held about six times a year, but the smaller group of students and long-distance travel often restricted the dance studio to visiting Perth only once a year.

“I’d love for more people to join us, so we can take more students up there,” Ms Foster said of the Perth competitions.

For those interested in learning a few new moves, Ms Foster at Albany Ballroom Dance Studio can be contacted on 0407 980 010.

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