Today we left Margaret River just after 8am and drove back down the Bussell Highway, got to Karridale and realised we had miscalculated the distance to Pemberton – it would be touch-and-go whether we made it on the amount of fuel we had left. The price of petrol in Karridale was nearly 118 cents per litre, so we decided to double back down to Augusta (closer than Margaret River at this point) to fill up there. Fortunately, we were able to buy petrol for only 110 cents per litre, which more than made up for the 30km extra round-trip we had to make.
Eventually we got back to Karridale and headed east along the Brockman Highway and on to the Vasse Highway to Pemberton. We found our way to the Gloucester Tree – a massive 60m tall Karri Tree which had been turned into a fire-lookout back many decades ago. They basically climbed the tree, hammering in long metal pegs along the way to make a form of ladder which winds its way up the tree. They cut off the top of the tree and build a viewing platform where an observer would sit for long periods each day, keeping an eye out across the Karri forests looking for tell-tale signs of a fire.
These days, the tree is just a tourist attraction, with most fire spotting done with more modern technologies. They have replaced the viewing platform with something more appropriate for tourists.
We only climbed a little way up, it’s very steep and quite dangerous – and you really must be unafraid of heights to be able to climb all the way up (climbing up is actually quite easy – it’s climbing down that is the hard part). We did a bit of a walk through the forest – very peaceful and quite spectactular with the tall, majestic Karri Trees there.
After this stop, we continued on to the Western Highway, and then on to Walpole, where we stopped for lunch. Just out of Walpole, we headed along a narrow dirt track to find the Giant Tingle Tree – a massive tree that had its core (heart) burned out many years ago in a fire, but still continues to grow. The fire left a huge hole on the inside of the base of the tree, big enough to park a car in – not that you could do that now (there is an old photo on display of someone who did park their car inside back in the 50s or 60s sometime). Unlike the Karri Trees, the Tingle Trees are massive in a different way. The Karri Trees are very tall, slender, very straight trunked – almost symmetrically round. The Tingle trees are not quite as tall, but are often much broader, with some being up to 20m in diameter near the base. The Tingle Trees seem to almost twist themselves around, corkscrew-like as they grow too, making them quite fascinating to look at.
We continued up the road a few kilometers to find the Valley of the Giants, where they have recently constructed a tree-top walk through the forest. Now, I’ve been on tree-top walks before, and the often do take you through the tops of the trees – but those are not Tingle or Karri trees !! This walkway is quite an impressive feat, you can see the complicated construction work put in place to support the walkway as it towers over 40m above the forest floor, taking you literally up into the uppermost reaches of these massive trees. It is a truely spectacular sight if you can manage to get over your fears and actually look at the trees. The metal mesh floor allows you to see straight down, and the whole structure, while extremely sound and safe, does sway and bounce quite a bit in the wind and with people walking over it. The structure is so well designed, you could even take a wheelchair onto it (if you had someone assisting – it’s probably a bit steep in places for people to wheel themselves). Well worth the stop to see this if you are in the area.
After the Valley of the Giants, we continued along the South Coast Highway, through the town of Denmark and on to Albany. The coastline along here is spectacular, especially around Albany. I know we are going to have to come back here sometime to explore the area in more depth, since we are really only passing through on our fast tour of the area. We are spending the night here in Albany and will head off tomorrow back to Perth.