AT’s Rob Gordon goes tree crazy in southwest WA, visiting as many forest behemoths as he can in a single day.
When you travel through southwest WA you see some remarkable things. Austrians in socks and sandals. Huge road trains. Thick-legged Germans with fibreglass walking poles. And trees. Lots of trees.
Heading north from Albany or southeast from Margaret River you’ll see plenty of big, brown tourist signs, all encouraging tree visits. It’s like they’re shouting at you: visit as many trees as you can!
That suits us, since I’m travelling with my father. He works hard and hates wasting time, so be blowed if we’re going to leisurely visit a couple of trees and smell the roses (or eucalypts). We’re going to visit twice as many trees as anyone else in a day. According to Dad’s logic, that’s two days of holiday for the price of one.
First stop is the Valley of the Giants just outside Walpole. It’s the only one with an entrance fee ($8 adult), and rightly so. Through an intricate web of steel gangways there’s a walking path at canopy height.
The platforms are safe but wobble in a strong breeze, reminding you just how high you are. A helpful guide named Tony fields all Dad’s questions, then tells us about the “biggest tree ever”. Gotta see that.
It’s only about 15km away at the end of 5km of fire trails and a 500m walk. And it is enormous. Back in the day, this was something locals knew about and they’d park their cars within the trunk of this red tingle tree to pose for photos.
Next is the largest Jarrah tree, just outside Manjimup, which is impressive but only worth a quick stop (I’m beginning to feel treed out). Then we head off to climb the nearby Diamond Tree Lookout, used in the ’40s to spot bushfires. Worryingly, 52m straight up proves a long climb with just some flimsy looking chicken wire as protection (especially wearing thongs) and it gets very scary very quickly.
After a short climb I’m a long way up. My hands and feet are clammy. I reach the halfway point, where the council has thoughtfully placed this sign: “That was the easy part. It gets a lot harder now and if you’re having second thoughts it’s best to head back down.”
I look down. My stomach lurches. I follow its sound advice and console myself with the thought that if I wasn’t wearing thongs I’d clamber up this tree like a monkey. (Yeah, right.)
With shaking legs we zoom off to the next woody rendezvous: One Tree Bridge. This is a nice new bridge near Nannup with the trunk of an enormous tree off to one side. It was so big that, when felled, it forded the river.
A bridge was built across using the mighty trunk as a base. We move on to the Four Aces; four trees growing from a single trunk that fell two centuries ago. Impressively, you can still see the original trunk the new trees are using for nutrients.
As it grows dark we take stock: we’ve travelled 390km and seen the oldest Jarrah, the widest Tingle, the oldest Karri, the tallest Tingle and Jarrah and met a nice man called Tony. It’s been an exhausting day for me, but Dad has that smug look on his face he gets when he’s convinced he’s gotten a bargain.