Northam to Albany

Saturday, Oct 03, 2009 at 13:23


Back to previous chapter - Mullewa to Northam

While we were rejoicing at once more being among real trees, we remembered that big trees need rain - and the rain this year has been later and heavier. How will we cope with our camping set-up that works fine for desert conditions, but is relatively untested for longer periods in wind and rain. We are about to find out!

Via a couple of bush camps we headed on forest tracks towards Warnbro near Rockingham, where we spent a weekend with Don and Sheryl and their family. They are rellies of Val’s whom we hadn’t seen for nearly 40 years. So it was great to catch up, exclaim at family likenesses and meet the next generations.

As we left them, heading south the forecasts were not too encouraging. There was strong wind as we headed towards Bunbury, so in an effort to get away from the wind we headed for Wellington Dam NP, where there was less wind but more rain. We were the only campers crazy enough to be there.

Next morning the rain had cleared revealing a lovely spot with walks along a big pool in the river. After a bit of exploration we set off to see the “King Jarrah” a mighty tree viewed from a viewing platform. The forest had a surprise in store for us as; near Lowden we happened on a veritable city of gnomes. Hundreds of gnomes have lived there for 20 years or more and each year the population increases, courtesy of many visitors who come to share the fun.

We continued south through many little communities with names ending in “up” which apparently means “the place of”. South of Manjimup we visited the Diamond Tree, one of 8 giant karri trees that have been set up as fire tower trees complete with observation platform and spiral ladder. This tree is open for climbing but we did not go more than a couple of the 51 metres to the top. Then on towards Pemberton via tourist trails taking us to places associated with the forestry history of the area, like the arboretum. The “100 year forest” was a wheat field in the 1870s and is now a forest of big Karri trees.

The Pemberton tourist centre doubles as a logging museum and there are some great photos of the forest when it was being opened up. From the relative comfort of our Troopy we reflected on what a hard life it must have been for those early pioneers, coping with wet, cold and windy conditions for much of the year.

The weather has been good for the past couple of days but now the forecast is for severe weather and gale force winds. At least down among the trees it is calm and there is some sun occasionally. The Gloucester Tree is another fire tree, and being close to town is a busy tourist attraction. There are a number of walking trails around it, and we were able to explore around some of these stately trees. Being so tall they are hard to photograph but the colours and texture of the forest more than compensate.

From Pemberton we headed to Walpole to see the giant red Tingle trees, along the way taking in some of the Great Forest Trees Drive. This took us through jarrah and karri forest where there were even some wildflowers out. Winds of 125kph were forecast for tomorrow so Peaceful Bay seems an appropriate destination. The small caravan park there has a good camp kitchen, which became our home for a couple of days until the wild weather abated. This was a good opportunity to catch up on some computer work, make phone calls and generally relax as best we could while watching huge swells breaking far out to sea.

With showers easing it’s off to the Valley of the Giants and the Treetop Walk. We arrived early so there were not too many others to share our treetop experience. The 600 metres long treetop walk is designed to sway a bit, but the substantial handrails forestall any queasiness and we were able to enjoy our bird’s eye view of the forest.

The walk around the Ancient Empire took us among many huge tingle trees. These massive eucalypts have a distinctive hollow bulbous base that is often opened up by decay and fire. Early photos on display show cars parked inside some of these trees. Today, those not protected by boardwalks provided good shelter from the frequent showers.

Back towards Walpole we saw a really giant tingle, probably 10 metres in diameter inside the base. The tree is very old but still an impressive sight. There are some great views around Walpole, looking out over the inlets where the water was relatively calm despite the strong wind. Cosy Corner beckoned and it lived up to its name as we found shelter under a thick stand of ti-trees. There was a friendly bandicoot and a lot of wildflowers in the heath.

This southern coast of WA has much to offer and it is strikingly different from other parts of the state. The glossy tourist brochures don’t mention the weather, but this year even the locals were complaining about the rain and cold. We haven’t always been totally comfortable, but we have come through pretty well. And we have been travelling in comfort compared to hikers on the 1000km long Perth to Albany Bibbulmun Track.

Forward to next chapter - Albany to Fitzgerald River NP

J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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