The day dawned bright but mornings are feeling quite autumnal, with a nip in the air. Nevertheless we breakfasted outside.
We decided to have a ‘domestic’ morning as washing was beginning to build up. After breakfast we had a trip into Walpole and the supermarket before taking a short walk around an area which was the horse pound for the early settlers. Apparently the horses used to pull the huge cartloads of timber were kept on this land together with the communal horses loaned out to new settlers who could not afford horses of their own. It is now a wooded area reached by a board walk. We like boardwalks. We haven’t experienced one of those for sometime!!
We returned to the campsite to do the washing and have a light lunch and then set out for what was to prove to be an extraordinary experience, the Valley of the Giants tree top walk in the tingle forest.
First some history of the area. Over 180 million years ago there was a land mass which included Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, Africa, India and South America. It is known as Gondwana.
Over time this started to break up and approximately 45 million years ago, Australia finally separated from Antartica and drifted north, carrying with it plants and animals of Gondwana. Although Australia has experienced significant climatic change since this time, the south west area of Western Australia has experienced far less change than other areas which has enabled many of the Gondwanan species to survive.
For 38,000 years the Noongar Aboriginal tribe lived in the area. Europeans arrived in the 1820’s, with Albany seeing settlers arrive in 1826, Denmark (an area a little further along the coast) in 1896 and Walpole in 1910. Initially the settlers did not do very well and by 1924 74% had left. However, as early as 1910 the area was seen as attractive to tourists and it was made a National Park.
One of the main attractions are the tingle trees that can be found only in Walpole and its immediate surrounds. Tingle trees can live for 400 years and grow up to 75 meters tall and can have a base circumference of 20 meters. They have extremely shallow and sensitive roots and in order to preserve them, the construction of a Tree Top Walk was started in 1995. It opened in 1996. I am proud to say that the Gregory’s walked it in 2017!
No mean feat when you learn that at its highest you walk on a narrow, metal mesh footway that reaches at one point 40 meters above the ground (and the trees are still higher!). And it moves. It is built ‘to sway slightly as you walk to give the sensation of being in the canopy of the forest’. I think there is sometimes the issue of taking realism too far…..
It was incredible thing from every perspective and no photographs can do it justice i.e. show just how high up you are and how tall the trees are around you or the sensation of walking on a very flimsy metal highway. We had the good fortune to do it when there were very few other people about. Notices say that no more than 10 should walk out on any ‘span’ at any one time. I cannot imagine what it would be like with 10 people – it was hairy enough with 2!
Having vertigo and 40 meter drops are not a good combination and we soon began the descent. (Keith had had enough, but I did it again as the sun came out later and I wanted to see if I could get some better pictures. I went round on my own – it was awesome in the true sense of the word. It was one of those special life moments.)
The Tree Top Walk is not the only experience in this amazing place. Next came the ancient forest ground walk – equally magical in its own way. For there we were at the bottom of these huge trees that have a knack of having a hollowed out base. These hollows have been created over time by fire, fungal or insect attack. The broad root system, although shallow, spreads to give the trees more stability. What you see is enormous holes in the bottom of the tree. It was a fabulous place.
We did eventually tear ourselves away, both made up with the experience.
Back at the campsite the washing was dry and it just remained the steak to be put on the barbecue and we had a great supper too. An excellent day.
Tomorrow we move on to Albany, the furthest east we are to travel in Western Australia.