Friday, February 13, 2009 – Among the tall trees
We set out this morning to travel among some of the largest trees in all of Australia, on the order of the Valley of the Giants in northern California. Our route was through villages ending in “up” – Boyanup, Mullalyup, Manjimup, Nannup, Balingup. Among the Aborigines of this part of the country, “up” means “water”, a critical designation for nomadic peoples.
We stopped for coffee in a village without an “up” but with a name still related to water: Bridgetown. We’d barely left the car park when Robin saw someone in a passing car give him a friendly wave. He figured someone had mistaken him for his twin until someone tapped him on the shoulder and called out, “Robin Jarman?”
Sure enough, a couple of his APT tour members from last May recognized him. Half a world away from where he’d led them on a tour of the Canadian Rockies, Tony and Chris Bradley were surprised to see him on the street of their small town. They’d moved to Bridgetown from Perth only a year ago. Two weeks ago their house was a block away from being burned by a bush fire. We invited them to join us for coffee, and by the time we left the 1896 Café Robin and I were already looking forward to the next visit with this friendly couple.
Our farthest destination was Pemberton, gateway to the Karri Forest. Only in this corner of the world do these giant trees grow, the tallest trees in Western Australia. The tallest karris reach 90 metres, some ten metres shorter than ancient redwoods. Explorers prized them for their long, straight trunks, ideal for sailing masts.
Like many other eucalyptus varieties, karris lose their bark in summer, allowing the trees to breathe when the heat rises. Their name, Eucalyptus diversicolor, refers to the multi-coloured trunks. The outer bark of the karri changes colour as it matures. The peeling bark gives a karri forest a mottled appearance, a mix of orange, grey, white, and pink that glows when sun penetrates the thick cover of leaves.
In Warren National Park we stopped to see the famous Gloucester Tree. One of the fire lookouts built in trees in the area, the Gloucester has a spiral of pegs reaching to its top. Sixty metres off the ground, an observation deck allowed the fire warden an unhampered view of the surrounding forest. No longer used for fire watch, the three remaining lookout trees are now beloved of tourists, the braver of whom climb to the decks.
Robin was one of the braver, climbing a third of the way up. Even that height was too much for me. Anyway, someone has to stay on the ground to take the pictures.
Purple-headed lorikeets are park residents. This one eyed us for possible handouts. The other photo is of a bird the size of a dove, obviously unafraid of the human looming over her. Does anyone recognize the kind of bird she is?
In Beedleup National Park we walked the trail to the falls and then circled around to cross the swinging bridge, site of this photo. In winter it’s a bona fide torrent. This time of year it’s a trickle. In a water-starved land, it’s worth a stop any time of the year.