27 July 2002
On our overnight trip to the southern-most point of Western Australia, we left the camper trailer in Dunsborough and booked a chalet just outside of Albany. Given how cold the south-west corner had turned out to be in mid-winter, we were not keen to rough it.
We got up as early as we could, which wasn’t very early. It doesn’t get light in this part of the world until about 7.00 a.m., and in the comfort of a house, we tend to stay up somewhat later than we do when we are camping. We had breakfast, packed the car, and set off.
Our first stop was the Gloucester Tree near Pimberton. This is a 61 m tall tree with a platform at the top. All the way up the trunk there are spikes driven deep into the wood so that you can climb up. This crude ladder is enclosed in a wire net, so that it would be pretty hard to fall, but nevertheless, 60 m is a long way up when it comes to climbing a tree.
The kids shot up first without any qualms at all. Cate and Susie and I followed more cautiously behind. I never looked down until I reached the top. You could feel the platform at the top of the tree swaying in the breeze which was a bit unnerving, but the view was magnificent.
When we got down from the tree, we found Ruby and Clare covered with Western Rosellas. A bloke had turned up in a car with bags of birdseed, and he had attracted a crowd of beautiful rosellas, plus the odd pigeon and tree-creeper, which were quite tame. The birds would eat from your hand and sit on your shoulder and head while waiting for a turn. Clare, who has become a great animal lover on this trip, couldn’t get enough of this. We practically had to drag the girls into the car to move on.
Our next diversion was a drive through the Shannon National Park – a kind of guided bushwalk on wheels through a forest. There were several stops where you could pull over and tune into a commentary on an FM frequency on the car radio. We learnt how to tell the difference between the Jarrah, Karri, and Marri trees, and we and marvelled at the giants among them.
We pulled into the Shannon National Park ground for lunch, and found a charming and (best of all) totally deserted picnic spot. It would have made a great little camping spot, with a picnic table, a barbeque and poinsettia trees. It would also have been very cold at night, however.
After another lunch of sandwiches made with leftover pork, we left the currawongs to clean up the picnic table, and drove on to the treetop walk in the Valley of the Giants.
The walk consisted largely of a series of wooden ramps suspended in the canopy of some huge trees. It was interesting enough, but what really caught our attention was the forest floor walk nearby. This took us past some very old trees. Several had burnt out and fallen, and were uncanny with their giant roots exposed. One tree was about 400 years old, and it was interesting to contemplate a living thing that had seen so much of modern history pass by. Unfortunately we weren’t able to loiter there for long, since closing time came and went, and the attendants turfed us out.
We drove on for another 100 km, through Albany and out the other side, to a small farm with a couple little chalets. We arrived to a nice warm pot-bellied stove roaring away in the corner, and were soon gobbling up the spaghetti bolognaise I had prepared the night before, whilst Suz laboured over pizzas. After dinner I played hide-and-seek with the girls, but everyone’s attention was soon consumed by the idiot box in the corner. The girls were herded into bed with some difficulty afterwards, and Susie and Cate watched more telly while I wrote. Now the telly is off, they’re chatting by the fire while Cate draws with a pencil and Susie works on a tapestry.