Today we left Margaret River just after 8am and drove back down the Bussell Highway, got to Karridale and realised we had miscalculated the distance to Pemberton – it would be touch-and-go whether we made it on the amount of fuel we had left. The price of petrol in Karridale was nearly 118 cents per litre, so we decided to double back down to Augusta (closer than Margaret River at this point) to fill up there. Fortunately, we were able to buy petrol for only 110 cents per litre, which more than made up for the 30km extra round-trip we had to make.
Eventually we got back to Karridale and headed east along the Brockman Highway and on to the Vasse Highway to Pemberton. We found our way to the Gloucester Tree – a massive 60m tall Karri Tree which had been turned into a fire-lookout back many decades ago. They basically climbed the tree, hammering in long metal pegs along the way to make a form of ladder which winds its way up the tree. They cut off the top of the tree and build a viewing platform where an observer would sit for long periods each day, keeping an eye out across the Karri forests looking for tell-tale signs of a fire.
These days, the tree is just a tourist attraction, with most fire spotting done with more modern technologies. They have replaced the viewing platform with something more appropriate for tourists.
We only climbed a little way up, it’s very steep and quite dangerous – and you really must be unafraid of heights to be able to climb all the way up (climbing up is actually quite easy – it’s climbing down that is the hard part). We did a bit of a walk through the forest – very peaceful and quite spectactular with the tall, majestic Karri Trees there.
After this stop, we continued on to the Western Highway, and then on to Walpole, where we stopped for lunch. Just out of Walpole, we headed along a narrow dirt track to find the Giant Tingle Tree – a massive tree that had its core (heart) burned out many years ago in a fire, but still continues to grow. The fire left a huge hole on the inside of the base of the tree, big enough to park a car in – not that you could do that now (there is an old photo on display of someone who did park their car inside back in the 50s or 60s sometime). Unlike the Karri Trees, the Tingle Trees are massive in a different way. The Karri Trees are very tall, slender, very straight trunked – almost symmetrically round. The Tingle trees are not quite as tall, but are often much broader, with some being up to 20m in diameter near the base. The Tingle Trees seem to almost twist themselves around, corkscrew-like as they grow too, making them quite fascinating to look at.
We continued up the road a few kilometers to find the Valley of the Giants, where they have recently constructed a tree-top walk through the forest. Now, I’ve been on tree-top walks before, and the often do take you through the tops of the trees – but those are not Tingle or Karri trees !! This walkway is quite an impressive feat, you can see the complicated construction work put in place to support the walkway as it towers over 40m above the forest floor, taking you literally up into the uppermost reaches of these massive trees. It is a truely spectacular sight if you can manage to get over your fears and actually look at the trees. The metal mesh floor allows you to see straight down, and the whole structure, while extremely sound and safe, does sway and bounce quite a bit in the wind and with people walking over it. The structure is so well designed, you could even take a wheelchair onto it (if you had someone assisting – it’s probably a bit steep in places for people to wheel themselves). Well worth the stop to see this if you are in the area.
After the Valley of the Giants, we continued along the South Coast Highway, through the town of Denmark and on to Albany. The coastline along here is spectacular, especially around Albany. I know we are going to have to come back here sometime to explore the area in more depth, since we are really only passing through on our fast tour of the area. We are spending the night here in Albany and will head off tomorrow back to Perth.
We started off our tour of South-west WA heading out of Perth, south along the Canning Highway. We followed the coast south – quite a bit slower than taking the freeway, but much more interesting and picturesque.
We kept to the coast all the way through Rockingham, then down as far as Mandurah, then got onto the main highway and continued down past Bunbury, Capel and on to Busselton, where we stopped for some lunch.
After lunch, we headed west through Dunsborough, and then up to Cape Naturaliste. We wanted to go and look at the lighthouse and look at some of the views from the area, but it was very cold, windy, and drizzling – and we would have to wait for the next tour to get to the lighthouse and we just didn’t have time, so we continued on.
From here, we headed south along the Caves Road all the way down to Augusta, where we stopped to look at the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and the old waterwheel. Pity about the weather – bitterly cold. Was interesting to see the most south-westerly point of Australia, and the point at which the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. Some pretty large seas happening in the strong winds – would hate to have been out in it !
After Augusta, we headed back north up the Bussell Highway to Margaret River, where we stayed the night. Pity we didn’t have time to spend looking around the area – it looks like a lovely place !
Today we started off by driving down to the Swan Bells by the Barrack Street Ferry Terminal – we were a little early for them to open, so we spent some time wandering through some of the souvenir shops. Note to self – we have more than enough fridge magnets already, don’t let Leanne near any more souvenir shops.
The Swan Bells is a bell tower built fairly recently with bells donated from England. They built a bell tower and observation deck that provides great views of the city and river districts. You can also see the bells themselves – and when being rung it is quite a fascinating sight. They also do demonstrations of bell ringing so you can see how it all works too. Very interesting all up – well worth the time.
We then drove up to Kings Park and proceeded to spend the rest of the day wandering through the park, botanic gardens and war memorials there. It’s a huge park and extremely well looked after – a lot of care and attention is put into the maintenance and features of the park. We took the tram tour which also included the University of Western Australia nearby – where they pointed out all the old buildings and their history – it’s a beautiful area.
The people of Perth are very lucky to have such a wonderful park so close to their CBD – it really is a lovely place , very peaceful and relaxing with some fantastic views of Perth and the Swan River too. We enjoyed our day there.
Home tonight packing up ready to leave early tomorrow morning as we drive south to explore the south-western corner of WA. More on that tomorrow night (if the place we are staying at has a usable phone line I can dial in with – otherwise it will be later in the week before my next update !).
Got up early today, jumped in the car and headed north up the Wanneroo Highway to Yanchep National Park then across to the Brand Highway, then further north to Cervantes. We stopped for some lunch, before driving in to the Nambung National Park to drive around the awesome Pinnacles. Quite spectacular. Pity about the weather ! We got a few dry minutes to get out, wander around and take some photos.
After a while looking around Nambung National Park, we headed down the road to Lake Thetis to see the Stromatolites. Round chunks of rock in a lake is how some might describe them ! They are actually the fossilised remains of a colony or mat of “cyanobacteria” – commonly (and mistakenly) known as “blue-green algae”.
Finally, we drove up to Jurien Bay, had a look around, and then headed back to Perth along the Brand Highway. Got back just after 7pm – quite a long trip.
Today was a fairly simple day – slept in a bit, caught the Red CAT across town to collect a rental car, then drove to the Perth Zoo and spent the day there.
I’ll write more about Perth Zoo later, possibly on the ZooBeat Forums rather than here. I will post some photos in the gallery when I get around to processing them too.
Needless to say, we both really enjoyed Perth Zoo – it’s a very pretty zoo with well established gardens and lots of tall trees and grasses (bamboo everywhere !!). The Orang-utans (orangutangs) are a real treat at Perth Zoo, and they certainly didn’t disappoint today.
I must comment on the weather at this point – since we arrived on Tuesday (when it was a bit wet and drizzly), we have had increasingly beautiful days with great sunshine, mild temperatures and gentle breezes. We have been spoiled these last few days, and have really enjoyed the weather. I’m taking the time to mention this now, since the forecast does not look as good for the rest of our stay here in Perth, so I might not be so enthusiastic about it after tomorrow ! We did expect it to be cold and wet anyway (given it’s the middle of winter right now !!) – so we feel we have done really well to get so many lovely days as we have.