Pemberton to Walpole

Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
Trip End Jan 28, 2005

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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Day 192 - Fri Nov 5th
Leaving Margaret River we followed the Caves Road south to Hamelin Bay, where we had a lovely walk on the desserted beach, with only a few gulls and the remnants of an old pier for company.

Continuing south we passed through the small coastal town of Augusta on our way to Cape Leeuwin, Australias most south westerly spot. This is the place where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet and as you hope when you visit an end of the world spot, it was blowing a hoolie and the sea was rough and thundering onto the huge smooth rocks.

A beautiful area, where the wild flower filled vegetation fills all the nooks and crannies between giant boulders and the backdrop is dominated by the towering lighthouse. Lizards and snakes love it here, so Rene as well as being blue with cold was uneasy. We saw several lizards but thankfully no snakes.

Heading inland then southeast we drove about 130km to a town called Pemberton. Nestled deep in the tall Karri forest, Pemberton is a timber town, although once again this area is dotted with vineyards. We've timed our visit to coincide with tomorrows Pemberton wine festival, which is nice.

With the town virtually fully booked, we were lucky to get a slightly bigger than a cupboard room at the YHA, but they have a large friendly cat and chickens so big you could sadlle them (outside, not in the room) so it wasn't all bad.

3km from Pemberton is Gloucester National Park, famous for its tree lookout. The 60 metre high Gloucester Tree was chosen as a fire look out in 1947, one of a network built in the Karri forest between 1937 and 1952. The tree was named after the Governor General of Australia, His Royal Highness the Duke of gloucester, who was visiting Pemberton as the lookout was being built. It's an incredible towering Karri tree, with these two feet long metal rods protruding out from the trunk and spiraling gently round it all the way up to the platform at the top. The gap between each rod was about 2 feet. There are no safety nets, its just a free climb.

Amazingly, anyone can have a go at climbing up. There's no waivers to sign. As we arrived there was a bit of a crowd standing round the tree and a guy of about 50 coming down the last few rods, he received a warm round of applause as the rest of his group had started but not finished the climb.

Silently I really wanted to do it, but I'm not good with heights and imagined becoming stuck halfway up and unable to move. Amongst the onlookers was a man of about 70 who was sat, as you do, in one of those fancy mobility wheelchairs, looking up at the trees. I thought I'd bet he'd love to be able to climb the tree, don't be such aa wuss and get up it.

40 foot up I discovered that false bravado lasts about a minute, then my brain reengaged, realised what I was doing and decided a panic attack would get me back down. It was that horrible feeling you get (well I do) when close to a cliff edge, that you're being pulled over, only this time I was going to let go of the rods. I really thought my heart was going to explode. But it didn't, and I literally got a grip. I didn't look down again and just concentrated on the next rod up and grasped my way to the top. I briefly looked out from 190 feet up, so Rene could get a photo, apparently it's a spectacular view, then quickly started down again. It was trickier coming down, especially when I met 2 Italians ascending and I had to climb back up again.

Back at ground level I couldn't hide my big grin and shaky legs.

Rene was chatting to Bert, the man in the wheelchair, who was suffering with M.S. and comes up to the tree everyday to feed the birds and talk to visitors. On the front of his scooter chair he had a small bucket with a lid, full of bird seed amd everytime he took out some seed he was inundated with rainbow coloured birds, on his head, his arms and all over his moby. Bert wasn't daft and was offering out birdseed to visitors on the unspoken presumption they'd put money in his coin pot, also on the front of his scooter. Rene and I obviously did, and there we stood covered in Western Rosellas and 28 Parrotts (this parrott makes the sound 28 when its startled) until the seed ran out.

Bert told us that children from Europe often ask him if he brings his birds up here everyday as they only ever see these beautiful colourful birds in pet shops and don't realise they're wild.

As a fully qualified tree hugger its a joy to be driven through top notch colossal forest, even Rene gasped at the girths and lengths on display.

Our YHA free beer tokens meant we paid a visit to The Pemberton Hotel (the only pub) for a couple of midis of Carlton Draught. The front section of bar was full of dusty wood mill workers and out the back was another of those bookmaker bars, where customers place bets on the screened 'charriot racing'. Very odd.

A poster on the wall of the bar informed us we were going to miss the 'Manjunip Rev Heads Fest!' and therefore wouldn't be able to sample the delights of drag racing, the tyre burnout challenge, Miss Rev Head wet T shirt or the 2004 Rev Head stereo blast off. We're gutted.

As part of tomorrows festival, an apparently very well known Aussie group 'Arrows of Sorrow' were performing tonight in Pemberton. Being such a small town, we wrongly presumed it would be outside. Unfortunately, the steady flow of locals ended up at the community centre, where the tickets were $30 each. We spent a slightly surreal evening in the YHA communal lounge. Being a fairly chilly evening, the wood fire in the lounge had attracted quite a crowd, and by the time we turned up with our mugs of tea, the 3 sofas were virtually full. But we squeezed on and had the usual awkward 5 minutes you get when you sit amongst total strangers who are watching neighbours. Thankfully the end came swift, allowing the breakout of pleasantries and banal chatter.

A young couple from Bristol, another pair from South Korea and a lad from Manchester turned out to be long termers at the hostel, earning money to continue travelling working in vineyards and tomarillo farms.

A 70 year old Dutch couple and a 75 year old lady from Bolton were the other couch fillers. Backpacking has no age limits.

We chatted and half watched the film 'Charlies Angels'. Bikini clad Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz had Grandpa Dutch engrossed and Grandma Dutch tutting from behind her mug of horlicks.

In a country of a million square miles of kindling, bon fire night is a non starter.

Expenses: Accom 38, cream tea 9.90, inet 6, dinner 19

Day 193 - Sat 6th November
Surrounded by the forest, it's no surprise that southwest WA contains a large number of woodworkers. Pemberton has a great gallery featuring many of the regions furniture makers. It was fine quality and we spent an hour touching, opening and looking underneath, well I did, Rene was more interested in Essie the resident Jack Russell (not a patch on you though Beryl).

Blue skies and warm sun were good news for the Pemberton Marron and Wine Festival. A marron is a lobster/crayfish creature which seems to be farmed locally. Having decided to head to Walpole in the afternoon it was left to me to wine taste. $10 got us entrance to the wine tent and me a glass. THere was about a dozen wineries offering samples and I did my best to sample as many as I could. Rene eventually removed me to the food tent for a bite to eat and we sat outside on the grass watching Edward de Bozo sculpt balloons for children.

To be honest, apart from the wine and food tents there wasn't a huge amount going on, but the place was packed and as we left the local part time firemen were cutting an old car in half much to the delight of all the watching children.

Luckily, as I was slouched in the afterglow of a Gloucester Ridge cabernet sauvignon, the road to Walpole required no map reading. Walpole is a tiny (450 pop)town and nestles on the edge of the picturesque Walpole inlet which is connected by a small channel to the larger Nornalup inlet which is connected by a small channel to the open sea at Rocky Head.

Walople - Nornalup National Park covers some 18,000 hectares and encircles the town. Within its boundaries are forests of tingle and Karri, unspoilt coastline and prisitne beaches. By the time we've found accomodation in nearby Nornalup it was late afternoon, so we took the Hilltop Road which winds through a very special Red Tingle and Karri forest. 5km in we parked up and followed an 800m circular walk which leads down to the 'Giant Tingle Tree'. Surrounded by raised boardwalks to protect its roots this monster has a 24 metre girth and is the largest living eucalypt in the world. It looks odd, as all the heartwood has been destroyed by fire, leaving a vast hollowed out trunk, but the trees food supply is just below the bark so its alive and well. Not a soul about so it was very tranquil walking amongst these ancient trees.

The road to Conspicuous Beach was unsealed and very bumpy, but totally worth the half hour drive. The steep walk up to the clifftop lookout provides us with a birdseye view of this wild and beautiful place. A perfect half moon bay, tipped by rocky headlands and ringed with white sand, which was being pummelled by waves whipped up by a very strong south easterly.

Down on the desserted beach we had a run around then sheltered between sandunes covered in reeds and wildflowers and watched the deafening waves. The wind was cool and penetrating but we soon warmed up climbing back up to the lookout to watch the sun set.

Had I been a sentimental unmarried romantic fool waiting for the perfect moment to pop the question to the girl of my dreams, the sort of moment that would increase your chances from 50-50 to 90-10, then this moment, with the sun just sinking into the horizon and turning the quilted maple high clouds crimson orange, when a solitary humpback whale leapt from the ocean like a trout after a fly before diappearing in an explosion of splash, yes this moment would be it.

But I'm not and I never siad I was. A girl like Rene has special needs (has, not is) and I knew the question to make her brown eyes sparkle and her legs tremble. "Shall we stop for chips on the way back?".

Expenses: Accom 85, smarket 28.10, fuel 43.60, wine and lunch 23.50
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