Travels Downunder – Part 11

Our travellers have just spent some time watching a pod of dolphins gambolling in the breakers…

After our encounter with the dolphins at Torbay we hit the road again following the coast westward towards the most south western point of Australia, near the town of Augusta. Just past the town of Denmark, near Pemberton we saw signs for “The Gloucester Tree”. Intrigued that a single tree should be named we decided to investigate.

Turned out to be a massive karri tree, over 58 metres (190ft) tall, which had a lookout cabin built in the top of it which had been used as a fire prevention lookout post. This was constructed in 1935 and was named after the Duke of Gloucester who was Governor General of Australia at that time. To climb the tree metal rods had been hammered into the trunk forming a kind of spiral staircase all the way to the top. The rods were fairly widely spaced which meant that small people would find it difficult to climb. My wife, therefore, wisely decided not to attempt it but I thought I should give it a go. There were no safety rails or handrails, just the rods themselves. By the time I was only part way up I began to think this was not such a good idea but didn’t want to lose face so gritted my teeth and managed to get to the top. The views were absolutely amazing and looked out across the whole forest from above. Going back down was even scarier than going up and by now there were other people on their way up so passing others was a very delicate manoeuvre. I was very relieved when I finally regained terra firma. (If you Google “Gloucester Tree Australia“ you’ll see photos of it.) Feeling that was enough excitement for one day we decided to stop there for the night and found a quiet spot where I could regain my composure.

Next day we continued westward and made it to Augusta where we stayed for two nights, giving us a full day to drive down to Cape Leeuwin which is on the very southwestern tip of the country. It’s where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and apart from a lighthouse on the headland there was not a lot else to see, but very rugged, scenic countryside and well worth the trip. Leaving Augusta we set off north towards Perth, stopping at Margaret River, a famous wine growing region, en route. The southwest corner of Wester Australia is the country’s main crop growing region and is known as the wheatbelt. It seemed to us to be a lot greener and less arid than many other parts of the country. It’s just a shame that it’s such a really, really, long way away from anywhere else. Indeed Perth is nearer to Singapore than it is to Sydney.

By now it was the tail end of March, which is of course the start of autumn downunder. We were advised not to venture too far north of Perth until the end of April as the wet season up north would not be over until then. So we spent a couple of weeks exploring Perth and Fremantle and some of the hinterland around them. Perth, which sits on the estuary of the Swan River, is a beautiful city and the view from Kings Park which overlooks the city was very special