Walpole to Pemberton Western Australia
12 Feb 2007
|Sylvia's Comments 16 Jan to 17 Jan 2007
We left the campsite and went into Walpole to the Telecentre to use the internet. This is like a community centre network which is across the State of Western Australia. It provides fast broadband internet connection on either the centre's computers or access to plug in a laptop. It also allows people to download pictures from their cameras and burn them onto a CD. Local people can become members and access the internet and e-mails at a cheaper rate than non-members. In South Australia internet access was free through libraries but in the Telecentre it is about £2.50 per hour.
As I was working away on the laptop an older gentleman was busy repairing a computer next to me. He was having problems with one of the screws and he nearly let out an expletive, I laughed and said I thought I was going to learn some Aussie swear words to which several of the women around me laughed and commented that since last week any swear words he uttered would be Australian. It seems that George Whitwell, after 40 plus years of living in Australia swore his allegiance to Australia on 9th January 2007. Before that he was a 'pommie' hailing from Newcastle. They had held a special ceremony in the Telecentre and as well as receiving his Certificate and Oath he was also presented with the great Australian icon - a pair of rubber thongs (flip flops to all of you). George told us he had started learning about computers at the age of 73 and now aged 83 he was repairing them for the Telecentre. The staff said they would be lost without him. In the course of our conversation with George we learnt he had joined the British Army as a young man and had been stationed in Perth, Scotland so re-lived a lot of his memories with us.
We left the Telecentre and did some shopping then headed for the jetty to park and make lunch. Walpole is surrounded by the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and sits on the Walpole Inlet. It is approximately 262 miles south of Perth and was established in the 1930's through the Normalup Land Settlement Scheme that was designed for city families hit by the Great Depression. It has a population of 450 but more than doubles in the holiday season when people come for fishing, boating, and bushwalking and just to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the place. In the season, June to September, it is a popular place for whale watching when the Southern Right and the Humpback return to breed. From the jetty you can take a cruise into the heart of the National Park.
After lunch we set off on the Hilltop Road winding our way through a special red tingle and karri forest. The Red Tingle can be 16 metres around the base, grow to a height of 60 metres tall and live for up to 400 years. Large buttressed bases are often a feature of red tingle as they have relatively small root systems and grow in shallow soils, the trees develop these buttresses to support themselves. Today the only occurrence of these trees is in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park due to the surrounding high rainfall area where it rains the equivalent of 185 day each year.
Hilltop Road is a winding, steep dirt road and luckily it is one way so we had no worries about meeting anyone coming down, although I don't know who would have had the worries if we had met anyone. Just over a mile up the road we arrived at a spectacular look out over the Frankland River, Nornalup Inlet and the Southern Ocean. Well that is how the guide book describes it. Good job they put a seat there as you have to stand on it to have any chance of seeing anything as the trees and bush are a little overgrown. Being taller Jeff had a better view than me but I did think he was mean not letting me sit on his shoulders.
Further up the drive we came to the car park for the Giant Tingle Tree. From here you start on an 800 metre circular walk which leads down to the Giant Tingle Tree. At 24 metres, this is the largest, living girthed eucalypt known in the world. The tree was discovered by accident when a local man was building a fire break in the forest. The road was widened to allow people access to it. At one point you could walk around and through the tree, but to protect the shallow root system a boardwalk has been built around it. On the information board there is a photo of a car parked in the centre of it.
We returned to the main road and set off for our next destination, Pemberton. The drive was a very pretty one through the Shannon National Park, the Brockman National Park and the Warren National Park. After spending a number of days driving through the Wheatbelt area it was refreshing to be amongst these lovely old trees.
The camp site at Pemberton was set amongst the trees and within easy walking distance of the town. Pemberton was occupied by the Aboriginal people for at least 40,000 years before white explorers discovered Australia. Soon after the settlement at King George Sound (Albany) in the early 1800's,the first white explorers found their way, by accident, to this part of the country. At first they were impressed by the sheer size of the trees and often remarked with awe of the beauty of the forest. This awe soon turned to thoughts of economic returns on the big trees and attempts to form a timber industry soon began. The first schemes failed due to lack of transport. It wasn't till the late 1800's and early 1900's when the timber industry began to flourish and the railways arrived.
In 1920 a new population boom occurred when "free" land was offered to group settlers in order to establish a dairy industry. Many of these settlers were British ex-service men who had returned from the war to face unemployment. Life was tough and many of the families did not stay on, as the clearing of the forest, surviving the great depression and making payments to the government was just too difficult. Today Pemberton is a tourist and wine growing area although the forestry work still goes on.
The next morning saw us up and off to take the tram ride deep into the forest. Our guide was very informative and we learnt a lot about the trees, fauna and history of the area. The tram runs along the old railway line and crosses over a number of trestle bridges. It is run and maintained by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. There is also a steam train that goes over another route, (it is too heavy for the trestle bridges) but it only runs on holidays and at special weekends.
The forest consists of Karrie and Jarrah trees. Jarrah is a very hard wood and was sent all over the world because of this. The guide told us that a lot was shipped to the UK and that the streets of London and other major cities were paved with jarrah and karri blocks. Jarrah is now used to make furniture and around the area local craftsmen are producing some lovely pieces made from this wood. It has a rich dark red colour and where the sap has been, there are streaks of dark red running through it. We visited one workshop at another town a few days later. We were told that furniture made from jarrah wood would last a life time and appreciate in value.
After the tram trip we went for a walk around the town to view the old wooden houses our guide had told us about. These were originally built for the workers at the timber mill and when no loner required by them, were practically given away. They now have preservation orders on them, the insides can be remodelled but the outside must remain as it is.
We then returned to the camp site and had a nice lazy afternoon.