Pemberton to Nannup. Western Australia.
12 Feb 2007
|Jeff. 18 January 2007
This was another very hot day. The Australian Open Tennis competition has suffered delays through heat and power has been down in parts of Melbourne due to bush fires near by.
Pemberton has a very good museum situated in the Tourist Office and we enjoyed browsing in the air conditioned atmosphere. However, today we seek out the Gloucester Tree.
This tree is named after the Duke of Gloucester who picnicked at the time the top was being lopped off whilst he watched the hard work being done. They could have named it 'lazy beggar' but were a bit more deferential in those days.
The Gloucester Tree is one of 13 fire watch trees built between 1937 and 1953 from 40 trees which were selected and climbed to assess suitability. It is 58 metres high, (almost 200 feet), and has a girth of 7.3 metres, (about 24 feet). The 'fire watcher' would hope to have a quiet and boring time, however if they saw smoke it was reported by telephone and fire fighters would attend the location very quickly. The fire watch trees were invaluable with regards to preservation of the forests.
Using his own equipment, designed by himself, Jack Watson used a belt and climbing boots to climb the tree, contending with branches from the height of 130 metres and established a world record at the time. Having selected the tree as suitable for the purpose of 'fire watching', the next task was to drill holes and drive in 153 metal pitons to form a ladder up the tree. The driller of the holes would sit on his last piton whilst drilling the hole for the next. A single man would lop off the top of the tree and then timber would be hauled up to build a substantial platform.
The tree is no longer used for fire watching but is one of three trees used as a tourist attraction. A loose chain metal cage hangs at the outside of the piton ladder and you climb at your own risk; many do so each year.
On arrival we were greeted by a local parrot which became disappointed when we took its photograph without giving it any reward other than a thank you. Sylvia got about a dozen rungs from the ground but the spiralling effect distorted the gaze if looking up or down and she felt very disorientated. I quickly went back down to allow her to descend; a young man and his partner said, "You are blowing already". The rungs were wide spaced and most people were stepping up with one foot and joining it with the other before taking the next rung.
With the benefit of my long legs I quickly climbed the tree, stopping twice and taking care when negotiating the area where the tree's limbs were. I was at the top 4 minutes before the young couple which gave me time to stop my panting and act nonchalantly when they arrived. If you like to see a very long distance with a 360 degree view of many tree tops fringed at the far edges by fields, then this is the place to be.
On my return to the ground I found Sylvia had videoed part of my descent. We strolled the 400 and 800 metre forest walking trails before heading for Nannup. The route past by the Diamond Tree which is still one of the few in use as a fire watch tree, and is available for tourists to climb. My leg muscles were feeling a little stretched and I was pleased when Sylvia suggested we continue on our way. Maybe I will climb it at some future date; and maybe I will consider the increasing soreness, as the day went on, of my inside leg muscles, (just above the knees), and decide to rest on my laurels.
Nannup proved to be a very nice town though we were a little perturbed when we saw the height of the flood water in 1982. The Tourist Office which was situated in the old jail had been 2 foot under water and this was at the top of the hill. We parked near by and in 1982 would have been completely under water.
On the main street was a furniture shop with the carpenter working in the back room. The photographs of the wonderful dark jarrah wood furniture do not do the carpenters work full justice. Before leaving the shop Sylvia bought the yellow tee shirt. After passing several shops we arrived at 'Baldies' fish and chip shop where there was a choice of 8 types of fish. We returned later and the ones we chose were delicious. I had intended to take my 'C U Jimmy' hat and ask the owner to pose for a picture, but I forgot.
After our walk around the town we toured Blythe Gardens for the cost of a 1 or 2 dollar donation, (42 to 84p). This was very interesting and we were surprised to find a mounted certificate from the Guinness Book of Records and a photo of a news paper cutting depicting the highest ever dahlia tree; grown in this garden. Unfortunately we either missed it or it was no longer their.
A walk down to the river took us by the old railway bridge which has a new top built on the massive wooden trestles and is used as a pedestrian bridge. From the bridge we studied a tree which has all the years of flooding recorded on the tree trunk with the year 1982 high up in the branches. The river has flooded 5 out of the last 6 years, as much as 13 feet. This is attributed to the clearance of trees from the hills where the river has its source.
Nannup is a smashing little town surrounded by hills and forests. However one of my lasting memories will be of the frog, (it looked big to me), in the male showers. Fortunately it did not come and share mine or I may have had to blind fold it. Another user of the camp site told me that when he spent two weeks way up north he was told to always put the toilet seat down. It seems you can lift up the toilet seat and find some small frogs playing in the bowl, and have to flush them away. It you leave the seat up, on return you will find a bowl full of various sized frogs enjoying themselves.
There are interesting times ahead.