Even though we keeping hearing about Australia’s poor soil, we have seen many bodaciously huge trees. Perhaps they are old; perhaps this is a function of the benign climate here; perhaps a function of what kind of tree they are. Whatever the reason, today we saw some really, really big trees in the Valley of the Giants. This grove of 400 year old tingles and karris have been loved to death for years. They have a unique ability to resist fire. Even if the flames burn their tops, they send out side shoots and keep growing. Some of them have been gutted to the core, but like Energizer Bunnies, they just keep going. People used to drive their cars through one of these trees with the burned out center, but the impact of cars going through the grove packed down the soil and had a deleterious effect on the tree roots. By 1989 100,000 people visited the park annually. It was decided that it was important for people to see what nature had wrought, but in a far less damaging way. A complex series of forty metal bridges, each sixty meters long, was suspended forty meters above the tree tops. Only twenty visitors at a time are allowed on each span and they swing gently with the impact of each footstep.
Being able to stroll above the trees yielded an amazing view and it was challenging to convey with a camera. I often shoot vertical panoramas to illustrate the majesty of the countryside, but here I had to shoot four vertical shots and the computer stitched them together. The result is a pretty ordinary photo of a tree. If only I could turn the computer monitor on its side; then the majesty of their size might be conveyed. This grove of giants trees was amazing, made more so by our vantage point. You’ll just have to take our word for it.
Lunch was at a lovely resort overlooking the sea. Of greater interest to us was the holiday park (campground) on the property. Each site was en suite. This meant that each site had a little building that contained toilet, shower and sink. Most Aussie camping rigs don’t contain these facilities as ours does or are on a vastly reduced scale. At about $20/night the sites seemed like a bargain to us.
Usually on tours the driver drives and the tour guide talks. Today we had a driver whose entire skeleton was comprised of ham bone. His voice sounded like the cartoon voice of Popeye, the Sailor Man, and his accent was so strong, we had to pause and reflect after each of his sometimes raunchy jokes. This meant that the Aussies on the coach laughed long before the Americans. He introduced himself as the “steering wheel attendant.” I thought he said “stairwell attendant.” The poor tour guide with her lovely educated sounding speech, could hardly get a word in edgewise.
Because the driver seemed to be having such a good time, he took us to some extra places. He drove the bus as if it were the family car down little lanes and up steep hills. This gave us beautiful overlooks of the sea coast and an encounter with kangaroos who had taken over a housing estate, as subdivisions are called here. They are nocturnal animals and we’ve mostly seen them run over at the side of the road, but this group was obviously comfortable living here. They kept a sharp eye on us as we quietly crept off the coach clicking away. It was a thrill to see them without fences.