In Search Of The Giant Tingle
Busselton Jetty, Western Australia
It’s a 2km walk out here, if you add in the extra few steps from the car park. And of course, the same distance back. As the sign says, it’s the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Exploding gold stars from the fitbit that night. A little train runs along the length of the jetty, should the fierce summer heat prove too much. The signpost was also bittersweet, in particular the directional arrow top left. This was to be our last week in Australia, before the very long journey home.
At the end of the jetty we paid our dues and descended the three flights of steps through a series of viewing galleries down to the level of the sea floor. Shoals of fish mill around the wooden pilings, idly cruising the gentle current. Somehow they all know which direction to move in, as if they were one unit.
Who is watching who?
It’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to being underwater and I found it quite mesmerising.
It’s fair to say that as this final week approached we had begun to wonder if we’d planned wisely. We’d chosen the Margaret River region, Western Australia, for a spell of relaxation and indulgent food and wine. What’s not to love there? But would that be enough. Would it provide a memorable finale after seven glorious weeks in Oz? Enough wildlife, scenery, drama?
Injidup Bay, Margaret River
There were a number of alternative scenarios, albeit limited by the not insignificant matter of two non refundable airline tickets out from Perth at the end of the week. So, the northern end of Western Australia perhaps? To the Kimberley and the remote outback? Seriously tempting, apart from the fact that it’s monsoon season up there at this time of year. A trip up to the Northern Territory on the Ghan? Nope. The train takes a break in early January, quite possibly because it’s raining in Darwin as well. So if not a North South rail journey, what about East West? The Indian Pacific. I’ve always had a hankering to cross the Nullarbor Plain, the 77,000 square miles of semi arid nothingness between South and Western Australia. Four times the size of Belgium. But there’s only one train a week and the timetable didn’t play ball.
Rocky shoreline near Conto Beach, Margaret River
As an interesting aside, if you’ll forgive the continued digression, it’s also possible to drive across the Nullarbor. All 781 miles of it. Null-arbor. No trees. Just low scrub and red earth as far as the eye can see. The route includes the longest stretch of straight road in Australia, the imaginatively named 90 Mile Straight. At the end of it, allegedly, there’s a helpfully positioned traffic sign indicating an upcoming bend in the road. And then, assuming you hadn’t forgotten how the steering wheel works, you continue on exactly as before. In another dead straight line.
Taking it at a sensible few hours a day and avoiding the hours of darkness when the wildlife reigns supreme, most travellers complete the journey in six days. Assuming they don’t die of boredom first. It’s one of those things that has to be done just because it’s there. Unless of course you’re going for the golf. At 848 miles long the Nullarbor Links is the world’s longest golf course with a hole at each town and roadhouse along the way. In 1979 the Skylab space laboratory crashed to earth near here.. hole 3 is named after it.
Conto Beach, Margaret River
But however much the Nullarbor may tick all my boxes for remoteness and outback I couldn’t see Mike agreeing to spend the last week of his holiday staying in roadhouses. Besides, he sold his golf clubs years ago. We opted to continue with Plan A and flew from Adelaide to Perth, with a three hour drive onwards to Margaret River. And did we regret it? Not even slightly.
The region is at its best in Spring when wildflowers carpet the landscape. We were a little late for the blooms but the follow on is impressive too.
It’s easy to fall into a routine here. The main decision of the day, best pondered over a leisurely breakfast, is a simple one. Or maybe not. Which of the 187 wineries in the Margaret River region would we visit for lunch? One then rolls up with sufficient time to visit the Cellar Door for a tasting to determine a). which vintage to partake of with lunch and b). how many bottles would find their way back to the boot of the car? There are chauffeured day tours of selected wineries too, lest you are worried that all this partaking is unfair on the principal driver.
The antidote for such indulgence is of course to walk. And walk we did. For miles and miles and miles, such is the beauty of the landscape.
The Cape to Cape Track runs from the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste in the north of the region to the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin in the south. End to end it would take five or six days to complete but it can also be picked off in manageable sections, driving to a convenient spot to park nearby.
The sometimes rocky path hugs the coastline for glorious cove after glorious cove.
Even in peak holiday season many of these beaches were deserted.
The area around Margaret River is renowned for its subterranean caverns. At Bob’s Hollow this one, partially collapsed, is now open to the air.
One day kangaroos joined us on our walk, bouncing through landscape like this alongside the beach.
And then appearing, unbelievably, right beside the car..
I’ve never been this close to an emu before. Not even in a wildlife reserve. Normally they are so skittish, it’s enough just to look at them and they run away.
But not here. Whatever those shrubby plants are they must be extraordinarily tasty and this one wasn’t letting go of the prize.
Even if it did mean suffering the persistent attention of a strange woman with a lens.
Boranup Karri Forest, Margaret River
But what of the tingle I hear you ask? Well, there are some impressive trees in Margaret River and walking through the karri forests is an absolute delight. But to really get a tingle we need to drive another three hours farther south.
The Red Tingle forest of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park.
How tall are those trees?
And as you can see, we didn’t just get to view them from the ground..
The Valley Of The Giants Treetop Walk gently climbs to a eye watering 40 metres above the ground, right up into the tingle tree canopy.
There are gaps between those metal slats on the floor. So, if you choose to, you can look straight down. All the way to the ground. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the whole structure moves. It sways in the breeze and positively undulates when someone else walks on the same section as you. A steadying hand goes an awful long way.
Try as I might I couldn’t get a shot that included both the walkway and the ground.
See the face? The years haven’t been kind to her, poor dear.
The King Tingle
Tingles are the largest girthed eucalypt known in the world.
But I promised you a Giant Tingle and here it is. At 22.3 metres in circumference it’s currently the largest there is. The conveniently passing blogger, having recovered her land legs and her composure, once again serves to provide scale.
Thought to be 400 years old it is truly enormous. But things are rarely as straightforward as they might appear.
Forest fires of the past have destroyed the heartwood and created a hollow. Apparently 100 people can fit in there. The tingle survives because the living and growing parts of the tree are located just below the outer bark. Looks precarious though doesn’t it. The boardwalk enables people to get close up to the tree without damaging the shallow roots.
From the nearby Hilltop Lookout, the view back over the forest and out to sea.
One of our last days in Australia. (For this time.) But you can’t have gone too far wrong if you leave it with a tingle.