Southwest: Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Augusta, Bridgetown, Pemberton, Walpole, Denmark
April 27, 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
I completed my travels in Western Australia with several days on the South West Highway through the "must see" areas of the Southern Forests - a very temperate zone compared to the northern deserts.
(Remember, everything is reverse "down under." The north is hot. The south is cool. March and April are autumn months with leaves turning color; evenings are rainy and chilly.)
Even the names of the towns on my route are "temperate." Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Augusta, Bridgetown, Pemberton, Walpole, Denmark. I didn't get to Albany.
In Bunbury I stayed at The Rose Hotel which reminded me of The Plaza in New York. High ceilings, chandeliers, exposed beams and grand furniture - an "old style" hotel.
Augusta is the most southwesterly town in Australia, where the "Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean and the broad Blackwood River rolls out to sea."
On a teeming, soaking, rainy, nasty, windy, gray morning when my umbrella was of no value, I pressed out to the lighthouse on bleak Cape Leeuwin to watch the seas meet. I thought of the uncounted ships and unnamed sailors whose careers crashed on the unforgiving reefs, cliffs, and surf everywhere along this coast of the west. I didn't think too long. I was getting drenched.
I think I finally have this right: "Something there is that just does love a stair."
Somewhere between Bridgetown and Pemberton, actually 9ks south of Manjimup, I spotted a sign for "Diamond Tree Lookout." I checked my guidebook: "You're allowed to climb this 51m karri (not for the faint hearted or vertigo sufferers." Call me crazy. I decided to "give it a go."
A young Dutch couple was there with me. The young woman stayed on the ground taking photos; the young man preceded me up the tree.
The karri tree is about 1.5 meters wide; steel rods are driven into the trunk; there is a sturdy hand rail. Also wire netting on the outside. The rods go up the tree in a circular fashion but near the top there is a vertical climb of about three meters straight up to the lookout platform.
It took me about ten minutes to slowly snake my way up to the top. The rungs are a little further apart than a normal stair rise. I was pulling and pushing my way higher, one step at a time. It was worth the trip.
The view from the lookout 168 feet up: rolling green hills, herds of cattle, dark pine forests of the Blackwood River Valley - the landscape of my daily drive.
After a few photos and more than a few deep breaths, I turned my back on the scenery and carefully descended. I reckon it's harder to go down than up. I used a lot of energy just holding on to the rungs above me.
I remembered what I learned when I worked as a painter's helper a "few" years ago: "Don't look down. Stay in the middle of the ladder. Look only at the next rung."
Next stop: Walpole and "The Tree Top Walk." A place for sane, regular tourists.
"A 600m long ramp rises from the floor of the valley, allowing visitors to get up high into the canopy of the giant tingle trees. You really are walking "through" the tree tops. At its highest point the ramp is 40m above the ground and the views below and above are stunning. It's on a gentle incline so it's easy to walk and it's even accessible by wheelchair.
"The ramp is an engineering feat in itself, though vertigo sufferers might have a few problems.
"A boardwalk at ground level, the "Ancient Empire," meanders around and through the base of veteran red tingles, some of which are 16m in circumference including one that soars to 46m."
I was proud, since earlier that day I had climbed 51m.
That evening I stayed at the Bridgetown Riverside Chalets. Of the four, my chalet was on a steep hillside overlooking the modest yet frothy rapids of the Blackwood River. Cows were wandering around. At first they gave me a curious look; then they wandered away to another hill. It was chilly and raining so I lit a fire in the wood-burning pot belly stove, fixed a sandwich and a "cuppa" tea and enjoyed a "quiet evening at home" with my travel guide and Scott Turow.
My last days in Perth: A sunny stroll along the Swan River with Chiung Wen and her sister, Gin Fong.
Passover with a young family and their friends;
ANZAC Day Memorial Parade and speeches;
The Aquarium of Western Australia;
The Museum of Western Australia;
Some last minute shopping.
Each of these in their own way was an emotional experience for me. The shopping always annoys me...the prices are so high here (compared to Asia). But the other visits really "got to me."
As for my driving, I covered more than 6400ks, on the left. And after my "one demerit point" I stayed within the speed limit and avoided any further trouble. So I am satisfied with my overall performance.
I even received a short message from Nanna which she graciously left for me under the windshield wiper of my parked car in Walpole. I know it was from Nanna because her name was imprinted on the top of very cute and colorful note paper with a teddy bear and pussy cat on the bottom right hand corner.
I was parked straight-on in a space that was diagonal to the curb. In very large, cursive handwriting, the note said, "How about trying to get BETWEEN the lines with your little car." She forgot to leave me her email address.
Got to pack now for my 08:00 flight to Bali.
"And I've got miles to go when I awake."