What a karri on

New South Wales, Western Australia No Comment


Leaving Margaret River with sadness, we struck out for Pemberton and more amazing scenery among the giant karri trees, which rear hundreds of feet into the air.

Geoff and I stopped in the forest where the light filtering through the trees was amazing. We stood and listened to the silence which was almost total apart from the occasional bird announcing its presence, and then we ruined it all by acting the maggot by taking pictures of us hugging the monsters.

We passed through a hamlet called Karridale, where for some reason it appeared to still be Christmas, with life-size Santas decorating people’s driveways and tinsel draped over roadsigns.

One wag had named their house ‘Karri On’ but it seems the forests are still under some threat as we passed a makeshift camp of environmental protesters, known locally as ‘Greenies’ who were trying to stop part of the area being logged.

Halting in a little picturesque town called Nannup, we met a group of bikers from Albany out for a run.

They told us about some good rides and we swapped yarns about being out on the road before we headed back into the forests planning to stop for the night in a logging town called Pemberton.

Yet another old biker sitting at a café warned us about the giant ‘roos that also inhabit the forests.

‘There was one on my front lawn this morning, he was about six feet tall and he just looked back at me as if to say ‘Yeah – you want something?’. He didn’t even move so I just picked up my paper and left him to it.

‘Me and a mate saw one once that was even bigger than that – it was about six and a half feet. They are forest kangaroos and also live in the swamps, but move around to where there is fresh growth. They have a domed head so they can crash through the bush and you don’t want to run into one of those on the road.’

Pemberton turned out to be a charming little place, quiet now the Anzac Day holiday was over and Aussies batten down the hatches for the winter, as it is the last break until a long weekend in June and signals the real end to summer and its frivolities.

It had an almost alpine feel, and we scored a great little house which is let out by the local youth hostel to travellers as the main backpackers is reserved for workers doing their three months agricultural employment as part of the government requirement to gain their resident visas.

We had the place to ourselves apart from Mike, a gardener from Perth who was on a three-week solo walking holiday through the forests.

Originally from London, he’d lived in WA since his late teens and had now been an Aussie for around 30 years.

“I went back once, as you are always curious about how it has changed and have fond memories, but when I got there it was dirty and overcrowded and a real rat race.

‘I’d never go back now, this is my home and I love it – there’s just so much space and I love walking in the bush – the peace and the quiet and when you are walking you just see so much as the animals aren’t that scared of you.’

Geoff and I cooked up a marvellous Spanish omelette for dinner which we shared with Mike, had a few beers, watched a bit of telly and climbed wearily into bed, luxuriating in this rare snatch of domesticity.

On the way out of town the next morning we decided to go and see the Bicentennial Tree right in the heart of the karri forests.

It is a fire-lookout tree with a platform perched 75 metres or 230 feet above the ground, where rangers would keep an eye out for smoke from bushfires and then direct firefighters to the outbreak.

The platform was built to celebrate Australia’s 200th anniversary of European settlement, and was also a practical step, as despite the use of aircraft to spot fires, the traditional use of the big trees has made a comeback as a less expensive and lower-tech way to do the same job just as accurately, if not more so.

The platform is reached by climbing a staircase made out of steel spikes driven into the trunk of the tree, with just some chicken wire acting as a balustrade and nothing beneath should you put a foot wrong.

Geoff and I eyed it warily.

‘I’m not climbing that’ he said bravely.

“I get vertigo when I stand up’.

I also demurred, pointing out that motorcycle boots were not designed for climbing trees, otherwise they would be called ‘climbing giant trees boots’, so it was left to Paul to rescue our reputation and off he went.

We lost sight of him about halfway up, but he made it to the top and climbed into the hut on top, which ways around two tonnes, showing the strength of these monsters, and which also moves around four feet from side to side in the wind.

It’s quite amazing that in this day and age of the nanny state and ridiculous health and safety rules that anyone can just turn up and take their life in their hands.

A typical blunt Aussie notice at the bottom warned people that when it was wet, the steel rods got slippery, and it was more difficult if it was howling a gale, and that was pretty much it, so go for your life, as they say over here. No ranger, no supervision, and nobody to hold your hand.

I wouldn’t have minded the climb up, it is the coming back down that bothers me as you can’t see where you are going, and despite having done many bungy jumps, abseiling and been suspended from helicopters, there is something about climbing things without a rope tied around me that plays into my primitive respect for heights.

As Paul finally made it down, we gave him a round of applause and were further humbled by the sight of a 10-year-old French girl and her mother scampering up the tree like Gallic monkeys, chattering away the whole time without a care in the world.

After faking a picture of me around four metres above the ground, we took our wounded pride and slunk away.

The launch of Geoff and Colin’s book – Oz Around Australia on a Triumph, will take place tomorrow Wednesday November 24th at Adelaide Insurance HQ in Belfast complete with barbeque and much fanfare.

There is a link below to the Blackstaff Press website where you can secure your very own copy in time for Xmas. We will post a video blog from the book launch in the next few… Continue reading

And so Geoff and Colin arrive back home to the sirens of the motorcycle police flanked by a band of bikers from the Quay Vipers Club and to the strains of Waltzing Matilda playing under the shade of the Adelaide inflatable finish line. A fitting end to a scorching adventure marked in true style by our friends from Adelaide Insurance Services. You can check out the speechifying here and stayed…Continue reading

helmets-1-300x225It had, I thought that evening as we sat down in a pub in Clare to bangers and mash washed down with pints of foaming ale, been the strangest of adventures.The previous ones, from Delhi to Belfast on an Enfield, Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 riding a Harley, and…Continue reading

At a place called Kimba in South Australia, we halted to take a picture of a giant galah, but then we managed to get Geoff out of shot so we could get a photo of the big parrot.
Our next break was at Iron Knob, as we just couldn’t resist.
It is the birthplace of the Aussie steel industry, as the knob itself was almost pure iron ore.
As mature… Continue reading

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