Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A giant connection


There’s a forest full of enormous old Tingle trees down in the south west of Western Australia called the ‘Valley of the Giants’. Now I have to admit that I’m not big on trees – even the big ones. I mean, yes, trees are great and we need them and I am very happy the planet has trees…but I wouldn’t usually pay to see them as a tourist attraction.

But according to all the travel brochures, this valley was a ‘must’ and given my beloved B’friend was rather enthusiastic about it - we decided to take a pause on our two week campervan adventure to walk in the ancient forest.

To give the giants credit – they were giant. But I am ashamed to say that after five minutes I became rather bored with the big sticks and was thankful for a family of Korean tourists who amused me for the rest of the forest walk (Note: I would probably have given the giants more of my time had they not come with complimentary swarms of ridiculously large March Flies that packed a terrible punch of a bite when one stood still)

The Koreans must have taken one hundred photos in the space of 10 minutes – all of them including Karate Kid poses by the eldest son (in his late twenties) and involving the daughter (in her early twenties) shouting ‘1, 2, 3 COOL!’ as she clicked her camera (she varied that with: ‘1, 2, 3 YOU’RE GREAT!’ and ‘1, 2, 3 ALRIGHT!)

This happy chappy, in his thigh hugging black shorts and red t-shirt, managed to come up with a new martial arts position for each snap: crouching tiger pose inside decaying tree trunk, flying star jump off broken branch, leg in the air like you just don’t care on viewing platform… COOOOL!

My favourite photo-moment took place at the end of the forest walk, back at the visitor’s centre where our Jackie Chan wanna-be managed to have both legs and arms in the air, whilst seated behind a wooden cut-out of an old FJ Holden (what this had to do with ancient trees, I am unsure).

Thankfully we left the fly infested forest for the sea and spent the rest of our time bumping along red gravel roads, towards isolated beaches where the sand was so glaringly white and the water so luminously turquoise that it almost seemed like God had set up fluorescent lights over each bay.

In these little earthly pockets of heaven, without mobile phone or radio reception, we lapped up life in the slow lane. We scrambled across granite boulders to deserted bays, swam in the glow, ate simple meals, played a card game of Shithead or two and bunkered down early each night in our Britz mobile, with dirt-caked feet and salty skin.

When we did manage to spot a local and strike up a chat about the awesome beauty and peacefulness of a place – they’d say the same thing: “Just don’t go telling anyone. We want to keep things quiet around here”.

Many of the people we spoke to had moved from the east coast to escape the human chaos… ‘This place is like Byron Bay used to be, before they spoiled it’, one guy said about the town of Denmark near Albany.

It made me wonder how long locals could keep these precious nooks a ‘secret’ and how long it would take before someone from Denmark was moving somewhere else for serenity, once word had gotten out.

After two weeks marvelling at the untouched beauty of Western Australia we pulled up under a massive Moreton Bay Fig Tree in the opulent beachside Perth suburb of Cottesloe, just in time to witness its destruction by council workers.

One woman stood by its trunk, protesting over the 100 year old tree’s removal, and explaining to us that the decision had been made after one of the nearby homeowners complained about the tree’s roots causing damage to their plumbing.

Around the corner, right on the water, there’s a crumbling old mansion that sits in a decaying state – its strict heritage listing protecting it from ever being torn down.

As the sap bled from the Fig Tree’s trunk and as her limps, elephant like in their colour and texture, hit the sandy earth with massive thuds between the screeching of chainsaws. As the wood chipper machine turned magnificence into mulch…. I found myself shedding tears for a giant.


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