Monday 8th January – Really, Really Tall Trees

We didn’t hang around camp too long in the morning on account of the lack of views etc. Mr. Fuzzball was still hanging around as we were eating breakfast, the little shit. We both had semi-showers since we were feeling the grime, but we were soon on the road heading back into Pemberton. Before we got into town, I had a lightbulb moment and asked Sheldan to turn off onto Old Vasse Road. In this national park we found the first of a few trees in the area that are climbable, the Bicentennial Tree.

The park was pretty well empty so we parked at the base and carrying nothing, walked to the base of the 75m tree. No shit, we couldn’t believe people are allowed to climb this thing, there are just spirals of steel rods poking through the tree’s trunk and a feeble side railing. There’s nothing at all to stop you falling through the footholds. Despite these concerns, we got right into it, climbing very carefully with at least three points of contact at all times.

Sheldan was above me and we met at the first “rest” platform where a warning sign told you not to go any further unless you felt perfect, the sun was shining and you had no doubts about going up to a height of 75m. We ticked all the boxes so up we went.

Both our hearts were racing when we reached the platform at the top via a few ladders. Doesn’t matter who you are and how non-afraid of heights you are, this shit is dangerous! There was another couple up at the platform which meant we were pretty much at capacity. Not surprisingly, we got outstanding 360* views of the forest surrounding us so it made sense this tree was used as a fire lookout station back in the day before helicopters were in the air. Typical Sheldan checked his Instagram as soon as we were at the top since he had impeccable service. Once he was done with his status updates, we made our way down. Thankfully we didn’t have any traffic coming down and made it back to elevation 0 without mishap.

Next, we drove in to the town of Pemberton to see what else there was to see. I instantly got FOMO (fear of missing out) because the signs at the visitor’s centre suggested this was a mountain biking town. Bugger, if only I had a set of wheels. Anyway, we walked inside and talked to a lady about what there was to entertain a couple of rascals. She pointed us to the Gloucester tree (same a the Bicentennial only not quite as tall), the local semi-natural swimming pool and a bunch of other stuff that didn’t really tickle our fancy.

We started with the Gloucester Tree and with the late morning hour, we found a crowd at the base. Sheldan decided to sit this one out since he’d already got one tree under his belt but I was enticed at the lure of a different view from the top. I was rewarded with a view of the controlled burn happening nearby. I stayed at the top a while watching the smoke rise from the treetops and hearing the violent crashing of trees falling. My long stay meant I didn’t have to wait too much on my way down. There was a family with a couple of brave kids making the decent so I gave them space to go down without pressure.

At the base, I met with Sheldan again and we drove on to the town swimming pool. Initially there was appeal to get in for a wash, but the water wasn’t too enticing and it was a little too cold for an outdoor shower so we just had a look. Longingly, I looked at the mountain bike trail map and thought how convenient it was that there was a swimming pool right by the trail network.

After a quick hang out there, we were on to the next thing. Heading south out of Pemberton now, we had a quick look at the Cascades which were not in any way impressive thanks to the light trickle of water they represented. Clouds had covered the sky at this point and we were both downed by it. We stopped very briefly in Walpole for lunch at the visitor’s centre but weren’t impressed by the town jetty and so moved on pretty quickly. Stupid clouds.

Based on recommendations, we persisted with seeing cool stuff so we drove into Peaceful Bay in the hopes of our spirits being lifted. Unfortunately, it didn’t really happen. It was a pretty place, but the clouds kept hanging. I went for a quick walk around the bay, touching on the Bibbulmun track, but not really finding anything of interest.

Carrying on, our next stop was Ocean Beach on the outskirts of Denmark. Sheldan had heard good things about this town and the intlet was supposed to be super pretty. I’m sure it is when the sun’s out but the clouds made everything just a little dull. We went to the lookouts anyway and could see the potential of such a place especially with all the holidaying kids in the water despite the cooler weather.

After Denmark, we were pretty well done with touring and resolved to find camp early. Considering it was the only WikiCamp in the next 50km or so, we expected it to be busy so didn’t mind the early stop. When we came into Torbay’s Inlet we were happy we’d got there when we did. Sheldan was behind the wheel as we drove around the small camping circle and when we got to the no camping sign, I yelled at Sheldan to stop thanks to the sand I could see ahead. He did so and in trying to reverse we both felt the wheels spin. I got out to suss it out and guided Sheldan out of the bog he’d started to dig. Thankfully, we got the car turned around ok and parked up in what we thought was a free site.

After setting up the tent, we went for a wander to find the beach that we were camped near. We slogged it barefoot down the road we’d nearly got ourselves stuck in and found ourselves on a white-sanded beach. Torbay’s Inlet was a aquifer or spring-fed collection of water that didn’t quite meet the ocean and had a funny yellow-red colour.

We walked around it and followed the numerous and deep 4WD tracks along the beach. There was a brand new Landcruiser parked on the beach and a couple of surfers in the choppy waves but apart from them, we had the place to ourselves. We walked a good kilometer or two before we turned back.

By the time we got back to camp, there were plenty of new additions to the circle, the most interesting of which was a 6-week-old Kelpie named Dora. We met her and her owner Caroline briefly at their campsite before heading back to our digs.

We observed a few more people drive in and around the camp looking for an open spot and since we had a bunch of space behind us in our space, I waved over a guy in a rental car that he could share with us. He was happy with that and nosed in behind us. We chatted for a while then let him get set up. He was very grateful for our sharing and we were happy to give him the last spot in the place.

Since the sun was going down, we proceeded to get drunk and play Rummiking. When Caroline and Dora came around to our site, we upped stumps immediately to go socialize. We found out Caroline was from the east side of Canada and travelling in a van just like I had. We swapped stories, advice and talked a LOT about the gorgeous dog at our feet (which unfortunately I don’t have a photo of).

We broke to cook a dinner of tinned spaghetti, salami, onions and corn. It was as delicious as it sounds and by the time we were done with the dishes, the mozzies were out so we retreated to the tent for the start of a movie before we both felt our eyelids shutting.

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