West Australians love to get high up in trees it seems, all without ever actually doing much climbing. The Walpole-Nornalup National Park is about an hour’s drive West of the town of Albany, and is home to the Valley of the Giants. Only a moment of disappointment as we realised that this was not in fact the home of Jolly Green Herculeans sniffing the air for the scent of an Englishman’s blood. Rather it is home to the Red Tingle tree.
Red Tingles have fat arses. Or to be more botanically correct, they have an exceptionally wide buttressed base, a result of them being shallow rooted, and having a heart timber particularly prone to termite and fungal attack. Once the ants and the fungus have done their bit the next passing fire guts the centre of the base of the tree. Amazingly however the outer layers thicken until the base of the tree is some 12 to 16 metres in circumference. This buttress then continues to support and feed the upper tree structure, and Red Tingles live to over 500 years in age often with massive cave-like holes tall enough to stand in at their base.
Weaving through these giants is the Walpole Skywalk. It is a walkway that rises to 40 metres above the valley floor and taking the visitor to the height of the canopy. The steel spans bounce and sway unnervingly and signs warn that no more 10 people can be on any given span at the same time. Lucky we’re all pretty thin!