“Well, all I can say is that the Tree Top Walk deserves to be world-famous.”
When I read Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, I was convinced that I wanted us to visit the Tree Top Walk when we arrived in Albany. Sometimes, we're disappointed in tourist attractions, but Bill Bryson usually calls 'em like he sees 'em and we figured if he liked it, we probably would, too. With the use of Don and Judith's car and their permission to head west, we set out on a mini-road trip.
We drove from Albany along the scenic South Coast Highway, through Denmark and into the Walpole Wilderness area. Just the road itself leading to the car park was lined with giant trees, reminiscent of heading into giant Sequoia and redwood forests in the western USA. We arrived just before Noon, bought our tickets and headed up the ramp to the walkway.
The Treetop Walk, as the name suggests, is an elevated walkway that gradually climbs to 40m/130' into the canopy of a giant tingle tree forest. Yes, tingle trees … how can you pass that up? The red tingle (Eucalyptus jacksonii) is a eucalypt, like so many Australian trees, and is endemic to southwest Western Australia … in the whole world, it grows only here. It grows tall (up to 75m/~250'), with a stout base (up to 24m/75') and can live for 400 years. “Tingle” is thought to be the Aborigine Noongar word for the tree. Tingle trees have a shallow root system that can be easily damaged. The elevated walkway system provides a way for people to experience and appreciate the trees without harming them.
It wasn't very crowded as we meandered slowly along the 600m/.4mi , cantilevered, metal walkway … up, up, up into the treetop canopy. The walkway swayed and vibrated in a somewhat unsettling manner at first, though its construction certainly looked substantial enough. Photos do not do justice to the majestic feel of being so high above the ground and experiencing the gentle breeze that whispered through the tingle leaves an arm's length away. All too soon, we were descending.
A walking path links the Tree Top Walk to the Ancient Empire boardwalk which allowed us to get closer to the “400-year-old giants of the forest”. This time we craned our necks up, rather than looking down.
Forest fires, insects and certain fungus act to hollow out the wide bases of the trees, and thus, many tingles have huge caverns inside. We were able to stand inside some of them, touch the bark and marvel at this unique species from the inside out.
Many of the trees have burls, big bulges caused by the tree's growth reaction to insect or bacterial attack. The burls tend to give personality and face-like features to the trees … a big nose here, “Betty Davis eyes” there, a crooked chin.
Others have been given names, like Grandma Tingle.
We finished the walk and looked for a place to have the picnic lunch we had packed. A short distance down a path, surrounded by sword grass, in the shade of a mighty red tingle tree, we found a picnic table. The smell of eucalyptus was in the air. Everything smelled clean and fresh. We recounted our stroll on the treetop walk as we munched our apples and drank our tea. We realized that we could do it again. It was allowed. You just walked in and started all over again. As is many times the case, when you do something a second time, you get a different perspective. You see new things. This time we walked even more slowly, stopped more often and “smelled the tingles”. What an absolutely wonderful way to spend a day.