The diamond tree has a lookout straddled atop its bough, 52m vertically up in the air. Stakes have been forced into its trunk to form a ladder that winds steeply around the trees trunk, a flimsy chicken wire mesh vaguely protects you from falling outwards, but if you slip up on the bars which are vertical in places, you’re going to fall the entire 52m to the leaf littered forest floor. The first climb is nerve wracking, one foot or hand at a time, always keeping three limbs in contact with the bars; and don’t look down. At the base you’re advised not to wear flip flops, not to take a rucksack and not to attempt if you have any fear of heights; I thought a camera slung across my back would be fine but it’s pretty narrow in places and even that was catching on the mesh and threatening my ballence.
The view from the top is fairly beautiful stretching over miles of leafy green canopy broken on one side for a thirsty looking beige farm. On our first climb the wind stirred the trees about us into a turbulent ocean, I think we were still on the tightly stabilised platform but the waves of motion gave me a definite sea sick feeling. Hunched in a corner against the wooden plank sidings, forcing myself back down through the trap door onto the vertical stretch of ladder seemed an insurmountable task. But there was no one there at the bottom to know if we were stuck, and there was always the chance that the wind could pick up and become much worse, buffeting us towards a slip as we descended.
Once you make it past the top most couple of meters and the stakes begin again to curl round the tree the descent really isn’t so bad, the lower branches, with bushels of leaves disguise how far away the floor is and you’re on solid ground within a few minutes. It felt like a much more dramatic experience than it truer was. The burn in my thighs the next day was fantastic though so Kelly and I are now timing ourselves up it, an adrenaline fuelled work out. At some point we’ll move up to the next level; the 80m Gloucester Tree.
Fontys Pool, a man made vista in a glade clearing from the looks of its adverts, is on the return from Diamond Tree to Manjimup so we gave it a look in one 38 degree day for a cool down. The pool is beside a picturesque caravan park, we paid or 3$ entry fee picked up and ice cream then headed down. It was certainly very different to the photos of a gentle lake overhung with delicately hued autumnal trees. In reality vast rubber rings had congregated in one corner of the concrete encasement of water, as had a large assortment of dead insects and other floating scum. You’re not allowed to swim in the part of the lake they had photographed, it is reserved for the fish and ducks.
Putting the possible stinging insects floating below us to the backs of our minds, Kelly and I draped ourselves across a ring each and floated out into the sunny centre of the pool. The black rings soon became an unbearable source of heat and we paddled back in, arms and legs streaked with grime. I wouldn’t have swum in the murky water at this time of year, which is probably why we had the place almost to ourselves. However in the late summer sun the lush grass was cushioning to lie on and the manicured pool side garden made for a peacefully secluded sunbathing spot. Just make sure you wear sun cream, the ozone hole above Australia makes it deceptively easy to burn out here.
We’ve finally found a job, one rural enough to count towards our second year visa, but don’t yet know what it entails; the description was ‘some housework and gardening, whatever is needed’. We just had to turn up at the hostel on Monday to be blindly lead to the farm and find out. But from that description it’s got to be better than hauling apples around an orchard or plucking delicate avocados! Frustratingly staying at the hostel is mandatory for the duration of the job, well paying to stay there is. So we’ll be forking out 150$ a week for a bed in an 8 person dorm whilst staying at the Kingsley with the luxury of a private room.
Kelly and I found ourselves on our last night of freedom eating the best beef steak in the whole of Australia, by award standards, not just ours. Apparently it’s usually Tasmanian that’s the best, but over the last six years the Red Angus of Wyndarra farm in WA has beaten all of Tassy! Kelly met Brendan, the owner of My Mates Place in Gigi T when she stayed there a few months back, he gave her a message when he saw we were in his home town and said we should head over to his for a home cooked dinner, and hoped we liked steak! What a silly question.
‘How are you with gravel roads?’ Were Brandon’s first words to me; ‘Unpracticed’ was my response. As I followed him at his promised ‘slow’ pace (80Kmph) I dreaded to think how fast he’d have driven without me tailing him! Approaching his sprawling bungalow nestled amid delapadated water towers, barns full of machinery and general farm flotsam, everything that was within eyesight was owned by his family, from the forest that boardered the road approach to the most distant hill. The space these Red Angus have to roam puts the English idea of free range thoroughly to shame. Australia has the space for it though, with even small farms being bigger than my entire village at home there’s no need to cramp the animals up, the barren scrubby pasture wouldn’t sustain herds like the British counterpart anyway.
Brandon drove us round the acres that are one day to be his, bouncing over blue gum stumps contaminating the land once loaned to a now broke forestry company. It has to be poisoned and burned multiple times before the stumps are truly removed and the soil can be recultivated for pasture. Our last stop was a tour of the ‘steak on legs’, the cattle being fed up in their last few weeks before they are ready to be eaten. One of their siblings, already hung and butchered, awaited us in the kitchen. It was a simple steak and salad, but some of the most delicious meat I’ve ever had, with plenty of red wine. There was no way we were going to be able to dodge the kangaroos shadows in the dusk along the gravelly road so we bedded down in a twin room littered with spider bodies and a quaint view of a vegetable patch.
We rose with the sun to be back for our first day of work, before the hangover had chance to set in, racing huge numbers of kangaroos home. Luckily they all stayed on the other side of the fence to us, I’ve been told countless horror stories of collisions when they leap from nowhere in front of a car. Don’t swerve for them I’m told; a kangaroo is a lot more forgiving than a tree!