Cape Leeuwin

We left Hamelin Bay this morning heading for Cape Leeuwin which is the extreme south west point of Australia and it’s very green and lush unlike most of the rest of Australia. The reason is obviously because they get a lot of rain in these parts and today is no exception.

Cape Leeuwin is where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. This is one of the busiest shipping routes on the Australian Coast and in the days when most Australian ships travelled via the Cape of Good Hope Cape Leeuwin was often the first Australian landfall they came to. Many ships were lost on this wild headland and eventually a lighthouse was built in 1896. It was designed by an Englishman, all the major working parts including the lens were shipped in from the UK and it’s still working today. We booked a tour of the lighthouse which was excellent. We were told how it was built and staffed by three fulltime staff who lived on site. The wind was blowing at 45 knots (hard to walk in) but apparently that’s a breeze on this headland. It averages 25 knots all year and the light house has stood 152 knots. Neverthless, when we went outside at the top we had to hold on. It really was something else.

After lunch we went on to Pemberton. The area around here is famous for the Karri forests. Karri trees only grow in this part of Australia and nowhere else. These trees are huge and some grow to around 90 metres. The only taller trees in the world are the Californian Redwood at over 100 metres. Fires in the forest have always been a problem and normally started by lightening strikes so some of the biggest trees were designated as firespotter trees. Metal rods were put in the trunk of the trees to form steps and lookout cabins built at the top where firespotters would sit for hours on end. At one time there were 13 in total but now there are only 3, planes doing most of the spotting. The 3 remaining trees are called Diamond, Gloucester and Bicentennial. We visited The Gloucester Tree. Up close it it makes you feel dizzy just looking up at the top 65 metres above you.

Usually we are one of the first to complain about over regulated health and safety rules but this tree was amazing with metal spikes forming a spiral stairway that led to a small lookout cabin way up in the branches and anyone could climb it at any time of the day or night with nobody there to tell you all the do’s and dont’s. There was just one small sign saying ‘Caution – slippery when wet’!!!!! Absolutely brilliant, this is how it should be. It’s your choice. Alan managed part way before the vertigo set in.

We popped into the Pioneer Museum in town afterwards (every town seems to have one) and then spent the night in the National Park on one of their basic campgrounds, the only facility being a bush toilet.

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