The West

Climbing the Bicentennial Tree / Picture: Tourism WA

The last thing I expected from my trip to Pemberton was to be chased up a tree by an Argentinian.

And this isn't any old tree. This is the Bicentennial Tree - a 75m skyscraper in the Warren National Park. Its distant peak is reached by scaling 130 metal pegs hammered into its trunk.

I reach 3m off the ground before the fear gets me. I've never considered myself afraid of heights but here I am, sweaty-palmed and pondering my feeble retreat.

The view's probably not that good, I reason cowardly, I'll skip it and just say I climbed it.

At that moment, a voice comes from below.

"Hey man, let's go, we don't have all day."

The accent is South American and sounds like it means business.

Swallowing hard, I push on, eyes locked on the pegs in front of me. Occasionally, the man below yells something from between my legs, though the furious rushing of blood in my head drowns him out, mostly.

We come to a viewing platform two-thirds or so of the way up but rather than pause for a breather my companion demands we press ahead. By this point, his head is practically wedged between my buttocks, so I have little choice.

Past another platform and finally to the top - oh sweet relief, I've made it. I lean against the outer edge of the platform and inhale the view, which is indeed stunning. Broccoli treetops stretch for kilometres in much the same way clouds resemble a carpet of cottonwool when viewed from a plane window.

"Thank you, thank you," the Argentinian gushes. "If it wasn't for you, I would never have had the courage to climb to the top."

Oh, the irony. The truth is had it not been for him screaming at my crotch the entire way, I'd be enjoying a pint and a pub lunch by now.

"I'll follow you down," I say coolly.

At least that way if I fall, he'll cushion me.

The sleepy South West town of Pemberton is just over 320km south of Perth, a scenic 3 1/2-hour drive through undulating countryside. The area was established by farmers in the 1860s and became a major player in WA's timber industry in the first half of the 20th century. With the decline of the industry, Pemberton fell on hard times but, thanks to tourism, it experienced a revival in the 80s.

Popular with families, wildlife lovers and wine lovers, Pemberton offers a plethora of pleasing delights. Take a tram ride through the majestic karri forest to the splendid Warren River Bridge. Or lose yourself in the wonder of nature and camp overnight at a back-to-basics bush camp. The world-renowned Bibbulmun Track passes nearby and draws hikers from far and wide.

Food and wine buffs will enjoy tucking into a sumptuous plate of locally reared marron accompanied by a bottle of one of the area's acclaimed cool-climate wines. There are more than 50 vineyards in the region, many of them award winning.

I choose to go on a four-wheel- drive adventure with Pemberton Discovery Tours to the mighty Yeagarup Dunes - the largest landlocked dunes in the southern hemisphere.

After the exhilaration of the Bicentennial Tree, I want to keep both feet firmly on the ground.

Shards of sunlight break through the forest canopy as our 4WD rumbles along the sandy track in the D'Entrecasteaux National Park. I peer up at the cathedral-like karris and wonder how I haven't visited this incredible landscape until now.

The vehicle grinds to a halt by a knobbly old karri which our guide informs us has been around for half a millennium.

Down by indigo blue Yeagarup Lake we let down the 4WD's tyres and are serenaded by a chorus of birds chirping in the trees all around. Without the roar of the 4WD's huge engine, the forest is a tranquil place.

Tyres deflated but spirits fully pumped, we tear around a corner and are confronted by the most unexpected of sights. The mighty Yeagarup Dunes, a sweeping vision of egg-yolk yellow, tower before us like the Sahara.

The mighty Yeagarup Dunes / Picture: Graeme Dearle

The 4WD explodes up the arching bank of sand and we are thrown back in our seats. Within a few seconds, we are on the summit and carving graceful arcs around wooden markers.

Time for yet another Kodak moment. I climb out and squint through my camera's viewfinder at the dazzling scenery. It's usually pretty windy out here, so windy in fact that the dunes are actually creeping into the forest at a rate of 6m per year.

At weekends there are often a few folk around but during the week, you'll almost certainly have the place to yourself.

We venture onwards to the D'Entrecasteaux coast and are rewarded by a staggeringly beautiful view of the shimmering Indian Ocean crashing on to the beach below. As the others file back to the idling 4WD, I linger on the precipice and breathe in the fresh, salty air.

We live in one of the most marvellous places on earth, with so many amazing attractions on our doorstep. We're spoilt for choice, yet often we continue to ignore these treasures staring us in the face.

So many of us choose Bali instead of the precious jewels of our great State, often because of cost. This is understandable, particularly for most families, but it doesn't have to be this way.

It is possible to holiday closer to home on a budget. There are plenty of affordable places to stay, places to eat and trees to climb. Try it for yourself and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you have.

The West Australian

Latest News From The West

Fremantle champion Paul Hasleby expects the Dockers to play finals next year on the back of their bumper recruiting haul, rating the trade period as the best in the club’s history.

Treasurer Mike Nahan has made his most direct case yet for selling Western Power, confirming the Government is considering a sharemarket listing while taking aim at union “hypocrisy” amid a …

Popular videos

Compare & Save