Anyway, we drove south toward the coast and the land of the great trees. This part of Australia is home to some of the world’s biggest trees. Only the two species of California Redwood are larger. Here they have the red and yellow Tingle trees and the taller but slightly less massive Karri trees. The name Tingle actually comes from a Noongar (aboriginal) word for red, making them another sort of redwood. The big difference, though, is that these trees are deciduous. California Redwoods have massive trunks and relatively short branches. The Australian trees have long branches that spread out and cover huge areas of forest floor, giving the impression that they are even bigger than they are. These trees are big, though. The Karri tree, for example, grows to 85 meters (284 feet).
Our first stop in the forest was the tree top walk in the Valley of the Giants. This was a really well done walk along spans that rose up to 40M (132 feet) above the forest floor, allowing us to get right in the canopy with the birds and see the world up there. We also had stunning views of the surrounding mountains. After the canopy walk, we took a long walk along the floor. Having spent so much time in the California Redwood forests, I got a real sense of déjà vu. In many ways the experience of driving and walking through these forests feels the same. After our floor walk, we headed back up into the canopy again. We were just about the last people there and had the whole place to ourselves, this time in the warm light of the sunset.
Tree Top Walk - Valley of the Giants
Uh, oh. Sunset again. We beat a hasty retreat to a campsite a few miles away and managed to get the tent up by dark. I tried to build a fire using gathered kindling and chopped wood that the forest service provides. The kindling burned fine but, try as I might, I could not get the logs to burn. I spent hours of frustration trying to get a real fire going but had no luck. Eventually, Maryanne tired of the exercise and went to sleep. I kept at it for a couple more unproductive hours before I gave up as well. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’ve built a few fires in my life and I think I understand the process pretty well. I had a bunch of yellow-hot coals in the middle. The wood would burn for a bit and then the flames would gradually go out. The next morning, I realized they had given us tinglewood. Fire is part of the Tingle’s natural process. The oily leaves burn like crazy but the trunks only tend to burn just the outside, leaving the living part of the tree safe. Most of the older trees have trunks that are completely hollowed out by fire but continue to thrive as the live cells are still hidden under the fire resistant bark. I suppose if we had a blow torch or a whole lot of magnesium, we would be able to get the wood hot enough to burn. Otherwise, it seems like a cruel joke intended to keep people from building fires.