jeudi 19 avril 2012

Lake Muir and Pemberton area

For our first weekend off from apple picking we decided to leave the campsite and look for a nicer place to stay for the weekend. We thought that camping next to a lake sounded nice. 
We chose to head towards Lake Muir. 
Guide books say that is a beautiful enormous lake, water as far as the eye can see, lots of wildlife and wildflowers. Beautiful, but only in winter. 
We were very disappointed when we arrived. During the hot summer months, Lake Muir is no longer a lake, but just an enormous stretch of brown mud. I didn’t even bother to take a picture! 
Our weekend wasn’t starting off as well as we had hoped. Plus, the weather was terrible; cold and raining. We gave up the idea of camping out in the wild and headed back to Manjimup.
This little trip did however allow us to discover some of the southern forests. It took us ages to find the lake. We got completely lost and had to drive for ages on really bumpy gravel roads, full of pot holes (little did we know at that time that we would be driving a lot on gravel roads around Manjimup). 
The eucalyptus that tower over the dirt tracks are enormous! 
There were also loads of birds. The prettiest of them all was the fairy wren, a tiny bird with bright blue feathers.

Once back at Manjimup we decided to try a different campsite, one further away from the town : Fonty’s pool.

It was Archimede Fontanini who originally dammed the stream with a log and earth. Locals convinced him to cement the dam and develop the gardens and charge an entry fee to cover maintenance costs. In 1925 Fonty’s Pool was officially opened and became a well-known beauty spot of the South West. Archie maintained the pool and gardens until 1973 when at the age of 93 it became too much for him and the pool was closed. In 1979 the pool was re opened with a ‘Back To Fonty’s Pool’ log chop and swimming carnival attended by 12000 people.

The day we wanted to stay at Fonty’s Pool was the day of the carnival. Prices for camping were sky-high, there was only one place left, and we had to be out by 8am the next day. We gave up and headed back to the other campsite for the night. We never went back to Fonty’s Pool, but some friends who had been there told us that they had come out of the pool covered in leaches! Yuck!

Pemberton, our Sunday outing
Pemberton is a small village (1200 inhabitants) about 343km from Perth surrounded by 5 national parks. It is here that the forest meets the desert. The Yeagarup Dunes – that sadly we didn’t get the chance to see because you need a 4WD – are the largest land locked dunes in the southern hemisphere. The surrounding forest abound with Karri and Marri trees are truly magnificent, and you can get spectacular views from the top of some of the climbing trees (originally fire lookouts in the 1940s).

Some history
Aboriginal people had occupied the south west of Western Australia for at least 40000 years before white explorers discovered Australia. Along the coast near Pemberton there are still many signs of their traditional way of life.
As early as 1622 Dutch, French and English ships had passed along the south coast. The accounts of the land by these explorers were not favourable and consequently little settlement was contemplated.
Soon after settlement at King George Sound (Albany) in the early 1800’s the first white explorers found their way –often by accident- to this magnificent and beautiful corner of the south west of Western Australia. Most were impressed by the sheer size of the trees and often remarked in awe on the beauty of the forest.
It wasn’t long before their awe turned to thoughts of the economic returns possible from such huge trees and the first attempt at establishing a timber industry began.
Transport however was too difficult and the first schemes failed.
Soon after this time the first settlers arrived in the Pemberton area where they established farms which produced fruit and vegetables and grazed cattle and horses. The very first settler was Edward Brockman, son of Perth’s first mayor. In 1861, Brockman chose Pemberton as an ideal environment to start breeding horses. Subsequently, many of these horses were exported to India. He and his wife, Capel Bussell, raised 9 children. Mr Pemberton Walcott, a pioneer how arrived in 1862, gave the town it’s name.
In the late 1800’s and again 1912 the timber industry started to grow. Three timber mills were established and the town of Pemberton grew around these mills. Most of the milling was conducted by hand.
The superb strength of karri made it an obvious choice for sleepers on the Trans-Australian Railway line. The timbers mills in Pemberton cut half a million sleepers for the line. Many of the sleepers were used in  the first stage of development of the London Underground and a great many other railway lines in the UK.
In the 1920’s a new population boom occurred when ‘free’ land was offered to group settlers or ‘Groupies’ in order to establish a dairy industry. Many of the Groupies were British ex-servicemen who had returned from war to face unemployment. Life was tough with many families being overcome by the challenges of clearing the forest in order to use their land, surviving the depression years and making repayments to the government.
Whilst the timber industry continued to prosper, new industries developed. Irrigated farming became possible and potato, cauliflower, tobacco, hops and other crops became widespread giving rise to some of the State’s premier agricultural land.

That Sunday was yet again a cloudy day. Why does the weather always have to be lovely and hot when you’re working and cold and grey when you’re not? At least it wasn’t raining, so we headed off to discover Pemberton’s forests and the famous climbing trees.

The first tree we came across was the Gloucester Tree, which towers 61m above the forest surrounding Pemberton. I wasn’t fit for climbing any trees that day having done my arm in trying to pass 5th gear on the stupid van. Orianne did though, so I got to see the view from up there with the photos she took (by the way, after all that climbing she had sore muscles for the following 2 days).
View from the top of the tree

It was at the Gloucester Tree that we meet the green parrots. 
Orianne tried to trick them (pretending to have food) to come nearer to us. They didn’t fall for it, but one did decide that my head looked like a good bird perch!

We had a lovey drive around the forest, following the Warren River. It was hard driving that crappy van along the bumpy gravel roads, but it was worth it!

We stopped to see two other trees: the Dave Evans bicentennial tree (a dizzying 75m high) and the Diamond Tree.
A quick lunch!

We also had a slight ‘accident’ that day. Orianne forgot to close the big water bottle, so 20liters of water got spilt inside the van!

I also got bitten by an ant. A freaking HUGE ant! I thought ants in Morocco were pretty big, but they’re ridiculous compared to these Australian ones! They are more than a centimetre long and have big fangs at the front. Plus, they’re angry and vicious. They virtually attack you. This one climbed up over my boots to bite me. And their bite really really hurts. It was burning like hell for more than 10 minutes. I’ll watch out for those buggers in the future!

Le carnet de voyage (en français)
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