Great Southern Forests of WA

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I’m finally catching up on blog posts after a very lazy month (that included two weeks in Bali so that one is yet to come as well!) In the interest of catching up I’m lumping all of our time in the forest areas into one, as it was really just a case of wandering from one patch of really tall, old and beautiful trees to the other in this lush and ancient area 300 kms South of Perth. We started camping in the Shannon National Park and despite being a long weekend (maybe because it was a particularly freezing long weekend!) there was only a scattering of campers here. We loved it – there were fabulous hot showers, clean toilets and pre-cut fire wood (the ranger here needs a medal).  Nights were pitch black other than the one of those amazingly thick star fields above (which fascinated our city living kids) and so peaceful and quiet we all slept like the dead.

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From here we explored all the old growth Marri, Karri and Jarrah tree forests of Walpole, Pemberton and surrounds, finding what felt like secret circles of giant trees (the Karri grows up to 90 metres high!), buying local honey harvested from the aforementioned trees – which tasted like nothing you’ve ever bought in a store and generally  just wandering around feeling awe-struck. It’s not like I haven’t been in forests before, but to be surrounded by these absolute behemoths of trees in the complete silence of the wilderness was almost (almost!) a spiritual experience…until the five year olds emerged from the Prado and completely shattered the peace of course and then it became much more of a guided nature walk again.  As a quick aside, I think silence is the thing I miss the most since becoming a parent!

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Goodness

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Big Tree Grove

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Big Tree Grove

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Snake Gully Look-Out

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Snake Gully Look-Out

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There were a couple of highlights from our forest sojourn… in particular the massive “fire tower” trees of the area that have previously been used as look out points to check for forest fires – complete with cabins built at the top of these 60+ metre high trees! Even more astounding is the fact tourists can climb three of these trees just for fun – using metal stakes driven into the trunks…yikes.  Despite being employed in safety I often think that public safety regulation has become a little ridiculous but it does seem brave of the WA government to encourage thousands of tourists to precariously climb a massive tree using nothing but footholds and with the odd bit of fencing wire for protection!  We watched with fascination as groups of tourists went up – and down – the same rungs and negotiated their way past each other  A sign advised there were a maximum number of climbers allowed at any one time but there didn’t appear to be any actual control on that.  Funnily enough one of our shorter family members was keen to get  climbing herself, despite the fact I had to ‘rescue’ her from the 2 metre high playground equipment the day before….that bright idea was quickly vetoed by the taller members of the family. We did let them climb a short distance for a photo opportunity – and of course to make all our friends on Facebook think we are totally irresponsible parents for letting our children climb ridiculously tall trees. I also had to exercise all of my social restraint after witnessing the groups of tourists blatantly feeding the wild birds (from a bag of bird seed – who carries bird seed around?) right in front of the “DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS” sign.  I’m sure the birdies were happy about it…but still….

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Intrepid Tree Climbers – For Now!

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Local Visitors

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Forest Walk – Tree so huge you could play hide and seek around it

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Putting it in Perspective

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Forest Moment!

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Still couldn’t get the whole tree in shot

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Although not the hubby’s cup of tea, one of my favourite activities here was the “Understory” walk in Northcliffe, a winding walk through bushy forest populated by large outdoor artworks including sculptures, music and writing.  It was also one of the most peaceful – husband remained behind so there was no grumbling about the ridiculousness of art, the girls were given an iPod each so they could listen to children’s stories about the forest and its animals and plants and I was able to wander through reading the brochure about the artworks as I went and soaking up the atmosphere.  All three of us returned relaxed – although there was much giggling from the short ones about the little ‘people’ statues they discovered in the undergrowth!

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Understory Trail

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My Favourite

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Forest People!

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Girls Loudly Exclaimed – Its a Boy!

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Listening to the bush stories

 

As peaceful and beautiful as this area is pretty soon we had all had enough of tree watching and driving through forests – particularly as the next port of call was Margaret River and the red wine was already calling to us!

When My Heart Stops Beating

I just had to slip in a quick blog about my absolute favorite exhibit from today at the Hobart Museum of Old and New Art.

The artist is Patrick Hall and he creates these beautiful, intriguing, emotionally evocative pieces of, well, furniture! Visually stunning in a dim space, these cabinets with illuminated little faces on every drawer will say “I love you” in various tones and voices when opened (that’s the bit kids love).. I was intrigued by the short pieces of writing illuminated on the top surface of each drawer – they were beautifully written and incredibly moving. To quote the narrative from the iPod guided tour:

records of living: a depository of people; of stories revealed, secrets whispered and emotions laid bare

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Here’s a short excerpt from the top of one as well:

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Museum of Old and New Art

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We had heard a lot about MONA since arriving in Tassie – mostly the gossip about how the founder had Aspergers, made his fortune counting cards, runs his art gallery as a mini dictator and how some of the exhibits were a bit too “anatomically confronting” for the four year olds ! The picture of his car space at the gallery may say it all:

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None of this prepared me for what an amazing experience this gallery turned out to be. From its beautiful setting on the water with green lawns dotted with pink bean bags and hand shaped stools to the solid sandstone walls of the underground gallery levels filled with beautiful, thought evoking, unique, shocking and sometimes grotesque art work – I loved it all.

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It was also entertaining watching my families reactions to this incredible place! Predictably the husband was not amused and spent most of his time impatiently waiting at the exit to each area. The girls were fascinated by the iPod tour devices and head phones and I predicted endless frustration with guiding them through menus (and boredom once they realised there were no apps)

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I should know better than to outguess the short people though – my little free spirit soon worked out the guided tour system and was proudly showing me each piece of art she located on the iPod and (loudly) informing me how she was learning all about them. Maybe an artistic soul in this one – showing no sign of boredom she wanted to peruse each exhibit and revel in it.

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As for the other little blossom – she takes after the husband and although happy to play with the iPod and spend time in the TV room with a bunch of peeps singing Madonna songs (I kid you not!) that was the extent of her interest and was soon making noises about lunch.

Highlight of the day for those less artistically inclined family members was then lolling about on the lawns on above mentioned pink bean bags, playing hide and seek with the kids of a lovely Dutch family, drinking wine and enjoying the afternoon sunshine – life is good ….

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