Highway One: The Diamond Tree
Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia.
THE SOUTHWEST’S FIRE lookout trees have been luring the brave-of-heart up precarious steel rungs and onto swaying platforms at the very top of the karri forest canopy since they were first pegged in the 1940s.
On my first Big Lap of Australia back in 1995, climbing Pemberton’s Gloucester Tree afforded one of my biggest thrills, but I’m constantly amazed that these terrifyingly tall karris aren’t off-limits because they provide no safety-net for climbers.
There are three fire lookout trees that you can climb in the southwest near manjimup: the Gloucester Tree (60m), the Diamond Tree (51m) and the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, which at 68m, ranks as the world’s highest treetop lookout. All provide a heart-stopping thrill, particularly when you have to stop on a peg halfway up to let someone else shimmy down past you.
A few years ago, as I grunted my way up the Gloucester Tree, I overheard an English backpacker climbing behind me say: “Only in Australia would they let you do something this dangerous”.
He got halfway up before he carefully retraced his steps, perhaps realising that his travel insurance might not cover his fall out of a fire tree. The trees are still used to backup spotter planes during WA’s summer fire season, but mostly they give travellers a unique high.
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