Coming from just south of the California Redwood Forest and a place affectionately known as the “City of Trees”—Sacramento has more trees per capita than any other city in the world—I’m no stranger to tall tangles of bark and leaves.
But even I felt dwarfed for a day in Western Australia, strolling along the canopy in the Valley of the Giants and scrambling up to the top of a 61-meter tree with no safety gear.
Wandering in the Valley of the Giants, it’s almost impossible to comprehend just how big these trees are. 400 years old and 40-meters high, the Treetop Walk is suspended far above the ground.
There’s the Grandmother Tree, with enough enormous gnarls and knots to resemble the Wicked Witch of the West. There are trees with splits in the trunk big enough to walk through, and trunks with diameters not even a giant could wrap his hands around. After a few days in the treeless plan, the Valley of the Giants feels impossibly lush and green, with a damp humidity sitting in the air.
And the walk through the treetops is a feat of engineering, an experience that slowly-but-suddenly takes you to the very tops of the trees.
After a relative relaxing and serene walk in the canopy, climbing up the Gloucester Tree seemed positively daring. I’m not scared of heights—and I’ve done plenty of extreme sports in the air—but climbing up a 61-meter tree with absolutely no safety gear or net was enough to get my hands shaking.
The tree consists of metal pegs stuck into its trunk, wrapping around the tree until a small wooden landing about two-thirds of the way up. There’s another risk warning once you get there: after that point, the metal rods become increasingly narrow and almost vertical.
At the top, you’re essentially climbing up a completely vertical ladder jutting out of the tree until you reach the landing with 360-degree views over the canopy.
The view is incredible, but the rest is anything but relaxing: going up was one thing, but going down backwards is quite a notion. In short, it’s terrifying.
Note: I discovered all of these treetop adventures via the Nullarbor Traveller tour.