I’m going to be up front. I hate heights. Planes taking off, roller coasters (especially that ride at Dream World, you know the one that takes you up somewhere in outerspace then drops you unnecessarily fast back down to earth whilst simultaneously making you wet your pants) mountain tops, unnecessarily steep escalators in shopping centres. You get the picture. So when I visited Western Australia a while back with two guys, one of who was Special Forces, the other in infantry, I should have known my greatest fear was going to be challenged.
Special Forces guy, as he will now be referred to as, threw me off a wheat silo with nothing but a rope and a carabin stopping me from plummeting to an untimely dealth. That wasn’t too bad, once I got over the endge. It helped that there was a rope… and the hugely buff dad of Special Forces guy waiting at the bottom of the silo, should I have needed rescuing.
But it was my little friend Hengy who thought it was a simply awesome idea to take me for a climb up Gloucester Tree. ‘How hard could it be?’ I thought. Let me give you a little background on this natural giant.
The Gloucester Tree is part of a series of giant karri trees upon which fire lookouts were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a rather ingenious way of spotting fires when you think about… unless of course, you hate heights… or you get stuck up a 61 metre tree with a fire rushing towards you!
Whilst the trees are no longer used as look outs, visitors can climb 61 metres to the look out of the magnificent Glouster Tree. Too easy, I hear you say? Well, this bad boy doesn’t have a fancy elevator to take you to the top. It also doesn’t have a ladder or safety rails. Nor are you attached to anything remotely stable by a series of ropes and cables. Nope. You climb a serious of metal pegs, which have been hammered into Glouster Tree. No seriously. That’s it. 61 metres of vertical pegs.
I pretended to be brave. I mean, I was in the presence of men who had been through months of basic training and eat tinned cheese from ration packs and are still alive. I probably got to the 30 metre mark before I let out my first whimper. By 40 metres I wanted out. But for the reasons mentioned above (that and there were about 15 tourists below me with a lot more confidence than I) I pressed on and 21 metres later I was standing on top of the world.
The views of the Glouster National Park from 61 metres up are stunning – a park full of gigantic kerri trees that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. And apparently only 20 per cent of visitors to the Glouster Tree complete the climb to the very top. Go on, be one of the 20 per cent who gets to the top of this 250 year old giant! Oh – try not to think about your travel insurance policy too much. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t cover falling out of a tree!