Red sky in the morning greets us for our last few laps of the road trip. We do an early drive, just light enough that we see sleepy juvenile kangas hopping about to settle in for a day’s rest. They are not fully grown, but not joeys in need of mummy’s pouch either. We pass them by, occasionally spotting emus, and even the odd camel here and there, grazing in the mists as the sun rises, spreading blue all around.
Passing through another cute little town, this time called Nannup, we reach Pemberton. Gloria the expert driver that she is, manages to get us there in double time. Enough for a quick visit to a neighbouring cafe serving purportedly the best beef pie in Australia to refuel. We don’t quite agree with that assessment, but we’ll take their word for it. Next door is Pemberton Discovery Tours and we are booked to do the Beach and Forest Eco Adventure Tour with the proprietor himself, Graeme Dearle.
In a four-wheel drive—the requisite off-road vehicle needed to get through the three very different environments of the D’Entrecasteaux and Warren National Parks—Dearle first takes us through the old-growth Karri forest. These are the gigantic, older cousins of the ones we’d seen in Boranup. He points out the black, burnt bark, a result of the Manjimup bushfires in Pemberton three years ago that lasted two- and-a-half weeks. We take a little walk, exploring the massive trees which, un-fortunately, we aren’t allowed to climb. A few poses by a big tree hollowed out at its base, and we are on our way. Dearle busts out his drone and videos a few cool shots of us from almost as high as the height of the trees.
A little while later, we drive into a completely different environment of the Yeagarup Sand Dune System. Years upon years of shifting sands have buried, uncovered, and reburied trees of the landscape. Out in the distance, we can see the smoke from controlled burn-offs meant to prevent more of the devastating bushfires that Australia often sees during the dry, hot months.
Romantic, alternative history declares that Yeagerup means a place of love. White land back in Ngilgi Cave had described something similar. Yallingup was also referred to as a place of love by Europeans in the early 20th century. Many honeymooners visited it, and there’s even a Cupid’s Corner inside.
Yeagerup, in truth, means place of the wandering rainbow serpent spirit, the all-important figure in the Aboriginal Dreamtime mythology. It’s not a stretch to think of the place imbued with such depths of meaning, the rolling, pure, white, powdery sand dunes give way to the beach of the Great Southern Ocean in a glorious crashing of waves. We watch the awe-inspiring natural environment in silence, munching away on fruit picked from Dearie’s orchards.
On our way back, in Dearle’s camp-grounds near a still lake, we have the best meal of the entire trip. A very simple, cold lunch consisting of do-it- yourself sandwiches with Pemberton’s best smoked salmon, chicken, pates and fresh vegetables, and mugs of hot coffee or tea. Amidst nature, with friends, good conversation and the best tomato relish that I’ve ever tasted, simplicity is elevated to a level greater than any fancy dinner I’ve ever had.
We visit our last stop of the day, passing through Denmark. Almost at the end of opening hours of the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, we commence another jaunt through nature, this time 40M above ground. The design of the park was actually modelled after a similar national park in Pahang, Malaysia and features a 600M stroll amidst massive trees that are hundreds of years old. Keeping as quiet as I can, and far away from the noisy crowd taking selfies and giggling, I finally spot what I am looking for. A well-fed quok- ka, with a thick, healthy coat doing its quokka business at the foot of a giant tree metres below me. He crouches, occasionally nosing about the undergrowth, utterly unafraid. Quokkas don’t only exist on Rottnest, though the numbers are certainly greater there. You can spot the rare creature in the shrubbery of the Valley of the Giants, as long as you are quiet with keen eyes and hearing.
A few moments later, the spell is broken as a pair of Korean tourists gambol towards me, scaring Mr Quokka away.