As a kid I loved climbing trees. Not quite as much as my little brother, who scampered up them like a wildcat, but when I did manage to haul my slightly bulkier frame up into the canopy of the blackbean tree in my family's Brisbane backyard I always had the feeling that I was somehow separate from the world below. It was a feeling I relished.
I turned forty this month, and suffice to say, it's been a long time since I've climbed up into the treetops. At least until today, when I had the thrill of being suspended 50m above the ground amid a cool temperate rainforest of gargantuan eucalypts, sassafras, myrtle beeches and leatherwood, a tree responsible for one of the world's most fragrant honeys.
The reason I was once again in the tree canopy: A visit to Tasmania excellent Tahune Airwalk. Located an hour and half from Hobart via the village of Geeveston in the Huon Valley, Tahune is set in the southern forests, a place of incredible natural beauty but also the scene of decades worth of conflict between conservationists and forest workers.
Tahune Airwalk is owned and managed by Forestry Tasmania, an independent corporation established by the Tasmanian Government in 1920. I didn't really want anything to do with the politics of what is commonly called "the forest wars", to be honest. That's a discussion for another story, and the purpose of my visit was simply to get up close and personal with some of the most remarkable trees on the planet.
Take Eucalyptus regnans, for example. Known by various names, including swamp gum, mountain ash and Tasmanian oak, the tree's botanical name is the best descriptor of all. It literally means king of the gums. This is the perfect title for the world's tallest flowering plant, a tree that can reach heights of 110m and live for 500 years.
The airwalk is a 600m long steel bridge held in the air by pylons. It sounds like an imposition on the forest, but in fact the airwalk quite has a tiny footprint and quite subtly leads visitors through the canopy, although the tallest trees still tower tens of metres above the platform. The walk culminates in a cantilevered lookout with superb views to the confluence of the Picton and Huon Rivers, which unite their tannin stained waters against a backdrop of forest clad mountains.
The Tahune Airwalk is a must-see attraction for visitors to southern Tasmania. My advice is regardless of what you think about the forest wars, it's possible to take the forest industry propaganda with a grain of salt, appreciate the fact that something like the Tahune Airwalk exists, and focus instead on the experience of being among some of the world's mightiest forests and rivers. To be immersed in the treetops is a breathtaking experience.
Justin travelled with the assistance of Tourism Tasmania.
By: Justin Russell
First published: April 2014