I’m a guy that likes to watch movies and read books twice. Some of my friends don’t understand this. ‘What a waste of time’ they say. I disagree – for me, it’s always better the second time around. Sure, my short-term memory could do with some improvement, but when I experience something for the second time, I pick up on the details that escaped my attention on the initial pass, when my brain is working overtime just to take it all in. The subtle nuances of the plot, the look on someone’s face, in their eyes… I’m able to build a richer and more complex understanding of the story being told.
I was struck with this same experience on my second visit to the Otway Fly. I had been before some years ago and when the opportunity came up to visit the Otway Ranges again I was adamant that I wanted to go back to the Fly – even though I had been there before, I felt it had more to give.
On the Fly.
We drove in to the Fly from Skenes Creek on the Great Ocean Road. Turning off the Forrest-Apollo Bay Road we met a twisting, narrow strip of bitumen that cut through the national park. It provided us a preview of the cool temperate rainforest that we would soon be walking through.
But this would be no ordinary stroll through the forest. The Fly, an impressive gangway made of steel tubes and thick cables, rises above the understory, placing us amongst the remarkably thin, tall and straight Mountain Ash and the mossy, twisted trunks of Myrtle Beech trees.
As our journey headed upwards into the trees and we began to absorb the visual feast that is seeing the forest from this elevated position, I pondered what it is that made this experience particularly wonderful. It’s the same forest we drove through on our way in. It’s the same forest that I had walked through the day before. So why was I standing here, talking photos left, right, up and down, as if I was seeing something for the first time?
Click an image to enlarge
Time for a new perspective.
The answer was in my photographic approach – it’s all about the angle. We spend the vast majority our lives experiencing the world from somewhere between 1.5 and 2 metres off the ground and any departure from that level changes the composition and shocks us into a state of attention and awe.
The shift in perspective showed the forest in a whole new light – it became a different world. Instead of the tree ferns creating a dark shady canopy over a forest path they transformed into a beautiful, intensely green, almost 2-dimensional pattern carpeting the forest floor. Instead of the trees reaching up towards the sky they descended, like giant wooden stakes into the understory.
The day was especially windy and the sound that it made as it moved through the leaves was so different to hearing it from the ground. The wind was pushing against the trees so much that at this height, the swaying trunks looked like a slow, trance-like dance, as if the trees were moving to a tune that I could not hear. Occasionally two would hit each other and the deep knocking sound this created permeated the air and added another layer to this dreamlike visual and aural landscape.
Taking a closer look.
As I mentioned this was my second time at the Fly and while I was still blown away (obviously) by the overall experience. This time around I was able to look a little closer – to pay attention to the multitudes of epiphytic plants and fungii that live on the trees, to the structure of the branches and to the patterns made by the bark as I got up close and personal with the trunks. I noticed hidden gems like the small stream that meanders down below and could even see the beauty in the contrast between the very human, geometric structure of the Fly itself and the incomprehensible complexity of the forest ecosystem.
Click an image to enlarge
I venture into nature for many reasons, one of them is to better understand the world and my place in it. Revisiting the Otway Fly made this adventure particularly effective in that regard – it provides the perfect platform to experience the Otway Forest from low to high, to immerse yourself in each of its many layers and to get lost in its beauty from the miniscule to the massive. The unfamiliar perspective allows for insight and understanding into the logic, structure and wonder of the forest that just cannot be had from the ground.
- The Fly is located around 45 minutes south of Colac on the border of the Great Otway National Park. It will take between 2.5 and 3 hours drive direct from the Melbourne CBD. It can also be reached via the Great Ocean Road, either from Skenes Creek or Apollo Bay.
- Prices per adult for the Tree Top Walk start at $23.75^ (Online purchase price). Consult the Otway Fly website for more prices and package options.
- The excellent visitor centre has a gas fire, a perfect place for a warming drink after your winter walk through the trees.
- If adrenaline is your thing there is an activity available that has you Zip-Lining through the forest. Check out the website for more information.
- While you are in the area, check out Beauchamp and Hopetoun Falls. They are just down the road and some of the most beautiful falls in Victoria. See more of the region on the Great Ocean Road tourism website
All photography © Kendall Monk