23 June 2014

Australian Bridges: 2. Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk

This isn't the first time I've featured an elevated walkway in this blog about bridges. It's not really a bridge, because it doesn't cross a particular obstacle.

Located above an escarpment some way to the south of Wollongong, New South Wales, the walkway provides views both into the rainforest canopy, and down from the escarpment across the lowlands towards the ocean. It's only part of a rainforest trail, but it stretches some 500m long, 25m above the ground. Completed in 2008, it cost about AUS$6.5m.

Despite the reported cost, it looks like it has been built on the cheap, with a mesh floor, open parapets, and somewhat industrial trusses below the walkway. It seems almost designed to enhance vertigo rather than to provide reassurance. There are two sections, one near each end of the walkway, which are cable-stayed cantilevers, and which sway a little alarmingly when loaded.

As if those weren't enough to deter the faint-hearted, a central tower rises to an even higher viewing platform, reached by a spiral staircase. When I was there, I saw at least one visitor unwilling to attempt the climb, and I didn't blame them.

Nonetheless, the walkway offers some fantastic views, not only across the landscape but also of the forest canopy, and down to the undergrowth, dominated by gigantic ferns.

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