At lunch we heard the roar. It seemed to go on and on crashing and tearing its way to the ground. Our initial impression was that it was close by and so I immediately searched along the trails around the centre. Nothing. A few days later Susan suggested it might have been the leaning fig so she, Lizz and Rowan went to investigate. After, they told me the inevitable had happened. I had to have a look for myself…
Up until then its majestic bulk was simply awe inspiring when viewed side on. The massive trunk angled at 45 degrees to the ground soaring over a deep wide gully. As with stranglers, the stem was riddled with apertures that at some high point coalesced into a solid cylinder shooting vertically skyward and crowned by a dome of rich green leaves, its fruit parrot heaven. On gazing at it, first thoughts include sheer disbelief at the staggering strength required to hold up its immense leaning weight.
“The stem was riddled with apertures that at some high point coalesced into a solid cylinder shooting vertically skyward and crowned by a dome of rich green leaves…”
When looking up its length from the base, a flying plank buttress flared out from high up and ran parallel to, and separated a metre from, the main trunk only to rejoin it at the base near the ground. One of the lovely things about the leaning fig was you had options for climbing. You could scramble up on the outside and negotiate the trunk’s folds and holes and ferns and orchids feeling quite safe on its broad back (although I was once startled by a large python curled up resting). From there you could sit and enjoy the forest from high above the gully and look up into the canopy.
The other option was to enter into its hollow trunk and climb up inside the ever- narrowing tunnel of interlocking roots. And at one point you look out through a window across to the sheer face of the flying buttress. A little further on you come to a gaping hole in the trunk beneath you with no possibility of going on while looking straight down to the gully far below.
That it had fallen was not unexpected. In fact last year it featured as our season’s greetings card photo in the knowledge that it might soon come crashing down. Some years ago ever widening cracks had developed at its base. Now from the top of the spear of splintered hollow stump left angled in the ground I surveyed the damage. Its twisted trunk straddled the gully and the temptation to cross along it too great. It had spread two large trees stripping off their bark and splitting one to its core. Other huge trunks lay smashed underneath and when I reached its far tips I looked back to see the devastation all around. An enormous hole had been opened up in the forest with blue sky searing overhead. I stepped out 45 metres back to where it shot out of the ground.
My thoughts before leaving: sadness in some ways as it had given so many the joyous opportunity to witness this remarkable work of nature. “Check out the leaning fig just after you turn left at the T-junction. It’s worth a little look”, we’d say. I also know it’s part of life’s ongoing process, from death comes life.
Article by Richard Zoomers President, Wild Mountains Trust Land for Wildlife member Rathdowney, Scenic Rim