The question remained. Was walking this leg achievable? Was the Derwent River sufficiently friendly to allow humans to walk its length? With my feet and knees complaining every time I walk for more than a couple of hours, I asked friend Andrew to proxy for me and undertake the walk along the Derwent River from near Tarraleah to Wayatinah. Since Andrew is a fit, agile, very experienced and sensible bushwalker, I felt certain if he could not finish this leg of the walk then no-one could. Besides he has been a positive supporter of the project from day one and was happy to undertake the walk on my behalf.
At 6.30 am, the day started with a drive from Hobart to the bridge crossing the Derwent River at Wayatinah. After parking his ute on the Florentine Road near the salmon hatchery at Wayatinah around 8.30 am, a friend drove him westwards along the Lyell Highway to the junction with Butlers Gorge Road. Under overcast skies on a cool day, Andrew began walking next to Tarraleah Canal No 1 around 9.30 am and continued until he reached the first crossover walkway about one kilometre further on. This location promised the shortest distance down to the Derwent river bed.
Andrew crossed, looked downhill and saw nothing but dense scrub ahead. He remembers remarking out loud “don’t dither, just do it. Don’t delay. Here we go; just do it”. At 10.10 am he left the Canal. Before stepping into the unknown, he spent time getting a GPS position fix and a magnetic bearing. Once set, he plunged into the thicket and took a series of sightings from one key tree to the next. This allowed him to stay on his bearing, and meant he would be able to retrace his steps if the going was too tough and the forest impossibly dense. The route down the steep slope passed massive tree ferns, smaller ferns, myrtles, mature eucalypts and the occasional Sassafras tree. Many fallen trees littered the understorey and it was clear this was an old forest in a constant state of regeneration. Scrambling over or under logs and negotiating rocky bluffs was a normal part of the descent.
Half way down the steep incline, it seemed that serious wind was blowing high up in the trees. Before long it was clear the rushing sound was the water of the Derwent River further below. Once the river could be seen, then it was a comparatively simple process to choose the clearest path to the river bed.