Tag Archives: bushfire

Lake Repulse Dam to Catagunya Dam – posting 9 of 13

The signs of a past bushfire were clear on one long hill.  Possibly a year ago.  A little green regrowth in evidence.

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Nevertheless seeing the blackened trees was a timely alert and made me wonder how I would cope if a bush fire came my way.  I have been informed the safest place is to find/create a hollow in the ground at the bottom of a hill, dig in and cover yourself as well as you can (remembering that most bushwalking gear and clothes is synthetic and will melt), hope the fire will flash over you quickly and that no trees or burning branches will fall on you, wait until the rush has passed, and then hope you can see somewhere to go.  I don’t ever want to put that to the test.

On the evening of this walk, I dropped off to sleep around 7.30pm (early to bed early to rise!) in my trusty little synthetic tent on the only flat place I could find during almost the entire walk.

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A little after 9 pm I woke to the smell of smoke.  Hmmmm.  I clambered out of the tent to have a look; 360 degrees of hills were softened with smoke haze.  No wind.  I couldn’t guess the direction from where the fire smoke might be coming.  When I considered collapsing my tent, repacking my backpack and continuing onto the Catagunya complex, I realised it was possible the fire was flaring between me and that destination. I listened for the sound of helicopters doing water drops.  Heard nothing.

A couple of hundred metres below me was the dam with its thick brown water (photo below taken when setting up before the smoke haze arrived) which I felt was the safest place I would find close by. Thought I was safest staying put.

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So I climbed back into my hot sleeping bag (the evening temperature didn’t cool as forecast), and went to sleep.

In the morning, I took the following photos. They show the smoky cattle-crossed hills surrounding me – and indicate the smoky air I was breathing.

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I packed up and walked passed another smaller dam, before travelling around, down and up hills once more. The smoky haze persisted. Didn’t seem worse.  I continued.

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When I saw Catagunya Dam in the distance with the haze behind, I knew the seat of the fire was elsewhere.

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Later, I learnt the fire was over 70kms away in the south west of Tasmania.  Strong winds were responsible for creating the haze and even Hobart way east was blanketed similarly by smoke from the same fire.

On the long and winding road through the Tinderbox area.

The morning had hardly begun when, a little after 9am, I started walking southwards along the Tinderbox Road, knowing that most of the way would not be and could not be directly next to the Derwent River.

In this area, with the exception of the occasional house surrounded closely by bush (I did imagine most of these households placed their trust against bushfires/wildfires in hope and household insurance), there is no way for easy access to the cliff edges, and there is no track along the top.  I did not think it worth the risk to walk alone in an isolated bush area a long way from a road or houses. I have no doubt it is possible to walk more closely to the Derwent River, but doing so would  not be a smart idea.

No track, pavement or pathway exists beside the two lane Tinderbox Road. Throughout the day I walked on the road when no traffic was in sight or within hearing and I stepped along the verges (where there were any) when traffic was approaching.  Thankfully, there were very few cars and sometimes 10 or 15 minutes would elapse without a vehicle on the road.

The most disturbing vision for the day was a fresh road kill; the glistening innards of a young native animal, a Common Ring Tailed Possum, spread across the road and barely connected to the main body. These possums normally go out for their hunting during the evening and this fellow must have been racing home to bed when struck by a car racing down the road.  The image of a ring tailed possum below was created by Greg Hughes of arrowfire.deviantart.com at http://www.deviantart.com/art/Ringtail-Possum-344619937.

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On the upside, I was delighted to have a close encounter with a group of 6 large native Green Rosella birds. My good fortune to see these grand birds at close quarters occurred because the noise of two vehicles crossing paths from the two different directions made the birds comfortable and they did not hear my scrunching sounds as I walked on the roadside gravel. I stopped mid step as soon as I saw these heavy birds. During my walk from Geilston Bay to Risdon, I had the privilege of seeing a couple of these birds close by (read the posting From Risdon to Tommy’s Bight via Porters Bay and finally to the bus stop).  Anywhere on the web, photographs of Green Rosellas can be found easily, however they all emphasise the lime green yellow throats as the main colour. In my experience, their deep green camouflaging backs defines their character.

So … what were the birds doing as I watched them (one was employed only a metre away)? They were snacking on ripe blackberries and loving every moment of it.  Inadvertently I moved a foot and the grating sound surprised them.  The small pack of large Green Rosellas rose from the bushes and, in a flash of blue edged tails, were gone. What a thrill to see them: such private birds. Later a local dismissed my excitement. ‘They are everywhere here, and they try and get my blackberries before me as I work along the canes picking them’, she said.