Tag Archives: wilderness

Aboriginal inclusion

My last post explained how someone or some people made their destructive marks on a culturally significant site. In so doing they were showing disdain and attempting to wipe away part of Tasmania’s aboriginal heritage.  Their act sits in stark contrast to a November 2015 document, which was reported in the media a few weeks before the vandalism, that promoted inclusion rather than exclusion.  Refer The Mercury article of 11 April 2016.

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) produced a report Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Tasmanian Wilderness, Australia with many recommendations.  These included:  ‘The term “wilderness” should be retained in the property name, while future dual naming is strongly encouraged to reflect both the Aboriginal heritage and the relationship of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community with the property’;’The “Wilderness Zone”, as currently used and interpreted, should be retained in the zonation of the TWWHA, while explicitly providing for Aboriginal access for cultural practices as an integral part of the management of the zone’, and ‘The State Party should support and consolidate the emerging joint management of the TWWHA with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community’.

The vandal or vandals who defaced the rock art are obviously out of step with growing community attitudes of support for aboriginal heritage and understanding of the values inherent in special sites.

Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – signs to side roads along the way

Around the Mossy Marsh Creek area and elsewhere, many short roads intersected with the Hydro road. These are pathways to assist Hydro Tas with monitoring and managing various aspects of the water flow.  They allowed me to continue to follow the Canal and be near the original river bed. Enjoy the glorious bush in the photos below.

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Blog readers will have seen signs before, however the lovely things about these photos include the colours of the adjacent bush, the depth of soft looking leaf mulch beneath the tall trees and the sense of a rich wilderness all around.  The environment was truly splendid. Having a road to walk on was such a boon – manoeuvring through that bush would have been a major trial and perhaps not nearly as pleasant.

Crossing the plain

Before reaching the plain, I stepped across a couple of tiny rivulets the waters of which were heading to Lake King William. The map indicated I should expect a number of these. None impacted on the ease of the walk. 20160103_075628.jpg

After walking approximately two thirds of the length of Lake King William from the south northwards, the track ended in a mire of deep dry criss-crossing ruts a few hundred metres inland. Obviously when the land was wet, vehicles had tried to continue onto the plain using bits of driftwood to give purchase – but the ruts soon stopped so I knew these man-made beasts had retreated, albeit with difficulty. My photo below, with Mount Charles looking down, does not adequately present the depth or the complexity of the intrusion of vehicles.

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In a recent posting I added in a link to Tassie Rambler’s blog . I suggest you revisit that site to look at the photographs showing what the area looks like when wet. Look for Mount Charles in the photos and then, in the photos that follow, you can see the wet plain that the Tassie Rambler experienced. I am immensely grateful for the dryness I found.

Mount Charles looked down on the plain which stretched wide and extended perhaps a kilometre inland from the Lake.  I knew I needed to aim at the pointed hill (see photo below) in the distance and be prepared to walk around it.

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A snaking crevasse meandered through this seeming flatness. My map named Bethune Creek as the main watercourse in the area so I knew I needed to make a water crossing at some stage.  My passage point was a log resting on both sides of the land. Crossing Bethune Creek was easy.

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The ground either side of the Creek and presumably across the plain was not wet, nevertheless it was springy under foot and I bounced as I walked.

Acres and acres of this ‘ground’ extended in all directions and a decision was required. Should I walk beside Bethune Creek until I was much closer to Lake King William and then try and get through the bush, find a track and continue on solid ground? Alternatively, because I could see the power lines in a row parallel to the plain, I wondered whether I should walk through the bush towards them as soon as I could see an easy route.  From where I stood it was not clear that accessing the power line area would be easy or even possible if I proceeded closer to the Lake so I decided to make a path to the power lines through the band of small bushes and undergrowth which seemed to be the narrowest.  It didn’t look difficult.

This was where the fun started.

Over the years, bushwalkers have groaned at the memory of experiences crossing button grass plains. Until this walk, I had no experience of walking through these plants.  Now I understand bushwalkers’ groans. When you see the images below of the button grass it appears not to present difficulties for walking – but appearances deceive.

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Despite the fact I only needed to cover about 100 metres of these beautiful looking plants, it was one of the most exhausting and frustrating processes I have ever endured. However, even as I tried to negotiate the distance, I could see the funny side if someone else had been watching my antics and halting progress.

Each button grass plant has a thick roughly circular base and then sprouts long arms some of which end with a spherical seed case, the button. Around and between each plant run channels which, in wetter times, would be a muddy, marshy, boot-removing quagmire.  Thankfully, these channels were bone dry when I made the crossing.  The channels were the width of one of my feet so on occasion I tried to walk in the channels. The channels are deep so that the top of the surrounding button grass plants were sometimes around my armpit height. This meant seeing the best forward path was not always possible. After making a few steps around a few plants, I would think I had found a way to continue reasonably comfortably, albeit not in a straight line to my destination. Then suddenly a mesh of grasses from a number of close growing plants would be so thick that I could not force my way through nor step over.  Then I would hump myself up to balance in the middle of a grass plant, my backpack changing my centre of gravity.  The irregularity of the height and thickness of the plants required constant rebalancing to stay upright. And I didn’t stay upright. I couldn’t.  So I would fall onto my back perhaps across a plant or two or perhaps into or straddling a channel. I lay there, rather like a beetle with legs and arms flailing in the air where turning over or getting up seems impossible. Then I would unhitch my back pack, firm my footing in a channel, load my backpack on, and start again. How many times did this happen? I cannot say.  But the landings were always soft and not jarring. These were gentle falls backwards offering marvellous sky views!

After much time – was it an hour or more? – the vegetation changed to a combination of few button grass plants, a nice little short spiky leaved plant (mind over matter was required to proceed through this), and a deeply spongy moss.

In the photo below, across the low level growth, the taller spiky plant can be seen left of centre, and the pale green plant in the foreground is the moss.  Again this photo shows a landscape that looks easy to walk through.  I promise you that looks deceive greatly. The ground beneath the plants was uneven, and some of the plants were deeply compressible by different degrees.

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I do not think the soft mossy plant, which slowed my progress considerably, was Sphagnum Moss one of Tasmania’s endemic species; however I am unable to identify it. Looking firm, I would step onto a smooth looking mass and that foot might sink a few inches, twelve inches, or I might drop down to knee height in the mass. Meanwhile the other foot and leg stayed elsewhere up someplace on another firmer plant. Unused muscles got a stretch. Keeping my balance was crucial because falling on the spiky plants held no allure.

A couple of years ago I attended classes to learn to dance the Argentine Tango in which balance is critical to success. During the dance, the man leads and the woman may need to stay balanced mid move on one foot for an unknown time. This means every time I made a step I needed to be prepared to stop, not sway, and keep centred. The dance experience proved useful in Tasmania’s wilderness as I negotiated a path through these plants. Speed was never an option.

I am not proud to say that I disturbed the landscape on this section of the walk.  However, the extraordinary resilience of the plants on which I stepped amazed me. They bounced back to their original shape immediately. When I stepped off the button grass plants and the moss, I could not see any mark of where I had been, although I recognise that at a micro level (perhaps even closer inspection) my steps would be in evidence on these plants.

Eventually I reached the power line clearway. It wasn’t clear. Dreams of easy walking remained dreams.

The tracks on the eastern side of Lake King William

Four options are possible for walking along the eastern side of Lake King William (through which the Derwent River flows): walking on the rocky shore because the Lake’s water level is down 75%; following four-wheel-drive vehicular tracks; using the low level vegetation of the regrowth area beneath the power lines; or ‘bush bashing’ to make a new track (I never considered this option except in one trackless area).  I found all options needed to be used at some stage along the way.

Tassie Trails indicates Lake King William is a remote area where the chances of meeting other people is unlikely.  The site suggests walkers/cyclists/bike riders will get wet feet.  I am pleased to say it was drier for me and my feet were never in mud or creeks despite my not taking any inland directed tracks. Tassie Rambler also describes a bike trip along these tracks, as well as how the writer coped with a trackless section. I will refer readers to this site in a later post to use its photos for comparison purposes against how I proceeded for part of my walk.

4WD-drive vehicular tracks criss-cross the area near Clark Dam but soon simplify into the one track mapped as the Switchyard Track.  Despite the above two sites promoting the use of a mountain bike, I suspect cycling would be painfully jarring because mile after mile of the tracks are constructed from various sized sharp lumps of unevenly laid blue metal (dolerite/bluestone). The rocks are loose and mobile so constant vigilance is required for walking.

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Some days I envy the British and Irish for the ease and simplicity of their towpaths and century-old established walking paths and rights of way next to their rivers and canals.  But then I remember, as I walk in the Tasmanian wilderness, I am the only one around smelling and hearing and seeing an extraordinary diversity of wild nature and it my responsibility to determine the way to my destination. I am incredibly privileged.

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UNESCO and Tasmania’s wilderness

Matt Smith reported (‘Heritage sites get UN check. Team on way to state’, in Sunday Tasmanian 8 Nov 2015) that Tasmanian government agencies and land conservation associations are ‘gearing up for a visit from UNESCO officials who investigate concerns about logging and mining in World Heritage Areas’.  Apparently UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has concerns about the current Tasmanian government’s ‘plan to allow logging and mining in the state’s 1.5 million hectares of protected world heritage area. The World Heritage Committee has repeatedly reiterated its position that mineral exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status’.  Acting Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Jeremy Rockliff is reported as saying, ‘We recognise the importance and significance of the TWWHA (Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area) and the importance of managing it in a way that is respectful of its natural and cultural values’. I hope to see UNESCO’s decision is accepted.

Plea as lost walker is found

My recent post Personal Locator Beacon explained how taking only a mobile phone when you walk in our Tassie wilderness isn’t smart: the batteries will go flat over time and any GPS location function may not operate.

A couple of days ago a man phoned the Police to say he was lost in some of Tasmania’s most inhospitable territory.  He carried only a mobile phone and had left his camping gear at a spot while he took off on a solo day walk. Thankfully, after two near freezing nights, the man who was described as an “experienced day walker”, found his way to Tasmania Police and their searchers.

If anyone is planning a walk in remote areas in any part of the world, please protect yourself and make it easy for emergency services in the event of an injury, illness or getting lost. Remember in some parts of Tasmania you can be 10 metres away from another person and not be able to see or hear them because of the density and size of the bush.

Tasmania Police made a plea for everyone to carry an EPIRB location device; a Personal Locator Beacon. “With a mobile phone you can only communicate with us, until the battery fails. AN EPIRB tells us where you are.”

Personal Locator Beacon

When walking away from roads and settlements in our Tasmanian wilderness, the risks of injury or illness must be covered.  Mobile phone coverage does not necessarily extend into some remote areas and, even where it does, if a person takes a tumble or becomes sick then s/he may not know the precise location of the place where they are. Therefore, potential rescuers may not be able to locate the sufferer.  In addition, our Tasmanian bush can be so dense that someone walking 10 metres away won’t necessarily see or hear you; therefore an alternative more reliable technology is needed.

The internet offers many different types of useful technology.

The Personal Locator Beacon which I purchased locally in Hobart is a SPOT GEN 3 Satellite GPS Messenger. It has the essential S.O.S. function plus my SPOT offers tracking with a Google Maps interface, regular check-in messages to friends elsewhere, and a Help option where a friend or other personal contact can be alerted to come and provide assistance in a non-critical non-life threatening situation.  The lightweight SPOT weighs a tiny 114 grams, is a tiny pocket-sized unit and ruggedly constructed.

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Once purchased, I registered my SPOT via an online connection so that in the event of my pressing the S.O.S option and needing urgent medical assistance, the GEOS International Emergency Support Coordination Centre will be able to respond. Once activated, they will get in touch with my key contact to determine if s/he knows additional information such as where I have walked from and where I am walking to (I guess that is just in case I don’t obey the important rule of staying where I am when I activate the beacon). My location coordinates and any other information are then provided to local response teams in whatever country or state is appropriate.

This is an expensive piece of technology including the registration charge.  However buying it is like buying car or house insurance. You buy it hoping you never need to use it.