The forecasters had predicted a rainy day and we accommodated this by covering kilometres by car.
Not a hint of rush nor apprehension as we assessed the tide over a leisurely breakfast, made holiday wraps (not Grange wraps), checked our maps and pointed the car in the direction of Marrawah, at a sedate 10.44am. Gary had surfing and a 6 day Arthur to Pieman River walking trek in mind; I had the Tarkine – wherever that was – or is!
Despite inhospitable weather at Marrawah we walked along the beach in a northerly direction, without crabs, and noted the different forces at play to those in our Western Inlet. Turning back seemed a wise move and as we headed to the car, we were saturated in sunshine. The toilets, being freshly attended to, were impeccable, producing the first of many congratulations to the Circular Head Council. We stopped at the General Store and although the newspapers weren’t due in till after 12, we scored a ‘Tarkine Drive’ pamphlet – a paper version of Gary’s research. Choices: West Point, Bluff Hill, Coastal Walk, Edge of the World?
West Point had waves for surfing eyes to appreciate, orange lichened jagged rock formations, wind -swept vegetation and sunshine. With an eye on the time, mindful that the car clock refused to acknowledge daylight saving, we bypassed Bluff Hill and headed for the Edge of the World via the township of Arthur River. The Parks and Wildlife Office prompted a stop, Gary determined to hear from the horse’s mouth tales of the Arthur-Pieman Walk. He was rewarded. “Yeah! No trouble. Very popular. Best month January, but February March good too! Yeah, sometimes you have to wait for days to cross a river unless you carry an inflatable. Leave your details here to record your departure so that your abandoned car doesn’t alarm the locals. You might choose to start from Temma.” Temma. I sense Gary honing in on Temma. We make our first holiday purchase and full of wonder flicked through the glossy Phill Pullinger “Tarkine Trails” book: Temma – Map 17, page 133. But first, the Edge of the World.
Having sat at one Edge of the World in 2010 at Finisterre, peering across an ocean that lapped at America, and years earlier at John O’Groats on Britain’s north eastern tip with its link to the Arctic Ocean, and Land’s End to the south west and the North Atlantic Ocean, I was curious about the Indian Ocean. My memory will fade. There was nothing out there; wind, wind, and more wind dominating the senses, and I loathe wind.
Back in the car and we reflected on Arthur River. Where was the shop, a General Store? Where were the fresh crays, abalone, and giant rainbow trout? Where was the accommodation for the Arthur River Cruise Tourists? Without searching, we found the Arthur River itself – the road crosses it, and it is a mighty river, but not even a petrol station added colour and movement to this god-forsaken town.
To get to Temma you drive straight ahead not continuing on the C 214 even though discouraged as you pass by Stinking Beach. It’s another grey sandy track bordered with low lying vegetation and grassy dunes and enough crests and curves to keep you alert. The end of the track and the shacks that denote Temma are sad. The ’holiday wraps’ enjoyed in the car with windows up, a touch of wheelspin as we vacate our lunch spot, and conversation about the recent fires in the area, are the highlights.
The junction to C 214 is a relief as our Tarkine Drive map speaks enthusiastically about Kanunnah Bridge, Sumac Lookout, Julius River and Lake Chisolm. All the while I’m looking for my version of the Tarkine. I’m beginning to think the rainforest giant trees I’d imagined belonging to ‘Tarkine’ had all been felled or I’d got it wrong and Tarkine meant diversity – trees and coastal vegetation.
The road is punctuated by ripple strips intended as a measure to scare off devils. We see one dead devil. Emma phones: a few minor business matters and an account of her scone making prowess.
The ‘lovely spot for a picnic’ at Kanunnah Bridge didn’t reveal itself and a few minutes standing on the bridge were all that was needed. Neither did Sumac lookout take our breaths away as advertised, either physically (the ‘easy 10 minute walk’ was 4 minutes return) or emotionally, but the carved wooden sign in the car park was worth a comment.
We focussed on Lake Chisolm and Wes Beckett Falls, and yes, we were now out of low lying coastal grasses and in amongst trees. In fact some of the weaker saplings were littering the road indicating a recent severe wind event…
The car sped past Julius River and would-you-believe the ‘Julius River Motorhome site’ (obviously important to those with motorhomes) didn’t slow us down either, only the ripple strips.
The Lake Chisolm car park is 4.3kms down an unsealed road off the main road. Just us parking; we were alone in a forest that confirmed my scanty knowledge about the Tarkine. The walk to the lake, a flooded limestone sinkhole, was beautiful. Magical silence. Coolness. The lake was an unexpected joy in a day of mixed blessings; mirror still and surrounded by myrtles and lichen dripping branches; a bracken forest floor and manferns taller than normal trees, but dwarfed by the Tarkine trees that touched the sky.
The Dempster Plains were buttongrass and Rapid River and Sinkhole (nos. 17 & 18 on theTarkine Drive) went by unnoticed, although there were glimpses of sinkholes by the roadside.
Signage was a fascination; significantly large highway type town and kilometre posts in the bush. Sadly Wes Beckett Falls turn off sign had a red CLOSED sticker on it. (no joy) Shall we go and look? The photo in the Tarkine Trails book was mighty tempting but a 8 kms unsealed road return trip wasn’t, so we transferred our disappointment into expectation and headed for Trowutta Arch.
After 4kms of unsealed roads, Reids and Gun, we were directed through a myrtle forest with a remarkably clean floor and those giant man ferns which continued to impress. A plate size fungi at right angles to its host, a magnificent tree, had been admired by previous visitors, but undoubtedly everyone since this area was first traversed, had gasped when the Arch came into view: a truly remarkable feature framing another breathtaking sinkhole! Boot impressions and evidence of people sliding in the mud were added to, as we also slipped down to view the arch from every angle possible and to get closer to the rich reddish brown tea coloured water.
From here we travelled to Smithton and another unexpected find; Time Out in Emmett Street – a coffee shop displaying the CHArchibalds. We voted several times for the Public Award as the standard of the works and the interesting portrayal of the locals deserved recognition – and we didn’t agree with the Judges, who chose a ‘collagey’ work referencing Klimt.
The Duck River factory, once a shining beacon in this once busy town, sunk into its surroundings, grey and neglected, and our thoughts turned to home.
A rekkie through Stanley to sus out a good breakfast spot (as Friday was ‘walk-into-Stanley-and-beyond day’), a good restaurant for dinner, and to get the lie of the land, rounded out a ‘collage’ of a day.
Wind swept coasts and sturdy low coastal vegetation, cool and calm and silent temperate forests, erect, handsome man ferns, sandy roads, ripple strips, squalls, sun, cloud and windscreen wipers, created a memorable Thursday, but reinforced the marvel of arriving anywhere by foot, and merging into the landscape step by step, rather than arriving from within a car environment and plonking oneself on top of the earth in instalments.
We were both looking forward to Walking Friday Day.
The promise inspired good sleep and early waking.