Surrounding Stanley – Going home

Saturday, and although it was tinged with going home emotions, there were no regrets, and we were excited ahead of our walk in the Rocky Cape National Park.  Egg and bacon wraps prepared, the car packed, and off we drove to the East, passing the first turn off to Rocky Cape where we could have walked to Cathedral Rocks, and turning towards the coast at the Boat Harbour junction, and then driving about 10 kms west to Sisters Beach: Sisters Beach and Boat Harbour, both relics of the Tyzack-family outings memory album.

The settlement of Sisters Beach was unrecognisable, with streets of architecturally designed homes outnumbering the fibro shacks of our childhood.  As instructed by our ‘100 Walks in Tasmania’ book, we followed the signs to the Boat Ramp and parked the car.  Blogs had warned us that the start of the track was not obvious and this was confirmed by the sight of two potential walkers making little progress beyond the car park. A quartet of questions were answered when a mother and son in walking regalia appeared.

The threat of endless uphill walking became a reality and we mused over our lack of fitness despite daily walks, rowing machines and recumbent cycling.  Surely the repetitive climbing of the Grange stairs would instruct the appropriate muscles to accept a foreign incline…but, no, and we frequently paused to take in the view behind us along the coast. The treeless Sisters Hills offered wildflowers and more pausing opportunities; the track was well defined and well-trodden, and the degradation of the vegetation on the sides was further progressed by us dodging boggy flooded patches.  As we had read, the track did eventually flatten out, at about the point where the first of several inaccurate signs told us it was a mere 15 minute walk to the beach, the way we had laboured.

We were now walking in the hills and their valleys and at a sign-posted junction, took the track towards Anniversary Point.  A little less than a kilometre later we came to another junction and the Doone Falls track.  The sign indicated 15 minutes return but someone had etched a ‘4’ next to the 5 which proved more accurate, considering the terrain.  We were led through a welcome forest of eucalypts, paperbarks, wattles and banksias and got the steep, zigzag descent to the Falls that our guide book had promised.  The reveal of a thin strip of tannin-stained gushing water and the accompanying noise were a fine reward.  We snacked, conscious of our good fortune to trek here after rain.  Bloggers had commented on finding an unimpressive trickle depending on the season. The Falls are notable for the accumulation of froth at the base, yet the Doone river runs clear (albeit a strong tea colour) out to Bass Strait.

Retracing our steps and emerging from this mini-forest we re-joined the main track and soon had views of Anniversary Bay.  It was an easy downhill walk to the beach, only spoilt by the wind.  We noticed the Parks and Wildlife sign fallen in the vegetation and a tattered laminated A4 page was the only indication of the track for walkers coming from the other direction.  Our chance reunion with ‘mother and son’ walkers, no longer as lively as they’d been in the car park, verified the track’s obscurity, as they had walked for hours along the beach looking for it, without finding it.

We plodded through the soft sand for over a kilometre in the direction of Sisters Beach, visually assessing the inhospitable jagged, tilted siltstone coastline up ahead.  We chose to walk in the footsteps of others imagining they would lead us to a track, and they did. The rocky outcrops offered some protection from the wind and we perched on washed up logs and ate our lunch with visiting bull ants.

An advanced middle-aged American-accented  male emerged through the foliage and encouraged us to wait for him, as he would need a tow up the hill.  Yes, it was UP, but at the top of the bluff there were spectacular views, and the Blackboys (Xanthorrhoea ) were flowering; a common sight in WA but an unexpected memory of home for  Gary.

We had a choice of deviating to Lee Archer Cave, to Wet Cave, or continuing directly to Sisters Beach.  Now sheltered from the wind and beautifully warm and relaxed, we headed for Wet Cave.  It was an impressive opening quite a height above sea level.  We could just distinguish a pool of water at the rear of the cave, and the walls away from the light, glistened.  We were unaware of the Aboriginal significance and any future visit to the area will be more enlightened.

With the sun playing on the water’s surface, the walk to the beach through the Banksias was very beautiful, and after 100 metres of little rock hopping we were back at the car.  Not exhausted, mentally or physically, we opted to walk further along the beach to view the designer shacks, but the combination of unpleasant wind and restricted viewing because of the sand dunes and grasses, quickly altered our decision and we took a path back to the road.  Happy as.

Back in the car and being tourists, we left Sisters Beach and headed for Boat Harbour Beach, stopping to buy roadside flowers.

Memories of news footage of the road down to Boat Harbour slipping were confirmed, but of comfort was a new stone wall holding up the hill, and to our right, the bluest water frolicking on the whitest sand was a distraction to take your breath away.  Like at Sisters there were many new dwellings, but as access here is restricted due to its hilliness, there was still the atmosphere of bygone visits.  Once upon a time we would have stopped for icecream, but now with low carbs, reduced sugar…

From Boat Harbour to Wynyard via Table Cape was the next chapter in the un-planned journey home.  The Alexanders, Pop’s family, lived at the Cape.  Nan’s family, the Whittles, lived at the Cape too and went to the War from here.  I’ve always loved the rich red volcanic soils and from the air, flying in to Wynyard, the patchwork of pastures and ploughed fields and more recently, the vibrant colours of the tulips is unbeatable.  We marvelled at one paddock of tulips beyond the tourist tulip paddocks, and the ocean on the other, and drove down through the lively township,  continuing our travels east.

Driving with just the railway line separating us from Bass Strait and Victoria on our left, (previously known as the Emu Bay Railway Line and currently almost as extinct) and passing through Somerset and then crossing the Cam River, we left the highway taking the Cam Road to get to Burnie’s cemetery.  Mum and Dad have a position on the hill with unimpeded views to the Cape.  Simply beautiful. By contrast, the lawn is decorated with whirlygigs, objects that glisten, and flowers with a life of fading.  My camellias and lillies, bought by the roadside and softened by an afternoon in the car, added natural colour and gentleness to the brass plate.

From Burnie to Penguin and Ulverstone always hugging the Coast and foregoing the multi-laned highways that speak of pork-barrelling, we took it all in, enjoying every moment, and even when the car recognised the road, we saw the familiar with fresh eyes and cleared heads.

Monday at The Grange was people free and also glorious.

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