Sunday 24 May 2015

Freycinet Experiences 3: The Path Less Trodden

[Treading lightly on the Friendly Beaches] 
In my family we call it “explorer blood”. It’s the urge to see new places; to choose different routes; to go that little bit further to see what’s over that hill. I have it, my father had it, and his father had it before him. But I didn’t expect it to come into play here, on the Freycinet Peninsula, which feels known to me, tamed even.

Yet as we walk from White Water Wall towards Bluestone Bay, I start to get that old tingling in the blood. It rises as Jodi tells us we’ll be taking a route that is not well known; not often walked. It’s certainly new to me.

We carefully scrub our boots at the bay. We don’t want to be responsible for introducing Phytophthora root rot here. That fungal infection has already killed many susceptible plants in other parts of the national park, and we don’t want to carry it in on any infected mud on our boots.

[Boot scrubbing at Bluestone Bay] 
Overnight it rained, pattering on the roof of our accommodation, lulling us to sleep after our long day of walking. Today it’s cool and windy, and there are still showers about. At the bay we watch a pair of sea kayakers launch into the water. We hope they hug close to the steep cliff-bound shore in these blustery conditions.

As we climb through the bush I imagine how Aboriginal people would have used their rafts along this coast over thousands of years, hunting the seals and sea birds that are still prolific here. We pass a midden which holds clues to other parts of their diet; especially shellfish and marsupials.

[A distant sea kayak near Bluestone Bay ... click image to enlarge]
We’re soon high above the rocky coastline, and looking down on the kayaks, now just small dashes on the corrugated dapple of the sea. It’s exhilarating to be here, like seeing an old friend doing new things in a new context.

[Looking back towards Cape Tourville] 
Most of us take a break at a high point with a view back towards Cape Tourville, but Jodi pushes on to some place she and Eric refer to as “the yellow rock café”. When we finally catch her up we get the joke. Jodi has hooked up a large yellow tarp over an improvised table. An amazing lunch spread covers the “table”, actually a piece of duckboard track. 

[Jodi and Eric at the Yellow Rock Cafe] 
After lunch we start the slow descent towards Freshwater Lagoon, at the southernmost end of the Friendly Beaches. There are old disused tin mines and random exploration digs in the area. Most are now just revegetated holes in the bush, which is thicker here in the sheltered low hills.

[On the descent to Freshwater Lagoon] 
We eventually get back to well trodden paths in the form of an old exploration track. This soon leads us to the coast at Freshwater Lagoon. On the beach we see our first other people of the afternoon: a family playing a game of beach cricket. As though to join in this pretence of summer, Eric and a couple of others go in for a swim. The day is now calm, and the low sun glitters off the ocean as we watch both swimmers and cricketers.

[A chilly dip at the southern end of the Friendly Beaches] 
We still have 3 or 4 km to walk up the beach and back to the Friendly Beaches Lodge, but in these conditions that will hardly be a trial. It’s time for boots off and trousers rolled. That makes me think of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

[Trousers rolled ... or shorts on for a walk up the Friendlies]  
But my own trousers are neither white nor flannel, and today I feel far less maudlin about ageing than Eliot. If there are mermaids singing today they are just the crested terns which pose and chatter and wheel as we stroll up the beach.

[Crested terns on the Friendly Beaches] 

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