Tuesday 20 March 2018

Crossing the Plateau 2: Downtime

There are some activities that you would immediately associate with off-track walking in the Tasmanian wilderness. Lolling about, playing cards, daytime snoozing and planking might not be among them. When day 3 dawned on our walk across the Central Plateau, those things weren’t uppermost in our thoughts either. Rather, once we’d conferred about when to leave and how far to go, we expected to walk further into the unknown.

[Conference time: Pencil Pine Tarn] 
The forecast was for wind and rain, but mostly later in the day. So getting going early, and finding a sheltered campsite before the change, seemed the obvious choice. But after breakfast, with an ominous build up of cloud and a rising wind, our group conference took an interesting turn. We outlined the options, then asked each person to express their preference. Nearly everyone was for packing up and leaving, albeit without huge enthusiasm. But at the end of the discussion one walker mentioned some hip discomfort after yesterday’s walk. When we combined that with our general ambivalence and inertia, we unanimously reversed our decision. We would stay another night in the shelter of this lovely Pencil Pine Tarn campsite. Ain’t democracy grand?

Having decided we weren’t going anywhere, we promptly went for a long walk around our home lake. We figured rain and wind might soon make that impossible, or at least unpleasant. Apart from anything else, I was curious to see if there were any other campsites near this tarn. (The short answer was yes, but our’s was definitely the Paris end of town.) Nonetheless we found some other fine stands of pine, and a few delightful pools. We also disturbed some swans and their cygnets, and the odd wallaby.

[Mick explores a nearby tarn] 
At one stage I found three of our party down on hands and knees, intently looking at something. I joined them, and found a very large, oddly-coloured katydid. 

[What have we here?] 
It was a mountain katydid (Acripeza reticulata), new to us but apparently common in eastern Australia’s high altitude grasslands. When they’re threatened they lift their wing-covers to reveal bright crimson and blue stripes, and the males emit a warning call. We mustn’t have threatened them overly, as they allowed us quite a close inspection before continuing about their long-legged business.

[A female mountain katydid - photo: Mick Adams] 
Despite our decision to stay another night at our tarn, a few of the group couldn’t resist reconnoitring the potential onward route. Tim D deployed his phone’s map app – a better option than a paper map in the strong wind that was now blowing – and tried to match what we could see with the terrain shown on the map. From where I stood, I was pretty sure I still heard “southish” and “westish” mentioned.

[Discussing our navigation options] 
With tomorrow’s navigation nailed (!) we circled back to the campsite, and settled down to a brew and banter session. At such times our talk normally centres around food (briefly) and bushwalking gear (at great length). But this time our gear chat unaccountably faltered, and we somehow found ourselves talking about walking fitness, including core strength.

Now up until a few years ago, I didn’t know humans had cores. I thought that was purely an apple thing. But I’d recently discovered not only that I had one, but that it could be strengthened. Even more, I’d found that as I get older and my muscle tone isn’t quite what it once was, having a strengthened core is a “good thing”.

So I breezily mentioned my discovery of core-strengthening exercises, and notably planking. What ensued was an hour of (mostly) harmless fun, as we started a plank challenge. While no-one in our group would confess to being competitive, they lie! An hour later, after much pain and huffing, we declared Ken the winner of the Pencil Pine Tarn Plank Challenge. He had somehow managed to hold a plank for 4 and a half minutes. Merran and Libby were the other medalists, not that anyone was being competitive, of course.

[TimO perfects the "tired and prone" position] 
The rest of us took some consolation in our ability to lie prone for even longer. TimO seemed particularly happy to adopt and hold the prone position, even if some claimed he had simply collapsed in an exhausted heap. Either way, he set such a good example that I decided to try the same in my tent. Unfortunately it didn’t work that well, as the next (non-competitive) activity – four-handed 500 beneath the close-by tarp – soon got very raucous.

Late in the afternoon the promised wind and rain gatecrashed the party, and the 500 players retreated beneath the larger tarp. The rest of us stayed tent-bound. And now we could all appreciate the wisdom of staying here an extra night. While the rain pelted down, and the wind roared around us, our tents stayed well protected. We even managed to cook in between showers, and socialise for a time over dinner.

Fresh showers finally drove us – not entirely reluctantly – back to our tents. And before the light had fully drained from the sky, I’d drifted back to sleep. Downtime can be tiring, you know.

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