Saturday 2 May 2020

A Long-Awaited Reunion: Part 3

When I was young, some car owners opted to buy eye-catching two-tone cars. A rich uncle had a very fancy two-tone Ford Ranch Wagon, with fetching brown sides, and a custard coloured roof. Today confirms that our walking group has turned into a two-tone model.

This starts to become clear while we’re discussing our walking options. The forecast is good, and climbing Tasmania’s highest mountain, Mt Ossa, is high on some agendas. Yesterday’s more adventurous quartet has Ossa and maybe more in mind. I start thinking of them as the “brown” side.

[Small falls between Pelion Hut and Pelion Gap] 
On the “custard” side, Lynne has never ascended Ossa, and would have been keen. But … yesterday’s work on her knee wasn’t a miracle cure. She will still have to nurse it a little, and I plan to stick with her today. Jim was up Ossa with me in 2017, the most recent of many ascents we’ve made. On that occasion we had the best conditions we’re ever likely to see. During our descent we talked about whether we’d ever do it again. We weren't sure then, but when he’s asked if he’ll go today, Jim simply says “Nup”. The “custard” side is firming. Brita then declares that she’s not a summit person, and with Ossa not on her list today, the score becomes Brown 4, Custard 4.

[Our 2017 summit experience on Mt Ossa] 
So the Tims, Merran and Libby are going up to Pelion Gap, then on to the top of Tasmania. TimO adds that he’s never been up Mt Pelion East, and I see that “can I do two summits?” glint in his eye. Jim, Brita, Lynne and I reckon we’ll go as far as the Gap, and then see how we feel. Our two-tone group at least agrees to be back in time for pre-dinner nibbles and drinks together on the grass beside our tents.

[Buttongrass heads and coral fern] 
Part of Brita’s coaching of Lynne is that she could try shorter steps, not striding out too much. A corollary of that is that she should go at her own pace. So the brown team leaves us in their dust, as we custards climb towards Pelion Gap in a more leisurely fashion. One of the advantages for me is more time to photograph, which also means more time to really notice the intricacies of the forest and woodlands we’re walking through. Jim and Brita stay with us for a while, but eventually they firm up a plan to walk past the gap, and up to the side of Mount Doris.

[A small grove of Pandani near Pelion Hut] 

[Celmisia - alpine daisy] 
Lynne is walking a little more easily today, but there’s still some pain, and she stops every now and then to stretch her hamstring. Eventually we top out on Pelion Gap, just as Jim and Brita are about to depart from there for Mt. Doris. 

[L to R: Peter, Lynne and Jim at Pelion Gap]  
Jim is keen to show Brita what he calls “The Japanese Garden” on the side of Doris. It’s a relatively level section of an otherwise steep route. Bright green carpets of cushion plant are interspersed with other ground-hugging species, mini-thickets of scoparia, and slabs of lichen-daubed rock. Little runnels and pools of clear water complete the picture: a perfect little natural garden.

[Sunburst on forest detail] 
Lynne reckons this is as far as she should come today, so we farewell the others and sit down to our lunch on the gap’s platform. Afterwards, with our new-found appreciation of walking slowly, we stop often. It proves as good for the soul as it is for the knees. We take the time to find small delights, and to smell the … well, not roses, exactly. It’s things like the pungency of sassafras, the tang of lemon boronia, and the earthiness of buttongrass. And there’s also that indescribable scent you get when you lie amongst all that is breaking down on the rainforest floor, as you try to photograph a King Billy pine that towers above everything.

[King Billy Pine trunk and forest floor] 
Meanwhile back at the “Japanese Garden”, Jim and Brita are surprised by TimO. He’s already been up Pelion East, and in Jim’s words is “looking knackered”. He pauses for a drink, and wonders aloud whether he really should “give Ossa a crack as well”. Politely ignoring Jim’s advice, he sets off towards Ossa. Jim and Brita shake their heads and head in the opposite direction. Jim gets back to Pelion only a little while after us, and lets us know TimO’s apparent plan, and that Brita has gone off for a swim near Old Pelion Hut. Within the hour Tim D, Merran and Libby are back, sounding upbeat after their ascent of Ossa.

[Flower heads of Billy Buttons] 
When everyone has recovered a little, we gather again at the delightfully grassy tent site, a little above the hut. The left-overs from the heli-pad party are reinforced with more cheese, and some extra wine is found. Our gathering looks like a product placement for Helinox chairs, as four of us sit comfortably above the grass in our “Zero” chairs. 

[Nibbles while waiting for TimO & Brita] 
It’s a warm and gentle early evening, and as currawongs pipe in the closing of the day, we’re happy and grateful for many things. All we lack is the presence of our friends TimO and Brita. We’ve got well into the bhuja and cheese, and have started the wine, when a very weary looking TimO traipses down the track from the gap. Almost simultaneously Brita comes up from the side track that leads to Old Pelion. Our group complete, we settle into hearing the varied stories of our party members. As I listen I can’t help thinking what a fine two-tone model we are!

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