Thursday 23 May 2024

Talleh Tales: Chapter One

The call came just before dawn. A call of nature? Nothing unusual about that. But this was more. In the dim light, as I stood relieving myself, the call continued, drawing me to the lake shore. A light mist lay over the waters, blurring the line between a metal grey sky and the silver grey water. 

[Dawn at Talleh Lagoons[

All was perfectly still, or almost so. I’d thought the lake to be mirror calm, but a tiny, silent ripple just below me caught my eye. Concentric rings, like those created by a small rock plopped onto the water’s surface, gently ruffled the calm. But there was no rock thrower. Rather, as the sun began rising, I could see there was the smallest movement of air, a drift of mist coming across the lake. It didn’t make waves as such, but there was sufficient movement to cause the water to lap against a barely submerged rock; to winkle ripples out of the almost inanimate water. 

This movement of air was not wind, the sort depicted coming from the puffed cheeks of a huge humanoid cloud. No, this was a mere whisper, like a breath of God hovering over the waters of creation: a picture from the opening verses of Genesis; a poetic depiction of The Beginning of all things. 

* * * 

The (lesser) genesis of this walk came from the creative mind of our friend TimO. On a walk in Tasmania’s Central Plateau back in December ’23, Tim had posed the question: what if, instead of doing a long through walk, or a circuit walk around and back, we just walked somewhere and stayed there? For days. It would be a quieter, more meditative trip. If we wanted to we could amble around, experiencing or photographing details at different times of day. If we stayed longer we’d be able to know the one place on different days, and in different conditions. We’d be aiming for deep rather than wide. 

[Cushion plants and scoparia, Central Plateau]

We’d liked the idea, and the seed had grown. But ironically when we nailed down a few optional times in February ‘24, TimO himself wasn’t available. In the end our group was whittled down to just three: Jim, Lisa and myself. Our destination was Talleh Lagoons, a place we’d “discovered”, with TimO, on the last night of our December walk. 

Two things about the proposed walk appealed to Jim. Firstly we could start early by staying overnight at the Great Lake Hotel, and secondly the campsite was only about two and a half hours from the road end. A nice cushy walk, we (quietly) thought to ourselves. 

Lisa kindly provided the transport from Hobart, and after a pleasant night at the hotel, we reached the start of the track quite early. The “cushy” walk began, and we wandered gently along the known route. This being the plateau, the going was undulating at worst, and the conditions were clear and pleasantly cool. We were soon getting views towards lakes and mountains, the former nearer than the latter. 

But two and a half hours in, we realised we were still a long way from Talleh Lagoons. We’d made the mistake of taking Jim’s exit time from our December walk, and imagining we could match that pace on today’s inward walk. We had to admit that a Jim-headed-for-home pace was unmanageable. 

We eventually arrived in time for a late lunch, and had soon settled our tents into the lakeside camp. It was as beautiful and tranquil as Jim and I remembered, and Lisa shared our enthusiasm. Scattered trees gave us some wind protection, and strategically placed rocks divided the campsite into “rooms”, as well as offering seats and wonky tables. If we had to stay in one place for a time, we could do a lot worse than here. 

[Campsite at Talleh Lagoons]

Across the lake, the southernmost of the three lagoons that make up Talleh Lagoons, we could see the track we’d descended to get here. Mid-afternoon we saw another walker coming our way. We watched as s/he eventually reached our side of the lake. As they were setting up a few hundred metres away from us, we wandered up to meet the neighbour. The walker admitted he’d been planning to come to the site we now occupied. But seeing us ensconced, he’d chosen a (less ideal) site well away from us. 

We introduced ourselves to Steve. He turned out to be an ecologist currently working for the same department I had worked in prior to my retirement. Yes, Tasmania is a smaller world than many places! For a time we talked workplace politics, before moving on to the much more interesting topic of pencil pines: his specialty, and one of my passions. He eventually set off to indulge another passion: fishing for trout in the lagoon. We wished him well, and left to get our somewhat more certain evening meal together. 

[Jim settling in at Talleh Lagoons]

With the meal over we had a quiet wander along the shore, sometimes looking back along the lake to see if Steve was having any luck. The weather was calm, but the lake surface had plenty of ripples from trout activity. Our neighbour might yet have a special dinner. We stretched and yawned and left him to it. As currawongs and honeyeaters sang farewell to the day, it was time for us to get horizontal in our own little nylon nests.

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