Thursday 6 June 2024

Talleh Tales: Chapter Three

So I am on the plateau again, having gone round it like a dog in circles to see if it is a good place. I think it is, and I am to stay up here for a while. - Nan Shepherd


Channelling the wonderful Scottish geo-poet, Nan Shepherd, we widened our walking circle the next day. Our home lake was clearly a good place, of that we were certain. But what of the other two lagoons that make up the Talleh Lagoons?


We hefted our day packs, lunch and wet weather gear inside, and left camp after a leisurely breakfast. This time we went north, then briefly east to cross the top of our lagoon. Next we turned north and walked up the eastern side of the middle lagoon. The sky was a mix of blue and non-threatening cloud, and a brisk breeze blew from the south. We’d chosen this side of the middle lagoon, the smallest of the three, as the vegetation was low and relatively sparse. Across the lake the going looked steeper and more scrubby. 

[An old fence post at the middle lagoon]


On the lakeshore ahead we saw what we thought to be the stump of a dead tree. Instead, to our surprise, it turned out to be a fence post, some rusty old fencing wire still attached. This part of the plateau was used for summer grazing, mainly of sheep but also cattle, from the early 1800s until the mid 20th century. We presumed that these old lichen-covered fences near Talleh Lagoons were once used for stock management, ‘though they may also have been boundary markers. By coincidence we saw on our map that the western shore of Talleh Lagoons marked the eastern boundary of the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

[The old fence line extending north from Talleh Lagoons]


When we reached the top of the northern lagoon, the sporadic fence posts turned into a line of posts stretching a long way north. I followed it a little way up Quaile Gully, more a shallow creek than a gully at this point. Jim and Lisa waited as I wandered, wondered and took photographs. Some of my wondering was about how Tasmania’s palawa Aboriginal people would have seen and used this place. I knew that they seasonally harvested swans' eggs up here, and from what we’d seen there would have been plenty of those. As well they patch-burned up here, to encourage “green pick” that would have made it easier to hunt marsupials.

[Fenceline in the Quaile Gully]


I returned to the others, and together we reckoned we’d gone as far as we wanted. But so we could explore some new country, we made our way to the western shore of the northern lagoon. Thankfully this wasn’t too scrubby, but rather a delightfully undulating checkerboard of green cushion plants, red mountain rocket and lichen-dotted dolerite boulders.

[Lisa and Jim near the northern lagoon]


On our journey south we’d planned to avoid the scrubby western side of the middle lagoon. But we were still kept honest by the scrub that stood between the end of the northern lagoon and the top of the middle lagoon. Warmed and a little scratched, we reached the route we’d taken on our outward journey and paused for lunch. Then, bringing the day’s circling journey to an end, we returned to our home lake. 


Later that afternoon we caught up with our neighbour Steve, who had successfully hooked his dinner: a good sized brown trout. We were a little envious, especially Jim, who was on a minimalist trip in terms of food. He’d even decided to go without a stove, so would “borrow” hot water from Lisa or me. And at dinner time he didn’t decline offers of any spare hot food from our dinners. We laughingly we told him it was as good as having a dog to clean up after us.

[Any spare water, Lisa?]


In the late afternoon I noticed some movement at the far end of the lake. I saw what I thought was people scrambling down the scrubby shore and getting in for a swim, near where the inlet stream joined the lake. It was too far away to make out details, but I watched for some minutes as these people splashed and swam and had a good old time in the water. I guessed they’d get out of the water soon enough, and we’d see them coming this way to camp.


I decided to get a little closer, and walked up to where Steve was camped. But by then the swimmers had gone. I asked Steve if he’d noticed them, and he shook his head, saying he’d only seen swans. Jim joined us, and he too reckoned it was probably swans. I looked up towards the tracks leading in and out of our lagoon, but saw no sign of walkers. I was mightily puzzled, as I was sure I’d seen people, and that the swans were further out in the water. 


I pondered this later, and wondered whether my reverie of palawa people around these lagoons had over-fired my imagination. Perhaps it had just been swans, but … my cogitations continued. There are those who are somewhat in awe of the pioneer European trappers, shepherds and cattlemen who braved the often bleak conditions up here for nearly two centuries. And certainly they have my admiration. But the Big River band, and others of the palawa people, were up here for 60 000 years plus, including through a couple of ice ages. Admiration doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel about that. Perhaps I might be excused for engaging my imagination a little more than usual.

[View towards the Walls of Jerusalem on our way out]


The next day we packed up and left, and headed for a place that Jim knew would feed him well without the need for a stove or for any “borrowing”. As we sat and reviewed our great experience of “slow-packing”, the Great Lake Hotel fed us very well. 


Rod Atkins said...

I love your story telling PG. The Central Plateau is one place in Tassie I have yet to properly explore. Perhaps on my next visit. Cheers. Rod

Nature Scribe said...

Many thanks Rod - so glad you enjoyed this piece. I’d love to show you some of this marvellous place, if we can get our timing right.