Monday, November 02, 2015

Narawntapu National Park - Day 1


Among the Silver Banksias

It was way too early to make camp for the night and the shorter walk to the birdhide seemed a bit too tame. Though I like birds, I am not really a twitcher and no bird I have ever seen looks like those in my Simpson and Day.  I put on my boots and my old painting jeans and started walking beneath arches of Silver Banksia in the direction of  Archer’s Knob, a lookout in the Eastern Section of the Park.  It’s  a fairly easy walk, mostly through coastal scrub, sandy underfoot and occasionally across swampy ground bridged by a boardwalk. The lagoon with the birdhide lies to my right and to the right of that is cleared ground. Higher hills lie beyond.

Crossing the tea tree swamp
 My feet make no noise on the soft sandy track. I admire the scenery and startle the occasional pademelon sending it skittering through the bush.  Then I see a different movement out of the corner of my eye. I freeze. There among some fallen tea tree branches a few steps ahead is a snake. I can’t see its head, but it’s at least 5 foot long. No point getting the camera out. It makes a little noise when you turn it on and I’m not anxious to catch the snake's attention but it’s the oddest snake I have ever seen. Not that I have seen many up close.


Pademelon #1 It's a small marsupial

 The snake is a pale beige shade, exactly the colour of the tea tree branches and bark.  I can’t understand why, when it has 43.49 square kilometres to play in, it has to pick this little narrow path, the only place humans are allowed to use, to lie around upon. Interminably  slowly it decides to leave. As it slithers away I finally exhale.  I continue on my way, but more slowly now.  Every stick, every shadow, every root, now looks threatening and I am much more careful about stepping over logs and rocks. I see a few more small whipsnakes sort of sidewinding off the track, more terrified of me than I am of them. 

Snake Gully

I had read in the paper that snakes were out early this year.There were pictures of them  in suburban backyards, but I haven’t seen any myself for years. Perhaps it was the terrasound of my sons in their Blundstones which has kept them away so far, but I also read that it has been the warmest October since records started being kept in 1880. Note to myself. No more bushwalking  for me this season. After this, anyway. I’ve come too far to give up now.

The lower section of Archer's Knob

Archer’s Knob yields wonderful  views  far out  over Bass Strait  and the beaches, over Little Badger Head to the East, the folded mountains I had seen from the air and driven over in the South, and the lagoon , the green grass  and the estuary to the  West. The big dunes which fringe Baker’s beach look insignificant now.  They were formed during the last  ice age when sea levels were lower and the winds were much stronger – around 180Km per hour. There is a huge tidal range here. When we were flying over it, the pilot said it was where he used to go motor bike racing, though that’s a big No. No now. Horse riding is still allowed though on designated trails only.

Views towards Baker's Beach

The shrubs get smaller and smaller the higher I climb. I find myself wondering whether it’s because it’s rockier, colder and windier, or, thinking of the gully I had seen, simply the lack of water. Near the top where the ground is almost bare a few tiny pink spider orchids put on a show.
Echidna flattens itself against the wall of the track and pretends it can't be seen

One of several Spider Orchids
View to Little Badger Head

View over the Lagoon
Back at the bottom of the hill where the track divides, there‘s a difficult choice. I could just follow Baker’s Beach back to the campground, but then I would have to walk all this way again tomorrow  – adding an extra two hours, or just keep going  for the extra hour to Copper Cove Beach now.  By boy scout finger reckoning I had exactly two hours before sunset. We did have daylight saving and given Tasmania's usually long twilight that should be enough to do the return walk along Baker’s Beach. 

Dunes where the track comes out at Baker's Beach

Off I went over the sand. The beach seemed even longer than 6.7 Km Then it was up over the saddle – well several actually, and there were all those wild flowers.  Dragonflies flitted about, bees buzzed, but when I got to Copper Cove Beach, the birds were starting to make that mournful sound that it’s time to head for the nest. Definitely time to turn back. The beach itself wasn't that attractive, mostly rocky with a lot of debris, so I didn't linger long. The time given for the walk must have been  in ranger time, not leisurely stroll time. My ex used to bushwalk like that. Forced march – on the double, no looking at flowers and taking pictures, but then he was a scout leader in his youth. It was ranger walking time now.

Pretty Grass Lillies on the Ridge

Fine upstanding member of the Grass Tree Family

I made it back to the beach just in time to see the sun go clunk behind a low hill and then it was almost dark, except for a big full moon rising behind me. The tide was coming in. I'm glad I didn't do the scramble back over the rocks. There are two tricky places unless the tide is very low. Not something to try in the dark. Walking the waterline so as not to tread on birds' nests, even my footprints will be washed away by morning. 

Spectacular Sunset over Baker's Beach

It doesn't last long

Moonlight was fine for the beach section but then I had to make my way inland and couldn’t find the track that led off the beach. Rocks and driftwood began to take on bizarre shapes – seals, porpoises, even King Neptune himself. I groped in my day pack for the fancy new (for me) head lamp.  Bingo. After a few minutes' fumbling I had a floodlight. There against the dark border of shrubbery was a small blue sign saying Track I.  I supposed that was as good as any. The little map I had from the Visitor's Centre did not say which was which, nor any mileages though there was a scale. A scale doesn't mean much when the tracks are all wiggly lines  In the glare of the lamp’s high beam, marsupials  stood stock still instead of bounding away. Now there  were larger ones and grey not brown like the pademelons had been -Bennett’s Wallaby perhaps or more correctly, Red Necked Wallabies as they are now called according to Rootourism, or  even  Forester Kangaroos. At least I was I was pretty sure that any snakes would now be safely in their holes.

The track eventually led onto a parking area where there was another track sign which, in Cheshire Cat style, pointed in both directions. Not wishing to find myself at Archer’s Knob againI followed a road from the parking area. Roads have to lead somewhere, right? I thought hopefully as I walked miles through twists and turns and junctions. With great relief I finally caught sight of my van looming ghostly white among the silver  banksias.
I was starving. I plugged my lead into the power supply, but there was no response. No friendly light came on and I groaned when I realised that I wouldn't be able to charge my camera batteries or computer. The gas still worked though, so by head lamp, I prepared a less than gourmet delight of spaghetti carbonara with a little capsicum and spring onion.  Then it was absolutely lights out for me. I had walked more than fifteen  kilometres today.

Score 
Pademelons = 12
Large Wallabies and Kangaroos = 4
Echidnas      =   2
Bandicoots, Devils, Tiger Cats = 0
Large Snake = 1
Whipsnakes = 3
 By the way, walking alone is not recommended. When I do I always carry an EPIRB, a First Aid kit, my phone, although it doesn't work anywhere in this area, a compass, cold weather gear, a bit of food, lots of water,  trowel and Wet Ones, rubbish bag, sunblock and a couple of torches. You should also tell someone where you are going too.
 

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