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Diary of a Wannabe Fungi Hunter – Adventures in the North West

Sunshine at Hellyer Gorge  - named after surveyor and colonial architect, Henry Hellyer who explored it in 1827. It remains a fitting tribute to his courage and skill, more so than the little town named after him on the North West Coast

Day 1 - Road trip. My new second hand camera arrived and I wanted to try it out. Heard reports that there were still good fungi to be seen in the far North West and decided belatedly to head off in that direction.  Arrived in Queenstown just after dark. It was completely closed. No fuel, no food, not even Axelburgers which used to be about the size of a breakfast plate. Drove on to Waratah. It's about as far as the car will go on a tank of fuel. Hoped that the service station there which had helped me out last time would still be open, but it too had closed for the night.  Slept in a carpark until it opened.

Sassafras blossom falling on moss

Day 2 – Bright sunshine in Hellyer Gorge. This was unusual and it’s a shame that in all the years we lived out this way, we’d never really stopped to have a good look.  Had breakfast there and two short walks.There are a few fungi. The bracket fungi are prolific. Also found some Geoglossum Cookeanum. I'm glad that someone pointed out that they were fungi, not the spent fern fronds or seed heads I always thought they were. Lots of ferns and mosses. It’s such a species rich area. Glad too that this little patch of rainforest remains when there is so much clear felling going on all around the state. Was going to write a book once about our life in the west. It would have begun something like this  “… and as we turned down the unfamiliar road, snow fell softly on ancient vegetation – the  tree ferns, the myrtles, the pencil pines and celery tops,  the shameless red waratahs, the leatherwoods and sassafras…”  That scene truly made me fall in love with the place. Now I would have to write “and as the snow fell softly on clearfell and plantations… “   It just doesn’t have the same ring. If this keeps up, Waratah will have to change its name to Eucalyptus nitens.

One of several types of bracket fungi
An  as yet unidentified (by me)  toothed specimen
Vibressa dura
Geoglossum Cookeanum - a big name for a tiny fungus. I would never have known it was a fungus if it hadn't been for the fungi pages. Hint: It's the little black things sticking up out of the moss
It is true as many old timers say that most of the forests that we admire today have been logged before, but logging is different now. In the past it was done selectively, taking only the biggest trees here and there, without disturbing the forest canopy, leaving the wildlife, the hollow trees with their nesting sites and all the seeds and seedlings. The disturbance and the extra light usually encouraged regrowth, but these days it’s a bare earth policy. Everything must go. Native animals are poisoned or simply forced out and nothing else is allowed to live, except the favoured species. I get it guys, you need the work, and big companies – paper mills and such, want guaranteed supplies, but what happened to the idea of leaving the roadside edges which would at least have provided something of a wildlife shelter and corridors through which it could move. It would be less visually disturbing too. Then it's onward through more plantations.

A lot of farmers are clearing their land too. Can't say I blame them, given the returns on dairy farming these days
I’m on unknown territory after Smithton. Head south for the West Coast. A book I have says there’s a campsite with facilities on a beach past Marrawah.  Pleased to find the road sealed, but the wind blows the van all over the road. Miss what looks like it was a glorious sunset. The campground has been turned into a neat picnic ground with signs that say “No Camping.”  I look out over the sea.  The arms of distant wind turbines at Cape Grim are twirling like crazy and the trees sport an alarming topiary, both courtesy of the Roaring Forties blowing incessantly across the Indian Ocean. I can see why this area has the freshest and cleanest air on the planet. Big waves too. I hear the surfing is good, but my eyes are watering and it's starting to rain. I keep heading south. 

View from Marrawah at dusk

There are also supposed to be camp sites down the road at Arthur River. It's dark now and I don’t see any on the way there. The rain gets heavier and the road is beset with a series of ridges like cattle grids to slow the traffic down. This is because this is now the only place with disease free Tasmanian Devils. They needn’t have worried. The noise the van makes going over them would be enough to scare away any living thing. I miss Arthur River the first time round. I go back over the long bridge to where I saw a light. It turns out to be a toilet block. The lights are on, but there’s no one home. The rain turns to hail. It hails so hard that the van leaks. That's never happened before. I make myself a coffee, have a sleep. Oh dear, this is beginning to sound like "The Diary of a Wombat." When I wake up it’s almost light. On the way out, I see all the camp sites I missed in the dark.