Blown away!

TASMANIA TRAILS

Blown away!
Mention Tasmania in conversation and the reaction is usually an awed response. Easy to see why, when this remote corner of our planet is all wild seascape, birdlife and tall forest. But all adventures at this edge of the world begin in capital city Hobart, set like a jewel on the banks of River Derwent. Not just because this is where you land, but also because Hobart is home to a hot arts scene, cool-climate wine, a groovy weekend market at Salamanca Place, the historic erstwhile penal-colony of Port Arthur, and a deep and abiding energy.

After a week of this capital magic, the siren call of the surrounding nature exerts a pull that’s far too strong. Whatever your ability or predilection, you’ll find a local company that has the walking tour just right for you. I sign up for the four-day Wineglass Bay Sail Walk.

Kit is as important as maps are when you’re heading out into the blue, and I examine the packing list sent forth to me with the zeal of a convent girl. Sailing shoes - check. Rain jacket - check. Lightweight trekking clothes - check.

Our mode of transport and accommodation (when not on foot) is to be the 23-metre ketch-rigged yacht — the Lady Eugenie. Nothing aboard her is pedestrian. The clipper bow gets suitably activated when it’s time for dolphin watching. The central cockpit is the place to be at sunset. The spacious lounge is where one goes when one wants to curl up with a book — from the carefully curated selection of volumes on Tasmania. Within hours, we’re introduced to the feeling that those who travel against the clock must have. We’re swayed into the boat’s easy rhythm.

Island so pure

But, while all manner of attendant luxury — three-course dinners on board, fine cool-climate wines, a competent crew — keep us joyful in our parallel Eden, we’re here as much to explore the east coast. Every morning, we summon up explorer tenacity and abandon the cradling comfort of Lady Eugenie for some adventure.

The world heritage, convict-listed site of Darlington on Maria Island is where we first alight. Once populated with prisoners, it’s still rife with old buildings (now repurposed as museums and community spaces) that walk you successfully through convict, industrial and aboriginal history — with their curated exhibits. As interesting as the stories of times past are, my lust remains snagged on spending as much time as I can in the wide open landscape — with its distinctive trees and views of the bay. Here,  a mama wombat cares for her babies. There, Cape Barren geese are on the march. The longer we walk, the more dramatically the landscape changes. One minute we’re walking under a canopy of deciduous beech trees on winding narrow paths; the next we’re on a vast green open terrain by the coast, admiring fossil cliffs.

The trained guide — who lives with us aboard the yacht and accompanies us on all the trails — highlights the experience. She makes birdie sounds to attract the hard-to-see brigade, is our larder when we’re hungry (trail mix, chocolate, warm tea from a flask anyone?), and is a pro at both navigating the route and pointing out easily the missable stuff. From her I learn that the native wallaby, eyeing my sandwich, is native to Tasmania’s mountain regions. That the ecological processes and fluctuations in sea levels have created some of the dramatic landforms that we see. The ultimate experience comes on this day from encountering the coloured and patterned sandstone formations of the painted cliffs.

Ascent & awe

Flexibility on board the yacht is a point of pride, and choices exist with each new dawn as to what the day’s exploration will hold. Do we want, for instance, to relish the golden stretch of the beach, swim and snorkel? Or, climb Bear Hill? The group is in favour of Bear Hill, as usually the more arduous journeys bear the most unexpected reward. The higher we climb, the sweeter the views. The more the rocks challenge us, the more we learn to be intensely aware.

The trails of the next few days are barnacled with ascents through blue-gum forests and button-grass fields. Finally we arrive at the iconic Wineglass Bay — for which this Bay-Sail walk was named. In this place of elemental wilderness — the blue waters of the bay cupped against a crescent of golden sand — we feel like a speck.

And as rapid consumerism takes hold of the globe, this little untouched corner of the earth invites us to examine our priorities. Here in a place where the weather, not the itinerary, determines our route; is where I achieve a sense of freedom from the clock.

In the small-scale industry, organic farms and the sturdy people who love the land is a poetry and way of living that’s as moving as the landscape. In my new friends — the honeyeaters and dusky robins, seagulls and skinks — I’m reminded of the need to be respectful of this fragile environment. And finally, in the pink of the granite boulders and the underside of butterfly wings, I find myself reinforced in my belief that while culture may be full of the marvellous, it is truly in nature wherein lies the sublime.

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