Hiking Tasmania

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Saturday, June 05, 2004

Maria Island - Day 1

Getting up early, I went to the supermarket, and bought some food for taking to Maria Island. After finding the ferry wharf, I drove around the northern side of the bay in Triabunna, looking at the views. I went back to the wharf, and packed what I needed into my pack.
The Ferry left about 9:30, and chugged out into the bay. On the northern side, near the entrance to the bay, we passed another depressing tasmanian logging sight - the Gunns woodchipping mill. It was visible from a long way off, because there was literally a mountain of woodchips piled up at the mill. A Japanese freighter ship was being loaded with some of the woodchips, and looked small in comparison to the mountain of woodchips behind it.

Heading out into the Tasman Sea, the water was very calm - virtually no swell. We saw couple of dolphins fishing. Soon we arrived at maria island - a fairly mountainous island. The first thing you notice when you arrive are the abandoned cement silos which are a relic from the 1920's. The region where the wharf is located is grassy, but the mountains in the distance are covered in forest. The first task was to go to the Commissariat Store, built in 1828 during the convict era. Here, I paid for a camp site, and discovered I was the only one camping.

I walked the short distance to the camp area, next to a small creek. There were many Cape Barren geese and other ground birds pecking at the grass in the camp area, and their droppings were also everywhere. I set up my tent in the sun, so it would dry, then packed some gear to go on a day hike up to Bishop and Clerk - the northernmost mountains on the island, which are surrounded by cliffs.

I set off back toward the wharf, then went across the open grassy plain, passing several old ruins. The barn was in good condition, but most required a fair bit of imagination to visualise what they had been like. As I got to the northern coast of the island, tall cliffs were visible, dropping straight into the water.
The track then started climbing up toward the mountains, and after a short way, went into dry bushland. I was quite hot, due to the sun and the climb. The track kept on climbing for a long time, and nearing the top, came to a a massive scree slope, which had to be climbed. After this a small amount of rock scrambling brought me to the summit. There were spectacular views out over the sea - I could see all of the northern part of the island, Triabunna on the mainland, and even the Freycinet Peninsula far to the north. The summit was a couple of flat topped boulders only a few meteres wide, with sheer cliffs on three sides.

After spending a while on the summit admiring the view, I descended, and returned to the campground via the Engine House ruins. After relaxing for a while, with the geese honking nearby, I walked down to the wharf to take photos of the pretty sunset.

Whilst cooking my dinner on my fuel stove, I had an unwelcome visitor. A big possum who'd smelt my dinner, came to see if he could get some. The possum didn't seem concerned that I was sitting there, and started sniffing my pot. I tried to shoo it away, but it ignored me, so I gave it a shove. It backed off a bit and then went around to the other side and sniffed from there. I was rather surprised, so I gave it another, harder hit, with exactly the same result. After a while of this, I tried hitting it on the nose and scull which made it back off for a little longer. Soon it was time to pour the water out from my pasta, and as I did so, with both hands full, the possum came in and checked out the water, and scalded its nose briefly on the hot water. After that, I figured that it would not be back, but only minutes later, it was back. By this stage I was getting very annoyed, and I remembered that a local had told me you can pick a possum up by its tail, and it won't struggle, so I decided to give it a try, figuring that I could always drop it quickly if it tried to scratch or bite me. Sure enough, when I grabbed its tail, and picked it up, the possum went stiff, and made some hissing noises to voice it's displeasure. I carried it about 50 metres away and put it down, then went back to finish my dinner.
To my disbelief, a few minutes later the stupid thing was back! This time I grabbed it's tail and carried it further away, to the creek, and dipped its front legs and chest in the cold water, and dropped it on the other side of the creek. I managed to eat the rest of my dinner and clean up without seeing the possum again, but was still a little worried it would try to get my food in the night. I was wishing I'd gotten a room rather than a campsite.

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