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Days 36-38: Walking into the Wilderness

Lucy marvelling at a huge tree!

Sunday 12th

I had a slow morning with Glenda and Eleanor before saying goodbye and meeting my friend Lucy in town (who I know from when I first volunteered at Wollangarra in 2015).

After figuring out a plan for the day, Lucy drove her car to where we would finish the day and I started to walk out of Penguin, encountering very steep hills to begin with. These hills not only left my calf muscles reeling but allowed me to be stopped by four people in the first few kilometres out of town, all of whom donated to the fundraising. Tasmanians are evidently very generous people!

Lucy arrived on her bicycle , which is when I realised I may have lost my GoPro earlier on the road, so I borrowed Lucy’s bicycle to go back and retrieve it. I needlessly rode ~3 km as it was in my cart the whole time!

We had lunch a little way up the road and Lucy ditched the bike to pick back up a little while later.

We sat with a horse for a little while on the side of the road, picked up onions for dinner that had fallen from a passing car, amused ourselves by making up stories about how all the Up ‘N Go containers had found themselves on the side of the road (which we picked up), marvelled at very large trees (see photo) and made mental lists of The Beatles, ordered by personality and then musical ability.

We arrived in Riana where Lucy had left her car, only to realise that the keys were with the bicycle which had been stashed by the roadside at lunchtime. Oops! Lucy decided to hitchhike back to collect them and I stayed and did a little catching-up on writing post cards. Eventually Lucy made it back and after a little rest we went and bought some butter for dinner and an ice cream each before Lucy got in her car and I went back to my trolley to finish the final 700 m to the campsite.

Lucy cooked me gnocchi for dinner at the Pioneer Park in Riana and it was delicious! We then set up the tarp and listened to some Paul Kelly (we’re both huge fans), to which I pretty much fell asleep... What a great day, mainly thanks to the incredibly good company of the first person I spent quality time with at Wollangarra. Lucy, you’re a star!

Monday 13th

Lucy and I woke up together under the tarp and slowly got ourselves up after making many excuses. Breakfast was mango and banana, the mango a special treat - thanks Lucy! We farewelled each other and I hit the road. I wanted to do at l least 24 km to make up for the shorter day yesterday, as I knew the terrain was going to get much more difficult in a few days time. For this ‘out of contact’ period I wanted to average at least 20 km per day.

I soon found myself in South Riana where I tried to fill up my water at a local store, but apparently the tap water was not potable so I continued on my merry way. When I reached a collection of houses at Upper Natone I knocked on the door of a house by the highway and asked a man for some water. Well, apparently this request was enough to ruin his day as all I heard was a stream of mumbled profanity as he went off to fill my water bladder! I thanked him and hurried away, but not a few corners l later and I was stopped by a big-bellied fellow who wanted to know where I was headed.

Excited as usual to be able to ramble about my journey and gain another supporter, I told him I was headed to Corinna, in the Tarkine. His response was to laugh in my face and ask if I was planning on hiring a car because there was no way I would get there on foot! I walked away feeling a little let down and as though the events of the morning were foreboding. A few days previously Glenda (my brother’s friend and with whom I was staying in Penguin) told me that most families in this region had been here for up to six generations and were notoriously suspicious of outsiders. I was beginning to suspect that this was what I was experiencing, so slightly deterred, I pressed on!

The rolling rural countryside turned into a steeper landscape of plantation timber and with my burgeoning trolley filled with food for 16 days and water for 3 days, it got tough! After lunch I arrived at an unsigned intersection and was not sure which way to go. I waited for someone to come along and give me some directions which gave me the perfect opportunity for a good stretch. A car came along with the good news and I continued on, the landscape beginning to smooth out as I got to the main highway. As I got to the 25 km marker I decided to take advantage of the good conditions and press on, a choice that would become thematic over the next few days. I continued for another 7 km, passing a pulp mill and finding a campsite down a back road of a logging coupe.

It’s interesting, this whole area has the feeling of being hostile to me. It could be the interactions that I had today or the fact that the vast majority of people here survive on logging and mining - two industries that have been at loggerheads with environmentalists in Tasmania for many years. It could be a combination of both.

So here I lie in my tent, having just cooked dinner on my first open fire of the whole journey. I can hear the pulp mill whirring away in the background, but I can also hear the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo squawking in the trees. I have a strange feeling that I’m right where I need to be, even if it is a little unnerving.

Tuesday 14th

Despite another solid day, that big-bellied fellow and his words from yesterday still nag me somewhat. However, I’m now a full day ahead of schedule and then some, so at least I have some contingency should I find the conditions ahead even more difficult than I have been imagining.

Today was quite uneventful really. There were some decently large hills to contend with but I survived them okay. In fact, now that Im not bothering to check my technology, it seems that I’m covering the kilometres much faster than when I was on the mainland, despite the terrain being significantly tougher. This pleases me endlessly, especially as it truly gives me time to relax at the end of the day and to listen to the wind and the birds. I think I can hear a Crescent Honeyeater right now in fact...

I reached Waratah after lunch at the 27 km mark and had a cold drink while listening/watching Midnight Oil’s “Oils at the Reef” concert, which was on the telly in the tiny general store/petrol bowser in town. Watching this concert made me want to be in a band and spread the 1900 Footprints message through song. Stay tuned on this! After filling up my water bladders to cover me for the next five days (thanks for these One Planet!) my cart felt very heavy but well packed, so on my way and officially into the Tarkine I went!

About 5 km down the road Max stopped to let me know that there would be a shift change at Savage River mine that evening, and that I’d want to be off the road because the workers would bowl me over on their way home! I pulled off the road about 3 km later and found a great spot to camp, which is where I am now!

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