Are you out there Thylacine?

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February 9th 2010
Published: February 15th 2010
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Day 289 - Penguin

Our second day in Tasmania dawns bright and beautiful. We’ve got a lovely little spot here at the small but perfectly formed Penguin Caravan Park! First things first, we both needed a shower rather desperately but then it was full steam ahead.

After a few quick decision-making conversations last night we’re off on a tour around the local area this morning following a route which Tony & Jane partly drove yesterday. The scenery is stunning; fair dinkum I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re going to love our time in Tasmania.

Our trip out takes us in the direction of Gunns Plains caves which is somewhere that’s been recommended to Jane as a great place to visit. We’ve grabbed ourselves a copy of the ‘Coast to Canyon’ guide and there are now other attractions which are catching our eye. We head in the direction of our furthest point, the Winterbrook Falls walk but somehow end up closer to Leven Canyon after a minor wrong turn! Not to worry, it’s about time we got out to stretch our legs anyway so set foot along the walk to the lookout.

What a view. It’s quite breathtaking and magical. Looking out across the canyon floor with the woodland and the Leven River flowing through it we imagine it quite conceivable that somewhere out there Thylacine is pacing through. Thylacine is (was) the Tasmanian Tiger, hunted to extinction many years ago …. or was it. It’s said that the last one died in captivity in 1936 but some believe it still exists and stories of large cat sightings are heard from time to time.

Our venture down the huge number of steps and through the fern lined walk was great, it certainly fulfilled the leg stretching requirement. Back up top we settled at one of the picnic benches for a bit of lunch and were soon joined by Barry, a teacher on long service leave from Perth who was camped just across the way from us at Penguin. Before we arrived yesterday he’d spent quite some time chatting to Tony & Jane and today was out and about exploring like the rest of us. We were in the middle of discussing our next move when we struck up a conversation with a wholesome looking chap wearing some John Deere braces and a John Deere hat. We just had to get a quick picture of him for young Harley (Coulsell) who is tractor mad and adores anything John Deere! One conversation led to another and Wallace (known for the rest of the afternoon as Deer John!) was soon telling us about Tasmania’s west coast and how if he was doing a trip like ours then he wouldn’t miss it. The west is a bit of a pest in Tasmania, it’s beautiful, stunning and everyone says you shouldn’t miss it but it’s not particularly easy to drag a caravan across. We’ll do our best to give it a good go one way or another.

Wallace had just finished a walk from the floor of Leven Canyon. We were already in half a mind to do it as we’d driven past the start whilst putting right our wrong turn. We drove out there for a second time and parked the car at the top of the walking track whilst taking care to abide by all the rules on the signs outside the gate! Gosh there were a lot!

The walk takes us to a bridge over the river and things were just that little bit too tame for us so we ventured onward. To left the sign said Loongana and to the right it had Gunns Plains. For a split second we pondered trekking to Gunns Plains but then wondered how on earth we would get back to the car. Instead we took the track to Loongana which read ‘experienced bush walkers only’, from that alone we knew it was going to be fun!

Our first error as ‘experienced bush walkers’ was to miss the orange markers leading us up into the woodland alongside the river banks. Instead we followed what looked like a track that took us over and along large, slippery rocks to give us a view up the white water. Darryl, Tony and Jane ventured down to the water but I stayed up top as water, me and jumping over rocks just don’t mix well in my head! Luckily they decided that scaling the flat rock lined river bank was not going to be possible so they headed back towards me and while we were walking back to the bridge I spotted an orange track marker.

There seemed to be no hesitation and up the track we all went heading for Loongana. Quite a lot of bush bashing was required and we had to look hard for the track markers from time to time. Fallen trees, creek crossing and lots of steep climbs kept us entertained for the next couple of hours until it dawned on us that we didn’t actually know how long this walk was! Tasmanian walks don’t have the kilometres marked on them, just the typical length of time it takes a fit person to complete them. This walk however had neither and we had judged our ability to complete it on the fact that Loongana was ‘just down the road’ because it had been the position of our U turn in the car when we’d taken our second wrong turn.

So there we were, an hour or so into the bush and starting to wonder what on earth we’d got ourselves into when a sign came into view, ‘Black Bluff’ was all that was written on it and it pointed along the track we were already on. We could see the road in the distance from here and it’s just possible there was another track that would have led us down to Loongana but thinking we were on the one and only track we followed the sign.

At some stage Jane ‘hugged’ a tree to get around it but it hugged her back and there’s a nasty bruise starting to come up so it was a bit of insult added to injury when she disappeared into a pile of ferns and we all got a fit of the giggles! She was fine of course and the ferns gave a soft landing but we were all starting to get a little bit weary.

Another sign appeared, this one telling us not to deviate from the marked track as we would end up on private property and a reserved road. A road, that means we might nearly be there. Joy of joys, just around the corner (after about ten minutes) we saw the gravel track road come into sight. Darryl reckoned he knew where we were and that the car wasn’t that far away, but there was a rather steep hill between us and it. We climbed over the stile and onto the gravel road and found a sign that showed we’d actually walked part of the Penguin Cradle Trail but there were no other signs from here to ‘Black Bluff’ so we made the assumption it was to our right. We trusted in Darryl’s natural navigation skills and walked to our left in the direction of the car. It was an easy walk along the gravel track, the only thing bothering any of us was the absolute knowledge of whether we were walking in the right direction or not. The old ‘Moss always grows on the north side of a post’ theory went out of the window when we clearly found it growing on opposite sides along the same straight section of road!

Just as we were truly getting a bit over the ‘not knowing’ aspect, a car appeared from behind us with friendly faces inside. We flagged it down with the intention of just checking where we were and received knowing looks as they asked ‘Are you lost!’ They reassured us we were walking in the right direction but when they asked if we wanted a lift Dar did his usual ‘Nah, you’re alright mate we’ll be fine’! Hang on a second, let’s rethink that last statement!! Luckily Jane piped up beautifully quickly with ‘Have you room for one of us’ which of course they did so we shoved Darryl in to go and pick up the car!

He returned like the knight in shining armour that he is and we were soon all relaxing with the weight off our weary legs! With the remotest chance that the Gunns Plains caves might still be open we sped off in their direction with the thought that if they were closed it would still be a lovely place to eat our lunch …. at 4 in the afternoon! Better late than never though and that’s what we all thought.

We’d missed the last tour in the caves but none of us were that bothered, we’d loved our walk this afternoon and had so many laughs along the way. It was great fun.

We drove back to the campsite via Ulverstone so we could get some supplies from the supermarket, nothing much just a few bits and pieces. Dinner was a beautifully presented sausage arrangement with veggies and mashed potatoes, gorgeous it was and much needed despite the late lunch! Jane has brought with her homemade cake and biscuits which we absolutely love. Darryl is already trying to tell everyone that they are awful so he can have them all to himself, it’s not working!

Barry, whom we met earlier at the canyon, joined us for a while this evening. He’s travelled around a bit so had some interesting and eye opening stories, mainly about brothels funnily enough! One sentence led to another and we were soon discussing the brothel in Kalgoorlie-Boulder with the 81 year old prostitute where you can have a tour if you feel so inclined!

Our brains couldn’t cope with much more and after one last chunk of fruit cake we bid one another good night!!

Dar and Sar

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