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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

In Tasmania Day 12 Rivulet Camp to Cockle Creek 10km (and on to Hobart).

January 25th, 2020

In Tasmania Day 12 Rivulet Camp to Cockle Creek 10km (and on to Hobart).


Every schoolchild in the English-speaking world at some point reads Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” A beautiful and generally easy to understand poem, perfect for angsty individuals struggling with meaning between the tattoo parlor and the second-hand shop. Having grown up on the sandy beaches of the US, these lines always intrigued me, not because they were difficult to imagine, but just that it was a sound I’d never really heard:

Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling

I’ve been on shingle beaches before and probably have heard that “grating roar” but today is the first time I lingered to listen. The rush of these beaches, probably amplified by their sheer extremity—water and wind rushing to shore from Antarctica—and the size of the shingles (more football than pebble) makes for a resonance that is arresting. I lingered on those wobbly “shingles” to capture the roar. It’s not a constant, nor temporally rhythmic, but when the right cycles coincide, the armies of the night rumble.

Today was the end of a trek at the end of the world. It was not apocalyptic, instead reflective. The last kilometers were mediated by encounters with day hikers on their way to the beach or the birds on the way. The unusual smell of shampoo was in the air, and us proud bush hikers looked a bit shabby in comparison (one couple asked me if the crew in front of me was ok— they were, just suffering from serious exhaustion). Apart from the beach roar, the most arresting moment was an encounter with a large (at least 5 ft.) tiger snake. Im sure over the last days I’ve passed many, but this is the first that caught my eye and of course brought shivers as a bite requires fairly quick evacuation via helicopter.

As it was near the entry point, the last 7 km were designed for day hikers, so I took the opportunity to stroll, examining the trees, the plants, the bugs. Near the end I once again crossed paths with the hardcore crew who had booked with the same transport group I was booked for the next day (I got ahead on that long day from Surprise Bay). They invited me to join them and after some careful negotiations with a Kevin, the driver, I found myself heading back to Hobart a day early, scrounged a place in the hostel, did laundry, took long shower, grappled with a wall of email, and drifted next door for what I think was a well-deserved pint at Tom McHugos, the neighborhood joint, followed by a long deep sleep.

T. Hugh Crawford