In Tasmania Day 4 Watershed Camp to Spring River Crossing 14 km
I’m starting to think the Mercator Projection (which preserves latitude and longitude by drastically increasing the size of far northern and southern land masses—think Greenland) actually applies to distance measurement here. Almost as far south as you can get without traveling to Antarctica, Tasmanian kilometers must be twice as along as Atlanta kilometers. Today was supposed to be an easy 14 and it still took me 7 hours—something is amiss. At least today there was sunshine and even though there was plenty of jungle slogging and miles of mud holes, much of today was up slope on a benched track so when clear it was possible to see distance. It’s hard to get a feel for the mountains— they don’t seem exactly to be ranges in the way they are in North America— instead a jumble of different short ranges at different angles, so getting oriented is difficult. In addition, there are a number of major rivers, all fed from this area, so the trail crosses from one watershed to another—further confounding my sense of direction as the water flow shifts. The stories of fleeing convicts or marooned sailors struggling through this terrain make sense. It always feels a little disorienting. Today up on a range in the sun, it all made more sense for at least a moment. In the bog flats slogging through overgrown ferns and thick understory, all you can do is follow what seems to be a path, experiencing that flash of relief when a human footprint appears—somewhere out there, Friday must be walking ahead.
The best comparison I can make for this track is part of the South Island of New Zealand’s Te Araroa. There too you cross long open bog land following angle iron fence posts. New Zealand’s are topped with bright red cylinders, these are just dull rust and often when the way is unsure, there are nowhere to be seen. What is striking here though, unlike most places I’ve walked is the complete lack of evidence of human occupation. That there is no trace of aboriginal habitation is not surprising, but I would have suspected more remnants of settler colonial occupation. Apart from the long benches track I walked today, the occasional wooden erosion control frames on that path, the fence post markers, and a fancy new bridge across the Spring river, there was really no obvious trace of human activity—no old #8 wire like in NZ, or the foundation of an old hut, nothing to be seen. I’m sure an experienced eye could mark areas of ecological transformation because of logging and I can see the devastation of the last big fires which, like this year’s fires in New South Wales, charred the entire landscape. It must have killed much of the fauna as well because I’ve only seen a few birds and some salamanders—the rest is silence broken only by the buzzing of flies.
T. Hugh Crawford