Wednesday 27 November 2019

Maria Island Walk, Day One - beaches, bruschetta and Brexit

With thanks to Maria Island Walk for this famil
It was a rough night, worrying about my suitcase and spending half an hour on hold on the helpline at 2am vainly attempting to check up on its progress; and the morning didn't begin well either, with a one hour session of on-hold music at 5am that I eventually had to give up on. But things did get better, eventually. The Maria Island Walk people picked me up dead on time, it turned out there would be only five in the group - two Canadians, two Brits, and me - which meant I would get a tent to myself, plus our guides, Sharna and Danny, who are young, cheerful, funny, friendly and efficient. 
After a welcome at the base and a briefing, the others put all their gear into the supplied backpacks, and I woefully dropped into mine the meagre Target substitute items I bought yesterday, along with the hotel-supplied toothbrush, and hoped like hell that my suitcase would be at the airport when we called in there on our way to Triabunna and the boat to Maria Island. And, dear reader, it was! Immense, huge, blissful relief, plus delight that I could immediately stop being the needy person in the group.
Enjoyment began. Pleasant drive, interesting commentary, some cheerful group bonding, and then a short buzz across a blue sea to Maria Island, a National Park nature sanctuary with an interesting history and "teeming" (that's the promise) with wildlife. We waded ashore at Shoal Bay onto the first of many beautiful beaches we are going to visit. Before we moved off, however, Danny gave us our first serious talk about the three big threats to our enjoyment and safety, in this order: blisters, snakes and ants. And NEVER touch the wildlife! Noted.
We ate our yummy lunchtime sarnie in the shade of a she-oak grove and then walked to Beach Camp, plonked into the bush right in the middle of the narrow isthmus between the two halves of the island - which clearly wanted to be two islands, but couldn't quite pull it off (pun intended). It was lovely: all seriously eco and sustainable, but comfortable verging on luxurious too. Big kitchen/dining room tent, deck with seating, our wooden-floored tents at pleasing distances from each other, reached by narrow boardwalks winding through the bracken, and, also at decent distances, composting toilets and soap-free bucket showers. Good fun! Even better, Sharna gave us the run of the kitchen and, more importantly, the fridge which was well-stocked with bottles. Very reassuring, comfort-wise.
We had to earn that, though. Over afternoon tea (very delicious cake) we chose as a group the 9km return walk to Haunted Bay, and set off up a long hill through the eucalypt forest, stopping often for information and once to spot an echidna in the bushes. We got a bit excited to see it, quaint monotreme that it is, but Sharna smiled, knowing we had a heap more wildlife coming up. She was properly enthusiastic though about the big granite boulders we climbed down to at the end of the track. Haunted Bay was once a big whaling operation but now it's empty and peaceful, notable for the striking orange, mustard, green and black lichen that grows on the weather-sculpted rocks - beautiful, arty, and a measure of the cleanness of the air. Our enjoyment was slightly muted by the over-enthusiasm of the geology lecturer who is one of the guests, and who went on a bit, but really, even despite the grey sky, it was a lovely sight.
You know how it's always quicker, coming back from somewhere? Familiar territory, all that? Well, not on Maria Island. My goodness, that trail did go on. Everybody noticed it, even with the distraction of our first wombat. It was as though we were in another dimension, and it was with huge relief that we finally got back to the arrow on the track that Sharna had made out of branches so we didn't overshoot. But there we met Danny, who pulled us away saying, "I've got a bit of a thing going on on the beach" so we had to follow him. And were glad we did: little table, cheese platter, smoked mussels, grapes, biscuits, wine and beer! Plus a wallaby on the sand, a bit further down the beach. Perfect.
Later there were more drinks plus, inevitably, Trump and Brexit, but also some good stories, including one from the Canadians about the couple who played with the "tame" bear at Whistler and even sat their child on its back! Dinner was unhurried and delicious and ended with a magnificent deconstructed berry pavlova that was so good, I let the Aussies off the usual who-invented-it thing.
Tomorrow we do a 14km walk to our next camp, including five beaches which we were challenged to swim at each - er, not me thanks, Tasmania is level with the South Island, and it's not officially summer yet - and then we headed to bed, for a cosy night of rain on the canvas roof, kookaburras squawking, waves breaking, anonymous creatures scuffling, and wind in the trees. And no suitcase worries! Bliss.

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