Thursday 28 November 2019

Maria Island Walk, Day Two - Wombat day

With thanks to Maria Island Walk for this famil
So very Australia! I woke to sunshine slanting through gum trees, the mournful cawing of ravens, and kookaburras chortling. On a pre-breakfast stroll to the beach, where bolder people than me might have had a dip, the sand was white, the sea turquoise, the sky blue and the day clearly going to be gorgeous. All that was needed was breakfast with perfect scrambled egg, crusty toast and fruity spreads. Tick.
Even better, it was 5-beach day, so we began in bare feet on the soft and squeaky silica sand, gawping at the clear, clear blue sea lapping in. Of course, we were the only people around, since Maria Island (Mar-I-a!) has only rangers as its permanent residents, and they and the campers and day-trippers focus on the other end of the island, at Darlington.
We, as promised, saw more animals than people today, mostly wombats I'm happy to say, since they are so very cute and cuddly - but, no touching! There was one nibbling at the lawn surrounding Frenchman's Farm, an old farmhouse where we had morning tea. It was quite unconcerned about our presence (they do have very poor eyesight). Sharna was emphatic that, despite their stumpy little legs, they can run faster than Usain Bolt over a short distance.
We wandered happily in the sunshine along a quiet road, past tannin-stained wetlands, and along several more beaches to the satisfyingly-named Probation Station at Point Lesueur. It's a row of 36 tumbledown hand-made brick cells - from one of which erupted a startled wombat - where convicts were housed back in 1845 when they were brought to the island to work in agriculture. The views were lovely, across the bay, but when the doors were shut on the prisoners they would have seen none of it.
Lunch was taken under a row of old macrocarpas nearby and the conversation got pretty deep, about colonisation, and then lightened with bets taken for the day's total of wombats. We all kept it low, and were startled when Danny blurted out "Eighteen!" at the end, and then suspicious about his inside knowledge.
Another beach came next, with intriguing glossy octopus eggs, pretty shells, and seabirds, and more swims by the men doing the beach challenge. Honestly, the Tasman from this side, I can't get over it - so blue, so clear, so gorgeous! It's only the chilly temperature that gives it away as the same stretch of water that rages in, grey and uninviting, along our West Coast.
We counted up our wombats as we went - frequently fooled by rocks and bushes - and as the total crept up slowly, we silently mocked Danny for his foolish bravado. Then we got to *cough* Wombat Point (actually Bloodstone Point, but informally renamed for what became obvious reasons), and saw not one or two, but eight wombats busily trimming the already-short grass. Cute to see, of course, but it meant we were all wrong and Danny was dead right. Funny, that.
The final stretch of track wound through an open forest of gum trees and bracken where, walking in front, I spotted a kangaroo. That brought us finally to White Gums Camp. It's the same arrangement as before, but in an even better setting, which we fully appreciated as we sat on the deck with a cup of tea and some wickedly rich brownies.

I had my one and only swim today, staying in longer than the others to make up for its singularity, and then nipping back up to camp for a hot shower. It's really quite remarkable, how comforting and effective a single bucket of hot water can be - and the pulley system that enables it is very satisfying to operate.
We had a barbecued dinner with miso soup and salads, and a yummy dessert - with all the wine, naturally - and topics of discussion included terrorism, religion and horror movies. Sharna and Danny described our two options for tomorrow, very obviously not selling highest peak Mt Maria with its iconic view, in favour of more accessible Bishop and Clerk. Even though we felt a bit judged by that, we went along with their recommendation. They are so good at their job - as well as being interested, interesting, efficient and cheerful - that it would have been foolish not to.

We went early to bed clutching hot-water bottles in cuddly covers, and snuggled down in the peace and comfort of our tents to gird our loins for the 599m ascent tomorrow.

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