30 Mar 20201
“It’s going to be a good day for a walk.” The Ranger smiled as she handed over the walk information we’d just been discussing. Our heads were swimming with the useful and interesting things she’d been telling us and later, as we explored the coast, her words would return as we discovered a particular feature she’d mentioned.
In this unexpectedly warm and sunny weather, we were caught without sunscreen and David without a hat.
“There’s a shop,” I pointed to a tiny shack across the street. The only indication that it was a shop, was the hand written sign that said, ‘Shop’. “They might have sunscreen…” I doubted my own words.
Only two people at a time were allowed in the shop, so I waited outside. Two motorcyclists had just joined me outside the ‘shop’, one went in and the other stood around a little awkwardly. To break the ice I used the old ‘nice weather we’re having approach’.
He was a young guy in his bulky well worn motorcycle pants. His face lit up and he agreed.
“It’s the warmest weather we’ve had all week!”
Meanwhile David emerged triumphant with both a cap and sunscreen.
“Wow” I was impressed.
It was a short walk down through the quiet fishing village to the trailhead along the river.
“There’s the river cruise, Mum and Dad loved.” I wished we had longer here to do both walk and cruise.
“Your Mum & Dad should produce a Bohlen’s guide to Australia” We are both impressed with how much of the country they have seen.
We walked down onto the river bank and headed out to sea. Huge banks of drift wood, worn into strange sculptures collected along the beach. The tide was way out and we could see evidence that high tide brought the waves right up to the base of the dunes. Something to remember upon our return.
Walking through the soft sand was a struggle in our boots, I was tempted to walk bare foot if we weren’t expecting rocks.
The colour of black tea, Arthur River stained the shallow surf as they crashed together.
“A rich and fertile sea.” said David watching the waves tumble into the sand.
The tide looked to be at it’s lowest and even though there was not much of a breeze, the surf was surprisingly rough. Waves pounded into the jagged rocks.
A crop of black rock, like sharp stratified flakes jutted out on and angle. The waves were still died tea brown from the river. Brown waves washing over black rocks.
The coast was strewn with washed up marine plants. Some as fine as hair, others thick like leather. I’ve never seen so much variety on one beach.
The path climbed over the dunes around the headland, and we passed through a few farm gates and private property.
What must it be like, to live in this wild place?
It looks relatively calm today with the tide out, under a blue sky and a gentle breeze. Imagine what it would be like in a fierce storm! And what do they farm here? How do they make a living?
Filled with curiosity, I hurried through the sandy dune to catch up to David.
The next beach was long, broad and decorated with interesting patterns. I hopped through a couple of shallow fresh water streams and set out along the sand.
Up ahead, waves crashed over a line of gold rocks jutting out at the headland. I’d lost sight of David but followed his foot prints to find him standing on the rocks watching the waves.
I climbed onto a jagged rock to get a better view. The waves seemed to loose their energy after crashing over the rock and rolled gently to the beach.
We rock hopped through strange angular formations passing a narrow section where the sea foam was collecting in great clumps.
The track headed inland through natural succulent gardens of rich red, magenta and sap green. Delicate pink flowers open to the sun. I wondered how these little flowers could survive in the rough weather. Yet here they are draped over amber rocks.
“Oh wow!” David stopped in his tracks, as he reached the crest of a hill. I caught up to him and joined him to look across a quiet inlet protected from the waves. Crystal clear water punctured with angular rocks cutting shapes up to the horizon.
“Well this looks like the spot to paint” he said walking down to a horse shoe beach. I followed in his foot steps exactly to minimise squashing the compact succulent ground cover. Millions of small shells formed the shore line.
“Shall we keep going further and come back, if this is the best spot to sketch?” I suggested thinking the Church Rock wasn’t much further along – the point the track turns back.
“Sure” agreed David and carefully picked his way back to the track. I followed in his footsteps stretching out my stride to match his long legs.
“There it is!” Dave pointed to a large rock formation in the distance.
As we reached a little cove, further along the coast, an indescribable stink crept over us. It grew stronger as we approached the still water. Rotting, fermenting seaweed.
“Seaweed.” Dave pointed in disgust at the offending stinking mound in the water, still and cloudy.
“Oh my God” it was intense “Let’s turn back!”
I heard Dave dry retch behind me.
“I just retched” he chuckled.
“I thought you were joking” I started to giggle as we ran away from the dreaded stink.
Sweet fresh sea air. Cleanest on the planet, awaited us back at the sparkling waters of the previous rock pools.
Let’s forget that ever happened, we agreed.
We scouted around for a comfortable spot for lunch and to settle in to sketch.
“Okay, we’ve got to be quick, the tide is coming in.” Said David who had probably finished a painting while I was still getting comfortable on the rocks.
The weather was changing fast, a bank of clouds swept down from the north and completely changed the colours in the scene I was working on. But that’s all part of working in situ, isn’t it.
“It’s time babe, we’ve got to go.” He was reminding me that we have to walk on the beach and along the river to get back. The tide looked to wash right up to the rocks in places.
By the time we were back on the track, the cloud cover had moved in.
“We’re so lucky to get sunshine in one direction and clouds in the other. It emphasises the colours- makes them more luminous.” observed David.
Besides stopping momentarily for taking a couple of photos we picked up the pace in an effort to beat the tide back. It looked like there was time, but we couldn’t be sure.
Reaching the long broad beach we relaxed when we saw the sea level on the beach.
“This is so good, isn’t it?”
“Yes, we have to remember this!” I agreed breathing in the sea air and cool breeze.
As we approached the end of the beach I turned back for one last look, and noticed our footprints in the sand. Alone together on this remote beach. We hugged and then walked hand in hand until we reached the headland.
The day wasn’t over by the time we reached the car. Before continuing our route through the Tarkine Wilderness area, we stopped in on the Southern shore of Arthur River to stand at The Edge of the World.
“If you kept going that way,” David pointed west over the ocean, “you wouldn’t reach land until…probably South America…and then Hobart.”
It does feel like the edge of the world.
A plaque embossed with a poem, by Brian Inder reads:
I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity.
To be washed by the Ocean of Time.
It has shape, form and substance.
It is me.
One day I will be no more.
But my pebble will remain here.
On the shore of Eternity.
Mute witness for the aeons.
That today I came and stood.
At the edge of the world.Brian Inder
The drive through the Tarkine wilderness started out as vast open coastal plains as we followed the coast south. Then plunged into lowland wet eucalypt forest before turning to dense cool temperate rainforest.
“The next river crossing is the Franklin River” I told David tracing the map with my finger. I remember the Franklin River Dam protests of ‘82 and ‘83, even though I was 10. David’s parents met English botanist and TV presenter David Bellamy, on his way to Australia when they were emigrating. Bellamy was later arrested with Bob Brown protesting the Franklin Dam.
I was disappointed in the lack of somewhere to pull over and take a look at this infamous river. There must be a Franklin river walk somewhere.
As we wound our way through the deep dark forest back to Stanley, I resolved to find it.