Monthly Archives: March 2009
The man had built the fire in the angle of two rounded rocks that came up out of the sand and when he lay down he closed the fire in. From on his side he fed it with twigs, eucalypt bark, and a few larger pieces of wood he’d found on the beach. It kept a good flame and wasn’t too smoky and the man was pleased to have the little fire, feel it’s heat on his face and stare into it’s mystery.
The Ray came along the shore languid and effortless in it’s movement through the quiet water, the tips of it’s wings breaking the surface as it slid along.
It passed the man, turned back with an arching glide, tracked an oval in it’s path, then another, before settling motionless on the bottom facing the man. The man watched the Ray and it was a long time before it moved again. With a shudder of it’s wings that caused puffs of sand to rise from the bottom it turned away and continued on the way it was headed before.
The man watched it’s dark shape move like a shadow over the sandy bottom, it’s wings throwing off ripples as it went, until it passed the rocks at the end of the beach.
Without the Ray the water and the beach became as it was. The man watched where the Ray had gone no longer but went back to the little fire he’d lit when he first came along the shore to the narrow crescent of sand, bracketed by rocks and the forested hillside behind.
Lying before the fire the man thought about a woman. A woman who saw the sea. He saw her eyes watch the swell and he knew that she knew the sea like the Shearwater birds that swept the swells crest to dip and speed through the trough on stiffened wings.
She measured the sea, the length, and breadth, and strength of the swells, and he saw how they carried her along.
The long swells came born from winds far away in the Southern Ocean where there was no land, but now had found land where the sea met the tall columnar cliffs of the island. There the swell would rise against the land before it fell back and away into the sea. It’s surge held for a moment by the cliff and it’s own destiny, as the soft thighs of the woman would hold the mans face as her body rose before, like the sea itself, they spilt open.
The Night Sky
The flames grew lower as the nights darkness closed in until, one by one, they fluttered and were gone and only the soft glow of the coals remained.
The man lay back. He lay over the footprints made by a thousand generations of people that had walked this crescent of sand before the ghost men came, men like he was. The man looked into the night sky, to the stars he could see and beyond those stars to stars he couldn’t, and no longer thought of the Ray, the swell borne by the Southern Ocean, or the woman who saw the sea.
Federation Peak in the Eastern Arthur Range is considered by many to be the most difficult bushwalk that follows a track in Australia. Like the Western Arthurs, the Eastern Arthurs are achingly beautiful and physically challenging. Federation Peak wasn’t officially climbed until 1949 although it was summited prior to that but that date couldn’t be made official because the lead climber fell to his death on the descent. According to Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife about half the people who bushwalk (3-7 days) to the peak with the intent of climbing it never make it to the summit. The fact the final direct ascent starts two thirds of the way up a near vertical 1800′ face may have something to do with this statistic. Definitely a lifetime acheivement for me in making it to the top, especially since I got off the direct ascent route that can be done with basic rockclimbing skills and went up a technical route (Chockstone Gully) that usually requires ropes ! On a perfect day with calm winds and bright sunshine I’d traversed the range from my campsite at Goon Moor, climbed Federation in the early afternoon, descended, and spent the overnight at nearby Hanging Lake. As is typical in Tassie, I didn’t see a person until mid-morning of the next day (a couple I’d passed several days earlier) and it would be three days after that before I saw another.
Federation Peak from Goon Moor
From the summit looking back down the ascent
Here’s a view looking east through the incomparable Western Arthur Range with Lake Oberon in the foreground. Possibly the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever been in, and a challenging one to travel through. The area you see in the photo wasn’t traversed until 1960 ! In the central part of the range there’s for all practical purposes only one way through and no way out except for the range buttresses Alpha Moraine at one end and Kappa Moraine at the other. In just about every fold of the range is a lake, or lakes, similar to Lake Oberon.
In the far dstance, at the one o’clock position, is Federation Peak in the Eastern Arthurs.