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Monthly Archives: May 2009

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to some great places, but few have as powerful a presence about them as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington,D.C..

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TAS0809 003In the heart of Hobart is the peaceful and lovely St. David’s Park. However, prior to 1926 it was St. Davids Cemetery, the resting place of many of Van Diemen’s Land first European settlers. Having fallen into disrepair at that time and viewed as a public eyesore and hangout of ne’er do wells the headstones were removed and placed in a memorial wall adjacent to the newly created park (many of the larger monuments remain within the landscaped park). It’s a fascinating place with many stories to tell and one of my favorite spots in Tassie.

                                                                                                       

http://thegardensfamily.com/cemeteries/Hobart/StDavids/index.htm

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Tasmania has the onerous reputation for having exterminated it’s tribal living native people within a few decades following colonial invasion. Yet in the backcountry there was ample evidence to this traveler of their presence, both in the real and surreal.

After completing a magical traverse of the central Western Arthurs in one day I saw this , what was to me symbolic, image in the crags of an aborginal face looking skyward as I lay in my tent at Haven Lake in the false dawn of the following day.

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Often times at night in the mountains in Tassie the temperature would dip into the low 30’s (F) and even though I had a good bag (Montbell Super Stretch Hugger rated to 20F)  my fat free body would be cold and so I often slept in the fetal position. With knees bent they would be achy from reduced circulation for most of the night and next morning and it was becoming a problem. One day as I headed across the Arthur Plains to what I knew would be a cold night in the Western Arthurs Range, and dreading it, I was thinking about how to keep my knees warm. I’d probably spent five minutes as  I walked mulling this over when what did I see lying  before me in the Port Davey Track but a single sock. Not just any sock but a giant sock ! In a flash I knew my nights of cold knees were over.

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     At one point in my travels I’d been out in the bush along the southwest coast for a couple weeks, came out at Cockle Creek in the morning to resupply in the little village of Southport, and headed back in toward the destination of Precipitous Bluff, a 4-5 day walk in, much of it untracked, later that day. The morning of the second day I passed a group of six walkers who were the only other people on the route.
     After traveling in perfect weather for two days I awoke on the third day to find myself enveloped in dense mist that was rolling up from the ocean and through the ridgetop saddle where I’d camped. As I was now in an untracked area of dense scrub I knew I wouldn’t be moving until visibility returned, which could be days. Needless to say I was bummed and to add to it I’d lost my watch the day before so had no idea, in the mist, of what time it was. The importance of his being that not being able to track time added to the disorienting aspect of being in the mist and being disoriented where I was would be very dangerous.
     After spending a great deal of the day organizing myself, reflecting on my situation, and playing with rocks, I began to hear voices. Voices different than the usual ones in my head :)! Soon out of the mist came the six walkers I’d passed the day before. Upon seeing me the person in the lead said, “Did you lose a watch ?” and held up my watch with it’s broken strap.
     The six were highly experienced bushwalkers who had a technique for navigating in the mist and allowed me to join them and together we headed for PB. The mist hung in the rest of the day, the next day broke beautiful, and we reached and ascended the bluff. The next morning we awoke on the bluff’s plateau where I left them early, descended PB, waded the New River Inlet , and continued on to the South Coast Track and out to the trailhead three days later.
     In each of the two evenings I’d spent with them a member of the group read a short passage from a book, in this case Paulo Coelho’s book  The Alchemist. I’d never read it, but was intigued by the story and later that week found a copy in one of Hobarts many bookstores, bought it, and without looking inside stuffed it in my pack. I then went about getting supplies for my next trip into the wilderness.
     Having been out in the bush for the previous 26 days I now took a couple to hang out in the lovely port city of Hobart before getting on my bike and heading to Mt.Anne and the Arthur Ranges. On the way I stopped for the night at Mt. Field National Park and set up my tent in the small campground there.
     As I prepared my dinner I was approached by a young man who introduced himself as a cyclist traveling across Australia who was now finishing his trip in Tasmania before returning home to Portugal. I told him I was not really a cyclist but a guy using a bike to get around and that my interest was in bushwalking. He said he had done much bushwalking and in fact had met his wife, an American, five years before while hiking in New Zealand.
     We ended up talking for over an hour about the places we’d been, why we went to them, and what we got out of it. As it grew dark and the mozzies thicker we said our goodnights, although I felt he had something on his mind to say. He’d taken a few steps toward his camp when he turned and said, “You must go to Northern Spain and walk the Road of Santiago de Compostela, the Walk of the Pilgrims.” I thanked him for the suggestion, though it struck me odd that he used the word “must” instead of  “should”, and he turned and left. Never having heard of the Road of Santiago de Compostela I didn’t attach any great significance to his remark and soon after went to bed.
     I’m an early riser and the next morning around six, after my breakie, I walked over to where he was camped as I wanted to see how he set his bike up but he was gone !
     Later that morning, after waiting for the small restaurant at the campground to open so I could have a piece of carrot cake and a double shot expresso (a little ritual of mine), I headed up the road toward Mt. Anne. It was a long, grueling ride with many multi-kilometer uphill grades and it wasn’t until nearly dark that I made it to the Mt.Anne track. After setting up my tent and having dinner I thought I’d pull out  The Alchemist and do a little reading with the light that was left. But, as I settled in I didn’t feel like getting into the story and decided to read the “About the Author” pages instead.
     The bio described how Coehlo, growing up in Brazil, had always wanted to be a writer but had been discouraged from that by family pressure and he’d gone on to other things. Then one day a man came to him in a vision and told him he should go to Amsterdam and find a particular cafe where he would meet the man who had some things very important to tell him.
     He went to Amsterdam, found what he thought was the cafe he was to find, and had just sat down when he was joined by a man who engaged him in a converation about how he came to be there. The man told Coehlo many things and at a point the stranger ended the conversation and got up to leave, but as he did he turned to Coehlo and said, “You must walk the Road of Santiago de Compostela, there you will find your destiny”.
     He did and soon after embarked on his career as a writer, writing  The Pilgrimage, and a year later The Alchemist.