Cockle Creek  December 2016

Nerida had hired a campervan, and we set off for Cockle Creek, in Tasmania's far south. In fact Cockle Creek is about as far south as it's possible to drive a car in Australia.

 

 

Above, the southeast corner of Tasmania. The red line is the road. The dotted black line is the walking track.

 

We stopped in the small town of Geeveston for lunch, and noticed a sign "Platypus" with an arrow pointing towards the creek which flows through the town. Platypus have a reputation for shy and cryptic behaviour (like a lot of Australian wildlife) and (certainly on the mainland) are hard to see. They spend most of their time in their burrows, and only come out to forage for aquatic insects and small crustaceans at dusk and dawn. So we were rather sceptical... it seemed most unlikely that we would see even a glimpse of a platypus in the middle of the day.

 

 

But, there it was!

 

 

Obviously quite accustomed to being one of the town's tourist attractions!

 

 

Above, our campsite at Cockle Creek. The last time Nerida and I had been car-camping together was about 30 years ago. Back then I was rather disparaging about 'grey nomads' camping alongside, with their card tables and fold-up chairs. But the years had rolled by, and now we were the grey nomads! In those days we travelled in a 1972 Holden HQ panel van, with a bed inside for us, and a tent outside for the children, Jasmine and James. And no card table or chairs...

 

 

The beach at Cockle Creek is sweeping, white and clean. A great camping place for families, with its sheltered bay and shallow, calm water. Luckily we were ahead of the Christmas rush.

 

 

I found a place to practice my balancing skills. There is a photo of me falling off, but I didn't think you would want to see that.

 

 

When Europeans first sighted the forests here, they were huge and pristine, the trees old and giant. In 1792, the French ship Esperance called in at Recherche Bay, where Cockle Creek enters the sea. This tree (above) would have been standing back then. The ship's botanist, Jaques-Julian Montou de Labillardiere, wrote: We were filled with admiration at the sight of these ancient forests in which the sound of the axe had never been heard.

 

Nerida and I took the South Coast Track, walking towards the coast, only a couple of hours away towards the southwest. This is one of the great bushwalking tracks of the world. We passed walkers coming the other way, looking happy but very tired, who had been on this track for many days.

 

 

This is remote and beautiful country, filled with wild-flowers at this time of year. It's easy walking too.

 

 

Above: local tea-tree in flower.

 

 

Echidnas are shy. I had to wait quietly for a long time to get this photo. The animal had buried its head in the sand, but eventually it decided that I must have gone away, and it looked up. A very lucky photograph.

 

 

As the track approaches the coast, it encounters ancient and steep sand dunes, now thickly vegetated. The path through the dense vegetation forms a dark tunnel.

 

 

On reaching the open coast, beautifully laid stone steps lead to the beach, which is wind-swept and cold.

 

 

The waters of the creeks here are characteristically coloured by tanins dissolved from vegetation.

 

 

In the distance towards the east lies South East Cape, one of the five 'great capes' known to sailors circumnavigating the Southern Ocean. This cape is not accessible by foot, the vegetation being thick and scrubby, and the cliffs rocky and in places very steep.

 

While walking these shores years ago I found a back-pack, encrusted with algae and barnacles. I phoned the Parks Service. "Ahhh, that pack was accidentally dropped from a helicopter quite some time ago. But yes, walkers have mysteriously disappeared from the South Coast Track. Three in fact. All young males, all walking alone. One was thought to be a suicide. In every case a search was made, but no trace was ever found of any of the three."

 

 

Above, is this an ant or a wing-less wasp? Shining like polished gun-metal. I was glad he was only small...

 

 

I liked the way wind-blown sand was slowly burying small rocks on the beach.

 

After lunch we had originally intended to walk another kilometre to Lion Rock, at the far western end of the beach, but it was cold and windy, the air filled with wind-blown sand.

 

 

We turned around and headed home, through the dark tunnel...

 

 

 

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