Pushing through 'the Prom'
Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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My first trek in the Aussie bush. Eye-opening? Yes. Tiring? Shit yes.
Being out of touch for a while, sorely unfit and a good nine kilo's over my usual mass didn't help matters. I really should've done something about it. I'm hoping this might've started the ball rolling. This big ball..
It wasn't the best timing either. Easter weekend meant the camping permits were fully booked out. Securing ours well in advance was a good move, and so the adventure was on. I'd heard a lot about 'The Prom' from Mark. It's of great significance to him and one of his favourite places of all time, in particular 'Sealers Cove'. I was keen to see it.
The packing and preparing took an eternity and started to become quite comical. What wasn't funny was our pack weight. You have to take your own water in (drinking, cooking, cleaning) as there simply isn't any out there (the water shortage is up to grade 4 now.) This meant we had to rationalise while keeping the packs light - a joke in itself. I reckoned eight litres each. Mark scoffed at me. Three days later we walked out of the park sweating and thirsty. In hindsight ten would have done it. Another learning curve, much like not taking a therma-rest or roll-out mat. Never again.
We left Carrum Downs early Saturday morning after a hefty fry up. Lee came outside to wave us off.
'Look after my baby?' I asked, nodding in the direction of the SV.
'No worries,' she chuckled. 'Look after mine?' I turned my head towards the car. Her baby was reaching for his seatbelt. Fair deal.
Wilsons Prom is Australia's southernmost national park, jutting out towards Tasmania from the south east of Melbourne. It's coastline stretches right round from sunset to sunrise (all 130 kilometres of it) and offers a great sample of Aussie wildlife.
What was different about this trip was not the fact that we traversed both coasts in a clockwise manner, but that we spent the first half of it persevering through the sobering aftermath of 2005's great bushfire tragedy. It was big news here back then. Mark told me all about it. It wasn't even a mindless act of careless stupidity or ignorance. It started out as a 'controlled burn' by the experts, only when the wind picked up, it 'picked up', sending a raging inferno ripping through 1,900 hectares of lush vibrant paradise. More than six hundred people had to be evacuated as onlookers watched the whole devastating process from over thirty comfortable kilometres away. The experts were left scratching their heads.
So to walk now through the charred remains was one of pleasant enlightenment. The mass re-growth is mind-boggling. From the ground up the entire surrounding forest is thick with deep green fronds and fern, clustered between gutsy bursts of hardy growth. All this simmers fruitfully at the foot of a panoramic spread of charred woodland and stretches effortlessly from one horizon to the other, a surreal environment with a positive thriving future. Through adversity, life finds a way.
Of the Wilson duo Mark is the quieter of the two, so a good stint in the back country was a blessing. Of all the people I've met, he's one of the most selfless individuals I've come across, up there with the rare few who have that wholesome genuine core that's weakening to be around. There aren't many of them. He should be bottled. And he has the amazing and intriguing ability to sleep with his legs in the air. I thought he was messing about at first until he started snoring deeply. He's slowly becoming a legend.
Wilson's Prom gave us our fair share of wildlife shockers. For my first trek in the Aussie bush they didn't take it easy on me, subjecting us to a whole assortment of oddities. This truly was the garden of satan. Only an hour and a half into the jaunt and I found myself within striking distance of a tiger snake. It shimmied at my feet, taunting me before turning back on itself and advancing through the ferns with a glistening sheen, every inch of it emanating hate. I looked on in a moment of delayed reaction, much like a toddler does when it suffers a sharp unexpected smack. Then my legs sprung into life and did a little jig. All by themselves. I was more than happy with this. For a long time I've had every expectation of whimpering like a girl at every one of these moments.
We pressed on. There were wombats, geckos, crows, possums, galahs, cockatoos, more snakes.. and ants: big fat ants, fire ants, buller ants, spider-eating ants (one of which viciously dragged a weak and helpless spider over to some dark lair as we looked on), ant-eating spiders, spider-eating birds AND bird-eating spiders. On refuge cove there were as many jellyfish as there were sea shells, all of them dyed and dotted with purple poison. I tried to generate a bit of positive karma by saving one that had been washed up. A moment later it got washed up.
The pinnacle of trauma came around midnight on day two. I was lying face up, bruised and worn gearing up for another agonising manoeuvre of turning over when something directly outside pierced my skull with a painful ear-splitting shriek. Immediately I knew we were doomed. Mark reacted instantly, flipping over onto his belly in a prompt and learned manner. This concerned me. My life was in his hands. He shuffled heavily towards the zippered door and stopped. Naturally I assumed he'd got the gun ready and prepared myself for the violent onslaught. I assumed wrongly. Instead he used expletives, obviously designed to rid the animal. He issued them firm and direct but this changed nothing. Whatever was outside jabbed at the walls a few times, sizing up its meal. We were sorely vulnerable. This wasn't nice at all. Soon the dull thumping of its weighty footprints around the tent became worrying. This was a stocky, solid creature with every capability of bulldozing right through our flimsy home. Then it left us, wide awake with a peaking pulse and a shadow of insecurity. The shriek stayed with me well into the following day.
A weekend in the bush is just what was needed to kick start the Aussie-ness. It's done me a power of good, killer-species and all. The landscape, the wildlife, the scenery and the sunrise has all been up there with the best I've seen. At first I naturally compared it to other places that have blown me away. It had the perfection and stunning beauty of New Zealand, the grand and unfathomable scale of America as well as something else I couldn't quite put my finger on, something that couldn't be compared to anything else. That's cos' it's another continent entirely, and an amazing one at that. This is Australia! And there's a whole lot more to come..