Photographs by Harry Whaite 1912 - 2011

 

 

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"THE FUNNIEST TURNOUT."

BY IDA McAULAY.

(The Bush Club.} The Bushwalker 1940

 

Imagine, if you can, the southern portion of the West Coast of Tasmania between Macquarie Harbour and Port Davey. The coast is a lee shore, wreck-strewn and windswept, where short beaches alternate with great headlands of rock ending in broken, knife-edged reefs, the whole guarded on the land side by a barrier of toughly twisted scrub. Between this barrier and the mountains behind run, in some places, button-grass plains—strips of hilly country covered with high tussocks of button-grass and broken by steep gullies choked with scrub. These orange-green plains are not so easy to negotiate as they look from the heights of the mountains, but when floundering and cutting a way through the scrub one thinks of them as a paradise of open going. To the west of this coast is an ocean whose nearest shore is Patagonia, and to the east a week or more of travel through an almost terrifying, though beautiful, desolation of mountains, gorges, and scrub.

In this large-scale setting our party of six small human beings walked in pairs, one couple being far ahead. The central pair were women, my cousin and myself, lurching with our packs between the waist-high tussocks. My cousin fell and swore wholeheartedly, expressing to my satisfaction the feelings I had not the breath to express for myself. But the West Coast, which, through the years, has taken such a heavy toll of ships and lives, does not tamely submit to the hard words of woman. The next moment, while going down a steep bank the button-grass tripped my companion, who fell again, her pack swinging her outwards while her foot remained caught between the tussocks. There were two nasty cracks and a cry of pain ; the Coast had made us pay for our temerity with a broken leg. In addition to the pain, the victim was for the moment overwhelmed by recognition of our awkward situation. Our party was on the return journey, but we were still two days of heavy going from our base, a fishing ketch at Port Davey.