Summary Feb/March 2015
Finally I’ve been to Flinders Island! Finally.
So, what was Flinders like? Lots of long, deserted beaches ranging from a gravelly gritty sand to a fine sand. Huge rocks perched on granite mountains incompletely covered by vegetation, large round rocks that have rolled down, off the mountains or just not eroded like their surrounding rocks. Flat, farming areas. Clean, azure seas, Wind blown green and grey seas.
Pale coloured echidnas, many many wallabies of different sorts and, many wombats. Lots of roadkill, mostly different types of wallabies. Given the baby wombats being cared for by one of the locals, many roadkill victims are clearly adult wombats.
A little taste of what Flinders Island offers and the photos on this blog show: fascinating rock faces on the mountains and hills; long sandy stretches; huge rocks with orange lichen on one or more sides; mountain peaks; the water; and, preternaturally pale echidnas.
And the island is windy. Such a nice place to visit and to walk around. Almost had me convinced I would like life there. Hmm, and on the fifth and sixth days the wind blew. So, true colours. A great place to visit and to walk. Unlikely any one who lives further north where the weather and water are considerably warmer, could seriously consider living there: cold wind often and the ocean feels arctic-like.
Five days walking on Flinders Island, a smallish island between two others, Tasmania and Australia. This was a group walk, organised by AusWalk. Our party comprised nine walkers, a guide from the company and two local ones. We started mornings at 8.30am, after breakfast, and were home in the evenings by 4.30 to 5.30pm. Dinner was at 7, nibbles at 6.30pm on two occasions, the first night and ‘locals’ night’ when two locals came to dinner with us.
The group? It included the usual retirees who are not going gently to their graves and, a few others, some of whom were still working. Still. All wanted to walk and talk and travel. Seven of the nine walkers were female with the group aged from late 50s to early 70s. Our jobs included being/ex academics, medicos, an engineer, a nurse, teachers and a public servant. So, diverse in some ways but not really. All walk, some of us more frequently and further than others.
And two couples. One couple joined in and was involved with everyone. The other interacted considerably less with the rest of us, largely keeping to themselves. Please spare me from couples on group trips who don’t mix. Reminds me of travelling in Myanmar: 2 American couples, longstanding friends plus 3 Canadian couples, all longstanding friends. And me.
Start of trip
Friday 27 February 2015 early: The morning rush: I was reminded of it when I had to get an early train to the airport to fly to Flinders Island, via Melbourne. By 10 to 7 the station was busy, most heading to the city. Reminds me how work consumed me for decades. And that makes me appreciate even more how I’ve just moved on. Work was a very important to me, sometimes all consuming. If you work, look forward to your next stage. If you’ve retired you’ll know how good it can be. 😊. I love being retired and having the time and freedom to do walks like those on Flinders. I thought I would miss the intellectual stimulation. Now, I travel, read and talk to enough sufficiently interesting people that I don’t. I’m learning a language, and I can complete (often) the diabolical sudoku, certainly more frequently than previously! Enough! Flinders ……..
Each day we had an organised walk in a different part of the Island. We stayed in a very pleasant and comfortable place and each day were driven to somewhere different to walk.
The accommodation was great. As was the food. Ahhh, Satan’s Slice, known by some as chocolate brownies. With whipped cream! Yes, there was an option of fruit. But our first afternoon tea provided ample warning of the types and quality of food. I mean, anywhere that serves cream with Satan’s Slice has it right! After eating we walked for an hour after through the bush at the back of the accommodation.
Walks on days 1 and 2
Walks on beaches. Rock hopping and sand walking mixed. This describes much of our first 2 days on the Flinders Island trip: Sawyers Bay to Wybalenna and Port Davies to Castle Rock. Walks of 10+ km. relatively easy and fairly flat.
The rocks we hopped over or around include some huge rounded boulders. Many of these remain on the tops of the Island’s mountains, others are on the shores of its coastline and some, all alone, in paddocks. The latter ones have obviously rolled down from higher points on the Island. And above all, ocean. Clear, azure blue water in many places with white sand, fine or very coarse.
Many of the rocks have a distinctive, bright orangey-pink lichen on their lee sides.
And they include rock formations that must have a volcanic origin with their honeycombed surfaces and very weathered strange formations. Some have one or more arches eroded through their structure.
So, two days of fairly similar types of walking. Very enjoyable. Windy on the second day but, no rain during the day, only overnight.
This is where the remainder of the Tasmanian aboriginal tribes were relocated in the 1830s by the government at the time. Of the 200 or so sent there about 46 were still alive to be relocated, again, to Tasmania a few years later. Some shots of the chapel, since rebuilt, and the graveyard.
This shows where the aboriginal bodies were buried. No markings are evident on their burial sites.
I found this place unbelievably sad and the wind that blows across this empty expanse quite evocative. Wybalenna strikes me as a dreadful place to have sent them. State genocide. Few who have been there on an average summer’s day could see it as pleasant. And at other times of the year? I hate to think. Not surprising that land was available for resettling. So different from many of their original lands in Tasmania – the vegetation is different and there is a shortage of fresh water. And the group would have comprised so many different tribal groups, all mixed in as one. I am pleased to have visited there but, the place was sad. And the wind throughout our visit was unrelenting, pouring down through the valley to the ocean, across the graveyard and by the chapel.
A very different walk. Up Mount Strzelecki, 782 metres high. Sound easy? Hmm. A grade 4 (of 5) walk, described as challenging. Nine of us, and 2 guides, walked up. Marie (tour leader) and Leonie (local guide) had both climbed it a few times and described three approximate stages to us at the start: the waterfall rest point, base camp and the last section, the summit.
The start comprises wide bush tracks over tree roots and soft leaves squashed into the mud. Gradually it gets steeper, across the face of granite rocks, up yet steeper slopes over flat and angled rocks, some with water on them and some dry, and after a certain point the brush grows more firmly over the track. The later sections appear not to have been walked by as many people. Diana and I walked faster and more comfortably than most of the others. Norman joined us fairly quickly, leaving most of the others managing reasonably well behind. We waited often, to ensure the others and our guides were still coming.
We had morning tea near the top on a large flat rocky area overlooking this section of Flinders, near Trouser Point, where we were staying. Then, another half hour or so to the summit and back to that point for lunch. One ‘hairy’ rock in the last section but otherwise fine.
D, N and I led off for the down trip. Took us about 90 minutes but we had to wait another 50 minutes for the next two to arrive. The others arrived shortly after them. A couple of our group did a particularly good job getting up as far as the large flat rock, down again and back over the stile at the start as it was more of a walk than they’d expected and climbing a stile at the end, particularly hard! Too much. Almost.
Two walkers had the day off, opting to visit the local town rather than walk from Palona to Mt Killiecrankie. And the diamonds at Mt Killiecrankie? Nonexistent as far as I’m concerned but the afternoon tea muffins at the cafe there were the best I’ve ever had.
Back to the start of the walk: we walked walking on a beach, whitish grey sand. Usual rocks. Red lichen on one side, a few scattered, and smaller patches of orange and green among them. Later we walked through the scrub, on a well formed bush track back from the beach. We saw two hidden huts/houses. One, the hexagonal one, very run down, was earlier used by fisherman marooned at the point in bad weather. The other was a small house, also in need of care and love. Apparently it belongs to someone who spends some of his year there and the rest off island. In the end the isolation he has sought can’t ever be his as there is always the chance a walker will suddenly appear along the nearby track, wanting to look or to just out walking. Getting guaranteed solitude and privacy nowadays is not as possible by just relocating as perhaps it was years ago.
Lots of Cape Barren geese feeding in the paddocks on the way back from here.
The surprises: the size of some of the houses at Mt Killiecrankie apparently owned by people who are there just sometimes and who obviously like the relative isolation; and, the wonderful belladonna lilies growing wild in this area all over. Pink, white or pink and white the flowers are on a stem of 30 to 40 cm high without any surrounding greenery. And they look spectacular growing wild. Shots? Sorry, i was too busy looking. And of course at the islands you can see off the coast from many parts of Flinders, small and not so small. Spectacular.
Our last walk was from the Walkers Lookout down through ferns, gums and ti-tree. Down we walked until morning tea. The wind was fierce and it was easy to choose not to go to Mt Pillinger and be caught in the increasingly fierce winds. Most of the group opted likewise, for the walk along the flattish area instead, the 5km along the bush track to the car instead of the mountain. On a less windy day I’d have considered the climb. The number of brown butterflies in the bush was surprising. Very.
We later visited the most southern town on the Island, Lady Barron. Beautiful looking at the estuary but not a place I’d want to live. Windy. But the views across to Little Dog Island, Big Dog Island and to Little Green Island were spectacular.
During the time on Flinders Island we visited the local museum. This has some very interesting collections ranging from birds’ eggs to photos and information on early settlers and explorers. A place not to miss.
Lots of food. Everyday we got a small bag of scroggin including nuts and various mixes plus we made our lunch. Breakfast was usually continental with bacon and eggs if you wanted and dinner varied. Annie, who cooked for us, was creative and made some great things: try her relish if you go on this trip. Oh, and the regular meals and deserts.
Very nice. D and I had each opted for singles and were very pleased out at an end section of a verandah connecting us to the house.
So, Flinders Island
So. Would I live on Flinders? No. We met some very interesting locals but the place is isolated, windy, the water cool and I prefer more northern climes in Australia. The walking, however, is great. Flat and hilly, there are options and the limited population makes it a great place to visit.
Would I go back? Absolutely if I could get the same accommodation and meals. Most definitely.
Take this as a definite recommendation.