(January 4 2021 – written by Nancy)
Well, we survived the night with no animal attacks – thanks to Javier for storing our food in his van. I think the possums found some things stored in the nearby hut, as we heard a bit of crashing and banging about midnight, but thankfully they didn’t find anything too interesting at our campsite. We were glad that the local pademelons don’t have damage-causing claws and that the devils didn’t find us this time.
We did have a few interruptions from our neighbours, who were taking their 2+ year old daughter camping for the first time. She wasn’t quite sure she liked the camping life, I don’t think, and there were a few crying bouts during the night. So, despite how tired we were after yesterday’s big ride I wouldn’t say sleep was deep.
The rain seemed to taper off during the night and by this morning it had stopped completely. Of course everything is wet, and the trees surrounding the tent continued to shed water with each breeze, making it feel pretty damp. The big plan for the day was to take a cruise on the Pieman River on the Arcadia II, a 1939 cruiser that has been refurbished and is now used to take cruises from Corinna out to the Pieman Heads, where the river meets the Indian Ocean. We had a nice breakfast with Javier and wished him well on the rest of his holiday, and then made our way down to the main lodge to wait for the boat.
Corinna is an old mining and forest settlement that has been refurbished into a wilderness retreat of sorts. At its high point as a working town Corinna there was apparently a population in excess of 800 people. The main building was originally established as a government store to service the miners who made their way here to find gold. Over time the building was converted to a pub/hotel, and as the fortunes of mining ebbed and flowed (mostly ebbed) in the area the place became rather more deserted. There are now 20 or so cabins of various sorts and sizes, and about 10 camping spots. It seems that the cabins are booked out well in advance – there were none available last night when we arrived (and the rain started to teem down) and I don’t think there is anything available tonight either. Nor any camping spots. So, it appears to be a popular place to visit, despite its remoteness. It is quite quaint, though soggy camping does detract a bit from its otherwise beautiful surroundings!
So, on to today. The Arcadia II, our boat for today’s cruise, has a long and storied history. It was built of Huon pine in 1939 and almost immediately was put into service in WWII. After stints as a cadet ship and plying the waters up in Indonesia and elsewhere the boat returned to the West Coast of Tasmania and was used for cruising on the Gordon River for some time, and then was purchased by the then-operator of Corinna to be used for cruises up the Pieman River. I am not a fan of boats, but for a boat it is a nice one. We had a full house on our cruise – I think it sits 35 people, and there were people waiting to see if there were any cancellations so that they could get on.
The Pieman River, which runs east-west from the ocean up past Corinna and into the wilderness, was named after Thomas Kent, the ‘Pieman’, a baker that was transported to Macquarie Harbour (down in Strahan) as a convict. Apparently he was captured near Corinna after escaping, thus the name of the river. Because the river runs east and west, the north and south sides of the river banks have distinctly different amounts of sunlight and therefore different species grow on each side. One side (the less sunny side) is much more like a rainforest and has a wider variety of trees and plant life than you see on the other side. Lots of Melucca , Leatherwood, Sassafrass, Blackwood, Celery Top and Huon pine trees appear on the rainforest side, while the other side is dominated by gum trees. Both sides are green and beautiful, and apparently virgin timber that has never been cut or burnt.
One of our favourite woods has to be Huon pine – doesn’t everyone have a list of favourite woods? We saw lots of these trees today and learned a bit more about them. Like many plants there is a male and female plant but in the case of the Huon, the actual trees don’t look anything like each other. The boat captain pointed out several male and female trees – had he not told us, we would have never thought that the trees were related.
We saw several sea eagles in our trip down the river to the Pieman Heads. The bar where the river and the ocean meet is ferocious and wild, and our captain told us it is now closed. Apparently boats are not allowed to go across it anymore, it is that dangerous. The boat docked inside the heads and we were all handed a lunch and allowed to go explore for an hour or so. Most of us made our way to the beach to see the ocean crashing down on the shore, working hard to stay upright in the wind. We wandered a bit and then found a slightly calmer place sheltered from the wind to eat our lunch.
The cruise back was as calm and peaceful as the way down, with lots of commentary from the captain and a few more sightings of sea eagles and other birds. All in all a good time on the boat, which is a lot coming from someone who is not fond of being on boats of any kind!
No rain as of yet today, so perhaps we’ll be lucky and have a dry tent overnight. After eating ‘out’ in the lodge last night as a reward for actually getting here we are back to cooking our own meal tonight. Javier has left us, unfortunately, so we are trying to hang the bags in a tree near us to see if that works to avoid animal encounters. And our neighbours near us (with the little girl) have also offered their car as a storage spot for our food if that is necessary. We’ll see how we go…