Break open a cuttlefish and its lines will tell a story. Each line is a day, and a black line spells a time of immense stress. This is news to me and as I peer into the hands of our guide, I smile at the translucent white beaming up. It’s as snowy
as the sand underfoot.
“This one appears to have lived a stress free life,” chatters Kia, tossing it back down. But I’m fascinated; I pick it back up and peer across its stress-free life with admiration and a hint of jealousy. Then I look up, and I see why.
Before me lies an intoxicating scene. Splashing bold colours with abandon this is nature in Her most colourful mood. White sand collides with turquoise waves. And boulders are dusted with fiery orange lichen.
There’s not a human in sight; not a footprint to follow. One could be forgiven for thinking they were discoverers of this distant land at the bottom of the world. It’s supposed to be a four-day walk but I find myself unable to take a step.
Our intimate group of eight are about to embark on some 30 kilometres of wanderings along the fringe of Mount William National Park in remote north east Tasmania. Adorning the cover of a Lonely Planet guide book, one could anticipate this region might be special, but little did I know I was about to walk the prettiest stretch of coastline my boots have ever
The first day we walk a good 10 kilometres, chattering away amongst new friends with an excited bounce in our step. I will admit day one’s weather didn’t appear in the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk brochure. When the Queenslander’s pink akubra flew off into the waves, chased obligingly by her husband, I felt a hint of sadness.
As a Tasmanian I knew they could have it better than sitting down for lunch with a sprinkling of sand on their Tasmanian
smoked salmon. But it was as if the Bay of Fires was just having a play- reminding us that she’s a wild and raw place.
Rather than fight with the wind, we begin to embrace it. We laugh at a tea break, catching a glimpse of our last walker battling the elements, a silhouette in sand-filled wind, while a doctor in the group flushes his wife’s eye out with a good dose of saline and love.
It’s no glossy brochure weather, but it’s certainly bonding weather. And as each of us round the corner to Forester Bay Camp, we’re delighted to be tucked behind the dunes in coastal heathland, invited into the camp’s protective arms.
We arrive in plenty of time to dip our toes in that Tasman Sea, acting as our loyal neighbour through the day. I watch amusingly as the guides potter down before anyone and dive into waters so clear they magnetically draw me to join.
For a moment I forget that I’m not a fan of swimming in chilly Tasmanian waters but as I pop up like a ‘surprised seal’ at my own boldness I smile with invigoration. Yes, it’s chilly, but gosh it’s the type of exhilaration that makes me want to toss that akubra in for everyone to save.
Rising early for day two of walking, this is when the Bay of Fires turns up the heat. The day is glorious, as if a deserved gift for the trials of day one. We emerge from our individual tents to the aroma of freshly cooked pancakes and are soon standing atop the softest marsupial lawns in glistening sunshine.
Guides Kia and Bella talk about the environment with the type of innate love normally reserved for your mother. It’s a
contagious passion that sees a walker step off track to pick up a fishermen’s cast away beer can more than once. Somehow this walk instils the responsibility without words, you just do it.
When we reach Aboriginal middens, standing from a distance, we are reminded of the region’s past. “We’ve been here just eight generations or so,” begins the guide, “while the Aboriginals foraged for shellfish, dived for seals and hunted mutton birds for some 1500 generations before this, right here.”
I look down at the darkish sand where campfires lit the eyes of early European explorers; giving rise to the region’s name. As I try to imagine the hub of activity in this isolated corner of Tasmania, it’s a silent reminder of those who walked these sands before us.
Just when I thought it could not be prettier, more splendid, we reach a new cove where I begrudgingly whip out the sand-swept camera again. Never in my life have I been compelled to be so annoying with a lens, to the point where I force myself to stop and enjoy the spectacle through both my eyes.
And it’s magnificent. It’s calming, raw, pristine and, well one could even say spiritual. With our increasingly busy lives, it’s not often we stand still. When nature demands it rather than a screen - that’s a moment worth savouring.
After a good 14 kilometres or so, we catch first glance of the lodge. Arguably this is the moment many are anticipating – sight of that award-winning haven – hovering 40 metres above the sea. And it’s more than worth that final climb.
No sooner have I dropped my pack into a light-filled private cabin and Kia is topping my outdoor foot bath with drops of calming lavender. Like magic fairies, the guides flutter about topping glasses with Tasmanian drops and showing us
through what will be our architecturally-designed home for the next two nights.
The lodge is tucked into the landscape, touching so lightly one almost feels suspended above the environment. Commitment to environmental sustainability is somehow balanced effortlessly with five-star dining and luxuries.
Yes they’re composting toilets and there’s no pointed tip on your toilet paper, but there’s few places where you can laze back in a pink-hazed outdoor bathtub of rosella goodness, breathing in the salty views. This is five stars with a thousand stars above.
Offering an unassuming elegance, the lodge itself is built almost entirely from glass and local eucalypt. Out the front, four deck chairs wait patiently like a magazine cover come to life- the only hope of being drawn away - the scent of dinner.
In these parts, there’s no damper or snags in sight, but chef-designed three course meals of Tasmanian fare better suited to a fine city restaurant all served up by smiling guides. From the bus driver to the dish washer, these folk, they don’t stop smiling.
In a home with no blinds, it doesn’t take long to wake gently to the morning light and gentle crashing of waves. It marks the beginning of our kayaking day. We’re bundled into a Toyota troop carrier and soon after, find ourselves gliding along
Ansons River in double kayaks.
The pace is so relaxed at one point Bella and I become lodged on a ‘weedy hill.’ But I’m so taken by the glassy dark waters and sea eagles circling above that I barely notice we’ve come to a gentle halt.
We soldier on at our cracking pace until we come to the mouth of Ansons Bay, and deeming it fine conditions to cross, we complete the eight kilometre kayak with leisurely dips of the paddle. In typical style, as we slip out of life jackets we notice neatly laid out picnic rugs ready for another lazy outdoor lunch. There’s chatter of sea eagles, sting rays, pelicans and more; a fitting tribute to a region home to around 100 bird species and a hopeful wallaby that comes out around dinner time.
The final day for me, is a fitting close. I’m treated to a head and neck massage with the gorgeous Celia, who happens to live just down the way, in the brand new Bay of Fires Lodge Spa. Holding my head in calming hands she quietly says,
“Close your eyes, this is your time.” It’s a fitting reminder that this special ‘place’ is limited, indulgent, and ours for a
brief moment in time. It’s a dizzying gift of nature, nourishing food, kindness and wide open space.
It’s little wonder that the walk out through Peppermint gums around midday is a contemplative, quiet one. Our bonded group is lazily refreshed in their own individual solitude. For me, I must admit to a hint of sadness when I see the bus driver, despite his beaming smile.
But out of the kindness of his heart, he takes us by Apogee Wines (as he does with all his guests) and into the bubbling beauty of wine maker Andrew Pirie’s secret den. Here we are treated to an exclusive wine tasting at a cellar door opened only for us.
The welcome is so warm that the resident pup sneaks under the fence to greet us and Andrew shows us the hand crafted care that goes into each bottle of award-winning Pirie sparkling. Apogee means ‘highest point;’ a fitting end to a walk that moved me to a pinnacle of relaxation only reserved for Bay of Fires cuttlefish.
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Words & images: Alice Hansen
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