Wednesday 6 Sep 23
South Coast Track, Tasmania
When I undertook my officer training we had what must have been the most idiotic leadership assessment exercise, run (I use the term loosely) by an officer who I can happily report did not survive her student review. Legend has it that she became a lady of the night. Leading people astray would have been right up her alley. Anyway. Leadership exercise. One of my colleagues, ‘Scotty’, a lovely chap transferred in from the RAF had led us into the wrong gully in the Brisbane Ranges, a particularly gnarly part of Victoria.
I knew it was the wrong gully as I checked my own map. Ordinarily a leader would take input from anyone but we were not allowed to speak with the unfortunate Scotty who looked utterly perplexed as he got to the bottom of the gully with 20 officers in tow and clearly with no idea what to do next let alone where he was. I should hasten to add that the Directing Staff were in attendance and Scotty’s leadership was being assessed throughout. His objective was to get us to a rope across a river which simulated a bridge. And he had to do it within a certain number of hours. He was at the bottom of the wrong gully with no idea that was the case and had an hour left.
As we had descended into the gully I, as tail end Charlie, noticed that we had stepped over a well overgrown ledge which on closer examination proved to be a channel. As I stood on it and looked left and right I realised it was a water course, or race, not unlike the old races I grew up with around the Otago goldfields. They follow the contours and draw water from a stream higher up than the mining operation, creating the pressure needed for sluices. I had not noticed it on the map but when I I had a closer look I could see it very faintly marked. Interestingly the map indicated that the race had its take off from the stream exactly at the point where the rope was supposed to be.
When I realised Scotty was in trouble I sidled up to him and told him not to look at me and whispered the suggestion that he order me to explore along contour line (250 (I forget exactly which one it was)) and report back in 30 minutes. I then stepped away. After turning his map around a few times Scotty called the group together in a very business like way and instructed Mister Lyman to explore the contour 250 and report back in thirty minutes.
‘Yessir’ and off back up the slope to the old stone race and run along it, across fallen timber and over slips and cave-ins and crumbled masonry until I reached the stream. Exactly 15 minutes after I took Scotty’s instruction I stood in the gravel of the stream but could see no rope. About to turn around (I was out of time) I took one step forward and there it was above me, hidden in the foliage with the sun shining on it.
I rushed back to find Scotty in a slight panic, the clock was ticking. I briefed him as quickly as I could and he chased us up to the ‘race’ – he asked me to explain it to the group first – and then along it until we were all standing in the creek looking up at that rope. Scotty passed his leadership assessment for which I was mightily pleased. He was a decent chap after all. But it was a close run thing, achieved with three minutes to spare.
All that came to mind at Louisa River today as we picked our way along the river bank looking for the crossing. And there it was in the distance, a rope spotted through the trees marking the crossing. I think it is designed so that you can hang on to it – that was the original intention. It is so high that at best it simply marks the spot. I suspect over the years the trees have grown and lifted the rope while its also obvious that the creek bed has scoured out underneath it.
It’s our second river crossing for the day. We launched across Louisa Creek this morning at 0845. Both a frigid cold but Louise River is wider, deeper and more boulder strewn, meaning it is one crossing taken with extra care. A shorter walk today and a pleasant series of knolls crossed and a small section of bush as we cut around the side of a small ridge. Even though the track was relatively flat the walk was full of its own challenges. A large portion of the track cuts across Louisa Plains (who is this Louisa we wonder?) and to make life easier the most boggy sections have a two plank ‘board walk’. Quite literally a board walk I guess. 1.6km at least. Well, the longest continuous section is 1.6km long. For the most part they are not greasy but when they are it is as if liquid soap has been sloshed over them. Carrying a pack along them makes for a precarious exercise. And when you go there is no warning – suddenly off the board and heading for a muddy soaking. Fortunately only once today. We quickly learned to interpret the colour and shades of the timber as to whether they were slick and dangerous or if they gripped the boots. The most precarious boards were two bridges over 2-3m drops into creeks. We were reduced to hands and knees across those. Better safe than sorry.
The wind came up last night and persisted although the rain stopped. Fortuitous as the wind dried out the gear we had left outside. It wasn’t raining when we forded the creek but the wind chased us from the west and southwest all day, bringing with it flurries of light rain which dried almost as soon as it landed. But as we started across Louisa Plain we were forced to break out jackets. Even though that was a signal for the rain to ease the jackets remained on as we now appreciated how brisk the wind was. And on those boards we had to take care with gusts which threatened to topple us into the bog.
Today we are following the bootprints of the two girls who flew in with us. We are doing our own walks and have camped at different sites but its been pleasant to compare notes when we have crossed tracks. They were going to side track down to Louisa Bay but the boot prints suggest they elected not to do that and came to this site instead. They would have talked Ironbound Range today. We have the pleasure of looking forward to that tomorrow.
Which pretty much brings these notes to a close for the day. It hard to work out what the weather is doing. The wind fades away then surges through the tree tops with renewed vigour, making us a little nervous. Signs warn of falling tree limbs here and the place it littered with tonnage of the stuff. This is an excellent and large site with lots of open patches of ground but disconnectedly it mostly situated under huge trees. It sits in the bend of the river and five metres below the Louisa Plains so we are out of direct wind. We have found a site which is mostly out of the way of anything. Certainly nothing of substance above us. But some of those Beech run to 50m or more, as do some of the eucalyptus. A dropped branch is likely avoided but we are still within reach of some of those taller sticks if they elect to let go under these roaring winds. While the climb tomorrow is daunting we both agree we will be pleased to be off this site and away from these trees, even though we have made ourselves at home here.
We are planning on a 0700 departure to give us all day to get over the top of the range. Early starts are no problem since its usually lights out around 1900-2000 the night before.