On Sunday 27th, a sunny calm day not long after my 56th birthday, I’m informed that I have won a cruise via IRB down to Green Gorge, which will be the start of a six day field trip to some of Macca’s holiday huts.
Out on the water heading south to Green Gorge, the landscape reminds me of my time in the Northern Arctic, Iceland and Greenland: steep grassy, shale slopes with bird life making use of the air currents and dotting the coastline, all in their day’s work.
Black sand, king penguins, gentoo, elli seals and a log cabin. We disembark the IRB and unload all the supplies, then it’s a wave from Kim and I, as Pete, Chris, Marty & Rob head back to station to pick up Marcus.
It’s dark here at 3:00pm so we are all settled in for the night after a hot bucket shower; dinner conversation is anything and everything. Kim: “Hey Rocket, how ya feeling about walking down to Hurd Point Hut… 18 kilometres?” I reply, “I’m trying not to think about it.”
8:30am, misty morning: Kim’s my personal guide… haha, no… Kim is here on the island to study the wandering albatross. Heading out: they call the slopes a ‘jump up’ or ‘jump down’ when we are leaving or coming in to a hut, but some of these jump up and jump downs can be a workout on their own.
The valley is mustard with a tinge of green: up, up and up we go, breathtaking — that is the view, not me — as I get into it, as you do, adjusting gear and settling in to the walking motion and taking in the view along the way. Overland Track (Cradle Mountain) or Macquarie Island: same, same but different.
Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Peak 250 metres, Cadbury chocolate, water, Jessie Niccol Track to the left that heads to Waterfall Bay. “Rocket, you’re doing really well. We have just walked four kilometres”. That is my guide Kim, Alby Girl, so now only 14 kilometres to go, thanks Alby Girl for helpful tips on packing things and having your needs at your fingertips as you walk. This young lady has just met the halfway point of her time here on Macca, and has a head full of knowledge and ways of working with the elements on this remote island out in the middle of the Southern Ocean.
The landscape changes more and more as you head south, Mount Gwynn 345 metres, and now we are on a hard surface, which is better than your boots sinking down into the water-soaked, grassy ground. Martin Track, Mount Martin 360 metres.
I’m loving the change in the landscape, but more so the landscape textures, recorded as photos, to later become art — my microscopic eye — I see it differently. Rolling valleys to the sea, the shading of the ridges produces a canvas of art as does the shale, jagged cliff face (either bare or with a coating of moss) or tussock slope.
South Lusitania Track: not this time, Waterfall Bay Hut will have to wait till another time. Windy Ridge has only 25 knot wind on this day but when that 35 knot wind gust comes and pushes you off balance, you start to understand what a 50 knot wind could do to you if you’re here at the wrong time.
“Rocket”, says Kim. “We have just passed Mount Hamilton at 410 metres and we don’t have far to go”. These track walkers say this all the time and I know we have further to go than she is saying… Mount Jeffryes, Mount Ainsworth…
Now I’m standing at the top of this tussock slope 300 metres high, incline of about 45 to 50 degrees, legs like jelly and six hours walking done, looking down at a black dot. “That is the beach,” Kim laughs. I say “We're not going down there?” “Yes, we are going down there!”. I have tears in my eyes from laughter: OK let’s do this.
I stand at a floor to ceiling window that looks down the beach, look and think, “I’m at the most southern point of Tasmania, Australia… Macquarie Island.”
Rodney Charles (Rocket)