Monday, April 28, 2008

Things of note my first day at the Prom

April 8th

Some things of note that happened today

I awoke from the best night's sleep I have yet had in the bush. I attribute this to A. not freezing - the temperature here next to the coast, (despite being father south) is a great deal warmer. B. No Alarm. With no urgent place to be or any reason to get an early start on the road, there was no need for a wake up call. My body woke comfortably with the light to a morning on the verge of crisp. It was perfect weather for my bivy sack. My muscles were pleasantly sore from a different kind of work, and I putzed around the camp delighting at this pace of life. The last time I camped here (over 4 years ago) it was in an early wet spring with no good food or flashlight. Then, my hiking partner and I hit the road early and had forgone the actually 3.7 km hike to the physical southern-most tip of the antipodean continent. This seemed just the occasion to see it. Hiking in the Prom is primarily a pleasant tunnel of bush interspersed with mighty views of deserted beaches and smooth granite islands. The southern most tip is much the same. Granite boulders, wave-hewn over years, sit like a giant's toys. Above the salt spray line is brilliant orange lichen that grows, and in some cases nearly encases, the boulders in a rustic version of "hunter orange." Among the rocks lays a lumber yard's worth of wood, each piece touched by human hand – a brutal testament to the destructive nature of Bass Strait. On the far end sits a tilted cross made of the same wood and lashed together with rope that had also washed ashore. I was moved my the shipwrecked detritus, but still found myself delighted to jump like a child from boulder to boulder.

My next stop of note was the Promontory Lighthouse. It has been in continuous operation since it was completed 1859. This is still a remote location, and it is hard to imagine it when the only communication was one galvanized telegraph wire (that was interrupted the first day when a tree fell across it). The lighthouse sits on a tiny peninsula on the same kind of orange-covered granite. On approach from the east, it reminds me of the town of Cinque Terra in Italy. It appears a town in miniature with roads and neatly hewn stone cottages that held, at one point, the families of the lighthouse keeper and his two assistants. For one short year this included 14 children, enough that the state of Victoria sent them their own school teacher. Over the years less and less people were needed to keep this sailor's joy alight. Today it is all automated. A stark contrast to the barely-weathered 140 year old lighthouse, still as solid as the day it was built. The existing houses are well-taken care of with neatly cut grass and flowers. A ranger still lives here. Duties for the light are far less, and the assistants' cottages are now a strange luxury to savvy campers willing to pay the 70$ AUD a night for the rather historical privilege of staying in one of the white-washed stone cottages. I feel that some day this will be me, but for now, I still must put 11 more kilometers on and leave this wind-swept spot for my campsite in Waterloo Bay. In the valleys, I walked though a wet forest with a soggy carpet of leaves, and on the ridges past scrubby, dry bushes and granite. Today’s journeys ended at the beach. None too soon as my feet were hot and hurting. It was delicious to feel the sand through my toes and downright blissful when rolled over by the cold, salty waves.

The campsite was overrun by younguns from the city. Not in the mood to deal with them, I moved past the camp to a lookout just above the beach. The waves crashed and kept me company. In the distance, a lighthouse flashed red. I see my breath but am not at all cold – no doubt the humidity. My dinner is good, and I have a cup of coffee to have with my tim tam cookies. I bite off each end of the chocolate-covered treats and suck the hot coffee through it before sucking the java logged treat into my mouth in what I find out later is a "tim-tam slammer." This made me smile, as did the starlight that rained above me through the branches.

No comments: