The K-men were up by 7am and already packing for the Tahune Air Walk—a highlight all by itself as far as I was concerned. Usually, as the woman, I’m the one doing all that women do, while the men lounge around looking stressed at the mere fact that they have to get up so early. But not this day. Brother P1 packed the lunches. My husband packed the bags. And Cousin P2 washed the dishes. All while, I sat on the three-seater-lounge and relaxed. Bonus!
Besides, I felt tired and my throat itched. Not a good sign.
The road down south through the Huon Valley made me sleepy. Once past Geeveston, the speed limit slowed to a leisurely sixty kilometres per hour.
‘I wonder why the speed’s so low,’ P1 remarked.
‘Must’ve had an accident,’ I said.
‘Yeah, they have one accident and they push for the speed to be reduced.’
I yawned. ‘Yep.’
As the way to Tahune became slower and wound around the temperate forest terrain, rain spattered on the windscreen and my eyes drooped and I fell asleep. After all, this was my third visit to the Tahune Air Walk.
My husband’s voice woke me up. ‘We’ve come at a good time. They’re celebrating 100 years of National parks in Tasmania and we get to go into all the national parks for free during the Tasmanian school holidays.’
‘Well, your mum timed the planning of the trip very well,’ I replied as we rolled into the visitors’ carpark. ‘Good timing too, it’s 10.30am and the park opened at 10am.’
Armed with our rain jackets, layers of clothing and boots for hiking, we trooped to the Information Centre and Souvenir Shop to pay for access to the Air Walk. The National Park Pass only covers entry to National parks, not the Tahune Air Walk which costs $28 per adult. The park manager explained that the fee includes the tree-top walk ways, a counter-lever (an over-hanging construction) and two swinging bridges.
Now one thing one must know about the K-Team, they have to get their money’s worth. And true to form, that day, we did indeed receive value for our money.
Right from the start, as we stepped out the centre door, the rain eased. First point of interest, how high the river rose during the floods in July. My husband pointed at the measuring post where the mark indicated the waters rose two metres above the height of the bridge. Then for the next twenty minutes, he repeated, ‘Two metres above the bridge, wow, that’s a flood.’
We trekked the paths of Tahune through the temperate rainforest, above the forest, and along the rushing tea-stained waters of the Huon.
‘How come the water’s brown?’ P1 asked.
‘The highland button-grass colours the water,’ my husband explained.
‘So there’s nothing wrong with the toilets back at the visitors’ centre,’ I said.
‘I wondered about that,’ P1 said.
We hiked for two hours fascinated by the abundance and variety of plant-life in the forest. My husband and I pointed out the Huon pine tree, the river lapping at its roots.
‘The oldest Huon Pine is said to have lived for three thousand years,’ Husband said. ‘This tree’s only a few hundred years old, so, young in comparison. They grow only one millimetre in width a year.’
Also in the forest we saw Stringy Bark, Myrtle, Sassafras and Blackwood trees as well as a range of ferns and native laurel.
We viewed the forest from above on the air walk, a sturdy construction made of metal. We stepped, single-file along the counter-lever to obtain the best view of the meeting of the two rivers, the Picton and the Huon. A man lingered behind. ‘I’m not going on that thing,’ he said, ‘It’s not safe.’
Two children pushed past us and raced to the end of the counter-lever. The metal clanged as they raced back while tussling with each other.
Their mother raised her hands and snapped, ‘Careful!’
P1 peered up at the magnificent Stringy Bark eucalyptus tree towering above us, then he lifted his camera and snapped a shot. ‘I reckon that’s the tree I saw from the other side of the river,’ he said.
On solid earth again, the girth and height of another stringy bark tree dwarfed us. A deck had been constructed around the base of that tree so we could stand in front of it and have our photo taken without damaging the roots.
We lunched in a picnic hut near a clearing. My husband made a friend of a currawong bird. As this black bird with bright yellow eyes studied our food, my husband said, ‘It’s like our crow in South Australia, but a different species.’
I filmed my beloved hand-feeding the bird. ‘Look, a new friend for you,’ I remarked.
Once we’d packed up, P1 announced, ‘Right, now for the swinging bridges.’
We trekked about forty-five minutes to the bridges. Seemed to take forever. A boy and girl in their tweens, jogged past us.
Finally, we reached the bridge and began to cross. Far on the other side, the kids we’d seen jogging, sat on a bench licking ice-cream. When we reached there, they raced off, jogging again. Where do they get the energy?
Checked the lookout where the Picton and Huon rivers meet. Then crossed the second swinging bridge. Husband rocked the bridge, but it didn’t worry me. Not good for taking photos, though.
He then stomped up to me. ‘Look, no hands.’
Well, good for him. ‘I need to hold on.’
As we completed our four-hour walk, the rain plummeted to the silty path. The K-Team’s mission had succeeded. The Tahune Air Walk—well worth the cost and the effort. And an added blessing, my threatening head-cold had taken a hike and been lost in the forest of the Tahune.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: View Where the Rivers Meet. Taken from the Tahune Air Walk © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016