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Wilderness Shangri-la

In Business and Environment, Environment, Ethical and Eco Agriculture, Places, Travel and Retreats by Steven KatsinerisLeave a Comment

Special wild places of solace.

In my mid to late teens and early 20’s I spent most of my holidays at a large sheep farm that belonged to a friend of my uncles in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. It is an area of high rainfall, many miles from the nearest town and much of the farm is still wild, uncleared forest and abundant in wildlife. The air there is chilly, crisp and fresh. The water icy, clear and tastes superb. The wind is cold, bracing and invigorating, you really knew you were alive. Every time I traveled there I felt an elation that grew, as I got closer to this exquisite place.

Sometimes I’d go there with my dogs or a couple of friends, but most frequently by myself. I loved the solitude and tranquility of the place and would stay at one of the remote huts in the bush. It is an alpine region, with plants resistant to heavy frosts, waterlogging, snow and cold winds. It was generally cold in the mornings, warm by midday, cooling in the afternoon and very cold at night. The weather was exceptionally changeable, even in summer and it could experience several changes in a day. It was often windy, it snowed a lot, there were furious storms and it could rain for days on end. Sometimes the roads would be flooded and the district cut off for several days. People had to be prepared for the sudden extreme variations in nature and you had to be able to rely on yourself.

I would spend my days for the most part bush walking and discovering the wonderful area. There were always new things to observe and more gullies, tracks, caves, hills and other parts to explore and examine. Usually I’d be up early, have breakfast and pack a lunch, typically a bottle of water, sandwiches, or bread, cheese, dates, fruit and biscuits and set off for the whole day and not come back until dusk. Sometimes I’d go out for the morning and be back in the afternoon for a late lunch and then spend the rest of the day sitting in the sun somewhere reading, deep in thought, drinking tea and watching the wildlife. I also needed to collect firewood, set the fire and cook my meals among other things.

In my days wandering around the farm, I’d walk through diverse habitats from dense, damp, ferny gullies, with creeks flowing through them, among tall forests of gum and wattle, sodden swamps full of cushion plants, thick grassland areas, moss covered plateaus with masses of Tee-tree growing around them, over rocky and rugged hills, to the surrounding craggy mountains. During these walks I’d observe a lot of animals, including Fallow Deer, Wombats, Red-necked Wallabies, Bettongs, Pademelons, Echidnas, Platypus, Tiger snakes, Copperhead snakes, a wide variety of birds and occasionally a Tasmanian Devil or an Eastern Native Cat. I would regularly stop along the way to pause and ponder in amazement at these various beautiful places. I was particularly captivated by the deep, shady gullies; I liked the serene feeling of being in an ancient and pristine lost world among the imposing, majestic Eucalypt trees and enormous man-ferns. I’d sit or stand there in the midst of this thick humid understorey of the forest floor in a reflective mood, watching the shafts of sunlight filtering through the giant trees and take in the minutest details, intense scents and immerse myself in the overwhelming atmosphere of the forest.

Most often my roaming would bring me to the rocky outcrops at the foot of Table Mountain, which I would then climb. It is a steep ascend over loose rocks, punctuated by a couple of flat rock plateaus. Once at the top I would sit and rest, eat lunch and view the wide world from there. It was my favourite spot in the entire world and even now after many travels it is in my mind my most loved place. From the peak it is a stunning sight of the surrounding region with which few things in life can compare. In every direction the vast sweeping scene is almost entirely of trees, mountains, hills and lakes, with only a few cleared patches of land and the narrow road north towards Lake Crescent (ok) in view.

Once while pensively sitting there on the rocks in the warm sun enjoying the outstanding view, I watched spellbound as a Wedged-tailed Eagle soared in the clear blue sky in front of me, sometimes seemingly only a few metres away. It came so close to the edge several times I imagined I could just reach out and touch it. It looked so magnificent with its impressive body and remarkable wingspan as it glided by. It circled for some time, but eventually, with a few flaps of its striking wings it rose on the slight breeze and slowly disappeared into the distance. It was a truly enchanting, magic moment.

Perhaps it’s the sense of isolation and being alone there on top of a mountain, amid the vast secluded forest, but it always felt deeply spiritual up there. I always felt profoundly connected with my own soul and close to the spirit of the earth and heaven in this place.

The area is an astonishingly beautiful place of breathtaking views, with its wonderful array of habitats and wildlife, its myriad intoxicating smells, sounds and colours. I had plenty of time to read, to think, to reflect and felt that my visits there were profoundly enriching experiences that made me more clear-headed and wiser. The long bushwalks I had while I was staying there gave me a sense of joy and contentment, but also gave me a lot of time to think deeply about life. Many of the directions I took in later life were as a result of the decisions I made there in my late teens. My senses were altogether stimulated in this wild place and I always left feeling refreshed, uplifted and inspired. For me it was a place of wonderment, an earthy paradise, my own modest, but exhilarating wilderness Shangri-la.

I haven’t been there for a long time, but even now, many years later, when every so often I need to feel calm and content, I close my eyes and in my mind I go there. Even if it is just vivid memories in the recesses of my mind, I can still feel this wild place alive inside me. We all have special, intimate places that exist in our hearts, where we go to escape life’s tribulations, for me this is it.

 

Steven is a Hobart born writer, now living in Hurstbridge, Vic.

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