Day 1: 8 February, 2022
Its day one of the adventure and we have all made it safely to Tassie and are excited to begin the challenge! We meet our friendly local guides in Launceston who take us to our first destination- Bob Browns cottage on Pallitorre country in Oura Oura, which is the Aboriginal word for Yellow-Tailed Black cockatoo.
It’s a picturesque scene as we cross a small bridge over a bubbling stream, opening up to reveal a clearing with a small white cottage dwarfed by the stunning backdrop of Drys Bluff.
Amanda from the Bon Brown Foundation and Bib himself with his partner welcome us with cake and a billy tea. We gather round the campfire and celebrate the incredible $40,576 raised so far and learn that in Tasmania, blockading a tree is treated as an extremely serious crime, which makes this conservation work all the more precious.
We go for a scenic walk through the forest and down to the river, where Bob points out the endangered White Gums and we marvel at the beauty of the flora around us. Back at the cottage for lunch we enjoy fresh made sandwiches as we get an in-depth briefing from our guides about the areas well be trekking in the coming days. This is followed by a conservation talk by Bob, who stresses the importance of the takayna as critical habitat for the masked owl, a protected species in Tasmania.
Bob is generous with his time and knowledge and we all agree we could listen to him for hours. Unfortunately, we need to get back on the move as our next stop is 3.5 hours away.
We stop for a quick group photo and then we are off! We arrive in time for dinner at our new ‘home away from home’ and enjoy roasted vegetable soup with crispy garlic bread for entree, followed by a selection of osso bucco, chicken or vegan chilli.
We struggle to finish the generous portions and trickle off to bed for a deep, restful sleep.
Day 2: 9 February, 2022
Today was a relaxed 7am start, and we congregated in the ‘old pub’ for breakfast where our local guides prepared a delicious spread of scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, granola and of course, coffee! We tucked in and packed our lunches and snacks for the day before splitting into two groups.
The first group started the day with a walk through the Huon Pine forest, and the second group gathered for a safety briefing before paddling down the Piemans river. Bianca, one of our expert local guides had taught us the difference between male and female species of pine, and that cornflake shaped leaves on the ground indicates the myrtles all around us.
As we paddled downstream we marvelled at the Huon pines lining the riverbank, some up to 3000 or more years old. We were even lucky enough to get a good look at an old shipwreck in the area, with the low water level making it easily accessible.
Unfortunately, the low water level is also a stark indicator of the uncharacteristically dry climate the area has been experiencing, with no rain for 90 days. This highly unusual weather is thanks to climate change and a somber reminder of what is at stake if we don’t take action.
Returning from our paddle we greeted the first team who took up the paddles as we took up our packs, and headed into the forest for a 7km walk. There were some short, steep inclines and no shortage of excellent photo opportunities.
We were introduced to all kinds of fungi, ferns and even birds! Heidi, local guide and self-confessed bird nerd, helped us spy an azure kingfisher, which had the most magnificent blue colouring on its feathers.
After our walk we enjoyed some free time before dinner prepared by our guides, where we were met with a rustic spread of cheese, crackers and fresh fruit. This was soon followed by Bianca’s amazing vegetarian pasta and we called off the evening with a dessert of fresh fruit, custard or natural yoghurt. We called it an early night and settled in with the promise of an early morning start.
Day 3: 10 February, 2022
It's the morning of day three and we greet the sunrise along with Lady Jane, our ride down the Piemans river to our next hiking destination: exploring the wild Pieman Heads. Breakfast is served and we are treated to a delicious selection of quiches, pie and fresh fruit salad. After a 45 minute trip we disembark and begin a 5km walk led by our knowledgeable guides. Stephen points out vast middens and hut depressions in the landscape, archaeological evidence of the ancient North West Aboriginal people who lived here at least 35,000 years ago.
The craggy landscape is breathtaking and makes for excellent photos, as well as excellent blue starfish spotting in the rock pools nearby. We eventually head back and hop on a dinghy to cross the river, where we board the MV Arcadia boat for a lunch of fresh wraps and tasty blueberry muffins. The leisurely cruise is a great way to rest weary feet, and we even spot an eagle nest high up in the trees on the riverbank.
Back at the lodge we have free time to walk, talk and explore the area before a delicious dinner of vegetable curry cooked by our wonderful guides. It’s been a big day and we head to bed early to prepare for another challenging yet invigorating day to come.
Day 4: 11 February, 2022
Today we gather bright and early at 6am for a quick family breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, yoghurt and granola. It’s a packed schedule ahead so we are quickly on our way towards Mt Donaldson, that funny wedge-shaped mountains peeking up beyond the forest.
We hike several kilometres through lush rainforest, excited to recognise the now-familiar cornflake-shaped myrtle leaves, white leatherwood flowers and various fungi. The cool calm of the forest envelops us as soon as we ate inside, and we make progress at a steady pace.
Once we exit the rainforest and take our first steps up Mt Donaldson we notice the sudden contrast to the surrounds. For centuries the indigenous owners of this land essentially manicured the area as a firestick hunting ground, and now huge tufts of native button grass thrive in this environment.
As we trek we drink in the spectacular views of misty clouds with rays of sunshine poking through amidst the vast landscape. At the summit an awed silence falls across the group as we observe the beauty of the takayna wilderness and beyond.
A cold wind starts whips up and we spring back into action, taking group photos before we begin the descent. It’s always faster going down than up and we are back in record time!
After lunch back at Corinna we cross the river by barge and head towards our next destination, where we witness firsthand the devastating impact of logging. Nothing can really prepare you for the sight of ancient trees reduced to stumps and old logs. There is a collective loss felt throughout the group. The atmosphere is sombre as we then continue our walk through the intact Tarkine but the image of recently cleared land is seared in our minds. The stark differences are a sobering reminder that these biodiverse and carbon-rich rainforests must be protected, and highlight the importance of the funds raised so far.
Tonight is our final evening together and we spend it at Tullah Lakeside Lodge. Once settled, Stephen gives us a briefing on what we can expect the following day. There are cheers of approval as tomorrows meet up time is a ‘leisurely’ 7:15am.
We dine together at Lakeside Bar & Grill and before tucking into our entrees and mains we take a moment to share gratitude for our time together and celebrate our achievements in raising much needed funds for the Bob Brown Foundation to save takayna. It is a warm, cheer-filled evening, knowing we also have Montezuma Falls to look forward to in the morning.
Day 5: 12 February, 2022
It’s 7:15am and we enjoy a delicious breakfast at Tullah Lakeside Lodge. We are well-versed in our usual routine of packing lunches and an energy fuelled breakfast. The room is full of chatter as we prepare for the day ahead.
We get to Montezuma Falls just before 9am and the weather couldn’t be more perfect! Bright and sunny with the promise of a hot day, as we enter the rainforest we feel it’s cool, calming effects almost immediately as the canopy overhead protects us from the heat.
As we walk, the gentle bubbling of the river can be heard to our right and we head towards the falls, a 10.7km round trip. The crystal-clear water can be seen from various footbridges on the way, and even as we admire it we are reminded of the impacts of damage inflicted by logging. Prominent signs read: NOTICE - this water is unsafe to drink.
We make various stops to capture photos in the dappled sunlight, and after about 90 minutes we reach the Falls. They are a magical sight, and we settle in for a snack of apples and ‘scroggin’ while we admire the surrounds. Finally, it is time to get our last group photo and we make our way back to enjoy a picnic lunch. The group natural splits up, with some marching on ahead and others meander to soak in the beauty from all directions.
Before we know it it is time to head back to Launceston to say our goodbyes. Having met Bob Brown and learned about the devastating impacts of the Tailings Dam as we trekked through this beautiful, ancient rainforest, we are now armed with the knowledge to advocate ferociously for the protection of takayna/the Tarkine. It may be the end of the trip, but this adventure has created memories that will last a lifetime.