Day 2 Painted Rocks and Oast House 6 kms circuit
Rolling out of the tent, a beautiful sunny morning greeted us despite the heavy rain overnight. The walk to Painted Rocks was governed by the low tide which was scheduled for 11am. After perusing the map we decided to include the track leading to Oast House, making a round trip for the day. Around 10.30am Ian and I joined the steady stream of people meandering down the coastal track. Passing under the avenue of ancient cypress trees with branches that draped over the track, we appreciated that these trees featured significantly in the history of the island.
The track passed by a dwelling known as Ruby Hunt’s cottage featuring a magnificent view of the the bay. In the 1950s Ruby operated a pedal wireless being the only communication with Tasmania. Unleashing my imagination for a moment, I envisaged Ruby at the end of the day sitting in a rocker on the veranda overlooking the bay as the sun slipped behind the mountains in the distance.
Some Cape Barron Geese jolted me back into reality. To our amazement these big geese started running and with frantic flapping of their wings became airborne. As we ventured closer to the creek that flowed into the bay the geese sounded a loud squawking noise as they flew with determination and purpose in our direction. Perhaps young geese were amongst the reeds but whatever the reason, these geese displayed territorial behaviour that had us jumping out of their flight path. Narrowly escaping injury!!! we veered off the track to stroll along the waters edge to the rocks.
The rocks forming the ledge to walk on were still wet and indeed very slippery from the high tide. The wall of naturally painted rocks is a result of groundwater oozing through holes in the sandstone leaving staining of iron oxides.
We took our time to study the layers of interwoven colours, a fascinating display of natural artwork. The rock pools at the base being full of small marine life had many children’s attention, far more than the painted rocks.
The coastal track continued on to French Farm, we back tracked a few hundred meters and wandered into the bush in pursuit of Oast House. Passing a very dilapidated farm house the track led to the junction of Mt Maria inland track.
Walking in the direction of Oast House the forest merged into a haven of ferns as we crossed a trickling stream. By a stroke of luck, under the bushes we noticed a baby wombat fending for itself, mum was probably off grazing on the lush green grass.
Venturing into the open spaces the ruins of the hop kiln came into sight. Oast House was built before 1845 for hop drying and the surrounding area was a hop field development. Ian spent considerable time wandering through the ruins marvelling at the quality of the brickwork.
A gradual climb lead to a wonderful bay view as we ambled back to camp. Walking distances are very short but the history, nature and views is what Maria island is all about.
Back at camp we wandered over to the camp kitchen. Jack, the guy operating the bicycle hire was on for a chat. He imparted interesting stories of past, present and hinted at future plans for Maria Island. With our adventurous spirits fuelled we were looking forward to climbing Bishop and Clerk. Drifting off to sleep we said our prayers for clear skies in hope that the much talked about view from the summit of Bishop and Clerk would be visible.
Day 3 Bishop and Clerk 12 kms return
Gingerly peering out of the tent and looking towards the sky we were delighted, barely a cloud to be seen. At this point all was in our favour for a view from the Bishop and Clerk summit. Having been exposed to the unpredictable Tasmania weather on previous hikes we made hast in throwing the necessities into our packs, lacing up the hike boots and heading off. The 12km return walk was straight UP for 6kms and straight down for 6kms with some serious rock hopping.
Heading towards the bay over exposed grassy land numerous wombats were grazing, they seemed to graze continuously. With the track skirting around the bay edge we enjoyed the spectacular cliff formations as we ambled along.
Leaving the bay the track led us into thick dense forest where the gums towered and threw welcomed shade as we soldiered on in an upward direction. Unexpectedly the forest merged into an open area of loose scree, surely this wasn’t the continuation of the track!
The track markers indicated traversing over loose scree but at least we were able to zig zag our way up. Securing stable footing wasn’t possible but doing an ankle was a real possibility so it was slow and steady. Reaching a large rock we paused for a breather, all that slogging over the loose scree had earned us a midway view which was enough to put a spring in our step knowing more amazing views awaited us at the summit.
Back into the forest on a more distinctive track we continued the upward climb. A few earlier starters were on their way down and with much enthusiasm encouraged us to keep pushing on. Eventually the dirt pad turned to small rocks that gradually increased in size until we were manoeuvring around and over large dolomite boulders, our rock hopping skills were put to the test.
At this point the only view we had was the next boulder to be negotiated. Eventually stepping onto a rough uneven platform of boulders we were motionless as our gaze fell upon the panorama before us. The challenge of the gruelling slog up dissipated as we carefully stepped around the platform taking in the views.
The adventure wasn’t over, downing our backpacks and with an almighty heave ho up and over the vertical pillar of dolomite rock, we stepped onto a rock ledge and enjoyed the 360 degree views from the summit, with barely a cloud in the sky. The track earned its name as the pillars of dolomite are said to represent that of a bishop wearing his mitre being followed by his clerk.
Back down on the rock platform we enjoyed lunch with a vista of the bay and mountains in the distance. As a result of our hiking we have enjoyed lunch in some amazing spots with Bishop and Clerk being added to the list, certainly beats the workplace lunch room! Gazing down upon the bay, we identified the ferry which was just a speck moving in the water. As we lingered the view, the breeze and the stillness was incredibly soothing to the mind and soul.
Our peaceful haven was disturbed by the arrival of a cadet group which was our cue to slip back into reality and head down. Taking our time descending we came across a small group who had stopped for a breather, it was our turn to enthusiastically share stories of the awaiting view. One woman wasn’t having a bar of it, declaring in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t going any further much to her companions dismay, we left them to it.
Once past the boulders and scree the downhill walk through the forest was quiet and peaceful enhanced by the birds fluttering around. The walk may only have been 12km return but the climb straight up over rocky terrain had us working.
Back at camp and recuperated we wandered down to the bay and lulled in the soft sand as the water calmly rolled in and out, what a serene life.
Before retiring for the night we partial organised things for packing up camp the next day, as we were heading down to the south of the island for a few days.
Until next yarn, happy hiking from Bernadette and Ian