Wild about the Tarkine

Take the time to ex­plore one of Aus­tralia’s last great wilder­nesses and es­cape from mod­ern dis­trac­tions, writes Chanel Par­ratt

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - Calming Corinna - The writer was a guest of Corinna.

NO TELE­VI­SION, phone re­cep­tion or in­ter­net con­nec­tion – the dig­i­tal detox had be­gun.

On the road to Corinna, plan a cou­ple of stops to break the jour­ney up.

Pause for tea and ap­ple cake in the per­fumed court­yard of In­gle­side Cafe, Evan­dale, built as coun­cil cham­bers in 1867. Hun­dreds of soft pink roses climb the bricks of this beau­ti­fully re­stored build­ing. An old wood-fire oven is still used to bake the home­style treats.

Head north to­wards Devon­port for a leg stretch and lunch at Christ­mas Hills Rasp­berry Farm in Elizabeth. Scones with jam, a de­li­ciously messy beef burger and the best rasp­berry smoothie I’ve had. There’s a gluten­free menu on of­fer here, too.

Back on the road, poppy fields give way to sheep and dairy farms be­fore chang­ing again to clods of craggy soil, Tassie pota­toes grow­ing un­der­neath.

I left the coast­line at Burnie in ex­change for for­est. Corinna is on the south­ern end of the Tarkine – the sec­ond-largest cool-tem­per­ate rain­for­est in the world. Al­most half a mil­lion hectares of pro­tected huon pine, eu­ca­lypt, myr­tle trees and a long list of threat­ened or en­dan­gered species oc­cupy Tas­ma­nia’s north­west.

It’s also rich in Abo­rig­i­nal his­tory and home to the last disease-free pop­u­la­tion of the Tas­ma­nian devil.

There is 20km of un­sealed gravel road be­fore reach­ing Corinna. At Europ­car, hir­ing an all-wheel-drive ve­hi­cle with un­sealed road cover (about $15 ex­tra a day) will give you peace of mind.

Ar­riv­ing late in the af­ter­noon, I learnt the his­toric town­ship was es­tab­lished af­ter gold was found in the Pie­man River in the late 19th cen­tury.

At its peak, the pop­u­la­tion swelled to about 2500 but de­clined quickly when the Emu Bay Rail­way to Zee­han opened.

Gold was planted in the area to try to ex­tend the short-lived rush but, from 1899 to 1937, Swedish sailor Johnny Ar­berg was the town’s sole oc­cu­pant.

The old min­ers’ cab­ins, pub and the last orig­i­nal road­man’s cot­tage left in Tas­ma­nia have been re­stored for guests to stay in.

There are also camp­sites and camper­van fa­cil­i­ties and 14 eco-re­treats.

In­side my re­treat is a cosy lounge with gas fire, self-con­tained kitchen and sep­a­rate bed­room and bath­room. Signs kindly re­quest I drink as much of the rain­wa­ter as I like but use it spar­ingly while show­er­ing.

About 90 per cent of Corinna’s en­ergy is sup­plied through so­lar power and guests are en­cour­aged to take rub­bish with them – waste is dis­posed of 55km away.

In the liv­ing room a large, pri­vate win­dow looks out to the stringy­bark for­est, a great spot to watch the light slowly leave the trees.

Tarkine restau­rant and Tan­nin bar is a quick walk down a pademel­on­pop­u­lated gravel path.

Din­ner the first night was a

won­der­fully gar­licky cobb loaf, baked trevalla, roasted to­ma­toes and a potato and wal­nut salad.

At the bar, Cap­tain Tony con­vinces me to get up for the early Pie­man River cruise if I want to catch the river at its best.

The prom­ise of beau­ti­ful light, still, re­flec­tive wa­ters and mist ris­ing had my alarm set for early o’clock.

As I walked to the boat har­bour the fol­low­ing morn­ing, 10 min­utes be­fore the sched­uled de­par­ture to see the boat chug­ging off into the dis­tance, I had a few choice words for Cap­tain Tony and his ‘‘ still, re­flec­tive wa­ters’’.

For­tu­nately there are seven walks into the Tarkine rain­for­est that start from Corinna.

With a few hours to kill be­fore the boat re­turned, I set off on the Whyte River walk.

Foun­tains of moss crept up the trunks of old-growth trees as I fol­lowed the spongy, mostly level path to where the camp­sites sat along the river.

Cap­tain Tony and I made peace as I boarded the Ar­ca­dia II. Planked with huon pine and Tas­ma­nian hard­wood beams, 16m long and 73 years old, the

Ar­ca­dia has been a fix­ture of the Pie­man River since 1970.

Pass­ing 1000-year-old huon pines, leather­wood and na­tive lau­rels, we dis­em­barked 20km down­stream at Pie­man Heads. Ships were of­ten wrecked on the treach­er­ous wa­ters where the South­ern Ocean meets the mouth of the river.

The drift­wood-lit­tered beach would have been the ideal spot to stop for a pic­nic lunch if it weren’t for the rain and blus­ter­ing wind.

On re­turn­ing, the bar­be­cue night was be­gin­ning to take shape. Steak, roast chicken, pump­kin salad and pota­toes wrapped in foil set a com­mu­nal coun­try vibe in the large cor­ru­gated iron shed.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing I woke early to hike the old tele­graph hill. Trad­ing the lux­ury of the Ar­ca­dia for kayaks, the Sav­age River walk and pad­dle took our rea­son­ably fit group a lit­tle un­der two hours to com­plete. Sit­ting so close to the water, with­out en­gine noise, a kayak is the best way to ex­plore the area. We were able to get close to the banks and right on top of the Croy­don steamship wreck.

We tied the kayaks to a pon­toon for the boat to col­lect and walked through the for­est back to Corinna.

Given it has sur­vived un­touched for more than 65 mil­lion years, the time to ex­pe­ri­ence the Gond­wana wilder­ness is now.

While the Tarkine sur­round­ing Corinna is un­likely to be af­fected, other parts of the for­est are fac­ing a fight, with about 10 min­ing ap­pli­ca­tions weigh­ing heav­ily on the state con­science.

Leav­ing early the next morn­ing, I was re­minded of the John Mars­den book, To­mor­row When the War Be­gan. Three days mi­nus con­tact with the out­side world had me won­der­ing what might have changed? Af­ter 30 min­utes of driv­ing, my phone came back to life – the dig­i­tal detox was over.

Pic­tures: Chanel Par­ratt

WILDER­NESS WON­DER­LAND: (clockwise from main) Pie­man Heads; kayaks on the Sav­age River; on the Tele­graph Hill hike; a camp­site in the Tarkine; the Ar­ca­dia II; one of the cot­tages at the Corinna eco-re­treat; and kayak­ing on the Pie­man River.

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