climb to the top of Mount Bishop and Clerk, the highest point on Tasmania's
Maria Island, is said to reward intrepid travellers with panoramic views
over the top of the island's eucalyptus forests and out across the Pacific
the north, we're told, lies the Australian mainland; to the south, over
the distant horizon, lies the icy landscapes of Antarctica.
take it on trust. Because the peak we've conquered on this tiny island
off the coast of Tasmania, which in turn is an island off the coast of
mainland Australia, is a cloud-covered triumph.
hear the ocean and the wind, we can even smell its Antarctic purity, but
we can see not much further than arm's length.
enough, though, to peer warily over the edge of the peak and see the beginnings
of a sheer drop that leads to oblivion.
steps back from the edge sits the climb's other reward: a stash of chocolate
and extra water that our guide Ben has lugged with him from the morning's
departure point, Bernacchi House.
House provides a warm welcome for participants in the three-night, four-day
Maria Island Walk. Having spent the previous two nights camping out, guest
arrive at Bernacchi House to be greeted by an open fire in the hearth,
a sumptuous dinner, and a blissfully warm shower.
that the previous nights' camping out involved much hardship. In fact,
the tents we slept in were more like up-market huts, complete with polished
timber floors and screened windows.
huts are positioned discreetly among the gum trees, connected via boardwalks
to the dining hut, where we feasted like bush royalty.
abounds on Maria Island. Kangaroos, wombats and wallabies are everywhere,
making Maria Island a great destination for travellers keen to experience
Australian fauna in its natural state.
island is also home for the elusive 40-spotted pardalote, a very shy bird
endemic to the region and much loved by amateur and professional bird spotters.
of fairy penguins also call the island home, and these can be spotted on
a night walk from Bernacchi House.
on Maria Island gives us time to be part of this natural environment, rather
than merely look at it.
amble along deserted beaches, wander through paddocks where pug-nosed wombats
graze unconcernedly, and we take time to enjoy phenomenon such as the magnificently
patterned Painted Cliffs.
the prevailing weather conditions is part of the experience, and although
the postcard views largely eluded us, the overcast skies and occasional
drizzle added a moodiness that was both melancholic and atmospheric.
learnt to pay attention to the detail rather than the big picture.
photographed fossilised sea creatures, feeling a million years of history
as we ran our fingers over the fossils' Braille-like crust; and we listened
out for the call of the elusive 40-spotted pardalote.
Island has heartbreaking tales aplenty. It used to be penal colony, and
its museum in the small settlement of Darlington includes copies of newspaper
reports alerting Tasmania's free settlers to the details of yet another
escapees ranged in age from 17 to 21-years-old, young Irish and English
men who advised family back home that they, too, should get themselves
transported to Tasmania because despite the bleak conditions, the new lives
that could be built on the other side of the world were infinitely better
than the ones they'd left behind.
guided four day Maria Island Walk is a quirky blend of history and nature,
food and wine, luxury and adventure.
leaves a small footprint, thanks to the eco-friendliness of the base camps
at Casuarina Beach (day one) and White Gums (day two) and the mindfulness
of our guides who ensure we leave nothing behind but footprints.
the end of each season, both camps are dismantled and the island is left
to winter alone.
to Maria Island Walk is an adventure in itself.
the day of departure, we're collected from our hotel in Hobart and kitted
out with a backpack, waterproof jacket, a head torch, a silk sleeping sheet
and a packed lunch.
there's a short drive to the seaside town of Triabunna, where we board
a charter boat and cruise across the Mercury Passage to Maria Island.
boat weighs anchor a few metres offshore and we clamber into a dinghy for
final leg of the journey.
a special beginning to an experience none of us wants to end.