Two young men, twenty-two years
of age, have been planning a hike for the last six months, a hike through the
rugged southwest region of Tasmania. One of them is quiet, studious and serious,
the other humorous, fun loving and slightly outrageous. Their plans having been
studied until they know them backwards, they begin their adventure enduring the
somewhat torturous conditions, conditions made even worse by the first nights
storm. Their trek continues until the third day. All is well until one fails to
see a disguised hazard, causing an accident which could have dire consequences.
At home, the father of one of the
duo has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition necessitating his
admission to hospital. Could this be the reason for his detestable behaviour
towards his family for some years? His wife waits anxiously, comforted by her
friends, terrified at the prospect of what might happen to her husband.
The grandmother of the other,
widowed for some two years, has finally made the decision to sell her property
and move closer to her family. Her enquiries reveal her property is worth far
more than she could ever have imagined, culminating in a decision that
astonishes the younger generations of her family.
The extrication of the duo from
their precarious position goes to plan until one of their rescuers meets with an
incident, something totally unexpected and requiring prompt response. Three
persons are flown to Hobart with the paramedic, two of them being admitted to
hospital, the other kept in the Emergency Department, simply for observations.
These observations however, reveal a reaction to bites inflicted at the rescue
scene, a reaction necessitating admission to hospital as a precaution.
Their arrival home is met with an
overdue visit by a brother, a somewhat nervous re-union, happy news of an
engagement and a very generous gift to members of an elderly, but resolute ladys
In Store Price: $24.00
Online Price: $23.00
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages:
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published: 2005
Tasmania, a part of the world comprising total and complete diversity, from its
breathtaking scenic beauty to its harsh, inhospitable terrain and dense,
part of the world with extremes of weather; from freezing temperatures and wind
driven, lashing rains, to thirty degree Celsius heat, all within a few hours.
Only experienced bushwalkers should ever attempt to traverse this wilderness as
those with not a great deal of experience could easily find themselves in
OByrne had been planning such a trek for the last six months from his home in
an eastern Melbourne suburb. Over that period, he had acquired maps, charts,
weather variation details and other information he considered necessary to
commence an eight-day hike through the wilderness, accompanied by his friend
was twenty-two, a tall, slim young man whose love of hiking had, in the past,
taken him to some fairly forbidding places. He had acquired a good sound
knowledge of the bush, both through his grandfather and having studied quite a
few books on the subject.
had been in on the planning from the start. He didnt know
as much about the bush as Liam, but enough to keep him out of
difficulties. He was the same age as Liam but shorter in stature, with a more
solid build. For the past six months, almost nightly, theyd been together in
one or other of their homes making their plans; food, shelter, clothing,
footwear, safety equipment, first aid supplies, compass, everything needed for
such a trek and most importantly, what it would all weigh when packed into their
had thoroughly studied the route they would take
as well, acquiring as much information as they needed from the tourist
information centre. Their plans were almost complete. Nothing had been left out,
and that included the timing of the hike. They had chosen January of the
following year, as that month offered the most
consistent and suitable weather. The only thing left now was the wait, and that,
by now, was little more than a month.
Liams hand slammed down as he closed the folder containing their detailed
plans. Thats about it, were almost there I guess.
but what about
Malcolms voice trailed into silence.
about what? Liam asked.
folks, Malcolm replied, you know they still arent too keen on the
knew. Both his and Malcolms folks had attempted to talk them out of it,
considering it dangerous in such inhospitable country, but their pleas had
fallen on deaf ears. This was a challenge for both the guys, far too great to be
demolished by worried folks.
know, Liam said, but weve planned it to the last detail until I can
almost see the track in front of us. Well be OK and deep down they know
dont get me wrong Liam, Malcolm reassured, Im as keen as you are.
Its just that the folks dont really seem to be behind us, thats all.
thought long and hard on that one. Theyll come right, he said, they
out of the way, the guys turned to last minute details, details of the flight to
Hobart, picking up the distress beacon from Service Tasmania, details of the
wilderness bus from Hobart to Strathgordon, where theyd stay at the Gordon
Lodge for one night before making the journey to Scotts Peak Dam in the
Southwest National Park.
walking track travelled south from the Dam, branching into two tracks
approximately seven kilometres distant. One branch headed east towards Franklin
and terminated near the Tahune Forest Reserve in the Huon Valley, the other, the
Old Port Davey track, headed southwest towards Bathurst Harbour. This was the
track they would take, the track around the base of the Arthur Range as far as
Mt. Rugby on Bathurst Harbour, a distance of approximately fifty-six kilometres
and Malcolm had known each other since grade two, and were the firmest of
friends. Theyd both attended the same primary school and high school, and
both had completed year twelve four years previously.
had decided to leave further education until they had some experience with the
world, both wanting to leave it at least two years before undergoing the rigours
of further study. They were now into their second year of study, Liam at
University studying civil engineering, and Malcolm at TAFE studying the
intricacies of computers, something which would stand him in good stead should
he wish to attend university to study complex programming.
each had their girlfriends, both of whom had expressed an interest in accompanying them on their hike, but
the guys had regretfully refused, mainly because
neither of them considered it a safe, or perhaps even a proper place to have
inexperienced persons. Malcolms girl, Cathy, had accepted the situation when
it was explained but Liams girl, Sophie, had become a bit uppity.
do you mean Im too inexperienced? she had asked. Youve never told me
I was too inexperienced before, even though I was before I met you.
hit a raw nerve, it stung and it was meant to; Sophie hadnt been talking
about hiking, but something completely different and much more personal. It had
taken quite some considerable amount of explaining but eventually Sophie had
come around to Liams way of thinking.
had met Sophie at a school social evening some six years previously and they had
hit it off straight away. She admired his quiet and serious attitude, even
though she found it somewhat annoying at times, and he admired her for her
passion and knowledge of his favourite subject; complicated mathematics. It
didnt hurt that she was the most attractive girl Liam had seen, a thought
that was to flourish as time passed. On reflection, they were complete
opposites, Liam quiet, studious and serious most of the time, Sophie talkative
and fun loving, so the question remained, what did Liam see in Sophie, apart
from the obvious attractions? He saw her as a genuine friend, someone honest
enough to give her opinion when things didnt go as planned and someone very
capable of standing up for what she believed in. This had been made very clear
to him the day she put the school Principal in his place, having been falsely
accused of something she hadnt done.
love of the bush stemmed from his grandfather, the old man having tended his
country farm right up until the day of his death at seventy-nine. As a kid, Liam
loved nothing better than trips to the farm, happy times spent with his grand
parents, his grandfather taking him on jaunts through the bush at the back of
the farm, teaching him bush skills, what to be wary of, the dangers and of
course, bush tucker, the infinite bounty of the bush, even though some of it was
not infinitely great tasting.
his visits, Liam grew to love the bush, grew to love the farm life, but knew
hed never be able to live there, for his father had far too important a job
in the city. He remembered vividly his grandfathers opinion of his father.
bloody idiot of a boy, he had said. Stuck in that concrete jungle when he
could be out here, breathing decent fresh air instead of that smoggy crap he
does. Thats one thing he didnt inherit from me Liam, a decent brain.
grandfather had never been one to mince his words but now he was gone. He had
died two years previously, being found by his wife a few metres from the house,
sprawled on his back. His doctor had been on at him for several years to start
taking it easy but he had shrugged off the advice, still putting one hundred
percent into every day. Finally, the doctors advice had proved correct, as
the old man suffered a heart attack returning to the house for lunch. Hed
been dead before he hit the ground.
grandmother stayed at the farm although she sold off most of the assets. Shed
had a fair idea of what to expect, even though it was a shock when it came.
Shed noticed the tiredness creeping through the old man for some time, and
even though he hadnt told her of the doctors advice, she suspected all was
not well. Finally the day she had been dreading dawned; she knew something
wasnt right, as the old man was never late for his lunch. Her search didnt
last long, for on opening the back door shed seen him on the ground not
moving and shed known straight away.
folks had tried to talk her into coming to live with them but the old lady was
stubborn. Shed insisted on staying at the house theyd both lived in for
the last fifty years, not wanting to move for fear of losing her memories of the
old man. The assets were sold bringing in a tidy sum, an amount she could live
on comfortably for the rest of her life, however long that might be. After all,
she was only seventy-five.
was different. A shorter, stocky youth, he had a sense of humour that would make
the deepest pessimist split his sides laughing. His home life was anything but
easy, for his father was a dour, critical, self-centred man, who often ignored
him for days at a time. His mother was the one who kept the family together, the
only one who could smooth the waters during his fathers moods. Malcolm was
able to cover this anomaly within his family by his sense of humour, but it was
clear to those close to him the situation was taking its toll on his patience.
knowledge of the bush had come from both Liam and from books hed read, and he
liked nothing better than accompanying his best friend on his weekend hikes
through the Victorian bushland, learning from him, finding out survival
techniques, camping out under the incredible canopy of stars at night. Hed
grown to love the bush almost as much as Liam did, but of course he was still
wary of its hazards and dangers, having never got used to those long, usually
black things that seemed to have a habit of slithering right in front of your
first time this happened, Malcolm turned to jelly, much to Liams amusement.
He stood frozen to the spot, not moving a muscle until the reptile had slithered
into the bush on the opposite side of the track, and then turned angrily to
thats funny is it? A stuffin great snake and all you can do is laugh.
tried to control his laughter. Sorry Mal, he almost choked, but if you
could have seen the expression on your face
hell Liam, its not funny!
made a massive effort. I havent explained something to you Mal, sorry.
Theyre far more frightened of you than you are of them. Theyll only go you
if you tread on em, try to annoy em or hurt them in some way, any other
time all they want is to get away from you.
Malcolm said, mollified, but you could have told me.
choked back his last chuckle. Sorry.
that, Malcolm hadnt been so worried when he saw a snake. He knew hed never
get used to them, and he hated them with a passion, but he didnt turn to
jelly again. He was able to stand still and watch as it glided into the bush.
had met Cathy five years previously during, of all things, a school excursion to
a wool mill. Although they attended different schools, just by chance the two
groups had booked the same time. Cathy had been immediately attracted when
Malcolm asked the most outrageous question of the tour guide.
could that material have ever come from a sheepie? he had asked. Its
green and personally, Ive never seen a green sheepie. He had turned to the
rest of the group, his expression dead pan. Have any of you ever seen a green
dyed, the hapless tour guide had attempted.
should think it has died, Malcolm had said, probably from sheer,
unadulterated embarrassment. Poor little sheepie.
had been standing next to Malcolm and had laughed heartily at his antics,
drawing Malcolms attention. It had gone from there, Malcolm admiring her
attractiveness, both of them sharing a fondness for Malcolms hobby,
computers. It wasnt just their shared interest however; Malcolm saw a lot
more in Cathy than that. She was a person he could tell his doubts and fears to
in complete confidentiality, a person totally understanding of his fathers
attitude, a person upon whom he could lean when things became too much for him
at home, something which unfortunately happened all too often.
was yearning for the planned hike. It was somewhere new, somewhere hed never
really thought about going until Liam had broached the subject six months
before. At first Malcolm had baulked. There was no way anyone would get him into
a place like that! Through Liams coaxing hed come around; he wished he
could take Cathy, but inexperienced as she was, he knew it was too dangerous.
Christmas and New Year periods came and went. Liam was in high spirits as it was
the only time of year he saw his grandmother these days; the only time of year
shed venture to the city for her annual ten days stay. The rest of the year
she stayed at the old farmhouse, keeping herself busy with the seemingly endless
string of things she found to do. She hadnt sold everything; she still had
her chickens, a few sheep and her pet pig, Grunt; animals she had wanted to keep
in memory of her dear husband. She wasnt idle, anything but, keeping herself
occupied with the house and her few animals. If one thing could be said about
grandmother, it was that she was tough, real tough.
and his folks had been over for Christmas lunch, Malcolm spending time with Liam
on their plans. It had been a happy day for all despite Malcolms fathers
moodiness and the fact Liams father, Jack, had tried once again to intervene
on their plans. Hed entered the dining room during the afternoon while they
had their paperwork strewn across the table, hoping hed be able to make them
see what he thought was sense.
guys, weve been through this before I know. I dont want to spoil your fun,
but were all worried about this plan of yours, and that includes your
looked at him through narrowed eyes. Dad, the plans are made, theres
nothing we havent covered down to the last detail. Youve seen the plans,
you know whats on them and you know both of us are familiar with the bush.
Whats the big problem?
sighed deeply. You know our thoughts Liam, its not the bush, its where
that bush is located. Jeez boy, youll be walking somewhere probably no other
man has walked, its virgin bush out there Liam, you know that. He looked
from Liam to Malcolm seeing the determined look on both their faces. Oh well,
Ive tried I guess.
grinned suddenly. So thats it, youre just worried about a couple of
young guys and a virgin. His eyes shifted to Liam. Can you believe that
Liam? he asked in a low voice. I do believe your old mans becoming a
grinned, turned on his heel and walked out. Like I said before, I tried,
he said over his shoulder.
time was drawing closer. In only another week, theyd be at Tullamarine
Airport awaiting their flight to Hobart. Their plans had been thoroughly gone
over until they could both memorise each event down to the last detail. Theyd
even revised how to stack their backpacks until it was like second nature to
them, a place for everything and everything in its place.
the big day dawned, warm and clear. Liams folks took him
to the airport, with Sophie along as well of course, and Malcolm went
with his, with Cathy accompanying him. They met in the terminal, both guys
bursting with enthusiasm. This was it, the big day they had been awaiting for
over six months.
their gear was lightweight but their packs still looked mountainous, each
weighing in at fifteen kilograms. They had decided, wisely, to buy their food
once in Tasmania; camping food, light in weight but nutritious, enough to last
the eight days, the list of requisites having already been made.
and Malcolms father, Iain Littler, stood together in the terminal awaiting
the guys return from the luggage check-in. Neither of them, especially
Littler, was happy about the hike but both knew there was nothing they could do
about it. The guys were both twenty-two now, adults, and they had every right do
what they liked, even though their parents were worried. OByrne knew that
Liam had wanted to do this for a lot longer than six months; hed wanted to do
it for almost two years, almost since his grandfather had passed away. It was as
if he considered it his tribute to the old man.
mothers and girlfriends had made their way to the departure lounge and were
sitting chatting together, none of them looking forward to the departure but
like the men knowing nothing could be done by way of change at this late stage.
guys returned from check-in almost as the flight was called. This was good, for
now thered be no last minute pleas for cancellation, no talk of their worries
and fears. It was too late for that.
put her arms around Liams shoulders before giving him a worried but
passionate kiss. You take care of yourself Liam, I want to see you back here
in ten days. There were tears forming in her eyes and she had to turn away.
You just take care.
turned to his mother giving her a cuddle and a peck on the cheek. Youre
the only one who doesnt look worried, Mum, thanks for that.
may not look it Liam, she said, just make sure you look after both of you,
I know how much youre looking forward to this.
took his fathers offered hand, noticing without much difficulty the strained
expression on his face. Dont worry Dad, well be OK, you know that.
folks and girlfriends stood in a group as the guys passed through the ticket
check, walking down through the concourse to the waiting aircraft. They were
worried of course, even though each, bar Littler, had confidence in the guys
capabilities at what they were undertaking. There were safeguards. Books had to
be signed before they entered any track, times of entry to the track and
estimated exit time, the book having to be signed again upon exit. These books
were not checked often, necessitating notification of reliable persons as to the
estimated time out so if there were any problems, the necessary authorities
could be mobilised as soon as possible. There was also the distress beacon, the
small electronic location device they were going to hire from Service Tasmania,
virtually their lifeguard in case anything unforseen should happen. It was the
safety net the small group had in mind, one they hoped wouldnt have to be
guys entered the aircraft and made their way to their allotted seats on the
right side, Liam finding out he had a window seat and promising it to Malcolm on
the return flight. The doors closed and the guys heard the thrum of the engines
winding up before feeling the slight jerk as the tow tractor reversed the plane
from its bay to the taxiway. Hostesses presented themselves in the aisles,
explaining the safety aspects of the plane, exit
points and how to fit the life jacket, the usual but necessary demonstration
before any flight.
engines wound up to half power, pushing the aircraft along the taxiway towards
the main runway. Liam fished round in the seat pocket, finding the sheet on
safety procedures and studying it; something he did automatically every time he
boarded an aircraft. The plane had to wait several minutes before authorisation
was given for it to proceed to the runway as there were several others lined up
to land. The guys watched through the windows as, one after the other, three
aircraft touched down. The final one was a Qantas
Jumbo, smoke billowing from its stationary wheel clusters as they made contact
with the ground after their almost eight hour flight from Singapore.
having finally been given, their aircraft slowly made its way to the main
runway, stopping again, awaiting final clearance. Finally they heard the engines
wind up to full power before the Captain released the brakes. Liam looked across
here we go.
certainly didnt expect what confronted him. Malcolms eyes were shut
tightly; his hands were gripping the arm rests, the knuckles white with the
exertion, his body stiff against the backrest.
Liam was flabbergasted. Are you OK Mal?
was forming on Malcolms brow. Ill tell you in a sec, he said between
clenched teeth, when were off the ground.
felt the gentle but firm push in the back as the aircraft accelerated forward to
its appointed rendezvous with the sky. He watched Malcolm throughout the takeoff
run, ready to call for assistance if necessary. The aircraft lifted its nose
towards the sky, leaving terra firma as gracefully as a swan from a lake,
heading for where it was designed, the clear, blue sky above. Only then did
Malcolm open his eyes and relax his grip on the arm rests. Liam was still
watching, still worried.
you OK man? Liam asked again.
turned a distinctly white face towards Liam. Shit I hate that.
Liam was totally perplexed now.
it frightens the hell out of me. Malcolm explained.
saw a hostess in the aisle, stopping as she arrived at their seats. She leaned
over towards Malcolm.
now? she asked.
thanks, Malcolm replied, feeling about the size of Tom Thumb. Silly
at all, she said soothingly, I take it you two are over eighteen?
both of us. Malcolm replied.
well heres a little something for your nerves, she said, passing a small
plastic bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch to Malcolm, and one for you for being
a genuinely concerned friend. She passed the other small bottle to Liam.
Would you like a mixer with that?
fumbled for his wallet. Yes please, Just some water for me, how mu
was cut off in mid sentence. On the house, our pleasure, I know its
frightening sometimes. Water for you as well sir? This was directed at Liam.
thank you, Liam replied.
hostess disappeared into the galley, returning a few seconds later with two
glasses and two bottles of soda water. She passed them to the guys. There you
its appreciated. Malcolm said.
hostess smiled before making her way to the rear of the aircraft to assist her
colleagues with the coffee, drinks and snacks.
had me worried for a sec there Mal, Liam said, I thought there was
something horribly wrong with you. You should have said something.
its OK. Its the same every time I get in one of these things, Malcolm
explained. I dont mind landing but I hate takeoff, even though I know
its the safer of the two. He opened the Scotch and poured half the
contents in the glass. Thisll put a better light on things though.
grinned. Normally he wouldnt touch the stuff unless he was on a night out
somewhere with Sophie and even then, only a limited amount. It was only
looked at his watch, 11:10 am, theyd only been in the air ten minutes and
here he was with a glass of Scotch and soda in his hand. Oh well, it was for
Malcolm, he thought.
flight took just over an hour, the aircraft ascending to its maximum of thirty
five thousand feet before descending again towards Hobart. Liam watched the
approach of the Tasmanian coastline, fascinated that he was able to see clearly
almost as far as Cape Grim, the north western tip of the island, from where they
crossed the coast between Devonport and Port Sorell. He felt a slight dropping
sensation as the Captain throttled back the engines, the nose of the aircraft
dropping slightly as it commenced its descent into Hobart. The countryside
looked green enough around the coast, but it was only as they proceeded further
south Liam could make out what agriculturists had been saying. The midlands area
was dry, very dry, with hardly any green at all in the pasturelands. The only
colour discernable was the dull grey/green foliage of the eucalypt covered hills
and mountains. Liam and Malcolm watched the passing scenery below through the
were right, Liam observed, it is dry down there.
first bump of the flight shocked them out of their concentration. It wasnt so
much a bump as a sickening falling sensation followed by the aircraft banking
left then right again as the auto pilot regained control.
Liam exclaimed, I hate it when it does that.
Malcolm could answer, the Captains voice was heard on the intercom.
and Gentlemen. Please allow me to apologise for that corrugation, we have
informed the council about it in the past but it appears nothing has been done
by way of repair at this stage. That should be it now; the rest of your flight
should be smooth. Thank-you.
was heard throughout the cabin, the passengers appreciating the Captains
sense of humour. It had been a constant source of wonder to Liam, since his
first flight, firstly how aircraft stayed in the air and secondly how the flight
crew were able to sound as calm and collected when something like that happened.
rest of the flight was, as the Captain had said, smooth, the aircraft sweeping
low over the Tasman Highway on its final approach to Llanherne. Liam watched
Malcolm brace himself, but there was no repeat of the panic shown at takeoff.
The wheels touched with hardly a jar, the engines roaring their defiance in
reverse thrust, slowing the aircraft as though it was being held back by a
giant, invisible hand.
turned to Liam. How the hell do they do that?
a plane weighing this much, travelling at gawd knows what speed, onto the runway
without anyone feeling it? Malcolms face reflected his awe.
grinned. Skill, I guess.
aircraft turned at the end of the runway, heading to the terminal. Finally the
doors were opened, the steps placed against the fuselage and they were free to
leave, finally at the place they had planned to be for six long months. The
hostess who had shown them her kindness earlier was at the forward door bidding
farewells to the passengers.
wasnt so bad now, was it? she said to Malcolm, smiling.
grinned. Thanks for your help, it was appreciated.
than welcome, she said, smiling also at Liam. Might see you on the return
hot January sun bore down on the guys as they departed the aircraft,
twenty-eight degrees Celsius, an absolutely superb, sunny, cloudless day. They
made their way to the luggage collection point, waiting as the cases, boxes and
other articles were loaded onto the carousel. Having collected their backpacks,
they made their way to the Airport Bus check-in point, awaiting the bus to
Hobart. Their backpacks were put into the trailer and they made themselves
comfortable on the bus. Liam turned to Malcolm.
buddy, were here. Another three, maybe four hours and well be at
Strathgordon and then tomorrow
whew, I can hardly wait.