The Gordon River meanders down from the Central Highlands, through mountain crags and temperate rainforest, until it reaches Macquarie Harbour. Entering the river mouth, we cruised quietly into the Tasmanian Wilderness, part of the largest tract of temperate rainforest surviving anywhere on Earth. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (first listed in 1981-2), meets seven out of ten criteria for World Heritage listing, and includes the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The battle to save it from the proposed 105 metre high hydro-electric dam in the early 1980’s, gained support from all over the world. Thankfully the conservationists won!
The LJF has a hull and engine designed for minimal impact on the environment, and as the maximum speed allowed in the Gordon River is only 9 knots, we hardly disturbed the surface. A tangled mass of undergrowth and trees tumbled right to the river’s edge, throwing mirror-like reflections into the dark water, stained amber by tannins from the buttongrass. These wet temperate rainforests are examples of forests that existed in the time of Gondwanaland, and many of the trees, like huon pine – which lives for up to 3000 years, leatherwood, celery-top pine and whitey wood are unique to Tasmania.
It was quiet and immensely peaceful as we slowly navigated the sweeping bends of the river. There was no other sign of modern life, so I could easily imagine Captain Kelly in 1815, exploring the river in James Gordon’s whaling boat. (Guess who the river was named after? – Many places in Australia and Tasmania have explorers, governors and other pioneers names!)
We disembarked at Heritage Landing, and walked along a boardwalk circuit through densely wooded rainforest. I could feel the deep, primeval wildness and sense the enormity of the wilderness, stretching for mile upon mile, or should I say kilometre upon kilometre? (Somehow that doesn’t sound quite so far). Hung on the trees above and all around, were strings of pale green lichen, and creeping mosses carpeted the fallen trees. Below the boardwalk, rivulets of water ran between the moss and decaying debris, into amber coloured pools. And yes, it did rain, but I suppose it does that quite often in rainforests! Although the undergrowth was tangled and gloomy, I did catch sight of a pademelon (small kangaroo), and later, in the open, I saw a tiger snake sunning itself on a log.
Walking through that tranquil rainforest was an experience of a lifetime. It was so isolated, so ancient; set apart from modern life and removed from the rest of the world. It was like a separate existence, or another dimension of consciousness.
Enough said; it needs to be on everyone’s ‘to do’ list!