Our visit to Deception Falls on the Hobart Rivulet had not endured a long planning period. It was school holidays, and I offered 8-year-old Gussy an open choice of activities: whatever he wanted to do that day, we would do together. He chose to go waterfall bagging. This is also what he chose the previous day, on which we’d had a lovely time visiting O’Gradys and Betts Vale Falls, with a steep off-track descent to the top of Strickland Falls for a snack before finishing.
Towards the end of our time the day before, we saw, out of the corner of our combined eyes, the hint of a waterfall. We gazed at it from above, but I couldn’t see a ready way down, especially not with an eight year old in tow (and one merely wearing sneakers at that). The slopes leading into the Hobart Rivulet can be extraordinarily steep, and our angle of view was not promising. I told him I’d find a way of getting down to that waterfall, and then take him once I’d worked out a doable route.
On this day, however, he said he wanted to do the exploratory work with me. I explained we might fail to get there, but he wanted to be part of the trying. On this day, he did the waterfall the courtesy of wearing proper boots. I think he’d been a little jealous the day before, when I stomped around the creek without problems, while he had to pick his way so as not to get his sneakers wet.
We parked below where the falls would be, and dropped steeply to the water level, Gussy leading the way for most of it. He selected good routes. Once in the creek bed, he was very happy with his choice of boots, and proudly walked up the creek itself. We didn’t have exactly the same path, even though, of course, we stuck together. That’s part of the fun of real bushwalking: freedom of choice. You are not a puppet fulfilling some role designed by someone else. This was a real adventure, and he was loving it. We still had no idea at this stage whether we would reach the waterfall we’d had our glimpse of the day before. There was still plenty of time for nature to win this game’s episode. That uncertainty is part of the fun, and makes success so much more enjoyable than just marching on a track, knowing you’d reach the goal even if you were a blind, lame nonagenarian walking backwards. You don’t need to be a million miles from home to have an adventure, but you do need “wild” bush.
On we forged along our obstacle course, climbing over, under and around what came on our path. At one stage, we arrived in a huge kind of tree cave: a truly gigantic tree had fallen across the creek, and being under it felt as if we were in a cave, such were its dimensions.
Once we reached our goal, we could see that it could have been a lot faster and easier if we had chosen a different starting point, but I had chosen the one I did so as to create a proper adventure. The aim is to enjoy, not to break some speed record reaching the falls. The long way was the fun way. We enjoyed being there, and found some shell fossils and a marvellous specimen of Oudemansiella gigaspora (which I mistakenly thought was an Entoloma panniculum, not noticing the white stipe at first. Thanks to Herman Anderson from the Tasmanian Fungi group for the identification). There were also some wizened tiny fungi, perhaps mycena sp. As the pool at the falls’ base is chest deep, we agreed it would be a great swimming hole in summer.
The road was now visible, but Gussy did not want the easy way of going there. Instead, we turned our back on the road, and chose the hardest way out: the approach route that we had rejected the day before, only this time, we were climbing up not down, which is safer. I stayed directly underneath him, watching his choices, which greatly pleased me. If he slipped, I could catch him and arrest his fall. This did mean that the odd rock came my way, but I knew the dangers. He is more important than I am. Meanwhile, he was learning great lessons about what you can and can’t rely on in the bush: what might give way, and what is sure to be stable. I watched with satisfaction while he chose living branches or roots and tested them before committing to them.
We called this waterfall Deception Falls, as we felt it was somewhat deceitful, hiding itself away from view of its many passers by. We had never even noticed its existence before.
We hadn’t finished having fun, so I said I’d take him to Secret Falls. Off we set, walking and talking. Once we were there, I pointed out to him the beautiful moss, but also the fact that much of this wonderful lushness had been replaced by mud due to other people’s carelessness, selfishness and disregard for nature. He trod very carefully, and avoided all moss. Wearing the right shoes really helps in this regard. If you’re wearing boots, you can walk on the stones in the water a lot more easily. In the little canyon, we talked in hushed voices, as we could hear other people walking along the track above, and didn’t want to attract attention to this secret place. I think he found it very special to have been somewhere “not on general display”, even if it did bear, all too noticeably, the marks of the carelessness of others. Experiences like this help reinforce his growing respect for nature, and for its fragility if not protected against stupidity. That sentence read to me as contradictory in a sense, as nature is, in other ways, tough, very tough, and will outlive us stupid homo non-spapiens; however, in the face of the forces of destruction from the average tourist or greedy bureaucrat, desecrated features of nature’s beauty can take longer than a human lifetime to regenerate, and some beauty can be lost forever. How much of this glorious world that I am showing Gussy will still be here at the end of his life?
“The vision of a dying world is vast before our eyes;
We feel the heartbeat of its need, we hear its feeble cries …” (Hymn. 1966).