The McRaies Isthmus walk

We forgot the sausages, and the milk, but we remembered the red wine, the chocolate, and the Daci&Daci tarts, so all the major food groups were covered.

Yesterday we walked from Darlington to the isthmus which joins South Maria Island to North Maria Island, a 23 kilometre round trip. It’s a very easy walk, but very long. The day was beautiful – warm with a cool breeze and a cloudless sky. There were lots of wombats, and you could see them pondering whether they should pretend to be a rock (since they look like a rock with legs, they are excellent at this) or bustle away into the undergrowth to avoid us. Cape Barren Geese raised their elegant heads as we walked past, and sometimes honked a warning to stay away if they had a gosling or two at heel. The males have red legs, and their beaks are a kind of verdigris green which sets off the soft grey plumage beautifully. Occasionally a pademelon or wallaby bounded across our path, especially on our return trip, which was nearing dusk. There are no cars on the island, so all you could hear was the wind in the trees, birdsong and the lapping of water.
in a discussion later with a Parks and Wildlife Ranger, we learnt that from time to time the population of wildlife on the island is greater than the island can support. There are no natural predators, and more importantly, limited supplies of fresh water available. Much of the island vegetation is forest with an understory of ferns and scrub rather than the grassland that these herbivores need to sustain them (the geese also seem to graze on the grass, and I noticed that all the areas of open grassland were closely cropped). Commonly, Parks and Wildlife will relocate some of the animals when numbers grow too large.

Setting out…..




We took our first break looking out over Mercury Passage towards Spring Beach.


When we reached the isthmus we found two perfect crescents of white sand, back to back.
The east side of the isthmus faces Riedle Bay, a surf beach. Waves roll in from the Tasman Sea.


The west side of the isthmus faces Shoal Bay, formerly called Baie d’ Huitres (Oyster Bay). We found it littered with mussel and oyster shells. The island was originally occupied by an aboriginal tribe (the Oyster Bay tribe) who lived primarily on shellfish. Perhaps this was their favourite fishing spot. There were two fishing boats moored during a spectacular low tide. We rested, sun baked and girded our loins for the gruelling return leg.


We topped up our canteens with tank water from Frenchs Farm and started back to Darlington, legs aching. It had taken four hours to reach the isthmus. We walked separately, in glorious isolation, about five minutes apart. I went first because my energy was flagging, so Richard could catch up with me should I stop. Richard listened to chapters three and four of Homer’s Odyssey, read by Ian McKellan. While ‘Dawn’s rose-tipped fingers’ uplifted Richard’s spirit to Olympian heights, I, heavy legged and earthbound, found inspiration in birdsong, comfortable solitude and the symphony of the wind.
I limped into our cell at seven (Richard strode manfully!) We’d set out at 9.30am. Sustained through the walk by peanut butter and honey sandwiches, an apple and a banana, we had a simple meal, a shower, and fell into bed.


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