As we drove down the ferry ramp and rolled onto Tasmanian soil I could finally feel the enthusiasm for the months ahead. We had successfully completed our crazy 1,200km road trip from Comboyne to Melbourne and had survived our Bass Strait crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania, avoiding any covid conditions in the process. We had made it.
Ferries, buses, and aeroplanes. They all make me nervous, and that was before the pandemic. I’m not sure if it’s the timetables or the restrictions but I have always preferred the carefree days of travelling in a van. So with our ferry crossing behind us I could finally feel – through our exhaustion – the excitement of being back in our home state.
Forests, beaches, mountains. Where would our next adventure lead us?
The honest answer to that question was the carpark of a big name hardware store in Devonport (Bunnings). By the time we had done our weekly shop and had a bite to eat the time was about 9pm, and we were ready for sleep. No long night drives for us.
We awoke to the exuberant sound of a couple of forklifts, endemic to the area – possibly a mating pair. After a quick breakfast and getting supplies in the hardware store we began our search for the forests we so desperately craved.
Since leaving the farm four days ago Willow’s outdoor time had been limited so we were keen to find somewhere we could park up the van and relax. That place was Dial Range State Forest, just 35 minutes West of Devonport.
This forest, like most state forests, has no facilities – only a meandering of 4×4 roads and walking tracks ready for exploring. With the Leven River flowing through the East of the forest I was hoping to find a camp on its banks, but things don’t always go to plan!
As one of the 4×4 tracks reduced to just a goat track, Steph and I got out and walked the rest of the way. After an arduous hike down the hill we arrived at the river.
It was settling to take a moment to walk along the bank and watch the flow of the water. The track was once a tramway from the area’s logging pioneer past and is now part of a hiking network that extends to Cradle Mountain National Park.
We realised that we had come in on the wrong road. Instead of attempting the other, tamer track, we decided to just walk back to the van and head for a small clearing we had spotted on our way in, trading a river for a small stream. Life’s not so bad?!
Willow jumped up onto the dashboard as we parked up, scouring the new patch of forest and our home for the evening. When we opened the sliding door she jumped out and dove under the van to check the area was safe. As she collected her confidence she jumped up onto a fallen tree for a sniff and a scratch.
Amidst the clearing a ring of old bricks and stones for a fire had been left by some other campers, along with logs of firewood. I pushed the logs by the fire to serve as our evening seating and removed the beer cans that some grub had left behind.
Willow observed as I set the fire, first laying twigs over crushed up gum leaves, then placing bark and bigger branches on top. The dry leaves crackled as I held a lighter to them, quickly engulfing the branches as I fanned them.
Willow sat back on her log and watched the flames as I put a few bigger logs on the fire, her ears dancing with the sounds of the forest around us. It’s not often we have a fire but this just seemed like the perfect spot for some fire cooking.
As the logs had burnt down I collected the embers between two bricks and the stone of the campfire. Our bbq was ready. On skewers we threaded sausages, onion, tomato and mushrooms which were placed over the embers.
It wasn’t long before our skewers were cooked at which Willow received a small morsel of sausage that had cooled on our plates. While Steph and I started our dinners Willow ate her biscuits that we placed on the log next to us.
I feel there is a lot of fuss about food these days. That it must be served or look a certain way. None of that matters when you’re in the forest.
After dinner we went for a very short walk before Willow let us know that it was time to return to the van. As the last of the embers died down, I picked her up and gave her a cuddle before we got into bed, the little cat that smelt like smoke and eucalyptus.
Dial Range State Forest is not somewhere you’ll find in tourist brochures or guides. In fact, we didn’t even know it existed until we drove by and thought, I wonder what we might find there.
Maybe we will find a wombat, or a forest stream. A myrtle glade or a rare orchid. Maybe we will find nothing at all, and nothing will find us..
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Thanks for spending an evening with us in the forest with Willow. She sure loves just sitting and watching the world go by!
I’m sure there will be lots more moments like this during the rest of our time in Tasmania. Do you know somewhere we should visit? Please let us know!