A Tasmanian Adventure: Bushwhacking in East Pillinger

Photographs and narrative by Meredith Stephens

Few would have heard of the mining township of East Pillinger on the west coast of Tasmania, not only because it was abandoned in 1900, but also because there is no road access. That’s why my traveling companions Alex, Luke, Verity, and I decided to sail there.

We took our dinghy to the shore of this abandoned mining town. Near the wharf there was a hut containing six bunks with decaying mattresses, a fireplace with a blackened kettle sitting on it, and current magazines sealed inside a plastic box for visitors to peruse.

Next we decided to hike along the site of the former railway. There was a trail through a rainforest. Moss and lichen grew on the trees which yawned into the sky. The trail progressively deteriorated and we had to start bushwhacking. A previous hiker had affixed orange and pink ribbons to the trees and stretched ropes at chest height across the creeks. We had to walk across the logs crossing the creeks while holding onto the ropes. We kept our eyes fixed on the ground to avoid deep holes on the path.

“I can’t do this, Alex,” I complained.

“You’ll be fine. You’ve got good balance,” he countered.

Finally, we reached the site of another wharf, and ruins of the former town of East Pillinger. The ruin of the former brick-making kiln was covered in lichen, and all that remained of a former train carriage was a few wooden planks clinging together.

I was proud of having bushwhacked this far, but did not fancy bushwhacking back. Alex and Luke offered to hike back and bring the dinghy to us on the wharf. First, they hiked back to the nearest point on the shore to the boat. Then they swam to the boat. Alex lowered the kayak from the boat into the water and made his way to the dinghy. Then he tied the dinghy to the kayak, and motored back to Verity and me at the other wharf. Verity and I walked to the end of the wharf as soon as we could hear Alex’s motor. Once he arrived we clambered down the ladder into the dinghy and then motored back to the boat.

Although I complained at the time as I tried to bushwhack along the overgrown trail in my city coat only propelled by Alex’s encouragement, I look back fondly at this opportunity to visit this deserted and barely accessible landscape. It was sobering to realise how quickly nature could reclaim a once thriving town in just over one hundred and twenty years. Mosses crept over disappearing paths, brick structures crumbled, and we were left imagining the lives of those who lived and worked here until the beginning of the twentieth century.

* Bushwhacking is a term used in Australia and North America to describe living or travelling in the wild or uncultivated country.

Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist from South Australia. Her work has appeared in Transnational Literature, The Muse, The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Reading in a Foreign Language, and in chapters in anthologies published by Demeter Press, Canada.


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