Taking a walk through a Tasmanian forest is like indulging in a feast for the senses. Cool air beneath the dense foliage, melodic birdsong ringing through the trees, the scent of damp vegetation and mottled sunlight playing on the forest floor all heighten our awareness of our surroundings. The Tahune Airwalk in the Tarkine Forest, close to the little town of Geeveston, takes our perceptions of the forest to yet another level.
The tallest flowering plant in the world grows in the Tarkine Forest: Eucalyptus regnans, commonly known as the swamp gum. When we are standing on the forest floor we crane our necks to look skywards to the tops of these giants, but up on the Airwalk we’re at canopy level. Looking over the railing down the length of the tree trunks to the ground is a dizzying experience.
The Airwalk leads to a cantilevered platform which is suspended 48 metres above the ground. From here we can see the Hartz Mountains, the highest of which still has a dusting of snow, and the confluence of the Huon and Picton rivers, stained dark brown by the tannin leached from decaying vegetation on the forest floor.
Other natives grow in the forest alongside the swamp gum – King Billy pine, sassafras and the Huon pine, one of the slowest growing and longest lived plants in the world, prized for its exceptional timber. Huon pines are ancient plants. They were growing on the supercontinent of Gondwana 165 million years ago. Today they are protected and cannot be felled, but timber lying on the forest floor or on the river beds is still usable, centuries after the trees died, due to the natural oils which make the wood resistant to rot. It is one of the best boatbuilding timbers in the world.
When we are replete with the sights, sounds and smells of the forest, we drive back to Geeveston where we indulge the last of our senses – with mugs of steaming hot chocolate and enormous serves of homemade wagon wheel slice at the Country Café on Church St. Simply sense-ational!