The swan song sounded by the wilderness grows fainter, ever more constricted, until only sharp ears can catch it at all. So says Edward Hoagland in an essay called “Hailing the elusive mountain lion”
The wilderness landscape of the mountains rising to the west of my home still sings loud and sweet, or so it seemed to me on Sunday when I flew over it in a small sea-plane, blue sky and white clouds undertinged with grey.
We took off from Wagonga Inlet at Narooma, flying briefly over water and low-key civilisation.
Then there was wild country: fold after fold of forest as far as sight reached. Sometimes the ridges ran gently parallel; sometimes they were fringed with a line of rock; sometimes great rugged bluffs dropped sheer from the treed summit-line; sometimes the bright rounded green of rainforest spilt down steep clefts; sometimes the far line of mountains disappeared under cloud. Occasionally the line of a road ran along a ridge, or a depression in the trees suggested a forestry trail. Occasionally the landscape widened into valleys along the river where people were farming (blueberries and cattle), or living a life off the grid.
As we came closer to Tuross Falls the landscape became more rugged and suddenly there was the narrow gorge, the rocky river far below carrying only a trickle of water. We banked and tilted as we circled above, struggling to notice the thin line of waterfall. A large flat lump of granite crowned the flattened bush and not all that far to the west is the High Country and settlements around Cooma.
Turning back to the coast, we traced the windings of the Tuross River and flew beside Gulaga, spotting the familiar shape of Barranguba halfway to the horizon. After forty minutes of immensity and joy we came down low over oyster leases and returned to our sea-level world.
My genius son dreamed up this gift for my 73rd birthday, corralling other members of the family to help finance it. We flew over places that had special history for a number of us. J and I explored the area in our rainforest phase, often dropping over the edge into a world of treeferns and epiphytic orchids and twisting vines, and occasionally camping. On one noteable day we set out for Narooma, 30 minutes away, and ended up on the escarpment returning via Tuross Falls, with Chinese plums as our only food. My Potato Point son has camped and fished at the Falls. Every Christmas my Mt Tamborine son heads off with his mates to explore for a day on motorbikes, occasionally reaching a ridge high enough to survey the expansiveness of wild country. Once in his youth he abseiled up the falls in the dark. Once my Tamborine family took me on my first visit to the Falls and nearly killed me with 45° heat. Often when the children were small we visited friends who created the clearing with the pointy-roofed house and swam in their waterhole and ate the mandarins they planted, and once watched in horror as the tractor ignited dry grass. All this history on the earth beneath enriched our foray into the dimension above.
Thank you, my family, for an absolutely perfect gift.