A young superb fairy wren, still wearing its juvenile fluff, hops out from under an archway of bracken fern. It bounces about on its tiny legs, seeking small insects from the ground cover of moss, herbs, wattle seedlings, gum nuts and curled pieces of bark. Red sap, translucent, globular and brittle bleeds from the fibrous trunk of a stringybark. Hanging eucalypt leaves and upright tea tree branches intermingle, sharing the light on the forest's edge.
There is a cool breeze, and small droplets of rain fall from dark clouds onto my paper, interspersed by bright sunshine that warms my back. From the picnic table next to me, there is rising steam and the clatter of a camp stove as two grey nomads boil up cups of bushels tea with longlife milk.
The dark tea-coloured water of Cockle Creek spills languidly out from the forest into the sea, sculpting ripples and runnels in the sand. A pied oyster catcher patrols the foam-splattered shoreline, probing for sandhoppers amongst discarded piles of seaweed. The bay is rimmed first by tough green coastal wattles, then a line of hills swathed in wet eucalypt forest, and then the jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks of south-west Tasmania. Clouds billow and swirl across the sky. A pacific gull cruises by.
Tourists pull up in the car park, emerging laced up in their boots and buttoned up in their coats. They peer at the dated interpretive signs and take photos with the 'end of the road' sign. They don't appear to know what else to do and don't stay long. I suppose they drive back to the warmth of the coffee shop in Dover.
My friends have gone for a day walk on the south coast track, but as I have glandular fever, I have stayed behind and am sipping spiced tea from my thermos, writing my thoughts and learning how to be slow.
Just before midday, my fairy-wrens observations are interrupted by noisy motorparade of two utes and two motorbikes. I hear them revving their engines from far away on the long potholed road that curves around the bay. One rider has a girl on the back, but the other is unburdened, so pulls an impressive wheelie through the car park. They parade loudly to the end of the road, then turn around and proceed just as loudly back to their camp. They use the rest of the daylight hours to repeat this performance at regular intervals.
Last night my friends cooked tofu, lentil and pumpkin curry in the parks and wildlife shack. We are public servants, teachers, engineers, climate scientists and conservation workers. Healthy, robust, outdoors people, with goretex raincoats, hiking boots and Tv-less houses. We drove here in quiet, fuel-efficient cars. We drink home-brewed beer, fair-trade coffee, and mint tea, picked from shady spots in our south hobart gardens. Last night we sang daggy tunes with ukuleles around the fire.
During the night, the motorbike kids did a drive by and threw eggs at our cars and shack.
I suppose they would have been hassled hard in the past, by police and parks rangers, for their free-range dogs, rubbish-strewn camp sites and habits of driving their cars over threatened shorebird habitat on the beach.
We wondered what they would eat for breakfast instead, and if they would throw us some bacon as well. In the morning we scrubbed the egg off our boots and the porch with a toilet brush.
The next morning, before the bikers were up, I walked very slowly out to the sculpture of the whale calf on the point, where I read the about the history of French scientific explorers, and of whaling and forestry in the bay. On the way back, I pick up a few beer cans from the beach to put in the rubbish, and a some small shells to give to my disabled house-bound friend in Hobart. Half way, I stop to sit under a coastal wattle bush, and look out at the sea, to gather enough energy to make it back to the shack.
And after the long weekend, we all depart. University-educated greenies and bogans alike, leaving Cockle Creek to itself, the battles of the blue-tailed fairy-wrens and the occasional cold and baffled-looking tourist, at the end of the road.