Lake Monbeong, where we camped overnight, sits just next to a sprawling pine plantation, stretching roughly east to west and is just one of many plantations spread over the SE of South Australia and SW Victoria. Such places call to my mind orderliness, cool freshness, contrivance and industry but the thing I like most about these places is the quiet they contain. Row after row of orderly hush. This is apparent when walking along any of the service roads but step off them and into the disciplined world of pine trunk and the quiet surrounds. Go further and the light too receeds and one thing looks like another. These places, in the calm, cool heart of a pine forest are a good place to hide.
We were seeking a passage through the forest that would have as few turns as possible, reason being I have found that when travelling this way and that along the grid pattern service roads it is easy to lose track of where you are as one part looks very much like another. We farewelled our camp and the lake and entered the forest and soon after pulled to a halt as a quick moving brown snake passed between us. Oh how I wished we could have followed its serpentine way. As I mused on analogies between encounters with snakes and life’s unexpected challenges the sun’s heat was already asserting itself so we walked in the strips of the pine’s cool shade .
Though we had a planned route from time to time a gap would open up off the road and invite us into it. Underfoot was carpet like, either tender green grass or a spongy underlay of fallen pine needles. We were out of the way when all of a sudden we weren’t any more. Ahead of us an engine rumbled. We slowed and approached cautiously. A truck laden with cut, stripped logs was receiving its last load. Not wishing to encounter or surprise we detoured off the track into the cover and quiet of the trees. Once again in proximity to the forest’s quiet I felt the desire to leave our intended path and explore further into the still interior. We stuck to our detour and re-emerged not long after the departing truck. Temporary signs warned of danger and so we skirted the area and continued undisturbed.
The three of us struck up a philosophical conversation that, with its logical flow, in some ways mimicked the orderly trees around us. Occasionally this was interrupted with tangent thoughts, as was the orderliness broken by the occasional fallen tree across our path and then the final corollary, as we walked through a section of bare torn ground where trees had been felled and harvested our thoughts turned to the purpose and end of life. If this analogy feels stretched then perhaps there is one that fits better but even so I feel it quite plausible that environment can infiltrate our sub conscience and re-emerge to look at itself. I return once more to Robyn Davidson’s Tracks, where it seemed to me that gradually over time the desert had started to mould her thoughts, in the sense that incrementally, her mind discarded what was superfluous and retained only that which was useful thus reflecting the landscape. I like to think that given enough emersion over time that nature would begin a thought purging process in anyone, whether you resisted or not.
We had come to the neat edged boundary of the pine forest. Across the dividing road stood the straggly native wood of the National Park and the next landscape of our walk. See you there.