Frenchman’s Cap 1961

                                                     Diary                                                           12/1/61

            I’m sitting in my sleeping-bag with my back against the back wall of the Frenchman’s Cap Hut and my notebook on my knees and my torch shining up at it from my lap. It just lights up my hands and makes them a lovely warm brown colour because they’re so sunburnt and there are shadows round my thumbs. There is crumpled pink elastoplast on my left thumb because I tripped over in Barron’s Pass while running to get my rucksack for lunch and gouged a deep cut into it. It throbs a bit. The light is falling on a part of the black knitted cuff of my anarak and on a little bit of the green sleeve of my left hand. The light falls finally on the roof at the other end of the hut. Elizabeth is on my right sitting the same way writing, and Noela is on my left lying on her stomach writing. Judy is in the other corner sitting on her sleeping bag writing to her mother and father and Anne is reading lying on her stomach on her sleeping bag.

            It is a gorgeous hut. It seems as if somebody loves it, some club perhaps, who built it, because such a lot has been done for it. There are little carved signs everywhere and a wonderful door latch carved of wood which opens when you pull a string outside. There is a boomerang over the door with the words “for the monster only” carved on it. There is a mountain lake (Tahune) only a few yards from the hut. When Elizabeth and I swam in Crater Lake we were afraid of a monster and didn’t like to swim far out.

            The hut and lake are just below Frenchmans, which rises up a huge yellowy-white tower far above. The scenery here is magnificent and grand. We have had wonderful views today.

We met Judy and Ann at the Franklin river turn-off the night before last. We got a hitch there with two boys who were a scream. They talked all the time in terrible accents and were very interested, and enthusiastic, about everything they’d seen in Tasmania. They were from Sydney. One of them was a saw-doctor and a lot of his fingers were cut off. They were probably younger than us.

            Not much happened the first day. There were long flat stretches and one steep pull. It rained on and off. I’ve been wearing sandshoes. LakeVera was hidden. We sat on a slope and decided that it must be in the valley below although it seemed impossible, and when we went suddenly it flattened out and there was the lake and a cleared mucky camping ground and a sort of shelter full of rubbish in the drizzling rain. I lit a fire with the help of solid fuel (there was lots of chopped wood piled out in the rain) insisting loudly that no-one should touch it except me. It was a long time before we could cook properly and I felt a bit miserable and lonely. After a while the rain stopped and we dried our clothes and they smelt of smoke. It was lovely when we went to bed. Noela and I had overlapped our tents and there was lots of room. It was lovely because Elizabeth and I lay and read for a little while in our sleeping bags and read by our torches.

            Insects are making funny little noises outside. The hut is all dark except for the little spots of torch-light and the clothes and bags of food that can be just made out hanging from the ceiling.

            There was a row of notches cut in one post of the shelter at LakeVera and I said that perhaps there was a wild man living nearby who killed sleeping campers and cut a notch for each. Judy said. “Then there’ll be five more notches tomorrow.” We didn’t eat all our apples and left the billy on the ground with the lid on it. In the night I woke up and heard something at the billy. It was rattling away. I couldn’t help thinking of the wild man. I knew it must be an animal but there was a heavy thumping sound now and then which sounded too heavy for a small bush animal. Then I thought of a wallaby and should have stopped worrying but I couldn’t quite disbelieve in the wild man. Noela woke up and made a few noises to scare it. She went to sleep and it came back, clinking and tinkling away. I didn’t like to look because it would have been too terrible if I had seen a wild hairy man. It would have been so terrible that I couldn’t take the risk of looking even though it was impossible. It would have been too frightening to bear. I went to sleep and Elizabeth said that when she woke up there was a lovely little wallaby in the entrance to the tent and it had such a pretty face. I told her that I had thought it might be a monster in the night and had thought that it might accept the apples as an offering instead of us. Our apples were nearly all gone.

            Today was the most beautiful day for scenery and we were terribly terribly lucky that it was fine most of the time and we could see what was around us. I’ll write about it when I write again. It’s quite cold and I’m going to get down into my sleeping bag and read for a little while before I go to sleep. Elizabeth is reading now and the others are going to sleep. Just two little torch lights.

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