Sunday, 4 January 2009

Week of Monday 29 December 2008 - Cradle Mountain

Monday 29 December 2008 – We found a nice lookout at Rosny Park which gave us nice views of The Tasman Bridge and the Port, and after stocking up on supplies we drove to the historic town of Richmond, which has a Lake St Clair expecting to be able to go on a walk, but the rain started and all we could manage was a view of the lake and the fringing mountains. 

Thinking that we would return in the morning, if the weather was better, we then drove on little way to Lake King William to camp. What a contrast to the pretty Lake St Clair....the lake was a desolate beautiful stone bridge, a famous goal, and some lovely old buildings. As we were then going West, and didn't want to travel on roads we had been on before, we took some backroads, and part of the trip as unsealed. This particular valley was very dry. 

We arrived at the beautiful place of dead trees...but it was the only available camping ground. This was the first time that we have had to set up our camp in the rain, and it rained on and off all night.

Tuesday 30 December 2008 – As it was still raining, we decided that it was not worth returning to Lake St Clair, and proceeded west. All along this road here are lovely views of the mountains, and we stopped to take photos at several places. The rain was lighter when we arrived at Franklin River Nature Trail, so we walked through the rainforest to where the Franklin and Surprise Rivers meet. The sun had even come out by the time we stopped at the Frenchman's Cap Walking Track. This is the start of a 4-5 day walk (and judging by the number of cars in the carpark, it is very popular), but it is also possible just to walk down to the swinging bridge across the Franklin River, which we did. 
The ranger was doing some work along the track, and Darryl assisted him by carrying some wire back up to the carpark. Because of the rain overnight Nelson's Falls were in a torrid flow, and it was not possible to get too close as the water spray was very cold, but they were very beautiful. 

A sheltered shed at Lake Burbury was our chosen place for lunch, but the rain stopped anyway, so we were also able to get down to the shore, and admire the circling mountains. 

I think everyone finds it a shock the first time they see the bare desolate hills (stripped by years of copper mining), around Queenstown, but they had a strangely attractive quality. In the centre of town is Mine Siding which has interesting sculptures documenting the history of the town, and the lookout gave spectacular views of the town and the mining area.

 Due to the rain we decided not to venture onto any of the unsealed tracks to the south, and instead continued to Strahan. This township seems very commercialised, so we continued past down to Macquarie Heads, the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, and found a camping spot (which luckily was available due to the previous night's rain). There were a lot of people fishing, although there was a strong cold wind, and heavy showers at times. We chatted for some time to neighbouring campers, Neil and Rose, until Paul (a familiar-looking actor – Paul Bishop from Blue Heelers), started to interview Neil about his remarkable self designed and built portable 'woodstove'. That night we were bombarded with fierce wind gusts and squalls all night long, so we had a very disturbed sleep. Darryl also heard a Tasmanian Devil barking (confirmed by our neighbours in the morning).  

Wednesday 31 December 2008 – It was raining when we woke, so once again we had to pack up in the wet – luckily there was a lull while we folded up the tarpaulin, but it came pelting down again before we had finished putting away the ropes and poles. North of Macquarie Heads is the long Ocean Beach, and we took a side trip down for a look. There was pounding surf and some very discoloured water. Further north are the amazing Henty Dunes. It was a steep climb up the 30m dune,  but the view was amazing – dunes in all directions to the ocean and forestry, and it answered a question that Darryl had been pondering about some of the  'piles' of dirt in the forestry. A little further on was a lookout of the dunes, Ocean beach, and some mountains. 

Zeehan is a historic silver mining town, and just before reaching it we drove up to the abandoned smelters, which also offered great views of Mount Zeehan

 The other attraction to us was the Spray Tunnel, also a relic of the silver mining days, which is 100m long, 3m high and only 2.2m wide. Darryl drove through this one-way railway remnant very skillfully, but was pleased to get safely to the other end, where there was a shaft and other relics of the mine. 

Montezuma Falls, reputed to be one of the highest falls in Tassie, is just south-west of Rosebury. Along the road is the site of Williamsford, once a bustling mining town. The falls walk is usually a 3-hour walk, but as the track follows an old tramline, it is allowed to ride bikes, and we were really pleased that we opted for this, firstly as the trip then only took us 40 minutes each way, but also as there were many patches of sticky mud, which were much easier to ride through (although we did end up covered in mud whereas the walkers only had wet and muddy feet!) Most of the 'old' mining towns still have mining activities being undertaken in one form or another. It was the end of the day and we were, once again, looking for a suitable campsite for the night. We drove on and on searching for any place, when we chanced on an a mining ghost town – this place had every building removed, and all that was left was the roads and gutters, along with nice flat grassed yards, slowly being reclaimed by native vegetation – perfect! That night, though, we got more of the same as the previous night, strong winds (which blew down some of our setup) and very heavy rains. Still, it was a lovely location to spend New Year's Eve, but so cold we went to bed at 9.30pm.

Thursday 1 January 2009 – Once again we had to pack up in the rain, and it looked 'set-in' so we decided to head north. On the way we stopped at Hellyer Gorge. The drive through the road was lovely, but the walk at the picnic area was very disappointing – in fact we did the 15 min walk a second time thinking we had missed the turn or something! Arriving at Burnie we were able to get fuel and groceries, but were disappointed to find the Tourist Information closed (despite their sign saying open on public holidays). We had lunch at a nice riverside park at Somerset, before finding the Fossil Bluff at Wynyard. 
This was really amazing, with layers of fossils being constantly eroded away by the waters of the Bass Strait

West along the coast is the quaint historic town of Stanley, with convict ruins, and 'The Nut' a huge volcanic core sitting out into the ocean. There is a chair lift, but we were planning to walk up, but we beaten by the rain, and a lack of time to wait for a lull. Arthur River, on the West coast, is the end of the bitumen, and we then started on 120km of gravel road south through the Arthur Pieman conservation area. Due to the twist and turns, the condition of the gravel, and the rain, travel as only possible at about 65km per hour – the signs say the trip takes 2 ½ hours. It was very distressing to see the 1000's of hectares of burnt out forest, which was only just starting to reshoot (we later found out that the fire had been deliberately lit by someone lost around 9 months before, who was trying to attract attention). We eventually arrived at Corinna, and then drove a few km back to camp the night beside the Savage River. Once again we had strong winds and rain during the night.

Friday 2 January 2009 – The weather looked like it was clearing, and although all our gear was wet, the sun made an appearance as we had breakfast and packed. Back at Corinna we boarded “The Arcadia II” a Huon pine boat which took us down the Pieman River to the Heads, where we walked to the beach head into a freezing 'Roaring Forties' blast. 

There were quite a few beach shacks (now in National Park land), and lots of logs caught up in the sand. The cruise was quite informative, with lots of information given about the various trees, Huon Pine, Sassafras, Stringy Bark (also known as Tasmanian Oak), Myrtle and Laurel, as well as the history of the area and the boat. We passed a couple of waterfalls, and also saw some Sea Eagles – some flying, and the other pair sitting in trees. Back at Corinna, there is the 'Fatman Barge' to take vehicles across the river, but we had come from the north, and went back on a different northern track – which took us back to our 'ghost town' where we, camped again.

Saturday 3 January 2009 – We fuelled up at Waratah before getting to Cradle Mountain National Park around 10am. As it was the weekend, I was concerned about getting a site at the campground, and all that was available was an unpowered site, so we took it. The Visitor Centre is nearby and we walked to it. 
From here there is a free shuttle bus service to the start of the walks (we heard later that the carparks are so tight that there was a two hour wait to get your car up). We alighted at Ronny Creek carpark, and started our walk on the Cradle Valley Boardwalk, where we came on a wombat happily grazing just beside the track, oblivious to interest from passing photographers. Snow was visible on the high mountain peaks from here. At an intersection we left the boardwalk and started on the Overland Track which had some slushy bits. 

At on point the vegetation got denser and taller and we were treated to the delightful Crater Falls. Over the ridge was the amazing Crater Lake surrounded by high, dark mountains topped with snow. Although it is called Crater Lake because of the way it looks, it is actually a glacial lake, and is at 1035m high. Our walk took us around Wombat Peak to a ridge which gave us views of Crater Lake to one side, Lake Lilla and Dove Lake to the other side, and to Marion's Lookout (another 25 minutes of steep climbing) in the middle. 

We then descended to Wombat Pool, which was characteristically stained black from the surrounding Button Grass, around to Lake Lilla where we could then see Little Horn, and Weindorfers Tower, but the peak of Cradle Mountain was obscured by cloud. It as then a short walk back to Dove Lake carpark where we caught the shuttle bus back to camp. The camping ground had lovely kitchen facilities, with wood fire heating, which was really appreciated. There was no rain, and we even had some sun, although it was still quite cold 8oC when we had arrived in the morning.

Sunday 4 January 2009 – There wasn't a cloud in the sky – it was going to be a fantastic day at Cradle Mountain. It was an early start as Darryl planned to walk to the 1545m peak of the Mountain, so he caught the first bus up. My plans were more moderate, to walk the circuit of Dove Lake, so I was able to leave a bit later. It is advised to walk the circuit in a clockwise direction as it gives the best views, and this was certainly true. The first stop along the way was Glacier Rock. This is a huge upright boulder with many grooves across the grain of the rock, caused by the glacier forcing rocks across the face 10000 years ago. There were many King Billy Pines, Deciduous Beech, Scoparia, Pandani, and Tasmanian Waratah along the way, as well as lovely views of the peaks, waterfalls, and Dove Lake itself. Near the end of the circuit was the historic boatshed. The views of Cradle Mountain were spectacular, with intense blue sky behind, and the sides sprinkled with a little snow. I came back to Ronny's carpark to also look at Waldheim, the historic chalet and museum originally built by Weindorf, and went along the forest walk there, through huge King Billy Pines. Weindorf was instrumental in getting Cradle Mountain made into a National Park back in the early 20th Century. 
Darryl's walk had taken him over part of the same track we had covered the previous day, but he continued on from Wombat saddle up to Marion Lookout (passing small pockets of snow), to get spectacular views; and along the Overland Track, which had a fair snow cover. In parts the trail was very muddy, especially where the timbers were rotten, and it took considerable care for him to keep his precious K26s clean and dry! 

He passed the Kitchen Hut and the recently installed, but smelly toilet, 2 hours return from the summit. Just before here a lot of work had recently been done improving the boardwalk. 

At this point he first noticed other people behind him, and continued on to the summit, (slipping on the snow covered broken needles of dolerite), where he had fantastic 360o views. He was surprised to see plants still surviving under the snow. Luckily, after a few minutes, another walker arrived, so they were able to record their achievements for each other. On the way back there were at least another 15 walkers heading for the summit – many of them ill-prepared for any sudden weather changes (in fact at least 2 people were not even carrying any water!!!!) Unfortunately,  
Darryl had a couple of slips on ice on the way down and ended up with a wet tail. He took a longer track on his return from the summit, passing beneath the face of it, and also took a longer side route past Twisted Lakes and Hanson Lake (this turned out to be the worst part of the track – wet, muddy and slippery), and he was very relieved to see the sign indicating 45 minutes to the Dove Lake carpark (especially as he had started getting cramps). He did not get back to the camp until around 3pm, and said it was a pretty hard day, and was quite tired, but still managed to bake bread for me.

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