An Overland Track adventure (and some history too).

To become World Heritage Listed a site must meet at least one of ten cultural and natural Criteria for Selection as classified by UNESCO. There are over 1000 sites throughout the world now on the World Heritage List. Of these sites there are only two that have achieved seven of the ten criteria; Mount Tai in China (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii) and the Tasmanian Wilderness (iii, iv, vi, vii, viii, ix, x). The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area now takes in over 1.5 million hectares or around 20% of the island state. Seven of the 19 national parks in Tasmania form the vast majority of land designated and protected to World Heritage. Included in the area is Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park one of the most popular wilderness destinations, and the starting point for the internationally recognised Overland Track.

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Cradle Mountain, the south face from the Overland Track

Both my wife and I grew up in Tasmania. When it came to recreation her family headed to the picturesque east-coast to their ‘shack’ for sun and surf while my family delved into the wilderness, camping alongside pristine waterways under ancient forests. Now, with our own kids, we have enjoyed plenty of beach time and day trips into some of Tasmania’s wild areas but I have stopped asking the question containing the words ‘tent’ and ‘camping’. The response has always been the very Australian phrase, “Yeah, nah.” So on my birthday earlier this year I was very surprised to be opening an envelope from my wife containing walking passes for the Overland Track! Just the two of us, on an adventure I had put off for far too long. Still no need for a tent though, we were doing this the comfortable way, guided with the Tasmanian Walking Company. Compromise is a wonderful thing.

The Overland Track winds its way from the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park down to Lake St Clair itself at the south-eastern tip of the park. It is generally a six day walk and offers several side trips with varying degrees of difficulty along the way. It is arguably the best way to experience a small glimpse of the incredible beauty the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area offers. In ideal conditions this is by no means a challenging walk, about 65-80 kilometres, for the reasonably fit bushwalker. Five or six days of ideal conditions is a rare occurrence though in the highlands of Tasmania. Our peaks rarely jut above 1500 metres, only a dozen or so can claim that honour. The catch is, the only thing south of Tasmania is Antarctica and when the weather comes from the south the conditions can very quickly turn brutal. Walking into the Tasmanian wilderness unprepared is a perilous activity which has lead to disastrous outcomes.

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Kitchen Hut & Cradle Mountain

Day 1. – We met at the headquarters of the Tasmanian Walking Company, greeted by our two guides and five others embarking on the walk with us. The first task is laying out all your clothing for appraisal. Will your garments hold up in case those brutal conditions decide to descend? Thermal base layers, waterproofs and jumpers are all scrutinised, then you pack your gear into supplied backpacks and set off on the two hour bus journey to the start of the track. The journey begins from Waldheim hut, first built in 1912 by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer, it was completely rebuilt in 1976 using the traditional building methods and timber as the original. Gustav Weindorfer was one of the first Europeans to recognise the importance and unspoilt nature of the area, and was instrumental in its early protection. Marion’s Lookout was our first stop after a short steep ascent past Crater Lake. With the advantage of clear skies and warm sun the view was spectacular, Dove Lake below and the rugged Cradle Mountain (1545m) rising up alongside. We skirted around Cradle Mountain, stopping for lunch outside the historic Kitchen Hut, and onward in the direction of Barn Bluff (1559m). An impressive dolerite monument, it stands alone surrounded by open plains and ancient glacier carved valleys. Our destination was Barn Bluff Hut hidden away deep in Waterfall Valley under the shadow of its namesake. We arrived late in the afternoon still exhilarated from all that we had seen throughout the day. I had no idea what to expect of the huts and their facilities, and I will not describe them further, other than to say any chance of a tent holiday has now been completely eroded.

Day 2. – Steady rain on the roof woke us from our slumber. It was going to be one of those days. We prepared ourselves to face the elements and set off. Lake Will, named after an early mining prospector Joseph Will, was to be our first destination for the day. Our guide described it as a beautiful summer side trip as the lake has golden sandy edges perfect for beach-like sun bathing. But it was autumn, rain was still falling and winds were gusting, enough to nearly blow us off the boardwalk. (Significant amounts of the track are now on boardwalk, particularly over the button grass plains, to reduce environmental impact and the quagmire that can set in after heavy rainfall.) The option was offered to forgo the side trip but we were a resilient group, and happy to drop our packs for the side journey of about an hour return. Before the Weindorfers came to Cradle Mountain for recreation many had come before them to seek their fortune. The track into Lake Will wanders past mullock heaps long ago abandoned but still plainly visible from unsuccessful coal exploration. It’s a sign of just how long regeneration can take when 120 years later the scars are still visible. Fortunately the remote environment, grim conditions, and tools limited to pick and shovel prevented major upheaval. No doubt on a fine day Lake Will would be a stunning stop off. It wasn’t in our favour that day so we didn’t linger. We returned to our packs and made our way to Windermere Hut for lunch. No amount of wet weather gear can keep you dry in these conditions. Boots and socks were sodden and base layers too were being challenged by the penetrating rain. A hot cup of tea all but briefly revitalised the senses. We were keen to set off again, walking to get ones body heat increasing was the best barrier to the dismal conditions. Views were diminished over the plains throughout the afternoon.  Long before European encroachment the plains were utilised, at least seasonally, by the Big River Nation group of Aboriginal people.  Fire was used on the plains as a tool for hunting, to flush out quarry. Written records from early contact cite bark huts and burnt countryside in and around what is now national park. The reality of that contact is, in not more than 70 years, the original inhabitants and their many thousand year old culture was to be decimated across the entire state. Even the original languages have mostly been lost. In recent years, through much research and analysis of historical recordings, a revived form of language known as palawa kani has been brought to life. The process of recognising notable places by dual names is now under way in Tasmania (lutruwita). We passed beyond the plains to eventually set foot in an enchanting myrtle and beech forest. The inclination was to pace forward, to get the day over and done but every step of the way something in the forest caught the eye, lichens, fungi, or a gnarled old tree trunk. It was a captivating end to a very dreary day.

Day 3 – Setting off into snow has you bounding out the door with childlike enthusiasm. Overnight a few centimetres had fallen and throughout the morning flakes continued to settle. There were fleeting glimpses of snow capped peaks as heavy clouds were briefly split open by shards of sunshine. Autumn is the time for fungi to emerge in all its variety and incredible colours. Traipsing through dense old growth forest little caps proliferated from each and every long ago fallen log. Others pushed up through the earth to stand alone, oblivious to their extraordinariness. We descended gently down to the Forth River, one of the lowest sections of the Overland Track. Snow melt had already begun to swell its course. Fortunately there is a sturdy bridge to enable you across, although our guide told of a time he had to traverse in knee deep water, the bridge submerged and the elevated handrail the only indication of its existence. There is a steady ascent out of the valley and onto the Pelion Plains. Mt Oakleigh was ever present alongside us with its jagged outcrop of stone spires. Our stopping point was Old Pelion Hut another relic from an era when exploratory mining of the area was a rational notion. The hut survives 100 years on, originally used as accommodation for miners, it also housed graziers, trappers and surveyors to the area. It’s hard to fathom how such a remote and inhospitable area entertained people with the idea to scratch out a living. A short distance from the hut, and this still confounds me, I was guided into the disused copper mine left behind by some of those early pioneers. It is hand carved horizontally for about 50 metres into a rock face, well out of sight of the main track, it is now a home for crickets, spiders, and even a small bird had built a nest just inside the entrance. It wasn’t worth imagining a plundered landscape had substantial deposits ever been unearthed. Back on the track you’re very quickly engulfed again by the magnificence of the place and the level of determination Gustav Weindorfer must have had to see it protected in a time of flourishing industrialisation. Another day drew to a close with the track revealing a history I had no idea ever existed.

Day 4 – Snow had again fallen during the night. Our excitement for it was no less than the previous day. (And yes, a few snow balls may have been thrown!) Unfortunately the snow meant the day’s major side trip, climbing Tasmania’s highest peak Mt Ossa (1617m), would not go ahead. We were headed in the direction of Pelion Gap, the divide between Mt Pelion East (1461m) and Mt Ossa. A short detour was taken to see Douglas Creek, at a picturesque spot known as The Cascades, where the waterway spills over a gently sloping dolerite formation. We continued on into dense rainforest. Tasmania has several native conifers amidst our forests and three that are particularly noteworthy for The Overland Track. The King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides) and Pencil Pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) are scattered throughout the National Park. One of the reasons for the longevity of many of the old huts along the track are the fact they are made from King Billy Pine. It is renowned for its durability. The timber is incredibly tight grained due to its very slow growth rate and is highly prized for boat building. While the Pencil Pine is a very close relative of the King Billy its timber has not been so highly regarded by craftspeople. Nevertheless both species have suffered great losses over the years from wildfires throughout the state’s wilderness areas. The third, and extremely rare conifer, is a naturally occurring hybrid of the King Billy and Pencil Pine known by its Latin name Athrotaxis X laxifolia.  It was under an impressive 600-800 year old example that we stopped for our first break of the day. The growth rate of these magnificent conifers rarely exceeds about one millimetre a year! We moved on and up toward Pelion Gap leaving the forest behind us. While the summit of Mt Ossa was off limits we ascended to the saddle between Mt Ossa and Mt Doris (1340m), an area known as the Japanese Gardens. The snow was heavy on the ground and the air crisp but the conditions were pleasant enough to enjoy lunch. Mt Pelion East emerged from the clouds and the vertical cliff face of Cathedral Mountain (1406m) could be seen in the distance. Our day’s journey would finish at the foot of the spectacular cliffs. Only the hardiest of plants survive in these conditions. One of those is the deciduous beech (Nothofagus gunnii), most often simply called fagus. It goes unnoticed for most of the year except in autumn when, being Tasmania’s only native deciduous tree, it puts on a show. With the ground blanketed in white and the evergreens stoically retaining their foliage, the golden hue of the fagus is a sight to behold. The more adventurous bushwalkers know it as tanglefoot for self explanatory reasons. We arrived at our hut in the early afternoon. The rest of the day was spent relaxing taking in the view of Cathedral Mountain watching the clouds whirl around its sheer cliff face.

Day 5 – Although only a short day of walking was planned it was to become a full day because of the stunning terrain we were venturing through. Within the first hour we had arrived at Du Cane Hut. Another of the early huts on the track, built about 1910, this one was constructed by a revered bushman Paddy Hartnett. While Paddy was an accomplished trapper and sometimes prospector our guides acknowledged him most highly as the original guide. He was one of the first to accompany visitors into the wilderness and was instrumental in cutting the track through to Lake St Clair. We departed individually from Du Cane Hut at intervals of about twenty minutes. It was an opportunity for some solitude under the canopy of the imposing forest around us. We gathered again at the junction of our next side trip to D’alton and Fergusson Falls. Both falls are on the Mersey River and only a short distance from each other. There is some steep going but well worth the effort. D’alton falls offered the better view from a narrow outcrop directly opposite. The access to Fergusson Falls takes you in alongside the fall, adjacent to the precipice from where the water plummets. After the previous few days of snow and rain we were fortunate to see them surging. Seeing the Mersey not far from its origin was significant. As a child one of my camping destinations was alongside the very same river much further north in the Mole Creek Karst National Park. The next leg of the journey was slow going simply because of the ridiculous amount of captivating fungi on display. The colours, shapes and sizes on display were remarkable. We were wending our way around the Du Cane Range making for the Du Cane Gap with our accommodation a short hike over its crest. It was a gentle ascent that took us up out of the damp heavy forest into sclerophyll forest populated by eucalyptus, sheoak, banksia and the like. Alongside us was Castle Crag still tipped with snow. It is also known as Falling Mountain as its weather beaten dolerite cliffs are in a constant state of crumbling. This was our last evening in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, our adventure was almost accomplished. My pace had slowed over the last few kilometres, not from exhaustion, but a reluctance for the trek to be over.

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Day 6 – The final day loomed before us. As a group we had journeyed well together. We had all found some common interests and spent moments along the track, and of an evening, sharing our life experiences. I imagine group dynamics are a significant factor for guides in undertakings such as these. At the very least our guides were happy none of us had boot failure of any kind! Apparently it’s one of the most common inconveniences, a boot or two simply falling apart en route. We were amply warned to keep boots well away from the heater in the drying room. Setting off in damp boots, still with their structural integrity, was the much preferred option of the guides. Our group included two from Queensland, two from NSW, one from Germany, and us, two Tasmanians. I would argue we were the luckiest of the group; we were remaining on this remarkable little island at the end of the trip. It was an easy morning of about three hours walking under clear skies. The walk for us came to a close at Narcissis Hut at the northern end of Lake St Clair. The Narcissis River feeds into the northern end of the lake and at the southern end the Derwent River begins its 200 kilometre stretch to Hobart. A small passenger boat picks up anyone not walking the lake’s perimeter, another 5.5 hours, to the Lake St Clair Park Centre. The comparison is always going to be there, taking on the Overland Track independently or guided. There is no doubt in my mind having guides on hand to impart their knowledge of the track was invaluable. I walked out with a far greater appreciation of the track’s history and importance to this state than when we set off. I would certainly like to retrace my footsteps unassisted some time. I can now do it with the knowledge the Overland Track is much more than an unforgettable wilderness experience. It is history, people, unique flora and fauna, human endeavour and tenacity. No wonder it ticks so many boxes for its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

 

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The Overland Track: for details and to book as an independent walker.

The Overland Track guided walks can be undertaken with Parks and Wildlife approved licensed operators: Tasmanian Walking Co., Tasmanian Wilderness Experiences, Tasmanian Expeditions, Tasmanian Hikes.

Many thanks to Nick and Lauren our guides. Their extensive knowledge was invaluable and piqued my curiosity to learn more…

Timothy Jetson – Almost a Walkers Paradise: A history of the Cradle Mt – Lake St Clair Scenic Reserve to May 1922 (Phd thesis School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania October 2005)

Timothy Jetson – ($4.00+GST) Journal of Australasian Mining History Volume 7 September 2009: ‘That Some Rich Lode Amongst These Hills is Waiting for us Yet’: Balancing Mining and Environmental Concerns in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania 

Simon Cubit – Recording Paddy Hartnett’s Huts

Simon Cubit & Nic Haygarth – Mountain Men: Stories from the Tasmanian High Country

Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – Establishment Report for Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Climate Change Monitoring Program: Montane Conifers

Linc Tasmania – Photographs of Waldheim Chalet and Gustav Weindorfer 1920s – 30s

On the lookout for a King Billy Pine boat? The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is a biennial event in Hobart, next held February 8 – 11 2019.

For the completely crazy: Want to run The Overland Track? Cradle Mountain Run February 3, 2018. Entries open October 15, 2017. Current record is 7 hours 25 minutes!

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When one of the world’s most revered chefs came to town…

‘Alain Passard? Who? Never heard of fullsizeoutput_a9bhim…’ This would be the answer repeated consistently should you stop people in the streets of Launceston and ask them what they know about Alain Passard. It’s not a criticism, it’s knowing Launceston is a small city on a small island about as far from Europe as can possibly be. It’s knowing like many small regional Australian cities, sport is where our idols are sourced. TV shows like My Kitchen Rules are predominantly where our food interest lies, and that’s because it’s about personalities and elimination, cooking as sport if you like.

While Tasmania is seeing a steady influx of tourists clamouring for our food and wine scene, the locals more often than not take it for granted. We have grown up living a lifestyle without peak-hour traffic or long commutes. Any talk of an overcrowded beach means there was about twenty people vying for space on a one kilometre stretch of golden sand. I grew up here, I took it for granted too. After a short stint in the local hospitality industry I went away, interstate and overseas, for about fifteen years all up. Since returning I no longer take it for granted.

My time overseas opened my eyes to the international food scene and in particular the Michelin Guide. Going since 1900 the Michelin Guide is produced by the well known tyre manufacturer and originally was a publication for French motorists of local mechanics, petrol stations, hotels and maps. In 1926 Michelin started a star rating for restaurants and over time it has become the pinnacle of achievement for a restaurant to receive three stars. There are currently only twenty six restaurants in France with the accolade. One of those Restaurants is Arpége.

Alain Passard opened Arpége in 1986, in the same space he refined his skills under the tutelage of Alain Senderens. Within two years he had two Michelin stars and ten years after opening was awarded his third. In 2001 he turned away from cooking meat and concentrated his menu on presenting the freshest vegetables sourced from his own organic kitchen gardens. It was seen as scandalous in the small world of French haute cuisine. He retained his three Michelin stars that year, and has done now for twenty years, an impressive accomplishment.

The Great Chefs Series came about last year, the idea of Christopher McGimpsey, a former Education Manager of TasTafe Drysdale, the local trade school for young apprentices. The concept was to bring in the best Australian chefs to offer intensive training culminating with a fine dining experience that might otherwise only be found in Sydney or Melbourne. In 2016 Jacques Reymond, Tetsuya Wakuda, Mark Best and more offered their skills and knowledge to young apprentice chefs. Together, in the TasTafe Drysdale training restaurant, they created stunning dining experiences utilising the finest locally sourced produce for all those who attended.

This year The Great Chefs Series has attracted the extraordinary international talents of Alain Passard, Dominque Crenn and Christian Puglisi. This is the first time Chef Passard has visited Australia and yesterday (29/03/17) he teamed up with the latest group of young Tasmanian apprentices to present his first of two dining experiences. Chefs Crenn and Puglisi will be arriving in the coming weeks and believe it or not there are still tickets available.

The setting was not the TasTafe Drysdale training restaurant on this occasion but the restaurant of Josef Chromy Vineyards. Fifteen minutes out of Launceston the building is a blend of old and new. Entrance is through the cellar door, set within the original 1880s homestead, and the restaurant is a modern addition with sweeping views of the vineyard. Walking past the open kitchen to our seats the junior chefs could be seen transfixed on their mentor. There was no doubt what this day meant to them. There was also no doubt for all those in attendance just what a rare opportunity this was. Guests had flown in from all over Australia.

fullsizeoutput_a9cLunch was five courses all superbly matched with Josef Chromy wines by head wine maker Jeremy Dineen. The second course deserves a mention for both its description, ‘Vegetable harlequin acidulated with Tasmanian honey, Image of gardens this morning,’ and Chef Passard’s exacting expectations the ingredients were all to be picked on the morning and not to see a refrigerator. It was a dish of exceptional colour, taste and textures paired perfectly with 2016 Josef Chromy Gewürztraminer. Each and every course offered a myriad of pleasing aromas and flavours.

For the apprentices yesterday and over the weeks ahead their understanding and knowledge of what is possible within the kitchen will be completely turned on its head. Having access to the most exceptional chefs and the best produce Tasmania has to offer will be absolutely inspiring. It is a credit to all those involved who have brought this concept to reality. It is an opportunity for budding chefs to learn, highly acclaimed chefs to get familiar with the outstanding local produce, and us the customers to enjoy the results of this fantastic collaboration.

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A Meander Falls adventure.

The last time I made it to Meander Falls was a few years ago now, 18 years in fact, back in July 1999. It was with a friend of

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July 1999: George and myself (left) enjoying a glass of red!

mine, George Smith (now an excellent confectionery maker), we were much younger then obviously, so packing a hefty picnic of local produce and a bottle of red wine made complete sense! There was snow on the ground and a good flow of water down the falls. I can only presume the logic of carrying in a bottle of wine was to help make the journey out a little more warming. Clearly no thought was given to the possibility of reducing the steadiness on one’s feet. This time round I was travelling with my teenage son, and sensibly no wine, who had amazingly agreed to accompany me. It is a 4 – 5 hour return walk, a time and distance he has balked at in the past. In addition I knew of an alternate route to the falls and on arriving at the car park I quipped, “Mate, how would you like to take the long way to the falls?”

Meander Falls cascades down off the Central Plateau Conservation Area which makes up part of the Great Western Tiers (Kooparoona Niara: meaning ‘mountains of the spirits’) mountain range. It is a component of the over 1.5 million hectares listed as Wilderness World Heritage Area in Tasmania. The walk is a challenging day out and the track, while well defined, is by no means easy. All along the path there are exposed roots and rocks. It is steep in places and narrow, with sections winding precariously close to the edge of sheer drops with no railings. Rightly so, the Meander Falls walk is one of Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service ’60 Great Short Walks’ but less experienced walkers should allow up to 6.5 hours to complete the round trip.

IMG_4486As I mentioned earlier though, there is another route to Meander Falls, and I did put the idea in my son’s head to take that option. Whilst I was familiar with the track I had not attempted it before. It is known as the Split Rock track (Cleft Rock track on some maps), less often used, and significantly longer with stretches which demand both concentration and experience to navigate successfully. While the more direct Meander Falls track mostly follows the course of the Meander River, the Split Rock track immediately takes you across the river and plunges into steep, dense rainforest terrain. The sound of the river is left behind, markers are scarce, the path rarely trodden, and this is just the easier sections!

In a little over half an hour we had reached Split Rock, an impressive moss and fern blanketed stone protrusion divided into two, who knows how many eons ago, enabling a straight way up the hillside. A tree has kindly sprouted in the crevasse, its roots providing a natural stairway up through the split. We were fortunate to have a clear day so took a short break on the precipice to survey the area from where we had come. The expanse of forest is spectacular and what I believe to be Wild Dog Tier (still learning my geography), loomed in the distance. My son was enjoying the experience so far and had not yet asked the dreaded ‘how much further’ question. The next leg of the journey was to Split Rock Falls.

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Back at the starting point two falls are mentioned on the signage, Split Rock and Shower Cave, and the map indicates them both being not far from each other. We reached the sign pointing us in the direction of Split Rock Falls without too much trouble. There are red triangular markers nailed into trees, yellow if you are travelling in the opposite direction, as well as orange ribbons sporadically tied to branches. With the constantly changing nature of the forest, trees having come down and the like, there was some guess work to be done on occasion before the next marker came into view. The descent down to the falls is well worth the effort. We only found what I presume is Shower Cave Falls, a gentle spray of water spilling from a rocky outcrop enabling us to walk in behind the falls without getting drenched. The rocks at the base of the falls are scarred with little craters from the continual shower effect of the falls. I would have happily lingered but not having a good sense of how long we had to go I wanted to get moving.

The uphill continued, steadily, and my teenage sidekick was finding it tough going. Eventually the forest opened up and Bastion Bluff towered before us. We were well over three hours into our journey and here the hike changed dramatically. The path stopped and a sea of rocks and boulders awaited. My son’s diminishing enthusiasm was revitalised, experiencing for the first time such an extraordinary and challenging landscape. He is a difficult kid to impress, engaging him for a reaction to just about anything gets a standard response, “yeah, it was good.” As I skipped ahead over the rocks to survey our route I heard, “Wow… wooow, how many rocks are here!” He was captivated. Nothing had held his gaze this long since Minecraft came into his life. As a parent these are moments you cherish, knowing you have just made an indelible mark on their memory.

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From here on in small piles of stones stacked on prominent boulders every fifty metres or so would guide our way. I dread to think how you would find your way should mist or foul weather descend. We were still ascending toward the plateau between Meander Crag and Bastion Bluff. Deft footwork is required and ankles, knees and hips get a sturdy workout as you hop from rock to rock. As the land levels off plant life returns, alpine shrubs bunch together tightly, growth stunted, and almost all with prickly foliage. We came to a point where we tried four or five paths all of which came to an abrupt end. Thickets of native bush, which have survived many more winters than I have, did not want us to go any further.  We had only recently passed two walkers, travelling in the other direction, and at the time I had wondered why they were wearing strong leather gloves. We had stopped for a brief chat and they were veterans of the track. It was obvious now, the gloves were to do battle with the tangle of scrub before us.

Looking over the mass of green in front of us I could see the valley below. A narrow trail of prehistoric trees indicated the Meander River below. It led back up to a cliff face from where the falls spilled down. There was also plenty more rock to descend across! In the end it was only a short struggle through to the return of the rocky terrain. Wearing gaiters and decent hiking boots I took the lead and made a way for my son to follow. The last few metres were too much and too thick for him to traverse without his legs and trousers ending up shredded. He scrambled onto my shoulders and with both luck and some acrobatic balancing I managed to deposit him safely onto the nearest boulder. The downhill, as is often the case, was more arduous than the uphill but with plenty of stone mounds as beacons we made it down without incident. We crossed the Meander River and with some relief reconnected to the more direct track that continues on to the falls. The rock hopping had taken an hour and a half to negotiate.

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Making it to the base of the falls was a triumph. My son quickly removed his shoes and soaked his tired feet in the bracing pure water. We sat mostly silently watching tiny fresh-water shrimps go about their underwater business. The air was still and warm, the only sound was the flow of the falls before us. It is difficult to appreciate their full height from so close up. It was strenuous going over the plateau but it had given us a fantastic perspective of the full height of the falls. A late lunch of sandwiches, backs leaning against an ancient pencil pine, renewed our energy in preparation for the return journey, thankfully along the more direct route this time. The fagus, Tasmania’s only native deciduous tree, around the waterhole were hinting at the change of season ahead. The outermost leaves were already altering from their usual deep dark green to a striking golden amber. The remarkable native flora should not be overlooked. It is reassuring to know this tract of land and everything that grows within it is protected in perpetuity.

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We gathered ourselves up and set off for the return to the carpark, not long after an exhausted voice asked, “How much further?”

“About two hours,” I mumbled, hoping it wouldn’t register.

It had been a long day and this final stretch tested my son’s resilience. His legs were pretty much sapped of energy as the carpark came into sight. “So, how was that?” I enquired.

“Amazing and horrendous,” came the shattered reply.

 

Map and directions from Launceston. Total walk time for us on the Split Rock/Meander Falls circuit was 8 hours. Allow 4.5 – 6.5 hours depending on experience/fitness taking the more direct Meander Falls track. There is no mobile phone reception at all along the walk, notify someone of your plans before setting off. Sounds a little too difficult, Westmorland Falls is an enjoyable and significantly easier option. waterfallsoftasmania.com.au offers a comprehensive guide to the many waterfalls to be explored around Tasmania. See Tasmania Parks and Wildlife 60 Great Short Walks (with app store link) for more adventures.

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Narawntapu National Park (Part 1) – some history.

Tasmania has nineteen National Parks covering in excess of 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres). The vast majority of protected land is in the near inaccessible south-west wilderness up to the central highlands and iconic Cradle Mountain. The most famous coastal National Park is of course Freycinet and its pristine beach of Wineglass Bay. As a child I remember our big old blue canvas tent being thrown in the boot of the car, with a weekend of supplies, and heading for Bakers Beach in the lesser known Asbestos Range National Park. Today if you scroll through the list of National Parks, Asbestos Range National Park is nowhere to be found, so what has happened to this childhood destination?

The Asbestos Range National Park came into being in 1976. It is on the central-north coast, a little over an hour drive north-west of Launceston and about half an hour east of Devonport. The National Park’s coastline spans Point Griffiths to West Head, taking in Bakers Beach, Badger Head and Badger Beach. Inland over the dunes fresh water lagoons and lowland plains are home to an abundance of wildlife. The landscape rises up almost 400 metres above sea level at Point Vision and along the Asbestos Range on the edge of the National Park.

While asbestos was never mined within the Asbestos Range the name came about because small scale mining of asbestos and other minerals did occur within the region. Originally 3330 hectares were recognised for conservation as a National Park, and presumably because the range was the most notable topographical feature of the area, the name Asbestos Range National Park came into being. By the late ’90s the tragic effects of asbestos mining was well and truly in the public eye. It was decided the name was a deterrent for visitors. In May 1999 the National Park became the first in Tasmania to be known by its pre-European name. Long before European arrival Tasmanian Aboriginal people have called the area between Badger Head and West Head, Narawntapu (pronunciation here) and so it is now, Narawntapu National Park. Still the same National Park from my childhood but with a new name acknowledging the first inhabitants of the region.

Within the National Park there remains physical evidence of Aboriginal people having lived in the area on a permanent basis. While major investigations have not taken place middens and artefact scatterings have been located. The Parks and Wildlife Service consider the area to be of “high archeological sensitivity and significance”. George Bass (with Matthew Flinders) in 1798 explored the coastline on board The Norfolk and he recorded in his journal sighting huts built around what is now the eastern end of the National Park. It is clear the settlement history of the region did not begin a few hundred years ago but thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years ago.

It was the first half of the 1800s that Europeans made their mark on the land. Initially George Hall became a landholder buying 960 acres of Crown Land in 1838. It became known as Spring Lawn and the land now within the National Park still bears this name. Mr Hall arrived in Hobart in 1830, the son of a British Army Major based in India, and was appointed the superintendent to the hulks chain-gang. That is, managing the worst of the worst convicts whose home behind bars was in the dilapidated hulks of converted tall ships. He moved north in 1834 living around the district of what is now Deloraine taking up farming before his move to Spring Lawn.

With the assistance of convict labour George Hall set about turning Spring Lawn into a profitable agricultural venture. Marshlands were drained and potatoes, oats and wheat were planted. A house was built, and in the short term Mr Hall’s endeavours proved financially rewarding. Irishman, James Fenton, a farmer and notable historian (author of A History of Tasmania From its Discovery in 1642 to the Present Day) became a neighbour of Mr Hall where he “…built a cottage, grew a few potatoes, and ran stock, under the shadow of Badger Head” (The North West Post, Aug 29, 1906). By 1844 though business had turned sour for Mr Hall and Spring Lawn was on the market, to be sold at auction, “…the auctioneer finds himself quite inadequate to the task of describing the various natural beauties and many advantages this estate possesses…” (Launceston Examiner, Jan 27, 1844). It appears a Mr George Baker was the highest bidder and therefore became the new owner of Spring Lawn.

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Launceston Examiner Saturday March 23, 1850

The Baker family continued to work the land for about seventy years with the property
being passed on to George’s son Edwin. Their time as the custodians of Spring Lawn did not go without incident or media attention. George Baker in 1853 sheltered and assisted the escape from Van Diemen’s Land of John Mitchel, an Irish Nationalist, who had been sentenced to transportation for treason. There is evidence to suggest both George and his son Edwin went bankrupt on separate occasions yet managed to retain the property. Edwin was arrested and, “charged with having, at Beaconsfield, on Feb. 27, feloniously administered noxious drugs to one Sarah Price, with intent to produce abortion” (The Tasmanian, Mar 17, 1888). Some years later Edwin again made the local papers after he had his brother arrested, “…for presenting a revolver at him… over an old family quarrel…” (Tasmanian News, Jan 3, 1899). Bakers Beach, the main beach of Narawntapu National Park is named after them as is the lesser known Bakers Point.

Around about 1914, Spring Lawn came into the ownership of the Addison family. It seems John and his second wife Blanche took over the property from the Bakers. Back in 1887 Edwin Baker’s brother James married a Martha Addison, whether there is a connection here I am uncertain and will leave further investigation to any interested descendants. The Addisons certainly resided at Spring Lawn well into the 1940s. Two daughters of Mr and Mrs Addison, Hazel and Gladys, are noted for their contribution to the Port Sorell CWA Branch Ball, “A fruit cake made and donated by Misses H. and G. Addison, ‘Spring Lawn’…” (Advocate, Jun 26, 1945). While the routine of farm life carried on Bakers Beach was becoming a destination for high-speed adventure seekers.

In 1926 a group of Victorian

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Austin Miller completing a practice run at Bakers Beach. (Victorian Historic Racing Register Archive, State Library of Victoria)

and Tasmanian motor cyclists made their way onto Bakers Beach to cruise the long flat sandy coastline. Four years later the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club held its first state championships on the beach. Events, including national championships and speed record attempts, continued for many years after. The most notable was the Australian land speed record attempted by Austin ‘Aussie’ Miller in 1961. Mr Miller, a racing enthusiast, had a vehicle but not with the horse power required to achieve the feat. A 400hp corvette engine was procured from a boat which had recently broken a water speed record in Victoria. By all accounts the huge engine was not at all compatible with the small car. Somehow it all came together on the day and a new record of 164 miles per hour was achieved! (A full account of the record attempt can be read here.)

An impressive history for what is now a stunning National Park. Today it is entirely a place of relaxation and one of the best opportunities to see up close the amazing native wildlife of Tasmania. There is plenty of walking, of the not too arduous kind, and the lagoons are a haven for water birds. Camping, motor homes and day visitors are all provided for. The Parks and Wildlife Visitors Centre is open seven days and has all the local information you may require.

Further reading if you haven’t already: Narawntapu National Park (Part 2) – some adventure.

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Bakers Beach

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Narawntapu National Park (Part 2) – some adventure.

There is hope, my youngest child has been enthusing about more regular adventures. When I quiz her on how long she would like the walk to be there is often a comical response, “Forty-eight-hundred-hours!” or where she would like to walk to, “New York!” We are spoilt for choice in Tasmania for walking, from easy strolls to arduous multi-day experiences. Where should I take my four year old that would be within her abilities and offer an enjoyable introduction to longer walks?

Past family outings have almost always ventured into old growth and rainforest settings (Tasmanian wilderness and beach… in a day, A West Tamar adventure). The two older kids are less enthusiastic about the great outdoors so walks have seldom gone beyond an hour. For this walk I was looking for something of about two hours duration, knowing with a small child it would likely take at least three, and without too much incline. Narawntapu National Park is on the central north coast of Tasmania, a little over an hour drive from Launceston, and has several excellent walking tracks. Archers Knob was to be our destination. At a little over 100 metres elevation and with the option to return via Bakers Beach it is perfect for young and old alike.

We checked in at the Parks and Wildlife Visitors Centre for a briefing from the Ranger on the day’s conditions. Tasmania has experienced one of its wettest winters on record (2016) so while still very manageable the track to Archers Knob has suffered some erosion. Returning via Bakers Beach is dependent on the tides as there can be very little beach to stroll along at high tide. For us it was good timing as the tide was not due to peak until late afternoon. As the weather warms up toward summer keeping an eye out for snakes is advisable. Tasmania does not do non-venomous snakes but all our other reptilian and mammalian wildlife is pretty much harmless.

fullsizeoutput_8fdThe first section of the track is in part over an elevated boardwalk through paperbark swamp to a bird hide which looks out over the Spinglawn Lagoon. There are plenty of wading birds and ducks bobbing on the water. Keep an eye out skyward also, the white bellied sea eagle while not often seen does reside in and around the national park. The sea eagle, and wedge tail eagle, are spectacular viewing, watching them soar above with wingspans that can reach over two metres.

The coast wattle was in full bloom and wallabies regularly darted across the track in front of us as we continued on. There was a short tricky part of the track, a scramble over  loose rocks and weather damaged rough ground shortly before the ascent up the hill begins. The winter rain has carved a deep rut through parts of the path as it rises up to Archers Knob. The gradient is not steep but until repairs can be made there are a few awkward spots that require care when traversing to avoid rolling an ankle.

fullsizeoutput_8ffThe view west back down to Springlawn Lagoon and Bakers Beach is most impressive from the summit while the view to the east, Little Badger Head and Badger Head, is best about halfway up. There are a couple of theories on the origin of the name Badger Head. The first  is that wombats, which are in abundance in the national park, were often referred to as badgers by the British colonists hence the name. The other is the coastal features are named after Charlotte Badger, a convict, who in 1806 was being transferred from Sydney to Hobart. The story goes she lead a successful mutiny of the cargo ship Venus when it was anchored off the coast. In short, she and her crew sailed on to New Zealand where she settled in with a Maori chief for some years. The accounts vary widely that she ended up in Tonga and even perhaps made her way eventually to America on a returning whaling boat.

fullsizeoutput_8fcAfter lingering for a while taking in the view and a snack it was time to head back down the hill and make our way to the beach. The track to the beach seems longer than necessary until you realise it navigates around another smaller lagoon tucked in between the dunes. The tide retreats a long way out and the beach slopes away very gently leaving a vast space for any child, or adult, to explore. My daughter’s shoes and socks were quickly discarded and her pockets were immediately being filled with shells of all shapes and colours. The skeletal remains of a porcupine fish held her attention for quite some time and a shark’s egg was a great find. There was not another soul on the beach. This is not uncommon in Tasmania.

It was a very leisurely stroll back along the beach. From the beach back to the Visitors Centre is via the (unsealed) road and someone was reluctant to put their shoes back on. It was only a few hundred metres so she climbed onto my back and her walking was done for the day. We stopped to watch kangaroos grazing and even a few wombats. By the time we reached the car we had been out and about for almost four hours, an idyllic four hours. We’ll be back again soon no doubt.

Further reading if you haven’t already: Narawntapu National Park (Part 1) – some history.

Map and directions from Launceston.

Map and directions from the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry Terminal Devonport.

Facilities, walking tracks and activities at Narawntapu National Park.

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fullsizeoutput_900Pick up some flotsam…

Tasmania’s beaches and coastline are predominantly unspoiled. It is important they remain this way, not only for the native wildlife inhabitants but also for our enjoyment too. Plastic is the biggest challenge our shorelines face. Whether it be by accident or carelessness it is turning up on our beaches. I urge anyone and everyone to pick up a piece of flotsam as you leave from your day or weekend at the beach and find a bin for proper disposal.

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A South Esk adventure (and some history too).

Launceston has evolved and spread out over the years from the intersection of three waterways. The North and South Esk Rivers unite and their combined waters form the Tamar River which winds northward, for over seventy kilometres, to Port Dalrymple and the open waters of Bass Strait. The South Esk offers one of Launceston’s most visited tourist destinations, The Cataract Gorge Reserve, most often called ‘The Basin’ or ‘The Gorge’ by locals. Can the river offer further adventure, beyond The Basin, without the need to leave the suburbs that form the City of Launceston?

The South Esk River, between Trevallyn Dam and the Cataract Gorge, has for much of my life been a destination for fun and exploration. I grew up within walking distance of a section known as Duck Reach. In my youth it was my swimming hole, adventure playground and escape from suburban boredom. It was an ideal location to bunk off school… allegedly. Further up river the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area was a regular site for family picnics. A portable gas barbecue lived permanently in the cavernous boot of our old Holden Kingswood.

It had been my plan to complete the walk from Trevallyn Dam into town later this year, when the days grew longer and warmer. Then, with torrential winter rain, came the biggest floodwaters seen in Launceston since 1929 so I hastily threw some gear into my back-pack and set out to survey the scene of the dramatically rising waters. As it was not to be a return walk my first task was to drive into Launceston, from my home in Trevallyn, leave my car and hail a taxi to take me back up the hill to Trevallyn Dam.

(It is a 10-12 minute taxi journey from central accommodation providers with a fare of about Aus$15.00)

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Trevallyn Dam.

Since colonisation, the South Esk has been an important river for Launceston. There is plenty of historical evidence along the walk, of human endeavour to engineer the river for trade and public utilities. The most obvious is Trevallyn Dam, the starting point for my walk. The dam makes a small contribution to the state’s power supply by diverting water via underground pipeline to the Trevallyn Power Station. I have seen the dam overflowing on many occasions over the years but never with the fury of this day. Not just floating logs but entire trees were being drawn over and smashed into the rapids below. Rain was still falling so I did not linger for too long. The walking track begins at the entrance gates to the dam and the first leg is to the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area, marked as the South Esk Track.

The river raging below could be seen intermittently and the path meandered through classic Tasmanian bushland of wattle, eucalypt, blackwood and sheoak. After an easy half an hour stroll the path enters the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area. This is a multi-use area for mountain bike riding, horse riding, dog walking and general recreation. There is a large open A-framed shelter known as the Hoo Hoo Hut and viewing platforms situated to take in the view back up the river. Because of the activities within the area there are tracks heading in many directions. I cannot find any information on the origin of the name but the path to follow is Dead Man’s Knob track, yes really! My next stop was the long abandoned Duck Reach Power Station.

(Look out for mountain bike riders as it is a shared track.)

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Abandoned Duck Reach Power Station.

Operating from 1895 – 1955 Duck Reach Power Station was the first publicly owned hydro-electric scheme in Australia and with the introduction of electric street lights Launceston was considered one of the best illuminated cities in the country. The old power station still stands, it was retired at the commencement of the Trevallyn Dam, a monument to the engineering skills of Charles St. John David. In 1995, 100 years after it opened, the power station was partially renovated and the doors opened to offer an insight into its historical importance to Launceston. The footbridge across the river was also reinstated having been washed away in 1969, and previously in the great flood of 1929. As I stood alongside the old power station and watched this most recent flood of June 2016, lapping at the underside of the bridge, I was left wondering if it would not have to be rebuilt a fourth time!

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Footbridge at Duck Reach.

The river had not peaked, and sensibly the footbridge had been closed, so I trekked back up the hillside to the Reedy Gully Fire Trail destined for The Basin. The fire trail meets up with the narrower Snake Gully track (there’s a clue in the name if visiting in the summer months) which leads directly into the top side of The Basin. Originally referred to as The Cliff Grounds, the top side of The Basin has the feel of an arboretum. There is an impressive American redwood and many mature conifers which were once seedlings sourced from Hobart’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Development of the area began in the late 1800s and records kept by the Launceston City Council show visitor numbers of 63,500 for 1904!

During the summer months the Cataract Gorge is a popular destination for tourists and locals. The lower side has a public swimming pool, first constructed in 1937, café, playground and an extensive grass area to relax and laze about on. Once-upon-a-time, 1969-94(?), there was an annual Basin Concert which would fill the area with thousands of music fans, so much so, people would dance the afternoon away knee deep in the paddling pool. On this occasion though the flood waters had inundated the entire area, pool and playground. Water levels peaked at just over ten metres above the usual flow! The volume of water fuming through The Basin was hard to comprehend. One of the best views of The Basin is from the Alexandra Lookout located above the Alexandra Suspension Bridge which, under normal conditions, provides a walkway across the South Esk to the lower southern side. The original bridge was opened in 1904 but it too was overcome by the 1929 floods. It was soon rebuilt and has remained in place ever since.

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The Basin in flood from The Cliff Grounds side.

What’s under all that water?

There was only one path available to follow the river from here on in. The Alexandra Bridge was closed and the chairlift which traverses The Basin was also out of action. The chairlift is touted as the longest single span chairlift in the world. There is 308 metres between pylons as you gently sway above the gorge while taking in the vista. Located within The Cliff Grounds is the Gorge Restaurant and Kiosk built in 1900. It first operated as a tearoom and was a more permanent solution to the ‘refreshments tent’ of the late 1890s. Nearby, built in the same year, the bandstand now houses some historical information of the area and below it are public toilets. From here the last section of the walk follows the earliest route into The Cliff Grounds for visitors. Along the way, and when the river is not so turbulent, there are several signs of the first attempts to make the waterway work for the then developing township. Remnants of the mill dam can be seen and on the far side of the river rusted metal framework still lingers, bolted into the rock face. The frames held in place wooden flumes which funnelled water from the mill dam downstream to Ritchies Flour Mill. The water ran the waterwheel, and because it was fresh, was a lucrative commodity supplying the town for many years.

It is not long before Kings Bridge comes into view, officially opened in February 1864 and widened with a second arch in 1904, the bridge connects the many households of Trevallyn to central Launceston. The very photogenic Caretaker’s Cottage overlooks the bridge and the now disused toll booth still stands at the entrance. The eyebolts, which held rope to guide the punt across the river before the bridge was in place, are still firmly lodged in the rocks below. Kings Bridge also signals the end of the South Esk River and the beginning of the Tamar. Across the bridge Ritchies Mill has been converted into an art gallery, providore and the highly regarded Stillwater Restaurant. The attached millers cottage is now a hairdresser. Opposite the mill is Penny Royal World, a recently rejuvenated tourist attraction of sorts, built within a large quarry which was integral to the development of Launceston. The quarried dolomite stone was used for road building and over 150 years later can still be found around town.

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Frederick Street, original dolomite road kerb.

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Looking back up the South Esk from Kings Bridge with the Caretaker’s Cottage on the right.

From Kings Bridge I made my way over to Royal Park and the Seaport, a restaurant and accommodation precinct built along the point where the North Esk River also meets the Tamar. The boardwalk path began to go under not long after I had walked it. This was the first real test of the flood levees erected over the years to prevent a flood such as this becoming a disaster. The good news is they were incredibly effective! It was time now to make my way back to the car and think about picking up my kids from school. With many stops for photos and time spent watching the torrents of water pass by it was a journey of about 4.5 hours. On a summer’s day though it could easily become a day adventure taking a break to swim, either in the river or pool, or enjoying a long lunch. The South Esk is an impressive river and there certainly is plenty more to see beyond The Basin. It begins on the south eastern side of the Ben Lomond plateau and wanders past the country towns of Longford, Evandale, Hadspen, Avoca and Fingal. The longest river in the state, Tasmanian Aborigines know it as, Mangana lienta, large stream with fresh water. It is certainly that and more.

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Map of Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area walking tracks. The history of Duck Reach Power Station and the engineering feat of Charles St. John David. There is an alternate route from Duck Reach into The Basin and on to Kings Bridge: Cross the foot bridge at Duck Reach to the southern side of the river and follow the Duck Reach Track into The Basin. Explore the area before setting out on The Zig Zag Track to Kings Bridge, Ritchies Mill and central Launceston. A guide to parks and reserves in Launceston. Historical references and dates were sourced from the book Health, Wealth and Tribulation Launceston’s Cataract Gorge by Paul A.C. Richards & Murray Johnson.

Dining and food options along the journey:

The Gorge Restaurant. – The Basin Café. – Stillwater. – The Mill Providore.

The June 2016 floods were some of the most destructive Tasmania has ever seen. Several lives were lost and while Launceston’s flood levees kept the floodwaters at bay the impact for rural communities has been devastating. This winter has been one of the wettest on record and the clean up will be ongoing for quite some time.

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Westmorland Falls.

In our family of five I have come to accept that it is just me who likes the idea of walks going beyond two hours. Even two hours for the others is a stretch unless it involves a beach and plenty of sunshine. The trick is finding a convenient time to skip town for a solo adventure into the wilderness. Can I get the kids to school, head out for an adventure and be back in time for the school pick up and their afternoon activities?

Since childhood the Great Western Tiers (Kooparoona Niara: meaning ‘mountains of the spirits’) have always been a destination for adventure. Growing up we camped under their shadow. They stretch from the north-west down through to central Tasmania for over 100 kilometres. My older brothers scaled the bluffs along the range and my favourite ‘secret spot’ in Tasmania, on the beginnings of the Mersey River, has the Tiers as a dramatic backdrop. It is an area of escape and great relaxation for me.

IMG_1462On the highway from Launceston you will not miss the signs encouraging you to head in the direction of Liffey Falls. Also starting out from a source high above on the plateau of the Great Western Tiers,  Liffey Falls is one of the most visited falls in the state both for its ease of access and grand presence deep in World Heritage listed rainforest. Sometimes though, you want to avoid the popular, and end up away from the well worn tracks. Westmorland Falls offers seclusion and a relatively easy two hour return walk into a narrow and pretty ‘horsetail’ type waterfall.

IMG_1164There is only one small sign for the falls, spelt with an ‘e’, Westmoreland Falls, at a T-junction a kilometre or two before the carpark. At this point the road becomes unsealed and meanders through a cattle farm and past a side entrance, for experienced cavers, to the underground network that is Mole Creek Caves. I must admit on arriving I was disappointed to find another car already parked. How dare they know about this place. The morning was threatening rain. As I suited up appropriately into wet weather gear two backpackers emerged, in shorts and t-shirts, we said our greetings and they drove away. The track was all mine!

There are no significantly steep parts to the track. It winds its way across the hillside slowly taking you further into the depths of the rainforest. The temperature begins to drop and the trees’ trunks and limbs around you are soon enveloped in mosses and lichens. Tree ferns stand over you, tiny birds perform acrobatics in the undergrowth, and wallabies scamper off into the distance. All around you it is green, a sumptuous and vivid green.

IMG_1140In January 2011 there was an unseasonal torrential downpour. The creeks burst their banks and the massive volume of water that tore through the area destroyed foot bridges and parts of the walking track. It was two years before a new path and bridge were reinstated. The one time along the track that the canopy opens up is when you cross the bridge. The hugely eroded waterway is slowly returning to its former self. The forest is once again edging its way closer to the stream thanks to the dogwood saplings keen to take advantage of the previously washed away banks.

Across the bridge you immediately dive back into the depths of the rainforest. Another small stream keeps you company on your right and this waterway leads to your destination. Walking in May (and June), it is an opportunity to glimpse the array of fungi forcing their way through the undergrowth and protruding from the sides of fallen trees. The colours are confounding amongst the green and brown of the forest; bright red, purple, yellow and orange. Some stand alone and proud while others clump together forming a regiment preparing to do battle with the wintry elements.

The last stretch of the walk weaves its way between huge tree ferns, over some uneven slippery ground, and opens up to the viewing platform at the edge of the falls. Fern fronds and tree branches crowd in around the spilling water making it a difficult waterfall to photograph. Here alone though it is more than just seeing; breathing in the revitalising rainforest air, the sounds of the forest from water, wind and wildlife, give you a time of quietude that cannot be taken for granted. I am very fortunate to be living in Tasmania and to have such ease of access to these remarkable environments.

IMG_1430Most of the animal life within the forest, at the sound of human footsteps, swiftly disappear. Leeches are an exception. There are several species here in Tasmania and there are plenty in residence along the track eager for a close encounter. Making my way back I often stopped, stooping low to take a photo of fungi. Before too long I noticed a small black sucker hellbent on attaching itself to me. I do not know how their senses work but without eyes or apparent nose they hone in on you with surgical precision! This one though did not get a piece of me.

Of course I had been outsmarted, arriving back at the carpark I soon found two other leeches attached to my calf feverishly engorging themselves. I ended their feeding by plucking them off and flinging them back to their forest habitat. It was now time to return to my suburban habitat, refreshed and rejuvenated. On the journey home I found myself already planning my next exploration into the Great Western Tiers.

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Unfortunately between the time of walking the Westmorland Falls track and writing this blog northern Tasmania has experienced major winter flooding. Once again the track is closed due to water damage. Check the Parks and Wildlife Service closures and re-openings page for updates of all affected areas around the state. (UPDATE: March 2017 – Track is repaired and reopened)

Map and directions from Launceston. Stop in at the Chudleigh General Store for a bacon roll, coffee and some country hospitality before the walk. On the main street of Mole Creek the Mountain Huts Preservation Society have relocated Liena Hut for permanent display. It offers an insight into the lives of the ‘trappers’ who spent much of their time in the surrounding wilderness. Tulampanga (Alum Cliffs), between Chudleigh and Mole Creek, is a place of significance for Tasmanian Aborigines and the short walk provides an informative history of the area. For further information see Great Western Tiers Touring Route.

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