Wild West Tasmania

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I actually woke up early for once; despite going to bed at 12:30, I was up at 5:40 and on the road with Andrew about an hour after that. As it was only the two of us, the itinerary was pretty much whatever I wanted within reason. We stopped for breakfast in Westbury and looked at a big map they have on the wall of Tasmania. As Chelsea would say, “It looks like a heart!” The itinerary was a stop in some caves, a short walk in Cradle Mountain national park, and then camp. But I saw the Walls of Jerusalem park, which I’d heard was beautiful right beside it, so the next thing I knew, we were making steam for the Moses Creek track, a track that is classified “T-4: No groups over four, no publication or images, etc”. That is, when we were actually on the track, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I would later refer to the track as the “Lord of the Rings” track, because you kept thinking it was the end and then half an hour later, you were still not at the troopy. But we did find our way back… eventually.

We started out in the conventional way. Fairly clear track, walk along it, la dee da, fork in the path, which way do we go? But soon we got onto a much less used track. To give you an idea of remoteness, we would be on this track for 9 hours of arduous hiking and not see another soul. We trekked through forest and came across an area that had burned about 10 years ago and not though it no longer looked charred it was definitely still a clearing. The next clearing we came to was a peaty meadow-bog, which had a grand looking mountain on the horizon. Mount Ragoona, I was told, and was surprised to learn it was our destination today. Not only was it high up there but it was not exactly nearby. We closed the gap by going off trail and far more vertical than winding our way along the track on the backside. This was a great success, and we were up in record time. Andrew thought we might as well go down the other side and around to a trail along a different lake and have a different hike back, which I liked the idea of. Sure, a little more tramping off-track, no problem. What that meant, I would soon learn, was rock climbing down part of the face (not too far, thankfully) and walking under, around, over, and usually right through thick bush. Combined with a long walk up and a treacherous trek down, this was exhausting. Not only was my knee getting sore but I was getting physically exhausted. Had I known we still would be walking 4 hours later, I might’ve stumbled and collapsed right there, probably right onto a snake; snakes were just one thing to worry about. And then we kept going and going and not finding the trail. We were supposed to hit it right before the lake but we were just about on top of the lake and, given the increasingly late hour, even Andrew was starting to worry when finally we hit it. Yes, it still took a long time to get back, but at least not slogging through scrub.

We made it back to the car at 6:30, which made it the longest walk Andrew had ever taken anyone on commercially. To celebrate and soothe our aching legs, we went an extra 40 km to get some beer. It definitely hit the spot. Camp was nice, they had showers and everything there, and I was out like a light not long after the sun. The next day, we went to Cradle Mountain after helping another guide get her van started – the other guide had left the lights on. It didn’t take much and we were standing at one end of Dove Lake looking up as it reflected Cradle Mountain looming over top. It was a beautiful sight to behold and we had perfect weather, nary a cloud in the sky. We made our way up to Marion’s Lookout looking over Crater Lake and while Andrew had a sandwich, I ran up further hoping for some better shots of the lake. Instead, Barn Bluff was sitting over the ridge waiting for me. But it was not to be. Back down and on the road, iPod cranked, sun shining, and a nice cold Boags in my hand and we were on the road looking for somewhere to camp. We crossed the Pieman river and took a bit of a jaunt up a road that Andrew had blockaded (it cut the world’s then-largest temperate rainforest in two and is now known by locals as the ‘Road to Nowhere’) when he was 18. There was nothing to see but forest on either side though, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

We set up camp nice and early, much earlier than the previous night. Andrew put on some Xavier Rudd, John Butler, and then a third guy he’d heard of from a Canadian friend with some sitar. It was strange to look at the fire with this music – one of the logs looked like a dragon’s face, one that was unhappy – possibly because it was burning? The smoke came at me not long after I flunked this Rorschach test, as though it were being blown from the dragon’s mouth. I clumsily leaned to try to get out of the smoke and it followed as I almost fell out of my chair. Flames started to lick from the would-be dragon’s mouth as the sitar played loudly in the background, and the smoke relented and swung over to Andrew. He closed his eyes and time seemed to slow. It was a weird moment, I didn’t think he’d outlast the dragon and smoke engulfed him as white flakes of ash danced in the air. The smoke kept coming and he sat meditatively. And then, when I thought he could hold his breath no more, the smoke drifted away and he opened his eyes like nothing had happened. I had just witnessed an epic battle between man and nature, and he had no idea. I thought to myself that this must be what it’s like on some sort of hallucinogenic drug. As long as my imagination is this overactive, not only do I not need them (or want them), but it might be downright dangerous for me! At the very least, it told me that I should stop imagining I have any ability to write fiction.

The next day, we took a hike up Mount Donaldson, which was supposed to give nice views of the surrounding Tarkine forest and the ocean, but the weather was clouded and misty and we could only just make out the slightly darker line of the ocean on the horizon. We took a trip further down the coast and had lunch where the group normally camps. The west coast is open sea all the way to South Africa, so the surf is huge. Even on a day like today, where the waves were calm it was still an intimidating sight. We made our way further along to Zeehan for a chai latte and covered a lot of ground that afternoon, making our way on to a long a rugged 4WD track just past Lake St Clair which led to a pretty nice camp site. That allowed us to get an early start the next morning and have a good day hike in the lake area. The weather had been misty and cloudly all the previous day, so it was very nice that we had absolutely perfect weather. We climbed Mt Rufus into the sun, which offered some great views of the lake and valleys along. As it was such a clear day and the air was recently washed of impurity by yesterday's rain, we could see all the way to Frenchman's Cap and beyond from the top. The track back down was long and mostly uninteresting beyond the first bits, which were in 'marsupial lawns', grassy meadows in the middle of the scrub and of course walking along a ridge returning to earth.

Camp that night was the best campsite so far, on the shores of Pine Tier Lagoon, a very Austrian-looking lake. On top of having a bit of a much-needed swim, we had a little wildlife show as a mother possum with a baby on top was lurking around camp and then a quoll was bounding around as well. We thought they might scrap it out but there was no fight that night. My final day in the bush was a trip down to Mt. Field National Park, home of the famed Russell Falls, which is probably the most impressive waterfall in Australia as well as a couple smaller falls, Horseshoe and Lady Barron. I did a circuit of all three while Andrew went to make lunch, as well as the Giant Tree walk. The giant tree walk is just that, a circuit among the tallest hardwood trees in the world, Eucalyptus Regnas. Some of these trees were 27 stories high. If you were to put one of these trees in downtown Saskatoon, it would make the highest mark in the sky. Only the redwoods of California, which are a softwood, are taller in all the world.

I did the loop and walked to what I thought was Russell Falls but was actually Horseshoe, and then down to Lady Barron falls after that. Then I returned to camp to discover I had not seen the main attraction and whatsmore, after dropping me off, Andrew had seen a Platypus. A Platypus!! I've been trying my whole time here to see a platypus and there was one right by our camp while I was wandering around in the woods thinking I should've stopped by a washroom before my hike. I went along the river hoping to spot it, but to no avail, and then came back and had hamburgers. Andrew and I hiked up to Russell Falls which was not running at full strength with the drought, but was still incredible, especially with a little imagination. There was a wildlife park nearby and we stopped there as there are supposed to be plenty of platypi around. Again, no luck. We also went up to some more really tall trees that were slated to be cut down until some protesters managed to save them, but the amount saved was not exactly generous. Then back to Hobart, for some pizza, a stay with Kerri (another couch surfer), and I was off to Melbourne and civilization once more.

West Coast Tasmania Photos

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