Winter in Tassie

Just for a change we’ve taken only our 2nd trip to Tasmania in winter. It’s the season to chase waterfalls and we found there was almost too much water as 75mm fell the night before we arrived. In the north we visited our favourite Liffey Falls which was roaring. The Honeycomb Caves we have explored in the past could not be entered due to the water flowing through. We joined with Robin, a local who chases unknown waterfalls, to visit Montana Falls and to revisit the very impressive Sensation Gorge.

A trip to Meander Falls that we had previously seen trickling over in summer had us climbing up into the snow. The falls were flowing well but we didn’t linger in the cold. We had to wade the cold Mother Cummings rivulet to visit Chasm falls but it was as always worth it.

We headed south to base ourselves in Kingston and chase more waterfalls and peaks. Snug falls were flowing well and Pelverata falls were an unexpected delight as they dropped down an impressively stepped mountainside. A glorious day had us heading south to climb Hartz Peak. The clear night had all the pools covered with ice and the snow on the peak being hard and slippery. We took it carefully and were rewarded with grand 360 degree views.

As Jessica and Nick returned home we headed to more waterfalls on Mt Wellington. Myrtle Gully falls look much better with a decent fall of water and Secret Falls are very mysterious. Dark Mofo was on so we had dinner at the midwinter feast with a great variety of food stalls to choose from.

We were booked in to stay at Government Huts on Mt Field but made a stop at Russell Falls on the way. There was a very impressive display of fungi and as usual it was Horseshoe falls that captured all out attention.

We were lucky to have a blue sky day to climb up to Tarn Shelf as the others in the huts had had days of drizzle. It meant the snow was again treacherous (at least to we cautious oldies!) but we made it safely to Rodway Hut. It was then fairly easy to head to the tarns, the first one of which had a layer of ice on top. After lots of photos we headed back down.

We were lucky enough to have a visit from a quoll who enjoyed the milk that had been left out in the cold. The possums here are very dark and have a thick coating of winter fur. The setting of the huts by a valley with tarns and pencil pines had us making numerous trips outside to capture it in various lights including a frost on the last morning.

We headed up the east coast for our trip home stopping at Swansea to enjoy sunrise and sunset over the Hazards on Freycinet Peninsula.

Our final night was at St Helens with a visit to the Bay of Fires then a couple more waterfalls on the way to Devenport.

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Walking to The Labyrinth

IMG_56907 IMG_3136While we were in Tasmania we joined with two of our children to revisit the Labyrinth, a trip we had done previously with all the family in 2005. We had limited time so decided to walk into Pine Valley Hut and do day walks from there. Ray and I walked in to Echo Point Hut carrying all the food because the boat was too expensive with only two of us on the afternoon run. As usual it was harder than we remembered but that was because of heavy packs and September snow that had knocked over many trees. We had to go over, under and around them until we finally arrived at the hut in its unique setting,  hidden in the trees but opening to a lake view.

We went on to Narcissus Hut and then Pine Valley, passing a very still snake that could well have been dead except it was gone on the way out. We reminisced about our first trip in when many of the rivers were crossed on logs rather than bridges. The logs are still there but no longer used. Our children finally caught up with us after they set off a day and a half after us.

We visited Cephissus Falls and climbed to the Acropolis plateau in the afternoon. The snow detered us from climbing to the top.

The next day was a picture perfect day to climb to the Labyrinth. The track no longer went through the bog our friend was caught in years ago but it still had the same big steps near the plateau that took an effort to get up with a full pack. We wandered on to Lake Elysia and enjoyed the vistas of snow dappled mountains. We missed out on the sunset views over the mountains as seen from our camp in 2005. We revisited the falls on the way out.

We headed on out the next day, Ray and I taking the boat after Jessica and Shaun had walked all the way out the previous day.

The weather was too good to waste so Ray and I  completed the circuit walk to Mt Rufus and discovered what we’d missed out on all these years. It was well worth the big effort.

The Colours of Spring

Spring saw us in Tasmania to see the tulip display at Table Cape with the waterfalls being a bonus. We started by visiting the bathing boxes in Brighton, Victoria while we waited to board the Spirit of Tasmania. They are certainly very colourful and bring lots of people to see them.

We went straight to visit the tulips but we were too early and so spent a week chasing waterfalls before returning to an amazing display of colour and well worth taking a special trip to Tassie.

The Tasmanian coast provides lots of opportunities to create colourful photos with rocks covered with vivid orange lichen or bright green algae or just beautiful patterns. Sunsets and rises are often special when there is nothing to block your view and you can never beat blue water and coloured rocks.

Springtime brings out the blossom and unsettled weather especially on the west coast. We took some walks in the fresh, green forest and discovered the magical Japanese garden at the Hobart botanic gardens.

The Wet Tropics

From desert like countryside to rain and mist was a bit of a shock. After brilliant sunshine every day we now had constant cloud but it is called the wet tropics for a reason. We started in the Atherton Tablelands and visited lots of waterfalls so we couldn’t complain about the wet. We revisited all out favourites from previous visits. A highlight was being shown a Lumholz tree kangaroo high in a tree at Millaa Millaa caravan park – it was a long way away but it was in the wild!

We next visited Paronella Park after having recommendations from everyone who has been to this part of Queensland. Built by Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella in 1929-35 it was a popular pleasure garden and the site of the first power plant in North Queensland. It thrived until setbacks saw it closed in 1979 until being revived by the present owners in 1993. It is once again a thriving tourist attraction and very well presented with camping available and tours provided with entry.

We took a couple of inland deviations to Tully Gorge and Blencoe Falls. Tully Gorge was up an easy bitumen road to a campsite where we watched the parade of rafters and kayakers who come to this river every day. Blencoe Falls was over the ranges on a rough dirt road to an amazing waterfall and peaceful campsite by the creek.

Jourama Creek was another favourite campsite that had to be revisited and then we found our way to Broadwater camp in Abergowrie forest with only one wrong turn. It has a huge camping area that we had almost to ourselves apart from visits by goannas. A night at Taylor’s Creek amongst all the fishermen camped there long term allowed us to enjoy modern amenities.

Jatbula Trail

I would highly recommend any bushwalkers persist through the booking woes and walk the Jatbula Trail. Every campsite is paradise. It has been on my wish list for a long time and when we knew we were heading up the centre I tried to book. Only 15 walkers are allowed to depart each day and when I tried in April it was full until September. When I looked at the websites of the guided walks I found they only had one or two people booked when they had up to eight spaces. There seems to be an unfair advantage for the guided companies as against individual walkers, especially ones who don’t jump on when bookings open. However they have devised a fallback system where you put your name on a reserve list and they let you know when there are vacancies. We were pleased to be offered spaces when we had been on the road for a couple of weeks. It meant we had to leave Alice Springs sooner than we would have otherwise but we didn’t want to miss out.

We caught the boat across the Katherine River early on the morning of June 6 and pushed our way through the tall spear grass. When we were unsure of the route we looked for the trusty blue triangles and we needed to search a few times in the trip. The Northern Rockhole was the first attraction but we were advised not to swim as they weren’t 99.5% sure it was free of crocodiles. We then had the biggest climb of the whole trip as we ascended to the escarpment but it was done very gently on a four wheel drive track. Soon we were at camp where we quickly met the other walkers as we set up tents and then made for the water. Pools above and below the Biddlecombe Cascades were suitable and refreshing. Another couple of walkers arrived in camp late having left at 1.00pm and walking in the heat of the day after taking up a vacancy at very short notice. The eating of dinner with a view was popular.

Due to temperatures in the high 20’s to low 30’s we were advised to start early so we were up before the sun and walking by 7 each day which meant we were in camp by lunchtime. The 2nd day meandered amongst the rocks and we spotted some of the rock art. Another pool was admired but we waited to camp for our swim. We had to cross the wide Crystal creek to see the impressive falls and used it as a rehearsal for the next day with packs. Luckily an easier crossing place was found and one of our new friends helped us across. We all bonded over shared stories and experiences.

More easy walking across the plateau dodging termite mounds and following blue triangles. A highlight of the walk is to visit the Amphitheatre, an enclosed gorge with rock paintings. It was made easy with a staircase leading us down. A view across to 17 Mile Ck Falls and we knew that camp was near. We spent the afternoon exploring up and down the creek and invading the Gecko (guided group) camp. We had the best views over the falls and down the valley watching the sun set and the full moon rising.

The next day was the big 17km day and we were all up super early with some of us leaving by torchlight. The problem with that is we found ourselves following the triangles to the helipad. Clouds had come over in the night and provided a glorious sunrise. They also hung around and blocked the sun making for a much cooler day. We enjoyed the walking as we left the plateau and walked through greener countryside as we approached Edith River. We were surprised when we arrived at the crossing at 10.30. Some had an early lunch and we continued on downstream. We finished walking through boggy grass but it was only half way up the boots and never bottomless holes like Tasmania. We had to cross the river above Sandy Pool on a rock bar which quickly became notorious claiming three of the walkers slipping while crossing. A huge pool beckoned for swimming while the rock pools at the crossing were also popular.

Our group that started as five groups of walkers and had become a group of 11 was starting to break up the next day as two had to leave and miss the last camp. More grass, scrub and bogs led us to Sweetwater Pool, another huge pool by rocks. We had to share it with day walkers and people who had walked in to stay the night. We were farewelled with an amazing sunset and then a very easy last day before final goodbyes at Edith Falls.

The Red Centre

We headed back to Uluru after having been there only two years previously because we’d seen and heard good reports of the Field of Light. It certainly draws in the crowds with Canapes or dinner on the dunes and busloads of viewings each night. I went for the canapes so I could be there at sunset and up on the dune with a view of the rock behind. The food was good with bubbly to drink and the light show was spectacular. We watched Uluru change colour and then the lights slowly start to glow.

I went to Uluru for sunrise but they have put the viewing area so hardly any of the rock receives sun and I had to drive around to better viewpoints. We then headed for Kata Tjuta which we find much more interesting. We repeated our favourite part of the Valley of the Winds walk.

Rainbow Valley was another place that deserved a second visit though we didn’t get our burst of sunlight at sunset this time, only an hour before which was nearly as good.

We had broken our back window on the Oodnadatta Track so had to visit Alice Springs to get a new one inserted. Unfortunately our arrival coincided with the weekend but it was no hardship to go out to Trephina Gorge and redo our favourite walks again. Chain of Ponds was still a highlight and there was a little water in Trephina Gorge this time for reflections.

Back in Alice we got our window fixed and stocked up to do section three of the Larapinta Trail, another interesting section after completing the best bits – four and five – two years ago. We left our car at Standley Chasm and climbed up with packs this time to enjoy the views that so impressed us and had drawn us back. The ups and downs are beautifully stepped in this section, harder to walk but less chance of slipping on loose rocks. Leaving the chasm area we climbed to a saddle to give us a view of the terrain ahead. The trail led us quickly to a creek bed where we had to negotiate a ten metre waterfall. Luckily it wasn’t as hard as it looked. On down the creek bed we continued, a  feature of this section of the walk. We stopped for lunch and decided to bypass the harder alternative route along a ridge as we were already weary. A kilometre of walking down a bouldered creek bed didn’t help but the track did improve after that. We wearily reached Fish Hole, a lovely waterhole, and then plodded up the sandy creek bed to the welcome sight of camp, a luxurious shelter complete with table, sleeping platform and frisky mice that emerged after dark to try and get our food.

The next day we returned along the same route and it didn’t seem as bad, I think because we knew what to expect.

 

 

Light to Light

When I heard the bushwalking club was walking the Light to Light track in Ben Boyd NP as day walks I knew we had to join them. Walking with a day pack is so much more enjoyable than a full pack if there is a choice. We set off for the long drive to the coast taking a new route for us through the small town of Dalgety located on the Snowy River. The autumn colours of the poplars over the dammed river had us breaking our journey. Another stop to enjoy the lookout over Disaster Bay and we pulled in to camp at Bittangabee Bay in time to set up and look around before dark.

The night brought a thunderstorm but luckily it was all out at sea. We dropped off cars ready for the end of the walk before heading to Boyd’s Tower at the beginning. The red cliffs contrasted with the blue waters as we meandered along the cliff path, stopping often to enjoy the views. We crossed a rocky bay before climbing up to a grassy headland that was once a farm. It enabled great views in both directions and down to the sandy beach below, an excellent campsite but water needed to be carried from Saltwater Creek. A stretch along the rocky shelf above the cliffs added to the everchanging environment that the track passed through. We needed the help of locals to find the arch made by the collapse of a sea cave before completing our day’s walk at Saltwater Creek.

A cool, clear night meant clear skies for the sun to light up the cliffs after rising.

We began the second day at the southern end of the walk and visited Green Cape lighthouse. It was too early for a tour so we set off across the heathland. It had been burnt in past years and was a mass of flowers which slowed the walk down as we admired and took photographs. We took a side trip to Pulpit Rock before heading through more heathland on the way to Bittagabee Bay where we could stop for a morning cuppa. The track continued around the bay before emerging onto the cliffs again. A spell through the forest had us admiring fungi and Hegarty Bay would have been a delightful overnight stop. All too soon we were back at Saltwater Creek and heading home the next day before the rain.