Do you remember the last family trip you went on?
(I mean, before you had your own family and the karmic wheel turned and it became your own kids bludging in the backseat whining “Are we there yet”?)
I remember mine well, because it was only last October. Mum and Dad headed to Tasmania and amazingly both Justine and I were able to tag along – one last trip, all of us together again. I’d always wanted to go to Tassie, and the chance to have an adventure with Mum, Dad and Justine for the first time since we were still at school , was an amazing gift.
Left home positively vibrating from the excitement of travelling solo for the first time in 7 years! Well, kinda – I met up with Justine in Brisbane. One train, one plane, and one ferry trip later, we drove onto the quay at Devonport. The overnight trip from Port Melbourne after meeting up with M&D was the first time I’d slept on a ship, and as we hit the swell outside Port Phillip Bay we’d started to gently pitch and roll. It was weird but somehow familiar– like the sensation of lying on the trampoline being rolled in all directions at once while the kids do laps figuring out the best angle to perform a flying elbow drop on you.
First up: breakfast and jam souvenirs by a roaring log fire at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm (omfg), followed by local timber and glass galleries in Latrobe, where we chatted up the locals for the inside skinny on where to spot a wild platypus. Headed to Warrawee Nature Reserve which we’d been told was our best chance to see this famously shy/cute/venomous beaver-otter-duck… or it might’ve been if it weren’t for 5 guys with chainsaws chopping up a dead tree.
We returned to the coast and headed west along the Bass Highway. We saw penguins in Penguin; no false advertising there. Although aren’t they supposedly ‘Little Penguins’? This big bruiser certainly isn’t a ‘Little’ Penguin. Nor would you call him a ‘Fairy’ Penguin, unless you want your arms ripped off.
Stopped for a cuppa at Annsleigh Gardens to warm up a bit and check the weather forecast for our planned walk tomorrow; RAIN and predicted SNOW. Apparently spring has sprung in Taswegia.
By late afternoon we’d arrived at Cradle Mountain Discovery Park, and concluded an impressive day of dawdling – being still only 1.5 hours’ straight drive from Devonport. Had tea at Cradle Mountain Lodge, looking through mist and rain to the northern border of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area; one of the last true wilderness regions on Earth with more natural and cultural values than any other World Heritage site. Tomorrow!!
Cradle Mountain National Park – Dove Lake Circuit
Looked out the window and it was snowing! For about half a minute, then it morphed into tiny hails, long enough for Justine and I to run around like idiots and get ice down our necks and for the car to turn white. We still get excited about shit like that.
On the short bus trip into the park we couldn’t see much through the fogged up windows except rocks and furry red smears on the side of the road. Ex-possums, judging by the size. Then the bus slowed and a large rock resolved itself into a damp, waddling wombat. Then another one! SQUEEE! My favourite Aussie animal since Fatso (on A Country Practice) and Fatso (The Fat-Arsed Wombat), our unofficial mascot during the Sydney Olympics. As we drove on I excitedly spotted more until I realised these were actually rocks.
It seemed to me as soon as we crossed into the national park the scenery got wilder and even more rugged, almost prehistoric. It makes sense; the many ancient plants of Gondwanan origin are part of the reason for World Heritage listing. Tree trunks were covered in green and grey moss and thick mats of lichen hung from the branches. Brilliant orange lichen was splattered over rocks.
Caught the shuttle bus from the Ranger’s Station to the Dove Lake carpark and as we started the circuit (clockwise) it started snowing again! Gentle flurries, drifting silently, which came and went as we followed the rocky track and boardwalks around the lake. After walking for a while in the wide open, apparently untouched wilderness we were surprised to encounter a fenced off area. There were warning signs stuck on the gate; “DANGER, beware, you’re taking your life in your own hands, no WAY, are you sure, one false step and you’re dead, we wash our hands of you” was the general gist. We ventured in and discovered we were atop a massive overhanging rock with a sheer drop on the far side of I DON’T KNOW A BLOODY LONG WAY DOWN into the frigid waters of the lake. We stayed clear of the snow-slick edge; that place gave me the jeebies.
As the peaks of Cradle Mountain loomed nearer the landscape changed from low tussocky subalpine grasses to temperate rainforest, and started to close in around us.
I only had my phone to take photos, having stupidly left the Nikon in New Zealand, and had to keep taking my gloves off to use the screen. Soon my fingers lost all feeling and to add insult to injury the touchscreen refused to acknowledge the things swiping it were fingers at all and wouldn’t let me take any more photos until I rewarmed them in my armpits.
On the return leg I was reminded of a warning on our Short Walks brochure:
“Conditions including burning sun, driving winds, heavy rain and snow can all occur within a single hour.”
Or a matter of seconds.
Despite what the brochures had advised, we hadn’t dressed for a blizzard (jeans, jackets, sneakers) but luckily the snow was light and powdery and bounced off us before it could melt. We then hit a tricky bit at The Boatshed; it and a fair section of track had temporarily become part of the lake. We climbed over grass and balanced on rocks to get through without getting soaked, then hit the home stretch to the car park where M&D had just finished up.
We’d been reallly lucky with the weather and had found the walk easy, even with the boardwalk often coated with snow and ice and some uphill sections after the halfway mark. At 6km return Dad wouldn’t have been up to it as he was still recovering from his latest round of chemo, so he’d taken Mum on the ranger station tour. Wish we’d had time to go on it too – next time… I want to hear more about this Gustav Weindorfer character. He was an Austrian botanist and bushwalker and we have him to thank for today’s adventure; without him, Cradle Mountain National Park would probably still be farmland and no one would even know about the incredible treasures hidden there.
On the drive to our next pit stop we snaked up winding mountain roads with forest growing thick as a hedge right next to the road – on many bends you could have reached out from the passenger window and high-fived the ferns on the rock face. Mum gripped her door the whole way, resolutely averting her eyes from the cavernous drop on the other side, and every so often letting out a little gasp. We played soothing ABBA tunes as we drove through the Raglan Range, and pushed on to the Derwent Bridge Hotel through a winter wonderland.
I discovered later we were in the hotel only 3 days after my fave Tassie blogger! Check out her post; her photos in ‘the local pub’ turned out heaps better than mine! (Crappy phone).
Cradle Mountain really put it on for us today, but it was still just a taste – I’m really looking forward to going back. It’s funny though, the whole time we were there I kept thinking we were in New Zealand; I was even saying to the others things like “the last time I was in Enzed”, and “when we go back to Australia”… duh.
I think it was the snow. Snow and mountains and lakes and rugged wilderness and cold. I can’t say I’ve ever had all those things at once anywhere in Australia before!! Fantastic. Love Tassie.