Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Around Cradle Mountain Tasmania - Part 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley

A few weeks ago, Holly and I made the journey down to Tasmania, a great gift she arranged for my birthday. Our trip intentions were twofold; do a hike in the Cradle Mountain National Park and also enjoy all that the island had to offer from more comfortable accommodation.

We had originally planned to do the entire Overland Track, but unfortunately time and off-season logistics were against us. Instead, I planned a three day loop starting and finishing at the Cradle Mountain visitors centre negating the transportation issues we were facing. Ill split this trip report into 3 parts as I went a bit crazy taking photos.

We arrived late in the afternoon the day before our hike. We had originally planed to camp this night, but, as was to be a common occurrence while in Tasmania, it was pissing down (“raining heavily” for non-Australian readers) so we stayed in a cabin at the Cradle Mountain Discovery Holiday Park. The cabin turned out to be a good option as it allowed us to get our food and packs sorted. The kitchen facilities, hot shower and electric blanket were also much appreciated.

Food for three days. Liberal amounts of chocolate

We were up early and got to the visitor centre as it opened. Unfortunately by the time we had registered, did our final pack and had a coffee there was quite a queue for the courtesy bus that takes you into the National Park. After waiting for about half an hour, we got on the bus for the short journey to Ronny Creek where the Overland Track starts.

Big smiles as we start at Ronny Creek in the sunshine

And we are off

Starting out on our walk I was immediately struck by a sense of how foreign the landscape looked. I had thought to find some resemblance to the Snowy Mountains, Australia’s highest, where we live. However, it was as though everywhere I have travelled had been mixed and merged into one combined vista. Mountains reminiscent of Canada, old growth forests, temperate rainforests, glacial cirques, it was all going on.

Button grass, temperate rainforest, alpine its all going on

Another aspect of Tasmania that I was still struggling to comprehend was the amount of wildlife, in particular the larger mammals. While I am quite used to seeing kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, I am not used to seeing wombats sleeping in broad daylight in the sun right next to a walking track! We lingered long enough to see it move and confirm it wasn't dead.

There it was, a wombat just lying there asleep in the sun

We continued on and upwards along the path. Suddenly we were in a rainforest. It was that quick, one minute we were walking along enjoying the button grass and views of the mountains then we were in a rainforest. Tasmania is a crazy place.

Into a different world

Crater Falls

We had in fact walked through a small section of temperate rainforest that hugs Crater Falls. We were soon back in the Alpine as we approached Crater Lake. Most people who pass Crater Lake get some photos of the historic boat shed that sits at its northern extent. I was no different, although I cocked up all of my attempts at it.

My crappy out of focus Crater Lake boat shed photo

The track continued to climb following the eastern side of the lake. We now entered a gnarled beech and eucalypt forest. It kind of made me feel like I was in my own banzai dream.

Me in the banzai forest

We followed the ridge line enjoying the spectacular views of Crater Lake on our right and Dove Lake on our left. A short rock scramble brought us to Marion’s Lookout where the views got even better and we got our first look at Cradle Mountain. We had lunch and then spent some time enjoying the view and taking photos.

Holly posing, I'm not sure why

Rock scramble to Marion’s Lookout

I went a bit crazy taking photos

Crater Lake pano

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain pano


Happy hikers enjoying the view and the sun

After lunch we continued south passing below Cradle Mountain. The sun we had been enjoying was slowly being choked out by ominous looking dark clouds. Cradle Mountain is unlike any mountain I have ever encountered, hundreds of dolerite pillars give it an almost Mordor like appearance.

Spectacular Cradle Mountain

It was about this time that we encountered some large snow drifts. The snow was soft and slushy which made the going a little difficult. Every now and again one of us would lose a leg down through the snow pack.

Holly battles the snow pack

I love snow

Battling through the snow drifts we came across Kitchen Hut. A nice looking two story stone and shingle hut. The shovel on the second level gives some idea of how high the snow level can get at times.

Some hairy mountain man was poking around the hut

Kitchen Hut, its pretty cool, love that shovel at the second level

We spent the next few hours wandering around the base of Cradle Mountain, navigating the snow drifts and taking in the views of Barn Bluff as we made our way to Waterfall Valley Hut our camp for the evening.

Getting a look at Barn Bluff

Barn Bluff is also pretty spectacular

Waterfall off the south side of Cradle Mountain

The leaves of Nothofagus gunnii Australia’s only winter deciduous tree

Welcome to Tassie, this is pretty typical of the track once you leave the day walking areas

Mt Pelion et al. just before we dropped down off the plateau to Waterfall Valley

Arriving at camp with sore feet we were greeted by the local welcoming committee.

Another Wombat right next to the trail at the Waterfall Valley Hut

Wallaby hanging out next to the trail

We set up camp at the old Waterfall Valley Hut, another beautiful old hut with an incredible view of Barn Bluff.

Our view of Barn Bluff, not a bad spot to pitch a tent

A nice spot in front of the old Waterfall Valley Hut

Waterfall behind the hut

More waterfall action, it’s a beautiful spot

As I was taking photos a scream came out of the hut. Holly had acquired a leech. Sometimes I feel for Holly. I met her over in England living a very pleasant life away from blood sucking parasites, rain, snow and tents. She is a champ though and it wasn't long before Mr leech had been removed and squashed on the floor.

It started to rain while we ate our re-hydrated dinner and drank a cup of tea in the hut. We hit the tent and fell to sleep pretty quickly. At about midnight, it got ridiculously windy and our little tent was shaking like a wet dog. An ominous sign for the rest of our hike.

The sun sets over over Barn Bluff, kind of reminds me of the Matterhorn

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Outstanding scenery! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks Linda, it is a pretty amazing, wild place!

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  3. I was going to ask about leeches!

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  4. Hey Kate, plenty of leeches around. We were told to expect ticks but luckily we didn't come across any of those nasty parasites.

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