Tasmanian Highlands Trip  
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Take some time to consider the following.

Imagine a valley surrounded by three rocky peaks and a wall of cliffs.  The cliffs stretch along the entire western section of the valley.  In the northern entrance to the valley is a large alpine tarn with a smaller tarn to the east and  another to the south.  In between  the mountains there are easily negotiable passes.  Around the edges, where there is plenty of water, are the unique Pencil Pines.  Covering the rest of the valley is alpine grass and small shrubs.

This is The Walls of Jerusalem.

It's a good introduction to the less walked and more pristine sections of Tasmania's Central Highlands.

It's also a great place for the solitary bushwalker to commune with nature and "find one's self".  Provided you stay away on the long weekends.

I spent three nights there at the beginning of an 11 day walk through Tasmania's Central Highlands.  The route I took was a well known but not popular walk  from The Walls to The Overland Track, via The Never Never, and north to Cradle Mountain.  I went there specifically to add to my collection more photos of some of the well known wilderness areas of Tasmania.

I chose the end of April, again, to attempt to photograph the Fagus - the native deciduous Beech.

Impressions?  It is better than The Overland Track; because, it is not visited as much and the scenery, in its own way, is just as dramatic.

At The Walls I camped near two other walkers, beside The Pool of Bethesda.  One, a Tasmanian from Hobart, had a fascinating 1974 canvas tent.  The other I didn't speak to but met up with a couple of days later.  It was an interesting meeting, we met at the southern end of Lake Adelaide, spoke briefly as we walked together for a kilometre or so and then separated, without introducing ourselves.  Somehow, it didn't seem necessary.

It was David Noble, another walker with a penchant for photography, walking by himself and the self inflicted masochism that comes from being a web site author.  I found this out from a fisherman who I met at Junction Lake and re-met again, several days later.

It is a lovely place, sheltered from prevailing winds and a good location to access the places of interest at The Walls.  It was, however, showing the early signs of too much camping.  The wildlife there seemed to be unconcerned by my presence and seemed more annoyed than startled if I accidentally bumped into them. 

The Pool of Bethesda is the only recommended campsite within The Walls.  Jaffa Vale Hut is not recommended, I found out after my arrival and by then it was too late to change location.

An interesting small hut is the Jaffa Vale Hut.  A little spoilt by four backpackers who arrived from The Overland Track late in the day.  There was only one two man tent between them and they were using a 1:100,000 scale map.  Incredible.  None of them appeared to have the right gear to survive sustained bad weather.  One had the flu and decided to clear her nose onto the floor, next to my cooking meal.  I guess that was were I picked up my cold that stayed with me for several days.  I was the only Australian amongst them. 

The weather for my stay there was a mixture, mostly overcast with an intermittent drizzle.  Such is the weather of Tasmania.  But then, it is in this sort of weather that the moody photos are taken.

I was greatly impressed by the "drama" of The West and East Walls of Jerusalem.  Well worth the effort to get there.  Very impressive from up close.

Another aspect that impressed was the work of the Parks & Wildlife Track workers.  I bumped into a community of them living in the Pencil Pine forest above Jaffa Vale.  One said he had been working there for six years.  It is a remarkable achievement the track work that they have done.

From a photography perspective, I was pretty happy with what I got.  Some of the dawn shots were outstanding.  One shot I like is a shot of The West Wall with the skull of a Wallaby atop of a rock in the foreground.

Taking the advice of the track worker but apparently not understanding his directions it took me about an hour to realize I was in the wrong place when I left The Walls for Junction Lake.  I corrected my error by dropping down through the thick forest to the old Lake Ball Hut.  It was here that I saw my first Fagus.

It took me about another four and a half hours to arrive at the Lake Meston Hut.  I was tired, it was empty, so I decided to stay.  There was also a good show of Fagus, Pencil Pines and an old growth rain forest nearby.   The photographer in me said time to stop and the exhausted concurred.  I think I may be getting a bit too old to carry over 30kg for extended periods.  The hut appears to be not often visited, there were only two other entries in the visitors book for April.

The trip there was interesting.  The track follows the shore of three good sized lakes.  The campsite at the northern end of Lake Meston is outstanding.  David emailed me later to say that his night there was spoilt by a persistent possum.

The next day was the hardest.  It also rained most of the day and I didn't feel like stopping to eat.  In total, it  took about 8 hours to reach Kia-ora Hut.  Included was a four hour section through The Never Never.  I think it is so named because you Never Never want to do it again in a hurry.  I was lucky, I only ended up with two leeches from that section.  Upon reaching The Overland Track I was informed by a party of walkers that one was attached to my face.  About an hour later another walker asked why my face was covered in blood.  By then I didn't really care - I was stuffed.

At Junction Lake hut I met the above mentioned fisherman who had just walked through The Never Never.  He said he got through too late and had to set up his tent at the eastern entrance, late in the day.  He said that in the tent he had found 11 leaches, including one that had got inside his sleeping bag and attached to his penis.  He believes they got through the fly screen on the tent!

It was an interesting trip through The Never Never.  Attempting to follow some instructions John Chapman, the author of The Overland Track book,  had emailed me and being too confident of my navigation skills, I took the wrong direction.  Out came the map and compass.  West I went, straight to the top of a cliff.  A short trip to the north led me to a creek that the map indicated might be Ok to descend.  It was and with only a couple of bum slides I entered an old growth rain forest.  I stayed in this for a couple of kilometres but lost my bearings so I dropped down to the flats.  Here there is an interesting crossing on a fallen tree in what was a slightly swollen Mersey River.  It then felt like a head down bush bash through the scrub until suddenly a formed track appeared.  I marveled at this because from the formed track there was no real indication that this was the end of the infamous Never Never.

Kia-ora hut was a welcome relief.  It snowed that night and most of the next day.

I met two Irish packbackers at Kia-ora who said they wanted to climb Mt Ossa.  I followed their footsteps in the snow to Pelion Gap and lost them there.  When I got there the snow was falling heavily and Mt Ossa could not be seen.  Lord only knows what happened to them.  When climbing up to Pelion gap I was sweating on the inside of the rain jacket whilst it  snowed on the outside .  It is not a pleasant experience and does not lend itself to pausing to take in the scenery - hypothermia, yes.

It was now Easter Friday.  The locals had come in from The Arm River Track and the Forth River to the Pelion Hut and planned to base there for a few days.  It was therefore refreshing to hear only Australian accents, with a Tasmanian flavour.

My father was with The Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam and I remember him telling of an American who picked up on the various accents Australians have.  He was right, there are different accents if you listen carefully.

They were a good bunch of people and it was pleasing to see some younger walkers.   What I did notice on this trip was that Tasmanians are initially more stiff/formal when giving a handshake.  Women, on the other hand don't seem to be given a handshake much as one, after getting over the surprise, warmly took my hand.  Interesting, the little differences in culture that exist.

At Pelion I met the first of four people who had heard of me or visited my web site.  Finally all the effort it producing the web site is beginning to pay off.  This was out of about two dozen I spoke to at length.  Interesting, I thought, as I am averaging about 100 visitors a day to the web site after just over three years.  I really must be into self abuse.  Perhaps I should include a few naked people in the wilderness as I am sure the visitor numbers to the web site will skyrocket.  Whilst there I heard of a Tasmanian road worker who is an outstanding wilderness photographer and who has camped on Mt Ossa over 30 times.  Remarkable, that is what I call dedication to waiting for the right light.

The next day started out good.  An early start, wearing shorts and a short sleeve thermal top, in the breaking sun was stimulating.  No clouds, snow still on the peaks, it did not take long to warm up.  Frog Flats did not take long to reach for a quick morning tea and a nice shot of that Pandanis Palm that each year gets a little bigger.

I was really starting to enjoy the walking.   The pack was lighter for a start.  I found that the beat of The Teddy Bears Picnic song, "If you go out in the woods today, you'll never know what you'll find", is good for a brisk walking pace.  In walking through the forest I started to bump into walkers coming from Windermere.  Me sweating in shorts and short sleeves and them in thermals and rain shell.  Hmm, I thought, things must be changing.  Good old Tasmania, just as I got onto the moors it went cloudy and a biting cold wind was blowing in from the west.  Still, it wasn't too bad as most of the ice on the track had melted.  The trip to Windermere took an easy 5 hours.

Lake Windermere.  Every time I go there it is cloudy, overcast and miserable.  The company, on the other hand was good fun.  EG, I learnt this puzzle, let's see if you can figure it out - a man lives on the 30th floor, each day he takes the lift down to the ground floor and goes to work.  When he returns he takes the lift to the 15th floor and takes the stairs to the 30th.  Except when it rains, then he takes the lift to the 30th floor.  Who is he?   .....    The answer is at the bottom of this page.

I even met someone from one of my favorite camping stores - Eastwood Camping Centre, Eastwood, Sydney.  More friendly Tasmanians too, including a senior member of the local SES who gave me a number of hints for good places to go.   His friend spoke of one of his son's who was on the cover of the last issue of Wild, the outdoor magazine.  Amazing who you meet.

The trip to Waterfall Valley didn't take long.  It started off with lousy weather but was sunny by the time I got there.   Again, more interesting people.  Lyle Rubock was the Parks and Wildlife Service voluntary hut warden.  He also is a keen photographer and a member of the Tasmanian Photographic Society and he kindly took me on a tour of the waterfalls.  Surprisingly a party from the Photographic Society arrived at the hut that night for a few days of photography.  This I found interesting as photographic clubs generally do not have such numbers interested in and have the gear for this sort of photography.  It was a good night as it is not often I get the chance to converse with kindred spirits.

What made it better was that Lyle was hinting to any parties arriving that the old hut or the grassy patch was a better alternative to camp at so we had the hut pretty much to ourselves and a lot of people arrived that afternoon.

The next morning, after the obligatory sunrise shot, I was off to the Dove Lake Car Park, at Cradle Mountain.  A some what slow trip due to heavy ice on the track.  The weather was good and it set the scene for the next few days.  Friends of mine from Launceston, Peggy-Sue and Charles drove up and we had lunch together.   It ended up a nice day.

What struck me about the area was the way the Parks and Wildlife Service have been able to channel the large numbers of visitors.  They are indeed blessed to be able to offer such rugged and outstandingly beautiful scenery with relatively easy access to the general public.  The range of walks on offer went from the challenging, for the experienced, to simple two hour strolls around Dove Lake.   It must be a huge revenue raiser for them.

After picking up a re-supply of food I stayed in the area for the next three days.  The weather was kind and I managed to take some good shots.  It is not a big area but it is surprising how quickly the day fills, especially when there are photos to take.  There were three other serious looking photographers in the area with me.  It must be the time of year... one of them had recently given up his job to become a student in Melbourne, to study photography.  A brave man.

Towards the end, though, I was tired and was looking forward to it ending.

So, I rose early on the final day and walked out to the Ranger station.  They really do do a good job the rangers and I would like to thank Ted Bragg for his help whilst I was in the area.

Having found out the bus didn't come until mid afternoon I wandered up to the airfield a couple of kilometres away.  There I arranged to take a scenic flight south to Frenchman's Cap, over to Queenstown and back.

This was the highlight of the trip.  I recommend if you are there and it is a fine day, you take the flight.  It is outstanding.

And so ended the trip.  At the bus I re-met the fisherman from Junction Lake Hut and much to my annoyance I have forgotten his name.  A pleasant time was spent on the trip back to Launceston chatting with him, the bus driver and Ron Black, an American wilderness junkie, from Oregon.

What did I get out of it?  Fond memories, 17 rolls of film and about a couple of dozen top class images and even better, I lost four and half kilogram's.

 

 

(And the answer to the puzzle is...... He is a very short man.  When it rains he takes his umbrella and can push the button to his floor.)

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Any text and images found on this web page are copyright © Geoff Wise, 1998 - 2009All rights reserved.

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