Cradle Lake and Russell Falls

28 to 30 August 2017, Cradle Mountain NP and Mount Field National Park, Tasmania

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After finishing the Overland Track  I picked up my partner Jools who had flown in to Launceston Airport.  We stayed near Launceston overnight and then drove to Cradle Mountain National Park.  Late that afternoon we drove to nearby Cradle Lake.

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Australia, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Lake, Landscape, Mt Field NP, Nature, Pademelon, Photography, Russell Falls, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

A Bennett’s Wallaby in the carpark is unconcerned by the passing human youngster.

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Out in the lake, a rainbow is touching an island.

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This is the much-photographed boatshed at Cradle Lake, built from King Billy pine by the same person as the one in Crater Lake we saw in an earlier post.

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The next day, we drove via Queenstown to Mount Field National Park.  We were staying just outside the park gate and this is a nearby house.

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We went for a brief walk in the late afternoon.  Is this animal, vegetable or mineral?  Actually, none of those.  It’s fungi, previously included under plants and now in a classification of its own.

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Next morning we headed off to Russell Falls.  On the way we encountered this pademelon poking around in the leaf litter near the path.

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I was handicapped here by not being able to use my ultrawide zoom, which had got too damp on the Overland Track.

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At least I was able to use my tripod to give an impression of the water flow.

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This one I stitched two exposures for a wide enough angle and had a lot of difficulty with spray and flare.

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Climbing further up, a view of the falls from half-way up.

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I was reminded here how lucky we were on the Overland Track not to have “good weather” when we were in the rainforest.  The extremes of light and shadow meant I struggled to control the exposure, even combining images with HDR.

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Overland Track Day 6: Rainforest near Du Cane Gap

26 August 2017, Overland Track (Kia Ora Hut to Bert Nichols Hut), Tasmania

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This is a day of walking through the rainforest.  Here we have a small river cascading down towards the Mersey River, which runs parallel to the track though not very close.  Taken from a bridge over the river on the track.

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It’s misty here, perhaps some rain, but overall the day was fine.  In the late afternoon we could see menacing clouds ahead but it didn’t affect us that day.

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Du Cane Hut.

Built in 1910 by Patrick “Paddy” Hartnett as a basis for possum trapping operations.  It was built using King Billy pine and the large wooden structure at the near end is the chimney.    These days it is only available for day visits or as an emergency shelter.

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Paddy’s wife planted native plants around the hut and presumably had a vegetable garden.

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In each of the Tasmanian Walking Company huts (not the public huts and not the Du Cane hut) there is an identical array of books.  So if you start reading a book in one hut, you can keep reading it in the next.  I started reading The Black War by Nicholas Clements, the story of Tasmanian Aboriginal encounters with Europeans, and especially the war at the end of the 1820s.  I didn’t finish it on the track so I bought a copy and I highly recommend you do too.  It treats the accounts of the Aborigines and the settlers separately and shows the accounts of each in different chapters.

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The first white settlement in Tasmania was in 1803.  Clements says there were only 2,000 Aborigines there at that time.  They lived in several tribes, spoke different languages and periodically fought with other tribes.  The main unit was the family group but they occasionally had meetings with larger groups including other tribes for purposes including match-making.

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Initially British settlement was convicts but before long there was a settlement in Hobart, then Launceston and gradually spreading out into the countryside.  There could be free settlers who might have convicts working for them, there were freed convicts and escaped convicts and for a while, bushrangers (outlaws).  Initially there was not much agriculture and the Europeans competed with the Aborigines in hunting game such as Bennett’s wallabies and grey kangaroos.  Gradually they claimed land for farms and occupied Aboriginal hunting grounds and water supplies.  It wasn’t so much that there was a systematic policy to exterminate the Aborigines but Tasmania is a small island and ultimately there was nowhere for them to go.

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Colonial authorities were often solicitous of Aboriginal welfare at least in theory, though settlement undermined Aboriginal society, violence on the frontier was outside the control of the authorities and no white person was ever arrested for killing an Aborigine in Tasmania.  There could be unprovoked murderous violence against Aborigines, and women and children could be kidnapped (though they usually escaped).  Aborigines could also kill whites and retribution for that could be disproportionate and misplaced.

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For the first twenty years, the Europeans that Aboriginals killed were often specific people who had wronged them.  Then the central and eastern tribes gradually realised that their whole way of life was becoming untenable and each effectively declared war on all whites.  In 1824 there were maybe 1,000 Aborigines and declining as compared to say 14,000 Europeans and rapidly rising.  From 1824 to 1831 around 281 colonists and 600 Aborigines died violently.  For the Aborigines this was a huge proportion of their population.  The fighting was much more intense than in other parts of Australia and the Aborigines provided very effective resistance.   They went down fighting, even well past the point when they could see that they could no longer win.

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The Aborigines only attacked in daylight using spears and clubs.  This was not because they were unable to obtain or use muskets but muskets were single shot and slow to reload and they found spears more effective.  The settlers couldn’t find them in daylight so they tracked them down by their fires at night.  Traditionally, the Aborigines kept warm at night by covering their skins with a mixture of animal fat and ochre and huddling around the fire.  As conflict intensified, the animal fat and ochre was harder to find and the fires had to be kept small and discrete.  They might have blankets but these were of no use when they were wet.

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In 1831 there was an almost comical display of incompetence by the colonial authorities.  They attempted to throw a cordon around an area of the south east, tighten it and trap all the Aborigines left inside.  They did stumble on a camp early on and kill two and capture two but other than that the Aborigines had no trouble slipping through the cordon.  The Black Line used all available troops, as many volunteers as they could muster and large amounts of resources.  But the authorities had no idea how rugged the country was, they were unable to supply most parties most of the time and it was a fiasco from the start.

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Numbers killed reached a peak in 1830, even as Aboriginal numbers continued to decline catastrophically.  In 1830 and 1831, George Augustus Robinson went around the tribes and persuaded them to surrender.  They would be taken to Flinders Island and were promised they wold be able to go back to their lands when the war was over.  There were just 200 of them left and the promise that they could return to their lands was always a lie.

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Probably the most extreme depredations on the Aborigines were in the north west, at the hands of the Van Diemen’s Land Company.  The Company arrived there in 1826 so violence occurred much later, lasting from 1827 to 1842.  Little is documented but the person who was effectively chief law officer was a psychotic killer and by the end of 1842 there were no Aborigines left.

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On the north and east coasts, sealers had had contact with coastal Aborigines from as early as 1798.  At first they traded with them, including bartering for sexual favours. After a while they turned to abducting Aboriginal women, taking them to Bass Strait islands where the tribe could not follow and often holding them as though slaves.  In November 1830, there were only 74 Aborigines left on Flinders Island of whom only three were women.  At the same time, the sealers held 70 Aboriginal women.  Robinson started arranging transfers of women to Flinders Island in late 1830 to early 1831.  Then in perhaps the cruellest twist of all, the sealers successfully petitioned the Governor that they should be able to keep their women.  The remaining Aboriginal men and women were denied a last chance to live together.

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Alpine yellow gum.

For many years it was said that there were no surviving Aborigines in Tasmania but this is not true.  24,000 Tasmanians identified as indigenous in the 2016 census, nearly 5% of the Tasmanian population.  They are all descended from the women kidnapped by the sealers.

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Fergusson Falls.

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No shortage of water going through.

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From Fergusson Falls, we head west towards Du Cane Gap.  If you instead head east along the Mersey River, you go through a valley called The Never Never.  This would lead you to Junction Lake in Walls of Jerusalem National Park.  There are no tracks (until the other side of Junction Lake) and no ferry across the Mersey, so by the sounds of the name this must be a particularly rough and wild place to venture.

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Clearly it’s been raining and the alpine yellow gum is glistening resplendently.

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Overland Track Day 5: Kia Ora Falls

24 August 2017, Overland Track (Kia Ora Hut (Rest Day)), Tasmania

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Today was a rest day at Kia Ora Hut and in the afternoon we went for an excursion to nearby Kia Ora waterfall, scrambling over the buttongrass and sometimes sinking deep into the spaces between the clumps.

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This was finally an opportunity to use the tripod so the first three and last three images in this post were taken using the tripod.

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Rapids below the waterfall.

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Trees with lichen near the waterfall.

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Alpine yellow gum.

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Close-up of lichen on a tree.

These two images are focus stacked (combining multiple images with different points of focus) and you really have to click on one to see it larger and appreciate the depth of detail.

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Lichen again, different tree.

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A view from the hut verandah in late afternoon, Cathedral Mountain in the background, buttongrass moorland in the front.  A rare case of a hut with a view.

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Overland Track Day 4: Pelion Rainforest

23 August 2017, Overland Track (Pelion Plains to Kia Ora Hut), Tasmania

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The conditions had eased from the previous three days and there was less far to walk so I was able to pause more frequently to take photographs.  Consequently, this is the first of two posts for this day.
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This is Douglas Creek Cascade, a short walk off the track.  There’s a lot of water flowing through.

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What impressed me more, though, was the view up a side channel, with this magnificent boulder in the middle.

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We walked through a grove with many pandani.

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Pandani (richea pandanifolia) are an endemic Tasmanian semi-alpine plant, unrelated to the similar-looking Pandanus of the tropical Pacific and South-East Asia.

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So they look tropical but they’re a cold climate plant.

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Apparently they can grow as high as 12 metres.

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It takes a consistently wet environment for the trees to be covered in moss and lichen.

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This tree is a natural hybrid between a King Billy Pine and a Pencil Pine.  The two are both ancient slow-growing Tasmanian trees in their own genus but related to junipers and the Californian redwood.  Some suggest the hybrid is actually a separate species.

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The one on the left is I think a King Billy Pine and the other the hybrid.

I had assumed King Billy was a reference to William IV (1830-1837) but it is to William Lanne, who died in 1869.  He was Truganini’s third husband and purportedly the last “full-blooded” male Tasmanian aborigine.  After he died, his skull was stolen by surgeon William Crowther (who later became Premier of Tasmania) and may have ended up in Edinburgh.  The scandal led to the Anatomy Act of 1869 which established that any “medical experiments” required prior permission of the deceased person or permission from their relatives.

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A family of Pandani.

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Rainforest with snow.

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The Overland Track is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness area, that stretches from Cradle Mountain down to the south coast and the Maatsuyker Group.  It is a World Heritage area and has been since 1982.  One thousand and seven World Heritage sites are listed worldwide and nineteen in Australia.   There are ten criteria for World Heritage listing, six cultural and four natural.  The Tasmanian Wilderness satisfies seven of the ten criteria for listing.  At the time of its listing, it was the only one with so many qualifying categories.  Now there is one other with seven, Mount Taishan in China, which satisfies all six cultural criteria and one natural, whereas the Tasmanian Wilderness satisfies three cultural and all four natural.

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The cultural criteria for the Tasmanian Wilderness’s World Heritage listing relate to Tasmanian Aboriginal activity in the area over at least thirty five thousand years (until about 1831).  This includes caves in areas south of the Overland track with tools made from stone, bone and Darwin glass (formed in the heat of meteorite impact).  There are separate caves with red ochre stencils, some areas with rock incisions and many middens on the coast. There are remains of beehive-shaped huts on the west coast and one open campsite has been found.  They didn’t always live in caves or huts but campsites in what is now rainforest are understandably elusive.

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There were (at least) three or four different migrations to Tasmania, all when it was connected to the mainland.  At that time, there was a vast plain in what is now Bass Strait and a large lake in the middle.  14,000 years ago, rising sea levels caused the submersion of the land bridge (and around the same time, New Guinea would have separated from Queensland).  This was part of a process of withdrawal from the ice age and also led to the Alpine vegetation area over much of what is now Tasmania being replaced by rainforest.  The primary food source of the Aborigines was Bennett’s Wallaby.  They congregated in grasslands which in turn may have been partly created by aboriginal firestick farming.  They were scarce in rainforest and not easy to hunt and the Aborigines were unable to turn the rainforest back to alpine grassland.  Consequently, the Aborigines withdrew from the Tasmanian Wilderness area 12,000 years ago and did not start to reoccupy it until 4,000 years ago, initially from the coast.

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While Bennett’s Wallaby was the main food source, groups living in areas with more rainforest would also hunt other game such as pademelon (a kind of wallaby), possums and platypus.  Those on the coast also hunted fur seals, elephant seals, various bird species, crayfish and shellfish.  It was thought that they abandoned eating scaled fish many thousands of years ago, from a tentative finding in 1963 and perhaps a misquote from Captain Cook.  This is now thought unlikely though fish was always but a small part of their diet.

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The Tasmanian Wilderness area was also World Heritage listed for all four criteria.  It is an area of “exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance” as I hopefully demonstrate in the images in these posts.  It has outstanding examples of the geological history of the planet.  It provides outstanding examples of the development of ecosystems:  Here we are in this post walking through ancient rainforests that go back to the time of Gondwanaland.  And it is a haven for rare and threatened wildlife:  I showed a picture of a Bennett’s Wallaby earlier, other examples include Tasmanian devils, eastern quolls and the Tasmanian wedgetail eagle.

Further reading:

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Overland Track Day 3: Pine Forest Moor to Pelion Plains

22 August 2017, Overland Track, Tasmania

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Because I was the slowest in the group, I took off first in the morning and reached Pelion Creek with enough time to pull out my tripod and take a few shots of the torrent.

This image was the last shot with my wide angle zoom.  It was in a lens case hanging off one of my shoulder straps and I had forgotten to pull off and dry the lens case the previous night.  It got wetter during this day and dampness had got through the case and lining and the lens stopped working.  The lens is currently being repaired.

This was another day in which I took very few photographs because of the conditions.

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Pelion Creek.

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Misty trees through a break in the forest.

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I don’t know the name of this waterfall, I think beside the track.

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Frog Flats with Perrin’s Bluff in the background.

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Rainforest with a touch of snow.

Wet shoes were the order of the day on this trip.  The path was often under water.  There were many roots but they were not safe to walk on and bypassing the path was not responsible so the only option was to walk right on through the water.  This meant the water would come up above the top of the shoes which became very wet.  Not as much of an issue in practice as one might think.

I was expecting I’d be looking to get up before dawn to take photographs and to be out taking photographs late in the afternoon and the evening.  It wasn’t really possible, though.  Especially on rainy and snowy days like this, once I got my wet clothes and shoes off, had a shower and changed, I didn’t feel inclined to put the wet stuff back on and go out again.  And the exertions of the day meant I took all the sleep I could.

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I tried photographing the night sky from the hut.  It looks OK at this size on the page but it isn’t really in focus.  Manual focus wasn’t possible with the lens I was using and autofocus didn’t really work in the low light.

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Overland Track Day 1: Waldheim to Barn Bluff

20 August 2017, Overland Track, Tasmania

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After Liffey Falls in the last post, I travelled on to meet the rendezvous for the Overland Track walk.  The Overland Track is a 63 kilometre walk through Tasmania’s highland wilderness.  I had done the walk thirty years ago with large format photographic equipment and a pack of 24 kilograms (53 pounds).  I used the public huts then (and you can also camp), but this time I was undertaking a catered trip using private huts offered by the Tasmanian Walking Company.  This meant I didn’t need to carry food because meals are provided and all huts also offer hot showers and drying rooms.

I had opted for the winter tour because I wanted to capture Tasmania’s unique landscape in the snow.  This is much more demanding than the usual summer traverse because trekking through the snow can be harder and slower, and the days are shorter.  As we set off there were ten people in our group plus three guides, although one of our number turned back after an hour because she was feeling unwell.

My clothing weighed 4.5 kg (10lb) including walking poles, and the guidelines for the walk say your pack should weigh 12 to 16 kilograms (26 to 35 pounds).  But with 6.4 kg of camera equipment (14lb), I was carrying 22 kilograms (48 pounds).  This was more than I realised at the time and more than I bargained for.  Based on my previous experiences thirty years earlier, I had assumed I would have lots of time to stop, pull out my tripod and take photos.  However, that was in summer when days are much longer and walking conditions usually much easier (though it can snow here at any time of year).  As it was I generally had to press on with little time to stop for photographs and I was seldom able to use the tripod.  Because my pack was so heavy I was reluctant to take it off too often.  Just as well I had two cameras and four lenses in cases hanging off my shoulder straps and pack belt so I was able to take photographs without removing the pack.  Almost all these images in this and subsequent Overland Track posts are quickly taken on the fly.

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Here are some of the group taking off on the walk.  I am still in the carpark and taking this image from there.  We are heading off to the plateau on the snowline at the left.

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Crater Falls.

After climbing for three quarters of an hour we got to this small waterfall beside the track, with lots of water flowing through.  You can see it’s a longish exposure but I didn’t pull out my tripod, just braced against a railing.

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Boatshed, Crater Lake.

After climbing for an hour and twenty minutes, we stopped for a little while at Crater Lake.  The boatshed was built by the first ranger at Cradle Mountain, Lionell Connell, to ferry visitors around the lake.  There is a similar and better known one at Dove Lake, accessible by road.  Both were built of King Billy Pine, an ancient and slow growing conifer not available as a building material these days.  That’s ice you can see on the surface of the lake, though hardly solid enough to walk on.

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Crater Lake.

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Crater Lake and Boatshed.

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Crater Lake.

This one is looking back at Crater Lake as we continue climbing towards Marion’s Lookout.  Still a steep climb to go.

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Bennett’s Wallaby.

This is further on from the previous image, with Crater Lake out of sight down below the ridge.

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Towards the top, the weather closed in and there was heavy snow.  It had stopped snowing when we got to the top and we stopped for lunch.  According to the time stamps on the images it must have taken us about three hours.  We were close to Marion’s lookout but there was no point going there because there would have been nothing to see.  On a clearer day there would have been a magnificent vista of Dove Lake and the wild country beyond.

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Trees on Cradle Plateau.

The weather was clearing and the lack of a view from Marion’s Lookout was more than compensated by magnificent vistas around the Cradle Plateau.

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Looking west to Cradle Plateau.

A wonderful vista of distant eucalypts in snow.  Click on the image to see it in a larger size.  I would have liked to stop for an hour or so in this area and explore the possibilities but time was pressing and we had to move on.

In a way this is my Fred Williams image though I wasn’t aware of that Australian painter at that time.  When we got to Geelong, the art gallery had a wonderful exhibition of his semi-abstract landscapes looking down from the You Yang mountains to the arid plains below.  This image reminds me of that though it’s really only the central part with the distant trees in the snow.

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Looking east towards the Central Plateau with an angry sky.

Although the weather could be menacing at this point, it was clearing for the rest of the day.

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Barn Bluff.

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You might think this shows towering eucalypts beside a tarn but it’s tiny, more like a miniature landscape.

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Cradle Mountain.

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A distant view of Barn Bluff.  That’s where we’re headed.

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Cradle Mountain.

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Quick question:  on which side of a pole does moss grow?

This marker pole provides a metaphor for the weather.  Wind-driven snow is caked on one side of the pole while moss clings resolutely to the other.

Answer: It’s the south side here.  If you live in the northern hemisphere you probably got that wrong.

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Cradle Mountain.  We’re getting further away now.

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Snow piling up in a sheltered part of the trail in Waterfall Valley.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Eucalypts in snow, still Waterfall Valley.

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Barn Bluff in the distance, framed by eucalypts.

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Mount Emmett in the late afternoon light.

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Mouth Emmett from Cradle Cirque.  Firth River valley in the distance.

At this stage there was only a kilometre or two to go but it was very rugged.  The problem for much of the day, and especially the last section, was the boardwalks.  Often they were two planks wide, say eighteen inches.  This would be fine in summer but they were covered in about two feet of snow (as with everything else).  It was impossible to stay on them all the time and if you missed them, you fell a couple of feet down into the snow.  I fell over dozens of times and probably so did everyone else.  It had taken nine hours before I got to the hut, starting with the brutal three hour climb to Marion’s Lookout and I was totally exhausted.  Totally worth it, though.  The scenery on the way exceeded my expectations.

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Liffey Falls

19 August 2017, Northern Tasmania

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This is the first of my posts on Tasmania.  I have updated the Itinerary post with likely posts and will update it with links as I make those posts.

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I had driven down from Canberra to the ferry in Melbourne the previous day and the ferry arrived in Devonport at 6:30am.  My destination was to link up with the Overland Track in Winter walk that I was about to undertake with the Tasmanian Walking Company but I did not have to turn up until 3pm.  This gave me a little time to explore so I went to Liffey Falls.

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The first three images are all of the main Liffey Falls cascade from below.

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There are two ways to get to Liffey Falls.  Google Maps sends you in from Bogan Road in the east, with an extra hour’s walk each way.  I didn’t see why I wanted to do that and went in from Riversdale Road to the west.  However, I discovered why Google Maps is set up this way.  There is a section of one-lane only road where someone is going to have to back up if you encounter another vehicle.  I did encounter about another three cars on the way out, but fortunately not in that stretch.

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Since it was winter, sunrise was rather late at 7am.  I was fortunate that because I travelled directly from the ferry, I got there before the sun had risen above the surrounding hills, so the light was low and even, without a great splash of light across half the waterfalls.

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The forest was worth admiring as well as the waterfalls.

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A view from atop an upper part of the falls.

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Water over the rocks above those falls.

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The flowing water contrasts nicely with the ferns and other foliage on the banks.

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Technical note: Because the light was low and the water flowing fast, I did not need to use a neutral density filter to smooth the water on any of these shots.

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Notley Fern Gorge.

I also visited Notley Fern Gorge, which has a short loop walk.  There is another anomaly with Google Maps here.  This time it puts the location in entirely the wrong place.

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Next: starting off on the Overland Track in winter.

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