Cra­dle Moun­tain: Great Ex­peca­tions

The ad­ven­tures of an in­trepid ex­plorer…..

Adventure - - Travel -

De­spite work­ing for a ma­jor out­door cloth­ing and equip­ment re­tailer, I’m a bit of an arm­chair ex­plorer. But one Easter I de­cided it was time to take in “the Spirit of Tas­ma­nia” and spend a week in the Ap­ple Isle. “It’s freez­ing down there – you’ll need ther­mals.” “You know it’s re­ally cold in Tassie – hope you’ve got some polypros.” “You’re go­ing to Tassie – by your­self – are you mad?” “Don’t for­get your rain­coat – you’ll need it.” “Be care­ful – I have two words for you – Peter Fal­co­nio.” “Do you know how cold it is there? You bet­ter take lots of warm clothes.” De­spite th­ese dire warn­ings I took my car over on the ferry and stayed in Devon­port overnight. The next morn­ing was beau­ti­fully sunny and warm (!) and I headed off on the Great Ex­pe­di­tion. Ten min­utes later I was in the coun­try­side and ad­mir­ing the al­pacas. I’d never seen real live al­pacas be­fore. I also noted with con­cern the many long drives that were stacked com­pletely up to the top of the fence with chopped fire­wood… Hmm. The Tas­ma­nian coun­try­side was green and lovely and, yes, did re­mind me a lot of NZ. A cou­ple of hours driv­ing and the dis­tinc­tive out­line of Cra­dle Moun­tain came into view. I was booked to stay at some cab­ins nearby. Once I had set­tled in I wan­dered into the kitchen to make my din­ner. I got some very odd looks from fam­i­lies when I whipped out my replica US Marine Corp knife to chop up the veg­eta­bles – I have learned from ex­pe­ri­ence that there is never a sharp knife in a shared kitchen. Once I started cook­ing though, peo­ple were in­trigued – “what are you mak­ing?” “Chicken sa­tay.” “Wow, that looks great – we’re just hav­ing sausages”. I fig­ure just be­cause you’re “rough­ing it” doesn’t mean you can’t have yummy food.

As I was very un­fit, I de­cided to take a few short hikes to toughen up be­fore I hiked from my lodge down to Dove Lake, which was about 8km away. At one stage on the first short walk I was too hot (!) so stepped off the path to take off my jumper. When I bent down to pick up my pack I no­ticed th­ese odd black wormy things swarm­ing up over my run­ners. Yeuch! What are they! Oh no – they must be - leeches! (I’d never seen real live leeches be­fore ei­ther). All those darned warn­ings about Tassie and no-one thought to tell me they have leeches! Yuck!

Came the day for the Ma­jor Ex­pe­di­tion of the trip – a visit to Dove Lake. De­spite it be­ing both warm AND sunny, I donned my ther­mals. “Cap, shirt, Bata bul­lets” – I was pre­pared! Off I set on the bi­tu­men road down to Dove Lake. I was a lit­tle sur­prised by how many cars passed me. Even­tu­ally (af­ter hav­ing to step into the bush to re­move my ther­mals as it was too hot!), I ar­rived at the Dove Lake In­for­ma­tion cen­ter. This was a re­mark­ably large build­ing with lots of in­for­ma­tion inside and lots and lots of filled carpark­ing spa­ces out­side.

I grew up in a small NZ town only an hour from the beau­ti­ful Urew­era Na­tional Park. En­try to our side of Te Urew­era was via a dirt road that peters out once you en­ter the park. The only fa­cil­ity was out­side the start of the Park, a 2-dor­mi­tory lodge built by the lo­cal Li­ons and rented out to school hik­ing par­ties. There are no other fa­cil­i­ties – no ranger sta­tion, no info cen­ter, no milk bar, no tar­mac, fords not bridges etc. Lots of rivers run through the park, some dan­ger­ous to cross such as the Waimana (“Mighty wa­ters”). De­spite hav­ing some rea­son­ably clearly marked hik­ing tracks (and some more ob­scure ones), the bush is very dense, with many tall trees and al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble un­der­growth. If

you step away from your group you can get lost in three min­utes. Peo­ple (mostly un­pre­pared tourists) die of ex­po­sure. Some­times, de­pend­ing on the sea­son, you can hike for a whole day with­out see­ing any other group.

Since Cra­dle Moun­tain is such a hard­core hik­ing mecca, I was ex­pect­ing some­thing sim­i­lar.

I en­tered the Vis­i­tors In­for­ma­tion cen­ter to get my park en­try per­mit. On chat­ting with the ranger I com­mented on how pleas­antly warm it was, and that if I got too hot, once I got down to the lake I would “strip off and go for a swim”. She gave me an odd look. I won­dered why – maybe she was op­posed to skinny dip­ping? It’s not like there would be any­one else around. Once I had all the nec­es­sary bits of pa­per, I set off for the lake. More cars passed me. I felt a bit like Brad and Janet in “the Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show” when they con­stantly get passed by bik­ers. Fi­nally I got to the bot­tom of the road, to find in the lovely Tas­ma­nian “wilder­ness” an enor­mous car park chock-a-block with cars, and some even parked along the road­side. Here was the en­try to the lake proper.

The lake was pretty, with hills and light bush around it. I de­cided to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the lake, and set off to find the start of the path. To my sur­prise, the path turned out to be a board­walk – this went right around the whole lake. There were peo­ple ev­ery­where, lit­er­ally hun­dreds of them – hik­ers, teenagers, grey no­mads, fam­i­lies, kids in strollers. One kid right on the op­po­site side of the lake wasn’t happy about some­thing - ev­ery­one there that day could hear him telling his folks about it. Luck­ily he wasn’t old enough to swear, un­luck­ily he was still young enough to have a hugely car­ry­ing wail.

I quickly de­cided that cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the lake wasn’t such an en­tic­ing idea af­ter all. Skinny-dip­ping was com­pletely out of the pic­ture. I set­tled in­stead for dip­ping my toes in the shal­lows to cool them down af­ter the long walk. It only took a few sec­onds – the lake was freez­ing! At last, the cli­mate that Tassie is (in)fa­mous for. I ate my lunch and then hitched a lift back up to the top of the road. It was a pleas­ant walk from there back to my cabin. The Lone Ex­plorer had re­turned - safe and sound!

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