Friday, 25 Sep 2020

Tasmania.Track to Wild West

How to grow Dick
track
- A man with a seven-inch (18 cm) penis may proudly compare his organ to the average man’s five to six inches (12-15 cm) but be intimidated when learning another wields an eight-inch (20 cm) rod.

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Setting your GPS for Tasmania’s wild west opens up endless possibilities on foot, from easy forest track to challenging multi-day hikes deep into World Heritage wilderness. You can scale mountains with incomparable views into the south-west; feel the spray off plummeting waterfalls; dip your toes in toffee-coloured tarns trimmed with ancient pencil pines and swim in a river that was saved by a groundbreaking grassroots campaign that captured the imaginations of people worldwide.

Tasmania. Pillinger Point

Tasmania.Track to Wild West - photo 1

Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Walk through a kaleidoscope of forest greens to the relics of a once-bustling mining port and township on the banks of Tasmania’s most infamous waterway.

Home to Sarah Island, a remote hell-hole to which re-offending convicts were banished for harsh punishment and heavy labor in the 1820s, Macquarie Harbour earned a fearsome reputation among the convicts of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). But for late-19th century miners and piners (cutters of Huon pine) Macquarie Harbour was a hub for transporting minerals and timbers harvested from the forests and mountain ranges encircling the wild, west-coast waterway.
This walk follows the disused North Mt Lyell Railway line from deep in wet forest to the rusting relics and crumbling ruins of the port and township of East Pillinger, at Kelly Basin, on the harbour’s south-east shore.
The walk starts from the Bird River Bridge parking and picnic area, 49km south of Queenstown. Head out of Queenstown on Lynchford Rd; this becomes Mt Jukes Rd which you follow for 29km until it becomes gravelled Kelly Basin Road. Another 11km on gravel brings you to the Bird River Bridge turnoff. The 5km from here to the official walk start is designated 4WD. The track has a firm base and is often navigable by all-wheel drive and even conventional vehicles; it is narrow and single-lane, however, with few places where you can pull over for an oncoming vehicle. And even a 4WD can be stymied by a fallen tree blocking the track.

If you get all the way by car, you’ve got a 15km return walk to Pillinger. From the road it’s about 25km return. You walk, though, through stunningly beautiful forest, dripping with various shades of green.
The 4WD track ends at a small picnic and parking area with an information shelter and walker registration book. Record your plans and head through a chicane that prevents motorbikes proceeding further, to a sign and map of the Kelly Basin walk (as it is called in the Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks brochure). The sign incorrectly gives the distance to Pillinger as 5.4km; it is actually 15km return, as indicated at the information shelter.
Walk on and cross beautiful Bird River on a handsome trestle rail bridge (clamber left or right down the river’s west bank to photograph the bridge and its original Huon pine piles). Continue along a railway embankment, navigating boggy patches and the odd root. Pass through a tree tunnel and under trunks that fell, long ago, across the top of a cutting and now drip with moss and ferns.

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Tree falls are common and you may have to clamber over others on the track, but otherwise the walking is flat and easy. And all the time you have the Bird River’s treacle-coloured water on your left, working seaward musically between banks of moss and tree ferns.
Track to Tasmania’s Wild West. You’ll pass, on the right, a cave-like undercut of mossy rock and soil and, about 1km from the parking area, a rail-era wooden water tank sat up on the right-hand bank.
There are numerous cuttings along this track; here men, working predominantly by hand, probably often in pouring rain, cleared passage for a train line. The ground within these cuttings is often very muddy so it’s best to wear closed shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Multiple varieties of moss and fern festoon the vertical walls of these cuttings, often so thickly that you cannot see the rock.
Shortly beyond a waterfall gully, the train bed has fallen away and the walking track narrows and climbs right. From there it descends to a footbridge presenting a good view of the river and enfolding greens. Narrow track, with steps, returns you to flatter track in another cutting. Look down and you’ll see the river working through chutes and over rapids. Note how the water has undercut the cliff opposite.
About 2.5km from the information and walker registration, the track navigates a landslip that’s brought down trees. The roots of other trees reach, finger-like, down the embankment and into the track. This is an ideal environment for fungi, too, on the trees and ground.
The valley now widens and the river branches, becoming estuary-like as it heads for Kelly Basin. The track fords multiple gullies, the raised train route keeping you out of boggy creeks. The forest then opens out and you can see further through the trees and more sky above. Crossing a footbridge, you’ve got a collapsed rail bridge immediately to your right, with rusty bolts poking from squared timbers. A longer boardwalk reveals another section of old track, to the left, some of its bolts 60cm long.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

Trip to Tasmania

The water body soon visible through the trees is Kelly Basin and as you continue among ground ferns and eucalypts you reach an information sign. Welcome to Pillinger, built in 1898 for James Crotty’s North Mount Lyell Mining Company. Copper and silver ores were transported via the North Mount Lyell Railway from the mine to smelters at the township of Crotty (to the north) and then to here for shipping. The smelters failed, though, when James Crotty died and in 1903 the company merged with a rival and Pillinger became redundant. The last train ran in 1925 and the last people left in 1943.
Track to Tasmania’s Wild West. The government town of West Pillinger has long-since been consumed by the forest but walks here lead to remains of the company town of East Pillinger.
Turn right and tread boardwalk to the ruins of the brick kilns, red-brick shells with arched fire pits that contrast the forest’s green leaves (there were also a sawmill and ore-crushing plant), and on to two rusty boilers. As you wander back through the forest to the junction, try to imagine East Pillinger in 1902 when it was home to 600 people and comprised 80 dwellings, two-dozen businesses, a Catholic church, three hotels and a coffee palace.
Turn right at the junction and walk a loop to the shore, where train tracks extend 100m into the water on stumps. Return along the shore, through paperbarks, passing the brick chimney of the Mess Hall (check out the old bottles) and the National Park jetty. Beyond this public landing place are toilets and a picnic table, although you often have to fight off ravenous mosquitoes to tuck into a sandwich.
Having explored the site, and perhaps dipped your feet in the once-infamous Macquarie Harbour, start back to your car.

Donaghys Hill. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Reward-to-effort ratios don’t get much better than this wonderful short track in Tasmania’s wild west. Trees, clouds and ridgelines produce layered scenery.
Donaghys Hill, in the heart of Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, is a minnow compared with the surrounding mountains. But easy access makes it a standout place to get a taste of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area without expending much energy on foot or with a paddle on an untamed river.
One of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, the Donaghys Hill Lookout track starts on the southern side of the Lyell Hwy (A10) 51km south-east of Queenstown, 35km west of Derwent Bridge, and about 5.5km beyond the parking area for the challenging multi-day Frenchmans Cap hike.
The ‘hardest’ part of this walk is the fairly easy, early climb on a broad compacted gravel track littered with leaves. This old alignment of the Lyell Hwy, which predates the road cutting, takes you through scruffy eucalyptus and banksia forest carpeted with ferns; signs identify the dominant plants.
You get tantalising glimpses of mountain tops between the branches on your right until the track, now almost like a naturally cobbled footpath, narrows and swings right into dense cool temperate rainforest. Here grow myrtle beech (with variegated trunks), gum-topped stringybarks (the tallest trees), celery top pines (have a look, the leaves really do look like celery leaves) and tree ferns grow here. Tiny beech leaves polka-dot the track, which meanders through hard water ferns – they’re the ones that look artificial – and fish bone ferns. Keep an eye out for fungi too, including beautiful yellow ones. The track traverses the south-eastern slopes of Donaghys Hill with steps taking you higher up the hill.

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

Track to Tasmania Wild West. As well as hiding the views, this lush forest muffles all sounds except bird calls, the chorus loudest for early risers. About 1km into the walk, however, when you emerge from the forest onto a heathy ridge studded with button grass and the odd eucalypt, the hum of the Franklin River adds to the soundscape.
Fenced Donaghys Hill Lookout crowns the bluff ahead, steps climbing through tea tree and banksias to a 360° mountain and valley view. Information boards name the geological features you can see.
Weather permitting, Frenchmans Cap (1443m) shows itself to the southwest, its unmistakable Precambrian quartzite dome crowning the encircling mountain profile. And 250m below to the south is the Franklin River Valley, meeting place of the Collingwood River and mighty Franklin, saved from flooding for a massive hydro-electric power scheme by the international ‘No Dams’ campaign and blockade in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Soak up the majesty of the panorama, then walk back along the same track to your car.

The Needles. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. This cracker of a short walk in Tasmania’s south-west rewards a bit of aerobic hill-climbing with views that are off the scale. The jagged tooth-line that tempts hikers from their cars is not the top!

 

More suggestive of fangs than any recognizable sewing implement, The Needles sit ‘grinning’ above the high point of Gordon Bay Rd (C61) as it winds through Southwest National Park to Lake Pedder. Or perhaps it’s a smirk, for hikers discover that the jagged tooth-line that tempted them from their car is barely half-way to the top!
This rewarding and fun short walk starts from the gravel parking area at the highest point on the scenic drive to lakes Pedder and Gordon, controversially flooded in 1972 to generate hydroelectricity; 19km from Maydena and 90 minutes’ drive north-west of Hobart. A cairn and pink ribbon across the road at the western end of the parking area identify the start of the walk (there is no sign). Enjoy the view down the Florentine River valley to Lake Gordon before crossing – the road bends and is double-lined here so take care – and stepping into scrubby heath.
Beginning on a fire trail cut through flowering heath and strappy gums towards one of the most prominent Needles, you tunnel through tea tree to a cairn of white rocks about 20m in. Turn right here to a walk registration booth (it’s worth recording your intentions even for such a short walk).

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Your passage up the hill from here is also a track for water that runs down it from the surrounding slopes – and in places you’ve got mud among the compacted grass and rocks underfoot. Unformed rougher track made by feet and tied with pink ribbons pushes through banksia, mauve-flowering honey myrtle then climbs through striped alpine gums, cutting grass (not recommended as a handhold!) and banksias before landing you in a sea of wiry heath with one of the biggest gauge Needles directly ahead and above. Spring and summer flowerings of yellow bush peas, cream mountain richea, mauve honey myrtle, white bauera, pink trigger plants and white alpine heath attract green-black-and-white Macleay’s swallowtail butterflies. You’ll pass occasional she-oaks too: the ones with the cones and tufty red flowers are female, those with pollen spikes are male.
As you climb, the view over your shoulder extends along the road west into the Florentine River valley and east along the Tyenna River valley. The track continues up onto a saddle (the apparent top from the road, now 700m below) between two of the grey lumps of sloping layered rock thrust out of the heath that give The Needles their name, with another rising in front of you. An unsigned footpad goes left here to the base of one Needle but the summit is to the right.
There are no pink ribbons beyond the saddle but the well-worn, summit footpad, heading right and towards a ridge through tight, ground level heath, is obvious – at least in sunshine! This walk is dangerous in cloud cover or rain. As you walk on from the saddle you’ll see lakes to the west; stop and look back, too, at those fantastic outcrops, Tim Shea (954m) rearing up from the other side of Gordon Bay Rd, and Mt Field West on the horizon.
Having skirted a lumpy, protruding section of hill, on almost flat track above steep rocky slopes, you’ll spot cairns marking your route up a ridge to the summit cairn, which looks tiny from here. Raw, rocky views accompany you towards the ridge through mounds of button grass. Five minutes of clambering brings you to the substantial summit cairn (1032m), to which you might want to add another rock.

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

You are encircled by the natural drama of valleys, lakes and mountains: flat tops to the north; Mt Mueller and the Mt Anne Range to the south; the Wilmot and Frankland ranges on the far shores of lakes Pedder and Gordon. The car park is visible below and Maydena, in the Tyenna River valley, to the east. You will probably also see bald-patch logging scars on some slopes.
Track to Tasmania’s Wild West. Absent from the climb, Tasmania’s endemic scoparia thrives in the increased altitude up here, its bristling summer flower stalks adding foreground colour and texture to the summit view. The relatively easy pedestrian access makes this an ideal spot to watch the sun rise or set. Or you could just climb it in normal daylight and have lunch and a cuppa overlooking south-west Tasmania.
From the top, make your way back down the same way to your car.

Mount Eliza Plateau. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Soak up the cinematic view over Lake Pedder and Tasmania’s south-west or unpick the tangle of wildflowers carpeting it in summer – that’s the dilemma you face on reaching Eliza Plateau. Lake Pedder spreads out below Mt Eliza.

 

Scaling Mt Eliza is a shorter and less challenging alternative to bagging Mt Anne, the highest peak in Tasmania’s South-west Wilderness. But everything is relative and reaching Eliza Plateau tests you mentally and physically. Some hikers channel mountain goats while others proceed more like sloths but if you are physically fit and prepared for the extremes of weather that put the wild in Tasmania’s south-west, this is one hell of a day walk. It starts from a gravel parking area 21km south down Scotts Peak Rd and 127km (1.75h) west of Hobart. Travel via the Brooker (A1) and Lyell (A10) highways and the B62 and Gordon River Rd (B61) beyond New Norfolk. Scotts Peak Rd (C607) starts shortly before Lake Gordon.

The parking area sits beside beautiful Condominium Creek but there isn’t a condo in sight, only peaks and ridge lines. With the rocky creek’s tannin-tinted water on your left, head west through tea tree and eucalyptus to a walker registration booth. Record your intentions and cross a gully to a boot-cleaning station. Feet scrubbed and sprayed, step eastwards on boardwalk. Ignore the footpad on the left immediately before a sign warning about the dangers of the climb, such as weather and rocks. This leads to a camping area beside the creek, to a sign.

Continue on the boardwalk which ends at a track you can trace towards a dramatic ridge line dominated by Mt Anne (1423m) to the north. With peaks behind and on your left as well, cross button-grass flats fed by creeks, passing banksias, small eucalyptus and honey myrtle shrubs (crowded with fluffy, mauve baubles in spring). Look out for small but show-off purple Tasmanian alpine lilies, a common endemic herb that also comes in rare yellow, as you start up a spur, about 500m into the walk.
The track becomes rockier, broken up with wood and stone steps, as you climb and Lake Pedder shows itself behind. The views compensate for the altitude gain and almost continuous climb to the top (remember to look back when you stop for a breather on the way up). About 600m up the spur the track veers round a rocky spine projecting from the hill, at the top of which you are walking on exposed sedimentary rock layers some as thin as paper. To your left now is treed Deception Ridge, which runs east into Mt Anne (if you can see it for cloud) at the top of Condominium Creek valley.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Here the track is worn to bedrock and in places ground to sand underfoot. After rain you get boggy patches, some of which might muddy you to above your ankles.
The track continues along the creek side of the spur, an expanse of button grass and dwarf banksias dusted with white and yellow wildflowers in spring and summer. The track then narrows and walking poles come in handy with roots and rocks on the only descent of note, around another rocky outcrop. Having trodden rotted boarding across a flat, resume climbing, on track worn 80cm deep to pinky grey-striped rock. (At the time of writing new, compound ‘boards’ had replaced some rotten sections.) And all the time Lake Pedder spreads behind you and Mt Eliza looms overhead.
The slope steepens and throws in a few step-ups as you ascend, again, to a mini saddle between multi-layered stone upended in Earth’s upheavals and another rock spine, beyond which is ridgeline after ridgeline.
Continue climbing through heath with assorted shaped and textured leaves but all trimmed by wind and snow to only 70cm tall, up the spur to a saddle from which you’ll see a scree slope to the right. As you round another outcrop on wider, flatter, less-steep track you’ll see some more substantial trees sheltering below. Down there among scoparia bushes that festoon with flowers like Christmas candles during summer, about 4km into the walk, are unformed tent sites and a toilet with a Lake Pedder view. In spring, Tasmanian waratahs glow bright red among the green.
High Camp Memorial Hut, built in 1973 in memory of three members of the Hobart Walking Club, including photographer and conservationist Olegas Truchanas, sits among snow gums and myrtle beech 50m above the toilet. Hikers can sleep in the hut and previous residents have graffitied funny comments inside. The laziest of them have left toilet paper strewn around the hut too.
Look closely at the myrtles here. This cool temperate rainforest species grows at a range of altitudes from shrub to tree size and is seen on many walks in this book. These have perhaps the smallest leaves of any, the harshness of the conditions apparently affecting not just the size of the plant but also leaf area.
The real physical exertion starts now – with steep, rough track; rock clambering and scrambling to the top. About a hundred metres above the hut and tree line, you step up and over a huge boulder on which is a memorial plaque for Richard (Dick) Payling, killed in a fall near The Notch on the 26th February 2004. (The Notch, on nearby Mt Lot, is a notorious and particularly steep point on the multi-day Mt Anne circuit, up which most hikers haul their packs with ropes.) Stow or leave your walking poles and sticks below this boulder because they’ll get in the way above it.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. You gain 200m altitude over the next 700m or so and it’s slow going following (and finding) a route marked by cairns up chunks, slabs and columns of dolerite embellished with lichen rosettes, but the heartening view over Lake Pedder and deep into the south-west rewards exertion.
When dry, the rock provides good grip so steeper, smoother slopes are often easier than they look. In rain it’s a different experience and extreme care is needed. At one big step-up you can look right straight down on the huts and toilet and up Mt Eliza’s rocky face. Scoparia and other flowering heath and even some snow gums find enough protection in cracks and hollows between the rocks to grow here despite the winter (and summer) snow.
On reaching a keep-like jumble of dolerite, where you can rest in the lee of jutting rocks, you’ll see the odd cairn but essentially you’ll need to find your own way over the battlement to navigate the last 200m or so.
Taking in Mt Anne, Lake Pedder and the wilds to the south-west, the view from atop Mt Eliza (1289m) recharges human batteries and soothes rock scrapes. Revel in it by exploring the plateau a little way towards Mt Anne and savouring your remoteness and vulnerability. Wildflowers unfurl across the plateau in summer and the vistas of mountain-backed flora can weary shutter fingers.
Lake Pedder and the Frankland Range, west of the water that is gilded by afternoon sun, fill your vision for much of the descent from Eliza Plateau, continuously distracting you from everything else around you including your next step. Mount Solitary, an island in Pedder sometimes transformed into a steaming volcano by well-placed cloud, was marooned by the controversial 1972 damming of the Serpentine and Huon Rivers, and flooding of the natural Lake Pedder, to generate hydro-electric power. Ever since, there’s been occasional chat about the viability of draining it to restore its pink beach.

Hartz Peak. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Get a taste – smell and feel too – for Tasmania’s World Heritage South-west Wilderness from a natural lookout on a glaciated spine of dolerite. Mountain rocket adorns the alpine plateau.

 

Named after the German Harz Range – where the ‘t’ came from is unclear – the antipodean Hartz Mountains were first explored by timber-cutters seeking Huon pine and routes to Port Davey’s forests deeper in Tasmania’s south-west. The cutting of a track by the Geeves family (of Geeveston) in 1896 saw the range become one of Tasmania’s earliest recreational bushwalking destinations and Hartz Mountains National Park was included in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989.
A dolerite backbone intruded into Earth’s crust during the breakup of the Gondwana super continent, shaped by glaciers over subsequent ice ages, the Hartz Mountains run the length of the park, reaching a highpoint of 1254m that is a window into the wilds. From the ‘relative safety’ of Hartz Peak, just 4km from car access, you can see into the heart of Tasmania’s south-west and feel the sting of wind that whips and wails along remote ridgelines and valleys.
But it is ‘relative safety’. Much of the park sits above 600m altitude. It rains here more than 200 days a year and snow can fall at any time. Check the forecast before stepping out and carry a wind- and waterproof jacket even on sunny days.
The Hartz Peak walk starts at the end of an 84km drive from Hobart. Exit the city south on the A6, following signs to Huonville, and turn west at Geeveston onto the C632, signed for the national park. The access road branches off the C632 about 13km along, from where 10km of potholed gravel sometimes closed by snow cuts through Tasmanian forestry land, the trees so close you may see lyrebirds on the run in.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. The walking track starts beside the day-use shelter. Turn your back on the Huon Valley and head towards rocky rises, on boardwalk easing up through dense tea tree and young eucalypts, to the burble of creeks you probably won’t see for the scrub. About five minutes into the walk you pass a memorial to two members of the pioneering Geeves family who died in 1897 of exposure here, the site of the original hut, when returning from a prospecting trip.
After a short climb roughened by rocks and roots, duckboards continue through heathland. Look back for a vista of cardboard-cut-out peaks and ridgelines rising from valleys often frothy with morning cloud. The track now heads directly towards Hartz Peak and its pyramidal neighbour Mt Snowy through ground-gripping coral fern, scoparia and stands of pandani with ringlet leaves. Note how trees and shrubs grow part-way up the fantastic Devils Backbone (to your right) and hardy heath covers the rest. Tasmanian waratah splashes the walk with red flowers in late spring–early summer.
In sunshine, when there’s promise of breathtaking views from the summit, leave the short Lake Esperance detour until your return (in case conditions worsen). The track beyond the lake turnoff can have bogs even in dry weather and the damage caused by feet on fragile alpine plains is obvious. Walk through, rather than around, puddles and mud between old and new boarding – don’t be a wally and deliberately walk off boarding just because you don’t like the mud!
D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Bruny Island and the Tasman Sea paint a stunning panorama to your left and are in full view from a plain dotted with tarns about 2km into the walk. Leave the side track to Ladies Tarn until your return, too, but look back along the boardwalk you’re following before continuing.
A steep and stony step-up through assorted heath plants deposits you on rock-strewn Hartz Pass, a spectacular turn-back point. If not pushing for the top, tread a rough track, indicated by two rusty poles, right, for a view of Hartz Lake and south-west mountains that book-end Bruny Island, D’Entrecasteaux Channel and sea to the east. (The side track continues downhill to the lake.)

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Ahead of you on Hartz Pass are the walk’s first orange arrows, beyond which the summit track snakes up the peak. This final leg is exposed and often windy. You’re at the mercy of unforgiving south-west weather so turn back immediately if you feel unsure.
The track works across the mountain’s south-west face, presenting aerial views of Hartz Lake as you climb through fractured, upended and layered dolerite, where nothing grows taller than about 40cm except in protected pockets. Occasional cairns indicate the route up boulder scree to a tiny saddle, from where you clamber the last 100m.
It can be screamingly windy up here with only a few sheltered spots behind rocks but persevere, because the view’s a stunner: 360° taking in Bruny Island and the Huon River, Federation Peak and the Ironbound Range on the South Coast Track, and even Frenchmans Cap to the north. Experienced hikers can (and do) continue off-track from here to Mt Snowy but there are no markers.
From the top, retrace your steps to the car park, via Ladies Tarn and Lake Esperance. Five of Tasmania’s 11 frog species are found in Hartz Mountains National Park including the moss froglet, discovered here in 1992, and frogs will probably serenade you on both detours.
A stone track leads to Ladies Tarn, whose clear, green water reflects fringing pandani and its rocky ridge backdrop. Further on, new boarding crosses a carpet of cushion plants to decking beside Lake Esperance. Cushion plants are actually slow-growing colonies packed so tightly they can maintain a constant internal temperature rather than freeze in winter conditions. Their aerodynamic mound shape also minimises wind damage. But these hardy plants are vulnerable to damage from humans. A boot print can take 30 years to repair.
Savour the mostly downhill run back to your car.

Mystery Creek Cave. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Glow-worms hang out in the cave at the end of this lush forest walk along an early 20th century quarry tramway. An axeman’s support plank juts from the stump of a felled giant.

Mystery Creek Cave is a window (and, for some, a door) into one of Tasmania’s most extensive limestone cave systems. The walk to it follows the route of a tramway built in 1919 to haul quarried limestone to the Deep Hole jetty at Ida Bay for the manufacture of calcium carbide, which was used in manufacturing and agriculture. (Convict-era settlers burned limestone to make cement and that remains its most common use.)
The cave and quarry are just inside the eastern boundary of Southwest National Park, 100km (75 minutes’ drive) south-west of Hobart via Huonville and the Huon Hwy. Sixteen kilometres beyond Dover, turn right onto Lune River Rd and 500m beyond Ida Bay Railway Station turn right again, onto South Lune Road. About 4km along this poor grade, mostly unsealed road, turn left onto unsigned, unsealed Limestone Quarry Road. The walk starts where the road narrows to a vehicular bush track.
Walk up wooden steps left of the walker registration shelter (this is also the trailhead for the spectacular three-day hike over Moonlight Ridge to Mt La Perouse, in the Southern Ranges) and step out on a flat track beside a tree-fern filled gully. The huge stumps you pass walking from tall, slender trees into a railway cutting roofed with fallen trunks testify to the age and stature of the trees that once inhabited this forest.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. About 1.3km into the walk you’ll come to a collection of mining relics, including broken bottles, an old pot, and a pair of battered boots. The track now narrows through the forest, and you’ll see a rusty plate (one of many metal relics on the forest floor), as you approach and cross Mystery Creek.
Climbing slightly now, the track enters thicker forest and runs along a tramway embankment studded with timber cross-beams. Building foundations and bricks dating from quarrying times are visible down on the left. As the embankment rises further above the forest floor the walking track veers down its left side towards a grey cliff topped with eucalypts. You emerge from the trees in the old quarry at the foot of that cliff.
Track signage directs you left to Mystery Creek and right to the Southern Range but head right first, past the stacked, weathered timbers of an old tramway bridge, and tread rusty tramway tracks towards the quarried cliff. Then return to the junction and head east along the base of the cliff, past more abandoned quarrying equipment.
The track plunges back into shadow-filled forest of mossy trees and stumps, and on the right you’ll pass the stump of a fallen giant, perhaps felled by lightning. Track and wooden steps skirt other huge trees as you work down into Mystery Creek gully. On warm days, there’s a noticeable decrease in temperature as you descend.

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

You come to a sign warning of rock hazards, vertical drops and slippery uneven surface; it rightly explains that exploring the complex cave system requires difficult navigation and only experienced, properly equipped cavers should proceed beyond the first cavern. A steep, rocky and sometimes slippery clamber through the fern-filled and boulder-strewn cave mouth lands you in the first cavern, whose extent disappears into the darkness. Dry stalactites, other limestone formations, and a lurex-type glitter decorate the ceiling. Mystery Creek burbles across the floor, rounding chunks of rock that have fallen from above. Venture a few metres in, exploring the stonework with your torch.
Track to Tasmania’s Wild West. What appears to be another cave level is visible to the left above the entrance while a glow-worm colony creates a miniature underground galaxy to the right just inside the cave mouth.
When you’re done with star gazing, return to your car.

South Cape Bay. Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

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Track to Tasmania Wild West

Track to Tasmania Wild West. Track from Australia’s southernmost road to its southernmost foot-accessible point and poke your nose over the edge of the continent. Perfect ripples form on the South Cape Bay beach.

 

The return walk to South Cape Bay from Cockle Creek is the eastern leg of the South Coast Track, a fly-in hike-out multi-day encounter with everything that Tasmania’s wild south-west coast has to offer. A fairly easy, mostly flat walk through forest and over expanses of coastal heath, this sampler leads from the southernmost road on continental Australia to a bay opening onto the Southern Ocean.
The journey starts from Cockle Creek, in Southwest National Park, Tasmania’s largest and wildest park and one of the last remaining temperate wilderness areas on our planet. Cockle Bay is 1.5 hours’ drive (119km) south-west of Hobart. Take the A6 from Hobart almost to Southport, continuing south on the C636 through Hastings and Ida Bay to (almost) the end of the road in Recherche Bay.
The South Cape Bay walk (and South Coast Track) starts immediately over Cockle Creek bridge just within the national park boundary. Follow a broad gravel track 50m along the creek to a junction, here turning right onto boardwalk that snakes 300m through strappling tea tree to a walk registration booth (sign in) and boot-cleaning station. (The root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is a major threat to Southwest National Park, as is fire. Hard fuel fires are banned within the park.)

 

Tasmania.Track to Wild West - photo 19

Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. South-west Wilderness ridgelines and conical peaks appear on your right through the trees as you meander through eucalyptus, banksias, tea tree and huge bunches of cutting grass over the gentle slopes of Moulders Hill. Rocky and lumpy with roots but fairly easy going, the track then descends into a fern gully, where it detours around a huge fallen tree and past stumps of others felled by axemen. About 2.7km into the walk you pass the huge root ball of another toppled giant.
The track then leaves lush and leafy for drier eucalypts and she-oaks, popping you out on duckboards traversing marshland carpeted with assorted coastal heath plants. For the next 2km or so you cut across heathy flats and navigate islands of eucalypts, including cute scribbly gums, along Blowhole Valley. A few of the boards are loose so watch your step as you walk through red-topped grasses, grass trigger plants, daisies, and pretty purple-and-white fairies apron wildflowers.
Melaleuca Lagoon in Southwest National Park is the sole wild breeding ground of the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot and South Coast Track hikers and visitors flying into Melaleuca can view these blue-tipped vivid green parrots at the Bird Hide. Walking to South Cape Bay you are more likely to see wedge-tailed eagles and gorgeous green rosellas, found only in Tasmania and on the Bass Strait islands. The eucalypt forest can be noisy with other birds reluctant to show themselves.
On route to South Cape Bay you often meet hikers finishing the South Coast Track; the weather they’ve experienced over the last week often determines whether they can raise a smile at you or not. And speaking of weather, if it’s windy on this walk then a blow probably awaits you at South Cape Bay.

 

Tasmania.Track to Wild West - photo 20

Track to Tasmania Wild West

 

Track to Tasmania Wild West. About 5km into the walk, marshland makes way for banksia forest. The track becomes sandy as you tread tea tree tunnels and push through bearded heath shrubs but you’ve got leaves underfoot along a deep fern gully. The track drops in and out of rain forest gullies before pulling away from the creek into a tunnel of tea tree. The waves are loud now as you continue through cutting grass, tea tree and bracken and the volume increases as you come over the top for your first view of the sea.
The track brings you out on a shaly black bluff overlooking the Southern Ocean and South Cape Bay to the right, and South East Cape, the southernmost landmass in continental Australia, to your left. This natural grandstand is composed of thin sedimentary layers that break off and move underfoot so take care, especially when it’s wet, because it can be extremely slippery. From the front row you can see distinct eras of deposition in the cliff below; waves foaming over rock shelving at their base and bull kelp writhing in the swell too.
Cairns mark the path round the bluff to steps leading down onto the beach. You can walk about a kilometre along the sand for a closer view of Lion Rock off the end of the beach and a taste of the wave spray – or remain up on the cliffs. Either way, allow enough time to walk back to Cockle Bay, and normal life, in daylight.

“Top Walks in Tasmania”
Melanie Ball

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