El albergue

El albergue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A-hiking we have gone

Now, while those quiet morning hours were my favorite part of our trip to Tasmania, they by no means comprised the entirety of our time there. So, what were we doing most of the time then? Well, we were hiking! We were exploring! We were dedicating every daylight hour possible to the seeing of new sights and the wandering about so dear to our nature-starved city dwelling selves.

Besides hours of motoring through many different beautiful landscapes, we ended up with five different hikes/walks under our belts by the end of the trip.

Our first little hike was in Launceston, through Cataract Gorge. It’s a funny little place, a bit of raw nature tucked away in the middle of Tasmania’s second largest city. It makes sense  that the city planners kept a bit away from the white waters of the river flowing through the narrow gorge – heaven knows what a big flood would do when it came crashing by! As our first introduction to Tasmanian scenery though, it was marvelous. We gleefully shielded our sandwiches from overly curious peacocks in the open vista of the gorge’s First Basin, then joyfully set off down the tiny path… or should I say down and up and down again? It was not a difficult hike for the most part, but there were sections where we definitely had to look up the muddy slope and silently applaud the midday runners leaping nimbly past.

On this hike, I think our favorite part was the two old suspension bridges we got to wobble out across the rocky waters on. They were pretty sturdy – industrial strength actually, next to an old hydroelectric plant – yet it was still oddly enervating to feel the boards swaying slightly beneath our feet. Pausing mid-bridge was more about taking in the river below than stilling any quivering of our hearts though… I promise…

The second day of our trip, we got to do two walks. The first one was a little off the beaten path, near Solomon’s Caves. Still being early morning, there was basically nobody about, meaning we got the dripping forest stroll to ourselves. It was a lovely little path only faintly marked out as it wound its way through the ferns and mushroom-covered trees, and I think we were stopping to exclaim over some new beauty every twenty yards or so.

We finally made it back to our van though and headed over to our big destination for the day – Dove Lake.  We arrived a bit later than we were expecting too, the narrow winding roads slowing down our progress considerably along the way, so we ended up having less than two hours to make the circuit of the lake before the last shuttle bus left to take us back to the car park at the visitor center a few miles from the lake. So we busted our butts, working up a sweat to make it in time, and yet we still had plenty of little moments when we had to just stop and stand there on the path, turning around with arms outstretched as we tried to absorb every last bit of the art with which Nature was surrounding us.

It was a cloudy day, the peaks of Cradle Mountain hiding behind a thick blanket, and gentle mists rising now and again from the lake to dance in front of our eyes, but my oh my how lovely it was. We passed through so many different types of landscape, from open brush to dense forest to a stately colonnade of mossy trees, and because of the weather, all the varying colors seemed deep and penetrating, as though the moisture in the air had made them sink deeper in to the earth, the plants, the rocks, the water. Stunning.

The next day, we drove across to Freycinet National Park for a chance to hike to Wineglass Bay, one of the most well-known spots in Tasmania.  This was the day that really tested our hiking mettle – right up and over a pass through the jagged, granite Hazards, we had to take several breaks to catch our breath and admire the beautifully created path that placed natural local rocks into more or less of a staircase winding about between huge red boulders, dense trees, and scrubby bushes filling up all the spaces in between.

The bay itself was lovely as well – a smooth sweep of white sand with rolling breakers that left behind a sprinkled deposit of colorful little shells of all shapes and sizes. We would have loved exploring its beach a little more and maybe even hiking back by another route that went further to the south through the park, but time was pressing since the sun sets early in winter, so we only got a short time to relax and rummage through all those fun shells.

Our fourth and final day, the sun finally made an appearance, lending additional charm to our last hike – clambering over the rocks on the Binalong end of Bay of Fires. Completely different from our previous days’ treks, this little bit of exploration made us feel like little kids playing on God’s jungle gym. The sunlight gleamed off the white sands of the beach and glittered on the huge waves crashing onto the rocks below our climbing feet.  The waters’ roar resounded in our ears. Our toes danced across boulders and dropped nimbly to tiny shell-strewn inlets. It was so exhilaratingly fun.

And then it was over. It was time to head out on the long drive back to Launceston to catch our flight back to Sydney… sigh… We did, however, manage to sneak in one last little bit of fun by stopping at a hidden little lookout to cook up our lunch. And although the hiking in this instance was limited to the ten yards it took to take our steaming bowls of campervan chili up to the lookout platform, it was still a perfect way to end our stint of trekking and say goodbye to beautiful Tasmania.

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