Donna and I hooked up with Jacinta Richardson and Paul Fenwick after LCA. We had decided to hire a car and spend a few days hooning around the Huon Valley. Note: don't spend your money on a Toyota Aurion, they're like rudderless boats, huge and wallowing.
We left Hobart late Sunday morning and drove up that huge mountain we'd been staring at all week. The top offers fantastic views of Hobart and the Derwent River. It was rather hot in the sun though, so we didn't attempt to do any of the walks.
After about an hour of checking out the dominoes on one of the peaks and clambering over rocks we headed off toward the Donalea B&B in Castle Forbes Bay that we'd be using as our base.
Just before Huonville we noticed the Apple Museum and pulled in for a quick look. When one of the proprietors discovered we had been to LCA and asked if we knew how to fix computers, we decided to only buy fruit to snack on, and continued onward.
Next stop was the B&B, which turned out to be a two-bedroom apartment with kitchen, lounge and a huge bathroom, overlooking the Huon River. I can heartily recommend it. Paul had heard rumours of a non-commercialised cave further south and asked for details, but Don - the owner - hadn't heard of any such thing.
With many hours of daylight left, we decided to check out the Hartz Mountains world heritage area. This mountain range contains an alpine plateau, which gives birth to the Arve river. Thousands of rivulets combine in a lush green landscape that was originally formed by glaciers to form creeks, lakes and small rivers.
On the way up we'd spotted a sign saying "Big Stump - Butt" and that had gotten us so curious we decided to stop on the way back down and have a look. A small, steep muddy path took us up the side of a hill for a hundred meters or so, before we came across the largest piece of treetrunk I have ever seen.
Whilst milling about, trying to find a good vantage point for a photo, I noticed a dark shape off to the side and on closer examination this turned out to be the actual stump. I assume people had falled in and gotten stuck at some stage, as there was a grate covering the hollow center. Inside, a two meter tall tree fern didn't even reach all the way up.
Some graffiti on the railing noted that the tree - which I assume was a Stringybark - apparently used to be 84 metres tall.
Daylight started fading at this point, so we returned to the B&B to pig out on goodies we'd bought at the Salamanca Market before we left Hobart.
Brightish and earlyish the next day wewent back in the same direction, to visit the Tahune Air Walk. This is a 600 meter long walkway raised to about 35 metres above the forset floor, which takes you on a tour of the tree canopies. It also overlooks the Huon River, so provides great views.
Unfortunately I suffer from vertigo, so I spent most of my half hour on the walkway staring straight ahead and walking towards the exit. Still, on the parts where I did manage to look around, it was magnificent.
The next walk we did was the Huon Pine walk, in the same location. Huon pine has been logged near to extinction because of its easy workability and perfumed essential oils. Sadly they grow extremely slowly and only where they have direct access to water, so the population is still small and the trees are all relatively young.
The plan after that was to decamp much further south and visit the Hastings caves and thermal springs. On the way there we had a quick leg-stretch at Dover, where Donna decided she could happily live near this beach and live on the ample supply of oysters that grew there. A blackberry bush provided our first taste of bush tucker; a single blackberry each.
Hastings cave has been made accessible with stone floors and stairs, and is lit up for extra effect. Still, they are beautiful and because some flat spaces were available, I managed to take some nice photos with a 10 second exposure time and no flash. I also saw my first ever glow worms. Alice, our guide, pointed out a handful of them were hiding in a darker-than-usual spot under some stairs.
When we came back out, Paul discovered that Alice did know of other caves in the area, and he got her to draw us a map. Donna and I weren't sure about going off caving without any preparation though, so we decided we'd first spend some time making our feet hurt less by wallowing in the nearby thermal springs.
This turned out to be a small swimming pool filled with screeching children, but the half hour soak we managed to get before they closed was very welcome.
Because it gets dark rather late and we had nothing else on our itinerary, we agreed to at least have a look at the Mystery Creek Cave, as the untamed one turned out to be called. This was a good half-hour drive up a continuously degrading dirt road. However we did find other cars parked at the end of this road, which was somewhat heartening.
After adding our names in the journal and grabbing a packet of the provided matches, we set off into the forest for an adventure!
The walk that followed can be compared with Bilbos trek from the Shire to Mordor, if in somewhat random order. We passed through elvish forests and a barren, rock-strewn quarry, we crossed
riverscreeks and negotiated fallen trees, past strange temples and decended, finally, into the mines of Moria.
We entered by sliding down a muddy mountain side and walking along the creek, disappearing into the mountain. Because we were ill-prepare, lacking torches, food, drinks and protectio, we were unable to get past the first chamber. However, after out eyes had gotten used to the dark, we could make out contellations made up out of thousands of glow worms. It was fantastic!
With the sun setting and a long walk ahead of us, we only spent fifteen minutes in the cave, and after saving Paul from the flat stone that turned out to be an abyss, we clambered back to to the abandoned quarry and eventually made ourway back to the car.
Not knowing what to expect, I had left the camera in the car, so the only visual record of this tale is held by Paul and Jacinta.
The next day we were scheduled to fly back to Melbourne, sohas left our sight-seeing options open. The cidery we intended to visit was closed on Tuesdays, so we made our way directoy to the Grandvewe Cheesery for brunch. Their cheeses are fantastic and luckily available from one or two stalls at the Queen Victoria Market, so I'll be looking out for them.
Due to the longer than expected brunch we missed the ferry to Bruny Island, so we decided to visit Snug Falls instead, before heading to the airport and going home.
The sign at the cark park says it's a 45 minute easy return walk, but that turned out to be not the case. After 30 minutes of walking up and down a fairly steep and eroded path, past dried up creeks, we decided to turn back if we'd still not seen or heard and water in the next five minutes.
Luckily we did hear water in the next five minutes and so found Snug Falls - a magnificent rock face with a small pool below it. The huge tree trunks, that have clearly been carried over the edge by water, speak of a fantastic waterfall when it is fed by melting snow or rains in winter. Today there was just a small trickle, though.
This beautiful spot made for a great ending to our short tour of wildish tasmania :-)