Sunday 17 February
A bit cloudy and quite cool to start. Tessa had eaten a dove or pigeon last evening and didn’t wake us early, she wasn’t even pushing for her breakfast! There was a large patch of feathers in the garden! Louise, our host had not returned last night but did text this morning. We breakfasted, etc, packed and set off. North along the A7 to start, turning off at Legana, after refuelling, to head for Westbury. A lovely drive, we had driven this road two days ago, but it was still good! Across country to Bridgenorth and the Notley Gorge Road, open farmland, grazing country, and woodland. We drove down to the Notley Gorge State Reserve, parked and walked into the forest to Bradey’s Tree - alleged to be the hideout of a famous 1820s bushranger, Matthew Bradey, and his gang. A lovely walk through temperate rain forest, we heard lots of birds and saw some sort of small fantail bird, flitting about, too quick for a photograph. And the divine eucalypt forest smell, mmm...
Back along to the road to Deloraine. Lots of forest, rolling hills, grazing lands with huge herds of cattle - Ruth noted there were lots of different breeds of cattle out here, and some huge bulls! We did see an echidna along the eroad and stopped or some photographs. The echidna seemed happy enough, pushing it’s nose into the leaf litter to find insects to eat. Further along the road we spotted another echidna, but it disappeared into the bush by the time we stopped and walked back to where we had seen it. There was a lot of roadkill all along these roads and we did find a dead lead-betters possum, supposedly very rare. Through Westbury and on to Osmaston and into the outskirts of Deloraine. There was a large vintage car rally in town and the road through it was closed, so we skirted the town, joining the A5, heading further west.
We passed Cheshunt, a large mansion, in the middle of nowhere, quite a magnificent building with a row of what seemed to be derelict worker cottages and a semi-collapsed low barn. Quite a surprise to see such a large house out here. We drove on to Western Creek a tiny settlement nestled under the Western Tiers, a range of mountains running north-south, a huge barrier to east-west travel. A roadside poster advertising fresh organic blueberries drew us down their drive, but no-one home! Turning north, through Dairy Plains, more cattle, and into Mole Creek (to be the site of a music festival next weekend, according to our friend, Leonie). Ate our lunch in the increasingly cool weather, before heading on, after an obligatory ‘Timtam’.
The road steadily climbed into the highlands, passing through small settlements of Liena, Lorinna, Cethana and Miena, getting higher all the time, the road, Cradle Mountain Road, twisting and winding though the hills and finally into the Cradle Mountain area. We found our destination, Discovery Parks, Cradle Mountain and the cabin we had booked. A small, cosy cabin, it did have heating, much needed by now as the temperature had dropped to 12 degrees. I had spotted a particular favourite of ours on the little store attached to the reception, so I went back and bought a small bottle of Hellyers 10 year-old whisky. Spotted another echidna on the way back to the cabin and a wallaby opposite. We unpacked, had a cup of tea then headed in to the National Park.
There are traffic restrictions in the Park, but these were relaxed after 18.30, fortunately it was now 18.29, so after a brief stop at the now closed Visitor Centre, we drove into the Park and all the way to Dove Lake. Very narrow lanes, with passing places, for 9 kilometres until we reached the Lake. A beautiful drive in the early evening light. It rained a bit, but the clouds cleared sufficiently to see Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, absolutely beautiful, especially as we were alone at this point. Took some photographs and as someone else arrived we left. It had been magical!
Back along the track we turned up Connell’s Avenue towards Waldheim when Ruth called out ‘wombat, no, rock, ‘no, wombat, no, two wombats!! We stopped and there indeed was a wombat, happily chomping the grass in the open and a little way beyond a female and her cub. Wow! What a find! We were so lucky. Our first wild, live wombat, in full view! Several photos later and after just watching them for a while we drove on to the Waldheim carpark. And, would you believe it, there was a chinese family flying a drone, not 10 metres from a sign prohibiting the use of drones in a national park, and the sign was in chinese too! Ruth told the owners of this drone, in no uncertain terms, drone flying was not allowed. They brought the drone down, lots of smiles from the chinese, and we just left, disgusted. (We’ve got their rego - number plate),
Saw another wombat on the way back and a pademelon. Back for dinner, a viewing of ‘The Magical Land of Oz’, plus some other tv Ruth wanted to watch, then bed. Cradle Mountain was wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed our drive to it and in it. Sadly, the weather forecast is not looking good.
Monday 18 February
It rained on and off during the night and early morning. In daylight there were alternating spells of heavy cloud and bright sunshine, but no rain. We set off to the visitor centre, reported the chinese drone flyers, checked out their weather forecast and got our tickets for the shuttle bus. A bit if a queue for the bus, but an extra bus was laid on, so we didn’t have much if a wait at all. The bus driver was a cheerful chap pointing out all the different walks as we drove past their start points, that plus a few words of warning about snakes, not feeding any animals and taking rubbish home. We arrived at the Dove Lake car park, registered our walk and set off on the Dove Lake Circuit.
The Circuit is a 6 kilometres well made track around the Lake, lots of boardwalks and one moderately steep section, otherwise the track weaves around boulders and trees and little inlets, all a bit up and down, but fairly easy walking. It is pretty sheltered for the most part as the trees grow right down to the waters edge. We met quite a lot of people on the walk, it is one of the most popular walks in Tasmania and the most popular in Cradle. It does have spectacular views of Cradle Mountain and the surrounding peaks. In one part we heard a lot of small birds twittering away but they were very quick, too quick for a photo but we stood still for a while and managed to spot a few, they looked like the crescent honeyeater. Apart from these we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, except a very noisy currawong (a bit like a crow), a couple of skinks and right at the end, a young echidna. The Ballroom Forest, at the far end of the lake was very damp, huge beech-myrtles, lots of moss, lichens, ferns and old man’s beard, and decomposing branches and trunks, all quite atmospheric.
Well, we made it. Caught the shuttle bus back to the visitors centre. The bus driver pointed out the three wombats we had seen the previous evening and another mother and cub further along the road. By now the weather had changed; the cloud was lower, it was windy with squalls of light rain. Glad we finished the walk in sunshine. Back for a very late lunch and a rest. Rained on and off for the rest of the day. Dinner at the Cradle Mountain Hotel. A novel idea; cook your own food on hot lava rock. The restaurant was totally disorganised, service was awful, but we managed to cook our seafood selection to perfection, so not all bad!
Tuesday 19 February
The rain had eased, but it was cold - 7 degrees! We drove out to catch the shuttle bus to The Ranger Station and Interpretive Centre. The Interpretive Centre was a bit dated, nowhere near as good as we had seen elsewhere. We decided to do several short walks this morning from the Centre, starting with the Knyvet Falls Track. However it had started raining and Ruth sought shelter while I went off and walked the ‘Enchanted Walk’, just a 20 minute circuit up and back along the Creek. The sun came out so we wander3 off along the Knyvet Track. It was virtually totally on boardwalks, descending along the Pencil Pine Creek to the Pencil Falls, a very pretty cascade in the rainforest. On last these falls and descending further through the rainforest, lots of mosses, lichens and fallen trees. Spotted a couple of wallaby before arriving at the top of the Knyvet Falls, quite spectacular! I walked on a bit to try and get a better view and I did!
So, back to the road, we caught the shuttle bus back and had lunch in our cabin. The clouds lifted a little and the sun poked through, so we set off back to the Ranger Station, spotted an echidna on the way, another photo shoot! We parked the car at the Station and caught the Shuttle Bus to Snake Hill. We had a very entertaining bus driver who told us the walk we were about to undertake was his favourite as it was mostly downhill! He too had stories to encourage visitors to stay on the boardwalks and made paths. He said, if you tread off the boardwalk you will likely sink a foot into the mud and come out covered with leeches! Anyway, we got off the bus at Snake Hill and followed the boardwalk towards Ronny Creek. A pleasant walk through an open area, lots of button grass, just above the deep Dove River valley. I spotted a wombat munching away not far from the boardwalk. We stopped and watched it for quite a while, and then it ran a dozen steps of so closer to the boardwalk. Wow, great photos! Another small group of people walked up, so we handed over to them.
On along the boardwalk, crossing the Dove River a couple of times before we reached Ronny Creek, keeping a sharp eye out for more wombats. Only saw a small skink. Opposite the ned of the walk was the Weindorfer Track, named after the first settler in this area and passing his chalet on the way. We had seen wombat on the slopes two nights ago and last night from the bus and there they were again. I walked on along the track all the way to the Chalet spotting several grazing wombat as I went. All very exciting and just as I was passing the Chalet a large wombat wandered along the slope above me, less than 5 metres away. Another great photo!
On down the lane, saw several other wombat, it must be the large grassy slope that keeps them fed, and the forest above to give them shelter. An eastern grey kangaroo, locally known as forester kangaroos, chomped away as I passed. A glance to see me safely at a distance, and it carried on eating!
Ok, approaching 5 o’clock, so we now headed for ‘Devils@Cradle’, a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary, just outside the Park entrance. We had booked to see the Devils being fed and to hear their story. On the way in a large wombat strolled down the drive and crossed the road in front of us. Amazing number of wombat we had now seen. The Sanctuary was fascinating, the keeper had worked with these animals for 20 years and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about them. He also explained about their breeding programme and releases back into the wild. The feeding was ferocious and apart from the occasional snap or scream, they seemed to get on with feeding from the same carcass. There were over 70 devils in the sanctuary and quolls, both Eastern and Spotted. It was uncanny to hear the screams of the devils in other compounds around the reserve, it was no wonder the early european settlers called them devils.
We moved on to the quoll compounds. The first was a large male Spotted Quoll, he was easily the size of a domestic cat. The keeper fed him with a piece of wallaby and it too was ferocious, they too have very sharp teeth and eat quickly, but they are not fed every day. The younger quoll and the eastern quoll were much smaller, still striking with their large spots. The keeper also had a huge knowledge of quoll, it was fascinating to listen to him. All too soon the keeper wrapped it up and we departed. Back to the cabin for dinner and bed. Just as we were going to bed there was a commotion outside and the screen door banged. I looked out and there were two brush-tailed possum attracted by the smell of the rubbish bin Ruth had put into the porch earlier. I brought the bin in and firmly shut the screen door. Both possum left
What a day! What a place; Cradle Mountain is beautiful and beguiling, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, in spite of the weather.
But tomorrow we return to Hobart.