Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Leaving the Wild, Wild, West – Day 5 Victoria Valley Falls and the Central Highlands



Early Morning at Dee Lagoon - the smoke haze hasn't diminished
I turn right towards Ouse at the T-junction with the road to Liena and shortly after there’s a sign pointing to the Victoria Valley Falls. This is rarely shown on any tourist map and it doesn’t take too long to find out why.  It says carpark 200m, but when I get close it is not clear which of several wide spots in the road is the car park. I end up at the bottom of the hill, where a bridge has either been washed or burnt out at some stage. There is no indication of which way to go, but by chance I walk back up the way I have come first, rather than continuing over the creek and up the hill.
I would say neither party has been here since these signs were erected
As it happens there are two signs in the bush which I didn’t see from the car. One says “Victoria Falls Walking Track 20 minutes return.” The other says this is "A joint project between Forestry Tasmania, Parks and Wildlife and Wildcare." So far so good, though judging by the undergrowth on the track – lots of sedges and bracken, bark and fallen trees, none of them has been here since they put up the sign. Still, I should be able to do this little walk before breakfast. 

At least you can still see that there is a track here
The track is fairly clear until I come out on a huge amphitheatre of rock that overlooks a lightly wooded valley– it must be spectacular after rain, but today there is not a trickle to be seen. It has been a very dry year. There is another sign here that says “Victoria Falls Lookout, 10 minutes return,” so I head off in that direction, but the track quickly loses itself in scrub. 

Looking down into the valley from the rockface - there's not a drop of water to be seen
Assuming a lookout would be highly visible, I follow assorted wallaby tracks – down to the creek, across the creek, up the creek until fallen trees block my way. There is no sign of a lookout, dead or alive, though I do encounter a small trickle of water running over some rocks. I’m on high alert as I claw my way up a pockmarked hill. It’s full of holes and this is snake country if ever there was one. The ground crackles under my feet and I can’t see what is underneath. There’s no sign of any more water or a lookout and it also feels like I’ve walked a lot longer than ten minutes.

I can't go up the creek any further
 I can’t see any track at all on the hill I’ve come down on the other side, but I’m  pleased to rediscover two rocks I’d placed on top of one another at the place where I came out on the creek. With a bit of bush bashing I’m back at a huge horizontal rock I saw on the way down.  At least I think it’s the same one and aim for it, but I’m relieved to have it confirmed by another one of my two -rock arrangements. From there it's fairly easy to pick up the original track which runs alongside this rock. Only the other day I was thinking how hard it must have been for the early explorers and prospectors to traverse this inhospitable land, especially the much more mountainous and densely vegetated west, where the weather is much more severe, though it does snow here too. Now I feel like a gutsy explorer myself, except for the EPIRB nestling in my pack. My next bit of equipment should perhaps be a light machete. That way I could at least clear the track as I go. 

If this isn't perfect snake country, I don't know what is
On the way back I come across a little boarded section perhaps eight feet long covered by leaves and bark. I didn’t really notice it on the way down as I was looking for a lookout. Perhaps that was it, though I was expecting something a bit more elaborate. I linger for a while at the top of the rock ledge overlooking the valley but my stomach is starting to growl.  So much for a short walk before breakfast! There’s a bit of bush tucker about I’m sure, but it doesn’t look as appealing as my muesli and fruit.

Is this it?  View from the little boardwalk. I suppose I was looking for a waterfall and more of a structure

The Aborigines used to make a type of flour out of these seeds, but I think I prefer my muesli
I just have to  chalk this down to experience. I briefly toy with the idea of heading up through Miena and then home via Bothwell, but eventually decide to go down through Osterley to Ouse. A fading sign outside one dilapidated farmhouse says, “God’s Country.” Then there are one or two more and some good looking farm sheds, followed by some burnt -out chimneys. This must be Osterley. I always wondered about Osterley as there are several signs pointing to it on the Lyell Highway. A  sign on a flaking hall confirms it. It’s hardly the booming metropolis I expected. Here too everything looks very dry. Not many pics as there’s nowhere to pull over. This narrow winding road was apparently the main highway westwards before the building of the Tarraleah Power station in the late 1930’s. I suspect that nothing has happened here since.
 
Suburban Osterley I think

The Town Centre I presume

It's dry, dry , dry as far as the eye can see
Things begin to look more prosperous as I approach Ouse. There’s a bit of tarmac on the road, more houses, round hay bales and what looks like poppies and irrigated fruit trees on the hill. I also get my first wild harvest for the season - some cherry plums which will make a nice addition to my breakfast bowl. I usually don’t like to pick from the roadsides, but so far I have only seen one other car and that's in two days.
Then I am back in the civilisation of the hamlets that dot the Lower Derwent. I briefly consider overnighting  at the free campground at Dunrobbin Bridge until I see it, then, having crossed the river I drive on  to  Westerway on the southern side, another road less travelled. It’s a fine day and berry –picking is in progress. I buy raspberries, blueberries and enormous cultivated blackberries and get a little bonus of black currants which are flourishing in the carpark. 

The free campground at Dunrobbin Bridge doesn't tempt me to stay
The greenness of the hopfields around Bushy Park is a sight for sore eyes. Though the plums have kept me from imminent starvation, I finally have my breakfast in the little park beside the river at New Norfolk which is also pleasantly green. Cherry plums are falling from the trees here, so after an undignified slide down the slope on fallen fruit, I take a few more plums for the way home. Then it’s back via the north bank of the Derwent to the city. This way is longer and slower, but it's more scenic and my van doesn’t hold up the fast moving commuter traffic.I have been warned to keep an eye out for the occasional log truck taking this route.
Tall hopfields around Bushy Park provide a touch of green at last
 When I get home, I hear on the news that eighty fires are still raging not only on the West Coast, but in the Central Highlands, especially around Miena. Just as well I didn’t go that way.

Update: 4.2.2016 . We've just had a week of heavy rain but many of the fires are still going. At the same time we have also had flooding in the North and North East, leading to several road closures there as well. Best to check with the Tasmanian Fire Service, Tasmania Police and Parks and Wildlife before setting off anywhere. Forestry Tasmania has another useful site. Can't help wondering though, what Victoria Falls might look like now.

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