Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wild Waterfalls of the North East– Day 1 – A mystery solved, though some remain



Sunrise and a riot of parrots at Meetus Falls, N.E. Tasmania
I always wondered what lay between those sparse main roads in the north east of our state, shown as large sections of green on my map. Many years ago when my son was learning to drive, we looked for the Lost Falls in this area and found only a dry landscape of rocks - definitely lost. Given that it had rained heavily in the North East – it happens every few years or so, I thought it might be time to have another look. Unfortunately the look of Lake Leake where I had planned to spend the night, was rather desolate - still low, with branches of submerged trees reaching up like ghostly arms from a grave, was enough to put me off. Instead I headed towards a larger fall – Meetus Falls, 10 Km to the north.

Lake Leake - maybe it's a good fishing spot
The unsealed road to Meetus Falls wasn't too bad, but for the last few kilometres where the track branched off. The Reserve itself, run by Forestry, was probably very pretty once, but now looked a little neglected in these straightened times. To my delight there were other people there around a roaring fire in the shelter. I’d almost forgotten what a primeval pleasure that was, to be swapping stories around a fire, one so rarely possible these days. In one of those wonderful coincidences, one man had a book which showed several other falls in this area, so I spent the evening copying out directions.
In the morning I took the short walk to the falls accompanied by the raucous calls of parrots. Meetus Falls, between 45 and 64 metres according to Bonzle, did not disappoint. There was a good flow of water tumbling into a deep gorge which rather made me regret that I hadn’t bothered to check on Lost Falls again. I am not sure what it is about falling water that mesmerises humans. Some ancient instinct I’m sure, on the same level as gazing into fires.

Meetus Falls from the lookout - wish I could give you more idea of the scale
 Tearing myself away, I continued northward on what is apparently the C301, once the old coach road to Cranbrook.  It wasn’t too bad until I came upon what must have been a landslip. There was no possibility of turning around and with the thought of reversing for around 9 km. on this often steep and winding road I gritted my teeth, muttered what might have been a prayer or a curse and squeezed between large boulders and broken rock, doing my best to ignore the rattles and clunks, the shuddering of the steering  and the whine of the gear box and that nagging voice in my head (I'm sure it's son - in- law’s - Automobile Club serviceman in a former life), still warning me about not taking my trusty van on unmade roads. My next car will be a Humvee or maybe a D 9, that way I could make my own way or clear the road as I go. Wonder what their fuel consumption is like?

Normally I would have contacted Forestry first about the condition of the roads, but in most of the East as in most of the West, there’s no signal here on phone or computer, not even in most of the major towns. The nearest  information I'd been able to find on my computer at home said," “Beware of changing rough and slippery road conditions, blind corners, and the massive log trucks speeding deathly loads and frenetically returning along these roads between clearfell coups and the Triabunna woodchip mill.” though I doubt that the Triabunna woodchip mill is their present destination. Forestry accepts no liability.
 
Normal hazards

At last my next objective came into view – The Harding's Falls Reserve. Again the section from the main road is poor, but mercifully not as long as the previous one. Here too, there’s a toilet and a picnic table and even water, which was not available at Meetus Falls, unless you wanted to abseil down a mighty slope. Alas, the shortish track to the Falls lookout brings you to the top of these falls. The view of this gorge with the river meandering through it far below is stupendous and you can hear much roaring and gurgling, but even after climbing down to the much longer River Loop, I still seemed to be standing on top of the falls. I could see no way down to the base without climbing over wet and slippery rocks. I am not quite the nimble - footed mountain goat my children think I am. Let's just say that my survival instinct marginally exceeds my insatiable curiosity, so sorry folks, no great pictures of Harding’s Falls, though I can tell you they do sound fantastic.

Harding's Falls - one of several small cascades at the top
Glimpse of the gorge below
 
And you want me to walk where?
My attempt to visit the third waterfall in this area was also a failure.  Meadstone Falls in the Mt. Puzzler Forest Reserve is supposed to be the highest in Tasmania (how often have I heard that before). Alas, the road to it ends abruptly at a river crossing where a bridge has been washed away.
I was thus obliged to take the lesser of the evils, the road west to Royal George, a mere 9km away where a thin red line of sealed road began.

End of the Line
 Despite the probable damage to my car, I was beginning to understand why this area has remained largely undeveloped.  It is rugged, pinched and folded, fractured, upthrust, riven and ruptured by forces much stronger than those in evidence today. Its abrupt gorges and rocky outcrops are variously clothed in gnarly twisted gums with much bark and debris at their feet or occasional stands of tall white gums surrounded by ferny gullies and rushing creeks. It is not however, quite as trackless as the map would indicate. Apart from frequent drives for forestry purposes which all looked better than the road I was on, there was signage every now and then that offered links to the highways, St. Helens, Bicheno and the Douglas Apsley National Park, but I have had enough of roads that start out looking quite good only to deteriorate alarmingly when it’s too far to go back and too narrow to turn around. 

Royal George (pop. 127), now mostly a farming community, takes its name from a long gone mine which was itself named after a C19th naval ship (Thanks Wiki).  After the wild and isolated country I had driven through, it was lovely to come upon its green hilly paddocks. That they weren’t green for long was evident from the dust clouds which rose from the odd sheep paddock where every last shred of vegetation had been nibbled away. No doubt the farmers were even more thrilled than I was that it had rained.

Through the windscreen - the greenness and sealed road of Royal George were a welcome relief
There was an unexpected bonus. In some paddocks I saw what looked like large white stones set in circles, though I couldn’t imagine what for - Helicopter pads? Crop circles? Petrified cow pats? After I had passed the third or fourth such paddock, I stopped the car to investigate more closely.  Carefully avoiding the electric fences I turned one of these objects over. It was a mushroom the size of dinner plate – many were even bigger. I picked a few to prove that they weren’t a figment of my imagination and then beat a hasty retreat. I also ate one for tea that night and I’m pretty sure that was my mushroom quota for the year.

Eat your heart out - these were just the babies!
PS Apologies for the poor picture quality in these photos - it was mostly overcast or drizzly on this mission, but the farmers will be happy

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