Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Last Waterfall (for now) – Day 8 The last gasp and a close encounter



Cradle Mountain Beauty by John Lendis, one of many superb murals at Sheffield

I’d planned to stay in Sheffield, famous for its murals, that night, but after getting thoroughly lost in the maze of small roads that criss –cross inland from the coast, I found myself in Forth instead. These roads, though sealed, pre –date modern earth moving times and go around each hill and each farmer’s field. It must have been onion season now as I passed through acre upon acre of what looked like seas of golden pearls.

Camping was permitted in the recreation ground in Forth but it seemed as if several hundred people had already thought of that. It was apparently the weekend of Forth’s Annual Blues Festival and I only just managed to squeeze my van in between another car and a tent.  People were already gathered around barbecues and firepits, drinking wine and playing loud music. The people on my right kindly invited me to join them and it looked like it was going to be a lively night. Unfortunately, Matthew, the man who owned the tent, had other ideas. When I arrived, he was busy painting rust inhibitor on his car and, handing me the tin and the brush, insisted I do the same on mine.  He had also noticed that my tail lights weren’t working properly and spent ages helping me to fix those too.  After that and my six hour walk, I was quite happy to turn in.  I have been having a really good run with Matthews lately, so thanks all you Matthews out there, but I wouldn’t have minded that glass of wine either. 

I didn’t stay long in the morning. I was afraid that at any moment the festival organisers would be coming around to collect the $70 admission fee, so with the car still sounding really clunky, I started heading home. There was only one more waterfall on the way which I thought I might just be able to sneak in.  After a great morning shower in Sheffield, I spent four hours looking for the track markers  near the turn -off to Lower Beulah as instructed – even knocking on farmer’s doors,  but without success. They had not heard of these falls either. 

In a little clearing on top of a hill, I rechecked the directions on the computer. It turned out that there was a second turn – off to Lower Beulah further east.  From there it was supposed to be about 100 metres north, though there was nowhere to go but east or west.  This is where stubbornness pays off. I drove up the road and down the road – all double lines and tight bends, looking for the particular pine tree that had a pink ribbon on it.  There were lots of pine trees here and a whole plantation of them on the north side of the road. On the third pass, I finally spotted a bit of pink, high up on the left, though I would never have seen it coming the other way. Following the trail, I came upon a huge gorge just a few metres from the road and from there more ribbons led down the side until I eventually arrived at a lookout beyond which I could go no further.
There is a huge cleft in the rocks here, just a few metres from the road
You could see the falls from here. The Dasher Falls as they are called, are not  spectacularly high – perhaps ten metres, but so powerful that they had not only cut that deep swathe through the landscape, but also carved many little caves at their base. Pretty maidenhair fern, which I always thought was only a cultivated species, grew here in abundance, but beyond that, there was nothing for it but to clamber back up. 
I was a bit shocked to see a police car waiting for me at the top. “Have you been driving up and down here?” the officer asked sternly.  I had to admit that I had. “And were you parked on that hill up there?” That was true too. I must have looked worried.
“Just you is it?”  He asked, looking around and looking the van over much too closely. I nodded.  Then he said, “There’s been a break - in down on the river flats. The thieves were driving a van like yours.”
 “I’ve been taking pictures of waterfalls,” I stammered.

The elusive Dasher Falls
Then he broke into a smile,” Waterfall down there is there? I didn’t know that and I’ve lived here all my life. It’s alright,“ he said. “ The owner of the house took photos and you don’t look like any of them.” He declined my offer to show him the falls saying “Nah, not now, I have to get after them.” Then he took off. 
I also drove off  -very sedately, lest my noisy exhaust should cause him to change his mind.  In fact, I tiptoed all the way back to Campbell Town – not even stopping to visit Liffey Falls, though it would only have been a slight detour.  The kindly mechanic there whom I had seen earlier, said that if I could leave the van with him for a few days, he might even be able to do something about those gouges on the lefthand side. The last time I asked a panel beater about the cost of getting those fixed, he'd laughed in my face. "More than your van's worth, " he'd said.  It was an offer too good to refuse. It was thus that I left my car in Campbell Town and quietly caught the bus home, much to the consternation of my neighbours who naturally assumed the worst.

All was well. I picked up the van yesterday after taking the bus again and there’s hardly a mark on it to hint at  its many trials or the adventures it had had.  I on the other hand, have a cold and will be lying low for the next few days. I did however,  get a lead about another set of waterfalls up near Castra which can be reached via sealed roads. Next time perhaps. I'll keep you posted.

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