Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Have a good one!
This lovely picture is by Alice T. whose Mum has kindly allowed me to use it

Friday, December 22, 2017

Ben Lomond – Another peak unbagged

Ben Lomond in our sights

It’s a pity that Ben Lomond National Park is a bit off the beaten track, especially coming from Hobart – about 224.2 Km. Couldn't help thinking while wending my way over backroads from Evandale  that, given the traditional rivalry between Launceston and Hobart,  this was some kind of Launcestonian plot to keep those pesky southerners out.  

 Even after you manage to find your way to Upper Blessington, there are still 12 kilometres of unmade road to negotiate before you reach the park entrance. That done, you will find yourself in one of the most stunning and geologically fascinating landscapes in Tasmania, with its escarpments rising abruptly from the surrounding farmlands like the ramparts of  a vast mediaeval castle. Colonel Legge, who surveyed it in 1906 -09  regarded "(The)  Ben Lomond Plateau as the most remarkable physiographical feature in the State..."

Small Waratahs line the lower reaches of the track
 At the time, Ben Lomond was thought to be the highest peak in Tasmania, but  re -measurement in 1911-12 using theodolites, rather than more primitive instruments, showed its highest point to be 1572m, making it the second highest peak in Tasmania, after Mt. Ossa (1617m). However, despite most of Tasmania’s mountains being in the west of the state, 6 of the 15 peaks over 1500m are located here.  Indeed,  Parks and Wildlife say most of the Ben Lomond Plateau is above 1300 metres and about 14 Km. long and 6 Km. wide.

Skirting boulder fields on the way to the Big Opening
The walk starts at Carr Villa,*  a few kilometres above the campground which boasts not one but two flushing toilets. Only two or three other cars were in evidence there and we also met two mountain climbers at the start of the track. From there the trail goes steadily uphill over rocks and low growing shrubs – some waratah (not quite as brilliant as those in the Hartz, but nevertheless beautiful to see), mountain pepper, orange and yellow scoparia, yellow flowering pineapple grass and several types of white flowering shrubs. These continue all through ‘The Plains of Heaven,’ a wide swathe cut by a glacier, no doubt so named by the skiers who used to trek up here on horseback until the road was built in the 1930s. 

*Carr Villa is ironically named after a cemetery in Launceston as it was regarded as "the last resting place."

In The Plains of Heaven

Small tarns and Cushion Plants near the  ridgeline

 After what seemed like a very long climb, the track levelled off and took us past a couple of chalets. The track to Legges Tor — the highest point, starts here.  As with Hartz Peak, this is only a short sharp detour of around 20 to 30 minutes, but as with Hartz Peak, my legs were already threatening to give way at any moment and I feared that even that bit of extra mileage might do me in.  With neither of us expected back until late the next day, we promised ourselves we would do it in the morning and continued on our way.

An older chalet below Legges Tor Track

I was delighted to see the road far below us and hastened down to meet it. Only another few kilometres I thought, and then we would be back at our campsite having cups of tea. This was not true. A look at the map showed that we had another 12.5 kilometres to go, and that was just to get back to the car. The sign saying that the walk was 4 hours return had obviously been made by the same folk who thought that getting to Adamson's  Falls and back should only take two hours.
View from the top of  the road

By the time we reached the road I was just plodding, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. The road itself – Jacob’s Ladder as it’s called, is perfectly spectacular having been blasted out of sheer rock on either side. As it snakes its way down there are views over other peaks, much of the Midlands, the North East and even Flinders Island. It must be one of the most exciting drives in Australia – better than Queenstown's 99, better than the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, especially when spiced up with a touch of ice or snow. 

Jacob's Ladder

Rocky sentinels overlook the one lane road. Some don't look very stable

... but the views are almost to die for
 See the scenery, the jagged, jumbled rocks and the hairpins here:

Looking up
As I sagged in a heap near the gate at the bottom of the main bends, my friend  valiantly offered to walk the remaining five kilometres or so to get the car.

He hadn’t been gone long when along came a car driven by the lovely Kate who owns a chalet in these parts. She stopped to ask if I was OK and kindly gave me a lift. She also picked up my friend who, though a good way down the road, was also looking a bit worse for wear. Nothing more was said, but I suspect we were both rather relieved that the morning dawned with light drizzle, getting us off the hook with respect to Legges Tor. Thanks very much for the ride Kate. We hope you have a lovely Christmas! And thanks to R for being so chivalrous.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Two Native Gardens – 2 The Tasmanian Bushland Garden, Buckland

A disused quarry provides a home for the Tasmanian Bushland Garden near Buckland

Getting to the Tasmanian Bushland Gardens takes longer – around 55 minutes from Hobart via the A3 according to my GPS - and much longer if you stop to pick your own strawberries as I did, but entry is free and it’s a lovely rest stop if you happen to be heading up or down the East Coast.

Officially opened in 2010 and set in a former quarry this 20 hectare garden was established by volunteers aided by donations from various organisations, to preserve typical East Coast species. Much of the original vegetation has already been lost due to clearing, grazing, forestry activity and other forms of  "progress."

I especially liked that plants were not shown in isolation but together with other species with which they commonly occur

Although I had probably missed the peak flowering season, this garden was nicely laid out according to different kinds of plant communities – e.g. those which grow on granite, those which grow on sandstone, the grasslands, the marshes and so on, just as you might find them in nature. There is also a bush tucker section and one devoted to Tasmania’s rare and endemic species of which around 30 are critically endangered.  The idea is to show people how attractive our native flora can be so that should conservation in their natural habitat fail – through fire, development, global warming or some other catastrophe, some may yet survive in dispersed locations such as domestic gardens. 

A young girl studies the pond life at the base of a waterfall
The Gondwana connection is highlighted by the presence of this dinosaur. The dolerite stones behind it are 170 million years old and, though found in Antarctica and South Africa, they are not found in mainland Australia

There are information panels about the plants - on the history of the gardens, and on the geology, dotted around the walls of the shelter and on the garden beds themselves. As with Inverawe, some sculptures also adorn this garden, but here the use of recycled materials and subtle weathering allows them to blend in more easily. Other amenities include seating, a children’s playground, two ponds, toilets and a barbecue. It also has walks and a memorial garden dedicated to those who have contributed to our knowledge and appreciation of native plants.  It is an altogether pleasant and peaceful place and the fact that it has a wider purpose and embodies a spirit of community, adds to its appeal.

A Tasmanian tiger lurks near the Playground

Two Native Gardens – 1 Inverawe Gardens, Margate

Callistemons add a splash of Christmas colour at Inverawe Gardens - the birds love them too

The Callistemons were in bloom when I visited this 9.5 ha private garden a couple of weeks ago, feeling rather remiss for having mentioned it in connection with alpine plants when I hadn’t actually seen it.
It does not specialise in Alpine or Subalpine species – i.e. you won’t see any cushion plants, because the region is simply too dry (you need a minimum of 1200 mls. of rainfall for this type of vegetation to flourish and even more for rainforest plants) and it is also too close to the sea. One of the few representative rainforest plants is the Athrotaxis Laxifolia, the one that is a cross between The King Billy Pine and the Pencil Pine. Alas, it sits forlornly in a pot near the entrance, presumably so that it can get the abundant water it needs.

Athrotaxis Laxifolia - the rare cross between King Billy Pine and Pencil Pine

The good thing about this garden is that for the most part it works with nature, rather than trying to grow plants with a high demand for water. Instead, it includes plants from all over Australia which will thrive in these conditions. While this makes for a more colourful display, not many of the plants are endemic to Tasmania. The bright red callistemon for instance, though common on the East Coast of mainland Australia, does not naturally occur in Tasmania, although Tasmania does have two of its own, including a lemon scented one. The birds don’t seem to mind however, regardless of the origin of the plants and they don’t seem to be at all perturbed by visitors wandering around. 

The view from Baudin's Lookout

The Inverawe Gardens have a few other quirks – a pleasant lookout featuring the view Baudin may have seen on coming ashore at what is now North West Bay. There are also artworks and a couple of very odd animated gardeners to be seen and heard. I would have liked to explore some of the walking tracks but the friend who had come with me had “bad knees” and we had to leave rather soon. It is possible to have afternoon tea here too, but since we were there in the middle of a heatwave, we opted for a Valhalla icecream at the neighbouring Margate Train instead.

"Tree Hugger" -There are mixed views about the artwork - some finding it delightful and whimsical while others consider it kitsch. Make up your own mind!

Entry to the Gardens costs $12 for adults ($10 for Concession/Seniors card holders) and $4 for children. It is easily reached from Hobart via the Southern Outlet (A6) or the longer scenic route which follows the coast more closely.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Sloth Bagger’s Guide to Tasmania

Trip planning is a very important part of your adventure and can take up a lot of your time. Sometimes it can take up all of your time

For the actual Rules for Peak Bagging in Tasmania, check out Wildtiger  It has great photos too, to spare you the effort of actually having to climb mountains.

For those like myself, who are less fit or less energetically inclined, I can thoroughly recommend Peter Zund and Heather Ashton’s definitive Slothbagger’s Guide to  Tasmania which they  have kindly allowed me to  share with you here.

As Peter and Heather write, “This guide has been developed to encourage members to enjoy some of the less active destinations in the state. Points can be claimed for the same destinations as many times as you wish. Destinations have been awarded points according to the following principles:

A: level of inactivity
B: ease of access
C: level of enjoyment

Get to it and have fun!?”

Federation Peak as seen from the car park on Mt. Wellington.
Cape Pillar as seen from Palmers Lookout
Regularly frequenting Paddy Palin to “sus” out the latest gear. “Were not insinuating you’re a gear freak though!”
Barn Bluff as seen from Black Bluff Range lookout on the link road.
Buying all the latest gear but not actually using it more than once. (Now you’re a gear freak!)
Yearly subscription to WILD magazine.
Going to within 1m of the summit of any mountain.
Membership of a bushwalking club.
Visiting the same mountain more than once in preference to going somewhere worth more points
Viewing a nature program on television.
Reading bushwalking guide books in preference to going on bushwalks.
Electing to stay in the tent rather than “bag a peak” in foul weather.
Getting comfortable in front of a fire with a coffee table book about Tasmania’s brilliant wild areas.
Spending three nights at Lake Tahune and never climbing Frenchmens Cap
Visiting Launceston Cataract Gorge café via the MTA Bus and cable car.
Staying in the lodge at Cradle and driving to Lake Dove to take a photo
Planning walking routes but never actually going on them.
Driving to the top of Mt. Barrow
Driving to the top of Mt. Wellington.
Going on a guide walk with “Cradle Huts” guided walks.
Staying home to watch the cricket or footy

Having the right equipment is also very important but be warned, you do lose points if it looks as if you have actually used it


Attending more than 2 walks per year
Climbing peaks which have points accredited to them by the “Peak Baggers Guide” minus the points allocated to them by the other guide.
Owning gear which looks used.
Keeping up with the movements of the TIGER walker.

What kind of Slothbagger are you? Add up your points to find your category :-

Downright Active                                < 50
Member of Sloth Brigade                     50-99
Dishonourable Sloth Bagger              100-199
Honourable Sloth Bagger                   200-299
Sloth Bagger Extraordinaire               300-499
Sloth Bagger Supreme                        500+

Brought to you by Peter Zund and Heather Ashcroft.

Happy Sloth Bagging Everyone!