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Waterfall Bagging 1 – Liffey Falls

Waterfall baggers delight - Main Fall at Liffey. These photos taken too late in the day, do not convey its true beauty

We all know about  peak - baggers- those intrepid souls who like to climb every mountain. Then there are people like me who belong to the secret society of waterfall -baggers. There are more of us than you might think. I am just mesmerised by falling water. It’s not just the water however. Nor is it  the challenge of simply ticking another one off a list. It is also the beautiful scenery that goes with it – the richness of the vegetation -the tree ferns, the mosses, the tall trees and the thrill of discovering another of nature's wonders.  Craig Doumouras, creator of the beautiful Waterfalls of Tasmania website, puts it very well,
" For me personally, having been a sufferer of depression for many years, chasing waterfalls fills my soul with a sense of freedom I never knew existed..."
I couldn't agree more.

Liffey is really a series of of waterfalls and cascades - there's quite a big fall just out of sight on the left

This time I travelled over the roof of Tasmania via the Lakes Highway. This is a hard but stunning drive on a good day, but dangerous if there is ice or snow. It isn't much good either if you need a regular supply of fuel or coffee along the way.

While reading up the night before I discovered that many of the waterfalls I had planned to visit - particularly those along the Mersey Forest Road, were no longer accessible due to the terrible floods and bushfires which Tasmania had last year. Bridges were out, roads were washed away or more landslips had occurred. Meadstone Falls  and Holwell Gorge were still out as were Winterbrook Falls, but now neither Ralphs Falls nor Mathinna Falls which I had just managed to see, were no longer accessible either. Even the usually easily reached lower picnic grounds and track of Liffey Falls were closed due to flood damage, so I now found myself driving down a  treacherous unsealed road from the top of the Central Plateau.

At the next turnoff there was a sign ”Short wheel based vehicles only,”  but I didn't understand the significance of that until I was part way down picking my way around boulders, hairpin bends and potholes but there was nowhere to turn around. I doubt that short wheel based compact cars would have managed it better and at least I had higher clearance. For a while I feared that I would be stuck at the bottom of the hill, signalless and alone, but no, the parking area at the bottom the was like Grand Central Station. There were at least six vehicles, two of them vans that were bigger than mine.

The top of another

Alas, it was rather late in the day, so my pictures aren’t great and there was the usual problem of the great contrast between bright light reflecting from falls while the bush remained dark, but it was all I had hoped for – lush ferns, tall trees, the smell of the rain forest and abundant falling water – well worth the twenty minute walk and the anxiety provoking drive.

And another....

After several shorter falls and more walkers the last big fall came into view – the main Liffey Fall – a lovely sight, but I was surprised to see a young Japanese girl sitting on the final set of steps, nursing a head injury from slipping over on the rocks in the river. Luckily she hadn't been knocked out and after establishing that she didn't have concussion, I was able to help her with a couple of things from the First Aid kit. Though I detest carrying a pack, I was pleased that once again some of its contents were useful to someone. You never know when you might need bandaids for blisters, insect repellent, stuff to soothe bites or sprains, torches, aspirin, the EPIRB or maybe some biscuits, dried fruit, or a jacket to keep out the rain, and that's just for a short walk! From here on the track normally continues down to the lower carpark and picnic ground – about another forty minutes, but the access to it across a small footbridge, was still closed.

I stayed for a while thinking how sad it was that not even waterfalls are the permanent features I always thought they were. How many were already lost, not just to natural disasters but also due to dam building, development or just plain neglect, with the tracks growing over from too little use?
One waterfall we used to swim in at Montana is now in private hands and others known only to select cadres of bushwalkers would be forgotten with their passing, were it not for sites like Waterfalls of Tasmania. I too have old books and maps showing falls which are no longer on current ones e.g. Rueben Falls, down south, which has been blocked by a landslip for years or Mavista Falls on Bruny Island which can no longer be reached by normal mortals despite being only a short distance from the road.

Things I love to see - waterfalls in their (almost) natural habitat. There is something to be said for a decent track. At least you can't get lost!

The good news is that the bridges over the Meander River leading up to the Forest reserve there have finally been replaced after washing away in the 2011 floods. Perhaps I should take a look at those waterfalls before the next big flood washes the bridges away again.