Saturday, August 26, 2017

Diary of a Wannbe Fungi Hunter - Last Chapter

Looks like the Wilmot Bakery has been closed for a while

Day 5 - My car holds together. There are no further leaks. Wet clothes occupy every available curtain rail and the backs of seats. I am on my last set of dry clothes. Steam rises when I put the heater on to stop the windscreen from fogging up. I pull out the gumboots. I am not putting those wet walking boots on again. The gumboots prove to be a good choice. The first part of the walk goes through a creek. Once past that, there’s a lot of fallen timber which I have to climb over, under or around, but otherwise the track is fairly clear until I get to the upper falls. It rains on and off and I find a few fungi. There used to be seven waterfalls here. Since the dam was built there are only two and a half. The locals say it’s not a patch on what it was before, but I am not disappointed. 

Lower Forth Falls

There are powerful cascades and riffles all along the river. After the upper fall some markers take you down to the river but then peter out. It used to be a circuit track, but after a bit of bush bashing I still can’t see a way to go further and am forced to retrace my steps. There should be a sign saying “The End.” I have walked a lot longer than the suggested time and I am glad I picked up a few tips like the Spider Jump from watching Australian Ninja Warrior while I was sick. In this part, there’s a spot on the river where you have to climb over some slippery rocks. It still drizzles on and off and my photos aren’t much - people are getting better photos with their iPhones, but there is some satisfaction in (a) having actually found the falls and (b) having gotten back in one piece. Blue wrens dart around the van while I have breakfast.

A glimpse of the Upper falls from high on a ridge
There are still a few fungi about here

Clavulinopsis Sulcata I presume

No idea

Not too far away, there are some other falls I once saw years ago. I feel I had better look at them now as I am unlikely to be back this way for quite a while, if at all. There is a sort of urgency now. Things change.  I doubt that I could walk ten Km with a pack on these days, much less 16.7 uphill, like I had to on the Overland Track, and that was a struggle then. Other things change too. Witness the demise of Wes Beckett Reserve and Milkshake Hills. It’s obvious too, that the people who knew and cared about these falls are no longer around. The access used be through a tearoom which has long since closed, (not the bakery in the top picture). Even if it goes the other way –i.e.  more people, then there’ll be more regulations, higher fees and higher prices, as has happened on the Overland Track.  Do it now, whatever it is.

Still seeing stars -Earthstars still wink at me -saw some at Ridgley too

The ten Km of gravel into Lemonthyme Lodge is much longer than I remember it. So is the walk. These falls are on private property and it’s polite to ask first. It’s wonderfully secluded – no sign of logging here – there’s still that sense of eternity, and the people are friendly too. They give me track notes and offer me the use of their clothes dryer and their wifi. I still get no signal, but my phone leaps into life and I am able to send a text. These are magnificent waterfalls if you don't mind a two hour walk - 3 for me, and a bit of mud. The good news is that it's all downhill on the way back. There are different people on now in the Chalet and they are getting ready to serve evening meals. I don’t want to wear out my welcome, but would kill for the hot breakfast menu. I settle for a huge double shot mug of coffee and then hit the road.

 Champagne Falls

  Bridal Veil Falls - you can walk behind these. It's only another ten minutes, but the thought of yet another uphill climb - even a small one, defeats me

It’s been another three waterfall day, none of them easy, and I am looking forward to the rest stop at O’Neill’s Creek on the other side of the gulch from Cethana where I stayed once before. This too is now a paying event. -It’s not much – only $5, but all I have left is a $50 note and there’s a $250 fine if you don’t pay.  There’s no one else here from whom to get change and $50 seems too much to pay for the use of a toilet and somewhere to pull over.

I am almost at the highway now. There are signs for B & B’s and Caravan Parks, but I resent paying for a double too, when that’s all I need. It would be different if I was travelling with a romantic partner. I end up driving all the way home. For some reason I am hanging out for a pie. Junk food is one of my secret vices when I travel and usually the only option, but this time I haven’t encountered a single country bakery – not even at Perth or Campbell Town which are still on the highway. I stop at Coonara,  boil the billy, fill the thermos, have a Cuppa Soup and the last of the bagels I bought in Smithon. Then I shut my eyes for a while - a power nap. This too has become a “Day Use Only” area. It also says there are surveillance cameras operating at all times, so I dare not stay too long. Only the thought of my nice warm bed and unmetered hot water, keeps me going through the night. The only point of light on the road, apart from the blaze of lights from passing trucks, is Mood Food at Kempton, 55 Km from Hobart, which is open 24 hours. I fill up again and buy not one, but two pies. They are lukewarm. It’s been a long day.

So, why would any sensible person want to do this? I have been asking myself the same question, on some days more than others. The answer lies partly in the thrill of discovering something I haven't seen before. This little piece below, which I encountered in a 1998 "Backpacker " Magazine, might sum up the rest.

This is from an ad for Air Mada pro hiking Shoes. Must remember to take the Bloodbank some newer magazines! Airmada is now the name of a company that makes drones!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Diary of a Wannabe Fungi Hunter - Adventures in the North West - Riana to Wilmot

Cows and rainbows

Day 4 -An encounter of the weird kind. Slept in Riana last night. It was Saturday night. After walking three waterfalls (OK, I admit two of them were easy) and wrestling the car over country roads, I was a bit tired. Riana South still has a real country store stocking everything from birthday cards to stockfeed and hardware. Further up the road in Riana proper, there’s also a nice little campground with hot showers. Yes, you pay here too, but it doesn’t seem quite as mercenary as some, though it too has gone up $6 since the camping book was published. 

There was a barbecue in progress when I got there and a roaring fire. It was a private function – a family reunion, but one of the guests handed me some sausage anyway. We had a bit of a chat by the fire and then I attempted to turn in.  It wasn’t quiet for long. Some of the lads came to check out the van. ‘Wouldn’t mind a set - up like that,” said one. They tested out the bullbar by bouncing up and down on it a bit, checked out the fire extinguisher, opened all the flaps – the water inlet, the power inlet. They were in high spirits -had had a few drinks, but weren’t belligerent or anything - just trying to stir me up. I pretended not to notice assuming that they would get sick of it soon and go away. Suddenly "Sproing!” there’s an unholy racket and the Annexe starts to unravel.  I was now wide awake. I’d never used the Annexe in Tasmania and the one time it was used in Queensland, someone else put it up. I had no idea how to put it back. 

Very sheepish and apologetic, the five young men spent ages trying to put it back together, but somehow the legs kept falling out. It became the night’s entertainment. Soon all the other guests gathered round offering advice. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of company last night, but perhaps not that much. By the time a mini bus came to take everyone home, there was only a small bit of Annexe left sticking out, but it seemed pretty secure. We exchanged addresses in case it caused any further problems. One offered money, another asked “What’s your favourite shop?” so he could send me a gift card, but I was a bit over it by this time and just wished everyone would go away.  I also prayed that I wouldn’t suddenly become airborne in the morning.

Gunn's Plains
 The shower is surprisingly long for a coin -in -the slot one. The hot water is still going when I finish, though I don’t trust these enough to wash my hair.  I pay my dues and fill up and stock up at the South Riana Store.  I like shopping in places like this for several reasons. For a start I want them to be there next time I come and while sixty dollars may not mean much to the big supermarkets, it just might help here. It’s also a way of saying thanks for still offering a bit of hospitality to travellers – amenities, barbecues and picnic tables, when so many places no longer do. You also often find unusual things like jaffle irons in places like this. I’ll bet you could find some sleeve protectors and stays if you looked long enough. I once found two excellent chambray police shirts with detachable collars in Bairnsdale (Vic) and they lasted for years and years – the shirts, I mean, not the collars. Usually country stores can’t compete well with the volume purchasing power of the big supermarkets, but several items here – the coffee and my favourite muesli, are the same price or less than they are in the city. Then it’s off overland again. What a shame that so few tourists get to see this part of Tasmania. They see the major cities and Cradle Mountain and maybe Strahan and Port Arthur and think “been there, done that.”

There's a beautiful waterfall on the way to Preston (small Canon)

There are lovely views going through Gunn’s Plains but I can also see lots of snow on the plateau. Looks like I won’t be returning via the Lakes. Soon I encounter another waterfall right beside the road. It’s of the Class 1 type and very easy to get to – as the sign says, “Preston Falls is one of the most easily accessible Falls in Tasmania 15 mins return, easy walk” How could I refuse. I’ve made a little plastic hoodie for the big camera and take it along too. It’s a beautiful high waterfall that plunges into a deep green gorge. I am now in that nest of roads around Castra, where I was last April.  Castra, Upper Castra and Central Castra and several other small communities are shown as large dots on my map. The signs are faded or missing and the only way to know that you have arrived is because the limit board changes. Seeing signs saying “Speed Limit 100 Kmph” makes me smile. I feel lucky to be achieving 25.

Preston Falls - big camera - better picture but it doesn't fit it all in

Base of the Falls
I wouldn’t mind having another look at those falls now that the rivers are running high, but I’m starting to feel really guilty about not contacting my family.They’ll be sending the troops out soon. Not only have I had no signal anywhere since I left home – phone or computer, but I can’t get anything to charge. Hope I haven’t damaged anything expensive driving over all those rough roads. Without my phone I don’t have anyone’s number. Wilmot isn’t too far away down a little used road. Last time I went through it was an actual town. Maybe someone there will have wifi. 

I can see why this road isn't popular - took me ages to find it. Hope the ban on caravans and trailers doesn't include campervans. Still, it's not as steep as some of the ones at home, like Mellifont Street. Not that I would want to drive up it

There are other hazards too
Uh Oh! Snow on the mountains. Looks like I won't be going home that way
The Wilmot Access Centre isn’t open. No one knows the hours. I read the notice board at the Town Hall listing all the attractions such as the original G.J. Coles store. When I ask about it – it was here last time, I learn that it has burnt down. I also notice that there’s a waterfall in this area too. It is however, of the Class 2 variety requiring a one and a half hour bushwalk. It starts from a campground about 3 km out of town. I find a couple of walks around the edge of the lake but nothing else. It rains again. A man who lives nearby tells me that the walk no longer starts here but up the road and that the track has not been well maintained. As it’s late now, I cook a meal and give up for the night.

No, this picture is not upside down. This is the edge of Lake Barrington at dusk

Monday, August 21, 2017

Diary of a Wannabe Fungi Hunter – Adventures in the North West - Three waterfalls

Coastal Wattle near Smithton
Day 4 -There was a sign just outside the campground that said “To Dip Falls.” With all that rain, it should be a good time to see them. Although it drizzles on and off again, it is.  There are two types of waterfalls in Tasmania. Those like this one which you can almost drive right up to, have a well -made track, signage and even a lookout so you can really see it, though it’s 25 Km off the highway. Then there are the wild waterfalls, the ones you have to struggle for like Adamson’s Falls– up in the mountains with rough roads, few signs and difficult tracks. You rarely meet another soul on these. Here cars come and cars go. People spill out.  I meet some of them on the stairs with their iPads and smartphones.Five minutes later they are gone. The falls are so impressive I want to look at some of the others in this area.

Upper level Dip Falls - Class 1 Waterfall - Note railing on viewing platform - Taken with the big Canon
Taken with its little brother

The lower Fall - that's a lot of water. Our rivers are normally brown because of the tannnin in the vegetation, especially tea tree and button grass, but I would say there's a good bit of topsoil going over these falls too

 My map shows another one on the other side of the Dip Range. I think I may have visited it once with a Bushwalking Club, but could never find the way there again. Rather than go all the way back to the main highway and then driving all the way down again on a parallel road, I take what looks like a shortcut cross country. This is deceptive. The roads are sealed but winding and narrow, passing over rolling hills and going around the edges of lush green paddocks. 

There's beautiful country in between
Like Marrawah, this is dairy country.  Signs on gates say they are proud suppliers to Devondale Dairies or have little purple ones saying their milk goes into Cadbury’s Chocolate and you are more likely to be run over by a speeding milk tanker than a log truck, but all is not well. There are also a lot of “For Sale” signs, many of the little country towns look a tad run down and everywhere there is that relentless clearing

Tree farm in progress

 There’s also a lot of storm damage. Fallen trees have been pushed to the side of the road. I move smaller branches - the tyre poppers, out of the way, drive around bigger ones. It all takes longer and uses more fuel than if I had whizzed down the highway, but I am always curious about places that I haven’t seen.

There are no signs but a local person gives me vague directions. After few false starts which lead me up people's driveways, I come to the right gate. This is private property and I would have asked first, but there’s no one home. I do a lap of the farmer’s turnip field before realising I should have gone straight through two more gates. The huge bull in the next paddock gives me the evil eye. The flimsy wire fence between us doesn't look as if it would keep us apart for long. I put my head down and walk past as briskly as I dare.

There’s a warning sign at the top of the hill “Do not Proceed” but the orange barrier tape has been wound back and there are lots of recent footprints leading onwards, so I proceed too, though very, very carefully. There are reasons why I am not the world’s greatest photographer. I am not brave enough to risk life and limb. I don't do war zones. Nor am I as dedicated as the friend I met in Vanuatu who boiled enough water for five days and carried it in on foot for the 10 Km walk to a volcano so that he could capture the precise moment at which the sulphur clouds parted to reveal the crater which no one had seen for years.

It seemed a shame to have gotten this far and not seen anything

I go just close enough to this waterfall to take a couple snaps with the small camera, but don’t venture on the broken lookout. I feel like a tourist. Didn’t want to risk the big camera on an uncertain scramble like that and besides, I have found that the small one gives better depth of field. The big one takes better pictures and is much better for fungi of course, and there are a couple, but it doesn’t have the slightly wide angled lens that the small one does to capture waterfalls in one frame. Not that the photos convey the spectacle in any way. I feel immensely relieved and a trifle smug when I make it back to the car. You don't get that so much with the easy waterfalls.

There are still a few fungi here, including my favourite Porpolomopsis Lewellinae

Detention River Falls -You only get a glimpse of these.....
Unless you are prepared to go out on ledges like this. These falls thunder into a gorge dizzyingly far below. I haven't trusted rocky outcrops since London Bridge - one of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, collapsed in 1990. Until then I thought Geology at least was forever. Now there are only Seven Apostles left. After all this rain and the power of the water.... no way!

My third waterfall for the day takes me to Ridgely, just inland from Burnie. Who would have thought that such a large and lovely waterfall existed so close to civilisation? We must have passed by within 1 or 2 kilometres hundreds of times on our way to Burnie. This is a Class 1 fall with very pretty  picnic grounds.

Late afternoon at Guide Falls - sunbeams play on the water vapour as I approach. This is a very easy waterfall to get to, and in a pretty setting too
There are curious rocky outcrops here too. If any Geologists happen to be reading this please tell me their origin. They don't appear to be erratics carried down by ice. Are they relict volcanic plugs or intrusions of some kind?

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Some of the strange rocky protrusions at Ridgley