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Roadtrip - Day 6 Sheffield and Minnow Falls

Birdsong in the campground

I am more or less on the way home now, but there’s one more place I want to see, a place that eluded me last year. As I drive over what is essentially the state’s vegetable basket, I am plagued by ethical dilemmas. Apart from the climate change issue, which seems to have passed our leaders by, even as they visit drought -stricken farmers and towns whose water supply has run out, should I post the big pictures or not? Is it a spoiler like giving away the end of a movie? I console myself with the thought that most of my readers are overseas and will probably never get to see the real thing and the fact that the image is not the object.  For a start, you rarely get an idea of the scale, much less the colour or the fragrance, and everyone’s experience will be unique. Places change too – look at the fires on the Plateau or the around the Huon – one minute they are there in all their glory and the next moment they are gone. I just want to somehow capture them as they looked at this moment in time. Who knows how long I/we can do this at all? Perhaps one day we will look at them in museums as we do the images of the ghost towns and wonder how we could have lost them.

Breakfast at Devil's Gate Dam which lies in the valley below
I also wonder about exposing fragile places to a wider audience. Do we want them trampled to death as is happening with parts of Cradle Mountain? Or will it take the pressure off other sensitive places?  I also feel that people need to see that there is more to Tasmania than just Hobart, Launceston, Freycinet, Strahan and Cradle Mountain, especially if they have been here before. That brings me back to the original question. How long is the tourism on which our state depends so heavily, going to be sustainable on a warming planet? People do need to see or at least know what it is they stand to lose.

Approach to Sheffield with Mt. Roland in the background

Sheffield, the town of murals and the service centre for the surrounding farming community, is as friendly as ever.  I shop here, have a lovely shower and get lots of helpful information from the Tourist Information Centre.  There is a tick warning out at the moment. Apparently their numbers have increased in recent years and these aren’t  necessarily the usual bracken ticks that sometimes gave dogs a form of paralysis. To prevent bites, tie your hair back and cover your head, avoid bare skin and/ or use insect repellent, avoid long grass and overhanging bushes, check yourself and especially children and pets after an outing. Forget all the stuff grandma or grandpa told you about removing ticks if you get one, just get a special pair of tick tweezers to take them out cleanly and report any symptoms to a doctor immediately. That's it in brief. The main website of this group is down at the moment, but for more detail see the Karl McManus Foundation Page.
This is possibly the most photographed signpost in Tasmania and yes, these places actually exist.

After that sobering interlude, I take the road towards Paradise which brings me to the eastern slopes of Mt. Roland, the imposing mountain in the background.  The contrast between the well -tended farmland to the north and these wild rugged ridges couldn’t be starker.

Unlike the last time I came looking for Minnow Falls, I am now armed with the track notes from the Visitor Centre and I find them easily. The route is also well signed and flagged. Interestingly, you can glimpse another fall along the way named only “Not the Minnow Falls.” After a somewhat challenging river crossing and a long uphill climb, I arrive at the base of the actual Minnow Falls - a stupendous drop in three parts, which I am unable to capture adequately with my phone.  Clouds have come and gone all morning, along with a few spots of rain, but now dark clouds seem to have settled in and I am resigned to going home.

Tiny Fungi and mosses

The real Minnow Falls, at least the top portion...

Pool and a part of the lower fall. Afterwards I found out that there is a rope ladder here to enable you to see more

You may get more of an idea from this or from Sheffield's FB page

As I reach the carpark I run into a couple, Basil and Maria, from Sheffield. Both are in their seventies but you would never know it. They are the good fairies who have been putting up the signs and markers and keeping the tracks clear of fallen timber. Today they are putting up new triangle track markers from New Zealand, because they think the orange tape ‘looks untidy.”  Their selfless devotion astounds me and makes me think that there’s still some hope for the planet. Take that, you economists who think everyone is obsessed with maximising their profits! It also seems to be a very good formula for staying youthful and fit. They tell me about a number of other walks in the Sheffield area, which I will definitely investigate the next time I am up this way. 

Maria and Basil - tending nature's gardens
With some misgivings – is it still covered in ice? Will it wreck my van? – I decide to take the Lakes Highway home, rather than the much longer route through the Midlands. Bracing myself for the juddering of forty Km of unmade road, I was very surprised that apart from a couple of nasty cattle grids, it is now sealed all the way. I am home in just over two hours. Weather permitting, this will be a huge boon to anyone wanting to travel between Hobart and the North West Coast or looking for an alternative to the much travelled Midlands route.  Please be aware though that there are no services, no shops or petrol stations on this road and you would be hard pressed to find anyone to help you in the event of a breakdown.

Souvenir - a bunch of wild daffodils from the roadside - Sorry, I couldn't help myself!