|The very top of Mc Gowan's Falls - apologies for the dull pics. The sun hadn't come up yet!|
As the crow flies and according to Google maps, Mc Gowan’s Falls are only about 23Km away from Preolenna, but both neglect to mention that this is via an unmade Forestry Road, all of which vary greatly in quality. Most are unsigned and usually single lane with nowhere to pass or turn around. They can also be very treacherous. At this time of year after so much rain, you are likely to encounter wash -outs, enormous potholes, weakened bridges and possibly fallen timber across the road. Since these are private roads, you travel at your own risk and can’t complain or sue if you break an axle or write yourself or your car off. I think it's very difficult for people coming from more densely populated regions to imagine how wild and rugged Tasmania is beyond our towns and cities which cling like embroidery to its fringes.
I always enter such roads with great trepidation and carry an Epirb (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) in case of utmost emergency. I also drive very slowly. Don’t even consider going unless you have four -wheel drive, good maps – (but don’t trust them entirely – even Tasmaps have some of these the roads incorrectly named), and have plenty of fuel. Local knowledge is useful -if you can find anyone to ask, as these roads can deteriorate very quickly. It also helps to know if there are forests operations in progress. This is so you don’t meet up with large and fast -moving log trucks rushing our forests to distant ports. Sometimes I fear that the whole of Tasmania will soon be one big plantation with very few pockets of our ancient and unique vegetation and, as a consequence, very few of our equally unique animals which depend on it.
|Going down. There's a section here where you cross a rockface with the help of a rope|
Google tells me to turn right onto the Relapse Link Road but it looks too overgrown at this end, so I do a five Km detour via the more travelled roads. About one Km before the Falls, there’s a sort of rocky ski jump followed by a long mudslide down into the valley. About halfway down on the right, there’s a small gap in the vegetation where the track to the Falls starts. At least this is marked - OK someone has nailed the lid of a can on a tree and apart from a section of rope across a rock face, the climb down to the Falls isn’t too intimidating. McGowan's Falls are named after the ranger who discovered them and listed them for protection from logging. They cascade in several tiers like icing on a wedding cake into a deep valley about 30 metres below and are indeed a magnificent sight, but unfortunately my joy is somewhat overshadowed by anxiety about whether I’ll be able to get my car back up over the ski jump. The sheer weight of the van which had proved such an asset on the way down, was now going to be a real liability. The man at Preolenna the day before was pretty sure I’d get through, but thinking about it, his ute was probably much more powerful than my van, despite it' s size.
I brightened up a bit on the way back to the car as I encountered a young couple on their way down. They’d parked before the ski jump and only had a small car, but it meant that there were other people around - it was a Sunday, and that meant that there might be some way to get help if necessary. The road also continued on past the falls and should technically have brought me to the Link Road that I had avoided the night before. Perhaps it wouldn’t look as bad in daylight.
I found the junction and walked down the road a bit. Travelling slowly and walking ahead if I can’t see the track has saved me more than once. In this case the trees meeting overhead reached so low that not even a normal car would have gotten through much less my 2.9 m high van. It also ended in a swamp, where many vehicles had obviously gotten bogged and attempted to turn around before.
|Near the base|
I trudged back up the hill and drove on until I came to a T-junction. By my estimation the fork to the right should have joined to the Pruana Road which I had driven the previous night. It looked promising. Then it turned to rock and ended in a dead end. The other fork also looked like a half decent road that would surely lead somewhere. After several kilometres of reasonable driving and the forest opening up, it too led to a kind of ski jump like the one I had come down, but where it ended down a steep hill, there was a deep quagmire in which my van would have disappeared up to the axles at least. Since there was nowhere to turn around I now had to reverse back up the slope, slipping and sliding and scaring my clutch and me out of ten years’ growth. Turning around inch by inch at the top wasn't a mean feat either. Then there was nothing for it but to return the way I had come.This is why you should always make sure you have plenty of fuel. I really wished I had had a couple of safety triangles with me or something else in the car to make a sign with to warn others.
Passing the waterfall track again where there was no sign of other visitation, I took a very big run up the slope and wonder of wonders, my van glided (glid?) right up and over the hump like a giant whale. This involved a bit more of an adrenaline rush than I had bargained for and I truly longed for the days when Forestry was much more public spirited, providing picnic tables, signs, even barbecues and the like, such as the fading wonders I'd seen at Step Falls or in the North East.
|It's hard to do these falls justice in a photograph and all hail to Mr. Mc Gowan for having them listed, but I'm not sure they are worth the stress|
To calm my nerves, I stop at Penguin on the way back for some well -earned bakery supplies and then take the scenic route to Ulverstone. Penguin was having its own floral festival and I was sorry I couldn’t stay around for the Penguin Parade in the evening [Stanley and Burnie also have viewing platforms where you can see Little Penguins returning at dusk], but I was looking forward to a hot date with a warm bath. How good are paved roads!