While I was in the area, I thought I’d visit Westmorland Falls again to see if it had recovered from the disastrous floods in 2016 which had washed away its banks and tracks and had made it unsafe. It had been closed for a long time but had now become part of the Karst National Park and was managed by Parks and Wildlife.
Unfortunately the last 800m of the road to it is still rough, so it would have been better to have left the van at the unmarked parking area on the RHS near the turn -off, but from the main parking area onwards, there are new signs, clear tracks and a new bridge. Although classed as a Level 3 Walk, the track wasn’t especially hard. There were a few ups and downs and some places which could be slippery after rain. It passes through light wet sclerophyll forest – think tree ferns, mosses and tall trees, with a few rainforest species such as Sassafras or Myrtle here and there.
|Lower falls on the second creek|
Previously Westmorland Falls had been a delicate semi hidden waterfall glimpsed among the tree ferns, but now it was fully exposed as a complex waterfall where two creeks met with several more falls, tumbling down from both directions and from higher up. If you’d not seen it before, you’d notice no sign of damage at all. Apparently fossils are now visible near the base of the falls, but I didn’t notice them at the time.
I didn’t fare as well at Honeycomb Cave. Honeycomb sits like a great big holey sponge on top of a network of rivers. It too had suffered severely from the floods. I used to come here with my children and knew its caves and passages quite well. It was then one of the few wild caves open to the public and I particularly liked that through there were many nooks and crannies, there were few places where you could get lost and it was fairly safe. It was a great place to introduce adventurous young children to caving.
On a visit since then, Honeycomb had
been closed to the public and was in private hands due to a peculiarity of its Land
Title which gave the owner of the surrounding farmland title all the way to the
centre of the earth, something which hasn't been done since the earliest land grants. Only private tours were allowed and a locked gate
confronted casual visitors. I was delighted therefore, to find that this too had now been taken over
by Parks and Wildlife as part of the Karst National Park. In consequence, it now
boasted a pleasant picnic ground and even a highrise toilet. Your Park fees at work!
|Here's why you need a hard hat or a helmet. Those pointy rocks can be painful if you are too busy watching your step and aren't looking overhead|
|Ancient stalactites make this entrance look like a larynx ready to swallow you whole|
Two newcomers, Jed, the son of a school teacher who had camped up the hill, and Emmaline (? Not sure about the spelling) from New Zealand, who had pulled up in a van behind mine, had asked me to take them through. Emmaline was noticeably pregnant and had just farewelled her husband who had had to return to work. Though I said I might, I wanted to have a look first, to make sure I still knew the way.
With one torch on my head plus a spare and my hardhat
and gumboots on,
I did a bit of exploring. A whole section on the Eastern side of
been ripped away and one of the deep underground rivers was much more
you fell in, who knew where you might end up. High up, almost on the roof
of the cave, you could see debris that flood waters had carried there.
The gumboots weren’t a great idea. Though you always had to wade through shallow water at the start, the river had changed course slightly and the water was deeper. The gumboots now felt slippery and unstable and I could no longer find the place where we used scramble across and squeeze past a big boulder to gain access to the network of caves.
Despite there being two new access points, neither led into the upper galleries as the old one had. Where we once used to go straight across, a great chasm had opened up and I couldn't see a way to get to them. I'd passed a tour group -possibly one of the Wild Cave Tours or a Caving Club, carrying waterproof bags and I wondered if they had used ropes to get to the upper levels where I had heard them earlier, or whether there were yet more entrances which I hadn't found. By this time the shadows were getting long. The sun was still setting around 6.30. Though that in itself wouldn't have mattered inside a cave, I didn't fancy spending the night there because of a twisted ankle or because I'd slipped over in a puddle.
Honeycomb was no longer the benign place I remembered. Though I hated saying no, I didn't feel confident or equipped enough to take a very pregnant woman and a school boy into a place I barely recognised. Hardly any Tasmanian needs reminding of the 1990 Mystery Cave tragedy which took the lives of two students and a student teacher when the water rose unexpectedly during a school excursion . It's much better to go with a guide or someone from a local caving club who knows the area.
|No, we don't have Meerkats in Tasmania, but this image captures the mood perfectly|
At least the Campground was livelier that night. To Emmaline's delight, the pademelons* still came and so did a van full of exuberant young people. I'm not sure what they were doing, but it looked like they were tying each other's wrists together amid shrieks of laughter. At our end, Jed's Dad had made an impressive campfire so Emmaline and I brought our camp chairs up. While we sat around the fire, Jed had made us all toasted marshmallows. Emmaline got her strawberries out and we toasted fruit buns I still had in the van. Then over big mugs of tea we talked until the fire went our and we all retired to our respective sleeping arrangements.
PLEASE DON"T FEED THE ANIMALS
* By the way, no matter how friendly or eager our wildlife seems, please don't feed it. Human food is generally not good for it - kangaroos for example, can go blind if fed white bread. Wildlife can also become overly dependent on being fed and they may become a nuisance to other visitors.
Lastly, there is the risk of passing on diseases, either from you to them or vice versa. Because of careless hikers or fishermen not cleaning their gear, many of our possums now carry Guardia, which is not pleasant for you or for them and no one knows where the Devil Facial Tumour Disease originated which has wiped out so many of them. Most of our animals and birds are unique to this part of the world, so please don't disturb them, handle them or put them at risk in any other way.