Norm’s Tasmanian Trek 2019 – Episode Five

Sunday 17 March 2019

Another gorgeously fine day to start me off on the North Western leg of my trek. By some miracle of organisation for which I am happy to take credit, I was awake, shaved, showered, breakfasted, packed and checked out by 8:30.
My first stop was New Norfolk just half an hour out and which would be the last place where I could get my Woolies Rewards discounted (?) diesel – $1.56 /L.
There was also an associated Woolies supermarket on a different site where I was able to top up my banana, apple, water and maple syrup oat bar supplies for the next two or three days.

I timed my arrival at Russell Falls well because I had no trouble finding a spot in the very small main carpark close to the visitor’s centre. Armed with my free “Seniors” Tasmanian National Parks pass, nor did I have any trouble checking in to do the walk, there being only a short queue at the registration desk.

Access to the falls was by a relatively level, quite wide, sealed and thus wheelchair and pram friendly path.

Aged, disabled and pram-friendly pathway to Russell Falls, Mount Field National Park
17 March 2019

The estimated time of the walk was just 25 mins return but that must have been for a non-stop version. With a number of “wow” and photo stops it took me all of an hour. Ferns line the edges of the path and tall trees abound. These I understood from the pocket guide were giant eucalypts and myrtles though if the crepe myrtle is truly a myrtle, the only similarity would be the name.

Even without the falls, the walk would have been worth the drive on its own. It was beautiful and very photogenic. The falls themselves were blessed with a little more water than Lilydale but with their two-tier formation much more impressive. They must be magnificent after good rain or snow.

Russell Falls, Mount Field National Park
17 March 2019

There were two other walks, but both involved steep and slippery steps, so I forwent the lung and leg testing challenge. By the time of my return, even with three Park staff manning it, the queue at the registration desk was out through the front door. And there was a grateful driver waiting to nab my parking spot rather than have to drive down the road to the overflow one.
According to the blurb, the Mount Field Park in which the Russell Falls is sited is one of the most popular of Tasmania’s Parks. Being so close to Hobart and very accessible I can understand why. And on as beautiful a day as today, I’m sure the Hobartians saw this a perfect day-trip destination.

Photos: My visit to Russell Falls, Mount Field National Park – 17th March 2019

To avoid another rutted gravel road experience, I opted to back-track to rejoin the Lyell Highway for my drive to Lake St Clair. This made it a relatively longer drive but an interesting one. I was again able to drive at my pleasurably leisurely 70 or 80 kph making it so much easier to take in what I was passing through. Today included a mix of agricultural properties, old-growth forests, commercial pine forests, vineyards, scrub-covered and obscenely bare logged areas. The road itself was of variable quality but eighty per cent of it would have been at least 100 km/h safe.
Thanks to Tasmanian Hydro I found a good if not particularly scenic lunch stop spot at Tungatinah Power Station next to the Nive River. It boasted covered and open picnic seating, good toilet facilities and coin-operated barbecues. The perfect place to enjoy my bananas, apple and sparkling spring water with a hint of lemon!

The drive weaves its way through the Lakes none of which I detoured to explore but doubtless will sometime in the future. I did stop briefly however beside the Bronte Lagoon where there is a memorial to Surveyors of old. The location was chosen because it is the geographical centre of Tasmania.

A panoramic view of Bronte Lagoon, Central Highlands
17 March 2019

And so, to Lake St Clair. I have a so-called “wilderness cabin” at the “Lake St Clair Lodge” and it is. They all, including the waterside ones, look very much like the cabins in a down-market motor camp. But inside it’s a different story, tiny balcony, compact kitchen with fridge and microwave, gowns and slipper scuffs, a fully-tiled bathroom with very modern fittings including a huge shower AND a heated towel rail.
Perhaps intentionally emphasising the wilderness claim the drive to the cabin was something of a challenge as was parking nearby in unmarked and only notionally formed spaces. Having backed and filled I finally got Eksy5 tucked up, but she can stay there until I leave after breakfast in the morning.

Lake St Clair Lodge’s Jetty, a stone’s throw from my cabin, Lake St Clair, Central Highlands
17 March 2019

Fortunately, the Visitors’ Centre and Restaurant are within walking distance, so dinner and breakfast do not pose a problem – even if the bees or wasps do. Luckily, the Parks Information Office sells a pocket-sized insect repellent spray called “Ouch” and it worked a treat both on the path to the Visitors’ Centre and, necessarily, the restaurant.
There is a café but the offerings there are basic.
The only appealing alternative was the restaurant which, as you will read has a limited menu and is seriously overpriced, but if I wanted a proper meal it would have to do.

Restaurant Menu, Lake St Clair Lodge
17 March 2019

From this I chose the Cape Grim Eye fillet which was as good a one as I’ve had in a long time with new potatoes, grilled asparagus and broccoli.  Despite its ludicrous $52.00 cost, I savoured every bit of it.

Tomorrow, I hope to detour again to visit Nelson Falls, another purportedly accessible, attraction. I’ll let you know with or without accompanying promotional photographs.

The huge king-sized bed looks inviting, so that’s where I’ll head now….

Monday 18 March 2019

A bracing walk in the 12° cool of the morning to a forgettable breakfast which is probably why it was included in the tariff. An urn with sachets of Nescafe was the coffee offering, for which I substituted what tasted like watered down apple juice.

The 65 km run to Nelson Falls was another scenic but a surprisingly easy one. I was able to stop on one occasion to get a shot of what I thought was an attractive “cloudy mountains” landscape – and while not as attractive as I remember it, it will do:

On the Lyell Highway between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown, Lyell District
18 March 2019

The walk into Nelson Falls was said to be 20 minutes return – which, for me, was about half of what it actually took. While the pathway was not quite as attractive as yesterday’s, the falls themselves were stunning.

Nelson Falls, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
18 March 2019

Photos: My visit to Nelson Falls, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park – 18 March 2019

The early part of the road from there to Queenstown was easy and I was even able to saunter along at a really relaxing 60 kph.  But the closer I got to Queenstown, even that was too fast to negotiate some of the bends. And the really steep bit down into the town gave Eksy5 and me quite a workout.
I had thought of stopping there but a circuit of the town centre confirmed that little had changed since I last visited possibly in the 70s and it is no more attractive now than we found it then.
Being surrounded by the stripped earth and quarry scarred hillsides, a legacy of the early gold and copper mining days, it has no appeal for me.

After the pre-Queenstown bends, those between there and Strahan were a breeze but even so I took a welcome break from them at the Rinadeena Access Road Lookout.  I am glad I pulled in because the view was just beautiful and more than made up for the lack of them around Queenstown.

A view from the Rinadeena Access Road Lookout between Queenstown and Strahan, West Coast region
18 March 2019

Despite this diversion, I still arrived far too early to check in to my deceptively-named accommodation site in Strahan, the Bushman’s Cafe.  However, in my search for a quiet shady place for my lunch, I discovered the Peoples Park less than a km away. Here I was able to wind down and enjoy my bananas and royal gala apple at one of the many available picnic tables.

But there’s more to the People’s Park than “tables and shade” which sounds like one of those upmarket brand names. It is the home to the Hogarth Falls. The helpful Notice at the entrance to the path advised me that the walk was timed at 40 minutes return. Knowing my pace and that I had already done one shorter “walk” today I took some convincing that I could do it.
But do it I did, even if quite slowly at times. Again, it was worth the effort.

Hogarth Falls, People’s Park, Strahan
18 March 2019

Photos: My visit to Hogarth Falls, People’s Park, Strahan – 18 March 2019

I was able to book in a little after 3:00 pm to one of three first floor “suites”. In reality, it is a most attractive split-level room which I guess could qualify for being described as a suite.

Dinner was on-site. The restaurant has quite a reputation and although heavily booked a couple of tables are kept for house guests. The offerings are quite pricy but as you will see, a bit different.

The Bushman’s Cafe Dinner Menu
18 March 209

From this, I chose the “Salmon & Blue Eye”.  Chargrilled, it was beautifully cooked and presented but on the night myrtle butter sauce had been substituted for the lime – and that suited me just fine.  It comprised six quite large pieces of each fish all of which were moist and plain yummy.

As the distance to Cradle Mountain is relatively short, I thought I would have time to fit in a cruise tomorrow morning.  Of the two companies offering cruises, I chose Gordon River Cruise more because their six-hour cruise left half an hour earlier and I thought that extra margin might be good to have to get to Cradle Mountain before dark.  Even better was that I was able to get a booking on their new vessel, the “Spirit of the Wild” which, from the website, looked larger and, perhaps, more stable.
Indulging myself,  I chose sight-unseen the “Premier Upper Deck” option. The fare was almost as expensive as that for the Bass Strait crossing but it did include two guided tours, lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments and an open bar.  So I thought, why shouldn’t I?

I have no recollection of what the bed was like but I slept like the proverbial log which I put down more to my Falls’ expeditions than the glasses of wine at and after dinner.