THURSDAY 24 FEBRUARY CYNTHIA BAY
Today was a beautiful, sunny, clear blue sky day. It would have been a great day to tackle the Mt Rufus walk, had we waited for better conditions.
This was a driving day. We had decided to drive down the highway towards Queenstown, visiting the various suggested tourist stops in the Franklin Gordon Wilderness Area, along there. It was a lot easier to do this without the van on, trying to fit into small car parks and without the pressure of having to get to a new camp destination at the end.
The road west from Derwent Bridge was initially through heathland and buttongrass country, but we soon got into the forested western country, with the road becoming more winding as we got amongst the mountains.
First stop was to do the Franklin River Nature Walk circuit. This was superb, through the rainforest, and by the Franklin River for some of the way. John tried to take a few photos in the dim, green forest, on a very low speed. The circuit was only about a km, but we did dawdle, enjoying the forest.
One could see why this sort of country, across the western part of the island, was so hard for the early explorers and settlers to penetrate.
Next stop was at the car park area at the start of the Frenchmans Cap walk. Frenchmans Cap is a pointed, white quartzite mountain, that one can see in the distance from several places in the west. The walk is a pretty tough, multi-day one, three days at a bare minimum. It is not a walk I have done, although at one stage it was on the to-do list.
From the car park, we walked the first few hundred metres of the track, as far as the Franklin River crossing. The old flying fox that used to be the means of crossing the river has now been replaced by a little suspension/swing bridge.
There were some photos, at the walker registration booth, of hikers battling through the nearly waist deep mud on the “sodden Loddon” Plains – buttongrass swamp country. I told John that I remembered parts of the Overland Track being like that, when I first walked it – especially the Pelion Plains. The biggest problem walking in that sort of stuff is that you cannot tell, until foot is planted in it, whether the patch of mud you are entering is a few inches deep, or a couple of foot deep. The boardwalks of the Overland Track are a great improvement!
Back to the highway for a short while, then another car park and the short walk to Donaghys Lookout, from where there were superb views of the Franklin and Surprise Rivers and Frenchmans Cap. We were lucky to strike such a good day – the top of the Cap is often shrouded in cloud and invisible. But for us today, the summit stood out, brilliant white.
We stopped on the walk track to look for some birds we could hear. While John was standing still, a big tiger snake crossed the path, quite close to him. It wasn’t in any hurry – unlike John – and I was just able to photo its rear end moving off the path.
The furthest point west we went was to Nelson Falls – again, a short walk from the parking area. The Falls were excellent, amongst the best we’d seen, till then, in Tasmania. However, they are on the tour bus route and we did not get much time to ourselves, in there, between bus groups. It was impossible to get enough distance from them to take a photograph that did them justice.
At that point, we were not really all that far from Queenstown.
On the way back, we stopped at the Collingwood River crossing of the highway, which Franklin River rafting parties often use as a setting off point, as the Collingwood runs into the Franklin. The river seemed rather low there now, though. Even this part of Tasmania seemed unusually dry.
We drove 135kms today. It was definitely much easier than trying to visit those places with the van. Some of the parking areas were pretty small.
Tea was sausages. John also had leftover fried rice, and bread with peanut butter! His choice! I has some salad with my sausages.