Day 1: OH MY DARLING, LEMONTHYME
It was 7:05am and we checked out of the Comfort Inn Commodore Regent in Launceston.
We spent a few minutes looking at what Cataract Gorge looked like in the morning from the Kings Bridge, but immediately afterwards, we left town. The plan for today was to see the waterfalls by the Lemonthyme Lodge Wilderness Retreat as well as scout Cradle Valley, where we would be staying tomorrow.
We ended up having more time than I had originally anticipated because I thought we would be doing a strenuous 4- to 5-hour hike to Meander Falls and/or another 4- to 5-hour hike to Winterbrook Falls. But after seeing what appeared to be late Summer to Autumn conditions in Spring, I reckoned these falls wouldn’t be worth it under these circumstances.
And with that, we first headed to Devonport to see if we might be able to check in early so we could travel light later in the day.
Moreover, Julie intended for us to return to a Hertz Rental Car facility to switch cars since this one had a nasty habit of squealing repeatedly everytime the brakes were applied. I was worried that the pads were touching the sensor, which would indicate worn out brakes, and when I expressed this concern to Julie, she wanted to take no more chances considering how much unsealed and mountain driving we had been doing.
So by 8:15am, we had arrived in the surprisingly sleepy port town of Devonport. This town had a more industrial feel to it because it was where the Spirit of Tasmania ferry docks from its long journey to/from Melbourne on the mainland. I reckoned it was also probably important for petrol as well as shipping cargo such as lumber and other goods. So it wasn’t surprising at all that petrol was the cheapest we had seen in all of Oz over here.
In any case, it was 8:27am when we got to a Hertz office that was situated on a street corner (that just so happened to be on the same street as our motel). It was a pretty hassle free switch, but the alternate car we got was a gas-guzzling American car (some Ford four-door passenger car) that got nowhere near the mileage as the Toyota Camry we had been used to driving while on the mainland in Oz.
Anyways, beggars couldn’t be choosers and we had to make due with the increased trips to the petrol station.
A few minutes later, we arrived at our motel at the Comfort Inn Sunrise and to our surprise, we were able to check in early.
Now, we could drop our heavy luggage and travel light once again. Our intention was now to head over to the Lemonthyme Lodge so we could hike to the nearby waterfalls – Champagne Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
The fairly long drive took us through farmlands and townships before winding through curvy, mountainous roads. Apparently this road used to be unsealed but now the sealed roads made traveling much easier and costed us much less time than I had anticipated when planning this phase of the trip.
We would later take the well-signed turnoff for the relatively remote and isolated Lemonthyme Lodge Wilderness Retreat, which was on a narrow unsealed road that led for another 15-minutes or so to the lodge complex.
We arrived at the complex at 10:27am and parked in one of their day-use parking spots. It seemed like we would be the only ones on the trail this day.
And so we began the walk, which went past the manager’s residence and proceeded to climb through a shaded 4wd road. On the way up, we noticed a picnic table and a sign with a panoramic view. We took some time here to enjoy the view and to study the topo map printed on the sign. It was also a momentary break for the incessant uphill walking up to this point.
When we continued walking, the trail continued to go uphill. We trail would eventually crest at a fork in the road and flatten out. Then, we got to a junction where a signed but steep downhill path to the Champagne Falls was located.
The falls had some pretty satisfying flow even though it wasn’t as much as what I had seen on the internet during my trip research. But that allowed us to get direct views of the falls and take good photos when the sun wasn’t too blinding.
Next, we walked back up the steep track towards a primitive trail junction that led to the Bridal Veil Falls. This track undulated in the shady forest as it followed Bulls Creek. Eventually after another 20 minutes or so of hiking, we reached a long log that acted as a bridge over Bull Creek. And in direct view from the log was the wall of clapping water known as Bridal Veil Falls.
The falls was wide and could be rectangular if its flow was a little greater. But even in its strandy state, the falls was satisfying and quite photogenic. Julie and I spent some more time here enjoying the view and allowing ourselves to be relaxed by the sights and sounds of the waterfall.
The trail then proceeded to climb up a steep path before rejoining the 4wd track. At that point, we looped back towards the Champagne Falls turnoff while avoiding some of the muddy spots on the road. Then, we pretty much trotted downhill back to the day use car park area at the Lemonthyme Lodge, where regained the car at 12:50pm.
Since the wilderness retreat was only a few minutes from Cradle Valley, I reckoned we could head on over there to see what the scenery was all about. But the intention was to check out Quailes Falls on the way.
So as we drove along the sealed path, we would eventually enter the Middlesex plains before reaching the signed turnoff for Cradle Valley. Somehow we missed the turnoff for Quailes Falls so I reckoned we could check out the falls when we were done scouting Cradle Valley.
But out in the valley, we saw further evidence of heaps of dry trees that just seemed ripe for a wildfire – again reinforcing thought that drought is also adversely affecting Tassie.
Eventually at 1:30pm, we reached a souvenir shop and cafe. We stopped here to momentarily satisfy our hunger and to pick up some literature or at least get some info on what we could do here. I was also wondering if a ranger here could tell us about Quailes Falls since I didn’t really have much literature on this.
While buying some maps of the area, I managed to get in a conversation with a ranger who happened to be socializing with a clerk dressed like a nun behind the counter. We got in an involved conversation about the hikes in the area after inquiring about Quailes Falls.
In between his reveries about the hikes he has done in the beauty of Cradle Mountain, that was when he told me that Quailes Falls was on private property and access was probably prohibited.
Oh well, so much for that waterfall.
Anyways, I learned a lot about some of the hikes in the area (most of them on private property or very difficult to do) though I probably walked away with the sense that I really should do the famous multi-day Overland Track.
There was also a poster in the facility that had probably our favorite quote of the trip and further enhanced our relaxed state of mind. It said underneath a gorgeous photo of Cradle Mountain reflected Dove Lake, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
So with that, Julie and I left the visitor center and proceeded to drive to the end of the road, where there was a very large car park with a gorgeous view of the shapely Cradle Mountain looming over Dove Lake.
The skies were mostly cloudy at this time and the winds were quite strong and very cold. So Julie and I lingered here for a few minutes to take photos, but the weather wasn’t really optimal for good photos this time.
So we got back in the car and we headed back towards the Cradle Valley township.
Since Julie and I had some time to kill, we thought we could check out the Devils at Cradle refuge facility. I was anxious to see these endangered creatures as was Julie.
Both of us knew they would look nothing like the WB’s whirling dervish Tasmanian Devil. And when we paid our tour fee to enter the facility, our hearts instantly opened up at the first sight of them.
Even if these little dog-like creatures weren’t in their wild natural habitat, it was still quite a treat to get to pet them and learn about them.
Now both Julie and I had learned about the disease that has already wiped out over half the Tassie Devil population. But now we could see photographs and really get to understand the properties of this disease and how this is threatening to make the beloved devils extinct.
We had also learned that both the Tasmanian Devil and the believed-to-be-extinct Tasmanian Tiger were the primary predators of mainland Australia (not just the island of Tasmania).
But in the mainland, the introduction of dingos a couple of centuries ago basically led to their demise. That would probably explain why kangaroos are so abundant and reaffirmed my theories about the inability to naturally check their population.
Meanwhile in Tasmania, they don’t have roos (according to the rangers here) but they do have wallabies, which seem very much like smaller kangaroos. The devils normally eat them as well as other mammals such as wombats.
We just got this sense of how fragile and endangered all the native organisms of Australia were – and the Tassie devils were just one aspect of it.
Anyways, after spending a few hours having a devil of a time, we proceeded to start driving back to Devonport. By now, the skies were nearly cloudless and the weather became warm. It was still 4:45pm and I reckoned we still had a little time to satisfy my curiosity about Quailes Falls.
So as we drove out of the Middlesex Plains, we saw an unsealed road that agreed with our GPS map. We would eventually see a small Quailes Falls sign pointing to our left at the next junction, but it didn’t take long before we were stopped at a gate that said Private Property on it. Yep, the ranger was right.
And with that, we continued back on the sealed roads towards Devonport.
It was 5:54pm when we arrived at a petrol station in town – making sure I would capitalize on the cheap gas. Somehow I got in a conversation with the attendant there and he mentioned to me about how the drought resulted in low output at the hydroelectric facilities in the state. He said they were only running at 15% of capacity and the possibility was real that they would have an energy shortage.
That was a real eye-opener to me, and quite revealing about the extent of the drought in Tassie.
Naturally, Julie took advantage of this so she could get caught up on her emails as did I.
Soon thereafter, we dined at some Italian place called the Rialto Gallery Restaurant in the quiet town. We saw the Spirit of Tasmania heading off into the open waters as we ate and I pondered whether I should use that service the next time I should return to Tassie and the South of Oz.
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