Day 2: WET AND WILD IN THE WEST
Julie and I wasted no time in getting packed and ready to leave. Obviously the oppressive Mordor-like atmosphere of the place provided all the motivation we needed to get back out into nature as soon as possible. And by 6:50am, we had already checked out the Chancellor Inn Queenstown.
As I was driving up the curvaceous mountain road leaving Queenstown, I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or subconsciously hearing the relentless rain from last night. But as we had nearly gone completely up the hill and east of town, we were excited to see something we didn’t expect to see given the unusually dry weather on this trip – a waterfall! And this waterfall was of the tall, seasonal variety.
So we utilized the limited pullout on the opposite side of the road and took photos of the impressive waterfall. Since we were looking against the sun on this chilly morning, photography was tricky. But since the storm was still clearing, usually it was the clouds that were the saving grace in letting us take photos of this falls.
It remained very cold (almost numbingly so) and as a result, Julie and I stayed close together as we walked the well-developed track along the Nelson River.
Clearly it had rained quite a bit last night as we could still see wet drops hanging from the leaves of the trees shading the walk. The Nelson River was also making lots of noise which was a good sign for the waterflow over the falls we were about to see.
And within minutes, Julie and I were excited by the 30m upside-down wine-glass-shaped wall of water before us. It was a bit misty down here which added to the already cold temperatures.
But we had a field day taking photos with the tripod while trying to keep the camera lens dry from the mist.
What a great start to this day!
Anyways, we returned to the car at 8:12am. Next up was a very long drive through Tasmania’s undeveloped wilderness. There were no accommodations, no petrol, and only a few trail signs in the area. The scenery was very pretty as a result.
You could tell nature held sway over here and it probably would’ve been a great place to spend some time in its serenity.
As we headed further east past the turnoff for the other side of Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park, we slowly started to see more developed areas appear. Eventually, we would pass by farms as well as large hydroelectric plants with monster diversion tubes.
Julie and I took a little detour to see what Victoria Valley Falls would look like considering the initial success of Nelson Falls. And at 10:44am, we found the rather obscure trailhead for the falls.
But as we spent some time walking its rather primitive track, a misleading sign indicated an overlook as 10 minutes away. Yet as we scrambled deeper and deeper towards the base of the falls after the track disappeared, it was apparent that there wasn’t an overlook that we had envisioned (you know, viewing platforms, et. al).
So the Victoria Valley Falls was a real disappointment as it had pretty disappointing flow in its wishbone shape and it was difficult to get a good view of it through the foliage. It kind of killed the momentum gained from our Nelson Falls experience this morning.
After passing through several railroad crossings, we would eventually reach the busy Russell Falls Visitor Center at 12:38pm. Here, we had to pay and display the pass on our windshield.
We proceeded to continue up the walk towards the Horseshoe Falls. Along the way on the approach towards the top of Russell Falls, Julie noticed a trail that branched off the official one. We kept this in mind as we would head back down after checking out Horseshoe Falls later.
Once we got to the Horseshoe Falls, we were able to photograph the tiny falls. It wasn’t as crowded as the Russell Falls platform, but when I was done taking photos, I turned around and noticed about a half dozen people waiting to get a closer look at the falls.
Since the Lady Barron Falls connecting trail was closed from here, we headed back down and took that little trail that Julie found earlier.
Ah, so this is where they took the good photos of the falls.
So Julie and I returned to the car at 2:26pm. The intent now was to drive up the unsealed road towards the car park where the Tall Trees Walk was. That would allow us to continue the walk leading to the Lady Barron Falls.
And so we parked the car at 2:35pm and then started walking up the unsealed road looking for the trail to the falls. But apparently, we somehow missed that trail and kept on walking up the road. When we reckoned this was way farther than what we expected, we backtracked.
Anyhow, we walked along the undulating but shaded track as it went over some five bridges. Eventually, we would see a funny little go-cart on the track and we met up with a trail worker. Apparently, they had just finished improving the lookout platform right before the Lady Barron Falls.
A little after 4pm, we were back at the car park for the Russell Falls Visitor Center. Julie didn’t want to redo the walk so she stayed in the car. So I took my tripod and camera and immediately walked along the track to the Russell Falls.
And when I arrived at the falls, my hunches were correct. The falls were pretty much in shadow at this time. So now I could take my long-awaited long exposure photographs to show the curtainous beauty of this two-tiered waterfall.
After doing that, I climbed back up to that unofficial track leading to the unobstructed view of the upper tier of the waterfall. This time, I walked right into the middle of the mini-plateau and took additional long exposure shots – some of which were self portraits.
Having had enough of the waterfall, I headed back down and towards the car park. But on the way back, I startled a wallaby and its young. Almost immediately, the young climbed into its mother’s pouch and the mother cautiously hopped a few paces away from me.
I tried to take a few photos of this wallaby, but the lighting was low so I knew most of them would come out blurry. Anyways, it was quite cool to actually witness a marsupial utilizing its pouch.
Finally at 5:07pm, I regained the car. Julie wondered what took me so long, but in the end, she would appreciate the photos I managed to take after waiting out the entire afternoon for this waterfall. Now, it was time to drive back to Hobart on the home stretch of our circle-island tour of Tassie.
It was 6:28pm when we returned to the Leisure Inn Hobart/Port Macquarie. There were more parking spaces in the really tight garage they had underground this time. But after Julie checked in and got the keys to our room, we realized that the room was nowhere near as spacious as the last time we were here.
“What’s up the downgrades every time we return to the same motel?” we pondered aloud.
There were heaps of fish and chip places as well as expensive cafes, but we would eventually settle on this burger place that sold skyscraper burgers.
Then, we went up some named stairs (the name escapes me) towards the Arthur Circus in the center of Battery Point. It was something that Julie had read about in Lonely Planet and for some reason wanted to check it out. It turned out to be nothing more than a little park in the middle of the circle of a roundabout surrounded by some old-styled residences. There were a couple of swings and we both used them just on a whim.
Afterwards, we continued walking on Hampden Rd, where we saw an interesting mix of houses and businesses. It was kind of strange to see businesses (i.e. restaurants, hair salons, even a convenience store) in places that could’ve easily passed as someone’s condo or apartment.
Then, after making a booking at this place called Kelley’s – the so-called “best seafood in Tasmania” – we walked back to our accommodation at the Leisure Inn Hobart/Port Macquarie up the Sandy Bay Road.
Once there, we relaxed and unwound after having completed the home stretch of our Tassie waterfall tour. Tomorrow, we would go to the Tasman Peninsula for some coastal scenery as well as a visit to the Port Arthur Convict Site.
Even though our flight wouldn’t be for another half day plus this night, we could already sense the month-long odyssey in drought-ridden Australia coming to an end.